Before digital cameras became the primary means of photography, amateur and professional photographers alike operated in a world of film. Whereas the digital revolution in camera technology allowed photographers to instantly view their work, download it to a computer and print it out in a matter of minutes, working with film required a somewhat lengthy development process and prohibited photographers from knowing which pictures turned out and which did not. The differences between digital cameras and film extend beyond that, though, to quality and alterability of the image.
Digital Cameras versus Film
Although preference factors into the differences between the two, digital photographs and film are analogous to MP3s and vinyl records. In the latter case, both store recorded music, but the process with which they are put into their respective formats differs in terms of speed, quality and technology. Although MP3 sales greatly outnumber vinyl record sales today, LPs will never go away because there will always be people who appreciate their warmer, some say superior sound along with the physical act of placing them on a record player. The same is true for digital pictures and film. Even though film has largely been relegated to a hobby pursuit, it is the love of the process that keeps people using it. It also creates warmer, more organic images than digital does. The use of film will probably never again be as common as in the past, but there will always be those who prefer it to digital. That being said, there are some very practical differences between the two.
Without question, digital photography is more convenient than film. There are no spools of film to load, wind, unwind and remove. With digital, there is no guessing as to which photos came out well. The instant viewer shows you which photos are worth keeping. Those that aren’t you simply erase. Aside from keeping the battery charged, there is little to fret about with digital cameras. Consumer models are smaller and less bulky than film cameras as well.
Film required a photographer to unwind the roll of film, remove it, have the negatives developed and photographs made either in a large machine or by hand in a darkroom. Skilled photographers who had access to the equipment could do this in a short time, but not nearly as quickly as with a digital camera. With digital, a photographer simply takes the pictures, interfaces the camera with a computer, uploads the digital files and alters, saves or erases them. In the time it took negatives to be developed, a digital photographer could take, upload, alter and post or print out hundreds of images.
Perhaps the area where film is still preferable is the warmth of the photographs it creates. Digital photography, with its ability to break down a photograph to a near microscopic level, although technologically superior, takes some of the charm away from the art. Film has a definite limit far surpassed by digital technology, but digital images will never match the warmth of film, even with alteration programs designed to recreate the qualities of it.
The superior speed, convenience and networkability of digital photography have caused it to largely make film a thing of the past. However, the technological differences aside, film still has a place among photography purists just like records will never be entirely eliminated by digital music downloads. As much as digital photographic technology can do, it cannot substitute for the warmth and feeling of film.