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Author Topic: Cameras - film & digital  (Read 6274 times)

Offline JimBob

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« on: 14/10/2007 00:31:16 »
How do they compare in pixel resolution? Say at 35 mm film and at 4x5 Speed Grafix, both loaded with black and white very low ASA rating (highest resolution) film?



 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #1 on: 14/10/2007 01:13:08 »
The camera I mainly use is a Fuji Finepix S5500. It only goes to 4Mpx, but that's plenty for most people. The resolution is fabulous. Look at these pics of deer that I took.
 
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=8673.0

It will only take 3 frames per second; but, again, that's plenty for most people. IT's got manual as well as auto mode, shutter and aperture priority, white balance etc, shutter speed down to 1/1000th, so you can set it up exactly how you want.

I've also got a Canon EOS IID which goes up to 16Mpx. Apart from the number of pixels, it doesn't do much that the Fuji can't (Except that there are a lot more lenses available. The Fuji only has 1 telescopic & 1 wide-angle available).

The only advantage I can see with 35mm SLRs is faster frame rate - but you'd still need a good 1 to get that. I haven't yet found a digital camera that can take decent photos of a F1 car at full throttle.

The main thing I like about digital is that you can see the pic straight away & if it's no good, you can take another. Plus being able to use filters to enhance the photos on PC is a great asset.

I wouldn't go back to 35mm now.
« Last Edit: 14/10/2007 01:23:51 by DoctorBeaver »
 

Offline elegantlywasted

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« Reply #2 on: 14/10/2007 01:37:41 »
I shoot with a Nikon D80, the specs are alright, but it is not a "professional" camera. It is very simliar to the Drs Fuji. However my camera has 10.2mpx. I notice a definate change with the higher mpx when shooting with a telephoto. But for simple wide angle close ups the extra pixels are a bit much. The D80 has an ISO settings between 100 and 3200 (it might go higher - not sure, I dont like the grain)
 
I agree with the beav, film SLRs have a much faster frame rate, unless you are willing to spend about 5 thousand dollars on a digital camera body alone. As I don't like the grain I love the versitility of a digital, I don't have to use different types of film for different situations.

Although much is lost with the lack of developing your images now, many programs (especially if you shoot in RAW or NEF) allow for alot of freedom.

As sad as it is to see the end of a technology, digital is really the way to go. You can instantly check to see if your exposures are proper. Memory cards are much cheaper in the long run than film, and lets face it, being able to instantly upload your images to a computer is awesome.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #3 on: 14/10/2007 03:34:21 »
I agree with Meg on just about everything.

I really don't have that great a camera (would love to upgrade, when I have the funds), but I do love the flexibility of digital - but I do recognise that you don't get the latitude or definition of a film camera of similar cost (although running costs are, as Meg mentions, much cheaper for digital).  I do love being able to immediately be able to upload to a computer, and the ease of using a digital darkroom.

Again as Meg pointed out, you can spend 5k to 8k on a digital, and it will probably match a mid prices medium format.

For many years I did have a very good 35mm SLR (never got into medium format), but in the end I just found all the kit too much to carry around, and even found I was bored with taking photos; but then I went digital, and although the image quality is only a fraction of what I had even with the 35mm format, the ability to do things on the computer to create pictures that simply could never be done with film got me hooked again.  Then again, it really depends on what you are looking for, and if you want something that faithfully records an image, rather than something that allows the maximum artistic interpretation of the image, then ofcourse film will still presently do it better - but in the end it will not last.

I have to say, not having the budget for it at present, I have not even looked at low end DSLR cameras (let alone the top end), so what I know of them is more from reviews and reputation rather than personal experience.  Nonetheless, while I know DSLR is far more capable at high ISO settings than prosumer cameras, I would still question whether I would trust them at 3200 or above - noise levels increase rapidly (most prosumer cameras start losing it by ISO 400, and the newer high pixel count cameras are even worse than the preceding generations - but it does not stop the marketing guys from including the high ISO setting on the camera, even though no-one in their right mind would use them).

The D80 you own still shows noticeable increases in noise even above ISO400, but not unusable:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond80/page18.asp

Medium format digital cameras exist, but seem to come in around $30,000

http://www.letsgodigital.org/en/14448/medium-format-digital-camera/
http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Hasselblad-Releases-22-megapixel-Medium-Format-Camera-and-Backs-.htm


Again, the other question you have to ask yourself is not only what the resolution of the camera is, but what are you going to be using to print the image (again, one question is why are you looking for a high resolution - is it for very large images, for very detailed images, or to be able to heavily crop the image)?
 

Offline elegantlywasted

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« Reply #4 on: 14/10/2007 04:09:47 »
If you can take the picture in the camera, there really isnt a need for a tremendous number of megapixels. Of course the 1 or 2 mpx cameras dont really have super great resolution...

George, I am so aware of the ISO noise! Hah, I shot my first assignment for school, at entirely 3200ISO everything was noise. Still pulled off a 65% but I learned a very very valuable lesson.... always check your settings, never assume your roommates werent pushing buttons!!!
 

another_someone

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« Reply #5 on: 14/10/2007 04:32:52 »
If you can take the picture in the camera, there really isnt a need for a tremendous number of megapixels. Of course the 1 or 2 mpx cameras dont really have super great resolution...

Unless you are printing at A3 or above, I would agree.  Where I really sometimes find the lack of megapixels an issue is that while on my film cameras it was always a matter of tightly cropping the exact shot I wanted, increasingly these days I shoot deliberately loose, because I often find that when I get the picture up on the computer, the real picture is not the one I had anticipated when I took the image (sometimes I even find two different pictures worth having from the same image - each cropping a different region of the original image).  In these situations, having the spare megapixels to be able to crop down does become important.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #6 on: 14/10/2007 08:43:58 »
George - that's a good point about getting 2 images from 1. I've had that a few times where I've seen a small detail & thought "Hmmm, what's that?". When I look at it full size it could be a whole separate photo.

1 instance of that springs to mind. I had taken some pics of my horses and was looking at them on the PC. In 1 I noticed a little brown blob a few yards from 1 of the horses. When I expanded to 100% I saw that it was a couple of rabbits doing what rabbits do best (No, not stealing carrots!)
 

Offline Bored chemist

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« Reply #7 on: 14/10/2007 14:32:57 »
You can get film with resolutions of 1000 lines per mm so a 35 mm negative would have a lot of pixels- far more than any digital camera I have seen. The important question then becomes how good is the lens?
There are limits imposed by the wave nature of light that make using this sort of film pointless unless you are doing holography. The lens won't provide the resolution.
Modern cameras are now heading into the region where there's not much point having more pixels. In the first place you would need a truly remarkable lens and even then you would run up against the limts imposed by the wavelength of the light.
 

Offline eric l

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« Reply #8 on: 14/10/2007 14:57:00 »
What I miss among "affordable" digital cameras is a decent coupled rangefinder camera.  Of course I couild buy a Leica and a digital back for it, but that would be well outside what I call "affordable".  Coupled rangefinder cameras are better for real sharp focussing than any autofocus camera I have tried so far.
 

lyner

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« Reply #9 on: 15/10/2007 14:52:36 »
The noise at high ISO settings is a pain but my Pentax K10D has a shake reduction system ( as do some of the Nikon lenses, and others) which helps you with longer exposures if you use ISO 100. Of course, that doesn't help with moving subjects but you can sometimes pan with the subject and the shake still seems to be reduced - when you're lucky.
I know there are people who swear by coupled rangefinder cameras but I can't get on with the comparatively naff image you see in the viewfinder. Your eye makes everything seem in focus and you need to be a lot more disciplined with  composing the picture. If focus is really important you always have a tape measure!
I acknowledge that a Leica viewfinder may be better than in the more humble cameras I have used.

10Mpx is more than adequate for happy snaps of all sizes but, once you start to Photoshop things, the increased sampling rate must help greatly - bearing in mind you only have 256 levels per channel.   The process of printing at lower res than the source picture can only do good in the long run with aliasing and contouring.
There is always the printing paper factor; I see so many pictures printed on cheapo paper. Even Boots' run of the mill film D&P processing will give you nicer pictures than that.

I could also mention that, despite the stated,  calculated high capacity of 35mm film negatives, the sharpest pictures I have taken have all been on digital  (10Mpx) - and that is using the same M series Pentax lenses!
I think the processing has a lot to answer for, in many cases. Unsharp mask is fantabbydozo!
Once they start to produce affordable cameras with full size sensor arrays things will be even better.
« Last Edit: 15/10/2007 15:04:09 by sophiecentaur »
 

another_someone

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« Reply #10 on: 15/10/2007 20:31:13 »
Most cameras, and most photo editors, only have 8 bit (256) shades of colour; but increasingly this is being exceeded, and a number of photo editors now support 16 bits per channel, and some cameras now support (at least in RAW format) 12 or 14 bit A/D conversion.

Even if the camera does not support more than 8 bits per channel, for a static shot, you can take two images at different exposures, and overlay them to obtain greater dynamic range.

Having affordable cameras with full frame sensors would be great, but you wont be able to do that with superzoooms - and at present the move is to have massive zoom ranges.
« Last Edit: 15/10/2007 20:43:40 by another_someone »
 

Offline JimBob

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« Reply #11 on: 15/10/2007 23:20:20 »
So what I am reading is that the film camera still has more definition than a digital, especially when color is involved.
 

Offline techmind

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« Reply #12 on: 16/10/2007 00:30:58 »
I use digital cameras at work (from high-end Canon Compact, to Nikon DSLR) and they have their uses. Fast turn-around, instant feedback, direct-input to computer for illustrating lab-books, Powerpoint presentations, and emailing to colleagues elsewhere.

At home I still use enjoy the feel of 35mm negative film with both SLR and a compact camera. The SLR gives fantastic picture quality, but is heavy and bulky to carry around. The compact is convenient and lightweight, but the pictures are less good - especially in overcast conditions when it uses a larger aperture. I have my own dedicated high-res film scanner, but will probably supplement (not replace) my existing cameras with something digital in the next year or so.

I have both a professional and a personal interest in the technical side of imaging systems.

Firstly, upgrade your film camera to a professional film (e.g. Kodak Elite Colour 200 negative) and processing to a professional/pro-am lab (such as Peak Imaging in Sheffield) and your pictures will take on a whole new dimension. Note also that the film companies have been promoting rediculously fast films (400 and 800 ASA) in recent years - although they'll yeild less camera-shake/motion-blur on zoom shots, the colours and detail is sorely lacking compared to a slower film. High street shops development-and-printing these days invariably scans the film digitally for prints, and aliassing in the scanner turns 800asa grain into atrocious featureless digital "noise" on a 6x4 inch print...

When looking at "pixel" resolution, the more important question is how much real detail there is in the image. My 35mm film-scanner scans at 4000dpi, giving a 21 megapixel digital image, and with a 100 or 200asa film and 50mm prime (not zoom) lens, I'd say the picture detail approaches this - it's difficult to measure, but I'd estimate somewhere around 10-15Mpix of real detail perhaps.

With a digital camera, the way they count pixels is somewhat misleading - they use a Bayer colour-filter on the CCD, and the pixel-count is the sum of all the red, green, and blue sub-pixels... the equivalent number of RGB triplets (real pixels) is more like half the quoted megapixel number. A 6Mpix or 8Mpix digital-camera image will give as sharp an image as the (300dpi typ.) digital print can show at up to 6x4 inch or 7x5 inch, but will usually begin to get soft at larger print sizes. This does not necessarily matter, since you typically view bigger prints from further away - but will notice on close inspection.

I'd say you'd need 20-30 "megapixel" (defined the way most digital cameras do) to match a decent, slow-speed, 35mm negative film. A slide film may be higher resolution still.

Furthermore, digital cameras (particularly compacts) often lose low-contrast detail (like the texture in skin and fabrics) as a result of digital noise reduction algorithms. Over-compression of JPEGs can also have a similar effect, and makes the image look a bit plasticy and artificial. Digital cameras, especially compacts, typically oversharpen the image by default, causing halos around high-contrast light/dark edges (yuk).

With any camera, a clean lens free of dust and fingerprints is of paramount importance for obtaining punchy high-contrast and glare-free images.

One of the biggest fundamental shortcomings of digital is its inability to handle overexposure (including specular highlights) gracefully. Digital abruptly saturates at "max white", while film (negative film) just compresses the dynamic range of the highlights more tastefully. I usually underexpose digital images by 1/3 to 2/3 stop to reduce this problem - although I probably have a personal preference for slightly darker pictures anyway.

To get a more "professional" image on a digital camera you should normally choose a lower speed (ISO100 or 200), set noise-reduction to minimum, set sharpening to minimum, use highest quality JPEG (or RAW), and hold the camera very steady or use a tripod. With handheld, you will see softening due to camera shake at 1/60 sec.


My opinion: if you have the patience (and a professional film and processing, and probably your own scanner), then film can give you a much richer and technically superior image. On the other hand, digital (without going to seriously expensive pro kit) can give you good-enough images more quickly, with a lot less effort - and you can learn from your mistakes much sooner.

Professional film costs no more than regular brand-name film, but expect to pay 50% to 100% more for professional processing compared to a high-street shop (and probably wait for a postal service). For pictures which you've taken with care, it's worth every penny.

If you're seeking high technical image quality, then compared to digital, film has a much lower initial equipment cost, but much higher running costs.

Don't forget that film cameras don't tend to get through batteries at anything like the rate of digital!
« Last Edit: 16/10/2007 21:28:43 by techmind »
 

Offline JimBob

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« Reply #13 on: 16/10/2007 02:09:56 »
Thanks, techmind,

This is the info I was looking for. I have had an interest in Photography since childhood - my dad was a pro in his early 20's and took some amazing stuff on the large format cameras.

I have a Cannon 35 mm system and a 4x5 Speed Graphix that also has a 120 film back accessory. It is really nice for portraits of they let you get close.
 
The info on pixels with low speed film is the important stuff and I already use the Pro film. I love the effect of black and white and the play of light.

I don't think the Speed Graphix will ever go out but end up in a museum.

 

lyner

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« Reply #14 on: 16/10/2007 10:54:00 »
Quote
and at present the move is to have massive zoom ranges.
That is a real point. If people only took the time to compare the results from a good prime lens with the results from a so-called superzoom  (both on their own camera) then they would get things in perspective.
It is not for nothing that you have to pay thousands of quids for a zoom lens that will give you results worth real scrutiny.
 

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« Reply #14 on: 16/10/2007 10:54:00 »

 

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