With blockbusters of varying quality hitting the screens weekly, some of us are left to contemplate what happened to the days of classic cinema, that is, the heyday of celluloid.

Growing up, my fascination for cinema was complimented by my equal love for 35mm film. I found the aesthetic quality of film much more appealing and, frankly, much more fun to shoot with. There is a tidal wave of film shooters these days, and because of its vintage style which is now hugely popular, it may as well be dubbed the ‘hipster hobby’.

One of the greatest directors of our modern times, Quentin Tarantino, openly states his dislike for the digital age of cinema:

Even the fact that digital presentation is the way it is right now – I mean, it’s just television in public. That’s how I feel about it. I came into this for film.

As a die-hard analogue lover myself, I have to agree with him to some extent. However, you can’t forget the benefits such as a higher frame rate that digital offers, much to the glee of directors such as Peter Jackson, James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro.

Let’s move away from the cinematic world and explore the pros and cons of both digital and film photography. This isn’t going to be a straightforward Film vs Digital discussion – don’t listen to anyone who directly tries to compare the two. The fact can’t be ignored that it all depends on the photographer or cinematographer’s requirements and, of course, their ability. In truth there is no ‘better’ medium – the choice depends on your application and needs. What I love about film is that it produces natural, truly tangible caught-in-time moments, but let’s not get off topic here…

Ease and Flexibility

This is one of the main reasons for the widespread increase in digital camera use. With film cameras, a roll needs to be completely exposed before being processed (unless you want to waste slides of film for quick development – not ideal!) as opposed to digital cameras which incorporate a liquid crystal display that allows a ‘quick view’ of the image to be seen immediately after capture. Using this, you are able to judge your photograph without having to wait for processing, and then reshoot if necessary. This process also allows the photographer to learn faster and more conveniently as you can adjust your settings, reshoot, adjust your settings, reshoot and so on.

For ease and flexibility, digital definitely proves to be a better contender in this case. However, for those that see photography as more of an art form, we surely must agree that the cost and waiting time for film development is ‘worth it’ and is just part of the exciting process.

Image Quality

The obvious downfall of analogue photography is the inability to change the film speed. Digital cameras are capable of much higher speeds than film. In fact, you can change the film speed (or ‘ISO’ as it is commonly referred as) any time you like on a digital camera.

With film, it is static. You can certainly purchase film with different film speeds, but you’re stuck with that speed for the entirety of the roll. Not ideal if you’re planning on shooting a range of different lighting conditions on that same roll. Digital also performs more desirably in low light situations (generally, I wouldn’t even bother taking a film camera on a night out unless I had extremely high ISO film) and is also better for ultra-fast photography.

Not all is lost, though. Film tends to produce a higher resolution than digital. However, this is subject to the lens which is fitted to the front of your camera. For me, it’s not necessarily about resolution but rather, the texture. Film is warm, homely and cinematic. Digital certainly has a look to it – let’s use the word ‘clean’ – but ultimately it doesn’t give you the same sensation film does. Maybe that’s a generational thing and kids these days don’t get that same vibe from film as us older folk.

Credit: Emma Goodman

Credit: Emma Goodman

Digital gives a much cleaner look (above) as oppose to film, which is known for its hypnotic imperfections (below).

Credit: Emma Goodman

Credit: Emma Goodman

Fun Factor

Double exposures on film cameras? No problem. This is certainly something you cannot do with a digital camera (the process must be taken to post editing software such as Photoshop). There are a range of ‘toy’ cameras these days that enable you to create your own double exposure organically with no post manipulation. On a personal level, this is fairly exhilarating to do!

Toy cameras (such as the Holga) allow you to truly understand how a camera works – it’s more real, more tangible. For example, how the shutter speed, ISO and aperture all work in relation to one another to let in the correct amount of light. Many digital shooters snap away with no awareness as to how the inside of their camera works.

That’s not to say digital photography is not fun, just that it’s more satisfying to produce photographs in a more physical sense. All digital camera owners (myself included) have been guilty of snapping away, with the mind-set that surely in a hundred near identical photos there will be at least one decent one. Shooting with film allows you to step back, compose and set the perfect (to the best of your ability!) exposure.

The Future

The age of digital has made it much more accessible for amateur filmmakers and photographers to pick up a DSLR for a cheap price and – combined with skill – produce professional-looking photographs and videos. One thing is for certain, mankind has made a quantum leap in terms of the evolution of photography. At the end of the day, this glimpse of the future will win over any nostalgia-inducing medium. In more than just photography, digital is certainly on the up and up, although I think it will be some time before analogue film lies down on its final death bed, as many film-lovers like myself will continue to preserve it as a fun and creative art form.

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