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  1. #1
    Digital versus Film

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    Digital versus Film
    Hello everyone,

    I am in grade 9 and I have been in photography option class since grade 8. I LOVE IT! I am really thinking about doing photography through high school and even as a career. There is, however, a problem. I have gotten to the point where I my parents are willing to buy me a camera because they see that I really enjoy photography (I have been using my mom's camera) ; but I am not sure what camera to buy. The main thing is I am not sure wether to buy a digital camera or a film camera. From what I hear, film cameras seem to be more "fun" as there are more settings and such to play around with. On the other hand, I have been used to just using auto mode all my life with the simple digital camera! From my research my thoughts have been turning to the choice of the film camera, but I'm not sure. Also, is it possible to edit photos on photoshop with film cameras?

    Thanks in advance!
    -Piero

  2. #2
    Digital versus Film
    pigoo3's Avatar
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    VERY very few photographers use film anymore (I'm sure there's some). But even most professional photographers use digital cameras.

    Film cameras are like typewriters...nobody uses them!

    - Nick
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  3. #3
    Digital versus Film
    RavingMac's Avatar
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    What camera does your mom have (brand and model)?

    If we know what you have been using, it will make advising you what to look for easier.
    I've always wanted to be smart, handsome and modest. But, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with two out of three . . .

  4. #4
    Digital versus Film
    robduckyworth's Avatar
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    Film looks great and can really add a personal touch to the way your photos look.

    Im not a photographer, but i have noticed that some film cameras have a certain "feel" to their photos that cant really be recreated in post processing.

    That said, Digital cameras are approximately one bazillion percent more practical (because you dont need a dark room)

    I say you go for a digital. If you feel the creative need to try film at a later date, check out some bargains at markets and car boots, see if you can pick up something interesting.
    If you find a post helpful, don't forget to use the reputation system (top right of post.)
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  5. #5
    Digital versus Film
    Dysfunction's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pigoo3 View Post
    VERY very few photographers use film anymore (I'm sure there's some). But even most professional photographers use digital cameras.

    Film cameras are like typewriters...nobody uses them!

    - Nick
    I actually know a few who use them Generally those shooting large format though.


    Now, that said. The settings are almost identical on a film and digital camera. In fact, I still shoot my digital slr completely manually. Probably always will, to be honest. All in all, there's a lot to be said for shooting in digital (and I do still have many film bodies lying around). You're far less restricted in your shooting than you ever were in film (I'm not going to compare a large format sheet film camera and a roll camera here, just a roll camera). You don't have to plan your shooting so that you're not having to shuffle film frequently, as you can just change your settings on the fly.

    So, what would I do? Really, as much as I hate to say it (I really do LOVE working in a wet darkroom) I'd go digital. Especially when learning. The only way you learn this stuff, btw, is to shoot. Shooting film was (and still is) expensive, digital is cheap. You gain the freedom to make mistakes without any economic penalty. Sometimes, believe it or not, those mistakes are good. Not only in the fact that you learn more from mistakes than from failures, but you may just accidentally stumble onto something you like and make it your own.

    Oh and yes, you can use Photoshop with film images. You just have to do what we had to do back in the old days.. and scan it (yea, Ps predates the digital back btw )
    mike
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  6. #6
    Digital versus Film
    pigoo3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dysfunction View Post
    I actually know a few who use them Generally those shooting large format though.
    Of course you do...but we're probably talking 0.00001% of all photographers! But the large format part makes a bit more sense!

    My wife's father has all sorts of "Hasselblad" and "Linhoff" film camera's from the 1970's and 1980's (including large format film models)...and even these high-end film cameras from the "older days" have "digital backs" that can purchased for them to make them digital. Just looked up one of the Hassblad digital backs...and the H4D-200MS is capable of a 200 Megapixel film file!!! YIKES!!!

    I'm willing to bet there are very very very few professional photographers in the newspaper, magazine, or high end model photographers that use film.

    Most folks using film (and possibly developing their own film in a darkroom) are doing it for the "old school" nostalgia of it. Kind of like folks that like to own & work on older cars from the 1950's/1960's/1970's...or own OLD computers from the 1970's & 1980's!

    - Nick

    p.s Ok...my wife says that her mom (even though she has a digital camera we bought her)...is STILL using a film camera for vacation photos!!! Ooh boy...some folks just won't change!

    p.s.s. But hey...for the OP (a 9th grader)...go digital!
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  7. #7
    Digital versus Film
    Doug b's Avatar
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    You're a student. You need to spend an equal amount of time for your other studies, and film will only consume all of your free and not free time. While one can go the cheap and fast route of having film developed at their local crap store like Walmart, Walgreens etc, it would be a waste of time and money, since they'd never be able to get the kinds of results which are achievable when one is able to mix their own solutions in a darkroom.

    But then, developing in a darkroom requires time and a lot of skill and money. It also requires that one have a good scanner in order to get those images online. Once down that path.... it's a long road ahead. (and forever will it dominate your destiny. sorry.. had to say it)

    That said, digital is far cheaper, and a lot more forgiving when you shoot RAW. Shooting digital doesn't have to be a cold and impersonal experience as you've suggested. I usually shoot fully manual (with the exception of using aperture priority mode) when I'm doing PJ work, which includes using manual focus lenses and I absolutely love it! However, there's nothing at all wrong with using auto focus. You use the tools which are available to you in order to obtain the image you see in your head.

    It's the creative side of you that gets most of the job done. The other part of the equation is knowing which camera with which features will be the tool of choice, and then which combination of lenses to pair with said camera.

    So you've got a bunch of questions to ask yourself. Ones which may not be immediately apparent, because of your lack of experience. But that's ok... you're young and supposed to be inexperienced!

    I guess the best way to get started is to figure out what the budget you have to work with is. You can get some great used gear at places like BHphoto, Adorama and KEH.com. I personally get a lot of used glass at KEH.

    So... what IS that $ amount you have to work with?

    Doug

  8. #8
    Digital versus Film
    txtchr's Avatar
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    I'll throw in my 2 cents, for what it's worth, only because I have a son who graduated a few years ago with a degree in art from a university in the UT system here in Texas. He took quite a few photography classes while college.

    He had done photography before he entered college and had a pretty good digital camera at the time. The first photography class he took was Basic Photography. To his surprise, he was required to have a manual focus 35mm film camera. Scramble to find him one of those at a decent price that was capable of interchangeable lenses, because for the next level class he needed the same camera but with more powerful lenses (being an art major is not cheap).

    Students were provided box cameras by the school, as some of their projects required they shoot photographs with those. They did not have scheduled classes on Fridays because they were supposed to spend that time in the darkroom developing their negatives. They shot in black and white only.

    Only in his third semester class did they move to digital photography.

    My son said that it became increasingly difficult to find film, though. He used to have to travel quite a distance to locate it because most stores didn't carry it.

    I thought that perhaps the college may have changed their curriculum since he graduated, so I just went to his university's website and pulled up the Basic Photography syllabi for this Spring, 2012 semester. Sure enough: "Bring a 35mm camera with no film in it" for the first day. Day 5: "In the darkroom." So, obviously they're still using film cameras at the collegiate level, particularly if you're an art major.
    "The only thing that is constant is change." -- Heraclitus

  9. #9
    Digital versus Film
    Dysfunction's Avatar
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    Being an art major is NOT cheap, this is soooo true! A photography major, triply so! I really don't want to contemplate what I spent on film, paper, chemicals, and other sundries in college.

    I'm not surprised at all that they're still using manual 35mm cameras. There's a lot of value in it, both from a learning perspective and a teaching one. This is also true of shooting in black and white. I'm not surprised at all by the movement from B&W film to digital as you progress in your classes. When I was a photo-major, it was in the 3rd semester or so that we moved to color (B&W processing and printing is much simpler, and can be taught/performed in gang darkrooms which means that it's possible for one instructor to work with multiple students while they're learning to use the basic equipment.. enlargers etc and starting to develop solid habits in a wet darkroom).

    That all said, I'd still go with a digital body. Then, if I was going to go with photography as a college class (and they still required film bodies).. I'd pick up a cheap film body and use that. I saw an FM2n on Craigslist the other day for ~$100.. ~$330 from B&H these days (keep in mind I'm a Nikon shooter in 35mm format bodies) and any manual lenses would interchange.

    Nick, you'd be right btw. We were switching to digital in the mid 90's, albeit a digital back slapped onto a film body. It made so much more sense to go digital in that realm, man it really streamlined workflow from shot to ready-to-print.
    mike
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  10. #10
    Digital versus Film
    txtchr's Avatar
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    I don't even want to begin with how much we spent on art supplies for my son. Between the 2D classes and 3D classes and then the photography, plus his tuition. It nearly broke the bank here.

    But, he loved his photography classes, and we did get him a lower-end body for his manual camera. Luckily I had a brother who had taken quite a few photography classes in college and had some awesome equipment, lenses and a great tripod. The body my brother had needed a minor repair (which my son managed to get done) and my son ended up using my brother's equipment for his higher-end film work. It was old, but it worked.

    Although my son said he felt he knew Photoshop backwards and forwards before he started taking photography and developing in the darkroom, he told me that he understood Photoshop once he learned to develop negatives.

    They never did do color film developing on campus (his school did not have the capabilities), but he did attempt to shoot with color film for several projects. He would have to have it commercially developed, but would always become frustrated because developing would be done by machines which would "auto crop" and not develop the entire negative. The school did have multiple high-end scanners, so he took to scanning the color negatives and working with them digitally, but eventually reverted back to shooting with black and white film when he was using his film camera and then developing his own film.

    His 35mm cameras, unfortunately, sit in camera bags at our house now. They haven't been used since he graduated. He does shoot phenomenal photos now with great perspective, but he currently uses a digital camera exclusively.
    "The only thing that is constant is change." -- Heraclitus

  11. #11
    Digital versus Film
    Dysfunction's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by txtchr View Post
    Although my son said he felt he knew Photoshop backwards and forwards before he started taking photography and developing in the darkroom, he told me that he understood Photoshop once he learned to develop negatives.
    .
    Photoshop is a wonderful example of a product (and really a user interface) that was completely made for it's target audience. Photographers. Yep, this makes utter and complete sense. No matter how far advanced the digital media is, it's STILL replicating film to many degrees.

    Now, for what it's worth.. my oldest wanted to learn to shoot... so I gave her my copies of The Camera, The Negative, and The Print. Even digitally, understanding exposure, depth of field, and printing techniques still applies in the end. (Composition? oh you bet.. but compositional techniques aren't photographic specific).

    I'd even recommend those three books for the OP. I'm told that Understanding Exposure is also a good book. I've never read it, so I can't personally recommend it. The Adams works, however, still stand the test of time.
    mike
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  12. #12
    Digital versus Film

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    Though I voted for FIM I recommend just go with digital. I have a Nikon L110 and it did the job for the High School level classes, though one corner is typically out of focus because the focus light is in a bad spot (the high end (L500?) probably fixes this. Close up and extreme optical zoom is its strong points, best with a tripod.

    Technically film is best, but for your level, photoshop skills required by the class, and cost digital is fine. My teacher used film but he couldn't afford to make images color.

    Here is a blog I created for the class that I try to update from time to time to see the quality of my camera. Eric Wilmot's Photography

  13. #13
    Digital versus Film
    chas_m's Avatar
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    In the student stage of your life, where you won't have great access to lots of money, I would definitely recommend a digital camera.

    I have no idea what your budget might be, but at your age I think I'd be looking at something a bit less than a DSLR as they can be awfully pricey. Maybe one of the new "micro four thirds" or mirrorless cameras. I have had great luck with what was at the time a modest Canon camera, the S3 IS. It only shoots JPG but the important thing to me was that it had a great zoom lines on it for the time. It allowed me to get a LOT of shots I otherwise couldn't have gotten without spending serious bucks. I think I paid $300 for it.

    As someone pointed out to me recently, the choice of camera is also very dependent on the kind of shooting you will primarily be doing, but since you're just getting into it I'd suggest something versatile but not too expensive. Have a look at some of the digital camera websites and check out the reviews for cameras at the upper end of your price range to get a feel for what your money can get you, then see if you can get the model one down from that (or last year's version) from someone who's upgrading.

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