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Thread: (black & white) digital vs film

  1. #1

    Default (black & white) digital vs film

    I am a newbie to digital photography. I want to ask some DSLR expert here.

    How is the quality of a b&w photo taken from a DLSR compare to that of a b&w film taken from a film SLR. Can the DSLR produce b&w quality as good as b&w film?

    TIA

  2. #2

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    If you're talking about resolution, if you're using a good scanner, yes film beats digital. In terms of B/W, I think film has a greater latitude than digital. And digital has a more linear response curve than negative films. e.g. Negative films slope off into the highlights whereas digital can record highlights to a certain point and then suddenly can't.

    BUT BUT, you can get a good B/W photo from digital files provided you expose the photo correctly and do a proper conversion in Photoshop. But there are still people who prefer the "look" B/W film gives them and the nice grain etc.

  3. #3

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Thanks for the comments. I am thinking of migrating from film to digital but i don't want to compromise b&w photography. What do the rest think? Or most of you using DSLR are not really into b&w photography?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Although I shoot digital primarily, I still keep several film bodies just for b/w work. Digital b/w just does not cut it for me, images seem flat and dull, lacking depth and perspective. Maybe it's just my workflow but I find film a much easier b/w medium to work with.

    It's still nice to have to load a roll of film once in a while and actually think about the shot before capturing the frame... unlike digital... shoot and shoot and shoot, sometimes mindlessly doing so.

    One digital camera which I find to be a good compromise between digital convenience and film like qualities is the Epson R-D1. I have the camera set on b/w exposures 90% of the time and it also feels like you're using a film body, especially with the film advance lever which needs to be armed with each shot, even if its a digital body.

  5. #5

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Thanks Terence. And you are so right about one will just shoot and shoot and shoot away mindlessly with digital camera.

    Its a sad case that nowadays, many newbie will just started off with digital and they will never truely learn the real essence of photography.

    Back to b&w. Looks like I better stick to film or start learning Photoshop like what n0d3 mentioned. I assume the same case goes to sephia.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Quote Originally Posted by CMOS
    Thanks Terence. And you are so right about one will just shoot and shoot and shoot away mindlessly with digital camera.

    Its a sad case that nowadays, many newbie will just started off with digital and they will never truely learn the real essence of photography.

    Back to b&w. Looks like I better stick to film or start learning Photoshop like what n0d3 mentioned. I assume the same case goes to sephia.
    there are various photoshop plugins (paid and free) dat does BnW conversions for u. also, goggle for greg gorman - he came down to singapore earlier this year and demoed BnW conversions at epsite. he's one of the world's leading digital BnW photogs.

    depends on how u view it - the purists will deride digital BnW while digital shooters will promote the ease of doing digital BnW. i'm still learning how to do both decently, unfortunately. however, based on my limited experiments with digital BnW and film BnW, i'm leaning towards nod3's sentiments.

    oh yeah - some amatuer digital shooters (pros are a different story) will mindless shoot hundreds of frames per session... until they realised the concept of shutter life.
    If Life worked on auto mode then manual mode for photography would have never existed. ― Deeksha Mittal

  7. #7

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Dr Chong can gives you good advise ... he is a B&W film user and recently has his negative scanned to digital images.

    Where is student, calling you here ....
    AMPA * WPPI * J team

  8. #8

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Some of my observations after trying digital out for a few months:

    1. You need to have the know-how with photoshop. Basic skills will not extract the maximum from your file.

    2. You need lots of $$ to afford the professional epsons that print BWs well. Even then, they cannot achieve the look of a fibre print. But they are nice.

    3. Cost per print is incredibly high, especially if your print is on the dark side. My ink costs were $3-4 per A4 print.

    I was really hoping that digital would be able to do it because I had limited opportunities to go to the darkroom. But alas - I failed! So I bit the bullet and bought all the analog stuff and I am now printing at home. Best decision I have made (photography wise).
    Last edited by pipefish; 29th September 2005 at 10:16 AM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    A few here mentioned digital b&w conversion using photoshop. May I know how does the quality of the digital b&w photo after these conversion (assuming the best possible quality) comparing to b&w photo taken with film. Are they close? Can an expert eyes tell them apart?

  10. #10

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Someone calling me? Here I am!

    I am no guru in B&W photography. But I like B&W photography.

    In my opinion, digital B&W photography is very good. If a person cannot produce a good digital B&W image, it is not the problem of the medium, but the failings of the photographer. I do not deride digital B&W photography.

    But there will be a difference in the final image. Not which is better. How can it be when one image is printed on silver halide paper, and the other on dyes and ink? But which output one likes is something very personal. Digital output will continue to get better. That is certain. But it will always be different.

    But there is another thing to consider besides the final print. The work process. While some may feel that at the end, it is the final print that counts, I feel that the journey is also important, especially to a hobbyist like me.

    I like the challenge of the making judgements, of making mistakes that ae not so easily corrected like in PS. I like the solitude of the darkroom. These are important to me.

  11. #11

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Thanks for the helpful comments "student". I guess if I wish to move along with time and technology, digital should be the way to go so long that the quality is acceptable to me. Acceptable or not well I have to try it out myself.

    Btw, I assume that the ISO ratings works the same in DSLR for b&w as in the film. How about infrared? Is it possible to do it in DSLR or must post edit to achieve it?

    Please bear with me. I am a total newbie in digital camera.

  12. #12

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Quote Originally Posted by CMOS
    Thanks for the helpful comments "student". I guess if I wish to move along with time and technology, digital should be the way to go so long that the quality is acceptable to me. Acceptable or not well I have to try it out myself.

    Btw, I assume that the ISO ratings works the same in DSLR for b&w as in the film. How about infrared? Is it possible to do it in DSLR or must post edit to achieve it?

    Please bear with me. I am a total newbie in digital camera.
    I do not do infrared photography.

    But go to www.ecircleoflight.org where there might be someone to help you.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Quote Originally Posted by CMOS
    Thanks for the helpful comments "student". I guess if I wish to move along with time and technology, digital should be the way to go so long that the quality is acceptable to me. Acceptable or not well I have to try it out myself.

    Btw, I assume that the ISO ratings works the same in DSLR for b&w as in the film. How about infrared? Is it possible to do it in DSLR or must post edit to achieve it?

    Please bear with me. I am a total newbie in digital camera.
    the ISO ratings are the same. tho.. if u go to thom hogan's site, he will give u the ins and outs of ISO ratings on cameras.

    there's a whole industry of printers and inks catered just for printing digital BnW. i'm not sure how common izit locally. however, in the states, if u read their magazines, they will have sections devoted purely to discussing the pros and cons of various printers and inks when it comes to producing BnW. increasingly, there's a differentiation of printers for colours and BnW, whereas in the past these printers were suppose to handle both.

    there's a sub-thread on digital IR photography here. its somewhere in the middle of the page, just scroll downwards.
    If Life worked on auto mode then manual mode for photography would have never existed. ― Deeksha Mittal

  14. #14

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Thanks. I have no idea how the b&w works in DSLR so another silly question from a total newbie to DSLR.

    Do you turn on the b&w feature within the DSLR, shoot it and view the photo on the camera LCD in b&w or do you shoot it like a normal color shots and then convert it to b&w with photoshop?

  15. #15

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    It's not just a matter of shooting in b/w, but thinking and framing in b&w.

    Since you've been shooting in film medium, you should know what i'm talking about. Digital is just another medium in photography. It shouldn't hinder you in your style of photography.

    All I can comment is that digital darkroom requires just as much time spent in a traditional darkroom if you want to make good black and white print. It's not done by a click of a button.

    Jon

  16. #16

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Quote Originally Posted by arttl
    It's not just a matter of shooting in b/w, but thinking and framing in b&w.

    Since you've been shooting in film medium, you should know what i'm talking about. Digital is just another medium in photography. It shouldn't hinder you in your style of photography.

    All I can comment is that digital darkroom requires just as much time spent in a traditional darkroom if you want to make good black and white print. It's not done by a click of a button.

    Jon
    Thanks Jon. I don't quite get what you said but to me digital or film makes no difference in terms of framing and perceiving them in b&w tones.

    I started this thread to find out the quality of b&w photo produce by a DSLR compare to b&w film. I got the answer that they can be quite close (with a proper post edit skills).

    Then I went on to ask how the b&w works in DSLR and I have not receive any answer on this. Its a simple question to most of you but to a newbie to DSLR like me, I just simply have no answer to it yet. If you care to enlighten me, here's the question again....

    How do take a b&w photo using a DSLR?
    a) Do you activate the b&w feature within the camera, snap and the see the photo on the LCD in b&w
    b) Do you snap as per normal color photo and then convert it to b&w using a desktop pc software

    Thanks again.
    Last edited by CMOS; 29th September 2005 at 03:10 PM.

  17. #17

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Quote Originally Posted by CMOS
    How do take a b&w photo using a DSLR?
    a) Do you activate the b&w feature within the camera, snap and the see the photo on the LCD in b&w
    b) Do you snap as per normal color photo and then convert it to b&w using a desktop pc software
    Take my comments as a fellow newbie in digital B&W.

    This is my understanding and also how I work with the digital medium. Pardon me if I sounded too juvenile in my explanation.

    I take my images in color. Then I open up the files in Photoshop.

    Then I go to "windows -> channels". A box comes up with 4 sub-boxes. The first one shows the original image in color. The others show the image in monochrome with the red, blue and green channel. I clicked on these monochrome images to get an idea how the image looks like in the different channels. Let us say that I like the image in green channel.

    Then I return to "image->adjustment->channels mixer". At the channel mixer box (called a dialogue box?) I click on the "monochrome box". the color will be changed to monochrome. Then I adjust the image by varying the different "percentages" of red, green and blue channels. In this case I may use a channel of using more "green".

    I think the above process is useful because the channels show the effects as if you are using different filters.

    Do not go from color to "desaturate" immediately.

    That will be the basic monochrome image. Then I further adjust by adjusting contrast, lightness/darkness/dodge/burn etc, and finally toning.

    It sounds complicated.

    But in a simple image, the time I take to change a color image to B&W is less than 5 minutes.

    I hope that helps.

  18. #18

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Quote Originally Posted by CMOS
    How do take a b&w photo using a DSLR?
    a) Do you activate the b&w feature within the camera, snap and the see the photo on the LCD in b&w
    b) Do you snap as per normal color photo and then convert it to b&w using a desktop pc software

    Thanks again.
    Hi CMOS,

    Apologies if i've caused any confusion. Anyway, back to the topic.

    A. For most DSLR cam, they do not have the function of b/w mode. Unlike consumer P&S digi cam. So most cases, shoot in color and visualised in b/w.
    B. Yes. Convert them into b/w in PS. There are also actions or scripts for you to convert them.

    I'm a newbie in b/w photography so it'll take me half-hr to complete a b/w print.

    Cheers,
    Jon

  19. #19

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    I have a little time, so I can explain a little more, if you do not mind.

    Kodak used to have a DSLR specifically for B&W. So instead of using a BW film, you use a sensor that is configured for BW.

    Although my primary medium is film, I do think that there is an advantage in digital. I remember that Canon G2 (?) have a switch that changes color to BW, again making it similar to taking images in BW like film. I would not do this. Always take your images in color.

    The reason is this:

    let us say that you are taking a picture of person with a shirt of red and green strips. When you desaturate from color to BW, the green and red will look very similar, rather uninteresting. When I use films, I will accept this limitation and work around it. But when you take in color and then convert using the channels, you can chose to lighten or darken red or green, so the shirt can have more interesting tones.

    Hope that helps.

    Note arttl comments. I think I do have a little more experience in B&W than most in CS, and I am able to discern tones better. Hence I could do the conversion a little faster.

  20. #20

    Default Re: (black & white) digital vs film

    Now my brain is less clouded. Again great thanks to "student" and arttl for the time and effort to explain to this newbie. I really appreciate that.

    I saw one of my friend have a low end digital camera and it has BW on the dial knob and so I presumed that the DSLR (which is a higher end) should have that too and so I started this thread based on that assumption. In fact my question should not be a question at all since they don't work the same way.

    Okie now I understand that DSLR takes every shots in color only. Then one have to use a software like photoshop to convert to b&w (or even sephia I believe). Which means the end result will really depends a lot on ones photoshop skills.

    I better get accustomed to photoshop or any other photo editing software before I decide whether or not digital is suitable for me.
    Last edited by CMOS; 29th September 2005 at 04:29 PM.

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