Film better tonal range than digital?


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don juan

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Mar 30, 2005
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I did an experiment recently, I tried to take some photos of my backyard
garden. I equip myself with a eos 20d, a 30v analog camera and a sigma EX zoom lens. Firstly I took some shots with the 20D with (adobe98) settings.
Next I took same the pictures with the analog using a fuji superia 200 film.
The settings for both camera are same eg focal lenght,iso etc. I then sent them all (film,CF card) to a Fuji lab for development.

When I got my pics back. I found out that the ones taken by 20D were indeed
more vibrant and colourful. But after closer inspection. I found the ones develop
from film have more tonal range(grass,soil). More Different shades of green and brown were detected and look more natural compared to the one by 20D. So I decided to tweak the ones taken by 20D in photoshop Hue and Saturation. To my suprise, I wasn't able to reproduce the kind of greens I got from film. Does that mean film tonal range is better?
 

theITguy

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Sep 19, 2003
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#2
Just shoot what you like. It does not matter if it is better or worst. It also does not matter that just because it is better you must have it. Use what suits you or you need.


You have to know that Film was developed over 100 years (right or I am wrong?), while Digital is only about 15 year? It will probably take a few more years for Digital to catch up with Film in terms of colour range etc.
 

The_Cheat

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Jan 19, 2004
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#3
don juan said:
I did an experiment recently, I tried to take some photos of my backyard
garden. I equip myself with a eos 20d, a 30v analog camera and a sigma EX zoom lens. Firstly I took some shots with the 20D with (adobe98) settings.
Next I took same the pictures with the analog using a fuji superia 200 film.
The settings for both camera are same eg focal lenght,iso etc. I then sent them all (film,CF card) to a Fuji lab for development.

When I got my pics back. I found out that the ones taken by 20D were indeed
more vibrant and colourful. But after closer inspection. I found the ones develop
from film have more tonal range(grass,soil). More Different shades of green and brown were detected and look more natural compared to the one by 20D. So I decided to tweak the ones taken by 20D in photoshop Hue and Saturation. To my suprise, I wasn't able to reproduce the kind of greens I got from film. Does that mean film tonal range is better?
Hmm... I think the test is not that good a one, since film send to a commercial mini-lab are usually scanned before printing, meaning the digitalisation process would reduce the "true" quality of the film output (if there's a "true" quality that is...).
 

sumball

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Jul 8, 2003
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If you really want to compare, shoot in slide. btw, did the ppl in the lab do any adj onto your print, eg color adj etc?

It is unfair to do the comparison in this manner.

ANyhow, my personal experience tell me that the digital printout give more punchy contrast, sharpness, and color even shot in film and print using digital machine like Fuji Frontier. But, somehow, it does give "fake" color compare to the print from analog machine using lens instead of laser print.

I like the natural look of my print which were printed using analog machine. ;p
 

sumball

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theITguy said:
Just shoot what you like. It does not matter if it is better or worst. It also does not matter that just because it is better you must have it. Use what suits you or you need.


You have to know that Film was developed over 100 years (right or I am wrong?), while Digital is only about 15 year? It will probably take a few more years for Digital to catch up with Film in terms of colour range etc.
Technologies advance in recent ten to twenty years are faster than the past 100years.
 

nightpiper

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Oct 20, 2003
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i wud say 'yes', tonal range on film is better. if u want to rival that, u need a DSLR that process in 16bits of colours instead of the normal 12bit ADC. that brings us to Medium Format digital backs (even 6MP is great). out of reach for the ordinary mortals. :cry:

have u tried slide films yet? u will be totally blown away by its colour!! i recommend Fuji Provia. :thumbsup:
 

fuzzy

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Oct 7, 2004
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#8
if you are into landscape and scenary, i would suggest using Fuji Velva50.
though i've only used only 1 roll, i find that it is absolutely amazing in capturing the colours especially during sunrise/set.

some people may find the colours too fake but i find them just right.

Try it!
 

don juan

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Mar 30, 2005
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Yeah digital gives me punchy and more contrast but.. the colours of grass and
soil is just so lacking in different green shade(just a constant green). I also understand that my negs are scanned by frontier fuji before prints, therefore I expect in slight loss of quality. But heck, the files from digital images are direct input to the machine without any scanning degrading. Yet the result are still not better than film. I am just wondering what the hell did I get the digital 20D which lifespan might not even outlast the cheapest Canon analog SLR camera.
 

nightpiper

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Oct 20, 2003
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u have not seen the contrast & colour on the velvia or the provia. they will truely blow u away. ;)

well, u use a digital sys for its convenience. dun worry, rest assure that your 20D will last longer than a film EOS300V costing only about $500.

can i recommend u to fotohub at Raffles Place MRT? very good printouts for both digital & film, & if u want to print from slides, u will be amazed by how good the image can look too. the cost of printing slide is high but once a while, u shud have a taste of the good stuff. :thumbsup:
 

theITguy

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nightpiper said:
u have not seen the contrast & colour on the velvia or the provia. they will truely blow u away. ;)

well, u use a digital sys for its convenience. dun worry, rest assure that your 20D will last longer than a film EOS300V costing only about $500.

can i recommend u to fotohub at Raffles Place MRT? very good printouts for both digital & film, & if u want to print from slides, u will be amazed by how good the image can look too. the cost of printing slide is high but once a while, u shud have a taste of the good stuff. :thumbsup:

I agree on the Velvia 50 (not the 100F sold in Singapore) which will make normal looking contrast and coloured object stand out. Those who never shoot film before should shoot at least a roll of Velvia 50 and let the slides tell them how is film vs digital.
 

zig

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Sep 14, 2004
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#12
duh!... of course films latitude is wide!....
but then again i never beleived in which is better digital or film by itself....
in art...in fact in life nothing is better than the other...its always about what you want to achieve and then using the right tools...
 

Jemapela

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Feb 20, 2005
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#14
Hi don juan,

It was good that you tried that experiment, and you have found your own personal first-hand proof that film could be, actually is, superior to digital in terms of image quality.

This fact is something you won't find printed honestly in camera brochures, whether it's EOS 20D or EOS 1D Mk II.

Film superiority is mostly attributed to chemistry. Film grains are much smaller than photosites on the CCD/CMOS sensor (or pixels in digital image). To give you an understanding, a silver halide grain can be as small as 0.1 micron compared to 10 microns for a pixel. What's there to fight?

Another thing is that grains are diffused into film, layer upon layer. Grains often partly overlap each other but they are more tightly packed than photosites/pixels. Hence, film would register more detail.

In fact, Kodak says that ISO100-200 film is at least 24 megapixels equivalency of digital. Popular Photography magazine in March 2001 tested ISO100 film to be equivalent to 40 megapixels.

There was a scientific research paper by AFIP (I still haven't found out what it stands for) that reported ISO100-200 film having about 54 megapixels.

Print films (negative films) have the widest exposure latitude; wider than slide films. Some articles say negative films have up to 7 stops of latitude! Slide films do about 3 stops. Digital is also about 3 stops. I can't do the maths to tell you how many stops of latitude the human eye has (because it's a hell lot of latitude) but negative film would produce images most similar to human vision.

It's not very difficult to suspect why Hollywood movies are still shot on 35mm film. Watch the end credits for proof. For your information, motion picture film is mostly rated ISO250 and ISO500, and are still capable of being projected on to a large screen more than 100x it's original frame size.

There are other problems with digital cameras which badly reduced lens resolution but I will leave that out due to irrelevance.
 

don juan

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Mar 30, 2005
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#15
I feel that a good lens will unleash its full potential on film. I totally agree what jemapela says. And for model shots its always the film that get better skin tone
and colour. I had a friend who got 1D mark2 recently with a L24-70mm lens. I was so shock that his prints was incomparable with another friend who uses a contax Nx with zeiss lens. Wow the price difference is enough to get a few contaxs. Perhaps I should invest in good lens rather than digital body who will go obselete in a couple of years.
 

sammyboy

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Feb 14, 2005
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#16
Jemapela said:
Hi don juan,

It was good that you tried that experiment, and you have found your own personal first-hand proof that film could be, actually is, superior to digital in terms of image quality.

This fact is something you won't find printed honestly in camera brochures, whether it's EOS 20D or EOS 1D Mk II.

Film superiority is mostly attributed to chemistry. Film grains are much smaller than photosites on the CCD/CMOS sensor (or pixels in digital image). To give you an understanding, a silver halide grain can be as small as 0.1 micron compared to 10 microns for a pixel. What's there to fight?

Another thing is that grains are diffused into film, layer upon layer. Grains often partly overlap each other but they are more tightly packed than photosites/pixels. Hence, film would register more detail.

In fact, Kodak says that ISO100-200 film is at least 24 megapixels equivalency of digital. Popular Photography magazine in March 2001 tested ISO100 film to be equivalent to 40 megapixels.

There was a scientific research paper by AFIP (I still haven't found out what it stands for) that reported ISO100-200 film having about 54 megapixels.

Print films (negative films) have the widest exposure latitude; wider than slide films. Some articles say negative films have up to 7 stops of latitude! Slide films do about 3 stops. Digital is also about 3 stops. I can't do the maths to tell you how many stops of latitude the human eye has (because it's a hell lot of latitude) but negative film would produce images most similar to human vision.

It's not very difficult to suspect why Hollywood movies are still shot on 35mm film. Watch the end credits for proof. For your information, motion picture film is mostly rated ISO250 and ISO500, and are still capable of being projected on to a large screen more than 100x it's original frame size.

There are other problems with digital cameras which badly reduced lens resolution but I will leave that out due to irrelevance.
Jemapela+don juan,

Very good detail and candid explanation.
:thumbsup:
 

loupgarou

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Sep 9, 2003
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#17
Print films (negative films) have the widest exposure latitude; wider than slide films. Some articles say negative films have up to 7 stops of latitude! Slide films do about 3 stops. Digital is also about 3 stops. I can't do the maths to tell you how many stops of latitude the human eye has (because it's a hell lot of latitude) but negative film would produce images most similar to human vision.
do you mean the number of stops between the whitest white and blackest black? I thought I read that digital (10D etc) is 11 stops.
 

Mar 24, 2005
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I have actually converted from digital to film when I saw some of my friends' negatives and slides especially those medium format and large format ones. Now my S2pro will act like my poloraid cam. I am a newbie to film and I hope can learn something from here.
 

erwinx

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Jan 18, 2002
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#19
don juan said:
I did an experiment recently, I tried to take some photos of my backyard
garden. I equip myself with a eos 20d, a 30v analog camera and a sigma EX zoom lens. Firstly I took some shots with the 20D with (adobe98) settings.
Next I took same the pictures with the analog using a fuji superia 200 film.
The settings for both camera are same eg focal lenght,iso etc. I then sent them all (film,CF card) to a Fuji lab for development.

When I got my pics back. I found out that the ones taken by 20D were indeed
more vibrant and colourful. But after closer inspection. I found the ones develop
from film have more tonal range(grass,soil). More Different shades of green and brown were detected and look more natural compared to the one by 20D. So I decided to tweak the ones taken by 20D in photoshop Hue and Saturation. To my suprise, I wasn't able to reproduce the kind of greens I got from film. Does that mean film tonal range is better?

(1) Colourspace of Frontier labs are about the same as sRGB. So even if film had increased gamut, it is unlikely to that a Frontier print will show the difference since digital gamut exceeds sRGB.

(2) Which leads to the similar point that even though digital gamut exceeds sRGB, you can't say, send a wide gamut digital file to Frontier, since it discards the colourspace info and operates in sRGB or thereabouts.

(3) You do not emulate film by adjusting Hue and Saturation. For a start, you should convert 20D RAW to a wide-gamut colourspace, tweak it, and send it through say, an Epson R800. (more muted [some say 'realistic'] colours than say the 'vivid' Canons printers)

(4) If that doesn't work. Buy an S2 and S3 Pro
 

dkw

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#20
don juan said:
I feel that a good lens will unleash its full potential on film. I totally agree what jemapela says. And for model shots its always the film that get better skin tone
and colour. I had a friend who got 1D mark2 recently with a L24-70mm lens. I was so shock that his prints was incomparable with another friend who uses a contax Nx with zeiss lens. Wow the price difference is enough to get a few contaxs. Perhaps I should invest in good lens rather than digital body who will go obselete in a couple of years.
Did you try shooting in RAW mode, i.e. using the "digital negative"? In-camera jpg compression is usually not optimal.

The question of obsolescence is a false one. Did the fully manual cameras go obsolete with the advent of AF/AE? Of course not. By the same token, a 20D will be taking the same kind of pictures 10 years from now as it is today. Its like saying its better to buy a typewriter than a pentium 4 since the pentium will be obsolete in 12 months, but the typewriter is still fully functional. If the 20D picture quality is great today, it will still be the same in 10 years, regardless of whatever technological advances have occurred in the interim.

Happy shooting. :)
 

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