Over the last 6 to 12 months it’s become more and more frequent that when I go anywhere to take pictures I will take along a film camera as well as my Pentax K5 or Sony Nex 6 digital camera. Because of that I have several instances where I have pictures which have been captured with both a digital sensor and film so I thought it would be interesting to try to compare the images and see which I find more pleasing.
The 6 pairs of pictures above are the ones I’ve selected, and the selection process was simply that they are pictures taken of the same location with both film and digital. None of these pictures are exact copies of the scene because I didn’t set out to make two versions of the same picture for the sake of comparison, but they are the same location at slightly different times or from a slightly different viewpoint. Obviously the camera involved was different for the digital and film versions and in most cases the lenses were also different (the exception is the flower pictures which were both taken with a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 K mount macro lens). If you want to view the pictures at full size use this link.
All the digital pictures were taken with my Pentax K-5 APS-C digital camera and the 35mm pictures were taken with either a Pentax SXFn or a Minolta Dynax 505si loaded with Fuji Superia Xtra 400. The negatives were scanned using an Epson V550 photo scanner and both the scans and digital pictures were post processed in Lightroom.
I’ve found that in most of these I tend to prefer the film picture, but I’m having a job defining exactly why. If I zoom into each image at extreme magnification it’s possible to see that the digital image is actually better defined with smaller ‘noise’ than the film image, but as I move back out to normal viewing magnification there seem to be subtleties in the shading and tone which in some situations seem missing from the digital picture. It also seems to be the case that the sky detail seems better retained in many cases in the analogue picture, but only very slightly.
I’d be interested to hear anyones comments or preferences based on purely the ‘look’ of the picture. Just to be clear, I’m not a film fanatic or someone who thinks digital is horrible and shouldn’t be used. I basically use whichever technology I feel the impulse to use and would be genuinely interested to hear other photographer’s opinions. By the way, I’ve mixed the ordering of the images in the gallery above, but it’s easy to see which are digital because in the large view they have metadata which the film pictures don’t.