Minggu, 14 Agustus 2011

Comparing Film and Digital Photography

Making the transition from film to digital photography wasn't easy when I was in photography school. It was like learning a new language. Sure it was easier in that you didn't have to buy film and load it into the camera, yet with all the new-fangled gadgets attached to digital cameras, I found it a bit intimidating. There will always be an argument that film is better than digital. Digital cameras have all but replaced film cameras, yet in photography schools, both film and digital are still taught, so that students are aware of each format's attributes.

I went to a camera show recently knowing that film cameras had fallen out of favor, but I was somewhat surprised to see the total lack of interest. Ten people (in addition to the vendors) were at the show besides myself. The sad truth is that even though film cameras are still being used in photography schools, most professional photographers rarely use film anymore, for many reasons, including expense and lack of resources for developing the film.


These vendors had a multitude of old and unique pieces for sale, some of them dating back to the late 19th century (when I was in photography school, I actually had one of these antique cameras, but that's another story for another time), but the overall vibe was one of frustration as many of the people I spoke with loved film, but had forcibly made the switch to digital.

I'm not knocking digital cameras here, they have their advantages in that they're compact, they produce an immediate image and they have a greater storage capacity than a film camera, which in 35mm, only has the capacity for 36 exposures. With digital, you can shoot hundreds of images, as well as video clips, until your memory card fills up. Digital cameras also allow you to see your image immediately after you take the picture, as opposed to film. And even though the image quality is different, with computer programs like Photoshop, you can actually replicate digital images so that they resemble film.

Digital cameras originally got their start as a CCD (charge coupled device)-a digital image sensor that was originally developed for computer memory in the late 1960s, yet the technology would eventually be used for video cameras, the bulky kind used in broadcast television. And like the first cell phones, digital cameras were big and bulky things to carry around; it was through trial and error that digital cameras would transform over the years into products that were compact enough to fit into one's pocket. Today, some look like actual cameras, whereas others don't.

The added plus with digital cameras is that they can be found in many other products, such as smart phones and PDAs, making it more convenient for spur of the moment shots. But more elaborate digital single lens reflex cameras, as opposed to point and shoot cameras, are often used by professional photographers, as they have greater capabilities and are more versatile. Though nifty, these are the culprits for having veritably replaced the standard film camera and making it pretty much obsolete.

And though film still exists, it's harder than ever to find. Ask at your local drug store for a roll of film, and you'll find that they look at you cross-eyed. Gone are the days when people would buy film cartridges and plop them into their small instamatic flash cameras with 24 exposures; the convenience of that has now been replaced by the even more convenient digital camera.

Those just starting out in photography schools also may not have had access to film cameras beforehand, unless one of their parents is a photographer, so the concept of shooting film may be entirely alien to them. In fact, the other day I was talking to a friend of mine's son, who's considering a career in photography and was asking me about various photography schools. This young 15-year-old boy had never once used a film camera. I made a mental note to get him one for his next birthday.

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