This is my personal thoughts, opinions and musings place. I will also rant about things, especially politically-correct things that irritate me. And sci-fi. Did I mention sci-fi? There'll be lots of sci-fi stuff here. And movies, too. Mmmmm... Movies

Friday, April 22, 2005

The difference between film and digital cameras

Some people wonder, what are the differences, apart from the obvious, between film and digital cameras. I'm going to outline a few of the more important ones below. If I've forgotten anything, please me know and I'll include, if I think it's appropriate.


Film: Film cameras care about the quality of the lens and the type of film. To produce good quality images, you need a good quality lens and film that matches what you're trying to accomplish. Some film is designed to be warmer than others, some film is meant for high resolution, some film is for portraiture work under specialty lighting. In SLR cameras, both lens and film are replaceable; in point-and-shoot(P/S) cameras, only the film is replaceable.

Digital: Digital cameras care about the quality of the lens, the light sensor and the image processing computer built into the body. The image storage media(like CompactFlash or SmartMedia) matters only if you care about how quickly it can save your image. Much of the picture modification that used to be done with film is now taken care of with White Balance and other tools built into the camera. There is White Balance for flash lighting, for natural lighting, for incandescent lighting and others. In SLR cameras, only the lens is replaceable; in P/S cameras, nothing is replaceable.


Film: Response to a shutter release is virtually instantaneous, especially on SLR cameras.

Digital: Response to a shutter release is very slow, especially in non-SLR cameras. There is even a term for this, called “shutter lag”. It can often be a second or longer, which makes these types of cameras useless for fast action such as car racing or sports. Digital SLRs do not, generally, suffer from this problem.


Film: Film canisters have a specific number of frames of film: 12, 24 or 36. No matter what's on each frame, that frame takes the exactly same amount of film as any other frame.

Digital: Digital storage media(CompactFlash, SD, MemoryStick, etc) come in specific sizes(16MegaByte, 32MB, 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, 1GigaByte,4GB,8GB) and the number of pictures you can store on each depends heavily on the content of the frame, the size and compression ratio. It is impossible to predict exactly how many shots you can store on any given card, though you can arrive at pretty accurate approximations.



Film: Film cameras are measured by the dimension of the frame: 35mm, 6cm x 4.5cm, 6cm x 6cm, 6cm x 7cm, 6cm x 9cm, 6cm x 12cm, 4.5"

Digital: Digital cameras are measured in megapixels: 1MP, 2MP, 3MP, 4MP, 5MP, 6MP, 7MP, 8MP, 12MP, 16MP.


Film: Film cameras, even the so-called miniature P/S ones, can still be fairly bulky because of the need to insert a 35mm film cartrdige.

Digital: Digital cameras can be made very small because a memory card doesn't take up a lot of room.


Film: Film cameras are not battery killers.

Digital: Digital cameras, especially the P/S ones, are battery killers. Digital SLR cameras would take only a little bit more power than a film SLR.

Film: Must be processed and, in case of print film, printed. If you want to have these pictures on the computer, they must be either flatbed scanned, or run through a film scanner.

Digital: Digital pictures are available on the computer as soon as they are downloaded from the camera, and need only to be resized and compressed for emailing or being added to a web site.

This applies only to SLR-type cameras.
Film: Lenses mean exactly what they say. A 28mm lens is exactly that, a 28mm lens.

Digital: Due to a smaller sensor area than a 35mm film frame, lenses on a 35mm-type digital SLR camera have be multiplied by a factor, that is different for every camera, even from the same manufacturer. For a Nikon D70, the factor is 1.5. Thus, a 28mm lens for a 35mm film SLR is actually a 42mm lens on a Nikon D70 digital SLR.

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