I’ve got a bone to pick…(who me?) I am getting really tired of reading “reviews” about how much better the release of new “X” digital camera or capture back is than film. Recently I’ve been noticing that many of these “experts” are making claims that 4″x5″ film has now been beat or surpassed.
Excuse me, but- what? Do I really need to say it? It’s about more than pixels, guys!
This is, we should all be aware, an argument designed first and foremost to part you from your pocket book. As in: spend, spend, spend!
Consider this… in order to get a capture device that will equal high-end film scans from, say, a medium or large format camera, you are spending $30,000+ dollars on bleeding edge technology (whoops- is it the technology that’s bleeding… or is that us?). Furthermore, remember its life-span is about equal to that of an ant when compared with the legacy of film-based cameras. Realistically, unless you have clients willing to spend tons of money for your services (great for you) or you are just really rich there is NO WAY to get back your financial investment in this type of system before the camera industry trumps your purchase and convinces you that, once again, it’s time to upgrade, upgrade, upgrade! I’ve been down this road enough to know that it is very difficult indeed. These days, I personally prefer the upgrade expense of a new roll of film or sheet of film, it just seems a bit more sustainable. Call me crazy, but I’d rather spend my money on technology that is immediately meaningful such as a better monitor or of course more RAM.
Not to mention, it really is about more than pixels… seriously! There is an inherent “look” to everything: a great film scan, a great digital capture, and to the finished prints from both types of files…you have to choose which you like. That’s right! Despite what you’ve heard, each one is okay. Ultimately, the choice is up to YOU. I will confess here and now that the very high end digital capture systems do in many ways equal great film scans in terms of resolution (or get darn close) but it is different look, kind of like the difference between vanilla and French vanilla ice cream- you know, similar, but different. Bleeding edge digital capture has it’s definitive place on high-end advertising shoots and for situations where you need really fast turn-arounds, but that is a small section of the overall photography market.
Another technique of these “expert” reviewers is to compare something like ISO 100 film with 100 ISO on a digital back… we are lead to conclude that at the best of the best all things are equal or better for digital. I guess these experts want you to forget that most pro film lines are available in ISO’s like 64, 50, 32, 25 and even 15…stack that side by side with a digital capture. Hey- film has this option (or in digital terms “upgrade”). It’s interesting that when there are positives on the digital side reviewers point it out at every opportunity but when the shoe is on the other foot? Silence. The fact is that a low ISO hi-res film scan is impossible to beat with the current digital technology. But why point that out? After all, we have to move those new digital cameras somehow to make room for the next “technological breakthrough,” which at the current pace should be sometime around next Wednesday.
So, the choice is yours… but whatever you do, don’t buy into the BS “reviews” who fail to realize that different is good! Choice is good! Right now we need reviews more about working with a system day in and day out, the durability of the system long term… and YES have an honest, open discussion about how to make your personal choice and investment work. For if we can’t, photographers will just keep on bleeding at the local camera store until there is nothing left to bleed.