WOW! that’s a pretty powerful statement from such a nice, friendly guy but man I’m glad I am all digital. After working in the industry for 25 years there are only three things that I can honestly say that I miss about film and at least 100 things I love about digital.
So first up there is something very magical about watching a Black and White print appear out of no where in the developer tray. Even if it was my first test print and I did five different exposures on the paper it was still just so cool to watch it develop.
Next up is the unparalled beauty of a perfectly exposed Kodachrome slide being projected on a good screen in a darkened room. The colors would pop and everyone would say oohh, aahh.
Finally the only thing that I have found to be easier in a traditional darkroom to perform is when you are making an enlargement and a certain item in the image has to be an exact dimension. It was easy, if the client needed the coffee cup to be an exact size in the print, you simply raised the enlarger until it measured four inches high or whatever the dimensions were. But that’s it. Everything else is a lot easier.
But Mike, what about the resolution, or dynamic range, or the texture and feel of the film grain? Really? You liked film grain? I hate film grain and we always did whatever we could to eliminate it or at least reduce it. Have you ever tried to shoot anything with T-Max 3200 or Fuji 3200 ASA film? Golf ball sized grain is what you got if you tried to enlarge it to over 8×10 inches. Now you can grab yourself Nikon D3 or similar camera and shoot all day at 3200 and it will look more like a 200 speed film.
OK, so film has the ultimate in resolution. True, you can shoot some Kodachrome 25 and make a 40×60 inch print and it will be grainless, beautiful and eye popping. After you have made a perfect interneg or messed with Cibachrome or can anyone even afford a 40×60 inch dye transfer print? Doubtful. The digital solution does not even come in a $30,000 65 megapixel back. It comes in the simple solution of panorama shooting or the Gigapan machine, which by the way is surprisingly affordable. Do you need a 100 megapixels to make a ginormous print, which is now affordable thanks to ink-jet printing? Take your 10 megapixel camera and fire off about 15 images up and down, side to side, in a 3×5 pattern and I guarantee your final image will be beautiful.
Finally dynamic range. Ok, so Kodachrome has some seriously crazy dynamic range. Trust me I have been scanning these little buggers for the last 15 years and they are usually deeper that the scanners I am using. Negative film has always had great exposure latitude and that would help in saving the highlights or shadows. There are two fixes for this conundrum; Camera Raw and HDR baby. If you shoot your images in a raw format then you can usually get about four stops of exposure latitude depending on your camera’s sensor. So get in there and recover those highlights and save those shadows. But for the ultimate in exposure control, the way Ansel Adams would have done it, is to use HDR or High Dynamic Range imaging. Three shots of two under, normal and two over cover a tremendous range of lighting situations. And if that’s not enough then you simply shoot more and more until you get it all. Ansel would have gone crazy with this technique and I wish he were alive so I could buy his book to end all books on the topic. Read his latest book on Color because he talks in great detail about the future of color imaging being with electronic processes, back in 1984 ! What a visionary.
Oh, and by the way, if you like that look of film grain there are several programs out there that will help you replicate it. The only need I can see for this is if you are compositing images and you have some old grainy Tri-x film and you are trying to match images that you have recently shot with your digital grainless camera.
Believe me, I could go on and on about the joys of digital imaging but I will leave that up to you. Do you all have any other arguments why film is better that digital. If you do I’d love to hear them. Otherwise I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!