Digital vs Film - Price war?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Lestat, Jun 30, 2005.

  1. Lestat

    Lestat Guest

    I am a student of photography. I'm learning film but I have heard it
    said many times that digital is and will be taking over. I also have
    seen this happen with movies now, film is going out the window and
    digital taking over.

    What I want to know, or at least debate, is if going digital is really
    the best choice at this time.

    Does the cost of film over time even out with the price of memory
    cards? (Either by upgrading memory cards, loosing them, or breaking

    With film, I can see a bit of money also going into the whole
    development process if you are doing that yourself, but what about
    software for managing digital photo's? Last I checked, Photoshop wasn't
    one of the cheapest programs out there. Although I do know of a
    Photoshop alternative which may even be open-source. (Check

    I'm sure this has been discussed before but I needed something to do.

    If you wouldn't mind though try not to repeat excessively what someone
    else has mentioned, and keep it civil.
    Lestat, Jun 30, 2005
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  2. Lestat

    Wiseguy Guest

    keep in mind that when speaking of computer technology prices are kept
    artificially high. You'll never see a $10 digital camera that does
    anything real.

    Because the digital/computer arena is "black box" territory the
    manufacturers are free to produce products that maximize their profits.
    How do they do that you ask?

    1) as the price of technology falls they carefully phase out the
    cheaper technology in favor of features that can keep prices at a
    predetermined limit...often adding features that we don't want or need
    but pay for anyway.
    2) the development and manufacturing cost of digital technology is
    SOOOOO much lower than the retail cost.
    3) modern electronic devices are designed to wear out in about three
    years and to not be repairable.

    there will always be a place for film but in this "instant
    gratification" society digital will win out in the common media race.
    AFAIK you still need film and optics to verify the legitimacy of a

    There are no interpersonal problems that cannot be solved with a
    suitable application of the laws of chemistry.

    -anything after the next line is ANNOYING CRAP that newsfeeds adds-
    -directly contact newsfeeds and ISPs that piggy back them to complain-
    Wiseguy, Jun 30, 2005
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  3. Lestat

    Scott W Guest

    The cost of memory cards is really not an issue, the cost of the camera
    can be an issue however.

    I would be hard to tell what is right for you without more information
    about what you are after and what kind of photos you want o shoot. If
    you are interested in photojournalism then a DSLR would be a great
    camera. If you are interested in more classic B/W photography then
    film would be a better choice.

    If you want to make color prints then digital will give you control.
    Photoshop is expensive but you can do a fair bit with Photoshop
    Elements 3, which is pretty cheap.

    If you are not going to shoot a lot of photos then a film camera will
    be less expensive, if on the other hand you are going to shoot a lot of
    photos you can save a lot by going digital.

    If you have access at school to a good scanner that can scan 4 x 5 film
    I would take advantage of it and try of LF shots.

    If you want to play around with composition then even a cheap digital
    camera can be fun.

    Scott W, Jun 30, 2005
  4. Lestat

    Scott W Guest

    Depends on what you would call real.
    This has not been the case in any other area of digital technology, I
    can by a CD player for $12, use to cost $800, I can by a good computer
    for $500, use to cost $5000, I can by a DVD recorder for $100 use to
    cost $5000. I an buy a calculator for
    $3 use to cost $400. I can buy a digital camcorder for $300, use to
    cost $1200. I can by a color printer for $60 use to cost $1000. I can
    buy a DVD player for $30, use to cost a LOT. Digital cameras haver
    already come way down in price, you can get a good DSLR for under
    $1000, use to cost something like $20,000.

    In fact the margins on digital cameras are very small, everyone if
    fighting for
    market share.
    I have not had a digital camera go bad on me yet, and I have one from
    1998, one from
    1999, one from 2000, I took photos from all of these just last week. In
    fact pretty much all of my electronic devices are still working.
    Scott W, Jun 30, 2005
  5. Lestat

    Pat Ziegler Guest

    No war.. Although some hard line enthusiast of both formats may take extreme

    Both are viable formats that can serve photographic needs in different ways.
    My position is, If you create are remarkable photograph, nobody would or
    should care how you did it. Film will offer you many different flavors of
    film that all have unique characteristics. With digital you have the one
    sensor that has a specific range of capabilities. No one digital sensor can
    cover the entire gambit of films one can choose from.

    The biggest upside to digital is the immediate feedback. A close second is
    no recurring film cost or processing costs. In fact, the only consumables
    your digital camera uses is batteries. Digital cameras are battery hogs!
    What has yet to be proven is how long we can keep a digital file usable. In
    150 years will we be able to load your original raw image into the latest
    generation of computers. Will their be software that can still read the
    file.... We'll get back to you on that one.....

    A well versed photographer will have a good working knowledge of all formats
    and know which is the best format to use for any given job..

    If you limit your self to one format or another the you are limiting your
    capabilities. If you shoot the same thing in the exact same conditions over
    and over again then limited capabilities are all you need.. How boring
    would that be...

    Food for thought... You cannot find a single video engineer that will tell
    you VHS is better than BETA but yet VHS became the mainstay of the home
    video market for decades.......

    Pat Ziegler
    Image Quest Photography
    Pat Ziegler, Jun 30, 2005
  6. Lestat

    Scott W Guest

    While I agree with much of what you have written there are a few areas
    where I disagree. I would not call a digital camera a battery hog, I
    can shoot many hundreds of photos on a charge, with two batteries I
    have no problem shooting over 1000 photos. Batteries are also not
    consumables, they are rechargeable.

    As for how long will a digital photo last, this is a sore area for me,
    you see my film negatives are going bad. I am rather certain that I
    will still have my digital photos long after my negatives are all junk.

    As far as the quality of the photos is concerned there is little to
    choose between a good digital camera and a good 35mm SLR. I know I can
    get better photos with my digital camera then I could with my film
    cameras. Other will claim that they can get better photos with their
    film cameras. Both cameras can produce very good 8 x 10 prints, but
    when using film a great deal of care is needed at every step, from the
    exposure to the development to the scanning. With digital it is much
    harder to get less then a very good photo.

    What camera you should uses depends a lot on why you are taking
    photographs, if you like the challenge of getting a good photograph
    using film, and many people do, then film may be for you. If you like
    to shoot a few very careful photos, giving each one a lot of thought
    then digital will have less appeal then for others. If on the other
    hand you are like me and both shoot a lot of photographs and want them
    all on your computer then digital might be better.

    I have spent my time shooting film. Over the years I have shot just
    about everything there is, so do I miss film, not even a little bit.
    Whereas I think it is great that some people still enjoy shooting film
    I am also one of those people that a lot of film people can't stand.
    I believe that the transition from film to digital is a very positive
    thing. I also believe that film is dying as we watch. I am pretty
    sure there is at least 5 more years in film but over all film is a
    lousy way to capture images. The film market is crashing and will
    continue to crash. There are very few film cameras being sold now,
    there will be far fewer sold in the years to come. As much as there
    are people who would argue otherwise film is pretty much as good as it
    will get, but digital will continue to march forward. Film is losing
    big time to the digital cameras of today, how will it do in 5 or 10
    years from now, when digital cameras are much better yet.

    So do I believe that all of this means you should not get into film,
    not at all, in fact if you don't shoot film now you may find it much
    harder to do so in the future. If you do shoot film I would be sure to
    do B/W and have access to a darkroom. You are not really doing film
    photography if you never do your own prints. If you really want to get
    the feel for film you have to use an enlarger. Me I have been there
    and done that and don't feel the need to do any more, but if you are
    interested in the roots of photography you got to do darkroom work.

    But remember that in the end most important part is the image and not
    the technology.

    Scott W, Jun 30, 2005
  7. Lestat

    dj_nme Guest

    If you are starting from absolute scratch, if taking photos is all that
    you want to do, it _might_ be possible that film could be the way to
    cheaply do it.
    This would be if you have no digital gear (computer, printer, scanner,
    etc) at all and no film gear (film camera and/or darkroom gear) then it
    would be a tough call.
    If you are only looking at SLR cameras, then for the just cost of a new
    DSLR (with lens) a whole film set-up (camera, lenses _and_ darkroom
    gear) could be purchased.

    If black & white is your thing, the following would hold true:
    Looking carefuly in my local hockshops (pornshops or secondhand shops),
    I can get a 35mm film SLR with a zoom lens for less than $200.
    A box of ten rolls of 24 exp B&W film is about $55.
    A kit of film developing gear (film tank, measurers, thermometer,
    chemicals and sundries) cost about $50.
    A box of photopaper (25 sheets) costs around $35.
    The chemistry for film can be used to develop the paper as well
    (according to the instructions on the Rodinal and Agifix bottles).
    The key to cheapness is to find an enlarger for next to nothing (I could
    have picked up two for nothing of the footpath during the last council
    clean-up), it could also be improvised with a basic slide projector
    (about $25 brand new) and stopwatch (another $20).
    Three trays for paper developing, stopping and fixing costs around $2
    each, for a total of $6.

    The total for film could be less than $400 for the whole (from scratch)

    Going down the didgital path, then the start up costs are different.
    A digital SLR with a zoom lens can cost between $900 and $2000 (and up
    for the "silly money" cameras), depending on the brand and model.
    A computer than can be used to edit your pictures on costs about $1000
    minimum for something that won't choke on Photoshop Elements (which
    would probably come with your camera).
    For printing out, I would recomend one of the current Canon Pixma series
    The best candidates (for up to A4 sized prints) are the Pixma 4000 or
    Pixma 5000 and cost around $200.
    Injet photopaper is about $20 for a 25 page box.

    So for digital, it would cost at least $2,000 to start from absolute

    Then again, for digital, you may already have a computer and a (good
    enough) printer.
    Also, the computer and printer is useful for much much more versatile
    than a room full of darkroom gear.
    Try typing a letter, sending an email or playing Quake on an enlarger! ;-)
    dj_nme, Jun 30, 2005
  8. Regarding the comment about film characteristics - do you think a
    reasonable advance for DSLR's would be the ability to swap out CCD's
    with different characteristics - or is there already such a thing?
    Bruce Coryell, Jun 30, 2005
  9. Lestat

    dj_nme Guest

    Bruce Coryell wrote:

    Assuming that "money is no object" applies, there are the digital backs
    for medium-format SLR cameras.
    If the various manufacturers of them use different sensors, then each
    one should have slightly different characteristics.
    It would be simple to change backs (and hence sensors) on the camera.
    Whether it would be worth the extreme cost is up to you.

    BTW: For me, this is the extreme "silly money" end of the digital camera
    cost spectrum as far as I'm conerned.
    dj_nme, Jun 30, 2005
  10. Lestat

    Scott W Guest

    This should be doable, but not as easy as you might think, the read out
    circuitry need to be tightly coupled to the CCD /CMOS chip so you would
    be swapping out more then just the sensor but a whole module with both
    the sensor and a fair bit of the support electronics.

    There are only a handful of characteristics that would make sense to
    change, you could have chips with more and less pixels, the one with
    more would have more resolution but the one with fewer would be both
    more sensitive and be able to take photos at a faster rate. Then also a
    B/W sensor would be great to have. And of course the up grade path
    might be less expensive with a sensor that could be swapped out.
    Cleaning the sensor could be a whole lot easier as well. Oh and a cool
    sensor for those who want to do hour long exposures.

    Some of the differences that people go for between color film is easy
    to get by adjusting such things as contrast and saturation in the
    camera or after the fact in Photoshop.

    Scott W, Jun 30, 2005
  11. Lestat

    UC Guest

    Don't forget the issue of time. Time is money. I have heard that many
    pros are finding that they spend more time on the computer than they
    expected, and that when labs handled their processing, there was much
    less time involved in non-shooting activity. Many have had to hire
    someone else to handle things, which negates the cost advantages of not
    having to buy film.
    UC, Jun 30, 2005
  12. Lestat

    editor Guest

    There's no analogy! You - easily - can erase the memory card over
    and over, then reuse it over and over, saving just the photos you want
    to your hard drive (and backing them up to a dirt-cheap CD-ROM).
    When you compare that to the cost of the film - plus its processing
    - it's not even close.

    No $4 to park! No $6 admission!
    editor, Jun 30, 2005
  13. Lestat

    Lestat Guest

    I am well aware of reusing memory cards. So far I have worked with film
    and digital and like them almost equally as much due to certain aspects
    of each.

    Also depending on how aggressive you are "in-field" you may crush a
    memory card. (Why would it not be in your camera?) I'm just setting up
    scenario's here. I pose difficult or even stupid questions and see what
    others have to say.

    And thus far, I'm very pleased with the responses. Thank you all :)
    Lestat, Jun 30, 2005
  14. Lestat

    editor Guest

    Then get a digicam using CompactFlash cards; they are pretty robust.
    The only time I can see you handling cards in the field is when
    changing cards after one is full.

    Save on gas! Shop the
    editor, Jul 1, 2005
  15. Lestat

    Richard H. Guest

    Here's another contribution to the noise... :)

    Features vs. obsolesence
    Digital resolution is still improving, and doesn't match up to film yet
    except in the highest-end DSLRs. Yes, you can get great large prints
    with digital, but comparing straight resolution IIRC you need ~16MP to
    match film (64 or 100 ISO, IIRC).
    For folks at this end of the spectrum (serious amateurs, not consumers),
    there is a long way to go on cost - right now, this capability is in the
    $8k range vs. $500 for a comparably nice film body. However, this
    demographic is not driving the market - consumers are, with point &
    shoot cameras in the <5MP range.

    Lifecycle cost
    One-time cost for a high-end digital camera is high, but recurring cost
    is very low. Over the life of a camera, the digital camera will be much
    cheaper to operate.

    At a pace of one roll (24-exp) per week, film will cost about $500 to
    operate a year, while digital will cost about $50 in prints for the same
    volume (assuming 15% are printed). Looking long-term, it's easy to
    justify spending more on a digital body. How fast you break-even
    depends on your volume of shooting.

    Rough estimate for the lifetime of a film camera: -->> ~$9500 <<--
    Film: 1000 rolls @ $3 ea in quantity = $3000
    Processing: 1000 rolls @ $6 ea (e.g., Wal-Mart w/ med-res CD) = $6000
    Camera body: $500 for a very nice, but not top-end model
    * Most post-processing is done in digital anyway, requiring a
    second-generation scan and some loss of quality

    Rough estimate for the lifetime of a digital camera: -->> ~$2500 <<--
    Storage: 300GB disk to "archive" images = $300
    Processing: 1000 "rolls" @ 4 good prints each @ $.30 = $1200
    Camera body: $1000 for a nice, but not top-end model
    * Flash cards can be reused for potentially the life of the camera

    People too easily confuse the media with the data format. Interpreting
    file formats is trivial enough that there will always be a tool to read
    old images, especially if it's a format widely used in the consumer space.
    Reading the physical media in the future may be an issue, but that's
    easily solved by migrating media from time to time (not unlike having
    home movies converted to VHS, or VHS converted to DVDs).

    Richard H., Jul 1, 2005
  16. This is kind of an intangible, but I think it's a big one: the
    "freedom" factor when shooting digital, and you're not thinking in the
    back of your head how much film you're "wasting" and have to bring in to
    be processed, etc. The past four years that I've had a good digital
    camera, I easily shot 10 to 20 times the number of the exposures I would
    have taken had I still been using film.
    Bruce Coryell, Jul 1, 2005
  17. Lestat

    pch Guest


    ...and THAT is what is called marketing! :)
    pch, Jul 1, 2005
  18. Lestat

    Scott W Guest

    This is a big one for me as well. When I shoot now I have enough
    memory that I never worry about the number of shots I am taking. Many
    pro have been shooting like this for years, but then others were paying
    for the film and processing. There is a huge change in how I take
    photos during trips, when I was shooting film the destination got
    photographed but not much in between, now I document the whole journey
    not just the destination. And what I am finding is that it is the
    photos along the way that I later find more enjoyable to view, they
    give a feeling for the whole day, a feeling of motion, looking at them
    the feel of the trip comes back to me. I will take a photo of
    construction on the freeway as we slowly work out way through it, I
    would never have taken this kind of photo with film but the photo is an
    important part of what the day was like.

    At parties I will take hundreds of photos of people, a few will have
    great expressions, with film I would shoot maybe one roll and if I was
    luck get one good shoot out of the roll. The other thing that happens
    is when I was shooting film at parties and only shooting a few photos
    everyone is pretty much looking at me when I take the photo. For some
    reason people feel they need to be looking at the camera, with digital
    the first 20 to 30 photos people are looking at the camera but then
    they get tired of looking at it each time I take a photo, it is then
    that I get the good photos.

    Scott W, Jul 1, 2005
  19. Lestat

    Melody Guest

    Hahaha...all my friends (and even my kids) are so used to me having a camera
    in my hand ALL the time that I think they view it as an appendage and just
    ignore me 90% of the time.
    Melody, Jul 1, 2005
  20. Lestat

    dj_nme Guest

    No, it's called "cost winning over quality".
    If Betamax machines were origianlly sold at he same price-point as the
    VHS, with the same features and at least the same number of movies
    offered for sale/hired, then history may have been different.
    The quality difference between VHS and Betamax is so small as to not
    realy matter for home use, especialy if the better format cost a bit (or
    a lot) more.
    dj_nme, Jul 2, 2005
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