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Film vs digital camera pros and cons


"...I avoid Contax N because of bulk, slow AF, limited selection, and price. The ND allows use of WA primes without sensor crop but... there are no WA primes in the N system!


it is for sure that the AF of the N-system is slower than of the similar priced Canon or Nikon models. But this says nothing about usability of the N-System. But how much differences is this in milliseconds? The AF-Speed is for my personal use fast enough. Additionally I prefer in 95% of the cases to focus manually. But not because the N-AF is to slow. I just enjoy it more to see how the object gets into focus with a split screen. Of course that is my personal taste.

I agree on the limited selection of primes, especially in the WA area. A fullsize chip system does not make sense, if you can not use the major benefit of it - the true wideangle without cropping factor. The WA-zooms are very good (both the 2.8/17-35 and the 24-85), but they can not replace primes like a 25, 21, 18 and 15. If Kyocera is not offering soon more primes, they will have even more problems with sales numbers in the future...

But you have to accept that all N-lenses are better in image quality than the manual focus equivalents. Sometimes significant better (zooms), sometimes only by a small margin (primes). We detected even differences between the N50/1.4 and the equivalent manual focus 50/1.4 - although both are the same "design". This is because of improvements in the area outside of the pure design. Flare reduction for ex&le.

So looking only at the image quality, the N-System is in my opinion the better system. Although it has some objective disadvantages. These are:

- the size of the bodies and the lenses
- the AF speed
- the lack of enough primes
- more difficult manual focus behaviour than the MF system
- prices are too high compared to the MF system
- Lack of 2-3 different Digital bodies and 1-2 more film bodies.

I am sure that the mentioned points combined with the lack of communication and marketing know-how are the reasons why the sales are not at all in the area where Kyocera would like to have them.

I personally do not need digital at the moment. Nikon just introduced 2 days ago 3 new film scanners. A clear sign that there are still enough film users out there who do not want to switch to digital yet.

IMHO I have the perfect combination with film and filmscanner. I still can see my slides on the wall, what no digital sytem can give me. And I do not need to worry about storage issues and the failure of beeing able to read my digital files in 15 years from now. The latter one alone would be a very intersting subject to discuss about.

Also the unablity of digital chips to give me that range of dark to light areas on an image, which is easy available with modern film, is an argument against digital cameras right now.

I think within the last 3 years, too many people got pushed in a "digital hype" by the marketing departments of the big companies. Sure, some professionals need it, because their clients ask for faster working chains. But all the private users - and the camrea manufacturers are living from the mass market, not from the professional market - they do not really need that speed.

If everybody is honest to himself, do you really need the instamt verifying effect? or is this digital use more a seduction to produce more photos, which have to be deleted later on, because they are too bad? If I look at some friends of mine, I have the feeling, that they skip the "thinking" before they make a picture and replace it with the delete buttom on their digital camera.

They shoot more pictures than before with film cameras, but have less good results. The ratio is just horrible. And I think the fun is also not the same afterwards. And all these sacrifices only for the 1-second benefit of viewing the images immediately. Sounds not logical for me...

Just my 2 cents
Excellent points, Dirk. Particularly the observation that digital users replace thinking with the delete button. I have a p&s digital camera that has made me much less thoughtful in composing and lighting. My reaction was to buy an N1, which I love. There are, of course, times when I need the smaller camera. Now if I can just get myself to think when using digital the way I think with my N1 . . .
I hate to disagree with the moderator here... : -) BUT...

Let's not kid ourselves, were it not for the Zeiss glass few here would put up with the shortcomings of the N cameras. While it is true you can resort to Manual focus, it doesn't lessen the issue of slow AF speed, and more importantly the marginal AF sensitivity that you paid for. It is the sensitivity that is the issue here.

I took my N1 and ND to a wedding recently and it absolutely would not lock focus at the reception. I am quite good at manual focus, (still use rangefinders), but in the dark with the 17-35 W/A, capturing decisive moments was close to impossible. Sadly, I had to retire the Ns to the truck and retrieve the Canon gear (which I brought just in case). I really wanted the Zeiss look, film or digital, but was stopped by the bodies inability to focus even in medium dark conditions. It's was real shame.

This is a practical problem, not just for professional shooters, but anyone that pays for such a high end camera. A modern AF SLR shouldn't be confined to shooting only when the sun shines.

Strangely, I would prefer a RX type system with a N mount that had a considerably boosted focus confirmation sensitivity and even brighter screen. At least I would know where I stand...and that focus was completely up to me...with a confirmation aid that worked in dark conditions, especially with W/A, especially at 16mm wide open at 2.8.

BTW, if a shooter doesn't think and become intuitive with their digital camera, I doubt they will with a film camera. They are just tools. Either you have the vision, or you don't. The fact that you can review images can be a crutch, but frankly it's a good crutch IMO. You learn what works and what doesn't pretty fast with a digital camera. If you don't learn on the fly and apply the lessons taught, I also doubt you will when reviewing proofs or transpariencies from film.

I totally agree with you. It is just my personal habit, not to use AF cameras in AF mode. This shall not excuse the worse AF speed and "AF-grap" compared to the competition.

Regarding the difficulties in MF mode, I feel the same. This is why I put it as one of my points for improvements in my last posting.

The problem is that the N1 has a viewfinder enlargement of only 0.76. The Contax Aria for ex&le has one of 0.82 or 0.86. This means you will see the split indicator a lot bigger in the veiwfinder. The larger the better, even if the viewfinder brightness is the same (which is not the case between AF amd MF). It is just a lot easier to focus manually and makes more fun.

The other problem with manual focussing an N1 is the steep focus-ring-movemet on the N-lenses, compared to the MF-lenses. What I mean with this is that you have only half the way to turn the lens to be in focus with the N lenses compared to the MF-lenses. This is good for AF-mode, because it is faster at the desired focus point. But the disadvantage is the more difficult way of getting this "snap" in focus manually as I was used it with my MF-lenses. You easily turn over this focus point while focussing manually. But you can get used to it.

It seems that there is no perfect solution for MF and AF modes at the same time. As far as I can see it the whole camera-industry has the same problem. A camera is build either for main use in AF or main use in MF mode. Depending what you choose, you will be happy or not. The only problem is that the N1 was originally made for AF use (although it is a lot better in MF mode than any other AF camera I know).

So not a really satisfying situation

But the image quality of the N-lenses is just great...
"...You learn what works and what doesn't pretty fast with a digital camera. If you don't learn on the fly and apply the lessons taught, I also doubt you will when reviewing proofs or transpariencies from film..."

Good point. And so true. But psychologically it is difficult to discipline yourself, once you know it costs you nothing and you can can delete it later on anyway

But if people are willing to learn, it has surely some advantages for the steapness of the learning curve. I will look closer at it as soon as a new ND is out next year - if it comes at all...
With digital camera, users are inclined to take
lots of pictures and cover up the mistakes/imperfections later by Photoshop. There are too many image manipulations going on these days. I know many digital users don't use filters or PC-shift lens anymore because they can use PS to do the job. With film camera, you have to be more discipline and learn the mistakes the hard way--if you make a mistake in exposure, you have to do the re-shoot. But this is not necessarily a bad thing at all.

Another problem is that digital bodies get obsolete very quickly. Digital technology evolves rapidly in a short time scale. In the next 5-6 years, the current latest models will become completely outdated and will have low re-sale values in the secondhand market. Conventional film camera can stand better against the test of time.
Hmmm, then I wonder why the cost of used film gear is dropping like a stone.

PhotoShop fixes: why not if you can do it well? All kinds of masking and perspective correction was done in the darkroom, so why not in a room with light? I wish I had a digital camera when I started. I would have gotten somewhere faster. That's because I see all this tech stuff as a means to an end not the end in itself. I am after the photo in terms of content and meaning...both emotional and intellectual .

While digital gear becomes obsolete pretty quickly, there is nothing to say that you have to buy every improvement. It may have been more of an issue at first, but now that it has progressed so far, and you are happy with the images, why get more than you need? Didn't do that with film cameras, why start with digital.
>Conventional equipment prices are dropping because even dedicated film users are selling off equipment that they don't absolutely need in order to raise cash to buy into digital cameras. There is only so much money to go around and the lion's share is going away from film and towards digital.
Hi Marc,
I can see your side of arguements and that's why digital gears significantly out sell film camera by a big margin. All big players in the industry invest all their R&D efforts in digital technology. The cost of film gears drop recently because everybody else sells their film gear to get digital. Thats good news for die-hard film purists, you can pick up top-end secondhand film bodies like N1, EOS-1V or F5 at very much affordable prices.
I have nothing against digital; one day I may become a fan. I may have my envy for digital users but I still resist to embrace the latest trend.

I think you over-simplify when you say that both digital and film cameras are tools. True in the strictest sense. But the important point is that they are very different tools. There is zero processing cost in taking a bad shot with a digital camera. And yes, I have gotten a lot of really nice shots with a digicam. But my yield of goods shots slipped. Film, on the other hand, costs me $$ when I get sloppy. So I admit that I got a bit lazy with digital and that going back, at times, to film has improved my digital photography.