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Film vs. Digital Photography: Which is Best Suited for Your Needs?

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

In today’s modern world of technology, most photos are taken in digital. Digital eliminates the need to pay for costly film and development and provides more editing opportunities.

But there is something to be said about film photography. It offers higher resolution, and it is more forgiving of focusing and exposure issues.

And that’s not where the comparisons end.

Both film and digital have their shares of advantages and disadvantages. This article will sum up the ups and downs of both so you can decide which is best suited to your needs.

Pros and Cons

Let’s start by looking at some of the benefits of digital and film.

Advantages of Using Film

• Film cameras cost less

• Film has a better dynamic range that makes it more capable of picking up details, especially in black and white

• Minor focusing and exposure issues are not as evident when shooting film

• Film is higher resolution

• Because there are a limited number of shots on a roll, photographers must think ahead to plan out great shots

• Models of film cameras are less likely to phase out with modern trends

• Darkroom photo lab scans can be used to edit images on a computer with photo editing software or to share images on social media

Advantages of Digital

• Most cameras have high resolution which is great for large prints

• Digital cameras can change film speeds between shots

• Digital cameras are lighter than film cameras

• Memory cards are small and can store several images

• Digital images can be viewed immediately

• You can edit pictures directly on a digital camera

• You can choose to print only the images you want

• Many digital cameras have built in features

Color Consistency and Dynamic Range

One advantage film has over digital is its color consistency and dynamic range. Many digital camera manufacturers have experimented with digital to create a camera that comes close, but none have succeeded.

Film also has the capability of capturing a wider dynamic range than most digital cameras. This allows you to edit highlights, lift shadows and increase saturation yielding results that are not possible in digital.


Surprisingly, film is also more capable of shooting at high resolution.

Film is manufactured in various formats to suit a variety of cameras. This is similar to the various sensor sizes on digital cameras. However, film can capture and store at greater resolutions.

However, there are instances where film falls short. For example, if you put a 120mm negative against a 35 mm full frame sensor, film would have a higher resolution at lower ISO’s. But if you increase ISO, the signal to noise ratio would change and the digital sensor would win out.

Editing and Processing

Editing software is a convenient solution for most people. However, editing in a darkroom provides more control and allows for more creativity as compared to the bulk editing process. Film’s dynamic range is also better at preventing blowout and a loss of detail.

Fear of Loss

While it is always possible for film to become lost or damaged, negatives that are kept safe will last a lifetime so they can be used for prints or scans. Digital images are more likely to get lost if a computer or hard drive crashes or if a memory card gets corrupted.


A good digital camera is quite an investment, but film cameras will make for more spread-out costs in the long run. Although a film camera will be cheaper than digital, costs will start to rack up considering film, purchases, darkroom equipment and more. Of course, digital will require the purchase of software and other gear, but it’s likely to make for fewer expenses overall.

Digital and film photography both have their share of advantages and disadvantages. Although film may provide higher resolution and better color contrast, some just can’t get past the convenience and cost efficiency of digital. Which is best suited to your lifestyle?

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