Film cameras are becoming rare. Although digital cameras have come a long way since they were first introduced there are still photographers that prefer to use old film cameras. Some of them use film exclusively while others prefer film for specific scenarios.
There is no simple answer to the question which camera is better, film or digital. In some scenarios film is better than digital and in other scenarios digital is better than film. They both have advantages and disadvantages and the true answer to which is better is simply a list of differences. Here are a few:
The sensor: In film cameras a light sensitive film is situated behind the lens. To take a photo the shutter opens for a predetermined period of time and light hits the film “printing” a photo on the film. After a photo is taken the film is rolled and a fresh film is placed behind the lens. In digital cameras an electronic sensor (known as CCD) is situated behind the lens. The CCD is comprised of many tiny light sensitive sensors one per pixel. To take a photo the shutter opens for a predetermined period of time and light hits the sensor. Each pixel gets its value and together all the pixels comprise one photo. The photo is saved on a digital media and the CCD is electronically emptied.
The main difference between a CCD sensor and a film is the Depth of Field. Since digital sensors are smaller than 35mm film the depth of field is much bigger in fact in most compact digital cameras it is almost infinite.
Instant feedback: One of great features digital cameras is instant feedback. Digital cameras include a small LCD screen. After a photo is shot it can be viewed on that screen. If the photo is not good you can take another one. The ability to view the photos helps in making an educated decision on how to fix it or how to compose it better. It takes much of the guessing out of photography.
Photo capacity: Digital cameras today can hold hundreds and even thousands of digital photos on a single media. With extra storage media in your pocket digital cameras have virtually infinite capacity. On the other hand film cameras’ capacity is very limited. The standard is a roll of 36 photos which can hold only 36 photos. After such a roll is used changing to a new roll takes time and is not easy to do in scenarios such as darkness or a harsh environment. Rolls of film are not small and carrying rolls equivalent of thousands of photos is not practical.
Shooting angles: Digital cameras allow you to take photos without having your eye glued to the viewfinder. Combined with the virtually zero cost of taking photos and high capacity this means new opportunities for new shooting angles.
A photo cost: Photos taken with a digital camera really cost nothing. They are saved on erasable memory and thus can always be freely discarded. The photos that you decide to keep can be copied to digital media such as a computer’s hard disk. With low digital storage prices the cost of storing one photo is practically zero. Film does cost money. A roll of film costs money and can not be reused. Every time that the shutter button is pressed money is spent regardless if you later on decide to discard them.
Photo processing: Digital cameras photos are basically computer files and can be manipulated by computer software. Such software is known as photo processing software and allows you to correct photos and create special effects. Some photo processing abilities are built-in cameras. With film on the other hand it is very hard to make corrections. If corrections are absolutely needed the easiest way to do them is to scan the negative or the printed photo (i.e. converted to digital) and process it on a computer as if it was a digital camera photo.
Adapting to different conditions: Rolls of film are designed for specific scenarios There are indoor and outdoor films or films with different light sensitivity. When conditions change a film camera photographer will have to shoot with the wrong film, change the roll (and lose the remainder photos) or use another camera with a different roll in it. Shooting photos with the wrong roll of film can result in distorted colors (reddish photos for example), a grainy photo and more.
With digital cameras on the other hand the characteristics of the sensor can be electronically set. With a click of a button the camera can change to indoor or outdoor mode, low light, night photography and son on.
Danette Mckay writes about this and many other subjects. Read more about snapfish