Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why Film?

As digital photography increasingly gains popularity, and digital cameras become more affordable everyday, we inevitably ask, “Does film still serve any purpose?”

A Hong Kong photographer asked this question in an Internet forum. The response he got from the forum members may surprise you. Many photographers still shoot film. (Read the thread here.) They believe that film remains superior to digital photography in some areas, one of which is dynamic range.

What is dynamic range? For the average “gearheads” who know little beyond megapixel, dynamic range can be a new concept. Imagine this: you shoot a landscape picture with a digital camera. If the trees are as green in the picture as in reality, but the blue sky is rendered white, we say that the digital camera has limited dynamic range. Film is said to have wider dynamic range and can handle this condition better.

Film is also useful in taking long exposure shots, such as the star trails image shown below.

In taking a star trails image, the film has to be “exposed” for an hour or longer. You can’t do this with a digital camera, yet.

Furthermore, if you love black-and-white photos, film remains the better choice.

Technical superiorities aside, some photographers simply love the experience associated with film photography. For example, a member of the forum just mentioned say:

好似等個 BB 出來, 睇下仔定女

[Developing film] is like waiting for a baby to be born, and wanting to know whether it is a boy or a girl.

With a digital camera, you can review the images just taken on the tiny LCR. Alternatively, you can upload the images to a computer and view them on the monitor. This is very convenient. Unfortunately, you also lose the excitement of waiting, anticipating and suspense that you have with film photography!


  1. I'm a big fan of digital but I still have a regular film camera. Both have good sides and bad sides but both are also unique...

    I guess I'm still used to film even thought I used it less lately.

  2. zhu
    I also shoot film before switching to digital, but was never really good at it. When I look at the old film photos, I feel that they are more 'three dimensional'.

  3. There's nothing like seeing the images appearing on photo papers in the dark room. It's simply magical moments that can't be replaced.

    I still feel that black and white photography is better done in film.

  4. 好似等個 BB 出來, 睇下仔定女

    wat a description hahahaaaa.....

  5. cc
    aiseh... I have no dark room experience...

    I also like the "grain" in black and white film photos. Better than digital noise...

    Hong Kong people are humorous - which is rare among Chinese.

  6. An analogy of my expections of getting a good photo...

    Boy ! Boy! Boy!
    *baby comes out*
    Girl! =(

    Bad at taking photos.
    Worse at appearing in photos. =p

    On a side note, its pretty enlightening to know what film exceeds digital photography at. I have always wondered, but never knew till today.

  7. shingo
    Boy or girl also good la...

  8. Illuminating post. Thanks.

  9. ive heard about that as well. they gave an example bout hair texture.

    i guess digital is more for the average users like myself. though last time i did play with film, but it would be so costly to print :) (it was just small camera not slr).