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Archive 2013 · film vs digital shootout
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · film vs digital shootout

So, I've always pretty much always been a digital shooter, I started with the 1st Digital Rebel a number of years ago and have slowly upgraded, always to another digital camera.

But then Zalmy would post his Portra shots and it just killed me, because I loved the tones so much. So I thought, lets see if I can replicate that with digital, because I'm more comfortable shooting digital and lets face it, film is spendy and takes lots of patience :-)

So I bought a couple of rolls and have only burned through one. I'd slap the 35 on one camera and the 24 on the other and basically shoot a couple of the same frame and figured I'd be able to compare them side by side and edit digital to match. I discovered it's not that easy, and still can't quite replicate it. It's been a fun experiment though, but I may just have to throw in the towel for now, because I just can't quite figure it out.

Anyway, I thought I'd share some of my results. I scanned the negatives with a borrowed Coolscan 9000, pretty much using default settings, because I don't know any better. The digital files are simply set to the 'Camera Neutral' profile in LR2. I did adjust exposure and white balance in both to get them to match, but did nothing else other than export and resize.

1 - Here's perfect example of what I like about the Portra. The digital duck is so stinkin' bright and I'm not too keen on how the grass in looks in the digital. If I bring down the yellows and adjust them a bit, then the grass gets even worse, since there's yellow in the grass. So I couldn't figure out a formula to globally adjust the duck *and* make the grass look better without masking and all that garbage.

2 - Here's another conundrum I couldn't figure out. In the film shot, the red on the toy is more subdued and my little girls skin tone is just about perfect for my tastes. But in the digital file, the red on the toy is a bit too much, but at the same time, there's not as much red on my girl's face. So if I reduce the red so the toy looks right, her face is almost gray. Weird.

3 - This one I found sorta odd that the film shot has so much more contrast, when the other examples, the are pretty even as far as that goes.

4 - This one, I think I actually like the colors in the digital version a little better - especially with her face and the sky. However, I still like the grass from the film better. I just like those greens a lot better.

5 - This one, I was under by about 2 stops on film and 3/4 on digital. I was surprised that the film looked at good as it did after bumping it 2 stops.

Anyway, I hope you found that interesting. Maybe some day, I quit being cheap and try out the VSCO stuff or something, but I'd have to upgrade LR, then get the VSCO stuff.


Apr 20, 2013 at 05:11 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · film vs digital shootout

Since you didn't label the images, I assume the first ones are film and the second ones are digital. The EXIF file on them only says Nikon Coolscan 9000.

Apr 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · film vs digital shootout

Thanks for the comparison. Very interesting.

Each medium definitely has it's pros and cons as far as tones and color. I like the film version in 1, 2, and 4; Digital in 3; and 5 is a tie.

I agree with your thoughts on #1. I've only shot digital until recently as well and have been pleasantly surprised with how forgiving CN film can be at times. Which is great because each shot costs so stinkin much!

I shoot about a roll per month now between my two film cameras. I'll wait till I have 2-3 rolls to send off and try then to remember what I shot months ago. There's so much instant gratification in life these days that the anticipation of getting your film back from the lab a week or 10 days after you send it off and months after you shot is actually fun!

Apr 20, 2013 at 12:11 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · film vs digital shootout

With that model, whatever you do it will look good.

Apr 20, 2013 at 01:07 PM

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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · film vs digital shootout

I've always liked your film-like processing and I'm more impressed by the similarities than the differences here.

Apr 20, 2013 at 11:26 PM

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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · film vs digital shootout

Thanks for showing the comparison! I love the film look! The small natural grain makes it timeless and conveys a feeling from the picture. Digital picture is emotionless.

Apr 27, 2013 at 11:29 PM

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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · film vs digital shootout

Great comparison! I was going to sell my old Minolta xe-7, but now I wonder... Thanks for sharing.

Apr 28, 2013 at 01:33 AM

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