Firstly the title, get the comparatives correct; the term ‘Film Versus Digital’ irks me somewhat as to its ambiguity. We typically know where this discussion might be going, but what are we referring to, moving image or stills photography. Is it a ‘Super 8 Vs. Bayer Pattern CMOS sensor’ or a ‘120MF E6 Vs. 24MP CCD’? Generally though this line of dialogue deals with shooting film either on a 35mm or a medium format camera and comparing it with a high end DSLR in a Grain to Noise showdown in an attempt to ascertain what medium is perceived to be the superior.
Well I’m going to be blunt and say that neither is better than the other; they are both tools for a job and either one placed in the right hands will produce stunning results. It is reminiscent of a statement that the uneducated masses say often to professional photographers:
‘Oh your camera looks expensive it must take great photos…’
Right I think I’m going to stop now, as I could probably waffle on for ages about sensor size resolutions compared to grain patterns, film photography as artefact, dynamic range, the ecological impact of each medium, etc. etc. It may have even been interesting to explore actual scenarios where one medium would be more suited than the other and scrutinise their various practical applications, but alas I wont.
However, what I will draw your attention to is the technical process of Sebastiâo Salgado’s project ‘Genesis’, which for me is quite an interesting if not convoluted method that yields stunning results. Upon investigation you find out that Salgado’s recent work has all been shot on high-end Canon DSLR’s and been processed via a piece of software from DXO called FilmPack.
According to this article, once the images have been chosen, standard digital post-production techniques are applied then the images are processed through FilmPack to emulate the look of Kodak TriX-400 and Tmax-3200. After this the digital files are then turned into negatives to then be printed in a traditional darkroom. So the summary is, shoot digital then manipulate and print it onto film. I wonder, why not just shoot straight onto film? If you read this interview repost Salgado gives some good reasons.
My own stance over the years has changed more times than I can remember; my first taste of photography was with film, so I fell in love with the magic of light and chemistry, yet I also appreciate the many benefits of digital photography. Generally though it does not matter what you shot on, only the final resolution is what really matters. We are image-makers and it is the picture that should be our primary concern and it is the picture that should speak in volumes and not what gave it existence.