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Film vs digital camera pros and cons


"...I avoid Contax N because of bulk, slow AF, limited selection, and price. The ND allows use of WA primes without sensor crop but... there are no WA primes in the N system!


it is for sure that the AF of the N-system is slower than of the similar priced Canon or Nikon models. But this says nothing about usability of the N-System. But how much differences is this in milliseconds? The AF-Speed is for my personal use fast enough. Additionally I prefer in 95% of the cases to focus manually. But not because the N-AF is to slow. I just enjoy it more to see how the object gets into focus with a split screen. Of course that is my personal taste.

I agree on the limited selection of primes, especially in the WA area. A fullsize chip system does not make sense, if you can not use the major benefit of it - the true wideangle without cropping factor. The WA-zooms are very good (both the 2.8/17-35 and the 24-85), but they can not replace primes like a 25, 21, 18 and 15. If Kyocera is not offering soon more primes, they will have even more problems with sales numbers in the future...

But you have to accept that all N-lenses are better in image quality than the manual focus equivalents. Sometimes significant better (zooms), sometimes only by a small margin (primes). We detected even differences between the N50/1.4 and the equivalent manual focus 50/1.4 - although both are the same "design". This is because of improvements in the area outside of the pure design. Flare reduction for ex&le.

So looking only at the image quality, the N-System is in my opinion the better system. Although it has some objective disadvantages. These are:

- the size of the bodies and the lenses
- the AF speed
- the lack of enough primes
- more difficult manual focus behaviour than the MF system
- prices are too high compared to the MF system
- Lack of 2-3 different Digital bodies and 1-2 more film bodies.

I am sure that the mentioned points combined with the lack of communication and marketing know-how are the reasons why the sales are not at all in the area where Kyocera would like to have them.

I personally do not need digital at the moment. Nikon just introduced 2 days ago 3 new film scanners. A clear sign that there are still enough film users out there who do not want to switch to digital yet.

IMHO I have the perfect combination with film and filmscanner. I still can see my slides on the wall, what no digital sytem can give me. And I do not need to worry about storage issues and the failure of beeing able to read my digital files in 15 years from now. The latter one alone would be a very intersting subject to discuss about.

Also the unablity of digital chips to give me that range of dark to light areas on an image, which is easy available with modern film, is an argument against digital cameras right now.

I think within the last 3 years, too many people got pushed in a "digital hype" by the marketing departments of the big companies. Sure, some professionals need it, because their clients ask for faster working chains. But all the private users - and the camrea manufacturers are living from the mass market, not from the professional market - they do not really need that speed.

If everybody is honest to himself, do you really need the instamt verifying effect? or is this digital use more a seduction to produce more photos, which have to be deleted later on, because they are too bad? If I look at some friends of mine, I have the feeling, that they skip the "thinking" before they make a picture and replace it with the delete buttom on their digital camera.

They shoot more pictures than before with film cameras, but have less good results. The ratio is just horrible. And I think the fun is also not the same afterwards. And all these sacrifices only for the 1-second benefit of viewing the images immediately. Sounds not logical for me...

Just my 2 cents


Well-Known Member
Excellent points, Dirk. Particularly the observation that digital users replace thinking with the delete button. I have a p&s digital camera that has made me much less thoughtful in composing and lighting. My reaction was to buy an N1, which I love. There are, of course, times when I need the smaller camera. Now if I can just get myself to think when using digital the way I think with my N1 . . .


Well-Known Member
I hate to disagree with the moderator here... : -) BUT...

Let's not kid ourselves, were it not for the Zeiss glass few here would put up with the shortcomings of the N cameras. While it is true you can resort to Manual focus, it doesn't lessen the issue of slow AF speed, and more importantly the marginal AF sensitivity that you paid for. It is the sensitivity that is the issue here.

I took my N1 and ND to a wedding recently and it absolutely would not lock focus at the reception. I am quite good at manual focus, (still use rangefinders), but in the dark with the 17-35 W/A, capturing decisive moments was close to impossible. Sadly, I had to retire the Ns to the truck and retrieve the Canon gear (which I brought just in case). I really wanted the Zeiss look, film or digital, but was stopped by the bodies inability to focus even in medium dark conditions. It's was real shame.

This is a practical problem, not just for professional shooters, but anyone that pays for such a high end camera. A modern AF SLR shouldn't be confined to shooting only when the sun shines.

Strangely, I would prefer a RX type system with a N mount that had a considerably boosted focus confirmation sensitivity and even brighter screen. At least I would know where I stand...and that focus was completely up to me...with a confirmation aid that worked in dark conditions, especially with W/A, especially at 16mm wide open at 2.8.

BTW, if a shooter doesn't think and become intuitive with their digital camera, I doubt they will with a film camera. They are just tools. Either you have the vision, or you don't. The fact that you can review images can be a crutch, but frankly it's a good crutch IMO. You learn what works and what doesn't pretty fast with a digital camera. If you don't learn on the fly and apply the lessons taught, I also doubt you will when reviewing proofs or transpariencies from film.



I totally agree with you. It is just my personal habit, not to use AF cameras in AF mode. This shall not excuse the worse AF speed and "AF-grap" compared to the competition.

Regarding the difficulties in MF mode, I feel the same. This is why I put it as one of my points for improvements in my last posting.

The problem is that the N1 has a viewfinder enlargement of only 0.76. The Contax Aria for ex&le has one of 0.82 or 0.86. This means you will see the split indicator a lot bigger in the veiwfinder. The larger the better, even if the viewfinder brightness is the same (which is not the case between AF amd MF). It is just a lot easier to focus manually and makes more fun.

The other problem with manual focussing an N1 is the steep focus-ring-movemet on the N-lenses, compared to the MF-lenses. What I mean with this is that you have only half the way to turn the lens to be in focus with the N lenses compared to the MF-lenses. This is good for AF-mode, because it is faster at the desired focus point. But the disadvantage is the more difficult way of getting this "snap" in focus manually as I was used it with my MF-lenses. You easily turn over this focus point while focussing manually. But you can get used to it.

It seems that there is no perfect solution for MF and AF modes at the same time. As far as I can see it the whole camera-industry has the same problem. A camera is build either for main use in AF or main use in MF mode. Depending what you choose, you will be happy or not. The only problem is that the N1 was originally made for AF use (although it is a lot better in MF mode than any other AF camera I know).

So not a really satisfying situation

But the image quality of the N-lenses is just great...


"...You learn what works and what doesn't pretty fast with a digital camera. If you don't learn on the fly and apply the lessons taught, I also doubt you will when reviewing proofs or transpariencies from film..."

Good point. And so true. But psychologically it is difficult to discipline yourself, once you know it costs you nothing and you can can delete it later on anyway

But if people are willing to learn, it has surely some advantages for the steapness of the learning curve. I will look closer at it as soon as a new ND is out next year - if it comes at all...


Active Member
With digital camera, users are inclined to take
lots of pictures and cover up the mistakes/imperfections later by Photoshop. There are too many image manipulations going on these days. I know many digital users don't use filters or PC-shift lens anymore because they can use PS to do the job. With film camera, you have to be more discipline and learn the mistakes the hard way--if you make a mistake in exposure, you have to do the re-shoot. But this is not necessarily a bad thing at all.

Another problem is that digital bodies get obsolete very quickly. Digital technology evolves rapidly in a short time scale. In the next 5-6 years, the current latest models will become completely outdated and will have low re-sale values in the secondhand market. Conventional film camera can stand better against the test of time.


Well-Known Member
Hmmm, then I wonder why the cost of used film gear is dropping like a stone.

PhotoShop fixes: why not if you can do it well? All kinds of masking and perspective correction was done in the darkroom, so why not in a room with light? I wish I had a digital camera when I started. I would have gotten somewhere faster. That's because I see all this tech stuff as a means to an end not the end in itself. I am after the photo in terms of content and meaning...both emotional and intellectual .

While digital gear becomes obsolete pretty quickly, there is nothing to say that you have to buy every improvement. It may have been more of an issue at first, but now that it has progressed so far, and you are happy with the images, why get more than you need? Didn't do that with film cameras, why start with digital.


Well-Known Member
>Conventional equipment prices are dropping because even dedicated film users are selling off equipment that they don't absolutely need in order to raise cash to buy into digital cameras. There is only so much money to go around and the lion's share is going away from film and towards digital.


Active Member
Hi Marc,
I can see your side of arguements and that's why digital gears significantly out sell film camera by a big margin. All big players in the industry invest all their R&D efforts in digital technology. The cost of film gears drop recently because everybody else sells their film gear to get digital. Thats good news for die-hard film purists, you can pick up top-end secondhand film bodies like N1, EOS-1V or F5 at very much affordable prices.
I have nothing against digital; one day I may become a fan. I may have my envy for digital users but I still resist to embrace the latest trend.


Well-Known Member

I think you over-simplify when you say that both digital and film cameras are tools. True in the strictest sense. But the important point is that they are very different tools. There is zero processing cost in taking a bad shot with a digital camera. And yes, I have gotten a lot of really nice shots with a digicam. But my yield of goods shots slipped. Film, on the other hand, costs me $$ when I get sloppy. So I admit that I got a bit lazy with digital and that going back, at times, to film has improved my digital photography.


Well-Known Member
I can see Marc's frustration on the N1 AF capability. As I mentioned earlier, I shot a wedding a few weeks ago with the N1. I constantly struggled with the focusing rather capturing the decisive moments. Having said that, the result was good. And I knew it even before I picked up my films because I trusted my N1 system and the lenses quality. In general, the N1 works very well for me. Never regretted that I dumped my Nikon system for it. If I ever shoot a wedding again, I may use the C645 instead. The focusing seems to be more reliable in low light even its lenses are slower (not USM).

It is off the subject. But can anyone comment on the manual focus system, like the R9. Since it will have a digital back (The LEICA DIGITAL-MODUL-R) in a year. The idea of using the same body for film and digital is attractive (on paper at least). I wonder how feasible to use a manual focus system in 35mm format. I am a 4x5 kind of guy, but have not used a manual focus 35mm for decades.



Well-Known Member
It's interesting that you bring up the subject of the Leica R9, relative to the digital module planned. Something just occurred to me - since the module will have a crop factor of 1.3, how will the viewfinder be affected? I know that with the Canon's you're just given a smaller viewfinder, one that has been 'masked' in a way. With the Leica, i'm hoping not to have to use a new groundglass, with framelines. I just sold an M7 to get the R8 because i wasn't working well with the whole framelines thing.

I also have an N1, and just used the R8 and N1 yesterday on a 'portrait' shoot, along with a Hasselblad. It was a very quick session, and i wasn't able to really determine which camera i prefer working with, as i had hoped to be able to make a determination of which 35mm system to get rid of.... But, yes, the N1 AF is not going to be a factor in that decision. I usually have to manually focus anyway, because the AF isn't fast enough, or the sensors aren't exactly where i want them at the moment, and i'm shooting wide open with fast glass.... I would love the N1 system if only there were wide angle primes available. I seriously can't justify keeping a pro-level 35mm camera system without the availability of a 35mm f2 (at least). And, sadly, i can't imagine a great number of pros buying into the system either, because of lens line gaps like that one. Contax has really let me down here. And, also with the ZERO information relative to new digital offerings. With Leica, at least we've been given a 'direction' of pursuit. Even if the Module doesn't see the light of day for a year or more, at least i now have a bit of information to base my equipment plans/purchases on. Seriously, people, if you're monitoring this board, tell us ANYTHING. Else, i'm going to go back to Canon for a far better AF, and a RANGE of digital and film bodies. And, no matter how much i prize the 85mm 1.4, a Canon 85mm 1.2 is more than enough to console me.


It's funny how many people have misconceptions about digital. The most common one is that "it's free, no need to buy film". It's not free, because you need to buy memory cards. Sometimes you need to have many memory cards or IBM's PCMCIA-card format disk drive. They're electronic devices, and like anything these days - they fail. Is it going to work 3 years from now? Maybe or maybe not.

Are they repairable? No.

What about the cameras themselves? Chances are, in 3 years you won't be able to repair cameras that are manufactured today. The only exception might be the DSLRs, but then the repair cost might be so steep that you will need to buy another one instead.

What about the TIME you spend transferring data from your flash cards to your computer and then burning backup copies to your CD (or DVS or whatever), creating archive index (so that you can find the picture later when you need it), working on that image so that you can actually print it out and get something looking decent?

What about the money spent on software (such as Photoshop, Genuine Fractals, Nick's sharpener, whatever else), getting new "hip" LCD screen, getting new inkjet printer (and its inks), upgrading your OS, computer hardware, printer, whatever else every few years? Costs will run well over $4000 for any serious amateur just to start. And then thousands more in the years ahead. Think about it, how many of you have computer that is more than 3 years old and is STILL running Windows 98? (I'm the only one I know of in my company for instance

Compare it to:

1. One Contax ARIA and 4 lenses - D28, P50, S85, P85. All bought used for less than $1500. Camera
will last 10 years at least. Lenses even longer.
2. $4.00 per roll of film
3. $16.00 spent for development and double-printing of 36-frames film on 4x6 paper (total of 72 proof prints).
4. 5 minutes spent to put the film inside your film album and writing down some info about it on top of the plastic sleeve-sheet
5. No need to have computer to see your images (how stupid is that to begin with?)
6. You can send film over to any professional lab out there any time you want and let them know exactly how you want it printed. If you're doing enlargements, they will even do a free proof print for you.
7. Real resolving power far exceeds any digital-do-everything camera out there. Just see the last CLN from Zeiss. You can get 90lp/mm on Portra 800!

I can probably go on and on about pros/cons of digital forever, but what it boils down to is this:

1. There are many people out there that will buy digital soap-boxes and think that they will make better pictures now. They will toy around for 3-6 months and then throw it back into a closet where they have their hip Sony video camcorder collecting dust for the last 2 years. These are the people that never bought SLRs in their life, have little clue about photography in general AND, they used to buy zoom-shmoom-do-everything P&S film cameras in the past. They also probably believe that megapixels alone define quality of image and most likely have no clue that their monitor has resolution of 72dpi, their inkjet printer doesn't actually have resolution of 1440dpi and their eyes can't see more than 8lp/mm.

2. There are people that will buy digicam, toy around for a little while, learn something about photography and, SURPRISE, buy a film SLR and start using it (it's actually quite amazing, but I saw many people that first tried their photography with digital and then became interested in film).

3. There are many pros that will switch to digital because that's what WORKS FOR THEM. News reporters were never truly interested in quality. They need speed first and foremost. They need to get these shots taken and published fast, otherwise they get no dough. Sometimes even glamour photographers will find it useful. Yet others won't.

Overall, film camera manufacturers will see much less sales of P&S film cameras, slightly less sales of the top-of-the-line film cameras, but more sales of SLR-lenses in general (and wide-angles especially!), much less sales of "entry-level" SLR cameras (speaking of which, most of Canon, Nikon, Minolta and Pentax "entry-level" SLRs are pretty bad anyway).

But does it all matter anyway? I don't think so.

Just keep using what you like and who cares what other people are using. Just look around, not that many people are using Contax and YET, you're! If it works for you, who cares what works for somebody else?

Keep shooting and be happy
Film is here to stay, even if Kodak abandons it. By the way, I don't use Kodak anyway, with exception of TMAX. But I can use Ilford or Fuji instead!



Well-Known Member
Robert, of course it will be different for each person.

However, I personally don't buy into the idea that when you use digital instead of film you suddenly become sloppy or lazy. As I mentioned before, either a person has the vision or they don't. And they have the knowledge to fully use the tools, or they don't. IMO, the tools are just there to help realize the vision.

It may well be that I am over simplifying...yet I like to keep the working aspects of the tools as simple as possible. This for me has led to the notion that all cameras are the same...just a box with light controls and a place to attach lenses...with a place for film or a sensor. Some are faster or slower at doing their job, and that's just about it. For this reason I have been able to use a myrid of different camera systems as if they were all the same...because to me they are.

Albert and Derek:

I believe the R9 with digital back will retain the full viewfinder and probably include a focusing screen with the digital capture area ingraved. This woud remain constant and allow shifting between film use and the digital module back without changing screens everytime. This is how it works with the Contax 645 when you use a Kodak 645C back. A focusing screen with digital area engraved is included with the back.
Many Leica M shooters like the notion of seeing more than what you are capturing because it allows for anticipation of action outside the frame lines which helps with the timing of certain shots. For others, it may
take some getting use to.


Well-Known Member
You say that you can't seriously consider a pro system without a 35 f2. I had to chuckle. The N system offers a 17-35 (2.8) that is absolutely a remarkable lens. Paper covers rock ... and I would certainly rather have the 17-35 any day then a fixed 35 f2.

What am I missing here? I have the 35 f2 on the G2. Great lens. But realistically, only a rare shot is taken at f2. The 17mm offered on the N1 zoom is an amazing perspective.



I tend to agree with your points Mike. Just to add two things. About that "free" aspect of digital. I always wonder just how many sheets of very expensive inkjet paper people go through before they finally get their print tweaked the way they'd like it. If it isn't the color tweaking, it is the inkjet getting gummed up and streaky, or something else. It doesn't make it very cheap when that happens.

About the future of film. I do think about this often myself, since I love film. When color film came out, people thought b&w would disappear. After all, who could possibly want to shoot in b&w when you could have COLOR? (little did they know).

When the automobile came out, many said it spelled the end of horses. Little did they know. There might be more horses in the US today than right before the auto showed up. It just happens they are appreciated by a whole new range of users (I'm one of them!). Maybe this will also be true for film. Just a little positive spin on the possible future of film.



Well-Known Member
Now this discussion is getting interesting.

I reality, I am happy to see some passion for film work. I sure the hell don't want it to go away. I have a fortune sunk into Leica M gear which is still my absolute favorite camera to use for the results I get. And there will be no Digital M if Leica is to be believed. I have also kept my N1 camera which is the only 35mm film SLR I still own.

I am a little worried though, because my local pro lab stopped running Tri-X. Can you believe that? So, I had to break out all the stuff to do it myself again. Developing 35 rolls from wedding work was a PITA I must say. I'll just use cromogenic B&W next time.

I will refrain from engaging in the film/digital debate. I like both and want the choice to use the right solution well into the future. Keep on truckin' all you film lovers !!!!


Well-Known Member
Well, Michael,
The 17-35 zoom may be a wonderful lens. But, it's huge. Essentially, i use primes, because they're compact, offer better performance than zooms, and are significantly faster. I prefer to shoot/be able to shoot wide open, and would love a 35mm 1.4, but in the N-mount, that's also going to be a large, obvious piece of glass. With the 50mm, and 85mm, i can shoot at 1.4, and utilize the bokeh that Zeiss and Leica are known for. At 2.8 on a 35mm lens, unless i have a lot of distance behind my subject matter, the bokeh thing becomes a non-issue, and i may as well be using any other brand of lens.

And, i don't really ever feel the need/desire to shoot at 17mm. Kind of a waste for me to carry that much glass, to only get the 24-35mm range that i might use. I don't care much for the distorting/overemphasizing characteristics of superwide lenses. I just sold a 21mm Voigtlander because i couldn't find a use for it. But, whatever, these are just my tendencies. I would, though, suggest that i am not unique in my desire for 28 and 35mm primes in a pro system. These, with the 50mm, 85mm and 100mm primes have always been the cornerstones of 35mm camera systems.


Well-Known Member
Thanks, Marc, for the info about the R8/9, relative to the crop factor and new screens. That is a shame. I wish i had considered this before buying the R8 a couple of weeks ago. Yah, i know Leica-M people love being able to see 'outside' the frame, but it is one of the primary reasons why i left rangefinders to return to SLRs. All that 'extraneous' stuff distracts me. I want to completely 'crop out' what i don't want to see on film, and seeing something as close to what i'm trying to achieve in the viewfinder is what inspires me. Although i loved the rangefinder's size, i despised not getting a 'concrete' sense of what my negs would look like- both from the standpoint of cropping, and depth of field.

I also agree with you completely that it's ridiculous to suggest that Digital makes one a sloppy and out of control photographer. Asserting that one necessarily shoots recklessly, only to 'fix' things in photoshop is silly. I know that when i shot fashion on film, i always had to 'fix' everything later, simply because the Polaroids were so different from what i would get on film -either because i was not technically proficient enough, or didn't colour balance my strobes, or the various film emulsions i experimented with all gave me different results. Digital, to me, is only a Polaroid equivalent. And, no one ever accused photographers who shoot polaroid proofs of being sloppy. Digital shows you, immediately, on the spot, what you're going to get. In my yearlong dalliance with a D60, my results were far better than anything i ever did with film, from a composition and technical perspective. Simply, i KNEW when i had what i wanted. I could just shoot til i got it. With film, i was ALWAYS disappointed when the processing came back, and then, it's too late.


Well-Known Member
> Derek,

If size is the main consideration, than I suggest you use a rangefinder. My "chuckle" was simply that you would abandon the N system becuase of it missing a prime of 35 with f2.

You make a good point on the DOF. I don't have a chart in front of me, but if somebody could tell us the difference between the DOF at f2 and f2.8 I'd be interested.