Digital Photography - Comparison With Film Photography - Equivalent Features

Equivalent Features

Image noise / grain

Noise in a digital camera's image is remarkably similar to film grain in a film camera. At high ISO levels (film speed) the grain/noise becomes more apparent in the final image. Although film ISO levels can be lower than digital ISO levels (25 and 50 respectively), digital settings can be changed quickly according to requirements, while film must be physically replaced and protected from all light during such replacement. Additionally, image noise reduction techniques can be used to remove noise from digital images and film grain is fixed. From an artistic point of view, film grain and image noise may be desirable when creating a specific mood for an image. Modern digital cameras have comparable noise/grain at the same ISO as film cameras. Some digital cameras though, do exhibit a pattern in the digital noise that is not found on film.

Speed of use

Previously digital cameras had a longer start-up delay compared to film cameras, i.e., the delay from when they are turned on until they are ready to take the first shot, but this is no longer the case for modern digital cameras with start-up times under 1/4 second (0.15 seconds for the Nikon D90). Similarly, the amount of time needed to write the data for a digital picture to the memory card is now comparable to the amount of time it takes to wind the film on a film camera, at least with modern digital cameras and modern fast memory cards. Both digital cameras and film cameras have a small delay between when the shutter button is pressed and when the picture is taken – this is the time necessary to autofocus the lens and compute and set the exposure. (This shutter delay is practically zero for SLR and the best DSLR cameras.)

Frame rate

The Nikon D3 can take still photographs at 11 frames per second; the fastest film SLR could shoot 14 frames per second (Canon F1-n with a super high speed motor, but fewer than 100 were constructed for the 1984 Summer Olympics). The Nikon F5 is limited to 36 continuous frames (the length of the film) while the Canon EOS-1D Mark III is able to take about 110 high definition JPEG images before its buffer must be cleared and the remaining space on the storage media can be used. Even Bridge camera such as Fujifilm FinePix HS10 has burst mode 10 frame/s and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 has 11 frame/s. Moreover FinePix HS10 can take movies at 1000 frame/s at 224x64 pixels with no sound.

Image longevity

Film and prints can fade, but digital images can potentially last unchanged forever. However, the media on which the digital images are stored can decay or become corrupt, leading to a loss of image integrity. Film and digital media should be stored under archival conditions for maximum longevity. Without backup it is easier to lose huge amounts of digital data, for example by accidental deletion of folders, or by failure of a mass storage device. In comparison, each generation of copies of film negatives and transparencies is degraded compared to its parent. Film images can easily be converted to digital (by using a digital film scanner for example) with some possible loss of quality.

Colour reproduction

Colour reproduction (gamut) is dependent on the type and quality of film or sensor used and the quality of the optical system and film processing. Different films and sensors have different color sensitivity; the photographer needs to understand his equipment, the light conditions, and the media used to ensure accurate colour reproduction. Many digital cameras offer RAW format (sensor data), which makes it possible to choose color space in the development stage regardless of camera settings; in effect, the scene itself is stored as far as the sensor allows, and can to some extent be "rephotographed" with different color balance, exposure, etc. Although RAW format can be used, the sensor and the camera's dynamics can only capture in the GAMUT that the system will allow, and when that image is transferred for reproduction on any device, the best possible gamut that the person viewing the image will see is the gamut of the end device. For a monitor, it would be the screen's gamut. For a photographic print, it will be the gamut of the device that printed the image on the paper. Color Gamut or Color Space is an abstract term for describing an area where points of color fit in a three dimensional space. You might more easily picture this as different shaped/sized boxes whereby one box may not fit into another and therefore, what does not fit gets clipped off.

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