Current Use of Color Film
Color film has now been relegated to a niche market by inexpensive multi-megapixel digital cameras. Film continues to be the preference of some photographers because of its high image quality (when used with a high-quality camera and lens) and its distinctive "look." In medium and large formats, its effective pixel count has not yet (as of 2010) been equaled by any commercially available and reasonably priced digital camera.
The changeover from chemical to electronic photography may prove to be comparable to the shift from black-and-white to color, in which black-and-white retained some distinctive merits and was never entirely replaced. As exemplified by the discontinuation of Kodachrome, however, the variety of film types available is liable to become increasingly limited.
Some currently available color films are designed to produce positive transparencies for use in a slide projector or magnifying viewer, although paper prints can also be made from them. Transparencies are preferred by some professional photographers who use film because they can be judged without having to print them first. Transparencies are also capable of a wider dynamic range, and therefore of a greater degree of realism, than the more convenient medium of prints on paper. The early popularity of color "slides" among amateurs went into decline after the introduction of automated printing equipment started bringing print quality up and prices down.
Other currently available films are designed to produce color negatives for use in creating enlarged positive prints on color photographic paper. Color negatives may also be digitally scanned and then printed by non-photographic means or viewed as positives electronically. Unlike reversal-film transparency processes, negative-positive processes are, within limits, forgiving of incorrect exposure and poor color lighting, because a considerable degree of correction is possible at the time of printing. Negative film is therefore more suitable for casual use by amateurs. Virtually all single-use cameras employ negative film. Photographic transparencies can be made from negatives by printing them on special "positive film," but this has always been unusual outside of the motion picture industry and commercial service to do it for still images may no longer be available. Negative films and paper prints are by far the most common form of non-digital color photography today.
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