Ever since the introduction of the digital camera, a war has raged within the photographer community. There are those that would claim 35mm film is the one true "professional" media, and digital its casual, amateur counterpart. Conversely as costs go down and quality increases, there is an ever expanding group of professional photographers who shoot only in digital. So what is a consumer to think? Is 35mm still the way to go, or is it time to trade up for a new digital model? It's time to break each format down and seal this deal, once and for all.
Digital Photography: Amateur?
It is true that there are many digital cameras on the market, and like their 35mm counterparts there is an endless supply of variables that can impact the images each one is capable of producing. Image quality (in terms of color contrast and depth of field) have always been a major concern for those taking digital images and is still one of the common excuses heard from the opposition. Add to this the fact that finding a digital camera that could match the sheer raw data contained in a photograph on film was both arduous and incredibly expensive, and the 35mm enthusiast has a fairly solid argument.
Fortunately for the consumer, the price of an high quality digital camera has dropped sharply in the last few years. Canon's popular "Digital Rebel" line of SLRs has given people an affordable (under $1,000) entry-level camera that produces near professional results. And since Canon isn't the only camera company in the world, it's a safe bet consumers can look forward to even better cameras at even lower prices as manufacturers double their efforts to be first in line at the retail counter.
35mm: Is it Antiquated?
In these modern times, why even use film at all? It's certainly no secret that film has an unforgiving and often expensive learning curve, and recent trends show that more people prefer digital for just those reasons. After all, when taking pictures at an event like a Super Bowl, would it better to have the potential for thousands of pictures, or just the film you have with you? Sports Illustrated photographers answered that question by shooting over 16 thousand images in 2004's bowl, entirely in digital.
However, just as some music enthusiasts claim that everything sounds better on a record, there are still photographers who think that nothing compares to a fresh roll of film. In fact, developing film manually and printing photos in a darkroom is one of the most rewarding and hands on photography experiences one can have. Sure, photos can be endlessly edited and re-edited using fancy tools like Adobe Photoshop, but clicking a mouse is just very different than the tactile sensations of the darkroom. And of course, having someone else print up a roll of film only takes an hour or so.
And the Winner Is..
Neither! Based on the accessibility of technology and the vast educational resources devoted to the topic, there's really no defining point that wins this battle one way or the other. As with many debates, the winner is going to be decided based upon the needs and desires of the individual photographer. Families wanting to take pictures and share their memories on the fly often choose digital due to its instant gratification and convenience, while others like having photo prints to display them in a picture frame or album. Thanks to powerful yet affordable innovations in digital and the classic, "do it yourself familiarity of film" the choice is now directly in the hands of the consumer- right where it belongs.
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