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Comparing Digital and Film Photographs (No Editing!)

ReflectionsSo I've got my vintage Film SLR, my Minolta SRT 101, and my superb Fujifilm S5700 Digital Bridge / Super-zoom, but what is the real difference?

When I went for a short walk around Fort Brockhurst the other morning, I took several shots that were similar (but not identical) with both cameras, so here they are, unedited, for you to decide.

This first one was taken with the Minolta Film SLR:

Here's the Digital version taken with my S5700:

This is another Film Version from my Minolta:

Then a similar Digital Photograph from my S5700:





So what do you think? Remember I've done no post processing on any of these photo's, but the pictures were taken about thirty minutes apart, from different perspectives in some cases.

There's more contrast in the film versions - the blacks are blacker, the whites whiter, and it surprises me that the compositions are better too. The sheer fact that I concentrated harder on getting the framing / composition right first time with the Minolta Film SLR is interesting, that I waited for the right reflection, the right light, the right moment.

I moved a lot more with the Film Camera, understandable because of the fixed 50mm lens. It forced me to look for different, better angles, than rely on the zoom in my digital S5700.

The film shots are sharper, the depth of field smaller (where selected), and the boca nicer, but I still think the S5700 does a fantastic job. If I simply took a few moments more to compose and think about my digital shots, then just add a little more contrast in post, the Digital Pics would be up there with the film ones (and maybe better for some type of shots), and this whole process has been worth it for that lesson.

What do you think?

Cheers, Rob.

Reader Comments (12)

I was arguing myself if i should get a dslr, instead i got the last pro film slr Canon made (EOS 1V), i am so happy i made my that decision, its a fantastic camera for a bargain price!

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbelola

You're right, it makes sense when you look at the money too.

New DSLR (say a D60) = £400

Old Film SLR = £20. Film = £2 a roll. Processing, photos and CDs = £8.

So for the price of a new DSLR you could get a film SLR and 912 lovely printed, digitised shots.

Which way do you think would make you a better photographer?

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

I can't say enough about film photography. I own 2 digital cameras and I find that both of them are to be completely unsatisfactory. I own a Minolta SRT-101 (42 years old) and I fully intend to keep on shooting film until film is no longer available. In my opinion, digital photography is nothing more than "today's version" of the Polaroid Camera of yesterday with questionable print results and no negatives for archival purposes. In my opinion, perhaps easier to use or else, cheaper digital photography isn't always better.


January 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterted marshall

Hi Ted,

Wow! We've got the same film camera! If you don't mind me asking how did you get around the problem of replacing the batteries for the internal light-meter?

Film is such an "organic" process, I really enjoy shooting it, but I like the immediacy of Digital too.

Do you scan your photographs so you could share them in the Flickr group? It would be great if you could.

Cheers, Rob.

January 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

Hi Rob,

Sorry to jump in on this one. Your Minolta, (and many other cameras of this era), used the old 'PX625' mercury cell. As mercury is now banned for batteries there was no official replacement.
DON'T fall into the trap of buying an expensive 'PX625 Adapter'! They're really expensive, seem ingenious but are completely uneccessary!

The argument about the old mercury cell voltage being different is true but makes NO difference to the meter circuit whatsoever! The meter circuit uses a 'wein bridge' or balanced circuit and the voltage difference makes no difference to the meters accuracy.

Just thought that would save you and anybody else reading this some money.

Got to agree on the film front though - You could pick up a 120 negative from 100 years ago or one shot today and still see and print them. (Plus knowing that your 'new' negative may even last another 100 years!) Anyone remember 'smart media' cards? or how abouts Kodaks propriety digital picture file? It was only a few years ago but you try getting a picture out of one of those let alone the 'coffee coaster' ahem CD copy nowadays once some data loss has occured.

You can print and retouch a scratched negative - you try recovering a corrupted digital file!

Ahem, I'll shutup now......Hope the battery tip saves you some money though.

All the Best,


January 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

Hi Victor,

Great advice, I'll have to check that out with a replacement battery, then comapare the readings with the original.

Cheers, Rob.

January 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

Ted Replied in an email:

Hi Rob,

I think that the advice that Victor sent to you on your website is probably the best for you to follow if you want to make the light-meter operational again. I for one, do not use the light-meter in my Minolta SRT-101 because I have so much experience with film cameras that I don't feel a need for a light-meter anyway. Even if I did get an adaptor for my camera to accomodate one of the newer types of batteries, I have been told that the life expectancy of the battery would probably last only for a year at the most. For me, I don't consider the lifespan of the newer batteries to be satisfactory. Therefore, I choose to use "the human computer" instead to calculate for proper film exposure.

In answer to your question about "flicker," I have never shared any of my photos on their website but I am considering taking a look at it.

It may be of some interest for you to know that your Minolta SRT-101 is a real "piece of photographic history," in my opinion. I don't know where you got the camera (or else, where it has been) but it has come to my attention that the SRT-101 was the "camera of choice" by the American GI's during the Vietnam War between the years of 1969 and 1975. I guess that the American soldiers liked the camera for its high quality pictures, reliability and also for its strong metal construction. Man, that camera is built like a tank but I love it! If I had to guess, if an American soldier in Vietnam ran out of bullets back in the day, he could probably pull out the Minolta and beat an enemy soldier into submission with it and still take great photos with it later on. Also, unlike digital cameras, I never have to worry about my batteries dieing on me because the camera will always work no matter what because it's all mechanical and doesn't have to rely on batteries to make it function.

On your website, a fellow by the name of Victor made some points about the merits of film photography (as opposed to digital) that should be of some value to you as far as longevity for archival purposes is concerned. In my opinion, if your photos are not important to you beyond a 5 year timeframe, then digital photography is for you. However, if you wish to view your photos 20+ years down the road, then film is the way for you to go for longevity. In my opinion, Victor speaks many truths about the longevity of film photography that I have experienced "first-hand" in my darkroom with film negatives that are now approaching 100 years of age.

A few years ago, I discovered in my parent's basement of their home, about 300 negatives (medium and large format) that used to belong to my grandmother. My grandmother was born in 1896 and died in 1979 in London Ontario, Canada. I decided to produce brand-new prints from these old and forgotten negatives and take a look through a "window into the past." For the first time, I was introduced to my great-grandparents (without a clue as to what they looked like) and I saw their images appear before me in the developer tray in my darkroom. For me, this was a really exciting experience and I was very surprised to see for myself how well the film negatives held up over such an extended period of time!

As a sample of my photographic work from this experience, I have included a photograph for you to view of my Great-grandfather Lyons in a sulky race in Regina, Saskatchewan around the last turn of the century...Boler hat and all. I don't know how this picture was ever taken on supposedly "slow film" back in the day but here it is! Perhaps, we don't give our elders enough credit for having a brain as far as photography is concerned these days. If you look at the photograph closely, you can see for yourself in the background that Regina was just being built as the capitol city of the Saskatchewan...just prior to joining our Confederation...almost 100 years ago.

In my opinion, let's see if digital photographers can deliver significant results 100 years down the road with electronic data storeage as opposed to film storeage...even the United States Navy is having trouble with this one. Solid lines on various important schematic diagrams for important naval ships are now becoming "dotted lines" due to electronic file corruption after time.

I suppose that we aren't so smart...after all...although we think that we are!

Best Regards,


January 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

Hi Ted,

Brilliant reply, thanks very much for your advice and that wonderful photo - what a piece of History!

I look forward to see your photo's on Flickr and continuing our conversations.

Thanks again, Cheers Rob.

January 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

Hi Rob,

Just rediscovered film myself. I have a Minolta SRT-102. Great camera! I also have a Canon FTb that came with 3 amazing prime lenses and the original manual that I got on ebay all for $40.00 I rarely even shoot digital anymore. About the replacement battery issue. I just bought a 625 replacement battery for $3.00 USD. Not sure why you would need an adapter, the battery I bought works just fine. Have you tried any rangefinders yet? Would love to hear about your experience with using them if you have. I picked up a Minolta AL-F rangefinder on ebay for $15.00. Great little camera. You can hand-hold these things at 1/30 of a sec and slower all day long with tack sharp results due to the fact that there is no mirror that flips up. This also makes them great for street photography since they're super quiet. They have a really neat focusing method too that is idiot proof and great for people that have trouble with manual focus or with bad eyesight. Check them out and maybe do a show on them! Love the show! Cheers!

May 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterandy prickett

Hi Andy,

I've got at least one film range finder tucked away at the back of a drawer, so I'll have to load one up and give it a go...

I think everyone should shoot film every now and again - keeps us frosty and makes sure we don't take digital for granted!

Cheers, Rob.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

Hey Rob,

Nice work but I'm knda disappointed that in your comparison, you didn't that pics on same focal length or orientation.

I reckon it'd be much better to see a photo thats on the same orientation and focal length and point of view .... digital and a film version.

But yeah I like your site/blog though! :)

November 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterALI

HI Ali,

Glad you like the blog, maybe I'll do a closer comparison too.

Cheers, Rob.

November 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterRob_Nunn

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