When Digital is like Film, but not really

Cliff Walk

Key: R20111225-161731

Nokia N8 phone cam–a digital image.

I am so sick of hearing the film vs. digital debate.  I’m sure painters don’t argue whether oils or acrylics are better, so why do photographers need to endlessly debate which medium is better? Just pick one, or better both, and get out there and do some photography, dammit!

Ok, rant off. I’m just tired of reading about it still in 2012.

In a similar vein, I don’t know if you have seen this new product? Go ahead, check out the link and then come back….hm, hm, hm….

If you want the film look, then for God’s sake, why not shoot film?

Personally, I don’t get it. I like the look of digital. I never was a big fan of film grain, which always mucked up my scans, and I never much liked the limited dynamic range of transparency film or the color all that much. (Ok, Kodachrome 64 was a little special, I admit). I never shot much negative film, so I don’t have a reference there. But after 20-some years of shooting slides, and being a computer guy, I was so ready for digital to arrive. I just don’t understand products that are trying to emulate a particular film look, or to add fake grain, etc.  Why not embrace the medium for what it is?

Anyway, this should not be construed in any way as a rant against film. If you love it–God bless you–have at it. And I guess if you want the convenience of digital with the look of film, this kind of product is for you–go for it.

Just remember folks, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck–but it isn’t a duck–at some point the ruse is going to show through.

[As an aside: I can remember clearly several jurors from past Hawaii Photo Expos, who, upon examining a framed print up close during a photo critique, turn to the photographer and ask “Is that film?”–and then look disappointed when the answer is in the negative.  As if suddenly the image that they liked and picked for the show has proven to be a cheap fake.  I cannot for the life of me understand that state of mind.  The image should stand on its own.  As others have said elsewhere: “No one cares how hard you worked on it”.]


3 thoughts on “When Digital is like Film, but not really

  1. I use some of the “film emulators” in a couple of different packages – not because I’m trying to look like Tri-X 400 or Agfa Pro-X Silver Bromide 600 whatever, but because I like the resulting look. To me they never really look like film and that’s fine as long as they look good. That’s really the one and only barometer I use. The digital/film debate is just….silly.

  2. Indeed, the debate is silly. I still shoot film from time to time and I like grain. I like the look of film. I also like film emulators, too, for the same reasons as John specified: no, they don’t really look like film, but they sure are convenient to get you in the ballpark of a certain look. They save lots of steps!

  3. Hi John, Paul,
    I suppose it’s just the nature of the internet to fan these kinds of flames up as well. When you talk about it like a simple effect filter it sounds much more sensible. I haven’t played around with the packages because I like the look of digital just as it is, or with whatever p.p. I do using the “ordinary” tools.

    I guess I should qualify my endorsement, because I definitely like the look of some digital cameras better than others. That’s mostly due to JPEG algorithms though–in RAW I don’t see so much difference. Indeed, I see more differences due to format and lenses than in sensors these days.

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