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film scanner vs digital slr?

Patrick Zammit , Feb 05, 2004; 07:07 p.m.

i have been researching film scanner for the last few weeks however i am thinking that i should save the money and buy a digital slr... i like digital because it lets you manipulate the image easily however i do not think its worthed to stay scanning each film... to much hassle ... plus i think it would give more problems then a dlsr....

for now i scan the prints and manipulate those....

i have scanned 6x4 and printed the manipulated images at quite good resolution to 8x10....

why did u decided to buy a film scanner instead of saving for a good digital camera?

i need more for present use then for archiving.... in a few years time when i would have soem money to spend without thinking i would buy a scanner to archive my negatives. by then the technology would be cheaper or better at the same price....

any opinions?


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Marshall Goff , Feb 05, 2004; 07:16 p.m.

Any opinions you ask? Yes, thousands of them, stored in the archives here for a search, so take a look.

That said, scanner prices don't seem to be dropping quite the same way that digital camera prices are, so that argument could go both ways. My personal thought is that you should shoot how you're comfortable and deal with it afterwards as required. No question that scanning can be a challenge, and time-consuming to boot, but that doesn't mean that shooting film can't still be very satisfying - and even still have some advantages...

Hyun Yu , Feb 05, 2004; 07:58 p.m.

Simple enough reason for me: so that I could digitize 35mm negatives I have going back 15 years. Not all of them, thankfully, but enough keepers among them.

Nestor Botta , Feb 05, 2004; 08:49 p.m.

And another reason: every film has its "personality" (i.e. response to light). Think on this few examples:

- Would you compare the saturation of a Velvia against any digital camera?

- Is the tonal range of Reala comparable to any digital camera file?

- Have you compare the latitude of a negative against the one of a digital camera sensor? If you already scanned negatives, you know how easy is to recover details from the most obscure areas...

Terry McTigue , Feb 05, 2004; 10:10 p.m.

I have a Nikon LS30 (old Tech now) and have scanned many slides and negatives over the last few years. Recently I bought a 300D with the kit lens and also a 50mm 1.8 and the 70-200L zoom. I could not be happier than I am now with the digital Canon. The LS30 will only scan at 2700 but when you blow up to A4 the noise is obvious. I know we can put these images through software that will fix this, but after the time taken to scan, post process and then use noise reduction software on one image I could think of nothing worse than doing this for every image on film. I have no problems whatever with noise on the 300D and colours are good. I shoot in raw and you can batch process these while you are doing something else.

Scott Eaton , Feb 05, 2004; 11:07 p.m.

And another reason: every film has its "personality"

You mean, slide film distorts color for those who find reality too dull, and basically high color emulsions do the thinking for you. While I appreciate the artistic enhancement that enhanced saturation films produce, and the incredible dynamic range of print film, lets be honest in that a film scanner is nothing more than a digital camera that takes pictures of film. Photographic film cannot record a picture superior to the original scene much as film fanatics try to claim.

With good scanning technique I can make arguement that slow speed slide and print films can surpass the *final* image quality of a small sensor digicam in the 3-4 megapixel range. That is, with perfect scanning technique. However, with cameras like the Rebel above, y'all can keep the film scanner and case of denial while the rest of us will snag the Rebel. Unless you have an archive of film you want scanned, I see no reason for a non-scanner savy individual shooting 35mm to even waste money any more on a film scanner unless they simply can't afford the entry price in a Rebel 300 equivelant or the up and coming Nikon D70.

Yeah, you can get a less expensive film scanner, but then apply that difference to the lab/film costs, and it vanishes quickly. Previous digicams below $1000 were mostly toys with noisy CCDs, but the 6mp near full frame dSLRs that are hitting the market offer 8x10 image quality that will surpass 8x10s from virtually any 35mm film scan.

Marshall Goff , Feb 06, 2004; 12:33 a.m.

Guys, let's not turn this into a film vs. digital debate. Plenty of that to find in the archives.

Scott, as usual, has some well thought-out points. Nestor is a devotee of film, and has learned how to work with the film. Learning how to work with your images, whether digital or film, is a necessity for getting the best output if you're going to do it yourself. But some of those steps are the same for digital or film, and film does have the added step of learning to work with the scanner and return the film to the image you saw on the slide.

But the original question was what is best for Patrick to invest in. Unfortunately, we cannot answer that for you fully, Patrick. All we can do is provide arguments that may or may not help, and also comment on the arguments that you put forward.

You say digital lets you manipulate the images easily. You can manipulate images that are scanned the same way; it just requires making the scan. Working with film scans would be a huge improvement over working with scans of the 4x6 prints as you've done.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't get a digital camera. In fact, if you think you'd learn faster, do more, enjoy it more, etc., then by all means you should get it. If you don't need to work with different films for any reason (and there may be no compelling reason to do so), go digital. Remember that there are more startup costs than just the body, but if you can swing it, go for it. If you're going to have to get a scanner anyway, then you could do that now and go on to get a dSLR later, too, but only you can answer that.

But if you just want a comparison, do a lot of research on information that's already out there. You can find direct comparisons of details and all that goes with it. If you just need a cost comparison, add up the startup costs for digital vs. the ongoing costs for film - don't forget that you'll want a new body at some point - add in a factor for your time, and go from there. If there's anything else specific that we can answer and you can't find it searching the forums, ask and we'll try to help.

Jos Roost , Feb 06, 2004; 07:21 a.m.

I use slide film, and I DO project slides.
OK, it's a bit of a hassle to get out your slide projector and screen, but nothing beats the sensation of a projected 1x1.5m image.
A digital camera may be nice for viewing your images on PC or TV screen and for making prints, and thus be a good replacement for negative film. But for the time being there is no good-enough and/or affordable digital beamer that beats the 'old' analog slide-film plus slide projector combination.

Jos Roost , Feb 06, 2004; 07:29 a.m.

And to complete the reasoning of my previous post:
slide projection is my main reason for not going to a digital SLR yet. And without a digital camera, a film scanner is a good means of getting images from your own films on the PC screen or printer.

Mark Pav , Feb 06, 2004; 09:31 a.m.

Reasons to choose film:

* Cost. You can get a top of the range camera for the same price that you'd pay for a cheap-average DSLR.

* Familiarity.

* Ability to travel far away from all power sources for a much longer time.

* You can take shots that require no digital editing at all.

Reasons to choose digital:

* Versatility. You can reset the ISO easily, adjust everything and check the results right away.

* Cost. You don't have to develop every image.

* Time. You may spend more time on the computer (except in comparison to scanning), but you don't have to drive to a lab and then return to see your pics.

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