Is Film Photography Better Than Digital?

The age-old question resurfaces: is film better than digital? In this video, the victor is crowned once and for all.

There are certainly pros and cons for film and digital. Film has a certain materiality that just can’t be replicated digitally. The “film look” is a very real thing and new photographers spend so much money trying to replicate it digitally. For things like certain colors or tones, that’s well enough but replicating grain is a whole other story. And don’t get me started on taking a sharp digital image and making it blurry or worse yet intentionally shooting it blurry.

Alternatively, digital has a certain cleanliness to it that film could never achieve. This quality works well in tandem with digital's ability to take multiple images in quick succession and get the very best micro-second of a pose.

In his video, Luke Cleland offers deeper insights into his preferences. There are certainly pros and cons to both and I won’t spoil the video much more by covering them here. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is the final image. Your personal choices for your photographic image should dictate your use of either film or digital cameras—or perhaps if you are using an alternative process like cyanotypes then no camera at all?

Ali Choudhry's picture

Ali Choudhry is a photographer in Australia. His photographic practice aims to explore the relationship with the self, between the other, and the world. Through use of minimalist compositions and selective use of color and form he aims to invoke what he calls the "breath". He is currently working towards a BA (Honours) in Photography.

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Yes it is.

Ya got any details why you think that?

Not really, just that its better

So its just you know. Your opinion then. Not fact.

From the information I'm looking at it appears to be a fact.

From the answers you're making, you sound awfully close to being an internet troll...

As someone trained in film photography, and who used to shoot, develop and print professionally, No, film is not better than digital, It lost that over a decade ago. Film is a good way for new photographers to learn, and there are some people who like the process of film, but objectively, digital is better in many many ways.

Film is a great way to learn that it looks better than a digital photo

I get to send off my film to a lab?
If you are advocating film photography, learn to develop and print your own film.
There are 20 somethings all over YouTube today developing color film in their bathtubs.

I didn't know that 20 somethings could afford a bathtub. I thought millennials were perpetually broke from buying expensive coffee, having "experiences", crying over the incorrect use of their pronoun of choice, and generally complaining about how bitterly unfair life is. :)

I have a bathtub!!!

Well done.

The youngest millennials would be in 25 years old.

You forgot Avocado toast

Well now they have another reason to be 'perpetually broke'...buying film materials...etc.

Thankfully I'm 30! Phew!

Yes! Just developed some of my own BW a couple weeks ago, and in the process of learning colour as well. Such an interesting process! Any tips?

But you DO have a tub...right?

I brews my own emulsion and drinks my own piss :)

Do you make your own microprocessors? Plastics? Rare earth metals? Coding? Sounds like you have a lot to learn about real digital photography.....

Dude, I shoot unreal digital photography :)

the purpose of photography is to produce the image
not to stink up the basement

Rubbish. Where do you get this information. From Tony, right?

Or just use DXO Filmpack.

I don't wanna go down to the basement.
There's something down there...

Yes..yes it is.

Care to share why?

No I don't.


So best I can tell, his whole argument was that he prefers film because it lets him outsource the post-production. (Something he is also free to do with digital) and because it forces him not to chimp. (Something he can also do with digital if he really wants by disabling the LCD)

Like, all the power to him if it works for him and his business, but I just fail to see any meaningful arguments here in favor of film.

I had 6 points! lol

You did, but the others were in favor of digital.

I was doing black and white printing in my rom as a boy. I was dreaming of making color prints, but it was messy, difficult and expensive.
Now I have Lightroom and can print big images that look great. Seriously? Back to film? And then scan the film and edit in Photoshop? No. I still find that shooting black and white and making large prints could be something. So I understand people feels differently then me.
But I still enjoy Lightroom more then the darkroom.

I was fortunate to have a full BW and color darkroom available to me from the beginning. But color processing was soooooo tedious. Even with the Kodak "High Speed" drum, it still took about 20 minutes in nearly total darkness before you got to see whether the print might be hour to be sure.

When watch a color print roll off my Canon printer, the incredible ease of color printing is so great I sometimes laugh out loud.

Besides that, being in the darkroom separated me from my wife. With digital, she sits at her desk beside me.

Give me Photoshop, I've spent my time in the darkroom.

Tomorrow's Fstoppers headline: Is digital photography better than film?

I wish

So crazy, even the build up to the video, which I did not watch. I shot film for over 25 years, have thousands of slides and negatives that I have converted to digital. These articles and video seem to think the have discovered something. Sorry, film was nice when we had good darkrooms, and great scanning solutions - Like Nikon scanners. I don't care if someone enjoys film that is great, just don't try to convince us that this is a new thing.

Well the guy in the video says that he shoots differently when using film. Says that "his connection is with the subject not the camera" which is weird because his Contax camera from 20 years ago needs more input from the photographer than an modern camera.

Interesting! Contax 645 is quite easy!

For one thing you need to pay attention to how many frames you left on the roll of film.
I don't know who many times that perfect shot was on frame #11 on my RZ67 or #13 with the old 500c/m :)
When I shoot MF film I am shooting slower, paying more attention to the exposure and changing light, double checking focus etc.
Shooting digital I sort of forget about the camera and can relate more to the subject. I will shoot more frames to get what I intended and often the something else shot too. Never have to think if this frame is worth it.


No, no it's not. At least not from an efficiency and cost stand point.

1. Film over time costs more to develop and purchase vs. digital. Important if you are making a living with your camera
2. I can get the results almost immediately with digital vs. film this is especially important if you are making a living with your camera.
3. There are software filters that can reproduce the look of certain film types. Not perfect but close.
4. You see what you get with digital vs. film in camera (even more so with mirrorless)
5. Film is more sensitive and fragile than digital files and memory cards.
6. Film slows you down. This can be good or bad but if you are shooting a wedding and don't have your ducks in a row can be bad.

I'm sure there are many other reasons but I see no reason to go backwards other than nostalgia and for the satisfaction of using film as a medium and working with it from a hobbyist stand point. It's making a bit of a come back but IMO that is all. A "bit" of a comeback is all it will ever be. I see some professionals shooting with it to set themselves apart from digital shooters which if they can sell it then good for them but not something I'd want to take a step back in time for. We could use carbon paper and typewriters again too but why?

Slowing down is one of my favourite parts of film.

I started with film. Never thought about if I was shooting fast or slow, I was just shooting. Mostly wildlife and landscapes then.

Shooting digital I simply shoot at the speed required, except I do get more keepers. This may be because of the good habits formed when shooting film, or it could be because I hate culling and editing so don't over do it...

As my experience has grown, with the exception of sports, I tend to do more pre-visualisation of the image I want and spend more time looking through the viewfinder perfecting the framing an (mostly) aperture. So in effect, I guess I'm slower on digital.

Anyone who uses film to shoot a wedding cannot with any valid logic disparage a digital camera for having only one card slot.

They are different, better is the wrong word here.

In over 100 years, will they be able to go to the artic, find an explorers long lost memory card and see the images?

However, digital is practically the most assessable and useful form of photography for the biggest majority of us.

What has changed is that with analogue, the image is printed,the record is pressed, the finished product exists.

Here is some food for thought... Not many of us can say our work is actually printed, on a wall, finished to a high standard and being admired or viewed in the long term. That is the real difference between analogue and digital... the tangible product is given with analogue.

No but in 100 years they could find prints made from digital files...

It wasn't true even for film that most images were "actually printed, on a wall, finished to a high standard and being admired or viewed in the long term." If they were lucky, they actually found their way into an album.

But all of my professional work is, in fact, intended to be "actually printed, on a wall, finished to a high standard and being admired or viewed in the long term," despite the fact that it starts in a digital camera.

They are different. Not better, different I'd say.

Very few images over 30 years of age will look anything like a new print, as most would be lucky to be printed on Fuji Crystal Archive (~30 yr life) and even fewer would be mounted behind uv-cut acrylic with acid free materials.

That said, I know that even cheap prints can last much longer if kept cool and dark, but that's not on a wall being enjoyed in a sometimes hot and humid room.

As for the 100 year old memory cards, I doubt they'd have any usable data after a day max - They're reusable for most peeps.

Data retention (digital or physical) is always a tricky thing. Very little of normal life will survive 100 years. A side note, fossils that have been buried for millions of years are now popular for normal people to own. But most won't know how to care for these fossils and they'll be lucky to survive decades.

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