One of the blogs I follow is "In My View" by Chris Eastwood. Judging from the photos of himself which he publishes, one of Chris' many talents is to actually look younger as time passes...not sure how he does that. Like me Chris shoots and scans film in many different sizes (including 120 folding cameras) and uses digital camera (s) as well. In a recent post he compared various scans of 35mm film to similar images shot digitally. This caused me to look again at my previous conclusions of scanned (B&W) film and to adjust my projected pixel count of film downward.
I took some scans of Acros B&W film on my Epson V700 scanner. I had thought I would do some 1mm square scans but it proved too difficult. I was able to make some 5mm x 5mm scans (well 4.96 x 5.03 but close enough). I scanned at 3200, 4800 & 6400 DPI. I clearly saw a difference between 3200 and 4800. Between 4800 and 6400 the differences weren't as easy to see. I determined that the 6400 scan had a few areas which were better than the 4800. I'm not sure what this means as far as actual resolution...4900?...5200??...6300??? Oh well.
The results interpolated onto a full frame of 35mm film are still quite impressive. At 4800 I estimate slightly more than 30 megapixels, at 6400 it's almost 55 megapixels. Either way it's a bunch. Less than I first thought but still a bunch o pixels.
Now. What does this mean? I'm not sure but I think it means that film is still viable for me. Film has grain. Digital, if there's enough light is quite smooth...no grain and no noise. (although interestingly there are a lot of grain simulation software titles enjoying brisk sales). Film is in most cases still scanned with a digital chip...much like the chip in a digital camera. Film images are post processed with the same software as digital images and printed exactly the same way...but still...there's something about a film image which I enjoy. I think what my test does for me is to ensure me that I am getting my fair share of pixels. That's something. Or perhaps I'm a Luddite.
A little over a year ago I was on the verge of selling the last of my film gear. My thought was to buy one of the "Next" wave of digital cameras (like the Nikon D3), then I bought the DP1. The images I get from this little digital camera are quite startling. The feeling of these images is remarkably film like. I think it's the foveon chip...in fact I'm sure of it. As a result I am less than satisfied with my other digital images. Adding a larger chip, or many more pixels would do nothing at all for me, just make me unsatisfied with a bigger image. I am however enjoying a renewed sense of satisfaction with my film images.
The DP1's range is a LOT like negative film, not too bad in the shadows and absolutely wonderful in the brightest areas. Digital does better in the shadows but where digital handles brightness by falling off a cliff, film is much more graceful. The DP1 while perhaps not as smooth as film still goes a lot farther without displaying the phony colors we've become accustomed to with digital...like the bright yellow circle around the sun at sunrise and sunset.
Doing a digital comparison of various camera's capabilities is to me very confusing. Adding the extra confusion element of film vs digital makes it worse. Pixels must be "Peeped", uprezed or downrezed...perhaps side to side rezed is better??? It's fun for a while though so many of us do it or read with interest the results of others.
Film has grain, or grain like elements. These become increasingly noticed as scans are larger. This makes the film images look less sharp, less clean, less usable. Digital images have software manufactured picture elements. Digital cameras actually have no pixels at all (well most of them don't) but rather have a bunch of sites sensitive to greys. The rest is done with increasingly sophisticated software. The same types of software are used to upsize images...essentially making it up as they go...making something out of nothing. The results though are great, and getting better. Causes me to wonder though if cameras have a future at all in digital "Photography."
Perhaps my enjoyment of film is a lot like eating sushi or Chinese food with chopsticks vs a fork. I know in my mind that chopsticks don't make the food taste better but...!