Film vs. Digital Photography, Mini-Showdown in Studio

by dav.d

For a few years I have been toying around with film photography. For most everything I shoot digital and I will continue to use digital for most assignments. However, the more I shoot film the more I can see some unique benefits to the medium.

Much like water color paintings look different than oil paintings there is a difference between film and digital. Sometimes, I can’t see a difference, other times it is blatantly obvious. This is a direct comparison. On the left we have the film photograph, shot with my new Pentax 6×7 film camera. On the right is the digital photograph, shot with my Canon 5DII. The lighting setup is the same for both photographs. There is a huge difference between the two. And they both have qualities that are cool, but different.

A man in a suit holding a gun. Comparing film vs digital.

Left side is film. Right side is digital.

In the “ye olde days” of film, the look of a photograph would be determined by what brand of film you use. These days I have been using Kodak and a little bit of Fuji. And depending on the subject I will use one or the other. And choice of a photo lab becomes important. I was trying out a new lab that is local, but not sure they are an improvement over the lab I have used up till now.

Why do I photograph both? and wouldn’t it be easier to pick one or the other? I love variety in life. If I was doing the same thing over and over again I would get bored out of my mind. The ability to pick a film or a digital camera and create something unique is like having the big box of 64 Crayons verses the box of 8 crayons. Give me the choice and variety.

For a number of photo shoots last year, I would take a few photographs with my film camera. I hope to do that again this year. So don’t be surprised when I bring out a large camera with wooden handle, use a light meter and take a “ye olde film portrait.”

You may also like


Jessie W. January 13, 2014 - 4:58 pm


Very neat examples. What sort of film did you use and what lab?


John January 18, 2014 - 8:04 pm

I don’t understand. Yes the film looks better, but the digital camera with some lighting and maybe an Instagramish filter could have looked similar, no?

Mano December 2, 2014 - 11:39 pm


Do you have more samples of digital vs. film. Could you also share the raw files in both cases. I I would like to run some tests and get the characteristics that makes the difference. Let me know I have my email address in this message.

Iwan February 28, 2015 - 9:13 pm

You might like to try a non Bayer sensor too, like a Sigma Foveon.

Andy September 11, 2016 - 7:13 pm

Your slide film is over exposed, by at least a full stop. That is the number one sin when exposing transparency film, and you made it!

Frank February 28, 2018 - 1:37 pm

Exactly. And the digital images is slightly underexposed. That’s why you see no detail in the gun. It’s not a question of lighting, it’s a question of exposure settings in the camera! They make the difference here, not film or digital.


Leave a Comment

dav.d photo
dav.d is a portrait photographer based in Utah.