Old School Film Hack

Digital vs. Film Reloaded


Here’s another comparison of digital (left) versus film (right) the same ship, taken 3 years apart.  Which do you prefer in this case?

UPDATE:  Based upon the early comments, I’ve completely reworked the digital image (see below).

Why?  Because that was how I post-processed images three years ago.  You can see my first post of the NS Savannah here, complete with the vignetting that was added in post.

What are all the differences?  The ship, NS Savannah, is permanently berthed in Baltimore and is open to public tours just a couple of times per year.  The digital image was taken on National Maritime Day 2013, when we arrived too late to participate in a tour.  The film shot was taken on National Maritime Day 2016, as we were leaving from a day aboard the ship — at almost the same exact time as the digital shot three years earlier.  Same type of overcast day, with much the same everything, except the TS Golden Bear and some smaller vessels were also berthed at the pier.  Supposedly, the ship had some hull work done since 2013; the only difference I can see is that it’s leaning a slight amount to starboard in the film shot (you can see it if you look carefully).

Gear wise, the first shot was taken with a Sony NEX-5R and Sony 10-18mm F/4.0 zoom.  According to the EXIF info the actual focal length was 17mm, which converts to a 25.5mm field of view (APS-C sensor equals x1.5 full-frame factor, so 17 x 1.5 = 25.5).  The film shot was taken with a Leica M7 and Leica Summilux 21mm f/1.4 lens, using Kodak Portra 400 film shot at 2+ stops, or 100 ISO.  Oh, and the difference of the angle of view is due to the film shot being taken about 6 feet up and 10 feet to the rear of where the digital shot was taken three years before.

I know some of you are probably wondering about the full-frame versus digital crop factor, so here is the finished film shot without cropping.

NS Savannah, uncropped -- Baltimore, Maryland (May 2016)Leica M7 + Kodak Portra 400 + Leica Summilux 21/1.4 ASPH

NS Savannah, uncropped — Baltimore, Maryland (May 2016)
Leica M7 + Kodak Portra 400 + Leica Summilux 21/1.4 ASPH

And still others are probably wondering about shooting the Portra 400 at 2+ stops (effectively 100 ISO), so here is the original film image before applying any post-processing.  Please note that the vignetting in the film shot is due to the lens and not added later in post.

NS Savannah, before any post-processing -- Baltimore, Maryland (May 2016)Leica M7 + Kodak Portra 400 + Leica Summilux 21/1.4 ASPH

NS Savannah, before any post-processing — Baltimore, Maryland (May 2016)
Leica M7 + Kodak Portra 400 + Leica Summilux 21/1.4 ASPH

34 thoughts on “Digital vs. Film Reloaded

  1. Stephen Lewis

    I prefer the film version because of the slight green tint and subtle grain of the sky. The sky in digital version has the rather dead blue-gray tint with which digital sensors often render low color temperature skies. The circular vignetting in the digital version (a result of enthusiastic post-processing, I assume) creates a distracting artificial halo of light around the ship. The composition of both photos is very nice. By the way, may thanks for posting these comparisons, they are leading me to blow the dust off of my old Nikons and to consider a return to film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Check out the post again; I’ve updated it based upon all the early comments this morning, including a complete rework of the digital image — done as I currently do it. I, too, prefer the film version more as I look at it more, though the digital image is cleaner.


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      If you check out the captions, I always include the specifics with each shot; however, the film used for this post was Kodak Portra 400, shot at 100 ISO.


    2. Stephen Lewis

      Many thanks for the information and for reworking the post. Your photography and your vision — aesthetically and technically — are appreciated. A last question: Did you modify (“pull”) development of the film or did you process it as if shot at 400?


  2. lostfunzone (dothob)

    in this case i’d go for the film version, too. the halo in the digital version is a bit over the top and i like that the sky has more structure in the film version (that of course might be attributed to different weather conditions in shots taken three years apart from each other :))
    kudos for getting the ‘same’ shot with such a distance in time!


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      It depends on the end result that one is attempting to achieve; digital delivers an almost hyper-realism with some subjects (super clean with lots of acute detail) — which can be a good thing. Film, on the other hand, has the ability to fade the details, which can be equally good — depending on the subject.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Nope; I tried by making a GIF out of both images and the differences are just too extreme.

      However, I will have to explore more of the digital versus film comparisons for people, since it seems to spark interest.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah Longes - Mirador Design

    Oh blimey you updated it while I was making my first comment!! Ok, so overall I like the uncropped processed film the best 😀 Isn’t it strange how much difference a crop and style of processing alters how a viewer reacts to what is exactly the same subject! I really like the reflection/shadow in the water on the uncropped versions.


  4. Gypsy Bev

    So much depends on the ability and equipment of the processor. You can make it look any way that you wish. For some reason I’m still preferring the digital as you have it here.


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