Moving from film to digital photography

Why moving to digital?

One major consideration that probably most people already have done when reading this is the reason why buying a digital camera. The most important reasons are:

  1. Reduced costs
    1. With film photography you have to buy the film and develop it. Both costs money. In digital photography you also have a medium (the memory card) but it is reusable and therefore cheaper. (However, the memory cards do not have infinite lifetime.) E.g. if you buy a film with 8x36 (=288) exposures for $40 you have on the other hand a price of approximately $160 for a 512 MB CF card. That means after reusing 5 times the costs are amortized (assuming 5 MP JPEG's). Only storage costs remain with approximately one CD (~$0.6 ) to store this amount of images (prices are today's estimated street prices).
    2. Note: Development costs for paper prints not included yet which are usually also cheaper because on digital you bring only really good pictures to development. Often you don't need to print the images because you look them on computer or on TV with DVD player.
  2. Immediately check
    1. On the display you can immediately slightly check your pictures. Even if you cannot see if subject is slightly out of focus you can at least check if eyes are opened and redo an exposure in case of major annoyances. Further bad exposures can be deleted immediately and do not produce costs. The possibility of immediately checking leads to more courage in playing around and trying new perspectives and with different settings.
  3. Quickly development
    1. When you arrive home from holidays or from your photo session, you could see your pictures quite immediately - there should not be more work than downloading from the camera/memory card.
  4. No risk of damaged negatives
    1. A lot of people know the fairish issue receiving negatives damaged by development machines. On digital when bringing images to development you usually bring a copy.
  5. Reduced physical storage
    1. The place needed in your flat to store the images and negatives is smaller than with film photography.
  6. Possibility of creating backups
    1. On digital photography you can create backups of your images keeping one at home, one at the office and one you can carry to your grandma's loft. :-)
  7. Share with family and friends at low cost
    1. Donation of copies to friends by email or presentation on the web is easy and usually can be achieved at low cost. Further the administrative work searching for negatives when desiring to create a copy. On film I have donated a lot of pictures to family and now the negatives rest somewhere in a bag where never being refetched.
  8. Subsequent image correction
    1. You can remove red eyes, pimples and similar in subsequent image processing on the computer. E.g. you can turn any of your color images into black & white or merge to images to one (double exposure on film).
  9. Meta information
    1. With your images you can store meta information where the exposure has been taken place and further all camera settings are saved in the EXIF informations. You can later compare then different results taken with different settings easily.
  10. Other purposes
    1. You can change ISO for one or a few pictures and don't need a complete film with higher ISO. You can arrange the pictures easily to several different presentations or use images as template for greeting cards picking some color contained in the image and add some matching text, ...


All the reasons moving to digital do not come without some drawbacks. But with the technical progress a lot of disadvantages have become obsolete in the last years or their significance has decreased. However, some are still visible:

  1. Poor exposure range/tolerance
    1. Usually there are more problems with contrast rich pictures. Normal film has a larger exposure tolerance. With digital cameras you easy get overexposed parts and other underexposed parts on the same picture.
  2. Slow and inaccurate autofocus
    1. Digital cameras tend to have a slow autofocus especially in lower light (up to 2 seconds) and then miss the subject.
  3. Resolution/Details
    1. Although resolution is one of the things that increase very quickly it still seems that film cameras capture images more detailed (although on the other hand you may notice the film grain on film pictures). Image quality is a very subjective thing but however, I personally tend to prefer images from film cameras.
  4. Several side effects of digital processing
    1. Grabbing an image on digital may produce several effects like blooming, chromatic abberations jaggies, moiré, noise, sharpening halos(, quality loss because of JPEG compression).
  5. Computer and storage required
    1. You usually need a computer (which may currently not work well because of a lot of reasons) and maybe a lot of different storage media (memory card, CD for saving the images) and you need to be a little familiar with it. You have to make a backup of the pictures on CD to make sure that they are not lost in case of harddisk crash etc. - In general after switching to digital you will find your harddisk being too small...

Choosing a camera to buy

Which camera to buy? - A good question, but depending a lot on the current models available, the prices and the priorities you have, e.g.:

    • Beginner- or Pro-Level, compact or DSLR?
    • Resolution/Image quality?
    • Performance?
    • Features?
    • Available money? helps answering your questions.

Additional requirements

Although there exist people who buy a digital camera and do not have a computer from my point of view moving to digital without having a computer does not make much sense (as already mentioned above). The following accessories are needed:

    • Computer with appropriate performance for viewing, manipulation of images (Pentium III) and appropriate harddisk (20 GB).
  • CD-Burner
    • Optional photo printer for the possibility to quickly print best images as giveaway for grandma (not having a computer).
    • Additional memory card(s) as the capacity of the memory cards that come along with a new digital camera are always too small.
    • Appropriate software for image viewing and/or manipulation (there are several free and shareware around so this does not necessarily debit your wallet.