Film and Digital (part 1)

March 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Though I shoot digital pretty much 100% of the time professionally, I do shoot a little bit of film every now and again. Last year I brought along my Mamiya 645AFD to a few interior shoots and when I had the time, I snapped a few frames of Kodak Portra 160NC to compare with the Nikon D3x. Below is a bedroom scene shot with both cameras:

Kodak Portra 160NC on Mamiya 645AFD

Nikon D3x

Obviously there are differences in the two images as this was a casual “test.”…
The cameras were not in the same spot and there was a little difference in focal length so the compositions are not exact. I tried to get the color and exposure to match pretty good but again, this is not exact science.

The film image was scanned using an Epson V700 flatbed scanner and the resulting file was roughly 60 megapixels. I cropped and down-rezzed the film image to match the aspect ratio and resolution (roughly 22 megapixels) of the D3x digital file. Here are some 100% crops:

Film

Digital

Film

Digital

Some more thoughts:

The focus point was not identical in these two images and frankly, I think I missed the focus by just a hair on the film image. I was using a manual focus only lens and the Mamiya 645AFD has one of the worst viewfinders for manual focusing (small and dark). So I was pretty much guessing. Whereas the Nikon has liveview focusing where you can zoom in to 100% on the image and focus at the pixel level. You can really see the difference in the detail in the second set of 100% crops.

It is pretty remarkable how “clean” the digital image is. There is no noise or grain whatsoever. That said, I think the film image looks pretty darn good considering that is was not well taken care of and scanned on a relatively inexpensive flatbed scanner. For some subjects, the grain of the film adds a certain patina and acuity that is quite pleasing to the eye.

And for the record, I did try another test where I uprezzed the D3x file to 60 megapixels to match the film file and was very impressed with the quality of the D3x file. It looked the same as the original 24 megapixel file.

I sold my Mamiya last year but have been keeping my eye on a few Mamiya RZ67’s and might pick one up. The RZ shoots a larger 6×7 negative as opposed to the 645AFD’s 6×4.5 negative. And for interiors, I find myself cropping to a more square aspect ratio quite often these days.

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