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Article: The Real Resolution of Film vs. Digital

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As someone who's spent the past year shooting a very high resolving, modern lens on low grain, high quality 35mm film... call me skeptical, to put it politely.

Edited by Joshua Lowe

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It's absolutely unbelievable to any film user that one could suggest film out-resolves digital these days. But ultimate resolution isn't particularly related to why a photograph might be satisfying to either the photographer or to a viewer. It might help to think of this in painting terms - there have been photo-realistic painters like Annigoni, and impressionists like Manet. Impressionists let your brain fill in the details and brains can be cleverer than paintbrushes.




Film gets far closer to reality than Manet chose to do, but, even so, I'm very happy to accept photographs that aren't technically perfect if their content works. But that still isn't the main reason I prefer to use film, which is more to do with the pleasure of using film cameras over digital ones, and the satisfaction of doing the chemistry myself. I own and appreciate digital cameras, but generally save them for documenting things. For me, the two kinds of technology are complementary rather than competitive.


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FWIW, I estimate that I can get between 7 and 12MP useful image resolution, depending on film type and processing - higher resolution scanning just gets more detail on the grain. Pretty much any entry level camera (and even many phones) will out-resolve even ISO100 black-and-white films such as Delta 100.


Some specialist films, such as ADOX20, reportedly have astonishingly high resolution and low grain. But this means ISO20 and special chemicals for development - not really practical for everyday shooting. It would be easier to simply shoot MF or digital if this was critical.

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