Some points to consider...
I’m not really qualified to tell you something about how to best use a digital camera.
Fact is: I bought a new analogue camera not so long ago.
What I may contribute here are some of the reasons for this decision. Maybe they could be of interest for other people who have to choose between a traditional and a digital system.
Oh, and my decision was by no means final. I may buy a digital camera soon, as a backup or as my primary system. Who knows?
Presenting your pictures
- First, I asked myself what do I need a camera for. OK, I admit it: i have been infected by the travel bug and am addicted to photography.
But seriously: what do I want to do with my pictures?
There’s nothing like a good slide projected on a good canvas - at least not yet.
Digital projectors (“beamers”) are fine for business presentations and the occasional movie, but the resolution of the images actually is puny compared to a “real” slide.
The same is true for the colours.
Of course, I also like to show some of my images on the web and this is much easier with a digital camera: scanning images is quite nuisance.
There are however, already scanners that are able to scan whole trays of slides, which is much easier than scanning one by one.
Depending on what you want to do with your pictures, the following aspects may have more or less weight to you.
Traveling with a camera
- traditional cameras do not allow you to see your pictures before the film has been developed. Digital cameras may help you to avoid disappointing shots. Even more importantly, you can shoot another one with different setting, fill flash or a filter. Definitely a plus for digital.
- Digital cameras do not have a fixed ISO setting. You can take one shot with 50 ASA and the next one with 800 ASA. Very handy when travelling: one moment you may have to deal with broad daylight, the next you are inside a dark building.
- You can play with the white balance to eliminate a colour cast without using a correction filter.
- Digital cameras eat up lots of batteries. This is expensive and you may miss an important shot because you are running out of power.
- Due to the small format of the chip as compared to a 35 mm slide or negative, there is a shift in focal length: a 50 mm lens would be a “normal” lens for a traditional camera but a tele lens for a digital one. This means that it is much more difficult to construct a wide-angle lens for digital cameras.
- Due to the chip format, depth of field is usually very high. Good for landscapes with infinite sharpness, but a problem if you want to get rid of distracting background detail.
- Digital cameras often suffer from shutter lag (the time between pressing the release button and the actual photo) - meaning that you may have problems photographing rapidly moving objects, series of pictures or snapshots in general.
- Also, some digital cameras also need a while to store the current photo, prolonging the time before another picture can be made.
- Digital cameras usually save information on the settings you used for a picture - only costly data backs for non-digital systems will you allow to to this.
- Storage cards are still relatively expensive. How many cards do you need for an important, long trip? Or do you want to take a notebook and/or CD-writer with you?
- Films may still be easier to come by when travelling than smart cards
- Normal prints can be put in an album - or a shoebox. Slides need a bit more of preparation. But digital photos have to be stored on digital media.
- How do you find them again? Do you need a digital database program? Don’t underestimate the effort for cataloguing pictures and enerating thumbnails.
- Can you be sure that the medium will not deteriorate over time? This also happens to traditional photos, but you may realise it earlier on and be able to react. Also, while colour fading in a print or slide is a gradual process, a CD or DVD may simply become completely unreadable.
- Are you sure that tomorrow’s computers will be able to read today’s media? Are you prepared to copy the data from time to time to preserve them? If yes, this is definitely easier with digital media than slides or prints and the copy will be exactly as good as the original.
- Prints can be easily shown to your friends without the need for a computer or DVD-player (which may not “like” your storage medium...
- Traditional cameras are still much cheaper than comparable digital versions, especially if you want a high resolution SLR.
- With digital cameras, you save the film. You have to have a number of storage cards and a final storage medium like a CD, DVD, or whatever the future brings. Experience tells us that storage space becomes cheaper over time - which isn’t true for films.
- If you want to show your pictures on the web, you need an additional scanner if you have a traditional camera.
- If you want to print you rdigital pictures yourself, you need a high-quality printer.
- If you want to project your images, a high-quality slide projector is still much cheaper than even low-budget digital projectors.
- Printing photos at home may be quite expensive - you tend to pay more than when you bring your films to the lab. This is especially true if you use high-quality inks that won’t fade so soon.
- It is easier to display digital pictures on the web or mail the to friends and relatives.
- Traditional cameras still tend to be more reliable than digital ones.
- A low-speed slide film still captures much more information than even an expensive digital camera. This is all the more true for medium and large format systems. Consequently, you may be able to enlarge a traditional photo more than a digital one.