Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Analogue in Digital

Or rather how to have analogue in digital ? Why do we like film scans so much and wish that out cameras shot this quality ? The following table and suggestions it brings are very much reviewing a typical P&S camera vs say .. a well shot Kodachrome 64 slide, but it could be any film of the second part of XX century. It is important to note here that the more we move into a larger sensor / fine lens - until we eventually get to FF like with 5D, M9 or D3 - the more these differences become marginal, and some - like high ISO noise - become even absent. Thus, the comparison below is mostly relevant to the P&S type cameras - from an iPhone to a m4/3 Olympus or whatever body - even the Leica X1 or the Fuji X100 can already produce excellent results in the right hands, which can then be turned to take a specific film look if desired ..

So ..

What can be defined as analogue in the digital photography – what are the top qualities which turn "a digital into a film" ?

In the table below the Digital Image shortcomings are suggested together with their evaluation in Film Photography. If we could get the film qualities into the digital domain, then we can talk about turning the digital photography analogue. The more a camera is a  small sensor / point & shoot / poor lens camera, the more these digital image "disasters" are pronounced, as already noted above.

The evaluation below applies to both color and B&W photography, with certain criteria applicable exclusively to color photography.

Digital Image

Film Photography
Able to fix in Software / PP ?  

Mediocre to Good Tone Gradations. Possible Banding
No Banding and excellent tone gradations
Slight banding only
Rice like pixelization and blotching
No pixelization or blotching. Film grain
Yes, but film grain outside of primary (raw) PP
Image flatness / poor plane separation due to mediocre white point, black point and dynamic range
3D like images with with white whites and black blacks 
Color cast over entire image
Film tonality with color accents,  but not a cast over entire image
Jagged edges / seesaw lines
Straight lines, no jaggies
Very difficult if not impossible, once present
High ISO Noise
High ISO Grain
“Film roll” (raw) nondestructive redevelopment. Different “developers and dev times” to different “parts of film”. Color > B&W
One only film roll development - make or break it
Certain image roughness, grittyness & edge 
Image warmth & glow, Very real, right and very “there”
Difficult but increasingly possible

OK .. nothing new for you .. It took me some considerable amount of effort though, to find the right way, eg best result with 1-click batch - to get to the "Yes" in the 3rd column . Going through tools and filters and inspecting at 100 and 200% and discarding processing achievements from previous month .. Lessons learnt ? A few .. and amongst them one reminding disappointment of how close Aperture was to become the swiss knife for all these above, once having firmly positioned itself as my preferred tool of getting the analogue in digital, and how it failed for one glaring omission in it - the lack of film grain controls.

This is it.

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