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What kind of photography is still better done with film cameras?

Other than the love of the style, are there any solid reasons to use a film camera over a digital camera? Are there any fundamental flaws in the architecture of digital cameras that make them inferior to film cameras?

  • Yes. To learn about photography! :)
    – BBking
    Jan 9, 2013 at 21:33
  • I still get better dynamic range in the darkroom when using black and white film than the one I get in my digital camera, so I still use film for some concrete shots. Maybe that is because mi DSLR is not very good though.
    – Sara Munoz
    Jan 9, 2013 at 22:22
  • About the only remaining advantage is long exposures. You can open the shutter and leave it open for hours without having to do anything else when using film. With a digital sensor, you have to close the shutter, dump the contents, and start a new photograph occasionally, then merge all these digitally later to get almost the same long exposure. Jan 9, 2013 at 22:55

6 Answers 6


What is your definition of better?

I used to love being in the darkroom. It's a unique experience and very creative. It's wet, smelly, dark, solitary and mind expanding. While I have all the equipment, I haven't used it in decades, the digital stuff reaches the same goals and close to the same results. But it's not the same.

I don't believe that there are any digital cameras that can compete with an 8x10 film camera. I know that until recently, Playboy shot the centerfold on an 8x10 film. But folks with huge view cameras are rare, and it's not clear that the hassle and expense is really justified. I bet most of them do it for fun and tradition.


Of course. The tools that you use to create something are reflected in the outcome. Like the sound of music is affected by which gear and which mixer you use, the film will give another result than a digital camera because of the characteristica of the film medium. You might think you can simulate the way a film saturates and ultimately clips and its colour gamut like audio engineers have tried to make digital guitar distortion effects sound like analogue pedals, but it just doesn't work that way. For this reason musicians and photographers alike have sometimes gone back to the roots and recorded the oldschool way to get a retro sound / look.



The process of developing film into prints can be what attracts photographers. Also using film can help a photographer get it right "in-camera" as film is expensive and photos can only be review once the print is developed. Film also used to have a higher dynamic range than digital sensors, meaning they can produce detail in more areas of a high contrast scene. If only for small prints this can be extremely useful. I am not sure whether this is still the case as digital sensor technology is improving rapidly.

  • I think that the ability to see the result instantly has a greater impact on getting it right in-camera. The long wait for the prints make you forget what it was you did when you took each picture.
    – Guffa
    Jan 9, 2013 at 20:58
  • @Guffa In the long term the waste of film and the time spent composing will help give practice to photographers, I would say it is less effective for sports photographers and the like than for photographers with static subjects. It may work for some it may not for others. Jan 9, 2013 at 21:13
  • While color film was fairly expensive, B+W was not, if you bulk loaded it and did your own darkroom work. It did take a while, probably 6 hours or so typically, between the time I took photos and when I could look at them. Jan 10, 2013 at 1:35

Even though I love digital photography (and have shot that way exclusively for 10 years or so,) there is still something that feels quite removed for me by shooting this way.

I guess I feel like shooting with film captures the exact moment - and it FEELS like shooting digitally is somehow cheating...letting a computer provide the best version of what you've just seen. If film was cheap and easy to have developed, I might still shoot it from time to time.

That said, being able to shoot 1000 shots in a weekend, and look at all of them that night to see if they are keepers is a glorious bonus to shooting digital.


For most people there is no benefit using a film camera, but there will always be a few that go on using the older technology.

Not neccessarliy because it's better, but because it's different. Just as some people still want to make black and white photos although color photography has existed for a long time.


I really don't see the difference in photography between the look of film or digital yet - I guess my eye isn't trained enough - but I can spot the difference very quickly in films and TV shows. I much prefer the look of video shot on film.

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