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Photography Question 
Peter K. Burian
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/8/2004

Switching to Digital: Sell Your 35mm SLR?

This morning, I received a letter from a photo hobbyist who has bought his first D-SLR, and wondered if he should sell his only 35mm camera, an EOS 3. Here is my response in case anyone else is also wondering about this. Any comments?

Thousands of photographers have asked themselves the same question when switching to digital. Most are keeping one 35mm SLR camera, usually the least expensive model that they own. I did that as well. Why? Reasons vary but might include the following:

1. If the D SLR camera needs service, it may be away for weeks. We need a camera to use in the meantime.

2. We still have lots of film in the freezer.

3. We cannot break 100 percent with our past as film shooters. This is not logical perhaps - but, like "comfort food," understandable.

4. Some spectacular new film may be invented in the future, and we might want to try it.

5. Someone might hire us to shoot something and insist on film.

6. We might occasionally need a second SLR as a backup camera.

7. When out in the wilderness for a long time without access to AC power, the 35mm SLR can use alkaline AA's. Those do not need re-charging.

8. The 35mm SLR is smaller and lighter (some models are, anyway); that's useful for the occasional rugged outing, cycling, skiing, etc.

9. Some first-time digital buyers are not sure if they will love digital photography and the entire digital imaging process. If not, they might want to revert to shooting film. (I received a letter exactly like this from a reader last Monday.)

10. Some photographers are convinced that overall image quality is better with certain films than digital image quality. One day, they might want to shoot something that requires film.

I don't know whether any of these points applies to you, but hopefully, they will give you some food for thought in making your own decision.

All the best,
Peter K. Burian, Contributor, Shutterbug magazine
and Digital Photography Instructor,

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4/29/2005 5:29:20 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  11. (or 7a.) Cold-weather use. Digitals are generally rated to just 0C/32F. They are 100-percent battery dependent (even more so than electronic film SLRs), and the large LCD review screens slow/freeze at lower temps. A film camera, especially manual models, will still be perfectly functional at temperatures where a DSLR has given up the ghost.

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4/29/2005 5:59:45 AM

Kerry L. Walker   What's a digital SLR?

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4/29/2005 6:36:17 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  We haven't used our film Rebel since we bought our Digital Rebel. But I'm not planning on selling it, either.

Do people still buy those things??

Just kidding, Kerry.

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4/29/2005 7:21:39 AM

Matthew Slyfield
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/5/2005
  12. There are qualitative differences between film and digital that will still exist even when digital has matched or even passed film on all quantitative measures. Therefore, there will be artistic reasons to choose film over digital for particular shots. For instance, I have yet to see anyone come close to duplicating the effect of a double exposure on film in a digital image. You can certainly layer one shot over another with digital images, but where I have seen it done, the effect is never quite the same as a true double exposure on film.

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4/29/2005 7:24:03 AM

Kerry L. Walker   Heck, Chris, I'm still using manual focus (except for my Pentax 645N). I'm so far behind the times I haven't moved up to autofocus. Just to show you how old fashioned I am, my dream camera is a Leica M7 rangefinder. They don't call me a dinosaur for nothing. LOL

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4/29/2005 7:31:46 AM

Matthew Slyfield
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/5/2005

There are still some people out there using antique or reproduction 8x10 cameras. Your not a dinosaur yet, more of a wooly mamoth or saber tooth tiger. :-)

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4/29/2005 7:49:15 AM

Kerry L. Walker   Hey, wooly mamoth sounds good, especially to a guy with a hole in his hair.

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4/29/2005 7:51:46 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/4/2005
  Digital "is" the future. One only has to look at the advances it has made in only a few short years. Every since "memory" prices have dropped digital has really kicked in. Personally I never touch my old SLR any more. It's a relic. One can only imagine what is going to happen in the next 5 years with "digital photogrpahy".
S. Mathews said he had never seen a good "double image" done digitally. Unfortunately photographers are photographers. They are not "graphic designers" who have the software and talent to do "anything" with an image using Photoshop. The control Photoshop "layers" offers far outreaches anything that can be done the old fashioned way... and Photoshop is getting smarter and better with every upgrade. Many photographers can't afford or do not wish to purchase the full Photoshop program - but if they are serious, they "should". All the other versions are trimmed down. Many features are missing. I have been using Photoshop since the year "dot". Nothing compares!!!

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5/3/2005 2:26:45 PM

Kerry L. Walker   I take it you are a digital "graphic designer".

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5/3/2005 3:09:15 PM

Kerry L. Walker   I am a pround member of the NPA (sister to the NRA). I will give up my film camera when they pry my cold, dead fingers from around it.

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5/3/2005 3:40:51 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  double exposure with photoshop, that's not too difficult. Cold weather depends on the battery and who you ask. Some have shot in Siberia without problem. As well as being out in the middle of nowhere. Lasted a three day trip in South America for someone who ended up using what he got for geographic traveler, or some off shoot of national geo.
I find the team choosing kinda comical.

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5/3/2005 5:29:12 PM

Matthew Slyfield
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/5/2005

I never said I haven't seen good double images done digitally. What I did say is that I have never seen double images done digitally that had exactly the same look and feel as a true double exposure on film. When I say a true double exposure I mean that the negative was exposed twice in the camera with two different images before being processed.

I am not saying that double images done on film are better than double images done digitally. However, they have different caracteristics such that I do not think that any one could produce the same double image both in film and digitally. The two images would wind up having a slightly different look and feel.

If you think I am wrong, I am willing to be convinced. I challange you to try to produce identical double images on film and digital. Un-pack your old film camera and get a roll of film. Take any two images with the film cammera on one negative. Take the same two images with your digital cammera and put them together in PS. Post both images here for the community to judge. :-)

I wish I had a gauntlet image to post with this.

For the record, I have been shooting digital for a little over a year.

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5/3/2005 5:46:05 PM

Mario toni Belamaric   HA! You know what?! I am a proud owner of EOS 20D and EOS 10D DSLRs! However, I also have EOS 3 (35mm) and here is what happened! Last month I decided to develop the film which was in my EOS 3 for about 6 months (I`ve forgotten about it shooting with digital)! When I got my pictures from processing lab I was stunned!!!! The film was ILFORD 400 and it was like I saw a God! The qualitiy is faaaaar above digital (at least to me) and I found myself looking at these prints over and over again! I instantly reloaded my EOS 3 with VELVIA 50, shoot it out, had it developed and the colors.....maaaan!!!!! Now I`m shootin more again with 35mm and I tell you, guys, you can say what you want, but digital is still no match for the film! CIAO!

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5/3/2005 11:14:47 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  like you saw a god? How'd you end up forgetting you had the film?

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5/3/2005 11:31:39 PM

Tyler B. Sutcliffe  
This is a side note, if you want to produce an "old school" double exposure with digital, here's the trick: Dim the background lights, set the shutter mode to bulb,and let a flash go off, re position your subject in the dark, then set off the flash again....double exposure, looks exactly like it was done with film...

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5/4/2005 3:27:36 PM

J Birch   Peter, since I am trying to decide what to buy and am finding the more I find out about digital the more questions I have what do you's always good to ask the experts what they're actually using for equiptment. Thanks J

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5/4/2005 5:20:35 PM

Matthew Slyfield
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/5/2005

Nice trick, but that would only work in a studio with a subject you can pose. An in camera double exposure on film can be done outside in broad daylight with two completely different scenes miles apart. It can also be done with a significant time lag between the two exposures. You could for instance expose a night scene over a daylight scene.

Even if your little trick could replicate the look and feel of a film (I am not certain that it could, but the theory seems sound) it can only be done under very narrow conditions where you have complete control of the lighting.

I still stand by my earlier statement. There are qualitative differences between digital and film that will always persist. These differences will result in effects that can be produced in one medium that can not be exactly duplicated in the other (this goes both ways). Double exposures were only an example.

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5/4/2005 5:51:19 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Or you could take two pictures with a digital camera, and put them together and fade them like a film double exposure.

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5/4/2005 6:08:17 PM

Matthew Slyfield
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/5/2005
  A number of people have claimed that they know how to duplicate an in camera double exposure on film with digital. I do not belive that you can completely duplicate the look and feel of a film double exposure with digital images.

While I am open to being convinced otherwise, there is only one way to convince me. I laid out a challenge to Roy, but anyone who thinks they can prove me wrong is welcome to take up the challenge.

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5/4/2005 7:52:59 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  I don't think anybody feels it's worth it.

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5/4/2005 8:15:08 PM

GARY FESPERMAN   Good Day to All*****
I have been doing Photography for 30+ years. I was a Combat Photographer in the Marines,since 1987 I have been a contract Photographer for the Army. I have been working with Digital since 1993. I also Teach Photograph at AWC a local college in Yuma, AZ.
In the early years of Digital it was really bad. The cameras were not good, very low resolution, and other problems.
Worst yet were the printers, and prints.
Also we had to turn our work over to someone else to do the processing and printing - who did not really understand Digital or Photography. So this was the worst of all!
But things got better.
Since around the year 2000 things have been improving rapidly, kind of like computers. Cameras were getting better, printers were getting better, and the paper to make prints was also doing better, along with inks for inkjet printers. Also high end comerical printers were doing a lot better.
Yes their will always be some differences between film and Digital.
But Digital has already surpassed many films in the 200 speed and faster ISO's.
Slower film are still better in some ways and others not. I have been telling
my students since 2000 that film is going away, I love Kodachrome 25, but it has already gone, as well Agfa B & W 25 ISO, and Kodaks Royal Gold ISO 25.
I still have a few rolls in my Freezer, but doubt that I will ever use them.
I have been telling students around the year 2012 plus or minus 2 years. In 2004
Kodak published an article with their on estimates in about 8 years, give or take a little. So while Film has many advantages so does Digital. For the last few years We have been getting GREAT images from digital cameras, printers ect. And thry are improving.
Nikons D2X 12MP, and Cannons 16MP, along with Kodak, and Fuji. Have really put the quality of 35mm film in reach of Digital Images. I will be happy to see the first 20 MP camera. But 5 years out we may be looking at 100MP cameras in the 35mm format.
Their is so much more that the average photographer can do with Digital, and a good PRO can do even more!
I love some of the photographs I have taken in the past on Slides, and Films.
But I look forward to even better photograhy days. And if anyone is buying a camera today, and they can only have one - it should be DIGITAL.
Film is going just like 33 1/2 records, 8 track tapes, and even cassetts are going. Just look at the film stock in Walmart, Walgreens, and other film suppliers it is already down to about 25% of what it was 4 years ago.
So go Digital and be Happy.
Our local college stoped doing film the Fall semester of 2004, as have many other schools. Thanks to EPA, as well as the reduction of film supplies.

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5/6/2005 10:08:40 AM

Kerry L. Walker   I think I'm gonna cry!

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5/6/2005 12:26:50 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Of Gary's astute observations and projections, I think his reference to what Walmart and Walgreens is doing is a good indication of future trends in the consumer market. (Their brain teams seem to have a handle on what the "public" wants.)
Print film for "snapshooters" will get real hard to find in those stores in the very near future. And those funny little disposable 35mm cameras will disappear from the shelves as well.
Both will stick around for as long as it takes,...for those who haven't gotten their new P&S digital (or new cell-phone) yet.

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5/7/2005 6:17:18 PM

Kerry L. Walker   I have used a disposable camera for years. It is around 25 years old but someday it will give up the ghost and I will have to dispose of it.

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5/7/2005 6:20:11 PM

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