not a film vs digit thingie

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by mysteryscribe, May 25, 2007.

  1. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    I have a question and please let's not let this deteriorate to a partisan fight. I want to know what the basic difference between say the information and versitility of a negative image vs a raw file. I know from nothing about digital cameras but I do a little scanning of negs and they seem very versitile. I was wondering if this is somehow close to the way a raw file works. Thats all no value judgement attached to it.
     
  2. Peniole

    Peniole TPF Noob!

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    Here's my scientific understanding. For film the limiting factor is the particular chemical molecules used to capture the scene. For digital sensors, they try somewhat to mimic the human eye by using reusable, analogue, light sensors. However the size, fidelity, density of these sensors are nowhere close to our retinas yet, and certainly not to the very small (in comparison) chemical molecules used in film. So film does have a higher density of information per unit area.

    Now here's where the playing field is a bit leveled. If you're taking your film negative into digital, you're basically using the same technology as the digital camera sensor to scan in your images. However, the scanner can take it's time and give a more faithful replica of the negative, but that in itself is a replica of the original scene (a good one, but obviously some information is lost). The digital camera kind of cuts out the middle man, but obviously not without compromise. In either case the resulting digital RAW information, from either technique, is similar and both very versatile.
     
  3. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    For me the issue here has less to do with how a neg compares to a RAW file, as much as it has to do with the control and precision in processing available in Photoshop (or other software) compared to what is possible in the darkroom by hand, or with automated processing and printing machines.

    I got into doing the processing on my own because more control almost always ended up in a better finished print than what even full service labs could do for me with their automated printing machines. I used to spend entire afternoons, if not days, making unsharp and contrast masks for a single 4x5 exposure, and I'd never even bother with it for 35mm. And that's all work done before even starting the printing process. Now with PS even my snapshots can have that sort of attention, and if I spend an entire afternoon on a file, it's going to be close to perfect.

    I think digital processing, whether scanned film or from a DSLR, offers so much more control that it's really hard to beat. I still enjoy printing in my traditional BW darkroom, but I don't bother with any pain-in-the-butt methods or techniques anymore. I use contrast filters, burn, and dodge. If I need more than that I know it's a lot less stress just to scan the neg, and work on the file.

    I am not as good at making prints via ink jet yet as I am using traditional wet methods, but I have friends who have have the right equipment and have learned the skills to produce ink jet prints that look as good or better than ciba/ilfochrome prints or BW gelatin silver prints. Of course if you aren't willing to take the time to learn the necessary skills and gain the experience, or just don't like working with computers then it's not going to work. I've put in over 15 years learning to print gelatin silver prints; I don't think it's going to take me that long to learn to create inkjet prints that look just as good.

    Beyond the results I'm getting, I get a lot more satisfaction being more involved in the processing, and I don't care if I do the work in the darkroom or on a computer. I used to be pretty apathetic about working in color because I hated dropping it off at the lab for them to process and print. I much prefer bringing them a file from film or DSLR that I've had my grubby hands on. That's another great thing about dropping off files: lazy lab techs can't scratch or get their greasy finger prints on my originals. ;) If they trash the CD I just make another.
     
  5. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Matt, I think you'll find that inkjet printing is less about your abilities than it is about your equipment. I've printed on the best of the best inkjet printers (Epson 7800, HP LF DesignJets, etc). They've all been professionally calibrated, running expensive RIP's, and have printed images from a workflow including calibrated scanners, monitors, and quad processor G5 Mac's. I still have problems with uneven ink distribution and consequent bronzing from time to time, even with dedicated black-only ink sets. After spending about 2 years running endless tests, I went back to the darkroom for black and white prints. There's no such thing as density in the inkjet world. It's either not enough ink, black, or bronzed. And sometimes the blacks just don't look as rich. I dislike the lack of paper variability in terms of warm, neutral, and cool-tones. I also loathe metamerism, which is absolutely rife among non-black-only printers. Color is another story, though I still have a soft spot for ciba/ilfochrome.
     
  6. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    So what's your explaination for the many folks who are now producing high quality BW inkjet prints without any of the problems you mention? Can't anyone go out and buy the gear and materials they are using? I'll admit, the BW inkjet prints from the local "pro lab" are pretty mediocre, but the BW inkjet prints I get from the guy I use (who doesn't even have the latest, fanciest printers and gear) are wonderful. 9 out of 10 gelatin silver prints I see need to be reprinted by someone who knows what they are doing, IMO. I don't expect any more or less from inkjets. Some people figure it out, and some people don't.

    The traditional process zealots seem to believe that people are trading quality for convenience, while the people who have switched or do both often say it was never about the process for them; the quality of the finished print is what was paramount. There was a post on APUG a while back lamenting how a guy who was known for his stunning gelatin silver prints had closed his darkroom, and switched to inkjets. The guy caught wind of the discussion, and put in his own 2 cents, which condensed was that 90% of his work looked better to his eye as inkjet prints than gelatin silver prints. Process smah-cess, he's only interested in making his photographs look the best he possibly can with whatever means available.

    If you get superior results from gelatin silver prints more power to you. I do too. But since I've seen that some other folks can get just as good of results with inkjet printing, I do believe it's within my capacity to learn to do it myself.
     
  7. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Crystals, actually. Far bigger than molecules.
    Although only a few silver molecules need to be hit by photons to form a developable centre, during development the whole silver crystal is turned into silver.
    A crystal is either exposed and processed or it is not. Density is built up by the number of crystals per unit area.

    The only real difference between digital and film is in our perceptions of the two processes.
    A film/gelatine print has this hand-crafted aura about it that makes it a special object. A digital print appears as a mass-produced, machine made soul-less thing.
    Which is amusing because that was the argument used by painters against photography when it was first invented.
    I think it is time that we got beyond this argument. Digital or film - what matters is the final image.
    I actually like digital. The quality is pretty much there now (at least in comparisson with 35mm film), it behaves pretty much the same in my experience, and you get to see your results straight away without fooling around in the darkroom.
    I love it.
     
  8. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    Hertz my question was based on something entirely different but you did hit the point from the other direction.

    If I shoot a negative and scan it well can I pull the same things with the scanner to the film that are hidding in the raw file. I know I can change the density but to be honest you can do that in any digital file. Change the color balance but you can do that as well. My question really was, is there anything hidden in a raw file, that isn't on the film to be manipulated out of the latent image. Since the digital images I work with are just ebay quality I had to ask.
     
  9. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    RAW includes all the shooting details - date, time, colour temp, film speed, exposure and so on. It also allows manipulation of all of these up to a point.
    Although you can do all this with a scanned image (up to a point and dependent on various factors) the RAW file just makes it easier.
    Other formats like JPEG use compression algorithms and tend to lose detail info - unless you use them in uncompressed mode.
     
  10. Jeff Canes

    Jeff Canes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Is that point farther with RAW that film or is just easier to get to?
     
  11. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    Yeah that was kind of my thinking jeff. If I can't get what I want from a scan I can just rescan and try it again. I was wondering if raw isn't like that kinda sorta.
     
  12. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    In a scanned image the limits are set by quality of print/neg, resolution of scanner and suchlike.
    In RAW it's quality of lens, resolution of sensor and suchlike.

    In both cases what can be manipulated is determined by what is there. If, for example, you didn't capture the highlight detail then no amount of manipulation will recover it.
     

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