It’s easy to view digital photography as the successor to film photography, but if you think about it for a second, you’ll realize film photography isn’t even close to obsolete. Photographers love it, filmmakers love it, and hobbyists love it, too. This begs the question: which one should you be using? In this post, we compare film vs digital and go through the pros and cons of both mediums to help you decide.


Although film cameras and digital cameras have the same purpose — to take pictures — their methods and results couldn’t be more different.


Film photography, or analog photography, has been around since the 1800s and doesn’t need any electricity to produce images. Instead, it’s a chemical process, centered around microscopic silver halide crystals that are incredibly light-sensitive and darken in color when exposed to visible light.

Analog photography works by coating transparent film in an emulsion full of these tiny crystals and housing it in a box that light can’t get into — until, of course, you open the shutter. At this point, the light makes contact with the film and changes its color. The more light hits a certain area, the darker that area will get. The result is called “a negative” as the light and dark areas are inverted.

To turn the negative into a photo, you have to enlarge the image onto photographic paper and go through multiple chemical processes to develop the image and switch the colors back to normal. All this has to be done without exposing the film to more light, so it takes place in a “darkroom.”


Digital photography, on the other hand, uses electricity to mimic the film photography process. Electronic image sensors that are made up of millions of tiny elements are used to measure the intensity of incoming light and store the information as a digital value. Each element translates to one pixel of an image, and when you view the photo, each pixel is rendered on screen in the right order to create the image — kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. The word “pixel” comes from the phrase “picture element.”


Rather than how they work, though, the important question is: how do they compare? Let’s look into the pros and cons of both mediums.


In the battle of film vs digital, it’s hard to ignore that film photography comes with a lot of benefits. It provides the user with more control, delivers a higher resolution, and has a better dynamic range, to name just a few.

  • No electricity: When you’re filming, you don’t need to worry about devices running out of charge or needing extra batteries.
  • More control: With a fully analog camera, you have complete control over your photography. Any changes you make happen through adjusting the camera or the development process.
  • Higher dynamic range: Film photography is better at capturing details within very white/light areas and very black/dark areas.
  • Higher resolution: Film photography has improved leaps and bounds since the 1800s, and with medium or large format film cameras, you can take photos with higher resolution than most (or possibly any) digital cameras.
  • Higher difficulty level: This might sound like a con rather than a pro, but when you’re engaging in photography as an artistic pursuit, skill, difficulty, and effort are important parts of what makes a good result feel rewarding and valuable.
  • Long-lasting: Unlike the digital camera industry which purposefully releases slightly improved versions of products regularly, film cameras won’t become obsolete.
  • Lower up-front cost: If you want to take professional-level photos, high-quality digital cameras will set you back a substantial amount of money. An equivalent-quality film camera, however, will cost much less.


Of course, we can’t compare film vs digital, without acknowledging the many benefits of digital photography too. Not only are digital cameras accessible and convenient, but the file can be saved on a computer, USB, or cloud to keep forever.

  • Very accessible: The resolution of affordable digital cameras and smartphone cameras is more than good enough to take great photos and make large prints.
  • Convenient: Not all photography is about art — we take photos all the time to record information, make communication more interesting, and effortlessly document our lives.
  • Mistakes are easily corrected: Because we can take as many photos as we need in a short amount of time and adjust the result after the fact, digital photography is very forgiving.
  • Instant gratification: With digital photography, you can see a digital representation of your photo instantly, and wirelessly print it out within seconds.
  • Easy and economical storage: Memory cards are tiny, affordable, and able to store thousands of images. You also don’t need to worry about a print fading, molding, or getting lost.
  • One-time purchase: Once you’ve bought your camera and the accessories you need, that’s it. There’s no need to keep buying film all the time, and printing on a home printer — or even at a printing shop — is less expensive than getting film developed.


When choosing between film vs digital, you need to consider the limitations of film photography too. From the long development process to the constant need to get new film, it has a couple of drawbacks.

  • Buying film: You don’t need electricity to use your camera, but you do need film! This means the cost will add up over time, and if you’re forgetful and run out without realizing it, you won’t be able to use your camera at all.
  • Wasting film: When a picture goes wrong or doesn’t turn out the way you want, that’s a little bit of film wasted. It’s an unavoidable part of film photography, but it can take some getting used to.
  • Long development process: Whether you’re developing your film at home or sending it to a darkroom, it takes significant time and effort to turn your negatives into prints. This can be seen as a drawback if you don’t consider development as part of your hobby.
  • Natural degradation: Negatives naturally degrade over time, so you need to be careful when storing them. It’s also important to note that if a negative is lost or damaged, its image is lost forever.


That brings us to the limitations of digital photography.

  • Visually inferior: While this is mostly a matter of opinion, many people agree that the grainy look of a zoomed-in film shot looks better than the pixel-y look of a zoomed-in digital shot.
  • Too many photos: When you can endlessly tap the capture button, or even use burst modes to take multiple high-speed shots within a few seconds, you can end up with a lot of photos. It takes time to sort through them and pick the best shot, and if you don’t delete the duds afterward, they can take up space very quickly.
  • Battery power: If you run out of power, no more photos! This is particularly problematic for smartphone cameras since extended use can wear down the battery quite fast.


In the end, the right medium for you depends on what your goal is. Everyone will agree that the digital camera on their phone is quick and convenient, but if you want to get creative and experimental, then a film camera is probably something you’ll enjoy. And if you need help digitizing old or new film prints, our team at EverPresent can help!

Get in touch today to digitize your film negatives and make those memories everpresent.