Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Digital vs. Film

A few weeks ago, I discussed (briefly) photography as a hobby of mine.

For the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion in the photography community about digital vs. film - and proponents on both sides have good points.

And, yes, I'll bring this back around to gaming before I'm done with the post. I promise.

The discussion became relevant to me a few weeks ago when a customer gave me a couple of classic cameras which are in really great shape. And by "really great," I mean, "completely functional." So I started poking around at what it'd take to actually use them.

Answer? Not much. But the expense adds up pretty quickly. My cheapest camera (film-wise) uses 35mm film. It's a couple of bucks per roll of 24 (or 36) shots. And then it's about five dollars to get it processed.

Once I have a negative scanner, that'll be all of my expense for a roll of film. So call it $10 per roll of 24, or about $0.42 per shot. For now, I'm paying to have the processor scan the negatives as well. Another $5 or so per roll, making it closer to $0.63 per shot.

But that's not a fixed cost. I have another camera that uses 4x5 sheet film negatives. The film is about $1 per shot. Processing it will be about $10 per shot. If I pay to have the processor scan it, it can be another $10 per shot. So that camera costs me $21 every single time I trip the shutter.

Going digital doesn't have a lot of those costs involved - I buy an SD card for $35 (if I'm going for a high-end expensive one), I can use that same card over and over and over again. There is no processing fee - while I have Adobe Lightroom, it's not necessary.

The advantage - cost-wise - is clearly on the side of digital.

I can also modify images after they are shot with a digital camera. There are ways you can tweak film photos during development, but they require an expert hand and can screw up the original if you're not careful.

Oh - and did I mention flashes? Manual cameras use manual flashes, so I need to know how to use them or else I wind up completely washing out my images (or having them turn out too dark). My digital camera automatically compensates for them.

Again I tell you that the advantage is digital.

So why do I persist in shooting film?

Tangibility. I don't know what it is, but I love the ability to handle and view the negative - I can't do that with a .jpg. Even the act of loading the camera allows me to focus more on what it is I'm doing with the camera itself.  I have a digital SLR, and I usually go fully manual with it. I (honestly) have exactly the same degree of control over my finished images as I do with the film cameras. But I don't acquire the same degree of focus digitally as I do with the analog film.

Right now, the RPG industry is undergoing a significant revolution - PDF publishing. It offers many of the same advantages over print publication that digital photography offers over film - it's inexpensive to produce, easy to store, simple to duplicate or modify.

I have a sizable library through DriveThruRPG. But, for the most part, my PDF library supplements my print library - and it's for that same reason. Tangibility. I like being able to touch a book and flip through it.

PDF's have some significant advantages. My Kindle, for example, currently holds about two dozen game books, which I can read or search very easily. Two years ago, print was clearly better (for me) at the table. Now, it's not as easy. As a player, I have been using my Fire at the table quite a bit - it makes it easy to look up rules questions.

But the PDF won't replace print for me anytime soon.

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