The battle between film and digital is over. Digital won. (Part 1)
While for most people the preceding statement is more of a 'Duh' than an 'Aha' moment, there are those out there who have not given up the fight. I still hear people make the case that film is 'better' though the definition of that word is nebulous and very subjective. While I respect my colleagues who still choose to work with film I must say more power to them - for their world is becoming increasingly more difficult. Manufacturers are no longer willing to spend R&D money to develop new generations of film cameras; most of the largest companies that produced film have given up that part of their business and commercial labs have dwindled to a relative handful. Film photography has now been relegated to a niche much like letterpress printing - there will be craftsmen who carry on the tradition but it is far from the mainstream.
To be clear, as someone who spent most of his career as an 'analog' photographer, I understand the nostalgia for film. I have fond memories of my first 'serious' photographs using my dad's borrowed camera and the excitement of developing my first rolls of black and white film (and somewhat less fond memories of my struggles in learning Ansel Adams' Zone System). Proust had his Madeleines and while I am more of a coffee and donuts kind of guy looking through my old images evokes the make, model, feel and quirks of every camera I have owned. Yet, in every way I can think of, shooting digitally has allowed me to deliver a better final image. The controls I have are more precise, the adjustments more varied, the feedback is instantaneous and the ability to disseminate the final results are virtually limitless (more on this in upcoming posts).
Certainly digital photography will continue to change the way photographers work, just as certainly it presents its own unique challenges - not the least of which is keeping up with the rapidly evolving technology. We now live in a highly digital world in which photography is but one aspect and adapting to that reality is a necessity. For all but a dedicated few making the transition is no longer a question of 'if' but 'when'.
Part 2 coming soon
Image caption (top): American Scientist magazine cover (for a research paper on smell and memory), 4x5 film image, © Tim Nighswander, 1987
Image caption (bottom): Tim and his first camera - an Imperial Satellite 127