Film vs Digital, Staring the Helios 44-2, a Zenit EM and a Canon 40D

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This is something I have wanted to do for a very long time, compare Film with digital using the same lens and capturing the same subject. For this I used a Zenit EM and a Canon 40D with m42 to EOS adapter, i used 1 Helios 44-2 between the two bodies, read this article to find out the results and my opinions.

So for this article i will be comparing Film to Digital using one lens, the helios 44-2 on a zenit EM loaded with Lucky SHD 100 and a Canon 40D with M42 to EOS adapter.

I would describe myself as a film photographer however i do own a DSLR and shoot with probably once a month, however i don’t own one canon lens and just use the lenses i use on my Zenit via an adapter.
Before i get into comparing images my initial thoughts were that the Canon would be better at portraits due to the crop factor and would have less light falloff due to the the fact that the sensor is absorbing more light from the center of the lens rather than the corners. I also thought that film would have a wider range of tones and contain more detail and handle different lighting situations better.

Now we will find out if my hypothesis was correct, also please note the film was developed in Rodinal for one hour semi stand.

So here are the two different kits. The digital image is first. (taken with a different Helios 44-2 used in all the other images)

As you can see i had some trouble getting the framing of the two images similar due to the crop of the dlsr and the non 100% coverage of the Zenits view finder. The digital images appears less sharp, which i think is due to the lighting, also the film image is under exposed but still sharper than the digital one.

I soon realized this was going to be harder than expected as i had the difficulty of getting similar framing and has to find subjects that wouldn’t move whilst i was moving the lens from the Canon to the Zenit.

next up is an image of my cat:

Again apologies about the poor scan quality, but again the film image appears sharper and also much more detailed and appears to handle the lighting much better and if you look at the bottom left hand corner of the images at the quilt you will see much more detail in the film image, also there is a much wider range of tones in the film image.

Next is a portrait of my girlfriend, an area where i was expecting the digital to win as the Helios acts like a 92mm, here are the shot:


The differences in this image are less noticeable, but the skins tones of the film are not as harsh and smoother than those of the digital, this can be seen if you look at her left check. Also on the film image the background also seems to curve around her whereas in the digital image it doesn’t.

Next up is an image of a branch:

The first thing i noticed was that the small flowers on the digital are too white, and i think that it looks almost artificially white, also the leaves seem to blend into each other compared to the film which is more defined and detailed, also the bokeh in the film image is more pleasant and the background as a whole is much more pleasant and much less distracting.

Next up is a small flower:


This time rather than being too white the flower in the digital image isn’t white enough, also there is very little detail and when compared to the film image there is no where near as many tones, also again i much prefer the bokeh of the film image.

The last image is of two toys:

In this image there is much more detail in the film one, and it handles the direct lighting from a lamp much better, if look at the fur of the turtle (on the left) the differences are most apparent, also the background of the digital image is completely lost and nothing can be seen there.

I tried to make this test as fair as possible, i used ISO 100 film and used the DSLR at ISO 100, i also used the DSLR to meter, so whatever shutter speed the 40D shot at I shot the Zenit. Also i am not bias towards either as i use both (albeit digital very rarely) and enjoy shooting with both, they both have there place in photography but for different reasons, for me film is the superior format in terms of overall image quality but digital is superior in terms of convenience , though if you develop your own film as i do film can be just as convenient.

So to conclude for me film is and always will be the winner and my format of choice, it gives much warmer tones compared to the artificial and sometimes harsh tones of digital, also film camera can never be obsoleted whereas my 4 year old 40D already is 2 generations. Film captures rather than data so responds much better to it, capturing more detail and a huge huge HUGE! wider range of tones.

Thanks a lot for reading this article,
Keep shooting!

written by brandkow93 on 2012-11-27 in #lifestyle

One Comment

  1. pearlgirl77
    pearlgirl77 ·

    i love the helios on my dslr.. but it's not so nice as on the revueflexE ;)

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