Reason #214 Why I Love Film Over Digital

As some of you know, I got married last month up on Skyline Drive in Virginia. It was a cold and blustery day, and our service took place around 2:30 in the afternoon at Timber Hollow, a gorgeous mountainside setting overlooking the Shenandoah Valley to the west. Family and a couple of friends were there, and two of those friends–Toby Morriss and Jenny Prather–graciously volunteered to shoot the wedding. Toby used his workhorse 4X5 field camera and his pinhole/digital video contraption, while Jenny used my digital point-and-shoot (a Canon PowerShot SD 850 IS, which–in fairness–has served me well for its purposes) and a modern Diana.

For those of you not in the know, a Diana is a cheap, plastic, low-end box camera originally produced in Hong Kong. Its modern variants are now produced by Lomography to replicate the originals, although some have additional bells and whistles (such as pinhole lens settings). In any case, both the originals and their modern replicas (of which Jenny’s is one) are renowned for producing blurry, often low contrast images with pronounced vignetting, light leaks, lens flares, bizarre color rendition, and chromatic aberration.

And yet, as you can see from these, somehow the Diana image is far more interesting:

Canon PowerShot

Modern Diana

For the record, neither image has been altered from its original saved/scanned state, except to adjust size settings.

One could persuasively argue that neither image is accurate. The “truth” of how things looked to the eye that day is probably somewhere in the middle. Diana gets closer to capturing the quality of the light of that day (even if the image itself is a bit dark), while Canon produces more realistic colors. My complaint here with the Canon, though, is the same complaint I have about all digital work: everything always seems muted as compared to what the eye sees, which I guess explains why my digihead friends are always maxing out their curves and saturation in order to make things “look better.”

Before any digidefenders throw a hissy fit, I freely admit that Diana looks as if she was still recovering from a bad acid trip the night before. But in her case, her imperfections make me look at her view of the world longer and more closely, and I sure do love her dust and scratches. And there ain’t no digital camera in the world that can offer me that without it being an insidious lie perpetrated on a desktop somewhere.

Or as Bruce Springsteen said in “Thunder Road,”

So you’re scared and you’re thinking
That maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me

(Both images are copyright © 2009 by Jenny Prather and used with permission. The lyrics to “Thunder Road” are copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP) and used in compliance with Fair Use Doctrine under the Copyright Act of 1976.)


~ by ericplaag on December 14, 2009.

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