Dump Your DSLR: 6 Reasons Why Film is Better than Digital

Philip Bates 05-07-2016

Opinions – to paraphrase an oft-quoted line – are like cameras: everyone’s got one. And all photographers argue about which is better — film or digital.


I’m here to tell you to dump your digital camera. Or at the very least buy an additional SLR that uses film. Digital might seem ideal, but film is superior in most cases.

1. Film Looks Better

Admittedly, digital photography has improved greatly, and most pictures look fantastic… until you try to enhance them. Focus in on a particular section and the pixels will be exposed.


Put it this way: digital gives you an impression; film gives you the real thing.

This is all about size. How large do you want an image? If it’s always destined to be printed small, digital is more than enough. Updating your Facebook The 10 Best Tools for Better Facebook Profile Pictures and Cover Photos Make a great first impression on Facebook with these apps and sites for better Facebook profile pictures and cover photos. Read More ? Use digital. But like it or not, film resolution always beats digital when in the hands of a competent photographer The Best Online Photography Courses for Beginners Are you searching for online photography classes to join? Then take your pick from these excellent lessons. Read More .


Landscapes, in particular, are superior on film. Taking a quick shot of woodland using your iPhone is fine if all you ever want to see is how it looks in the moment. If you want more texture, more quality, film won’t let you down. It’s got a reliability that you simply cannot get using a DSLR. You get home and think you see a squirrel in that tree. You take a closer look. On film, you discover it’s just a bird. With digital, the picture pixelates and you’ll never actually know.

2. Vivid Color — Without Editing

In additional to the sharpness of a film image, the colors are instantly better than digital. The latter tends to make everything look flat Fed Up With Flat Photos? Add a Sense of Depth with These 6 Tips Photos sometimes lack a sense of depth, and instead feel a bit "flat". Here are six tips to improve your shots and make photos feel more alive. Read More and often quite dull too. It’s a problem with how light, and by extension color, is captured, impacting on the depth of field Learn About Depth of Field: 5 Easy Lessons to Improve Your Photos Understanding what depth of field is, how to alter it, and some of the different artistic things you can do with it will all help you progress your photography to the next level. Read More .


And we’ve accepted that en masse. It’s just become the norm. We see stunning imagery online and figure that these companies employ professional photographers who just naturally get these shots in-camera. While that’s basically true, the vast majority use Photoshop to bring out the bold colors 3 Touch Up Tricks For Photoshop To Enhance Your Photos Read More that aren’t captured digitally.


Film can capture a broader spectrum of color more effectively, which is great for the majority of photographs. The often-crisp quality of film highlights the stark contrasts, making pictures stand out much more than digital ones.

What’s more, the quality of prints depends on the printer used The Best Printers & Scanners For Your Scanning & Printing Needs [Gadget Corner] Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Printers & scanners? Yawn. Who cares about those? They’re not thin, they don’t run apps (usually), and they’re made by companies like HP, which as a brand, is every... Read More : whether you’re developing them yourself or taking your camera to professionals, you’re likely to get stronger and more accurate colors than if you’re trying to send high-quality digitals to a standard printer 4 Tips For Printing Better Digital Photos From Your PC Read More that’s perhaps best served reeling off Word documents.

3. Less is More

Photography is all about capturing a single moment, and the truest expression of that is with a single image.


Flick through your phone 10 Simple Tricks to Boost Your Smartphone Photography There are a few tips that are especially useful when you're taking shots with your phone; they'll help you take your pictures from "blah" to "fantastic" in no time! Read More or DSLR. You’ll likely find numerous shots of basically the same thing, all from slightly different angles, or perhaps with no variation at all. You just retook it for fear of the shakes 4 Common Shutter Speed Mistakes That'll Ruin Your Photos When learning photography, you need to understand the essential rules of exposure. Here are some common shutter speed mistakes and how to overcome them. Read More .

If someone came around to see your vacation snaps, you would have to explain that “this is a carnation I saw while walking in Central Park. And this is it again from a different angle.”

Show them one strong image from each important moment of your vacation instead and you give them a better and more engaging impression of your time there. There’s an art and confidence in putting all your attention into a single image. You don’t need to do it over and over because you’ve put all your effort in capturing it this once. Digital breeds a culture of recapturing a shot; after all, it’s so easy. It’s also utterly pointless. You won’t treasure these excesses; they’ll just become lost in a sea of same-old-same-old.


4. You’re Wasting Time

Most of us only take photos of something nice: a party, a live event, or a holiday. These are the times we want to remember. They’re also the times we want to live to the fullest.


Collectively, we need to learn to live in the moment, and more than that, enjoy it. You don’t want to waste these precious memories by snapping photos until you’ve filled a USB with thousands of images. You’re taking the same image again and again. Now imagine doing that with film: not only would it be a costly business, but you’d also be completely insane. All your photo albums would be taken up by superfluous images of plants, insects, or your young niece playing with a toy truck.

Our time is important. Don’t let yours be eaten away by a hobby that should enhance your days 4 Creative Hobbies That Can Improve Your Life Today It's never too late to take up a new hobby, but life offers so much choice that it can be impossible to choose. Here are five hobbies that could improve your life immediately. Read More , not take the excitement out of them.

You might think the hours you put into shooting so many images enhances them, but that’s not always the case. Putting a good but not considerable amount of time into one photo is good training. You stop and think about composing a shot Using the Golden Ratio in Photography for Better Composition Do you struggle with photo composition? Here are two techniques based on the Golden Ratio that will drastically improve your shots with little effort on your part. Read More . That’s more valuable than numerous takes of the same thing.

5. You Can’t Get Double Exposure on Digital

Wonderful things can come from accidents. Penicillin. Babies. Deadpool.

The same goes for photography. Double exposure — when the same film is used twice so two images are relayed over one another — sounds like a nightmare, something that simply wouldn’t happen with digital, but it can produce the most glorious results.

Let’s go back to 1964, for instance. Carole Ann Ford was leaving the cult sci-fi show, Doctor Who, and took her Super 8 along to the rehearsals of her final serial, The Dalek Invasion of Earth. But the film had already been used to record her parents’ vacation. This unintentionally results in a heady mash-up of work and leisure in 1960s Britain, two of Ford’s much-loved memories forever thrown together by chance. It’s fascinating to see.

Okay, sometimes it’s an accident; other times, double exposure is a deliberate attempt at achieving a masterpiece. Instead of using Photoshop to join disparate elements into one coherent image, you’re saving time slaving at a PC and could get an unexpected but nonetheless beautiful still. Give it a try.

Sometimes, flaws are good A Brief Guide To Critiquing Your Own Photos Understanding what works and what doesn’t work in your own photos is the perfect way to improve your photography skills. This guide shows you how and why you should be critiquing your own shots. Read More : we need to accept and embrace that.

6. Film Lasts Longer

We capture moments to relive those days gone by when we’re at our lowest. Photos are meant to last. Digital ones don’t, however.

Okay, in theory, digital will go on longer than analog, but that notion doesn’t take into account how storage and backup technology evolves. We might use USBs or SD cards at the moment, but they’re not permanent. It’s like storing your pictures on a floppy disk 5 Useful Things You Can Create With Your Old Floppy Disks Read More ; try to find a PC to retrieve them! Even storing stuff on CDs seems old-fashioned now.

What we use today — even cloud systems 5 Things You Need To Know About iCloud Photo Library Here's what you need to know about iCloud Photo Library, how it works and what it will cost you. Read More — will be superseded by another technological marvel, and we might remember to transfer files most of the time, but we’ll lose some too, especially if a computer unexpectedly dies.

And what if there’s a corrupt file Access & Recover Corrupt Office Files with These Tips Your important document is corrupted and you don't have a backup? Not all is lost! You can try to repair the file or find a backup you didn't know you had. Read More ? That much-loved photo is lost to the scratchy streaks of the rainbow. Even Vint Cerf, considered one of the fathers of the Internet, advises you print out your images.

Don’t get me wrong: prints won’t last either. Sunlight exposure, for one, will fade all your printed photos, no matter whether they were originally digital or film images. This is why Polaroids are literally just snapshots: they won’t last.


Negatives, if stored correctly (ie. at room temperature, hidden from harsh lights), can be reused to bring your old pictures back to life. And as developing and scanning technology gets better, it’ll take advantage of the film’s resolution. More data can be inferred or unleashed from film than a digital copy, which sticks to its quality level, no matter what.

Keeping Up With the Latest Developments?

Look, I know it comes down to personal taste. You’ll prefer one over the other regardless, but if you’re a digital fan, take a little time to appreciate the advantages of film.

Equally, I know some will level accusations of being a luddite Luddites Attacking? Being A Techie Could Be Dangerous Three shocking stories where people have attacked gadget loving techies . Are these anti-technology Luddites with anger issues, or justified privacy-rights activists? Read More at me (despite this being a technology site), and that this argument just keeps going on and on, just as have the debates about physical comics vs. digital 4 Reasons to Stop Buying Digital Comics Comic book publishers are changing their businesses to make the most of what will come to be known as the Geek Age. However, the move into digital comics isn't necessarily a good thing. Read More , and streaming vs. vinyl 5 Reasons Why Vinyl Is Better Than Digital for Music Lovers Digital music may be more convenient, but there are still plenty of reasons to listen to vinyl records. Read More . But there’s a reason for that: these are emotive topics. People care. People want to discuss their craft.

Film isn’t perfect. While it might be cheaper up front, it’s costlier long-term. Digital naturally takes up less physical space, and can be shared more easily. The fact is, the majority of us go for DSLR without question. But film is always worth considering. The ideal scenario is, of course, having both.

So which do you choose and why? How do you store your photos? When buying your next camera, would you consider a typical SLR?

Image credits: Squirrel by Kurt Bauschardt; dewbells double exposure by vivek jena; This place is from a dream by Marketa; and Double the Exposure, Double the Fun by Nestor Lacle.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Francisco Vasconcelos
    August 26, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    Lol, you can't do multiple-exposures in digital?
    Is my expertise, for more than 10 years I do them, Analog and Digital.
    Analog I have off course dedicated cameras (EOS 30e, Zenith 80, Vrede box)

    And when I got my first digital the 350D, I used to do multiples with a long exposure and covering the lens as many times I wanted.

    Recently I totally stoped with the analog multiple-exposures, using only Digital and I have more possibilities in Digital than I ever had in my life compared with the Analog. First I don't do "blind composing" anymore, I have absolute precision and control over what I expose on top of what.
    I have option to multiple-expose just darks or just lights or like analog... average.
    Never, but never used Photoshop. Actually if made in photoshop it cannot be called multiple-exposure win my opinion, because in Photoshop we don't expose anything, we compose already done exposed images.

    A few more opinions, when it is referred that: "In additional to the sharpness of a film image, the colors are instantly better than digital. The latter tends to make everything look flat and often quite dull too." .. it depends, we speak about film like every single film available is a Velvia 50, it is not, yes we have beautiful amazing films, but we have many absolute crap films. Stating that sharpness and colours are better in film is totally rubbish. Sorry for that.

    Another strange argument is the following: "While that’s basically true, the vast majority use Photoshop to bring out the bold colors that aren’t captured digitally." It comes clearly for someone that forgot how film works or probably someone that thinks that the development of film is just by delivering to a print service and receive the copies .. this is exactly the same as people that shoot digital jpeg, and in this sense both are dependent of the film used and of the sensor/software used. A pro photographer develops as much the digital RAW files in Lightroom as he will develop the films in Darkroom.. and in both he will enhance the contrasts and all the marvels of a real photography work. So .. development of the film is as much as important in digital as is in analog. And yes it is processing only information that was captured digitally .. except if you photograph in jpeg then will be like photographing a lets say .. polaroid.

    Wasting time? Is not a problem of digital, but of a democratisation of a tool and with digital and the social platforms we can see how much people thinks are photographer because they just make clicks. Democratisation of a tool allows everyone to use it, and while in digital we see the results of what it brings ... lots of humans thinking they are genius but in fact they just click buttons to capture something that passes in front of the lens. So while in Analog the big democratisation gave the same results, only the few that really dedicated to photography went from clicking a button and giving to a hop the development, in digital people are allowed to fill social platforms with their pseudo-photography .. cats, dogs, tits, landscapes .. you name it. And off course a photo is valued the printed, I have boxes of film negatives some never printed, some I print when I want... same process with digital, some are printed, some don't and the process continues.

    Final proof, my last exhibition I had 6 photos, 5 digital and 1 analog, no one could say which one was the analog. So if we argue something in photography should be the results of photography and not the tools used for the photographic process. I use both is a matter of option, some choose to be slaves of a medium and don't change, these are technophiles that are into it for the beauty of that technique and process., which I highly respect, but the technophile should not argue the general Photography realm just because he thinks his process or medium is superior to the other ones. Small ego tips that are no different than lets say .. .Nationalisms. Don't understand why there is always the need for superiority/inferiority articles between two amazing mediums, damaging completely the knowledge from people that are seeking help to enter in photography ... like the really for me shocking statement that "5. You Can’t Get Double Exposure on Digital" .. which is the base of today 90% of my work which you can find at

  2. Lamont Cranston
    July 8, 2016 at 1:08 am

    The only thing film was good for was to teach me to be selective about each photograph I shot since each image had a price to develop and print it. Any visual representation from film can be completely replicated in digital to the point that no one can tell the difference. Continuing to use film is just another example of the artisinal martyrdom favoured by hipsters.

    • Bob Nuttmann
      May 11, 2017 at 3:36 am

      Lamont your statement says to me that your skill with using film is limited or your equipment is lacking. I shoot both. Both digital and film are better depending on the situation. For me film is for landscape shots in natural light. Film is for any outdoor shot in the middle of the day. Film is for outdoor portraits if you use the right film, like Portra. Digital for me works better indoors. It is also better for action shots when you do not have time to set up. I have an iPhone 7+ which takes very good photos and video for a pocket camera. I have sold both of my film pocket cameras.

      Film is just a different art form than digital. To me it looks completely different. Just as watercolor painting does not make oil painting obsolete, digital does not make film obsolete.

  3. obsequious
    July 8, 2016 at 12:40 am

    You makeuseof article writers certainly come up with some rubbish every now and then. Get your facts right!

  4. Anonymous
    July 6, 2016 at 11:46 am

    "Film Looks Better"
    Oooh someone probably hasn't tried ISO 800 on film. It looks worse than ISO 3200 on digital.

    • Bob Nuttmann
      May 11, 2017 at 3:39 am

      I never use film rated at over 400. I often get better results with film than digital.

  5. Joe Mannix
    July 6, 2016 at 10:12 am

    What a terribly biased and misinformed article. You should have posted it under a personal blog, like a ME THINKS category. All of the reasons given are unsubstantiated and have no use in today's society. #Whatever

    • Philip Bates
      August 30, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      A "Me Thinks" category? You mean "Opinion", yes? Because that's exactly what this is. Most articles with titles that say one thing is better than another are subjective, so I don't understand why anyone would click onto an article that's clearly an opinion piece expecting something different.

  6. Anonymous
    July 6, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Can't say I am with you on this one, lets look at your claims;
    1. film looks better? Did you take photos in the days of film? did you deal with grain? No data means this claim cannot be counted.
    2. Vivid colour without editing? again that depended on which film you were using and the development process. The reason why some photographers preferred a particular film. Being able to edit is a real advantage that digital has.
    3. Less is more? you have a point provided you had your camera with you at the time for that important snap. now we nearly always have a good quality camera with us, our phone.
    5. You cant get double exposure? technically if you are referring to the film not moving and being exposed twice I agree but it can be reproduced.
    6. Film lasts longer? How can you say that, I have spent days days digitising family photos to arrest degridation. This is simply not true.
    Hope this is of interest.

  7. Nigel
    July 6, 2016 at 6:33 am

    Most of the article is rubbish, the only statement that has any validity, concerns longevity of image, film has more longevity, however professionally made prints from digital cameras will last as long as conventional photographic prints.

  8. William A York
    July 6, 2016 at 1:17 am

    Where is your data that supports your claims? I'm a retired photojournalist that has shot thousands of tools of film, so I would like nothing better to switch back to it, but my experience with digital says otherwise.

  9. Anonymous
    July 6, 2016 at 12:22 am

    98% of camera users are picture/snapshot takers. They are not photographers, so it does not matter whether they use digital or film. Their pictures will look equally uninspired no matter what medium they use.

    Professional photographers take hundreds of photos of basically the same subject, varying various parameters to obtain the best combination. Out of the hundreds of photos onlt one or two may be publishable. Only snapshot takers are satisfied with taking one picture.

    The vast majority of people do not want to be bothered with the intricacies of film speed and granularity. They do not want to be playing with all kinds of different settings on a film camera. They do not want to carry rolls and rolls of film. They just want to pop in a memory card and shoot a 1,0000 pictures. That is why digital cameras were invented and why they became so popular.

  10. Anonymous
    July 5, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Hello Philip,
    I happened onto this website while looking into speed-up tips for my Windows system . I saw your article , 'Dump Your DSLR: 6 Reasons Why Film is Better than Digital". What an enlightening and refreshing article!!! I own a Ricoh KR-30sp that I bought in 1986 and have been shopping around for a decent DSLR , thinking that I'd be leaving and old technology behind . Besides , I haven't used my Ricoh for quite a while and because of your inspiring article and your focus on the time it takes to successfully "compose" a photograph , I have decided to take the Ricoh out with me on my next adventure-exploration jaunt and regain and sharpen my skills once again.So thank you so much for your refreshing perspective that you have so excellently intimated in this article.Because of this experience , I am coming back here again to review what you write about . Cheers and thanks again.

    Mark M. Lynn