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Vintage versus Digital - Comparative Imagery
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Autor:  ::: trincerone [ Di, 25.07.2017, 12:22 ]
Betreff des Beitrags:  Vintage versus Digital - Comparative Imagery

Today I have found an article on SPON showing exactly the same motive 30 years ago and today. As several of the motives in fact have not changed a lot, this is a very good study to compare vintage analogue imagery to modern digital one, although the quality of the vintage image in question here is not a high-standard even for the time of its origin.

http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotop ... 50401.html

It needs to be said that camera used in 1987, or at least its lenses, do not make an impression of having been of particularly high quality, also the prints might be source of scans and these might have been bad prints. At least, I think a lot of the blur is a result of bad equipment, as you can have perfectly sharp analogue imagery from 50 years ago, and certainly from the late 1980s.

This being said, a few observations:

1. Depth of Field

With lower film speeds, wider apertures where used, which resulted in a smaller depth of field , which often (in my view) gives a more interesting impression than modern digital small aperture "all is in focus" images. With the examples here, of course, this effect is more subtle, cause they are pretty blurry one way or another.

2. Less Wide-Angle

I often observe that in the past 50mm or more seemed to be standard lenses. Wide-angle and extreme-wide angle, like very popular today (esp. in mobile phones, go-pros etc.) where rarely used. One reason might be, that they are difficult to built in high quality and therefore expensive. Today with small sensors this problem does not occur as strong (as I believe), and also people probably are more tolerant to aspherical distortions in their taste, and finally some of it can be corrected digitally (to some extent). Also, a general taste change towards wide-angle might have come with it. And then digital allows for zoom-in, whereas (negative) film with standard printing, as used by most, does not easily allow so, without significant additional cost, so that many motives did not easily work with wide-angle. And last: not all consumer films provided useful resolution for effective wide-angle use. Professional films did so since a very long time, but consumer products (which cost a third of the price per film and less), mostly did not until roughly the mid-80s from my memory, and even in the 90s you were well advised to not buy the most crappy films for that reason, although, as said before, quality of printing always was an issue, esp. when the first digital machines appeared in the mid 90s (?), having awful resolution and colour depth.

3. Misty Backgrounds

The background is often more greyish than in modern images, almost foggy. I strongly assume that this is a result of both lenses and films being less capable of filtering UV radiation, which exposes all three layers and therefore results in fogging. It is partially also a result of low-resolution films and corresponding blur in the details, but the UV is probably the more relevant factor. Personally, I do like this effect, as it can make things more mystical and also increases the focus of the image to certain main aspects. However, wide-angle landscape photography with no dominant motive in the foreground rarely worked back in the old days (at least this is my experience).

4. Colour Tints.

They always existed due to non-linearity of the three colour layers, but with professional films and printing they were quite subtle, and mostly rather increasing image quality, as films tended to emphasise strong colours and grey out weak colours, which resulted in a rich, but not overly saturated image, which great colour distinction. Digital tends to be much more neutral, and while being more realistic, artistically in my view less useful. HOWEVER, many old images have strong, and not necessarily desirable (unless you want the old lo-fi look) colour tints. This is usally a result of: a) cheap and badly produced consumer films (e.g. on the opposite the expensive Kodak Chrome had great colours since the 1950 already), b) bad printing (esp. when done in small facilities in you nearby small town) and c) faded imagery (films, if badly stored, and prints even more so). Film of good quality, used with good equipment (lenses) and stored reasonbly well, will today (40 years later) still have better colours (in my view) than many of the recent digital devices.

5. Input/Output Curves: Absolute Range and Linearity.

By Input Curve I mean the presentation of the real brightness values on the medium. Film can, depending on the film be used, possibly represent a contrast range of up to 5 aperture steps, digital equipment can represent more. Beyond the range of brightness representation, the medium will only store white - or black, and therefore a loss of detail in the lights and shadows.

Output Curve would be the representation of what is stored on you medium for display "in the real world" (transforming the information back into light). Here, again, there are huge differences in how black "black" and how white "white" can be (e.g. could depend on you printing paper, or you device's display, or your Dia projector).

First thing to observe with films is the lower range of contrast, which cuts lights and shadows more strongly than digital. This can be a disadvantage in certain lighting conditions (e.g. against the sun), though it can be circumvented with artificial lighting being used, but oppositely it will often give you artistically desirable effects, emphasising certain parts of the image (very much like not using infinite focus with a huge field of depth, but rather have blur for close and for far objects, to concentrate attention on your desired motive).

Secondly, films' curves are non-linear. That gives increased detail in the mid-range (if correctly exposed), and soft transition towards the shades and the lights, avoiding the dreadful digital hard-clips. Especially regarding the lights, film is capable of representing them accurately (streetlamps, or even the sun), whereas digital always will produces some blurry white mish-mash and sensor-clipping.

Thirdly, curves for each colour on film can be non-linear in different ways, resulting in subtle tints, although that is not always desirable. If occurring not too strongly, it will, though, give the film its character and maybe charming. Stronger non-linearity occurs with prints, especially when faded over time, often producing reddish tints in the shades, or blue-ish tints in the lights. That is not desirable, unless for intended vintage lo-fi look. The more subtle tints, however, are part of artistic quality, such as giving the image a movie-like look; and they are not very present unless you really compare the image with a digital image.

On the output side, digital - by means of algorithms - tends to normalise imagery, assuming that the darkest point is pure black, and the lightest point is pure white, and normalising all values in between. That can lead to harsh clipping, harsh contrasts, and loss of realism for imagery with soft contrasts, like misty morning fields or similar. Film is much more tolerant there (and so can be digital, if you switch-off all automatics and work with *raw*), and even where the film may have strong contrast, the representation in the print allows for a lot of control of contrast, of leading to a little headroom at both ends (lights and shades), giving the image a natural feel, a bit dreamy, if that is desired, and helpful also for certain motives, such as faces (esp. in b/w), where a too high contrast can overemphasise unwanted details (like a nose-shadows, or irregularities of skin, or reflections on skin, etc.). Softer contrasts give a more vintage look; high quality film with high quality scanning and normalised contrast will produce results that look very similar to digital imagery (although colour representation is probably better than in digital, in my view). So, there is a lot of choice.

Just a few of my observations, thanks for listening.

Autor:  starli [ Do, 27.07.2017, 20:02 ]
Betreff des Beitrags:  Re: Vintage versus Digital - Comparative Imagery

1) Das hat m.E. nichts mit Film vs. Digital zu tun, dafür sollte doch nur die Blende plus die Sensorgröße in Kombination mit der Brennweite einen Einfluss haben? Zugegeben, ich weiß es nicht mit Sicherheit, aber ich dachte schon, dass das Thema DOF ident ist, wenn man mit gleichem Objektiv + gleicher Blende + gleicher Sensor-/Filmgröße (KB-Vollformat) fotografiert, egal welcher Kameratyp dahinter ist?

2) Zumindestens scheint man im Gebrauchtmarkt alter Objektive tatsächlich vornehmlich 50mm - Objektive zu finden, zumindest bei den qualitativ höherwertigen. Wobei man früher vmtl. hauptsächlich Personen fotografieren wollte. Oder Blumen. Oder Tiere. Man verreiste ja nicht so viel und wenn, wollte man immer die Person mit im Bild haben, als Erinnerung, jedenfalls so in den alten Fotoalben meiner Verwandtschaft. Gut, viele wollen das heutzutage auch noch und mit den ganzen Selfies fotografieren nun viele nur noch sich anstatt andere. Wobei für Selfies die Wide-Angles wieder notwendiger sind...

3) Stimmt, analoge Landschaftsfotos waren früher auch bei mir gerne recht flau, allerdings könnte das auch an den billigen Kompakt-Cams von damals gelegen haben. Wobei das mit dem geringen Kontrast in der Landschaft heute auch oft vorkommt. Meine Digi-Fotos werden in der Nachbearbeitung generell kontrastverstärkt. Da ich ja ausschließlich mit alten Analogen MF-Objektiven an meiner Sony fotografiere, könnte es aber auch sein, dass die nicht mehr so kontrastreich sind wie früher.

Zitat:
That gives increased detail in the mid-range (if correctly exposed), and soft transition towards the shades and the lights, avoiding the dreadful digital hard-clips
Wobei die Digicams hier schon viel besser geworden sind, auch hängt das bei Digicams prinzipiell mit der Pixelgröße zusammen - großer Sensor und wenig Pixel pro Fläche sollte hier hilfreich sein.

Autor:  Dachstein [ Do, 10.08.2017, 13:28 ]
Betreff des Beitrags:  Re: Vintage versus Digital - Comparative Imagery

Zitat:
Zumindestens scheint man im Gebrauchtmarkt alter Objektive tatsächlich vornehmlich 50mm - Objektive zu finden, zumindest bei den qualitativ höherwertigen.


Das kann ich so nicht unterschreiben. Zwar wurde früher statt dem 28-80 (davor 35-70) Zoom gerne ein 50er, meist ein 1:1,8 als Erstausstattung zum Body dazuverkauft, trotzdem finden sich bei etwas gründlicherer Suche schnell Leckerbussen wie das Canon FD 35mm 1:2 oder das hervorragende Olympus OM 135mm 1:3,5. Auch Minolta MD Objektive jenseits und diesseits der 50mm sind wie Sand am Meer am Markt. Wobei die Preise vergl. mit jenen vor 10 Jahren erheblich angezogen haben, da man all diese Objektive ja recht schön adaptieren kann.

MFG Dachstein

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