Winter 2023

Digital Photography vs. Large Format Film Photography: A Comprehensive Comparison

Side by side comparison of a modern digital camera and a large format film camera

The world of photography has undergone an immense transformation with the advent of digital cameras. This technological leap has made photography more accessible, versatile, and instantaneous, allowing anyone to capture memories and create art with ease. However, despite the dominance of digital photography, the allure of large format film photography remains strong, captivating photographers with its unique aesthetic and tactile experience.

Understanding the Differences: A Deeper Dive

To fully appreciate the distinction between these two photographic approaches, it's crucial to delve into their fundamental characteristics:

Image Capture:

Digital cameras record images using an electronic sensor, converting light into digital signals. These signals are then processed and stored on a memory card, ready for immediate viewing and editing.

Large format film cameras, on the other hand, utilize light-sensitive film to capture images. The film is exposed to light, creating a chemical reaction that results in a latent image. This latent image is then developed through a series of chemical baths, revealing the final photograph.

Image Quality:

Modern digital cameras offer exceptional image quality, with high resolutions and impressive dynamic range. This allows for large, detailed prints without sacrificing clarity.

Large format film cameras, with their expansive negative sizes, are renowned for their exceptional image quality. The film's grain structure and ability to capture subtle tonal variations create a unique aesthetic that is highly sought after by many photographers.

Convenience and Workflow:

Digital photography is undoubtedly more convenient and streamlined. With instant previews, on-camera editing, and seamless file sharing, digital cameras cater to the modern photographer's desire for instant gratification.

Large format film photography, conversely, is a more deliberate and time-consuming process. Each shot requires careful consideration and precise technique, as there is no immediate feedback. The development process further adds to the time commitment.

Artistic Expression:

Digital photography provides a vast array of creative tools, including filters, adjustments, and post-processing techniques. This flexibility empowers photographers to manipulate and enhance their images to achieve their desired aesthetic.

Large format film photography, with its inherent limitations and organic nature, encourages a more purist approach to image capture. The photographer must carefully control exposure, composition, and lighting to achieve the desired outcome, fostering a deeper connection between the photographer and the image.

Choosing the Right Approach:

The choice between digital photography and large format film photography ultimately depends on individual preferences, photographic goals, and artistic sensibilities.

Digital photography's convenience, versatility, and affordability make it an excellent choice for everyday photography, capturing moments, and exploring creative techniques.

Large format film photography, with its unique aesthetic and emphasis on craftsmanship, appeals to photographers seeking a more traditional and hands-on approach, valuing the tangible experience of creating an image on film.


The debate between digital photography and large format film photography is a testament to the enduring power of photography as an art form. Both approaches offer distinct advantages and creative possibilities, catering to the diverse needs and aspirations of photographers worldwide.

For my work I believe there is room for both formats. Today for my color work, I choose to use modern digital. The image quality and dynamic range of my mirrorless Sony cameras can’t be beat with color film. For the majority of my Black and white work, I still prefer large format film. My ability to make silver gelatin prints from 8x10 inch negatives in my darkroom are another factor in this choice.

Whether you're drawn to the immediacy of digital capture or the timeless allure of film, the choice ultimately lies in your artistic vision and the unique expression you seek to convey through your photography.