The Big Film vs Digital Test

Update *** The results were inconclusive, some liked the analog scan, others liked the digital version. Unfortunately I didn’t know all the ropes when I took the film in. Apparently you have to order a high res scan at the time the film is turned in so that it can be done as the film is developed. Otherwise high-res scans are $5. Without the high res scan I was unable to pixel peep but oddly when I look at the two web sized images side by side the analog version (left or top) depending on your display appears to be less distorted. The digital version appears to be brighter but that could be changed with a slight curves adjustment which was available to he digital version in Camera Raw and not available to the analog scan.  I won’t be giving up my 90D anytime soon though, out shooting birds I don’t think I could afford $0.75 per click shooting 500 shots per day!

Update *** So it turns out I used my old Canon 70D with the 18-55mm kit lens for the  test. My 90D was in use with the 100-400mm for eagle photography at the moment and I didn’t want to be changing lenses in the field… I forgot about that. Anyway, so far the image on the left is winning as the “most pleasing”. Later today I’ll reveal the identity of the camera used for each picture.

Ok, so I’m finally getting around to my first film vs digital head to head test. So it’s Ilford HP5 ISO 400 film in a 50 year old Canon AE-1 35mm manual camera vs three year old Canon 90D 32mp sensor. I should have used a tripod and taken exactly the same shot but I was standing on a bridge and didn’t want to get run over so this is as close to exactly the same shot as I could get. Both were taken with the same shutter speed, aperture and ISO so they should be pretty close!

South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon

Ilford HP5 400 speed film

Icy South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

Digital Image


I’ve printed them both out and I have an idea which print I like better… but I want to get some input before I reveal which is which!

1. Which one do you like better?  … and

2. Which one do you think is the 50 year old AE-1?

This should be interesting 🙂

Winter Storm in Black and White

Eleven Mile Canyon and the South Platte River

I don’t know why, I have always enjoyed going out in winter storms and shooting black and white pictures. The winter is winding down so when I saw the snowflakes yesterday I had to get out in it. I have a roll of Ilford HP5 black and white film in my Canon A-1 film camera and I’ve been wanting to do a video about it for some time now. Incidentally, I received an email from Mike’s Camera yesterday with a link to a batch of low resolution previews from my previous film shoot at Eleven Mile Canyon. The film and high resolution CD still need to be sent down from the main lab in Boulder, but at least I can see that the pictures turned out, something you never know with film until the film is developed 🙂 I’ll do a more extensive post on the images when I get the high resolution versions back.

Snowy Mines

So anyway, I wanted to do a video about shooting black and white film in the snow so yesterday was the day to give it a try. I’m not one of those that likes to put my camera on a tripod in the weather so I decided to just use my phone as a video camera, and I have to say it didn’t do that badly! I also shot a little footage out the window with my Canon 90D and I discovered that if you have the camera set to black and white picture style you are going to get black and white video. I didn’t intend that but in this case with the near monochrome scene anyway,. it worked out ok!

Snowy Mines

By the time I was ready to shoot my first image the snow was coming down hard, which looks pretty cool in the video… nothing makes me happier than snow falling in the mountains 🙂 My first image was captured in Goldfield where all the old historic Cripple Creek / Victor gold mines are located. I don’t necessarily trust the 50 year old meter on my A-1, especially in such harsh conditions, so I brought along my Sekonic incident meter to make sure my exposures were correct, film is too expensive to waste on bad exposures!

Snowy Mines

I continued wandering around mine country getting images in the snow for the rest of the morning, except for a few minutes I spent at the Gold Camp Bakery in Victor having a ham and cheese croissant, one of my favorite things in life 🙂

Well anyway, I didn’t get the entire roll of Ilford done yet so the only images I have were the ones I captured with the 90D, it will be interesting to see how they compare to the film when I eventually get it back!

Snowy Mines

I have always liked the old Ansel Adams prints and the selenium processing that was popular in those days. To me regular monochrome looks too brown and too warm for the snowy scenes I like to capture. It took a lot of fiddling but I eventually came up with a process using the hue and saturation tool to recreate the toned look I like so much. The top image from my Ilford shoot at the canyon is regular monochrome right from the scan at the lab and the others in this post were done using my “selenium” Photoshop process. What do you think? Feel free to leave comments!

Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel to see yesterday’s video… I’m starting to get used to Premier Pro after my YouTube video software quit working when I upgraded to Windows 11. Premier has a ton of capability if you can unlock the secret to using the features! Also I am confident that I will never reach the thresholds to monetize my YouTube channel so if you enjoy the content and would like to help out with my work watching over the Colorado wildlife and mountains, please feel free to click the donate button below!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

A Major Prize

My newest addition to a growing collection of nostalgic photography items is this beautiful Canon A-1 with a 75-200 lens. I found it at a thrift shop and it appears to be fully functional, complete with an exposure compensation dial, shutter and aperture priority and a working LED light meter in the viewfinder. I can’t wait to get out and try this thing! I recently completed a roll of Ilford HP5 black and white film with my old Canon AE-1, so maybe I can turn a new one in when I pick the other one up!

Canon A-1You may wonder why in this age of high tech digital why I would be messing around with film… I still remember when I acquired my first real camera. It was the Minolta X-700, a pretty formidable piece of equipment in it’s day. I remember sitting on the floor poring over the manual, learning about f stops and shutter speeds, and marveling at the little red LED information lights inside the viewfinder. A whole new world was opening up as a result of those new camera controls.

Now that wasn’t my first camera. My interest in photography began at a very young age with an old Brownie box camera. It wasn’t really mine but my parents would buy me one roll of 12 exposures per year to shoot on our summer camping trips to the mountains. To put that in perspective, I shoot that many frames in one second when I’m out doing bird photography with my Canon 90D.  When I got a little older I purchased one of those instamatic models at the drug store, the kind that would take those handy film cartridges… It had those disposable flash bars you could attach, also a pretty high tech item for the day! Of course the negatives were so small you couldn’t really make an enlargement but at the time it had never occurred to me to make an enlargement. When you are making $1.90 per hour at a grocery store things like picture enlargements aren’t really in the cards anyway.

Time marches on and I soon found myself in the Air Force. But for some reason when I was going to weather school it didn’t occur to me to get a real camera to photograph the awesome weather that would blow through Omaha, Nebraska, the home of Air Force Global Weather Central, where I worked as a weather observer and computer programmer for four years. It didn’t occur to me to take pictures of the weather and I didn’t have a camera capable of quality captures, nobody did. I guess storm chasing wasn’t a thing yet.

Pacific Ocean

When I moved out to Silicon Valley to begin a career in computer software the scenery was too much to leave undocumented, so I began the search for a better camera… Disk cameras were all the rage then, and as a computer guy a disk camera sounded like the thing to have. Unfortunately as I would discover, those stupid cameras were far from that. The tiny little negatives on those tiny little disks were barely capable of a 4×6 print. In all my travels around northern California I don’t recall ever seeing a camera store, I’m sure there must have been one somewhere but I never saw one. There were no 35mm or medium format cameras in the malls, I knew they existed but had no idea where you would find one and nobody I knew had one. Kind of like surveying equipment I thought, you knew it existed because you saw people taking surveys, but somehow surveyors were the only people who knew where to get it. I’m actually kind of amazed at how well this old print has fared over the last 40 years!

But when I got to Denver in the 80’s suddenly there were camera stores everywhere. Waxman’s Camera was big at the time and when my best friend showed up at a camping trip with a shiny Minolta X-370 I knew I had to have one. He told me about the camera store, how they would sell you the camera, show you how to use it and even provide free photography classes. I was amazed to see the all of the equipment that was available to anyone who wanted it, lighting, developing, enlarging, and I was fascinated with the whole process, loading the film, setting the apertures and shutter speeds, taking the film to the lab and hanging around talking to the technicians and other photographers about new film and developing technology. It was all a very special and rewarding experience and it was amazing to be part of it.

That aspect of photography is absent from the digital age. Everything is accomplished alone in front of a computer. The developing and the printing all done with Photoshop can be accomplished without ever having to talk to another person. I love my digital camera and the software but the equipment seems more like a computer with a lens that it does a camera. Of course there is social media but there is a remote anonymity about it that is just not the same.

Deia and the Horse

I tried my hand at a portrait business during the film era and actually did pretty well with it for quite a few years. I lived in the Parker, Colorado area which at the time was way “out in the country”. Somehow I became the guy who shot the country weddings and senior pictures and I had a great time doing it. Eventually I did upgrade to an auto focus model which I was quite fond of but the weddings burned me out and I put down the camera and didn’t pick one up until Canon introduced the first pro digital model in 2002. Of course if you want to know about that story you can read my book “Two Decades of Digital Photography“, it is available on eBook and paperback on Kindle and Amazon and is a fascinating photographic adventure in it’s own right!

I have a collection of old cameras and when I spotted an old Canon AE-1 at the Goodwill store. I grabbed it to add to the other relics displayed on a shelf for me to nostalgically enjoy. As I took it out to the truck I glanced across the street at the Walgreens… is it possible that they would have a battery for this thing, is it possible that it might actually still work after all these years? The camera was in excellent shape complete with lenses and a flash in the bag and it was obvious that whoever had it took care of it and didn’t use it much. My phone told me what kind of battery to use and how to put it in. I was pleasantly surprised when the meter needle snapped into place to display f/8 as I pointed the lens out the truck window. The film advance lever appeared to work and the shutter and mirror made a satisfying snap when I pushed the button!

Downtown Victor Colorado

So back into the store I went to buy a roll of 35mm film. There was no film there but I was eventually able to get a roll of crappy color film at Walmart so I loaded it up to test it out. The Walgreen’s had a film developing department so I dropped it off for them to send off to their lab. It took a month but I eventually got a call from them telling me that my CD and prints were ready. Amazingly, the camera worked. The film was crap but there were pictures… I am kind of intrigued by the postcard look of these prints though!

Then I began to get ideas for little projects that I could do with film, just for fun. I fished my old Sekonic incident meter out of the box of relics that I’ve been holding on to all these years and ordered some Ilford HP5 black and white film. This time I decided not to entrust my project to Walgreen’s and called around to see if there was still anyone who actually still has film developing equipment, and much to my surprise, Mike’s Camera still considers film to be an important medium and has a complete lab onsite at their Colorado Springs store! The original Waxman’s became Wolf Camera and then I believe those all became Mike’s Camera where I was a regular customer for many years. It had been so long though that upon arrival I had to set up a new account and decided to join the film discount club for $5 off of developing each roll of film.

While I was there talking to the technicians about film and processing I felt the old fire that I used to feel in the early days, the camaraderie and the appreciation for a special process. The feeling of being part of something exceptional and exclusive. So I bought some more Ilford HP5 and later picked up the Canon A1. Not sure if anyone will be interested but I plan to put out some YouTube videos about film photography. Now don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate the convenience of the digital era. I did some calculating and figure if I were trying to do what I do now with the birds and wildlife I would be burning through $1500 per month in film and processing! But I think it is going to be fun to do a few small projects with the old cameras and film. Stay tuned!

A Black and White Winter

Finally completed a project I’ve been wanting to do for some time now… Shooting Eleven Mile Canyon on a frosty winter morning with black and white film in my old Canon AE-1. I almost waited too late though, we’ve had a warm stretch and a lot of the ice on the Platte River has melted along with most of the snow along the banks.

Icy South Platte River

But, we finally got a good snow and some zero degree weather yesterday and I decided now or never, at least for this season. So I loaded up a roll of Ilford ISO 400 film and ventured out to the canyon. 100 speed film would have been the better choice but I don’t happen to have any of that. I packed up the camera plus my old Canon 70D to shoot some video with and of course my 90D with the 100-400 and the 1.4x tele in case I spotted any eagles. I also brought along my old Sekonic incident meter so that I could use the old camera on manual without having to worry about the bright snow messing up my exposures.

Icy South Platte River

It occurred to me to check the old incident meter against my 70D to see if they agree, so I set the digital camera to the same values as the meter called for and took a couple of test shots. As it turns out the old meter and the 70D agree exactly on the parameters for exposure so I realized I could actually get some duplicate shots with the 70D while at the same time using it as a meter for the film camera. This of course gave me another idea for a blog post, a side by side comparison between film and digital images. When I got back home to the computer I converted some of the images from digital to black and white so when I get the film and prints back I will compare them in another post.

I was done with all the pictures and video about the time it started to warm up and melt the snow and felt that it had been a pretty good day. I decided to go on over to Woodland Park before it started snowing again and I was greeted by quite a show on Pikes Peak as the next storm was making it’s way on the scene. I had a few exposures left on my roll of 36 so I added a few cool black and white shots of the peak to my day as well.

Storm Clouds on Pikes Peak

We have another winter storm rolling in tomorrow night so perhaps I’ll use up the film in the snow on Thursday morning. I’ve also been wanting to try black and white film out on the old gold mining ruins on a snowy day so maybe I can kill two birds with one stone by shooting the Cripple Creek / Victor mining district in monochrome.

Speaking of birds.. When the sun finally came out and warmed the river banks a small flock of mountain chickadees came to visit. I tried my best to photograph them while they were happily singing and bouncing around… looks like I may have gotten one good picture anyway 🙂

Mountain Chickadee

I’m still working on the video for this post, as it turns out after upgrading to Windows 11 and installing a new video card my old video creating software no longer functions. I’m already paying $30 a month for my Adobe products, the Photoshop package plus inDesign, so for just $20 more I can have the entire suite of publishing products including Premiere Pro and After Effects. Unfortunately those aren’t simple to learn packages so the video is being delayed a bit while I get up to speed.

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

My First Roll of Film

Fortune Club in Victor Colorado

Well, not my first roll of film… but my first with my Canon AE-1 that I picked up a few weeks ago… and my first in probably two decades. Just got the pictures and CD back today which was pretty fun. For some reason Walgreen’s lab doesn’t return you the negatives which I failed to notice when I submitted the film there. If I decide to do any more film I’ll find a place with better service.

The CD contained images of 3072 x 2048, so basically 6 mega pixels. The color balance on the scans was quite far off, though the glossy prints seem to look fine. There was a small battle with the 50mm lens after it fell off my desk onto the carpeted floor. At first glance the lens looked fine but I managed to bend the aperture lever on the back so I for a few frames the aperture wasn’t working. Nothing a channel lock pliers in my truck couldn’t fix. All working fine again 🙂

Eleven Mile Reservoir

Nailing an exposure is a trick though after all these years of being spoiled by the LCD screen on the back of the digital camera! Perhaps if I am going to do more film shooting I’ll have to put my old light meter back in my pack! Shooting in manual with a meter should nail every exposure every time!

Well anyway, it was a blast loading and shooting film on an old antique camera. Don’t think I would want to do it very often, but it could be a fun change of pace once in a while. Plus I love that old camera… it was a marvel of engineering in it’s time, every control functions so smoothly, it’s a dream to use! Like I said in another post… if I was shooting film for what I do now I estimate I would be burning through $1500 a month in film and processing! That’s not even feasible!




Rocky Mountains on a Summer Day

Sheer Joy

I got my first camera over 30 years ago… it was a Minolta X-700 35mm camera, well before the advent of personal computers, camera phones, Photoshop… and even before auto focus. It was state of the art gear at the time though, with auto exposure, aperture priority and shutter priority modes and a sync socket for professional flash units. I didn’t buy the camera to make money, only to finally have a camera that didn’t disappoint me every time I got my film back from the lab. I wanted to have clear pictures of my kids and pets for me to look at and enjoy. I got the camera to experience the sheer joy of photography.

Red Fox Napping

Red Fox Napping

It never occurred to me that I could make money with a camera until I was going through a divorce… a guy at work admonished me to be sure to keep the camera, that I could make money with it! I didn’t really think too much about it at the time but I knew that I wanted the camera anyway, so it was the one thing that didn’t go out the door with the ex along with everything else I owned 😦 But… as it turns out, child support is expensive and so was photography at the time. Buying film was pretty low on the things to do list and the camera remained unused in the bag for years, except on special occasions like trips to visit the kids and my rare trip to Phoenix with my buddies for the first annual Phoenix Marathon.

In he early 90’s, the computer business was changing rapidly and I could see the writing on the wall… there wasn’t going to be much use for mainframe operating systems analysts much longer. I wondered what I was going to do for a living if my computer career went completely south. People kept telling me that the pictures I took were better than the ones they hired someone to shoot and I recalled the words of my friend about making money with my camera. So I thought what the heck… a little research about how to go into business and I put out my shingle. A decade of senior portraits and wedding photography later I purchased my first digital camera, the Canon EOS-1D. It was awesome and without the cost of film and processing to consider I could finally consider my dream of becoming a stock photographer. Those were great times, not many photographers had made the transition to digital, prices for images were good and the internet was exploding along with the need for quality imagery. The future looked bright!

But then the price of the cameras came down, image quality at all levels improved by leaps and bounds and it wasn’t long before everyone was getting in on the action. Not long after I started submitting images I had a large enough portfolio that I could count on receiving a check every week and I was making plans for a new career. But it wasn’t long before the industry was awash in imagery, prices were crashing as big players cashed in trying to corner the market with profits on volume and razor thin margins.

Now I’m lucky to get one minuscule check in an entire month. Photographers are treated like dirt by the agencies who profit from their work, some taking as much as 85% for themselves and their stock holders while often paying the photographer just pennies for an image. Stock photography has become barely worth the effort, in fact it has become little more than an insult to the artists.

So today I almost left my camera behind, what was the point in bringing it along? But as I strode along through the woods I was glad I had it with me. I love the feel of the cold steel in my hands, the sound of the lens jumping to attention in it’s effort to quickly focus and the clack of the mirror scrambling to get out of the way in less than a thousandth of a second to make way for the light to come pouring in through the lens and onto the sensor. Today I didn’t see much, the mountains were the same, the trees the same, the lighting the same… but I was still happy to be carrying the camera. Then I spotted the distant fox sunning himself in the prairie grass. The animal was way too far away to get a salable shot but I stopped to shoot anyway, I couldn’t resist. As I shot the images I thought back to the days of my clunky manual Minolta X-700 and the joy that it brought me to just create for the sake of creation. Not that long ago I would have passed the fox by knowing that he was not going to make me any money… but now I realize, I still love photography and I still love creating for the sake of creating.

Once again, it may be time for a change in philosophy, from a mind focused on business to simply a camera focused on the sheer joy of making pictures. Mr. Fox here could be the turning point, the first sign of a new life focused on joy instead of profit.

Photography Book

I believe this is some sort of record… 9 years to read one book. In my defense, it was lost for quite awhile, packed in a box in a storage unit. Extreme Digital Photography by Johnathan Chester. I still remember finding this book, not too long after I got my first digital camera. The book is about photography under harsh conditions such as weather, natural disasters and adventures in amazing places. I remember I was so excited, the pictures were magnificent, the stories fascinating and the information critical, or so I thought.

I started reading the book, and for reasons I can no longer recall, put it aside to put out all the fires that began cropping up in my life. Eventually we prepared for the move to the mountains by renting a storage unit and the book ended up in the aforementioned box which I then lost track of in the move. Years later I found the box and safeguarded it along with some boxes of important film and prints from the 90’s. Then of course came Tricia’s illness which allowed zero time for concentration on a book. Finally, after all these years, I am in the same place at the same time as the book with time to read it.

The book still feels good in my hands, the excitement to learn new things still smoldering and the pictures still magnificent. The information unfortunately is a bit dated. New cameras and chips are a good part of the discussion in the book, but at the time my Canon 10D was cutting edge. Two megabyte chips were out, but not all cameras could accommodate such awesome storage. Six megapixel cameras were the new standard, unless of course you were a real pro and could fork out the $7000 for the eleven megapixel pro model. Only one year earlier I had to pay $600.00 for a half a megabyte high speed chip.

Elk Herd

Elk Herd

Now of course very affordable DLSR cameras are in the twenty megapixel range. A thirty gigabyte high speed chip is only $30 or so and I just purchased a terabyte backup disk for only $40. It is breathtaking to consider how things have changed in a decade. The book recommends bringing along a film camera and one hundred rolls of film as a backup…  It might be difficult to even find one hundred rolls of film these days, who knows, I haven’t bought film in in a decade.

However, many subjects in the book are as relevant today as they were nine years ago. Electronics are still vulnerable to the elements as are our frail human bodies. Lenses still struggle in extreme temperatures as do batteries and backup equipment. The images captured by the writer are as awesome today as they were a decade ago, and I’m excited that I am finally getting the chance to read the book. Oh… one other thing… now in order to read the book I had to make a trip to the Dollar Store for some reading glasses so I could actually see the text…