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Author Topic: enlargements - digital vs film  (Read 27414 times)
jnaneshwars
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« on: October 08, 2007, 06:14:53 PM »
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I was recently told by a photographer friend of mine that  film cameras are recommended when you would like your prints in large size ; for ex 24" x 30" or more. Compared to film, digital files appear grainy when it is enlarged even though  you print at the maximum resolution in a 10 mp camera. The pictures from 35mm cameras can be enlarged and still retain the sharpness of the image.

I'd appreciate if anyone convince me or throw more light on this belief. I own a 10mp digital SLR.
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Kevin W Smith
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2007, 05:30:31 AM »
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I was recently told by a photographer friend of mine that  film cameras are recommended when you would like your prints in large size ; for ex 24" x 30" or more. Compared to film, digital files appear grainy when it is enlarged even though  you print at the maximum resolution in a 10 mp camera. The pictures from 35mm cameras can be enlarged and still retain the sharpness of the image.

I'd appreciate if anyone convince me or throw more light on this belief. I own a 10mp digital SLR.
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Nonsense. If you manage the upsampling properly, the 10MP image will look a lot better at 24x30 than anything 35mm, even a drum scan of very fine grain film. Film grain is usually visible on an 8x10 print, nevermind 24x30. The flip side is that at 24x30 you won't see film grain from a good 10MP camera, but if you get close enough to it you'll see pixels. But at normal viewing distances the digital will be significantly cleaner.

Now if you're talking about large format film, 4x5 or 8x10, forget about it. A well handled 4x5 scan/print can go to 4x5 feet without showing significant grain, unless you're standing real close to look for it. 8x10 film, forget about it, nothing beats it for giant high quality prints.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2007, 05:54:40 AM »
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35mm film can generally be matched by about 6 megapixels when the digital image is exposed, processed, and printed properly, regardless of print size. When you get large enough to see pixellation in a digital print, you will be able to clearly see individual grain particles in the film print. Whoever is telling you differently doesn't know what they're talking about. I have a Canon 1Ds, and it beats 35mm film hands-down in resolution, detail, clarity, color accuracy, and every other criteria you wish to compare. And I have done prints as large as 24x36 inches. Digital wins, no question.
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KAP
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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2007, 08:25:16 AM »
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I was recently told by a photographer friend of mine that  film cameras are recommended when you would like your prints in large size ; for ex 24" x 30" or more. Compared to film, digital files appear grainy when it is enlarged even though  you print at the maximum resolution in a 10 mp camera. The pictures from 35mm cameras can be enlarged and still retain the sharpness of the image.

I'd appreciate if anyone convince me or throw more light on this belief. I own a 10mp digital SLR.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=144723\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Having never shot 35mm in anger, it's difficult for me to say, if MF film comes into it, then yes film is better. A film like Provia does not show any grain to speak of and even if the DR is not upto some digital, film still handles highlights and surrounding tones better and things like sunlight on water film does without giving you coloured lumps everywhere. If we are talking colour neg then grain is a big factor even MF, the last colour neg (400iso) I shot was on a 612 Linhof, straight scanned it shows the grain very well, the plus side is lovely greens and a silver roof looked very real and silver, the digital shot at the time gave a grey roof you thought was probably silver. So roundabouts and swings, I would say give it a go and see, there might be things other than resolution or grain you prefer in one or the other. A nice sharp scan will hold the detail it is given without software upscaling guessing at what pixels to add.There are still lots of films to choose from each one different and film does better than digital in the corners on wide lenses. I shoot 95% digital (1DsmkII), I do like having things on MF film if I have the time. If I spring for a Leaf or Phaseone I don't think I would bother with the film. I would of thought a slow film in 35mm would work very nicely, but only you can say.

Kevin.
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Hank
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« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2007, 09:45:14 AM »
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Your friend is a full-fledged spouter.  Others makegood points here.

I'll add an insight about MF film vs digital.  If the image is produced conventionally by a good hand using a quality enlarger rather than scanned and printed, it definitely can beat most, if not all 35mm DSLR's.  Scan the MF film and the edge disappears.  The difference is in small details like face details  in large groups of people in big enlargements.

We shot MF for over 10 years in our studio and immediately noted the change when our pro lab stopped printing directly from the negs and began scanning.  Probably reflecting the limits of the labs scanner and technique, results stunk by comparison.  We were tinkering with digital at the time, so shot side by side shots of the same model under the same lights with our DSLR and MF, then had the lab print up 20x24's of each.  The DSLR won hands down. Which DSLR?  The then-new 6mp Fuji S2.  

Six years later the MF gear is still collecting dust, and meanwhile the capabilities of DSLRs just keep going up.  The lab's switch to scanning certainly cost the film and chemical companies lotsa bux in our case.  We went from 2500-3000 rolls of MF film per year to zero.  That's close to 20,000 rolls of film we haven't bought and processed since then.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2007, 09:49:55 AM by Hank » Logged
Anthony R
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« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2007, 09:59:03 AM »
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There is a huge difference between quality and seeing film grain. The grain may be visible, but it won't fall apart like the digital file, especially in terms of color. This constant "Digital is better" no "Film is better" is without merit. In the end, you decide.

For me, I'd rather see grain than big, messed up pixels. Fidelity.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2007, 09:59:46 AM by Anthony R » Logged
KAP
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« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2007, 10:07:30 AM »
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Scan the MF film and the edge disappears.
Like you hinted at, that's down to a poor scanner and/or scanner pilot. I remember those early lab digital days, they reckoned 8mb would print to any size, mainly 'cos the system ground to a halt with anything much more, I used to get prints with funny colours around highlights etc. The labs inability to handle there newly purchased technology is the reason I bought a digital camera in the first place.
A decent scan from MF film and large print will easily out do a S2, more so on landscapes than portraits.

Kevin
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Hank
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« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2007, 10:15:24 AM »
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Good point on the subjects, KAP.  

In our studio the gold standard is portrait performance, of course.  And we make our bux off of big enlargements.  I've seen really decent MF scans and prints from them recently, but I can't bring myself to suck up the film and processing costs to get it.  That in spite of 6 MF bodies and 20+ lenses sitting in a couple of boxes.  We generate lots of sales too, from the the ability to do proof reviews and sales with clients at the time of shooting, rather than waiting for processing and scheduling return visits.  Call it "impulse buying," but our sales jumped over 30% the first year we switched to digital, and there's not a piece of MF film or a scanner in the world that would make me take a 30% cut in business in order to use it.

All changes when we leave the studio and head out for landscapes.  But there, we skip the MF entirely and switch to 4x5.  Not so much for more detail but for use of the movements on field cameras.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2007, 10:22:16 AM »
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There is a huge difference between quality and seeing film grain. The grain may be visible, but it won't fall apart like the digital file, especially in terms of color.

Once individual specks of film grain are prominently visible, a film image can and does "fall apart" when printed large. There are many techniques for printing digital images extremely large without exhibiting obvious pixelization artifacts. A few rounds of alternately upsizing and adding small amounts of luminance noise will effectively disguise any artifacts in much the same way film grain hides the shortcomings of a film image.

Digital color in a properly color-managed workflow is far more accurate and true-to-life than is possible with film. And color accuracy has nothing to do do with print size in the digital world. What are you talking about?
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2007, 11:03:56 AM »
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There is some subjectivity in this but here goes.

10+MP digital blows away 35mm film by any comparison short of personal taste. To be honest as a working professional, it is a valid comparison to currently compare the FF Canons to MF if you are talking about MF scans done on a sub $1000 flatbed scanner not drum scans.  But to get the aforementioned medium format quality with a DSLR you have to work very carefully with very good lenses.  This is the direction I have gone and would much rather work from a good DSLR image than a prosumer scanned MF (like an Epson 750 Pro which I own) because of the lack of grain and less noise. Plus I do huge volume and got tired of all the scanning. I still use my 4x5 and film constantly, but have not picked up the 35mm film, 6x6 Hassleblad or the 6x9 roll film backs for the VC since investing in the DSLR. They are paperweights now.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2007, 11:05:35 AM by Kirk Gittings » Logged

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KAP
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« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2007, 11:16:20 AM »
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Once individual specks of film grain are prominently visible, a film image can and does "fall apart" when printed large. There are many techniques for printing digital images extremely large without exhibiting obvious pixelization artifacts. A few rounds of alternately upsizing and adding small amounts of luminance noise will effectively disguise any artifacts in much the same way film grain hides the shortcomings of a film image.

Digital color in a properly color-managed workflow is far more accurate and true-to-life than is possible with film. And color accuracy has nothing to do do with print size in the digital world. What are you talking about?
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Grain is not a factor with a film like Provia, I can print at any size you like and grain is just not any kind of problem at any distance, grain is not a basis for saying digital is better. As for adding digital grain to disguise digital artifacts, with a decent scan you don't have to add or subtract anything. There is nothing to stop you running a noise reduction program on film or any of the other digital techniques, the fact is, done well you don't need to.
I
You can get superb largeish prints from DSLR's often though with much more effort you can get better on film.
I did a job yesterday in poor light I shot it on digital at 800iso wide open the results are much better than if I'd been using film on any format, so it's not a set in stone observation on my part.
If the conditions had been right MF film would of won.
All these magic tweaks, it reminds me of the skippers of a local craft in my part of the world from the 1800's. They believed brown sails were quicker than white sails, they had their own recipes for dying the new white sails brown, each believing they had a special something to get a bit extra out of the wind. Nonsense of course but they believed in the magic. Software is only juggling the information recorded, a 4000 dpi scan at 14 or more bits has much more in it in the first place. Upsizing with a step here and tweak there is dying the sail brown to me, if you need faster stick an engine on it, use a large lump of film.

Kevin.
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Anthony R
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« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2007, 11:32:08 AM »
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"And color accuracy has nothing to do do with print size in the digital world. What are you talking about?"

KAP has taken my words, except for this. Not talking color accuracy, color fidelity. As the file 'breaks up" the color information also falls apart and makes more evident the failings of the enlargement. Careful uprezzing aside, you can't put information there that isn't, and that is what you are doing (interpolation) when upsizing a digital file and adding noise to cover the tracks. Banding is introduced, etc. If the film is scanned, all of the information is captured and no interpolation is necessary. Also, the film file could be printed traditionally with, as KAP noted say Provia. I can switch films to produce the best results, digital can't. Which is better? That is up to the person producing and viewing. Blanket statements of Digital is Better are dumb and every conversation need not be picked to death and become a digital vs film debate. The orginal post was in regards to 35mm vs a 10mp dslr and which might produce the best results. Opinions have been for and against and that is fine. Statements of fact which are opinions are unnecessary as is getting off topic and talking about other things only mildly related.

Another thing to note, and this is interesting when you look at say the post processing examples, photographers are just that. They aren't professional printers, scanners, image manipulators, processors, etc. For example In the film days, you dropped off your film at the lab (most) for processing and printing. Nowadays, the photog is meant to do it all themselves and it is very evident in the results.
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Hank
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« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2007, 11:48:55 AM »
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"In the film days, you dropped off your film at the lab (most) for processing and printing. Nowadays, the photog is meant to do it all themselves and it is very evident in the results."


That's why we didn't drop our rates when we saved so much with the end of film and processing costs.  There's a whale of a lot more time involved in completing a job, even though we're still using a lab for printing.  Our (admittedly expensive) hourly rate and flat shooting fees reflect the need for extra time on the computer compared to the Good Old Days of film.  

Even if a person is not being paid for their work, the extra computer time required is paid for in other ways- less time in the field, less time for home chores, less time for the kiddies.....  You're going to pay for the extra time somehow.
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Anthony R
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« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2007, 11:50:50 AM »
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Most certainly true.

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"In the film days, you dropped off your film at the lab (most) for processing and printing. Nowadays, the photog is meant to do it all themselves and it is very evident in the results."
That's why we didn't drop our rates when we saved so much with the end of film and processing costs.  There's a whale of a lot more time involved in completing a job, even though we're still using a lab for printing.  Our (admittedly expensive) hourly rate and flat shooting fees reflect the need for extra time on the computer compared to the Good Old Days of film. 

Even if a person is not being paid for their work, the extra computer time required is paid for in other ways- less time in the field, less time for home chores, less time for the kiddies.....  You're going to pay for the extra time somehow.
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KAP
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2007, 12:12:32 PM »
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Even if a person is not being paid for their work, the extra computer time required is paid for in other ways- less time in the field, less time for home chores, less time for the kiddies.....  You're going to pay for the extra time somehow.
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Amen.
"And do think you could just email some low res over because we can't wait for the CD in the post  tomorrow morning". A couple of years ago I would of dropped off at the lab next day, either picked the crome the day after or waited 5 days for the prints. The client ubderstood that, now same day is hardly quick enough.
Sorry realy off post now.

Kevin.

PS And got a Coffe and chat with other photographers at the Lab, or sat in the Pub for two hours waiting for the E6.
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jing q
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« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2007, 12:15:58 PM »
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Grain is not a factor with a film like Provia, I can print at any size you like and grain is just not any kind of problem at any distance, grain is not a basis for saying digital is better. As for adding digital grain to disguise digital artifacts, with a decent scan you don't have to add or subtract anything. There is nothing to stop you running a noise reduction program on film or any of the other digital techniques, the fact is, done well you don't need to.
I
You can get superb largeish prints from DSLR's often though with much more effort you can get better on film.
I did a job yesterday in poor light I shot it on digital at 800iso wide open the results are much better than if I'd been using film on any format, so it's not a set in stone observation on my part.
If the conditions had been right MF film would of won.
All these magic tweaks, it reminds me of the skippers of a local craft in my part of the world from the 1800's. They believed brown sails were quicker than white sails, they had their own recipes for dying the new white sails brown, each believing they had a special something to get a bit extra out of the wind. Nonsense of course but they believed in the magic. Software is only juggling the information recorded, a 4000 dpi scan at 14 or more bits has much more in it in the first place. Upsizing with a step here and tweak there is dying the sail brown to me, if you need faster stick an engine on it, use a large lump of film.

Kevin.
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From personal experience, the grain of film helps to create a texture to the image especially when printed large.
When printed small I prefer a digital image but when interpolation comes into the picture, the resulting colour information that is added to a digital image tends to come across as flat and graphic.

Film grain seems to fool the eye with its inconsistency, even with its presence the result seems more photographic to the eye.
When it comes to skin tones with an uprezzed image, the film grain actually adds a sense of roughness to the skin which comes across as realistic, whereas with digital what I get is a patch of ...beige. Very flat looking.

I don't know how other people's experience with shooting closeups is, but with digital cameras I still get the sense that the minute tonalities present on skin don't seem to register well. I switched to shooting with a 35mm film camera with Portra specially for faceshots because of this. Maybe I'm hallucinating but I see more subtle detail with film shots for skin
[a href=\"http://superhyperreal.com/liz2.jpg]http://superhyperreal.com/liz2.jpg[/url]

Take a look at the two images below and tell me which one you think is digital and which one is film.

http://superhyperreal.com/MerA640.jpg
http://superhyperreal.com/MerB640.jpg

noise/grain and sharpness are not the only factors that contribute to an image looking photographic versus an image that looks more like an illustration or a graphic design image.

All this is from personal experience printing exhibition prints about 4ft by 5 ft using anything from a 1dsMkII, a Nikon D70, 4x5 slide film,6x7 slide film to 35mm neg film.

The problem I have with film (slide film at least) is that shadow detail is absolutely nowhere near digital, and a less than optimal exposure will ensure that your dark areas will register as dense blacks when scanned and printed.

Just a note, I do most of my work with digital though. and I hate dealing with film. But there are certain points where film does have its advantages in terms of image quality.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2007, 12:21:05 PM by jing q » Logged
KAP
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« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2007, 12:34:07 PM »
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The problem I have with film (slide film at least) is that shadow detail is absolutely nowhere near digital, and a less than optimal exposure will ensure that your dark areas will register as dense blacks when scanned and printed.

Just a note, I do most of my work with digital though. and I hate dealing with film. But there are certain points where film does have its advantages in terms of image quality.
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[/quote]

This is where a top quality scanner shines, I'm not saying there is greater  DR in slide, but a good quality scan has you going back to the original to see where it got all the shadow detail from.
Isn't that half the problem here, someone will scan on an old Epson and claim film is no good.

When I first got a 1DsmkII or even the Kodak before it, I could only see the good in digital and the bad in film, now down the road a bit I can see more fairly the good and bad in both.

Kevin.
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Hank
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« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2007, 12:58:34 PM »
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"...now down the road a bit I can see more fairly the good and bad in both."

And there's the nub.  They're just tools.  No single tool is best for all jobs, and anyone that thinks so is taking home a little too much from the Sunday sermon.  

When results count, pick the tool that produces the best results from within the constraints of your own tool kit.  If it's a recurring need and your existing tools don't live up to the standards required for the job, then by all means add a new tool to your kit.
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jnaneshwars
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« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2007, 03:06:14 PM »
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Thanks for fabulous response guys! I have been educated on different apsects of film vs digital photography.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #19 on: October 09, 2007, 03:37:33 PM »
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"And color accuracy has nothing to do do with print size in the digital world. What are you talking about?"

KAP has taken my words, except for this. Not talking color accuracy, color fidelity. As the file 'breaks up" the color information also falls apart and makes more evident the failings of the enlargement. Careful uprezzing aside, you can't put information there that isn't, and that is what you are doing (interpolation) when upsizing a digital file and adding noise to cover the tracks. Banding is introduced, etc. If the film is scanned, all of the information is captured and no interpolation is necessary. Also, the film file could be printed traditionally with, as KAP noted say Provia. I can switch films to produce the best results, digital can't.

Fidelity vs accuracy is a distinction without a difference. Please explain to me how the averaging of random clumps of dye (what film grain is actually made of) is any better than the Bayer interpolation process. When you enlarge enough that individual clumps of grain are visible, the "color fidelity" of a single clump of grain is no better than that of a bayer-interpolated pixel from a decent RAW converter. Sure with digital you "add noise" to reduce pixelization after upsizing, but with film the noise is already built in, it's the grain. You can scan at higher resolution, but that does NOT mean you are capturing any more actual image detail. In neither case are you printing additional image detail; the digital image has more actual image detail than film of the same format, it's just a matter of spreading that information out without introducing visually displeasing pixelization artifacts. If you upres properly, you aren't adding banding, either. Where are you getting that idea from? Your comment about switching films is hogwash also. Switching RAW converters has very much the same effect as using a different film in the digital world.

I've printed up to 24x36 inch prints, and the digital SLR files beat 35mm film every time, even at 12x18 inches. Period. In every respect. The bigger the print, the more obvious the difference is, and film doesn't beat digital unless the film is a significantly larger format than the digital.
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