Here are my impressions. Note that the 7200x4800 film scan image will take you to the relevant image on Flickr and you can download it or view it there by clicking on the 'All Sizes' option.
The links in the left column take you to a framed page that is best viewed in Firefox.
So there you have it; six ties, three better captures on film, and nineteen photos that I think are better on digital. That said, I am a bit rusty at using film, and no doubt it would be possible to get better scans of some of the film negatives individually. On the other hand, I can get similar images on digital with a faster ISO setting, and I would expect the film to suffer increased grain with a faster film. A comparison with 400ASA film(*) would probably be a lot more one-sided in favour of digital, whereas 50ASA Velvia might have performed better than the digital camera's minimum 80ISO. I don't think this is that realistic however - some of my images suffered in the comparison due to lack of depth of field on the 35mm SLR. Ideally, I would have liked to have been using a higher f-stop to increase the depth of field but this would be even harder with a slower film.
* I realise I'm being inconsistent here since 100ASA = 100ISO, but before digital we always referred to 'ASA' for film speeds, and nowadays we only speak about ISO settings for digital cameras !
A couple of the images highlighted the digital camera's wide depth of field. This is due to the sensor size being significantly smaller than a 35mm film negative. If you repeated the exercise with a digital SLR, the sensor size would be a closer match to the film and the depth of field similarly reduced at large apertures. It's also likely that a dSLR would show higher definition and less noise since the larger sensor would improve both and a shorter zoom or fixed lens would be expected to perform better than the SX20 IS's 20X optical zoom.
One person has commented that the film scans would be better if done individually on a Nikon film scanner, or by professional drum scanning. I'm sure this is true, though I still doubt it would be that significant in terms of detail levels. The suggested scanner costs about £1500 in the UK, and drum scanning seems to come in at around £15 per negative - a bit beyond the scope of this article! Nevertheless, if I get the chance to have a few of the negatives rescanned on better equipment, I'll add these examples too.
This exercise has demonstrated to me that film really isn't dead. Who knows, I may even run another film though my trusty old st705w some time in the future!
Like to add your own comments to those below or score the photos differently?
Digital vs. 35mm >