40 Years of Imaging Technology Development – how much difference has it made?

An earlier post saw me going on about how good the Olympus Trip was.  So in the interests of  ‘putting my money where my mouth is’  I got to thinking – how does it compare to a relatively recent digital equivalent – an Olympus PEN? Both are aimed at roughly the same group of  photographers, even if they are separated by a generation or two. How much has technology really improved photography at the ‘consumer end’ of the market?

Olympus PEN and EPL3

So, armed with an Olympus Trip (loaded with Agfaphoto APX100) and an Olympus EPL3 on a fine winter’s day I took the same pics with both and did a comparison – it turned out to be more of a challenge  than I anticipated.

ot9s cmp

Trip on the left, EPL3 on the right. Not bad for the Trip but the EPL3 has a bit more dynamic range.

The EPL3 has a smallish micro 4/3 12 Mp sensor, the Trip uses full frame 35mm film so can be scanned to 20 MP, it’s only advantage. The Trip has no autofocus, no image stabilisation and only has simple metering. It’s also only equipped with ‘P’ program mode, the EPL3 has all the bells and whistles – aperture priority, ISO 200 (the lowest setting) and mid aperture were used for this comparison.

The film pics are nearly all crops – it’s surprisingly difficult to compare the field of view between a LCD and a basic viewfinder when taking comparison shots. Good fun though… This is a monochrome test because – well, I like black and white. No other reason!

ot1scmp

EPL3 Top, Trip bottom. More even this time – the Trip has a slightly better look but it’s only a personal preference.

To do a fair comparison, the EPL3 pics were taken in RAW and converted using default settings to JPG and desaturated in Photoshop, the Trip shots scanned, then noise reduction, ‘dust and scratches’ and unsharp mask applied which seemed fair for comparison purposes.

ot5scmp

Trip left, EPL3 right. The EPL3 has managed to capture more DR in the water but only marginally.

The EPL3 has a nice 14-42mm (28-84mm equiv) zoom lens, the Trip a faster fixed focus 40mm lens. this meant the ‘defining’ shot had to be taken with the Trip, then an approximation with the EPL3.

ot4l cmp

Trip left, EPL3 right – these were framed as the same shot the same to me on the day. This was more difficult than I’d initially imagined!

As much reduced images size can only give a basic impression – so here are some crops:-

ot4 cmp

Detail crops from the above shots – Trip left, EPL3 right. Not much in it but the EPL3 has just won this one on sharpness (and no scratches).

The APX100 film was developed in Rodinal 1+50 for 12 minutes.

ot10s cmp

Trip left, EPL3 right. The Trip is better based on personal choice here – more subtle midtones.

It’s significant that these shots were taken in good light – the EPL3 would have such an advantage in low light that the test wouldn’t be worthwhile.

There are so many film/developer/post-processing variables that any number of answers could result from this test – I like film and digital so I’m not trying to force any conclusion – just come to a general one.

The surprising thing is that for these two ‘consumer grade’ cameras the differences aren’t that great. The Trip needs slightly more experience to get the most out of it – especially estimating focus distance, and it’s results aren’t immediately available like its modern digital equivalent. However within the restrictions imposed by its age the Trip can put up a decent performance against its modern digital descendent which surprised me.

Maybe it shouldn’t though – film technology had many decades of development before it was widely dropped in favour of digital 10 to 15 years ago. The EPL3 is a very capable camera for all everyday uses, as was the Trip in its day. I’m really surprised that the Trip can still – just – hold its own against a much younger rival.

Is the inconvenience (some might say fun) of using film worth it versus the convenience and sharp clarity of digital? B/W film + home processing is £3 for 36 (more carefully) taken shots so you’ve got around 3000 shots before the cost equation is equal (the Trip was £50 refubished, the EPL3 £300). I’d personally say yes – on aesthetic as well as cost grounds, but many would say no!

Hope you find this interesting and thanks for looking – I had loads of fun doing this!

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “40 Years of Imaging Technology Development – how much difference has it made?

  1. This is a great comparison – I shoot the Pen and OMD series digital cameras and the OM 35mm series. I love the basic compactness – I think your observations are fair. The DR would be tough to beat on a newer camera – but nothing matches the “feel” of film.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s