Digital has improved at an incredible rate – 36Mp in the lastest DSLRs. To say that 35mm film beats top end digital kit is now wrong in my opinion (medium format is another matter). If you have the cash to spend, there is now no reason to use 35mm film unless you like it’s ‘different’ look, or you really like the equipment over digital kit.
Whether many people need 24 or 36Mp, or whether their lenses, expecially kit lenses, are capable of resolving that much information is debatable. For me, 18MP is fine, and the scanner actually exceeds this for film, so I won’t be spending money upgrading just yet.
The advantages of digital everyone knows – take as many shots as you like (it’s free!), instant feedback on the LCD, sophisticated exposure and focus mechanisms, endless customisable setup and quality results at what I would consider astronomical ISO values. Shooting in ‘raw’ also allows significant correction to be made after the shoot though it’s only worth the time and effort on an exceptional shot.
The disadvantages – well up front costs are high £1000 plus for a mid entry DSLR and non kit lens, there’s the constant temptation of ‘upgrades’, and expanding the DSLR kit is rather expensive too. Those built-in lens AF mechanisms and micro processors don’t come cheap.
Another disadvantage – and this is a very personal view – is that it’s too ‘easy’. Perverse I know, but I just get used to the DSLR doing so much it becomes an expensive ‘point and shoot’ machine. It tempts me to laziness in other words, and a spell on the Olympus OM1n soon gets me out of it.
Digital has brought quality and convenience to photography, and if you shoot a lot, the up front cost per shot becomes very low. It’s now hard to imagine photography without digital. The trick to using it is to stop the camera doing everything and making the photographer too lazy, in my case at least.
One way to do this is to use manual focus lenses (cheap) on a digital body. On a crop frame DSLR the focal length of a manual focus lens is longer than that for full frame 35mm, but the maximum apertures are significantly better. An example might be a 1980’s manual focus 50mm f1.4 will effectively be somewhere round an 80mm lens which is good for portraits, but that lovely manual focus wide-angle 17mm lens is now a lowly 27mm lens – not so good.
Update August 2015. Well this was written a long time ago! The 60D is still in occasional use, but the main camera for commercial use is a Sony A7R – not quite what I predicted! Zuiko prime lenses now make up my lens range, 18mm to 85mm with the 60D and Canon 70-300mm providing for the few times I need a telephoto. The stills stock photography market seems to have subsided across the board, and I now make more from video projects than stills – again completely unexpected! I still use a film in my OM2N’s though the A7R has finally made it’s use for ‘fun only’.