Can a Film SLR Still Be a Cheap Alternative to Today’s DSLRs?

The DigitalRev team is back, this time as the AnalogRev team as they do some comparisons to see if using an old film SLR is a cheap alternative to using a full frame DSLR. Kai, Alamby, and Lok discuss the costs, quality, and functionality of their three film cameras, the Nikon F65, Canon A2E, and Minolta Maxim 7000:

While you can’t deny that these camera were obvious inspirations for later models, it’s hard to say that the film cameras are better than their digital counterparts. It’s an unfair comparison really. Two of the cameras the Rev team uses are from the 80’s, while the newest one is still over 10 years old. The digital cameras have much better functionality and flexibility because they have decades of innovations and research behind them.

cost chart

Comparing the costs of digital to film

The quality, on the other hand, is debatable. It really depends on what kind of photography you’re doing. Film produces a kind of quality that digital cannot match and vice versa. They are simply different. For my personal work, I typically shoot film. But for professional portraits and events, I shoot digital.

film cameras

The team with their cheap full frame SLR’s

I feel I should also point out that this “test” by the AnalogRev team seems biased in the fact that they are using cheap film cameras. They set up a test to judge the quality and functionality of film SLRs vs DSLRs, but it’s based on price(with film included.) Since they’re comparing the film camera against a nice $2,000 DSLR, perhaps they should have used an equivalent $2,000 film camera or one that can actually compete with the quality of a new DSLR.

film photo

Film photo shot by Alamby

Even though Kai admits that most people will choose digital over film, he gives the film cameras credit for being quirky and fun to use, and says that they have everything that you really need.

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3 responses to “Can a Film SLR Still Be a Cheap Alternative to Today’s DSLRs?”

  1. benson says:

    Buying film in bulk (100′ rolls) + developing the film yourself would cut the cost down to less than half.

  2. hwilliam says:

    The quality of the photograph, all things considered equal, will depend on the quality of the lens, not so much the quality of the camera. A Maxium 7000 will produce an equal quality photograph as a Nikon F6, if exposures are correct and the lenses are of equal quality. The cost of the body is really not relevant. The same is true of digital. The more expensive camera will have more features, but coupled with a quality lens, will produce the same quality photograph at a low iso. Yes, noise comes into play with the digital and a higher rated sensor will allow a “better” photograph at a high iso setting. That is one problem that we didn’t have with film! (yes, I know about reciprocity failure).

  3. jefvaldez says:

    Indeed, you should know about reciprocity failure, that is, if you shoot long exposures all too often. That’s Photo 101. And yes! Yes! It’s all in the lens, ultimately.

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