Nikon D700 vs. Nikon F5

There was a big discussion at NR about film vs. digital. I came across an interesting video on this topic. The cameras used were Nikon D700 and Nikon F5. Can you guess who was the winner?

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  • Eric B

    Makes one wonder the application of 24+ MP when 12MP can produce print sizes that large… Obviously that is a narrow evaluation because the print resolution can be fairly low at such a scale but still, it seems like the 24MP of a 5D MKII or upcoming D3x may be overkill.

    • Laurence

      Oh yeah, because a film camera is totally going to have HD Movie mode. Let’s think about that

    • ole

      This was a test between a scanned negative and a digital photo both on a digital printer.

      Was it the scanner or the film that caused the bad print ?

    • Shoewreck

      Imagine how big should be movie film back for F7 🙂

    • Kuri

      Sounds exactly like the kind of total rubbish cameron/joey/sad guy would post…

      And the flickr link only goes to a set of reasonably decent amateur snaps taken with… a D80.

      A very sad attempt to get flickr traffic?

      • I blocked Cameron already – I guess Watchmen is next… why would you want to attract people to your flickr account? I don’t get it…

      • r-dog

        Wow. To me it looks like that photog chase jarvis’d those pictures. They’re all CJ like. Hmm, but you’re right. Oh Ok, I forgot.

    • nr

      Hmm. I didn’t see any spy shots there. Just poorly executed wannabe model shots.

      • al

        i would add that the colour differences (skin etc.) come surely from the film. if they had used a portra 400 nc, the result would have been diffrent

    • Pablov

      how to record HD video without a sensor ???

      mm, unsense

      also, how to implement D-lighting for film ?

    • Lisa – is she the spy? Nice!

    • r-dog

      That can’t be true, there is no way nikon is putting 1080p on the new f7, that makes no sense. They’ll just stick with the 720p and keep the 1080 for the d3x. Also, those pictures don’t look like they were taken with anything but a d80. It’s odd to see model shots with a d80 since it is a soccer mom camera. And that model looks like a whore

      • SeriousDude

        Seriously. The D80 is nothing but a soccer mom camera and the D90 is a gimmick. Plus, have you seen the test results for the D90? So. Soft. I swear, if Nikon doesn’t roll out something groundbreaking like the D3 I’m going to jump ship…

    • Stig

      Does this blow up test really tell anything? Not much. If the comparison should be valid I think the testers shall use the best possible film – say Vevlia 50 exposed at ISO 40 – compared with the best possible setting on the digital camera. How will film look against digital if bout were exposed at ISO 3200 or 12600 – like matching a Ferrari against a Skoda.

      In addition one also needs to shoot bout studio and oudoor/field images – using shaping/controlled light versus ambient.

      Since the D700 has the best RAW files (proved by DXO labs at it is the right camera against the F5. This will give the information they search for. And my guess is that the 24 mp sensor, and more, indeed is needed if digital shall take on Velvia.

    • fotosniper

      D lighting on film? umm thats, umm how do you say, IMPOSSIBLE!

    • This video is amusing but utterly unconvincing otherwise. Obviously both prints are digital, so naturally the huge print made from the negative taken with the F5 was made from a scan. So this calls in to question the scan… there are so many scanners, scanning software, ways of preparing the scan before printing (with Photoshop for instance), that if there was such a difference… might this not call in to question the competence of the person(s) doing that work?

      Making a fine quality print of any size in a 100% non-digital process requires someone very good in the darkroom with an enlarger, something I never mastered in color, myself.

      I did a panorama that got printed 11×36 meters, a montage of about eight pictures, each scanned at 4,000 dpi (20 megapixels) with my Nikon Coolscan 5, for a total of 108.4 megapixels (310 megabytes in 8-bit tiff format).

      Is it better than digital? Who knows, I never saw the print, the client was very happy with the result, what’s for certain, cameras that provide that much resolution cost more than 8,000 dollars/euros in the summer of 2008 when I took the pictures (that much resolution costs 2700 dollars/euros in December 2008), while the scanner costs 700 euros/dollars. You can see the panorama, along with a photograph of it on stage behind 88 musicians, at

      —David Henry

  • anon

    Hmm… everybody knows that ISO 400 film isn’t that great in 35mm. Would still be interesting to see what the new Kodak Ektar 100 (supposedly as fine grained as ISO 25 film) could do against the D700.

    I also discovered that Ken Rockwell now prefers film to digital, just like me…

    • Chevypower

      reminds me of the few that say vinyl sounds better than CDs. But when CDs first came out, people were blown away by the quality. They didn’t say “ahhh it sounds almost as good as my vinyl collection.” I suppose it comes down to nostalgia.

      • Jonesin

        Lets be realistic, Ken Rockwell is a douche wanna be photographer. The way his “site” talks down to “amatuers” is funny. He is a blog writer and it stops about there. He is full of it.

        I read two articles from him back to back. The first was about a Sandisk CF card reader that would save him seconds over a day and for a pro as important and busy as him, the other article I read talks about how its stupid to take the card out of the camera. Come on.

        This guy should realize that pros dont read his site, but for a laugh. Its really for amatuers who arent interested in the purity of shooting film with an old FM and manual focus lenses.

        • anon

          I’m sorry but I actually shoot FM3A and FE2 with manual focus lenses and enjoy it! The manual process forces me to think more about my shots – in the end I get more keepers.

        • yadda

          How is shooting film with MF lenses inherently more “pure” than shooting any other format?

          • anon

            You just choose an aperture and an exposure time, focus and that’s it. You don’t have endless modes and parameters to choose from. In a way that makes it more pure.

      • Steve Turrell

        Vinyl is better than CD , when cd came out most people had very cheap turntables in a midi centre i had a good turnatable & cd sounded crap. CD is far better today but so is Vinyl.
        Vinyl is still the best but you have to spend a fortune several thousand pounds & up to compete with a CD system that is a third the price .
        Film is still the best untill you put it through a scanner.
        I prefer a film look i’m allways adding film grain to photos in Photoshop

    • PJS

      Sorry, but I prefer film and vinyl. The digital mediums do not reproduce errors in a random manner. Both film (grain) and vinyl (distortion) are closer to reality. Digital is phony and too clean in both sound and vision.

  • SK

    Continuing where “anon” left off — what 135 film did they use for the test? Since it was shot in a studio, why not compete at ISO 200? Why ISO 400? Still, it was neat to watch that giant plotter in action.

  • Chevypower

    Quite true, this test and the A900 vs D700 test further proves that pixel count isn’t everything. I am sure that is why Nikon have waited to bring out a 24mp camera, and hopefully it doesn’t compromise any of it’s other strengths to get there.

  • Ernst

    “Image quality” is an amazingly vague term, but by almost anyone’s measure modern FF digital cameras handily outperform film at high ISOs. It’s already apparent at ISO400. By, say, ISO1000, it’s all over. No ISO1000 emulsion ever made can touch a D3 at ISO1000, no matter what your formula for “image quality” looks like.

  • sperera

    pathetic test in my opinion….

  • Edgar

    I don’t intend to discuss the possibility that a print from film could challeng or even be (slightly) better than a print from a FF 12 Mpxl; I intend to underline that current 35mm FF digital delivers a very high IQ with an incomparable flexibilty in terms of almost all the shooting parameters. Flexibility in Hi ISO, flexibility in changing ISO for each shot, flexibility in White Blance, flexibility in immediate image review, …………….

    Even with a small advantage of Film in IQ (at low ISO only), I personally don’t consider that advantage being relevant compared to all the flexibility space, permitted by digital. Consider also that more flexibility in many cases means an additional percentage of IQ, particularly related to better WB in non controlled environments.


    • anon

      I agree totally that digital is more convenient than analogue and if I were a professional I would probably shoot digital because of this. But as an amateur I look at it differently. Looking at the colours from a Provia slide gives me more pleasure than any digital picture, so far…

      • Brighter Than You

        Please don’t call film ANALOGUE. Just because something is NOT DIGITAL does not mean, in every case, that its therefore automatically ANALOGUE.

        You can have a DIGITAL signal for your TV or an ANALOGUE signal for your TV. Similarly for other products. However, FILM is NOT ANALOGUE – FILM is FILM! I hold 2 Phd’s but learned that BASIC fact when I was about 7 years old! Come on people! Wakey, wakey!

        • Get a grip.
          Film is analog(ue). Analog(ue) is an adjective: “of or pertaining to a mechanism that represents data by measurement of a continuous physical variable, as voltage or pressure.” Film bearing a light-sensitive emulsion represents images by recording a physical variable (light).

          Film is an analog(ue): something having analogy to something else” (CMOS & CCD sensors).

          • Chevypower

            film is NOT analog! It is optical. It is not represented by data, the image is actually there.

            • lyr

              Data is data. Be it optical, electrical, painting, hand-writing, position-speed space of every particle.

              On your vinyl, data is there, physically (with a spatial waveform) then is converted in another medium (most of the times electrically). But it’s still the same data, carried in another way.

              But what makes the difference between analog and digital is to see if there are “steps” in the signal or is it smooth.

              Well, to be true, position, energy, time,… are all discretized at a certain level into quanta, but for the far-seeing, it looks smooth.

              So, yes, FILM is DIGITAL because it contains quanta of energy levels, in a discretized plane. But from our scale of experience, it’s analog.

              Sorry boy, I studied (and work) in electronic, optic, physic and so on.

              So go to hell with your religion and your so called PhD’s (well, maybe these are PhD in Philosophy or Politics)

            • Chevypower

              what the heck????????

            • lyr

              Sorry, maybe I made some mistakes in my explanation, english is not my native language.

              But if you want to discuss more about that topic (analog vs digital or data vs reality) here is a mail you can use: lyr_ayegans at hotmail dot com



  • richard p

    Horses for courses, as they say.

  • rhlpetrus

    Ever since moving from film to digital I’m really impressed how much better my prints look than the film ones (and I did them myself). They are different of course, but better in all apsects, DR, tone gradation, etc. Only nostalgic types still think film is better than digital at this point.

  • Dean

    I didn’t really think that we were still wondering if 35mm film was better then digital? Now is digital slr camera better the medium format film when scanned using the right scanner? Not really, if there is sky and water, highlights and shadows I’d shoot film medium format or 4×5.

  • Cole


    As has been mentioned before — they’re using a 400 ISO film? Immediately that makes me dismiss this entire process. I would be interested to know what sort of film they were using; if the blacks in the film were crap, it’s likely they used print negative film, which is yet another reason this test is skewed. It’s also akin to the flickr 35mm vs digital discussions–how can you compare digital prints to prints made from scanned film?

    The march of technology is such that, in most cases, the most “convenient” supplants that which is technically better. Medium format supplanted large format, 35mm supplanted medium format, digital has now supplanted 35mm. I speak only in terms of general popularity (I personally shoot 35mm-equiv digital and medium format film). It’s easier to get a better-looking image from digital than film, but film done right still has the edge in my opinion.

  • Hoo-boy, let the kvetching begin… still, film fanciers have a legitimate point that they didn’t really test a “film” image vs. a “digital” image; they tested two digital images, one made from an original digital source, and the other scanned from film. Given the generational loss involved in scanning, this puts film at a disadvantage; if they had tested with a print made by traditional wet-lab methods, the film image would have had a better shot.

    Still, given the reality that most published images do need to get scanned nowadays, it’s a pretty persuasive test. My takeaway would be that if you’re crafting prints to display in a gallery, film is still a very viable medium with lots of expressive potential — but if you need a digital end result, it’s better to start with a digital original.

    Then again, that’s been true ever since digital cameras cracked the 6-megapixel barrier (my personal convincer was seeing a billboard made from a photo I had shot with a D100) so what’s the big deal now?

    • Anonymous

      remember the D1X was used for the same purpose and it had 3.2 megapixels

  • PS — I think I would enjoy this TV show! Where does it air?

    • James

      it is called the gadget show and airs in the uk every monday at 8:00 go to there website to see more clips

  • I should be shooting

    Not a fair comparison. Let’s see 35mm Provia scanned well and then benched against digital. In this test, they tied one of film’s hands behind its back. For the record, I love digital, and also use an F5.

  • An absurd test – not really fair to film or digital. Interesting, none the less.

  • Bryce

    Totally worthless test.

    They’re testing a scanner versus a FF Digital not film.

  • Adam

    I think printing it that large really didn’t show the true difference. I mean, yeah, that can demonstrate the grain level of digital, but they didn’t compare them up close. they saw the images in the same relative size as if they were looking at a 24×36 at like 4 feet away. the better test would have been to closely examine a digital print and a truly developed film image of the same size. My opinion anyway. Printing it that big was just a way to show off on TV. Pretty nuts printer though. I bet in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, since Epsons top end 64- inch wide printer runs around $20000+

  • An interesting test, because this is a real commercial application. Commerce is what makes a professional a professional. And it’s professionals that drive the high end gear market. Rich amateurs exist…but they aren’t the majority.

    I did my own test when I bought my D2x in 2006:

    Looking back the 70-200 might be a touch softer at 200mm…but at f16? At f16 the advantage should go to film because the D2X is 2 stops past it’s diffraction limits. But the result was the opposite. Killed film for me. Well that and the laundry list of digital’s other benefits in the context of a professional work flow.

    Before you start a discussion about film vs. digital, do your own tests and make your own decision. I did. So did the people in the video. It’s easy these days and more worth your time than reading/commenting on some blog. And share the results!


    • Agree 100% with you – thanks for sharing your comparison. The video is interesting and this is why I posted it – like everything else, some will like other will not…

  • For my interests I was not impressed with the comparisons. Had they used a finer grain slide film then that would have been a better balance. I have no doubts that at higher ISO’s, digital would be preferred. At this stage I would reach for my digital then my 35 film camera. I’m not yet letting loose of my med. and large format film though. I am most curious to see a comparison of a 67 medium velvia 50 sample to digital side by side in 30×40 inch prints. I have seen some very impressive large digital prints. When I upgrade from my entry level dSLR I will do some tests. Till then, I’d love to see some side by side examples if you have any links to share.

  • Nobody Special


    Lots of ‘excited’ comments here. The digital showed less grain and more detail – okay – so? I mean, how would the images look at a fourth of that size? Unless I missed hearing, was the image JPEG or RAW, was there post=processing and how much? Was the film processed at the ‘five and dime’ or with fresh chemistry?

    Even at a fourth size, the images would be what – 20′ x 30′? So in short, how real-world relevant is the test? Even more so, would the digital image be ‘harsh at let’s say, 2′ x 3’? Looks like a waste of ink and ‘paper’ to me. BYTW, I still prefer film, then scanned when I need to; for storage; and to keep away from equipment obsolescence; (which is ridiculous) and because unless I want to have ridiculously ginormous enlargements – what’s the point?

    • If film goes the way of the dodo, what will you print it with? Will you always be able to find an optical printer or a film scanner?

      Where there’s a will there’s a way, but it may not be easy in the future.

      Just some food for thought about what makes something “archival”.

      • Nobody Special

        Good points. But I should have mentioned that 90% of my portfolio is Transparencies in 35, 6×6 and 6×7. Archival to me means that with proper ‘average’ care, my images from 25 years ago are as good as the ones from 25 days ago. I don’t have the same amount of ‘worry’ that goes with long-term, digital storage.

        Scanning equipment of some type will always be available to help with the ‘dinosaurs’ like me and the ‘hard positives and negatives’ we still have. By then, digital data storage will be perfected (I assume) but for now – it feels better – and I really don’t need the post processing – there isn’t much (if any) room for mistakes with a transp. which slows me down and helps me to concentrate – I like that.

  • oogabooga

    I just have to say, the guy in that video is holy-crap-ugly.

  • oogabooga

    OK, I watched the video in length now. They’re in a studio with all the lighting they’d ever need and they use ISO 400? Everyone knows digital outperforms film at that speed, so that pretty much negates the entire experiment.

    They didn’t even tell us what brand of film they used. They’re using top-of-the-line digital equipment, so it needs to be compared to top-of-the-line film, not a top-of-the-line film camera.

  • David Campbell

    This exercise is merely comparing a digital sensor with a digital scan of film.
    Which type of film scanner was used?
    It is also a very crude comparison – a high quality print at A3 size critically examined would have been appropriate.
    This video is entertainment and not a serious comparison.

  • I should be shooting

    Actually, I’m pretty impressed that the 400 ASA film looks as good as it does blown up to building size. And for a heck of a lot cheaper, too. My Leica fits in my pocket – I get shots with that old thing that I just couldn’t get with my large DSLRs.

    Also, I would never do a comparison test with hand-held cameras, even at 1/250. Nice dent in the F5 prism, now that’s a camera 😉

  • Steve Turrell

    Digital wins at 35mm perhaps a 50 iso film could match the D700?
    but digital gives you more dynamic range than slide & if you want more you can use HDR.
    Medium format film i expect would be better than a 35 mm DSLR & Large Format
    film is far better.
    In 10 years i expect the debate will be digital whether 35mm or medium format against large format & maybe we will be debating are cameraphones better than a D700

  • Robert Capa

    You cannot compare digital vs film. With film, one unit of capturing light is MOLECULE, and you don´t just make a digital sensor in size of molecule! Second thing is, film doesn´t have any levels of brightness, like digital. Where digital has 1024 levels or whatsoever, film always has 1 000 000 times more, as it is analogue, and film photo IS A REAL THING, digital is just a bunch of bytes and ones and zeroes. Other thing is, if digital is printed digitally, film should be enlarged as it is, you JUST CAN´T COMPARE digital in its natural form, and film, scanned from analogue to digital and than vv back to real thing on digital printer. Next thing is, they might have used a 1$ minolta vx film, and no one would even get to know. And if majority of DSLRs is made with small sensors, and majority of film SLRs are made for 35mm => so these few with fullframe sensor should be compared to those few made for 6×6 (120/220 or whatever) film. I own F5 myself, and try to see what happens if your D700 falls on the floor. Crack, and you´re done.

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