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Monday, August 17, 2009

What is the Difference between Digital and Film Cameras?

By Marcy Burlock

The world of film making is loaded with choices and decisions. Among those, what script to produce as well as what team to put together are very important. However, another very crucial question that must be answered is whether you wish to use a film camera such as a High 8 or a digital camera that uses a hard drive or an SD memory card.

Whether you choose film or digital, they both provide excellent films. However, when making your choice, there are a few advantages and disadvantages for both. Here are just a few.

Film Camera

As you would suspect, a film camera requires film. The most recognized film camera is the High 8. This cameras film quality is very similar to that of a digital camera. Additional models include the 16mm and the Super 8 which are the old reel to reel cameras invented way before VCR's.

Film cameras offer a richer looking film. However, this form does require the need for processing. While this task usually only takes a day or two, it is very difficult to find a processing center willing to work with a filmmaker on a budget. If you do in fact find one, your reward will be a clear and engaging film.

Camcorders are another option and these use VCR tapes. These tapes are readily available and usually very inexpensive. However, the disadvantages to using a tape camcorder are the fact that you must rewind the tape in order to see what you have shot. If you are not satisfied with the scene, you must either tape over it or use another tape. In addition, these tapes tend to wear down over time which can lead to poor film quality.

You will also have to light your scene well. There are times with film or tape the scene will appear very dark and you can't make out anything. Light the scene so you know what's happening, but that it looks natural.


Digital cameras are easier to find new, as they are phasing out the old tape camcorders. With the abundance of effects and editing options on a digital camera, you can make a professional looking film much faster than with film or tape.

Digital does have a disadvantage. If you compare a photo taken with an old 35mm camera to one taken with a digital camera, you will see that the digital photo is excessively bright and clear and contains no depth.

While digital cameras are very clear, it is very difficult to get the same shading and lighting unless you are an expert at lighting and editing programs.

Digital cameras allow you to check your shots right away, by simply clicking on the play button or connecting the camera to a computer and watching it. It's much easier to erase too, just click the delete button and it's gone. You don't have to worry about re-using tapes and having them wear out on you.

An additional advantage to a digital camcorder is that it only requires a quick hook up to your computer, uploading of your files and opening your editing program. With a tape camcorder a converter is required in order to connect to your computer.

Adding special effects could not be easier with a digital camcorder. All you have to do is open the files of special effects already loaded on your computer and enter the ones you want to your film.

One disadvantage to digital cameras, they are more expensive. A hard drive camcorder can run you upwards of $400 or a bit more. You can also get one that uses SD and XD memory cards, the same ones your still digital camera uses. These cameras tend to be a bit cheaper, but no less useful than the more expensive ones.

In order to purchase the right camera for you, you must first ask yourself a few simple questions. Are you more comfortable with the old school tape and film cameras? Or, do you want the ease and convenience of digital?

Once you decide, the rest will flow with ease.

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