Saturday, 29 September 2007

The smoothness of digital black and white

Cottonwood graveyard stump, Dinosaur Park, Alberta, August 2007

There has been some recent back and forth between Tim Atherton and Doug Stockdale on the nature of Black and White images in the digital age. Tim is generally complaining that digital B&W, whether direct from a digital camera or via a scan has too much of a "smooth" appearance. There is too little "texture" (for want of a better word) to the images - too sterile. Doug's response is (to greatly sumarise): it's all good, just different but care is needed with the deep shadows.

My thoughts overall: digital can be what you want, film you're stuck with the characterisitics of a given film but have an initial choice.

I have certainly been looking more critically at the darkest tones, though, for my black and white stuff. There are some times when I like an image without deep shadows but I do get the point that more attention needs to be applied to getting real blacks in there.
Telling tales, Tavistock, September 2007

I'm also not convinced that the grainy, tactile (for want of a better word) feel of film cannot be achieved with digital. In general, the noisefrom high-ISO shooting gives a nice textured feeling and is quite effective for difficult situations. Of course, the newest cameras arriving are pushing the noise levels down at high ISO.

Maybe this will lead to an active market in older digital cameras to provide that grainy feel.


  1. I think that you have the jest of it;- )

  2. Funny. The better that manufacturers get at making noise free sensors and critically sharp lenses, there seems to be a cry or desire for 'imperfection'. Look at how well the Lensbaby sells.


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