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  1. #1
    Rally Rat Slablog's Avatar
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    Apr 2003
    Woodstock, Georgia

    Digital Seems Darker...

    I couldn't think of any other "Title" for this thread..Sorry.
    My question for someone who is a 'digital' pro and used to be a 'film' pro.

    I've been really enjoying my new digital SLR but something is annoying me. The digital images do not match the pictures I always took with my film SLR and other cameras that I could manually adjust the settings.

    Let see if I can explain: If I set my film camera ASA setting to, say 800 and use 800 ASA film, I can get rather well exposed pictures in low light with close to normal settings, ie. 125th sec at say 4.0..That's just an example. Now if I set the digital at those same settings I get total BLACKNESS..or at least really dark. They just are not similar in product per settings parameters as the film cameras.
    Can someone explain that?
    I am using a zoom lens, and now, in addition to remembering the focal length of the lens being HALF what a film camera is, I must readjust all my learned approximates, as far as estimated workable settings go.

    I know, I know...I'm being way too anal. I should just shut up and learn the language. But some discussion on this phenomenon would be helpful.

  2. #2


    Quote Originally Posted by Boxer View Post
    But some discussion on this phenomenon would be helpful.
    Reader's Digest version: It's pixel vs. continual tone. Or, a "limited" amount of color to recreate an "Unlimited" amount of color, or range for that matter.

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  3. #3
    Registered User 136045's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    Spfld, IL
    Since you didn't mention the camera body I hope you don't mind I read your blog to find out it is an olympus e-510. One reason I ask is that I have had the opposite experience with just about all of my digital bodies since my switch from film, so I was curious to see what you were using. I have 6 Nikon DSLR's and have found all of them to be at least as equal if not more sensitve than the equivilant iso film. I regularly shoot at 800 and 1000 iso usually 1/30 @ 2.8 with decent results.

    The e-510 being a four-thirds system(smaller sensor) might have more visible noise causing image quality to suffer beyond 400 iso. I have no experience myself with those cameras but did a quick google/wikipedia to confirm.

    from wikipedia
    "[edit] Disadvantages
    Smaller sensors are generally more prone to noise. Noise typically becomes more pronounced at high ISO exposures, meaning that picture quality may suffer in low light situations where the ISO has to be increased above 400.[4]"

    from the online photographer
    "If, on the other hand, you can live with smaller print sizes and with ISO 800 as your practical limit, the E-510 will often surprise and delight."

    From the reviews it sounds like a nice camera system in many respects, low light not being one of them.

    I am sorry if this isn't the answer you were hoping for. It just struck my curiosity as my experiences have been the exact opposite.

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  4. #4
    does it have an "EV" (Exposure Value) setting? Most cameras have a system where you can increase or decrease the sensitivity usually in 1/3 stops above and below the reading taken by the camera. If that is set to low then the pictures will darken. I've been caught by this more than once when shooting in low light and I forgot to change it after I had been shooting in strong light.


  5. #5
    I can't account for this. I use a hand-held lightmeter for studio photography, and I use the same settings on a digital camera as I did on a film camera.

    ISO 800 @ 1/125 and 5.6 is a constant, regardless of the medium (digital or film) and regardless of the format (4/3, 1.6, 35mm, 120mm, etc.).

    You've got me stumped.

  6. #6
    Rally Rat Slablog's Avatar
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    Apr 2003
    Woodstock, Georgia
    Thanks for the comments guys.

    Russ, thank you for taking the time to read my little blog. I didn't get the E-510 however. At the time I wrote that post entry my plan was to get the E-510. I had forgotten about putting in that picture. Instead I opted for the E-410. Its smaller, less expensive, and does just about all that the 510 will do, which is plenty for me.

    Not having instant feedback from film cameras, the mind may be playing a nasty trick on me with this "darker" issue. Also, the zoom lens may be causing it somewhat. I'm still getting the feel of this little camera and learning new digital stuff every day.

    My next acquisition will definitely be a pretty good fixed focal length 25mm lens.

    I have some time now. It may be a good time to check out DPreviews discussions again.

  7. #7
    TNSTAAFL Troutluck's Avatar
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    May 2006
    West Fork, Arkansas
    Here are some possible answers to your question:

    1) Unless you were developing your own prints, I would bet that your negatives were not as "well exposed" as you thought and that the lab (or Fuji printer programming) had to work with the negatives to get the resulting print to look right. Negative film is very forgiving in this regard.

    2) Digital photography has a long way to go to capture the dynamic range of film (although certain high-end cameras are getting closer). By dynamic range, I mean to what extremes the sensor/film can record data without going "all black" or "all white." This "extra range" is an important reason why you can pull a decent image from an over- or under-exposed negative. (Slide film is a totally different animal -- very sensitive to exposure). Your exposure may have simply fallen beyond the capabilities of your hardware to accurately record the image.

    3) Digital point and shoots sometimes have inferior metering systems that over compensate for bright lights and shut the aperture down too far.

    4) Your camera is broken.

    I was in newspapers when we made the switch from film to digital. It was interesting to compare at the time. I used to be able to spot a digital shot most of the time. Pretty much impossible now to make the distinction with the gear out today. Still love my old F2, tho.
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