Still Shooting Film? Do You Really Need A Digital Camera?

Maybe not.

If you already own and know how to use a film camera – whether it’s a simple point & shoot or a single lens reflex – you can still share and print your pictures digitally.


Simple. Almost every place in the world that processes and prints photos can now also give you a copy of your pictures on a CD. Just ask for a CD when you drop off your film. It’ll cost you less than $5 in most cases.

Some stores offer you a choice of qualities when they scan your film – but most don’t. What you’ll get is a basic scan at 72 ppi. This is fine for sharing your photos on the web or making small prints at home. But the quality of the CD copy will probably be too small to make a larger (say, an 8×10 or more).

So ask your photo store about the size and quality of the film-to-CD copies they can make. If they can’t make a higher quality file maybe you need to find another place that can (and that knows how!).

Still Shooting Film? Do You Really Need A Digital Camera?

You’ll pay more per image for higher quality scans – probably as much as $1.50 per scan – because it takes longer and requires special handling. But it’s sometimes worth it.


Here’s a comparison of two different scans from a 35mm negative. Standard (low) quality, and High (usually called “Hi Res”) quality:

Standard: Film is scanned at a resolution of 72 ppi @ 8×10 (it could, in fact, be even smaller). If you translate that into a decent print quality of, say, 200 ppi, you’ll see that the print will be only 2.8×3.6 inches. And at my standard printing resolution of 300 ppi (this is industry standard for most pros), the print would only be 1.9×2.4 inches.

Hi Res: Assume the store is capable of scanning at a resolution of 4000 ppi (such as the Nikon 4000 I’m most familiar with). A 4000 ppi scan of a 35mm negative will render a maximum print size of 12×18 inches at 300 ppi, and a whopping 18.5×27.5 inches at 200 ppi.

Of course, these hi-res scans are pretty large and will take up a lot more space on your CD. A 4000 ppi scan of a 35 mm negative or slide (Yes, you can do your slides this way too!) will create a file that’s close to 60MB, and that’s pretty HUGE. Only 10 or so could fit on a standard CD.