JUNE 2009 IN

Digital Cameras Beat Out Single-Use Film Cameras

The last popular uses of film in photography are going away.

I wrote three years ago that film still had a place in consumer photography. You probably wouldn’t take your digital camera to the beach because you would hate to see it ruined by the sand and salt. That has changed.

Now that waterproof digital cameras are offered around $30, taking one of them to the beach or another place that could be hazardous to a camera is not such a big risk. That price is about what you would pay to get 54 pictures from two single-use film cameras. The digital camera could be expected to last longer and let you take many more pictures.

I have a hard time now imagining any scenario in which film is cost-competitive. A wedding reception? You’ll get far more photos, and get them more quickly, if you hand out digital cameras than if you pass around a bucket of single-use film cameras. A festival, or New Year’s Eve? In a chaotic situation, the smaller size of the digital camera makes it easier to hold on to.

Film is still essential for art and professional photography situations where resolution and sensitivity are essential. With good lighting, today’s better digital cameras are plenty sharp enough for magazine covers, but in situations that are more demanding, a skilled photographer can get noticeably better results with a film camera. Most photographers are amateurs, though, and are likely to do better with the more controlled interface of a digital camera. And so, while photographic film is still easy to buy, there is no longer much reason for most of us to look for it.

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