Film’s Out, Digital’s In

Planning to photograph gems or jewelry? The age of the 35-mm film camera for gem photography is over. That’s the word from gem expert and appraiser Michael Cowing and professional photographer Tino Hammid, both of whom recently purchased professional SLR (single lens reflex) digital cameras.

Hammid prepared side-by-side shots of the same red tourmaline using a film camera and a digital camera. The grain apparent in the film image is absent (no visible pixelation) in the digital image. (“Grain”—tiny dots—in a film image is equivalent to “pixels”—tiny squares—in a digital image. Both are the size-limiting factors for image reproduction.)

“Digital technology appears to have exceeded the quality of 35-mm film,” says Cowing. “Color-rendering accuracy appears superior and is easier to obtain. I have not shot any film for two years since I went digital.”

For camera buffs, the film Hammid used was Fuji RTP 64T, which is ISO 64. It is possible, even likely, that Fuji’s Velia film has finer grain, says Hammid. The finest grain tungsten balanced film is 64T professional. The ISO setting on the Fuji S2 Pro digital was its slowest, ISO 100.