Here are just a few of the scanned film images, all are ISO-800 and taken with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8:
As a quick aside, note how the 50mm feels like both a wide and a tele lens. Compositions can go either way with this most versatile of focal lengths (on 35mm, not 24mm). I despise my 24mm digital for its lack of a good 50mm-equiv lens.
For the purpose of capability comparisons, let’s go to a digital image from the same shoot…
…and if you look at the EXIF you might just up and yelp “that’s not fair!” In the digital image I’m using a lower ISO (200 instead of 800) and I have a decently-controlled flash bounce providing ample main light for 1/100 @ f/4. The film images are more like 1/30@f/2.
This said, decently-controlled flash is a capability I have with digital but not with film. When it comes time to pick which to take out of the bag all is fair, I’m not going to give brownie points to either.
Here is an equivalent-pixel comparison, each of these small crops is the same % of the total image (click to see actual pixels):
First note the grain is much finer on digital than film. That’s expected, drawing both from what we saw in the previous digital/film comparison (@ same ISO) and by the fact that the digital ISO is also lower here. Then note that the digital grain is ugly in shadowy areas, this is because the light came from above/rear of the subject and the jacket had to be lightened in software, while shadowy areas in the film image looks just as good as the rest.
My conclusion to this experiment is this:
The overall performance of 24mm digital far surpasses that of 35mm film, but isn’t as well balanced. Film’s dynamic range, although shorter than digital’s, gives you pixels of similar quality from the start of the DR toe, to the end of the DR shoulder. Digital nearly doubles the the dynamic range but only pixels closest (i.e. really close) to the center of the exposure will net you digital’s superior performance.
Inside the same digital image you’ll find more disparate levels of quality than in the equivalent film image. It’s only when you put some effort into controlling the light that digital eclipses film.
So really, how much film will I be shooting in the next year? Hard to say. I will probably choose to keep working on the light-control part and go for that extra resolution, while keeping some film handy for when I can’t.