Comparison Analog - Digital

A comparison of analog and digital photography (pros and cons)

Choosing the right camera is an important decision which precedes the actual photography itself. In the following article, the significant differences between analog and digital photography are compared. Both digital and analog photography have pros and cons which have to be weighed up against each other, depending on what they are to be used for.

The difference between digital and analog photography is the way images are captured. In analog photography the photographs are captured by and saved directly onto the photographic film, whereas in digital photography both steps occur separately. The image sensor is responsible for capturing the images. The camera then processes the images and saves them onto the respective storage medium. In contrast to analog photography, (with the exception of instant photography, eg. Polaroid instant photos) the image processing happens within the camera itself. Digital and analog photography techniques overlap in several areas, for example the digitalising of analog images (captured footage).An overlap between digital and analog technology is usually the norm. Some examples: when digital picture data is transferred onto an analog medium such as paper or a roll of film or when film footage and photographs are digitalised. To do this, different types of scanners (drum scanner, incident light scanner or flatbed scanner) are used, depending on the requirements.

Overview of the key differences between analog and digital


Übersicht zu wesentlichen Unterschieden in der analogen und digitalen Fotografie


Analog Photography

Digital Photography

Capturing and storing of images

  • Capturing and saving of images onto photosensitive film footage (b/w, colour and infrared photography)
  • Image capturing through image sensor
  • Camera-internal image processing
  • Saving of images onto memory card, camera-internal or subsequent editing to b/w, sepia…- infrared photography is the exception requiring special filters, only possible with limited number of cameras)

Shutter sound

  • Everything from the quiet click of a compact camera or a rangefinder camera to the relatively loud noise of the lens of a single-lens reflex camera
  • Silent on some compact cameras
  • On digital single-lens reflex cameras the same as analog

Checking and availibility of images

  • Time consuming – you have to wait until photos have been developed
  • Even the instant photo system is much slower compared to digital techniques
  • Generally, photos aren’t developed until the roll of film is full which results in relatively long periods of waiting for the film to be developed and only a few photos a year
  • Available even before taking the actual picture (on all compact digital cameras)
  • Some single-lens reflex cameras already have a built in live-view
  • Digital cameras enable you to check the photo right after it has been captured


  • Filtration before capturing the image
  • Filtration through camera-internal image processor or subsequent computer photo editing (exception e.g. polarizing filter - photo editing cannot simulate the same effect to its full extent)

Camera photo

  • Not possible
  • Photo editing through camera-internal hard or software possible either before or after capturing the image

Advanced photo editing

  • Relatively complex laboratory technology required
  • Photo editing relatively simple with the right programs

Film speed (ISO, ASA))

  • Depends on chosen photographic film (can be corrected within a small margin when pictures are being developed)
  • Depends on camera and chosen settings

Image sensor/Film format

  • Film gauge of 24x36mm (equivalent to 2/3 aspect ratio)
  • APS 16,7mm x 30,2 mm (various aspect ratios available 16:9, 3:2, 3:1)
  • Generally smaller than film gauge of 24x36mm (aspect ratio 2/3 but ¾ more common)
  • Various image formats can usually be selected when capturing images – otherwise readily available in photo editing programs

Suitability for storage

  • Improper storage can cause damage to negatives for example by fungal decay
  • With the appropriate amount of care and maintenance of stored data relatively unproblematic (Creating backups on various storage mediums, transfering data onto modern storage mediums and maintaining of file formats)
  • Does however require a certain know-how


  • Relatively laborious and usually resulting in reduced quality
  • Material is usually digitalised using a scanner
  • Simple to do and be can created without resulting in reduced quality

Image display

  • Photo prints, slide show
  • After being digitalised, images can be displayed in same manner as digital ones
  • Photo prints, computer, TV, overhead projector, internet …

Focal lengths

  • Classic focal lengths are around 28-300mm (however, beyond these focal lengths there is a wide range of lenses)
  • Lens focal lengths are usually shorter than on a film gauge of 24x36mm – but is often specified a s an equivalent


  • Reciprocity effect – longer illumination/exposure time (from 1 second onwards) causes light meter to no longer be accurate
  • Extend exposure time (twice the shutter speed) or use the diaphragm (bracketing +1 to +3 diaphragms)
  • Quality not reduced due to longer exposure times
  • Possibly reduced quality due to image noise

Depth of field (with the same diaphragm, distance and frame)

  • Reduced depth of field
  • For creative purposes a low depth of field is preferable (e.g. portraits)
  • Can also be a disadvantage if a greater depth of field is desired e.g. for macro photography
  • Due to shorter focal lengths (on all digital cameras except for a full frame camera), digital cameras have a greater depth of field compared to analog cameras

Power supply

  • Generally costly special batteries are required
  • Usually only rechargeable with special battery packs
  • One battery pack usually lasts a relatively long period of time
  • Generally relatively expensive to purchase a new battery
  • Decrease in battery capacity in cold temperatures
  • Various rechargeable battery technologies can be used (lowers costs)
  • Advisable to have spare rechargeable batteries
  • Decrease in battery capacity in cold temperatures Storing rechargeable batteries leads to deterioration
  • Decrease in battery power after various number of charge cycles - read more
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