Dont Fear Digital Myths: Know Your Photographer's Capabilities
by James Pickett
There is a common misconception that digital images come from small cheap cameras and are inferior to film. It has been much to my surprise to see some highly renowned wedding photographers using inferior digital equipment that has given pros who use digital equipment a bad name. The truth is that professional digital equipment can be far superior to traditional film capture in many ways.
A professional SLR user with high quality lenses can capture images with less grain, and a higher color fidelity than a film SLR with average lenses. High end digital SLRs can almost always capture images in low light with much less grain than film. Digital SLR's with non interchangeable lenses can also yield poor results. A smaller image sensor has pixels that are much closer together than a larger sensor and can result in "digital noise". These sensors are often found in digital "point and shoot" cameras with non-interchangeable lenses.
Some average lenses are more than adequate to complete the task at hand, but are often soft, and lack the "tack" sharpness of many high-end professional lenses. Some film photographers are still using filters to compensate for color balance or not using filters at all resulting in images that can be yellowish where there is ambient light, and white where the flash is fired, ending with a poor overall color balance. It is much easier for a pro digital photographer to compensate for color balance issues before, during and after the image is taken. Many corrections are made in post production before the prints are made.
If you prefer traditional film for the sake of archiving the negatives to have a permanent, re-printable record of your wedding you may also have a better option in digital. Most professional photographers have a very intricate archival and backup habit leaving copies of digital images offsite as a backup keeping your memories twice as safe in the event of a natural disaster or fire allowing you to have re-prints and extra albums made with a simple phone call instead of dragging all of the negatives to a lab and leaving your photos at the mercy of old chemistry or an un-attentive staff. Negatives can change color, become brittle, or degrade over time. Digital, when archived properly, will never be any different than the day the photos were taken.
When thinking about the camera your photographer will use to capture your wedding, be sure not to be fooled by the megapixel count of the digital camera's image sensor. This number is a count of how many million pixels a camera's image sensor has, but it does not define the image quality or the ability of the camera to render a good image. One 8 megapixel camera may have an image sensor that is very small (the size of a pinky fingernail for example) with very tightly packed pixels that can interfere with each other and cause image degradation. Many smaller sensors are also very cheap mass produced CCD (charge coupled device) sensors that have diamond or hexagonal shaped pixels, typically rendering images that are slightly oversaturated, causing poor skin tones and off color scenery. CMOS (complimentary metal oxide semi-conductor) sensors can often be of truer tone and image sharpness due to their circular or square pixels and are often bigger resulting in much less noise and better color depth.
There is no one piece of the photographic equation that will make a good or bad image (beware of photographers that say "that doesn't matter, its this that makes the image great") but a compilation of superior components and talent that make your day truly memorable for years to come. The lens, camera, image sensor, image processor, photographer, and print are all equally important in the final product. Professional digital SLR bodies that are respected and commonly used in the photographic community are: Canon EOS 1D, 1DS, 1D mark2, 1Ds mark2, 1D mark2n, 10D, 20D, 30D, 5D. Nikon D70, D70S, D100, D200, D1X, D2H, D2X Fuji (Nikon based using Nikon Lens system) S1, S2, S3.
Other respected camera manufacturers for digital and film: Hassleblad, Mamiya, Bronica, Leica, and Rollei.