Step into the captivating world of 35mm film, where the magic of photography transcends the limitations of mere pixels. In this enchanting realm, every frame becomes a unique work of art, untethered by the digital constraints of modern imaging technology. Join us on a journey where celluloid captures moments in a way that is both timeless and evocative.

In this article, we invite you to explore the intricacies of film photography and delve into the fascinating realm of digital film scans. Discover the nuances between the resolution of film and digital cameras, and how the essence of a 35mm slide can be preserved in breathtaking detail. Prepare to be mesmerised as we unravel the secrets behind the beauty and craftsmanship of analogue photography.

So, sit back, relax, and let us transport you to a world where light dances on silver halide crystals, where the richness of colors and textures come alive, and where the artistry of each frame transcends the boundaries of megapixels. Get ready to embark on a journey of discovery, where the allure of film photography unfolds before your eyes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Film photography relies on a strip of transparent film coated with a gelatin emulsion containing light-sensitive silver halide crystals, which determine the sensitivity, contrast, and resolution of the film.
  • Digital film scans involve capturing images on film and then converting them into digital files through scanning using specialized devices like digital film scanners.
  • When scanning film, it is crucial to consider factors such as exposure, sharpness, cleanliness of the originals, and experimenting with different scanning settings to achieve the desired digital image.
  • The resolution of a film varies based on factors like film type (black & white or color), ISO value (film speed), grain type (tabular or traditional), and the brand and quality of the film.
  • Digital photography’s image quality is determined by the resolution, measured in megapixels, with higher pixel counts indicating denser and higher-resolution images.
  • Digital photography generally exhibits less noise/grain than film, especially at moderate sensitivities, but can show more noise at high sensitivity settings or in certain lighting conditions.
  • Film photography produces grain in the final output, which can become visible upon enlargement but is not affected by pixels. The resolution of film depends on film speed and format used.
  • Film cameras, particularly those using medium and large formats, can capture higher-resolution images compared to most digital cameras.
  • The resolution of a 35mm slide when scanning should ideally be at least 4000 DPI to achieve a high-resolution scan with an 18-megapixel output.
  • The resolution chosen for scanning a 35mm slide depends on the desired print size, with 600 DPI recommended for a balanced high-quality image while maintaining reasonable scanning times.

What is a film?

A film or a photographic film is a strip of transparent film base coated on one side with a gelatin emulsion containing small light-sensitive silver halide crystals.

The crystals determine the sensitivity, contrast and resolution of the film. The photographic film is being used to capture images by exposing the layers of plastic to light.

This plastic has a coating with an emulsion which forms an image when exposed to light. After clicking the photograph, the film is then introduced to a series of chemical processes to form a visible image; the visible image could be negative or it could be reversed in brightness.

Even so, the negative image is then printed on sensitive paper.

a film roll

What are digital film scans?

Some photographers still choose to use film and then scan the images to get a digital file. When you scan a photographic film, including the negatives and film slides to create a digital image based on the input, it is called a digital film scan.

A digital film scanner is used to carry out this process. These devices are being used to scan different types of films such as developed photographs, negatives and small slides. Some scanners can also scan entire reels of films to create a digital video file.

During digital film scans, there are a few things to bear in mind to ensure that the digital image is suitable:

  • Make sure that the film images are not over-exposed or un-sharpened, as they will only worsen after scanning. Before scanning, you can improve tonal range and colours.
  • Ensure that the originals are clean before scanning – so that the dust and scratches are not seen in the scanned image. One of the ways you can ensure this is by cleaning the negatives and slides with a cloth or using a blower brush to remove the dust particles before the scan.
  • Before scanning the actual images, do a few trials by trying various scanning settings to determine which you want.

The digital resolution of films

The digital resolution of the film might fluctuate based on different variables such as:

  • Whether the film is black & white or colour.
  • What is the ISO value of the film, which refers to the film’s speed or light sensitivity?
  • The type of the grain – whether it is a tabular grain film or a traditional grain film.
  • The brand and the quality of the film.

Comparison between digital photography and films

Digital photography

  • The visual quality of a digital photograph is in the resolution of the image, that is megapixels.
  • In digital photography, a higher number of pixels in an image state that the picture is denser and high in resolution.
  • Digital photography has much less grain/noise than film at moderate sensitivity, thus giving an edge in image quality. Yet, digital cameras can display more noise if the sensitivity settings are high.
  • Noise in digital photography can result in colour distortion or weird patterns, especially in indoor lighting. But, most digital cameras apply noise reduction to long exposure photographs to lessen the noise due to pixel leakage.
  • In comparison to film, digital cameras offer much higher speed which allows the camera to perform better in low light or short exposures. The speed of the digital camera can be adjusted at any time.

Film photography

  • The film is not affected by pixels, although the pixels may become visible upon enlargement, creating particles known as grain in the final output.
  • The resolution of the film depends upon the film speed and the area of the film used to record the image. For example 35mm, medium format or large format.
  • Professional film cameras use medium and large format films as they can record higher resolution images than most digital cameras.
  • More sensitive films have more visible grain.
  • Noise/grain tends to appear more on pictures with long exposure time, but, film grain is not affected by exposure time, but the marginal sensitivity of the film can change with lengthy exposures.
  • In the terms of speed, which is sensitivity to light, the film camera is not as advanced as digital cameras. To change the speed, the film in the film camera has to change.

What is the resolution of a 35mm slide?

For scanning slides and negatives, 600 DPI is the best resolution, as it provides a balanced image of high quality while keeping the scanning times reasonable.

But, if you are scanning a 35mm slide, your scanner resolution should be at least 4000 DPI. This will give you an 18-megapixel scan, which indicates that it will be a high-resolution picture. When I say scan at 4000 DPI, it means that the scanner will squeeze; multiply the height and the width of the 35mm slides at 4000 DPI, which accounts for 4000 pixels for every inch in the image.

This will get you a pixel dimension of 5200*3400.

You can choose the resolution of a 35mm slide according to the size of the print you want, as you do not want your image to look stretched. It could be lower than 4000 DPI.


As we draw the curtains on our exploration of the captivating world of film photography, it becomes evident that the allure of film remains steadfast, cherished by photographers who seek to capture even the most delicate intricacies of their subjects. While the prominence of film may have waned in the modern era, it continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many dedicated artists.

In the realm of digital advancements, films find new life through the process of digitization, allowing them to be transformed into digital scans or printed using advanced digital scanners and printers. However, a key factor in achieving a well-printed photo lies in setting the resolution according to one’s specific needs, ensuring that the essence and clarity of the original film are faithfully preserved.

Digital photography and film photography stand as two distinct approaches, each with its own set of unique qualities and characteristics. Among these differences, resolution emerges as a significant point of departure. Yet, the choice between the two ultimately rests in the hands of the discerning photographer, who must carefully consider their artistic vision and desired outcome.

As we bid farewell to the enthralling world of film photography, we are reminded of the enduring power of artistic expression and the multitude of choices available to those who wield the camera. Whether embracing the versatility of digital or savoring the nostalgia of film, the pursuit of capturing moments in time remains a deeply personal and subjective endeavor.

So, dear reader, we leave you with a final question: Which path will you tread in your photographic journey? Will you immerse yourself in the boundless possibilities of the digital realm or embrace the tangible allure of film? The answer lies within your creative spirit, waiting to be discovered and embraced.

May your photographic odyssey be filled with inspiration, joy, and the everlasting pursuit of capturing the essence of life itself.