Nikon vs Nikon! Nikon F (Film) vs Nikon D850 (Digital)
by Huss Hardan – His Website is HERE
Everyone knows that camera tech peaked in 1959 and has gone downhill ever since…
“What happened in 1959 Mister?” “Glad you asked me Timmy. In 1959 Nikon introduced the first and only professional camera ever made. The Nikon F”
And with that I bring you my own crazy comparison – the mighty Nikon F with the never equaled Nikkor 50 1.2 against some chunky thing called a D850 with a polished beer bottle called the Sigma Art 50 1.4.
How could one possibly compare Scabby (the Nikon F) to Blutto (the D850)?
Simples – shoot the same scene in the same light. Scabby was loaded with Kodak Portra 400 cuz that’s what I had in it. I tried to put film in the D850 but couldn’t open the back. So I used a memory card and did that at ISO 64.
The F at F11 and 1/500; the D850 at F8 and 1/125.
The overall scene is shown, then a 1:1 crop. The film was scanned by the D850, so at least that thing is useful for something.
First Image D850, Second image Nikon F with Portra 400 – Click ’em for larger!
The light is different, at a different angle, was 850 picture done with flash? Anybody can see from the shadows that the picture #2 was with more sidelight giving the picture more texture from the wall and less flat.
Also Sigma lenses are often criticized by producing flat pictures without 3d pop.
I am glad the film did so well in this comparison, I recently acquired Fm2n and F3
Good quality but certainly not high end..Talking about creativity – for a picture like shown here you dont need it !
Thanks Huss for putting this together.
The film shot is of course grainier, but surprisingly a tad sharper than the digital shot. I wish Canon would come up with a similar thing to hold the film.
There is no sensor like film…..please avoid useless arguments…..
Huss, not sure about this comparison.
If it’s about image quality in the bare technical sense, you should have equalized the ISO’s (and the lenses). Of course the 850 would win, and what is the point of such a comparison anyway?
A more meaningful – and more lengthy – approach would be to show the differences in shooting experience, the limitations of one vs the other and vice versa, and, most importantly, the differences in resulting images. Not better nor worse, different.
When I want to shoot a b&w portrait, I choose 400 ISO film with one of my old Nikon slrs with a 58mm Nokton or an 85mm Nikkor. I choose the film carefully, I instruct my lab man on how to develop and sometimes (wet) print. Totally different.
I have recently started listening to my vinyl records again: the setup is completely analogue, from turntable to amp and speakers. It’s the Onkyo stereo I grew up with. Good quality but certainly not high end. Still, it beats all compressed audio (Spotify, mp3…) easily. I did this comparison, in the same room, same amp, same speakers, only the source (turntable vs tablet). CDs hold up pretty well, yes.
The analogy is obvious: there is little use in comparing a D850 digital image with a digital scan (with the D850!) of a film negative on a website. The only relevant comparison would be comparing a D850 print with a Portra 400 wet print that came out of a dark room, in the same room.
The D850 wins by a country mile in terms of color accuracy, shadow detail, and sharpness. In other words, almost everything that matters in a photograph.
The D850 shot is flat as a pancake and the white posts look like plastic. I don’t think one can comment on color accuracy without actually knowing the colors of the objects in the scene.
I realize you’re not processing for the same color treatment here, but to my eye the film shot is clearly better.
The D850 was left with the Auto White Balance setting, the film was processed with the profiles I created for Portra 400, trying to make the WB as neutral as possible.
I also prefer the colour of the film.
I also recognize that the lighting is working to the advantage of the film shot… maybe it’s not a fair comparison… but the D850/Sigma combo flattened the image.
i guess shooting film is not about going for sharpness and resolution… that’s only one of the many enjoyments of photography
YES! Stoked to see this. I love my Df/F3 combo. In fact, I went to it over my (Steve cover your eyes) M6/M9 combo, because of the versatility.
I love that Steve still throws in film stuff- thanks for the write up Huss!
I actually really enjoyed the Nikon Df. Lovely camera!
Still love the “idea” and romance of film. But this post illustrates amply why I don’t shoot with it anymore. 😉
No idea what´s about here – film vs digital again ?
If you want to compare just quality this topic was done 10 years ago
With a old Nikon D700 you can kick-ass any film avaiable today and before
not going into details about all advantages digital has over film in “real world”
for photographers doing this for a living.
Sure there are still some amateurs (from amatore – means belover) which use
this gear for their pleasure (like me sometimes) but for that is no need to compare
and try to defend why they do it with questionable arguments.
Thanks for this review : great one !
But, really crazy 😉
If you want to compare well film versus digital :
Take a Nikon F5 with 55 micro-nikkor Ais 2’8 and a Velvia 50
And compare with this D850 !!!
Not sure the D850 will win.
Have a look to my photos at
Mostly film photos.
What did you use to scan the film?
D850, Micro Nikkor 60 2.8 AF-S, Nikon ES-1 film holder, LED light pad to illuminate it.
Thanks! So I just need to buy a d850 to scan my film!
You can use any digi camera to scan film. Before the D850 I used a D750, but people use Olympus M43, Sony A7, etc etc
Out of curiosity, what software / technique do you use to reverse and color shift the D850 “scanned” negatives? I’ve done it with slides, but not negatives.
I create film specific profiles in LR, then export to NikFx for their pro-contrast setting which has a cool feature that gets rid of colour casts.
There are threads about this on sites such as rangefinderforum.com
Give me the F any time. Even better: a black F with plain prism. Oh, baby. I don’t see the point of fast lenses so I’d probably stick a 50/1.8 on it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful camera.
And I’d rather scan my film on a proper scanner than with a camera. So, for me, the D850 – as terrific as its images are – is redundant. 🙂
Karim, I get better results ‘scanning’ my film with a digi cam than traditional scanners. Plus I get full rez (8000 by 6000-ish with the D850) in fractions of a second. Ever tried getting high rez scans with a consumer scanner? Takes for-ev-er.
But nothing beats a drum scanner.
Well… to my eyes, nothing’s better than an imacon X5 for scanning… 🙂
And it’s quite fast as well (2min/image at full size)…
2min/image vs 1/125 sec per image.
Imacon X5 = $26,000 and it still isn’t a real drum scanner.
Nikon D850 = $3200. And you can use it as a camera if you want…
I rent the X5 to make my scans.
I have done comparisons between drumscans and X5, with the same negative. At the same maximum output (X5 output) there is NO VISIBLE difference.
The X5 is much easier and friendly to use (you have to oil your negatives with drumscans…). If you don’t have the need for “bigger prints aka more than 2 meters large” then, X5 is just so good.
Just my point…
p.s. I’d love to have an Imacon…
The point using the Nikkor 1,2 50 or even the older Nikkor S 1,2 55
is that at f 2,0 it is still one of the sharpest Nikon leneses ever
but the real reason you use this glas is because the impressive results
you get with a smal DOF.
Talking about creativity – for a picture like shown here you dont need it !
My ideal aperture range is f/2.8 – f/4.
f/2 is nice to have in emergencies, especially if you have RF lenses, but it’s not worth the price or the weight to go faster. I’d rather have more noise than less DOF.
I disagree Karim,
I am a sucker for old Nikkor´s and I use them steady also on my modern
DSLR´s like the Nikon D800/D700/Df.
Nobody ever reached this mechanicaly standards again ever even todays
Leica M lenese are far away from it.
When you take a look at the price you have to pay “today” it seems like a joke.
Let´s take a example now for my theorie why you should buy a faster lens….
The Nikkor H 2,0 50 is the “legend” for a ultrasharp standard lens and produced and sold with the most Nikon bodies worldwide so that you can get it as a bargain about 50-100.- bugs (Non-Ai/AI`D) today.
A Nikkor S 1,2 55 from the same decade was(is) a exclusive piece not everyone could afford in that times and sold now for about 220-280.- (Non-Ai/AI`D) on shops or Ebay – the mechanics are levels over the Nikkor H 2,0 50 and the look it creates still impressive + on f 2,0 shraper than any other Nikkor ever build !
portra is good..
would be interesting to see if you put a good slide in the Nikon F and comparing with that digital sensor 🙂
thanks for sharing
Hi Love all your posts and seem to mostly agree with your comments on other people’s posts as well .
So no surprise really enjoyed this one as well . I never used a Nikon film or digital but feel that I have had a less than perfect photo experience !
I love you too Fergus. Oh wait, you love my posts? Never mind.