There are endless discussions on the net about this topic. At times they have an almost religious character, similar to other important issues in our world, such as Nikon vs Canon, Apple vs Microsoft or whether man landed on moon. This post is not going to add to the truth but will only give my own subjective observations. Take it for what it is, at face value.
My main topic of my photography are birds. Below 2 images from very different birds and situations, but making my take on this clear:
The first is one of my favourite images from my stay in northern Finland during the summer of 1989:
A Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) looks from the summit of Mount Saana into the valley of Kilpisjärvi. This image is taken with a reasonable 500mm mirrorlens on Ektachrome 400, my typical birding setup at the time. The image is basically uncropped and the best of 5 shots, for a poor student of biology a substantial proportion of a 36-roll in terms of cost and effort.
The second image shows a bird of similar size, a Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaeneus), seen at Krankesjön in southern Sweden.
The image was taken during the summer of 2014 with my current setup, a Nikon D7100 with a Nikkor 300mm/f4 + TC 14 and is cropped by about 40%. Although the bird sat in this position for just a short while, I got about 40 shots, this one being one of my favourites
Conclusion: Of course it is a bit unfair to compare these 2 lenses directly…But overall, I will never touch film again for birding, both for cost, result and convenience.
My second topic is general landscape:
The first image is from the famous Pasvik Nationalpark in northern Norway, just a few weeks later than my stay at Kilpisjärvi. Taken around midnight and with a thunderstorm approaching in the distance, the scenery was breathtaking with colours I had never seen before. The image is taken on the now discontinued Kodachrome 64, using the well regarded Sigma 28mm/f2.8 wide angle lens.
The second image shows an early mornig during spring 2014, at Vombs ängar in southern Sweden, captured with a Nikon D7100 and an old manual Nikkor Q 135/f2.8 lens.
Conclusion: Would the Kodachrome 64 still be around, film would be clearly something to think about for landscapes. But even Velvia is not that bad…
The final item on my list of motives is B&W photography.
The below images are taken under similar conditions, with either on Kodak TMax100 film, using a Nikon FM with a Nikkor- Q 55/f3.5 (left) or my D7100 with the Nikkor 18-70 kit lens at ~35mm (right).
Another comparison: Above Kodak TMax100 , below D7100
And finally an Kodak TMax100 analog image without a comparison. This image has an almost graphical touch. In all these images, film may not be as punchy and contrasty, but the gloomy look captures foggy weather well….
Overall conclusion: Apart from birds, for which digital is a no-brainer, I would say that both media give you the freedom to choose your favourite flavour..the results will be same but different. And there sure is a gourmet touch to the shutter sound and touch of a Nikon FM from the early 70’s!