Question: Can someone please explain why digital sensors have a much narrower dynamic range then film ? This is apparent to anyone shooting outdoors in bright light - the shadows are black and the skies blown out.The DR that an expert user can achieve using aggressive eposure or exposure bracketing together with optimal development of raw files is quite different from what the average user gets with AE and jpegs.
Will digic 5 improve this? Is it possible to improve it?
For the expert/nerd, the main limiting factor is the camera sensor. Digital sensors are basically linear with an obvious saturation point and a noise-floor. Film is (I believe) very different, with smooth roll-offs in high-lights and in shadows. Using one definition one might claim that film has a lot of DR. Using another definition, one might claim that film does not give an _accurate_ recording of the scene brightness over such a large DR. In the end, it usually our eyes that are the judge, and if you prefer the look of film I can only suggest to keep using that.
I do believe that many comparisions of film vs digital is unfair. I.e. digital is compared to film on films terms. For the expert user, this might not matter as she will choose based on her own knowledge. For novices, this could lead to false conclusions.
While I dont consider myself a nerd, Film had sort of a soft S curve in the DR and gradual decline in the shadows/highlights, but just like digital, It was a tad more forgiving in the highlights in negative film (film was essentially transparent (negative) once processed and the exposure burned the image onto it... If you over expose or underexpose maybe 1 stop, you could always compensate by over/under developing...
People give digital too much credit... Film, you had to expose properly (same as digital), process it (raw conversion to photoshop/lightroom/aperture), and in most situations, print with contrast filter, dodge/burn, manipluate, etc (post-processing in photoshop, lightroom/aperture)... Just to take a image taken from digital and scanning a slide film and measuring ranges, I'm sure they would be quite comparable... but also then you have to take in to account processing and post processing... All that will affect visible DR and needs to be taken into account when comparing oldschool zone prints. There's a lot of stuff to take into account