Still photography has a rich history of technological innovations to record the light in a scene dating back to the early 19th century (at least). The recent decades have seen these technological innovations create a revolutionary shift in the materials, processes, and uses of still images. Most of the still photography world has completed a move from silver halide (AgX) technology that dominated the field for over a century to digital still cameras based on silicon (Si) sensors that arrived on the scene about two decades ago and have essentially supplanted AgX capture technologies in most applications. This research ponders the question of whether the image quality obtained with Si has also surpassed that of AgX in the context of typical consumer and professional photographic prints and soft displays. Four camera systems, two digital and two film based, were evaluated using both objective image quality metrics and psychophysical evaluation of prints and displayed images. The results show that a high-end digital SLR does indeed produce better images than an equivalent 35mm film system, but that a typical digital point-and-shoot camera has substandard quality that can be somewhat attributed to “too many megapixels” and “too much post processing” for the lens capabilities and sensor size. The conclusion is that indeed film is done, but there remain significant areas for improvement in digital systems. In particular improvements in printing techniques, lens-sensor matching, and noise reduction are called for.
Mark D. Fairchild, "Still Photography Throwdown: Silver Halide vs. Silicon" in Proc. IS&T 18th Color and Imaging Conf., 2010, pp 154 - 159, https://doi.org/10.2352/CIC.2010.18.1.art00027