Telling It Like It Is
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I read with great interest your essay on the state of the art of digital vs. analogue photography. I have to agree with all your points.
Four years ago, there wasn't a form of output that was satisfactory to me. To me, the end product is what you are looking for. I look for prints, and it wasn't there a short while ago. That has, of course changed dramatically with the profusion of Lightjet, Piezography and Epson printers. All systems produce excellent prints that are only limited by someone's understanding of the software and how "workflow" effects the end product.
Cameras are the big change and I am impressed. I have seen images generated by a year-old Jenoptik back on a Hasselblad and the images are beyond stunning. Now that the 35mm image circle has been beaten into the ground, who knows how it will take off? I cannot afford the technology, but I must accept the fact that film is now being "thumped" by digital.
I am now of the opinion that C41 and E6 are not too far from being rare processes (10 years or so). Given the abilities to manipulate images and balance colours digitally, it should be no surprise that this will occur. Talk to me about printing Cibachromes, right?
Which leads me to my last comment and the thing that keeps me going. I am a black and white photographer. I love the printing and manipulations, even though it is easier in Photoshop. I love a black and white print. I am impressed with Piezography and would be interested in playing with it, but the new Epson printer may also be an appropriate tool. Obviously, I haven't made up my mind in this yet. There is still a magic to being in a darkroom, though, and watching the print come up in the tray. I am loathe to give it up. Mind you, my large format gear is being liquidated and I am generally downsizing my gear roster. A sign of things to come.
I remember an interview with Paul Caponigro. He said,
and pardon me if I
misquote: " Give me materials with force and beauty, and I will use them." Amen.
Doug Doyle, P. Eng.
Way to go, Michael!
All of the facts you stated in today section is right to the point. I recently became frustarted at forum discussion, It is harder to find a true, honest and unbiased information on a large amount of forums. This is why I cut down in a drastic way my time spent reading forum. I'm tired of witnessing the name throwing and invalid info you too often get. Instead, I invested in your Video Journal. If I look back in time, your site has been the best source of information for me. So for me, the best way to show my support is by becoming one of the many happy video journal owner. Because I do and like to be told like it is....
Thanks, Francois Guay
BRAVO! - truly an excellent essay; a solid reasoned rebuttal; open-minded honesty . . .thank-you.
Good Morning Michael.
Just finished your latest article and have to tell you that you have one of the few sites worth following. You and the group of friends you travel and shoot with have done more for the education of interested photographers then 97% of the internet photography sites available.
I have always found it interesting that photographers seem to demand more and better from digital photography then they ever expected from traditional photography. More detail, better color, less grain (noise), larger blowups, far longer archival qualities etc. Expectations are fine but if you won't believe the evidence placed before your eyes, then it's all for nought.
The new technology is endlessely fascinating. I certainly didn't dream, in 1965, the year I started photography, that before the year 2000, I would be able to make photographs and produce prints, without film and a darkroom.
Motor on Michael and Thank You.
Great article on the Luddite knuckleheads who are so fearful of the digital onslaught. Keep up the great work with the Video Journal. I look forward to every issue.
It's an atrocity that you feel you have to defend yourself against the "others". There are a lot of purists out there with blinders who have gotten stuck in the "this is the way I've always done it" rut. This subject has also been done to death. You don't need to convince anyone or defend yourself. Just be yourself and keep looking toward the future. There are those of us who appreciate what you've contributed and enjoy reading what you've experienced. Some of us like to have the flexibility of alternatives. Some can't handle diversity. Let it be and move on. You can't always bring everybody into the future with you (and I know you know that.) Just know there are many of us out there who relish what you've offered up to us, and keep up the good work!
Here, here and a big THANKS!
Cathy Van Berg
Michael, your article "Tell It Like It Is" was just GREAT. I go to the "Luminous Landscape" with my cup of coffee first thing every morning to see what good news you have to share with people who love photography. Keep up the good work. As a D30, D60 & Epson 2200 owner I agree with you in all aspects. One of these days I will submit one of my Hummingbird photo's to you. "Till then, best of everything.
The article that you presented on your web site about "Film vs Digital" was excellent. I could not agree with you more. Having printed my images on the Epson 2200 provides a new realm to home printing and processing. When people look at my prints, they can't believe that an ink jet did that. I think that if I had to be locked away inside of a "darkroom" smelling chemicals all day long I would not be doing what I am doing now.
The results that one can get from digital images is remarkable. I remember back in 1997 when I bought my first digital camera (240x360) wondering if this was as good as it gets. I get so tired of people bemoaning the D30/D60 and all that it can't do, they just don't understand this process at all. One day they will wake up and find all of the good that digital can bring and not just the bad.
I've been reading your web-site regularly for some time now. I was at first very skiptical of your claims on the D30, but no longer. So far I've used only film. I'm looking forward to buying a EOS-1Ds some time next year when my cash flow allows it!
I'm sorry so many people like to take pot-shots without really understanding. It happens all the time in many venues, usually by people that don't really understand. I think the best way to recognize such people is by the poison that is so obvious in their e-mails.
Don't let it spoil your fun! I really enjoy reading your view points.
I really enjoy your articales and look forward to them. I have to agree with most of what you say about Digital is getting good enough to challenge film or even surpass. I have been in photography since the late 60's and have seen changes to film that have been great. But digital seems like a real blessing. I also dumped my old chemical darkroom a number of years ago, but did it do to time and cost. I since have gotten a Nikon CoolScan 4000 to transfer my slides and negatives to digital. From the standpoint of digital printing, over the last 2 years Epson and Canon have raised the bar to a point that I believe that inkjet prints are as good or better then the ones I use to do in the darkroom.
I bought my Canon D30, in December 2000, in large part due to your review of the D30 and its comparison to Provia 100 film (I was lucky enough to be in my local camera store when the Canon rep was demonstrating the camera to the employees there and he had brought two D30 bodies with him, so ....... !). I have never regretted my move to digital photography since that date. The quality of images produced by my D30 and printed with an Epson Photo 1200 inkjet printer (using MediaStreet Generations archival pigmented ink) are higher than I had ever achieved from "traditional" 35mm photography and my prints have won several photo contests in competition with "traditional" prints including some 12" x 18" prints. One of these 12"x18" prints is on display at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences campus, alongside large prints made in a darkroom by other members of the Arkansas Outdoor Photographers Club, and has been commended by many people who cannot believe it is from a digital camera and printed on a "lowly" inkjet printer.
Thank you for that original article and
for all your subsequent well written articles on digital photography and all
your other topics. If the naysayers don't want to believe you that is their
loss. The facts are in the final product.
I am happy that you finally responded to the criticisms made by lot of people on other forums ( especially photo. net). This articles is very good in stating your points precisely and point blank.
I hope you will continue to educate the masses on the developments in the digital imaging and the photography techniques.
I visit your website on a very regular basis. After reading your discussion of film and digital I find your opinion to be the correct method of evaluating the differences. I have been photographing wildlife and nature for more than 25 years. It really doesn't matter what tool (camera, film or digital) a person uses to capture an image, what matters the most is the final results (the print)
Recently I made the switch to digital, Nikon D1x and fuji S2, I find both cameras equal to or better than film in my opinion. Even 20 in. by 30 in. images printed on my Epson 9500 exceed the quality I have ever been able to get from 35 mm film, at that size. In my opinion, files from the S2 contain slightly more detail than images from the D1x. The extra resolution can be seen in 20 in. by 30 in. prints. I shoot mostly portraits of wildlife, I will probably never shoot any film again. The next generation of digital cameras will probably allow a photographer who specializes in landscape photography the ease and convenience of a 35 mm camera and the quality desired by lovers of medium format gear. thank you very much for your well written, well thought out discussions on various issues.I value your opinion, and believe your approach while not extremely scientific, makes your point quite clear.
Thank you !
I agree with all of the points you made regarding digital advances. From an "objective" point of view, digital images are now, in fact, superior. My D1X and Fuji S2 are capable of creating cleaner, more accurate images than any 35mm film I have ever used. Examination of prints of any size larger than 8x10 make this clear (regardless of whether the film images are printed "wet" or via scanning).
Therefore, I believe that the key disagreements in the future will not be technical, but rather, aesthetic (whether people recognize it or not). While I shoot 80% digital now, I recognize that there is a different appearance with film, and whether it is better or worse is a matter of taste and situation. The way that the film chemistry reacts to light is different than the reaction of a CCD or CMOS sensor, and the film's grain is just one aspect.
For some artistic purposes, we may not find that greater accuracy always leads to a better image. The Picasso quote on the Photo.net page, "I have discovered photography. Now I can kill myself. I have nothing else to learn," was originally meant as rich sarcasm. Clearly, a good photograph is a better representation of reality than virtually any painting or drawing. However, a fine artist can convey feeling in a drawing in a way that is not based on the "accurate" representation of the image. In much the same way, a grainy Tri X image can convey feelings differently than a perfectly executed full-color representation.
I realize that you and your readers
know all of this, but I hope that we can frame future discussions around not
"which is better," but rather around, "which is better to meet
my needs for a given image." I have found this helpful in the past in discussing
and using different formats. Is 4x5 better than medium format or 35mm? In certain
situations it is, indeed, better. In other situations it may be much worse.
Is Ansell Adams a better photographer than Alfred Eisenstaedt?
Is Renoir better than Picasso? Is Babe Ruth better than Michael Jordan? I have opinions on each of these subjects, but I recognize that others can reasonably disagree - and the discussion can be both amiable and useful.
So, is the emerging state of the art in digital photography more accurate than film? I believe that the case is now being made to that effect. But is digital photography more pleasing that film? That discussion may last for a while among dedicated photographers.
Thanks for your great site and thoughtful commentary,
Do you remember me? I´m the guy that confirmed that a D 30 yields a better image than a scanned provia in a drum scanner up to A4 size. Well a year has passed since then, now I also have a D60, and my drum scanner has been idle for months. I´ve been a pro and a teacher for more than 30 years, zone system practicioner, a expert in b&w printing, and also color and cibacrhome ( I never really liked its boosted contrast ), I own Sinar and Linhof LF systems, Hasselbad and Mamyya RB 67 medium format, and leica, Olympus OM and Canon FD 35 mm systems all very complete, I mean that I´m very demanding user. Now all this gear lies untouched in my safe room, I only use the Sinar from time to time, but with a D60 attached to the back and a 100 Apo enlarging lens to do some product photography that needs some camera movements. When I need wide shots I shoot stitched panos of 3K x 6K or more pixels. in short I doing all my jobs in digital and printing them with a Epson 2100 ( fantastic, I´ve ditched a Fargo Dye sub printer ). I´m fully converted and happy of being so.
I agree with you in that a lot of "experts " out there dont believe you, but dont worry they are the ones that are loosing the opportunity of living and enjoying exciting photo times. As a working pro and teacher I value very much your aportation to the photo comunity, I think that your reviews are honest and very well done ( we are very close in our points of view regarding our hobby/craft ) I recomend to anybody your site as a source of valuable info.
For years I´ve tested lenses with a res chart that I got 25 years ago, in my own way, just to check my lenses and compare betwween them for my own info, but this week I´ve made a different kind of test, with the camera hooked to my ibook I shoot a urban landscape from my window, using a lot of my old lenses such as Super Takumars and Olympus OM on my D 60 by means of lens adapter rings, also EF lenses. My finding got me puzzled, lenses that on the chart and used on film were excellent on the real test on digital proved bad performers. the Cmos is a real hard test for lenses!!. In did find some stellar performers such as 21/3,5 OM, 50 Macro Takumar 4, 35/2,8 OM 90 mm Tamron Macro 2,5, 200 / 4 OM and 300/4,5 OM, and of course a 135/4 and 135 /2.8 Leica M lenses that I adapted to use on EOS mount, I dont own any L glass but I´d be surprised if they can surpass these lenses, specially the 50 mm .90 mm and 135 mm, so in case you have one of these lying around give them a oportunity :-)
Thanks for all your efforts to share your findings with the rest of us, you are doing a excellent job, in these islands you have a friend and a supporter :-)
A comment from a 73 year old who built his first darkroom at 12 yrs - and was a prof C printer for some years. Boy was I ever happy to switch to Photoshop and close the darkroom! I am still shooting film (scanning, no chemical darkroom) but expect to switch to 1Ds soon as the dust settles. As for computers I got my first with no hard disk - just 2 floppies - you loaded the program off 1 floppy and saved to the other. DOS, of course... My first upgrade was to a hard disk... I later started with Photoshop 3.0; before layers...
So I have a good range of experience in both film and digital. I am reminded of the comment of the singer Pearl Bailey - "Honey, I been rich and I been poor - and believe you me, rich is better!" Thats how I feel about digital - I been both ways and believe me, digital is better..
Thanks for all your good work
Well done Michael.
There are those of us who are not pro's, like myself, who visit your site every day of the week looking in anticipation for the next instalment of the photographic learning curve. You tell it like it is and I see like it is.
Who said "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" ? I personally think your foresight and willingness to embrace this new technology, experiment with it and to want to achieve the "perfect print" is just a sign of a craftsman at work. There are obviously those who prefer to stay in a time warp and that is their choice.
In the world at large I'm sure you must have a wide audience. I for one am ever appreciative of the effort you put in to this site and the wealth of experience you are able to share with your audience.
It's time to say thanks!
I have recently realized that several long time photographer friends will never believe and trust the photo conclusions I tell them about. They aren't stupid or lunkheads. They ONLY make up their minds based completely on just their own direct experience. They may be interested in what I relate, but they have to touch it themselves before they will ever decide if it's "true". Now I don't get frustrated at their ambivalence or dismissal of my latest discovery. They are very committed to their own ways and findings. It's not the most open stance, but again, it's their way. Fortunately they make beautiful photographs and don't have any need to deride me or my ideas in public.
You're doing this thing really well, Michael. It's your site and it's your opinion that matters to the rest of us. Thanks.
Michael keep on riding I really enjoy your articles. What you have said in this article is about my same findings to. I am a wedding and portrait photographer which I've been shooting for over 20 years. I used to use medium format cameras until I switched to my Nikon d1x switching to digital has brought back excitement shooting pictures again. No more worrying about did I get the shot right i can now see it at a glance. And no more going to the lab I do it all in my office. The quality comeing from digital is phenomenal and the savings are great which I pass on to my clients in closing please keep riding I really enjoy reading your articles and your unbiased and watching your video journals. I hardly ever right to forums but I felt I had to give you my support to.
Thanks Jerry Flippin
I agree with the points you made in the article. In particular, I agree that it is emotion that mostly drives the debate. I think that it is only natural that people become emotionally attached to tools and techniques that have helped them to express their creativity through the years. Like you, my equipment spans the gamut from old rangefinders (Nikon SP), Leicas, modern film SLR"s, to the D60. You know, there are just some days when I just FEEL like shooting with a Leica M3. It's an emotional, tactile thing. The Leica is a purely mechanical tool built with the precision of a Swiss watch. Some days I just feel like hearing that soft, precise Leica shutter click when I press the button. While I love the instant feedback provided by a digital camera as well as the creative control (without the toxic fumes) that Photoshop gives me on my Mac, there are times when I just like to guess the exposure, fire away, and find out later on the contact sheets whether the magic worked that day or not. I still use the older cameras because I have an emotional attachment to them. I have no doubt that digital is now superior to film in most regards, but I understand that our feelings about our tools are not always rational. They are something akin to love.
I was a little surprised and perhaps perturbed that you have to write this article to defend yourself. With your credentials, your background and your contributions to photography, readers should have given you a little more credit than they did. Of course there'll always be detractors, those who will nitpick on everything, those who hide behind their monitor and anonymously and happily critiquing and criticizing others without bringing anything to the table themselves. You can see a lot of that on photography forums e.g. the one in dpreview. I 'd simply ignore them , period. As to your articles, reviews, essays, or what not, I've always enjoyed them. I've been a reader ever since the site 's inception. As an engineer, I do like the numbers, the scientific results, but in photography I do rely more on results for after all that's what we're all after, the image quality as seen with our own eyes and not some impressive numbers or graphs. If we can explain the quality using numbers then swell, that's even better, as long as we can do it consistently. But if we can't, then a picture or a print , something we can visually examine, is still the preferred way to go about determining image quality. I do read other sites for their 'scientific' tests, but when it comes to making a decision on equipment, most likely , I rely mostly on your reviews. After all, someone has gone through lots of 'troubles' and hard work to do the test for you, free of charge, why not take advantage of it? Especially when that person has tons of experience and has been exposed to different media/equipment than yourself and is also backed up by a formidable staff. Keep up the excellent work and thanks for all the enjoyable readings.
I read your most recent column on the Luminous Landscape with interest, and I would like to disagree with something you said in it.
Not about the digital versus film - having bought a D30 after reading your review (and now having added a D60 to it), I am a digital convert (still keep my old EOS A2 body for wide angle work though).
What I would like to dispute is that if some yobo (here it would be a"yahoo", or worse if we are not trying to be polite) makes an outrageous claim that is left undisputed it will be accepted as truth. As someone who, in his professional life, has to continually evaluate the evidence behind conflicting recommendations, I would like to think that at least some people will have the brains to look for evidence to back up the claims of the authors. How do they know digital is better than film, or vice-versa? Does the person at least have the qualifications to make a judgement that I would bother listening to? Have the person's statements in the past been credible? I first look for some justification of their argument, and failing that I at least look for some evidence that they have enough experience to judge (a quick look at their website will often do it).
It's been well shown in psychologic research that people tend to be less inhibited in anonymous communications, such as those used for newsgroups and discussion forums. People are more likely to say outrageous things in this mode of communication then they would if they were talking to you face to face. Outrageous claims made in these forums, unless they can back them up, are just that - outrageous claims.
Unfortunately, there are people who will believe anything they read. I would like to believe there are a reasonable number of people who read the posts by the yobos, recognize they are yobos, and skip on to the next post. [In the name of complete disclosure, of course, I say this with complete lack of evidence either way.]
These issues are what drew me to the Luminous Landscape in the first place - I'm much more willing to believe someone on photography if I respect their photographic skills, and you always provide a reason for your opinions and statements. As for the yobos, if they can't back up their claims with evidence, why validate their claims by arguing with them?
Also, I have one comment on the digital versus film debate that you haven't really touched on in your column or your reviews. IMHO, there is more to"better" than noise, resolution, and color accuracy. Since I have gone to digital from film, the instant feedback and the low marginal cost of each shot mean that I shoot more, I work with my images more, and I like the images I take more than when I used to be solely used film. While others may have different experiences, for me this definitely weighs heavily on the side of digital.
Keep up the great work on the site and in the video journal!
I found your "tell it like it is" article interesting and welcome. I respect your perspective specifically because I have a sense of where you are coming from, and I can weight this against my own. As an online publisher, I am impressed that you do not get more discouraged by the flack you receive for your articles and opinions (that you offer for free)! It is sad that you have to defend yourself like this, but you did an admirable job.
Photography is at its soul an art form, and as such is completely subjective. Yet I find it ironic when people continue to push the "my way is the only way" approach to every discussion. This is not auto repair we are discussing, it is art -- and art is a gloriously messy beast. Anyone who thinks it can be perfected or tamed, alas, is only fooling themselves.
Keep up the good work,
It's emotional no doubt , actually jealousy to be honest! Just a short time ago no matter how expensive a camera someone purchased I could rival with my equipment that photographers clarity and color. Why? because we all had to use the great equalizer... film. Now if I cannot afford the latest digital slr I am at a disadvantage. The imaging sensor is the real star of cameras now and are inseparable . In this new age of cameras you are only as good as your last sensor and a long shot can become a front runner like the Sigma/Foveon alliance. So I sit on the sidelines quietly scanning my slides and printing on my epson until the day arrives when digital slr's become affordable for me. My favorite line is from a Canon representative at a seminar I attended recently commenting on the impressive Canon 1D, that it's become " the choice of professional photographers.... and doctors, lawyers, dentists " :-)
As one who routinely checks credentials of authors/posters/claimants, I have enjoyed your writings for some time. Your complaints ring true with me as I find myself spending less and less time weeding through the drivel looking for the "good stuff" on the various photo forums. Stay the course!
Enjoyed reading your article. My take on this issue is as follows: improvements in film & cameras, over the years, has been relatively slow. People become accustomed to what they know & what they trust. OTOH, digital cameras today, within weeks of hitting the market, become "obsolete." Where does it end? Of course, it doesn't.
The pro has to keep up with technological advances and improvements; the amateur, in most cases, cannot afford to do so, except for the consumer models.
At some point--in 5 years? 10 years?-- 35mm film, and even perhaps 120 film will become like analog records: niche items produced by specialty houses, probably in Europe or China [BTW, 180gram records DO sound more natural than CDs, on good equipment , IMHO].
Today's, top-of-the-line digital cameras that cost 9k, the day-after-tomorrow will be 1/4 the cost, and at that point, (like stereo equipment), huge price differences vs. small improvements for the latest innovations, will see a surge in the digital marketplace for these more than adequate digital cameras hitting the market today [& at the expense of its film counterpart.] All these complaints & critisms will go away when the D60 technology, for example, becomes available for, say, $2000-- or less.
The ultimate test for the photographer (especially the amateur), it seems to me, will be the intimate, emotional involvement in taking & "creating" an image. That's why, I think, in part, we're seeking a renewed interest in LF photography. The contemplative approach is now really back in vogue... Just some random thoughts.
before telling some thoughts about the digi vs analogue quesiton I´d first say that I consider your site as one of the most interesting if not THE most interesting site about photography on the internet. I guess that one thing I specially appreciate is that its neither purely technical (gets quickly boring) nor exclusively "art- oriented". Its a well balanced mix with a lot of essay- like articles which are mostly highly interesting to read - so a big, a *very* big thank you for your work you are sharing for free with those who are interested - actually I might become a future participant of your video journal project...
Actually concerning the question digi/ analogue there isn´t so much to discuss: despite all calculations (like the ones Norman Koren has made) even a 3,3MP digicam can lead to great looking results. And, as you say, a theoretical loss in detail is often balanced by much cleaner and noiseless digipics. My first digicam was a Canon G1 that I exclusively used in the very clean ISO 50 mode. Not always practical, but with very good results.
I know the german photo newsgroups rather well and I unfortunately I have found out that the majority on these groups simply dont want to find out. They "know" that they are right and defend their position most aggressively.
But in the end its not really a problem (even if its sometimes frustrating) - everyone will choose the medium he most prefers. And while I always have liked high quality analogue music and photos, the convenience and flexibility of digital photography doesn´t leave lots of questions for me. I´m shooting less and less analogue and am looking forward to the day when high res digicams have come down so much in price that - as the amateur that I am - I will get one. In the meanwhile my new Sony 717 delivers me nice pictures.
THanks again and with the best regards,
Bernhard Schürlein, Berlin
As a very regular reader of your articles I actually feel sorry for you that you have to react in the way you have done with you article on October 26.
I have been an IT Professional for 35 years. I am retired and have now time for the things I like most and photography is one of them I take very seriously. 5 years ago I took classes at the academy for photography to get updated on the state of the art in Photography. I also have built my own B&W darkroom to make sure I understood and mastered the process. All this I did with the intention to change into digital photography when time was there. But first I wanted to know the basics.
I have now closed my wet darkroom and opened a new digital one in which I work in the same way only sitting in a comfortable chair and no headaches from the chemical fumes! Even better, my wife is allowed to come in and join me with a coffee!
I still walk around with a heavy rucksack with all my gear and a small Cannon G1, which I bought to get a feel for taking digital pictures and working with them. I hope this will last not very long because I am waiting for next year when the second generation D SLR’s in the plus 10 million pixels is coming out. In IT terms we call this “proven technology”.
That is the reason why I daily contact your site and some of your fellows amongst the world to, stay updated on the latest developments in the digital arena. People like me do not have the background nor the time and money to spend to do the hands-on test as you do. We are only side ways interested in the technical aspects.
I was very impressed with your latest articles on the 1Ds and the 2100 printer. Which I had my Epson. Over here we have a waiting list and nobody knows when Epson will start delivering!
So keep up the spirit and do not get frustrated by those who only want to argue for the argument sake like I did, but that was when I was a student and that has been a long time ago.
Bert Jaspers, The Netherlands
Unwarranted criticism obviously irked you, it would anybody, but I as one enjoy reading, agreeing, and occasionally disagreeing with you while always finding your writing informative and erudite.
All best, Dr Tom Muhlstein
Great article, I know I'm echoing what others have said, but I feel your site is one of the 'nets treasures! Articles, reviews, and photos presented are top notch. It is indeed unfortunate that the 'net seems, in many instances, to have degenerated into a schoolyard shouting match. Witness the endless drivel that spews forth from USENET. While I visit several photography websites regularly, 90% of the time I do not bother with the "forums" as the "signal to noise ratio" is very low.
Keep up the great work. Your site is THE www photo resource I use the most. I most appreciate your contributions that discuss the process and philosophy of photography. You wrote an essay on practicing that I continue to think about and apply many months after having read it.
Your hands-on, practical reviews of the Canon digital SLR's were a primary influence in my decision to get a D60. I've found your observations about the camera to be congruent with my experience.
Though photography can be a creative medium it seems to attract a certain class of geeky nit-pickers. These folks can be a tiresome PITA. The digital vs film comparison seems to be a potent stimulus for folks with this sort of inclination.
I really appreciate that you evaluate new tools, like the digital SLRs, with an emphasis on picture making. You clearly understand and can articulate the technical issues but do so in the context of making photographs. I sometimes think that some of the more virulent nit-pickers seldom make pictures.
Having just got back from a weeks holiday in the variable UK weather, shooting both digital and film, it was refreshing to read your article. I have always been a 'pro' digital photographer, ever since seeing Barry Thomas demonstrate what could be done with PhotoShop 4 and scanned film. I have watched as the 'quality' of digital has moved on rapidly, to such an extent that my darkroom has been decommissioned (much to approval of my wife who now has the utility room back - but lost a bedroom to PC and peripherals) and I now only shoot digital in school. I am a physics teacher for my sins. The camera club to which I belong, and have done so for over 20 years, is now totally digital, that is some mean feat, believe me! So yes, digital appears to be the equal of 35mm film, and in many cases can produce superior prints.
So why do I shoot both?
The answer is two fold. Firstly, the digital camera that I use is the Olympus E-10, which unfortunately is not quite up to the standard of the D30. It will, however, produce images that can be used instead of film derived images, that are good enough for school use up to A3 and up to 12" x 10" that are good enough for international exhibitions. But, scanned 35mm film is as good and better in many areas.
Secondly, I like transparencies, and I have yet to see a digital projector produce an image as good as that produced by a quality slide projector projecting a well executed Provia slide. I admit I have not seen all the digital projectors that are available, and I'm sure that it will not be long before such projectors exist - at a sensible cost (?). Nor I have I seen a slide that has been written from a digital file that is better than the film version. Once again, I've not seen everything.
So, until such a time as the projected digital image is as good as the projected film image, for me, digital has not surpassed film. Mind you I'm now madly saving for my 1Ds, and by the time I can afford it, all my misgivings will be well and truly taken care of.
Tillman Kleinhans ARPS DPAGB (Rainy grey England)
You article "Telling it like it is" is interesting and you've certainly gotten lots of feedback backing your conclusions.
One thing that few people mention when they talk about the digital vs. film comparison is the cost of doing things digitally. Not only do you need a camera that is probably more expensive, but you need a good computer and a good photo printer.
I have a huge collection of negatives and slides. A friend sold me a good scanner for a good price, but then I had to add the SilverFast scanning software, a new computer with good monitor, monitor calibration spyder and software, PhotoShop, and Hindsight InView and StockView software to organize my images. I've spent about $3,000 and I still don't have a digital camera or a good photo printer.
I shoot a lot of photojournalism and documentary images that require fast shooting. The new cheaper cameras like the Canon D60 and Nikon D100, or the new Kodak system just aren't built around components that give the performance that you can get with film cameras. This means that I would need to buy a Nikon D1X (or next camera) or Canon EOS-1Ds to get the performance that I need. I usually work with a wide angle zoom on one body and a telephoto zoom on another, like most photojournalists. This is a very efficient way for me to work and it lets me get images that I would miss if I had to stop and change lenses. I also do a fair amount of commercial work and require two bodies, so I have a backup in case I drop one or one quits working.
The cost of buying a couple of top of the line digital bodies is much more than I can afford. I don't know how many beginning photographers can get started doing serious photography if they are expected to do things digitally. If you do things traditionally, you can buy a camera and lenses for a few hundred dollars and set up a black and white darkroom for a few hundred more. A very modest setup like this will allow someone to produce exhibition quality prints once they learn how to do it.
Another thing that I've noticed about digital photography is that it seems to take longer to process images digitally than to do it traditionally. I can develop up to 5 rolls of film at a time in my JOBO processor while watching the evening news or eating dinner. I can make a bunch of proof sheets from negatives in very little time. Printing also much faster for me and it is much less costly because traditional paper and chemicals are much cheaper than digital paper and ink. I keep good notes and I can produce a very acceptable black and white or color print in the darkroom quite quickly.
Being a documentary photographer, I think that it is important to keep all of my images. From what I've seen, many of the images that become valuable are images that we might have dismissed at the time as being rather ordinary or not exciting. If I have these images stored on film, I have them forever. If I did things digitally, there might be a tendency to delete images that I didn't find exciting at the time to save on storage costs and the time to process them.
It may be that digital photography is superior to traditionally photography. I had 35 color 16x20 LIghtjet prints made for a client from 35mm Fuji Provia 100F slides and the results were outstanding. I don't see myself switching to digital photography soon because I can't afford to. The way that some people seem to be jumping on the digital bandwagon makes it seem like they think that I will be producing an inferior product because I continue to produce it traditionally. We all know that the photo equipment isn't what makes a good photo. It is the skill and vision of the photographer that determines whether or not a good photo is made.
I just think that the amount of money that a photographer needs to spend on the tools to make good digital photographs may become barrier for some people. This would be unfortunate.
One important consideration in the D vs. F debate that rarely comes up is the environmental impact of our hobby. Film and wet processing have an enormous negative impact on our environment. For years I've tried to overlook this problem while pursuing this photography, but as many photographers move over to digital we can do it knowing that we're making less of an impact on the environment.
Digital is certainly not 100% environmentally clean: CCD and CMOS sensors are semiconductors, and the semiconductor industry does rely on some really stiff chemicals. But the semi industry also operates within very strict controls that limit how we process and dispose of those nasty chemicals.
In comparison, the production of film, the production of processing chemicals, and the disposal of spent developer and fixer introduces tons of dangerous chemicals into the environment (be honest, everyone...how many of you flush used developer and fixer down the drain at the end of the evening).
Then there's the topic of disposable cameras...but please don't get me started on that one....
Keep up the great work,
Thank you very much for the great service you provide in your website and articles.
When I want information on various topics, including digital cameras and inkjet printers, I go to your site to see what you have to say. Why? Credibility. You have credibility. I don't go to discussion boards, etc. (I don't even know where most of them are, and don't care to know). Why? NO CREDIBILITY! Any yayhoo (Texas-New Mexican slang for bozo) can say anything they want, but the saying of it does not make it true or valid. So I do not waste my time getting opinions from those whose judgement I do not value. I DO value your judgement. Your methods and objectivity are sound.
Ansel Adams was my first "mentor" through his series of books. I received my official education in photography at the famous Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. I have spent most of my career professionally photographing landscapes on 8x10 transparency film with an 8x10 Deardorf camera. I have supplied Kodak with many important images, including 4 or 5 for their Coloramas in Grand Central Station. My list of famous and prestigious clients numbers into the many hundreds. I have studied sensitometry, developed my own sensitometric "zone system", and done portfolios of B&W 8x10 contact prints. Often when I buy a lens, I will order many of them, test them, buy the best and return the rest.
All of this is just to say that I value valuable opinions. And yours is one.
Thank you again.