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Author Topic: Golden era for photography  (Read 26556 times)
tom b
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« on: May 25, 2009, 01:14:25 AM »
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Is this time in photography going to be seen as a golden era?

It seems to me that for all the arguments about digital vs film this period in time will be seen as providing a fantastic variety of photographic opportunities.

In terms of film it is true that it in decline but that in itself does provide opportunities. Used film cameras are becoming cheaper, particularly in a recession. Wet darkrooms are being given away. There is still expertise and a knowledge base out there if you want to learn film processing and printing. Although film and chemicals are getting harder to obtain they are still available. There is equipment available to combine film and digital techniques.

In terms of digital obviously there will be continual increases in terms of quality and price but we have reached a level of sophistication that allows us to make high quality images that will be very hard to improve on significantly. The limiting factor for digital seems to be lens quality. With 20+ megapixel DSLRs stretching pro zooms there is a ceiling that will slow down major advances in cameras. Medium format cameras seem to be reaching that ceiling too.

The future will see a rapid decline in film availability and wet darkroom enthusiasts will find it difficult and expensive to get materials.

Digital will continue to get better and less expensive. The limit will probably be the willingness of photographers to pay for Leica quality prime lenses to put on their camera bodies.

Will people in the future be saying that we had so many opportunities to make photographs be it using film or digital?

Cheers,
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dalethorn
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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2009, 05:09:37 AM »
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Quote from: tom  b
Is this time in photography going to be seen as a golden era?
In terms of digital obviously there will be continual increases in terms of quality and price but we have reached a level of sophistication that allows us to make high quality images that will be very hard to improve on significantly.

We'll look back and sigh - yes it was good, but not that great. With all-electronic cameras improving, ceramic lenses improving, and more sophisticated sensor and lens designs enabled with use of quantum or hybrid computers, we'll see a few jumps over some of those stubborn hurdles.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2009, 07:12:41 AM »
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Quote from: dalethorn
We'll look back and sigh - yes it was good, but not that great. With all-electronic cameras improving, ceramic lenses improving, and more sophisticated sensor and lens designs enabled with use of quantum or hybrid computers, we'll see a few jumps over some of those stubborn hurdles.

Interesting question.
I think we're already reaching a point of diminishing returns when it comes to sharpness and resolution in absolute terms. Certainly there will always be folks who want more ("A print that's 5x8 meters? That's just not big enough!), but things are really good already.

I see the biggest opportunties for improvement in the automation of processing issues. If you could automate and optimize the process of capturing & processing multiple frames for focus depth blending and HDR, I'd be first in line. Likewise, automation of multiple frame capture and stitching may be a better direction than über-costly giant sensors.
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KeithR
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« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2009, 10:02:35 AM »
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I don't see this "era" as a golden age, but rather as a stage of evolution in the technologies that photographers use to capture images and advance their vision. The tools got easier and complicated at the same time. As Jeff Schewe(as others as well), "Pixels are free". But the technologies utilized to take advantage of them are both new and confusing in that we have had to rethink and relearn how we photograph. Many of us that have relied on outside sources(process film, print images) are now learning that we have the ability to be "the lab" and have a far greater control in the output. This has freed up our limitations in that we no longer have to be at the mercy of someone else to output our vision. But it was the technology that has allowed this to happen. To me the "Golden Era" of the past is not over, but is and always will be evolving.
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« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2009, 09:18:26 PM »
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Quote from: tom b
Is this time in photography going to be seen as a golden era?
Cheers,

Golden era in terms of what? Equipment certainly, but when I look at what's coming along in magazines like B&W, Color, Aperture, etc., I'd hardly call this a "golden era" of photography. Great photographs aren't made by equipment. They're made with equipment by the human mind. I may be wrong but it seems to me that there was a long period, beginning perhaps with the people who followed Andre Kertesz, during which photographers looked back at the best of what preceded them and built on that. Nowadays I see too many people not bothering to learn from the history of the medium and, instead, taking advantage of recent digital cameras' high burst rate to try to capture things that would be captured far better by an approach on tiptoe and an anticipation of the developing situation. In the end the rapid fire people capture many frames but often miss the shot.

There's a story about Brassai, late in his life, going to shoot a portrait of some recently famous personage. When he arrived he found two young photographers already there banging away. When they learned who he was they stopped shooting and helped him set up his ancient, rickety tripod that kept wanting to kneel. Brassai engaged his subject in conversation for a while and finally made an exposure, folded his gear and got ready to leave. The young photographers were flabbergasted. They asked why he didn't make more exposures. He laughed and said something to the effect that "I'd rather feel I made the shot myself than that I won it in a lottery."

Sometimes gee-whiz equipment can hinder your work instead of enhance it. Everything depends on the guy using it.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2009, 09:18:50 PM by RSL » Logged

tom b
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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2009, 11:19:13 PM »
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Sometimes gee-whiz equipment can hinder your work instead of enhance it. Everything depends on the guy using it.

At the moment if you want to make a photograph with similar technology to Brassai you can. Similar cameras, film, paper and chemicals can be found to make photographs from most eras. If you want to be a Cartier-Bresson and grab a Leica and some film and walk the  streets you can. If you want to to grab a 10fps DSLR to take Olympic diving events you can, though I don't think that you could have a talk with the diver and take one shot with any confidence.

My statement about this being a golden era is that today you have the tools and materials to make an incredible variety of images using present and past techniques.

In the future I doubt we will have this variety of choices. We already are starting to have a new generation of photographers that have never used a wet darkroom. Film stock is starting to disappear and how long will they continue to make a broad range of photographic papers.

Yes, gee-whiz equipment can hinder your work, but in the future will you have a choice to use anything but digital equipment without having to pay high prices and searching for materials that we take for granted today?
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feppe
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2009, 03:09:40 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
Golden era in terms of what? Equipment certainly, but when I look at what's coming along in magazines like B&W, Color, Aperture, etc., I'd hardly call this a "golden era" of photography. Great photographs aren't made by equipment. They're made with equipment by the human mind. I may be wrong but it seems to me that there was a long period, beginning perhaps with the people who followed Andre Kertesz, during which photographers looked back at the best of what preceded them and built on that. Nowadays I see too many people not bothering to learn from the history of the medium and, instead, taking advantage of recent digital cameras' high burst rate to try to capture things that would be captured far better by an approach on tiptoe and an anticipation of the developing situation. In the end the rapid fire people capture many frames but often miss the shot.

There's a story about Brassai, late in his life, going to shoot a portrait of some recently famous personage. When he arrived he found two young photographers already there banging away. When they learned who he was they stopped shooting and helped him set up his ancient, rickety tripod that kept wanting to kneel. Brassai engaged his subject in conversation for a while and finally made an exposure, folded his gear and got ready to leave. The young photographers were flabbergasted. They asked why he didn't make more exposures. He laughed and said something to the effect that "I'd rather feel I made the shot myself than that I won it in a lottery."

Sometimes gee-whiz equipment can hinder your work instead of enhance it. Everything depends on the guy using it.

Perhaps Brassai was able to take just one shot because of his decades of experience, while the young guns were gunning just to get that shot they'd otherwise miss due to their inexperience?

I saw a statistic somewhere that each National Geographic article requires 10,000 photographs. And this was in the film days, with established pros behind the lens.

There's a lot to be said about the deliberate approach of shooting only a few frames, and going for the near-video speed. I do both, with dSLR and MF film, and haven't found much difference in the end result - only more keepers with MF.

In the end, what matters is the shot - such anecdotes as you wrote above make for entertaining stories, but in the end it's the final image which counts, no matter how you got around to getting it.
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2009, 09:51:01 AM »
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Quote from: feppe
Perhaps Brassai was able to take just one shot because of his decades of experience, while the young guns were gunning just to get that shot they'd otherwise miss due to their inexperience?

Brassai was able to make one shot because he was having a conversation with the subject and watching for the moment when the subject's facial expression was the right one. The "young guns" never would have gotten that expression because instead of interacting with the subject they were interacting with their equipment.

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I saw a statistic somewhere that each National Geographic article requires 10,000 photographs. And this was in the film days, with established pros behind the lens.

Yes, that's a sad statistic about the "established pros."

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There's a lot to be said about the deliberate approach of shooting only a few frames, and going for the near-video speed. I do both, with dSLR and MF film, and haven't found much difference in the end result - only more keepers with MF.

Depends on what you're shooting. If you're shooting birds on the wing the machine-gun approach may make sense, especially if you're a novice and uncertain about what you're after. It hardly makes sense in landscape or on the street, and it certainly doesn't make sense if you're shooting a portrait. If you're shooting portraits at "near-video speed" there's definitely something wrong with your technique.

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In the end, what matters is the shot - such anecdotes as you wrote above make for entertaining stories, but in the end it's the final image which counts, no matter how you got around to getting it.

Exactly. Seems a bit self-evident as a matter of fact. If you take a look at Brassai's work you'll see that a lot of his "final images" were pretty good. As for the anecdote, it's more than entertaining; it illustrates the point that art isn't created by equipment.
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2009, 03:44:08 PM »
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Is this a golden era?

That´s a loaded question, as RSL points out, and is too wide for simple reply. Insofar as equipment goes, it´s a revolutionary era; in the case of what´s done with all that stuff - then it is not a golden era.

Clearly subjective, this latter part of the reply, but just the way I see it. In my opinion, there was indeed a golden era and that existed for a short time after WW ll and lasted until around the time of the Beatles and Blow Up. After that, the rot seems to have set in with ever more empty theories and emptier visuals taking up space in magazines, whether photographic or just users of photography. Instead of great photography I sensed greater desperation and a change for the sake of change. It could be false hindsight but I seem to remember some Vogues as more exciting places to visit - at least, the European ones as the few US ones I saw were very stiff - than they are today. A difference seems to be that today it´s all about perfect detail and razor definition where once it was about romance and feel. Could this be simply because of the pernicious influence of the pixel? And where there is the exception to that, it seems to be all about porno chic, something which disgusts me more than it excites me.

In a way, you might take Playboy as an example of what I think I mean. There were several years from about ´64 when I had a subscription running and the magazine was left lying about the house and I felt no compunction whatsoever about my young kids reading it or just looking at the photography. Then, slowly, it changed ever so gently and it lost that lovin´ feelin´, you could say, and I cancelled.

Advertising. All the great commercials I can remember happened many years ago; all the billboards I seem to think about were from a bygone age too. Today, the message is to shock; yesterday (that golden era?) it was about charm. Maybe as contribution from the pixel, today´s wow factor depends on going over any limits you care to think about.  It´s the age of excess, not gold.

As I said, subjective.

Rob C
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Chris_T
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« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2009, 07:35:31 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Insofar as equipment goes, it´s a revolutionary era; in the case of what´s done with all that stuff - then it is not a golden era.

I agree with the first part of the statement, but not necessarily the second part.

Transitioning from chemical to digital imaging is indeed revolutionary. It is similar to transitioning from large format to 35mm, from cumbersome to simple standardized processing, from b/w to color, from rangefinders to slr to point&shoot, etc. Each attracts a new generation of photographers, opens new doors to distribution/exhibiting, and changes the ways business are conducted. Some such examples in the digital era (which IMHO is in its infancy):

- There is an explosion of new photographers producing an astounding volume of work. Many such work could never have been produced without digital imaging. (Think Abu Ghraib, arguably the most viewed images of the decade.)

- Many, new or old, can edit and print their own work at home with easy.

- Once produced, the image makers have a wide range of distribution channels to a far reaching audience. Both are unimaginable in the past. (Think Abu Ghraib, again.)

- Amateurs, like myself, now have an incentive to show and market their work.

- For the pros, there are wedding photobooks, micro stocks, etc., etc., etc.

Now onto the second part: do these lead to "new" or "better" photography? I believe the answer is yes and no. Some digital work could never be made chemically (or only with great degrees of difficulties), such as panoramas, collages, etc. A step down is the control and manipulation of dynamic range, sharpness, etc. For some photographers, applying these capabilities can lead to creation of new work, and making technical improvements. For them, the answer is yes.

But not everyone would agree. One geezer photog lamented that, "There are just *too many* digital images out there, and most of them are *junk*." For people like him, the answer is no.
 
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In a way, you might take Playboy as an example of what I think I mean. There were several years from about ´64 when I had a subscription running and the magazine was left lying about the house and I felt no compunction whatsoever about my young kids reading it or just looking at the photography. Then, slowly, it changed ever so gently and it lost that lovin´ feelin´, you could say, and I cancelled.

I know exactly what you mean. The photos keep getting sharper and better "exposed", but the articles keep getting worse.  
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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2009, 12:02:01 AM »
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Quote from: tom b
At the moment if you want to make a photograph with similar technology to Brassai you can. Similar cameras, film, paper and chemicals can be found to make photographs from most eras. If you want to be a Cartier-Bresson and grab a Leica and some film and walk the  streets you can. If you want to to grab a 10fps DSLR to take Olympic diving events you can, though I don't think that you could have a talk with the diver and take one shot with any confidence.
I shoot dancers,who move through their motions as fast as a diver and normally prefer to use a single shot to capture the peak of the action. The other day I used a 9 fps camera to shoot a performance and wished I' stuck to my single shot methodology as I had more shots to choose from, but rarely were any at the right moment, as 9fps was way too slow and too vague to catch the precise moment.
And if photographing divers I would talk to them if possible and watch them perform to be able to know the best moment to shoot - I'd learn my subject.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2009, 12:04:39 AM by jjj » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2009, 12:15:59 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Clearly subjective, this latter part of the reply, but just the way I see it. In my opinion, there was indeed a golden era and that existed for a short time after WW ll and lasted until around the time of the Beatles and Blow Up. After that, the rot seems to have set in with ever more empty theories and emptier visuals taking up space in magazines, whether photographic or just users of photography. Instead of great photography I sensed greater desperation and a change for the sake of change. It could be false hindsight but I seem to remember some Vogues as more exciting places to visit - at least, the European ones as the few US ones I saw were very stiff - than they are today. A difference seems to be that today it´s all about perfect detail and razor definition where once it was about romance and feel. Could this be simply because of the pernicious influence of the pixel? And where there is the exception to that, it seems to be all about porno chic, something which disgusts me more than it excites me.

In a way, you might take Playboy as an example of what I think I mean. There were several years from about ´64 when I had a subscription running and the magazine was left lying about the house and I felt no compunction whatsoever about my young kids reading it or just looking at the photography. Then, slowly, it changed ever so gently and it lost that lovin´ feelin´, you could say, and I cancelled.

Advertising. All the great commercials I can remember happened many years ago; all the billboards I seem to think about were from a bygone age too. Today, the message is to shock; yesterday (that golden era?) it was about charm. Maybe as contribution from the pixel, today´s wow factor depends on going over any limits you care to think about.  It´s the age of excess, not gold.

As I said, subjective.

Rob C
And nearly always biased to when the person opinining was young and before they grew up and got boring!    "It were much better in my day,when they played real music, not that new fangled jazz/rock 'n roll/rock/disco/punk/hiphop/rave/jungle [delete as appropriate] nonsense"
Ironically I don't have too much time for contemporary music as it all sounds like stuff I already have. Much as I like say swing, dance or punk rock music, I like to hear new sounds, not the same thing rehashed again and again and again and........
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2009, 11:35:34 AM »
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Quote from: Chris_T
But not everyone would agree. One geezer photog lamented that, "There are just *too many* digital images out there, and most of them are *junk*." For people like him, the answer is no.

Now, now... easy does it with the geezer stuff.

Quote from: jjj
The other day I used a 9 fps camera to shoot a performance and wished I' stuck to my single shot methodology as I had more shots to choose from, but rarely were any at the right moment, as 9fps was way too slow and too vague to catch the precise moment.

Hear, hear! I tried the same thing, shooting birds on the wing. 9 frames/second almost never gave me as satisfactory a result as I could get with single shots. After a couple mornings doing that I gave up and went back strictly to single-shot. If I'd tried to get these shots in burst mode I'd almost surely have missed them.

[attachment=14302:Egret_in_the_Sun.jpg]      [attachment=14303:Great_Bl...scending.jpg]
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Justan
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« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2009, 12:25:14 PM »
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> Is this time in photography going to be seen as a golden era?

IIRC the golden era of photography begin in about 1888 when Kodak started selling the first mass produced camera. Since then it has gotten better and better. Now, due to the growth of digital technology, the mechanisms used to make and produce photographs have permitted broad, even revolutionary improvements and a phenomenal decline in time and cost, on all fronts.

The average person can get excellent results, and, has been shown on this site repeatedly, if one is willing to spend some time to learn technique and practice, one can get world-class results. So most definitely this is neither the beginning nor the end of a golden era, but it is squarely in a point where the only limits are due to the photographer’s opportunity, imagination, and willingness to try new things.

The best part of all is the phenomenal growth of synergy in the photographic arena. Sites such as this one permits the willing opportunities to learn and share in ways that a few  years ago were simply not possible.
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Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2009, 03:49:31 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
> Is this time in photography going to be seen as a golden era?

IIRC the golden era of photography begin in about 1888 when Kodak started selling the first mass produced camera. Since then it has gotten better and better. Now, due to the growth of digital technology, the mechanisms used to make and produce photographs have permitted broad, even revolutionary improvements and a phenomenal decline in time and cost, on all fronts.

The average person can get excellent results, and, has been shown on this site repeatedly, if one is willing to spend some time to learn technique and practice, one can get world-class results. So most definitely this is neither the beginning nor the end of a golden era, but it is squarely in a point where the only limits are due to the photographer’s opportunity, imagination, and willingness to try new things.

The best part of all is the phenomenal growth of synergy in the photographic arena. Sites such as this one permits the willing opportunities to learn and share in ways that a few  years ago were simply not possible.


Justan, I don´t see that any of this defines a golden era, simply records the changes of the game; I also have huge doubts about your claim of "phenomenal decline in time and costs"! In my gentle opinion, it is both much more expensive and very time consuming too. I lived through the era of toting around a pair of Hasselblads and three Nikons at a time; it wasn´t a statement it was because I had them, I wanted the backup and some jobs required both formats. The point, though, is that it was affordable buying top-of-the-line some years ago. Yes, there was a business to write it all off against but that doesn´t make the prices for t-o-t-l equipment any the less crazy today. The difference is that people have just become accustomed to being creamed at every turn.

You are right, I think, in saying this is neither the beginning nor the end of a golden era; this is long after it happened and, jjj take note, you require the old man´s memory to know that. It has sod all to do with music or anything else: that´s a distraction from the discussion, which is photography.

But hey, wouldn´t it be awful if you knew at twenty what you would like to forget at sixty!

Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2009, 05:58:31 PM »
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Quote from: jjj
Ironically I don't have too much time for contemporary music as it all sounds like stuff I already have. Much as I like say swing, dance or punk rock music, I like to hear new sounds, not the same thing rehashed again and again and again and........

Sounds as if you're listening to the wrong music. Try Mendelssohn or Beethoven or Grieg. Good music, like good visual art and good poetry gets better every time you visit it. Once you become familiar with it it becomes yours. If that doesn't happen then it's time to move on.
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« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2009, 10:12:30 AM »
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>Justan, I don´t see that any of this defines a golden era, simply records the changes of the game;

Rob, that sounds dismissive. What isn’t golden about the time span? IMO it’s all been good. It is no different from any other art. As time goes by things change, but there has been no period that stands out as achievement above and beyond all others. What has happened is increasing numbers have and continue to become masters.

Kindly explain why you suggested the golden age only existed between shortly after WW2 and the time of film Blow Up? What do you suggest was outstanding about this span?

> I also have huge doubts about your claim of "phenomenal decline in time and costs"!

Denial can be a strong thing, but at least look at the facts. First, here’s a tool to show you the role of inflation over time: http://www.westegg.com/inflation/ Accordingly, $2K US in 1970 is the equivalent of just shy of $11K today. The reverse of that is that something that sells for $2K today had an equivalent cost in 1970 dollars of about $364.

Second, you are making reference to top of the line equipment and I was making reference to what most buy. Not exactly an apples to apples comparison, right? While I do agree that top of the line is way more expensive now than it was in 1970, that is unique to top of the line equipment.

Third, regarding work flow, consider the time, costs, and infrastructure to handle & process film and printing. Plus of course the costs to maintain a wet lab, plus the costs for the lab’s space and equipment. Add to this the post processing time to touch up dust spots. Whew, it was lots of work and cost! If you did work in photo enhancement in the ways prior to computers, that could be a *huge* consumer of time.

Today you can go from camera to printer in minutes if you want. No film. No  darkroom. Anyone who actually pays attention would agree that the loss of  these work flow ball-and-chains amounts to a HUGE savings in both time and infrastructure. Combine the time reduction for work flow with a decrease in the cost of most equipment (again, in terms of real dollars) and that’s what I mean by a phenomenal decline in time and costs.

> I lived through the era of toting around a pair of Hasselblads and three Nikons at a time; it wasn´t a statement it was because I had them, I wanted the backup and some jobs required both formats. The point, though, is that it was affordable buying top-of-the-line some years ago.

It is a wise person that plans for failure. Today it seems that new MF is ever more a specialty market, particularly in terms of equipment cost; the same is true for top of the line in the traditional DSLR class. Yet even in the crème de la crème class of gear, I suspect you’ll agree that equipment offers far greater abilities than it did 30, 20, 10, or even 5 years ago; moreover, the cost in terms of real dollars has continued to decline, except for the state of the art. Of course, were we to bring used MF into the discussion, it too has tumbled.

But you are correct that new top end equipment now is way more than in the past. So I’ll modify my previous comment and say that except for the small number who buy top of the line technology, equipment is less expensive now than in the past. Thanks for pointing that out.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2009, 01:18:11 PM »
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I did some comparisons of my past purchases.

In 1979 I got a Leica M4-2 with 50 mm Leica lens from a top-price retail store for about $3375 u.s. in 2009 dollars.
In 1985 I got a Leica M6 with 35 mm Leica lens from another top price retail store for about $3950 in 2009 dollars.
In 2009, the equivalent in digital would be over $6000 I think. Maybe that's because the labor cost is higher now in constant dollars.

In mid-2006 I bought a Panasonic FZ-50 small-sensor camera with 420 mm zoom for $563 mailorder in 2009 dollars.
In mid-2009 I bought a Panasonic G1 with 14-45 lens (90 mm max. equiv. zoom) for $629 mailorder. Unfortunately I had to pay $305 more for the 400 mm equiv. zoom lens. If Panasonic had offered the G1 with the 45-200 lens as a kit, it might have been $800 - $850 total, quite a bit more than the FZ-50, with more quality and flexibility. I'd rate that as about the same value for the money, no better.

The 2009 equivalents to the FZ-50 may offer more for less, but the sensors are much smaller, so comparisons are a problem.
The predecessors to the FZ-50, in my case the Nikon 8800 and 8700, and before that the Minolta DImage7, offered a *lot* less quality for a retail price at least 50 percent higher than the FZ-50, so the FZ-50 was a real breakthrough.

Based on my above thoughts, it looks like I got my breakthroughs in value-for-price by switching brands at key points in time.

It does seem that the rash of low-end DSLR's today offer a lot more for the dollar than what the same money could buy in the film era.

Normally I wouldn't compare film to flash memory cards, but today I can capture about 2,400 RAW images on an SDHC card that costs about $100. With memory costs still going down rapidly, you can capture many times more images as each year goes by, and each image be much higher quality than previous years.

The thing about memory isn't just cost, it's real ability to get work done without having to unload the camera and reload. The batteries are a slight inconvenience since changing them can cause a missed shot, but the change is still very quick, about 10 seconds total.
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2009, 04:46:37 PM »
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[quote name='Justan' date='Jun 5 2009, 04:12 PM' post='289175']
>Justan, I don´t see that any of this defines a golden era, simply records the changes of the game;

"Rob, that sounds dismissive. What isn’t golden about the time span? IMO it’s all been good. It is no different from any other art. As time goes by things change, but there has been no period that stands out as achievement above and beyond all others. What has happened is increasing numbers have and continue to become masters."


Dismissive, in English English, means something I would not be intentionally unless pushed very hard; this has not happened here.

"Kindly explain why you suggested the golden age only existed between shortly after WW2 and the time of film Blow Up? What do you suggest was outstanding about this span?"

On the assumption that I am allowed a perspective of my own without having to use one supplied from elsewhere, the reason is simply that I consider the people who were the leaders (all pros) in that period, creating the styles subsequently ripped off ad nauseam ever since, were: John French, Bert Stern, Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson, Richard Avedon, Saul Leiter, William Klein, Ernst Haas, Pete Turner, Art Kane, Frank Horvat, HC-B, Robert Doisneau and some more whose names will come to mind almost immediately after I post. Also, some of these were working throughout WW2 and before, but I suggest that their moment of glory came within the period I selected.


"Second, you are making reference to top of the line equipment and I was making reference to what most buy. Not exactly an apples to apples comparison, right? While I do agree that top of the line is way more expensive now than it was in 1970, that is unique to top of the line equipment."


I was not aware that we had governed the parameters on a lowest common denominator basis.

On the matter of time/speed, it all depends what you do. In black/white I did all my own processing - never employed anyone at all. That filled the non-shooting time to perfection. It also allowed me total control and the delightful feeling that both the buck and the praise stopped here.

You mention the speed of turnaround using digital. I´m sure it is quicker in some instances but it frees your time for what? Are today´s pros really all that busy? (The greater reality seems to be that there are no jobs for anybody these days, photographers or anything else, even bankers!) I don´t remember a time when there wasn´t enough time... it´s my conviction that as work expands to suit the time available, so that time shrinks for no good reason other than it makes the person applying the pressure feel important. I wonder if the reality of working overnight, as I often did, just to hand a bunch of prints over to a client who then left them lying on his desk for a couple of days has really really vanished; I wonder how many urgently required files are simply filed for a while in exactly the same display of political power as in analogue days...


Insofar as colour work goes, most of it was transparencies. Editing on a lightbox (to me) is the way to go. Even better, once I had handed those films to the client, there was nothing more for me to worry about other than sending in the invoice. Unless, of course, I was also doing the production, as with my calendars, in which case, it paid a lot more but carried a huge responsibility for other people´s work which, ultimately, was beyond my control. Unless one owned a printing press today, I don´t see that handing over a file satisfies the digi-lover´s claim that digi allows any more total a control!

You mention the cost of running a lab and, presumably a studio; don´t you realise that the very fact that so many big names have had to close down their facilities and rent instead is saying something to you, very loudly? What it is saying, if you weren´t listening, is that the golden era is over, baby, gone, kaput, bye bye. In the final analysis, everything related to price is increased by the measure that the seller thinks he can get away with. That´s the simple basis for business: the transfer of money from your account into mine. If photographers now find themselves - have been finding themselves for a long time - unable to finance their operation as before, they don´t have far to look for the reason or what it´s telling them.

But, ultimately, any era is seen differently by those who were there and making something out of it. I was not doing my own thing until ´66, but was very aware as a kid and also as an employed photographer in those years before ´66! I guess it was that awareness/admiration of the movers and shakers which drove me to get into the business.

Blow Up might have popularised the business in some minds, but I never met a pro photographer who would have been happy to waste a roll of Colorama for a fumble with a couple of skinny chicks! By the time of that movie, every guy who had failed at everything else thought photography might provide a salvation. It sure did not!

Perhaps it is imposible for a pro and an amateur to look at photography from the same perspective, so perhaps in this case, there can be no common understanding between the two parties. There were ever amateurs who could afford equipment that some pros never could; the opposite must be equally true.

Rob C
« Last Edit: June 05, 2009, 04:49:19 PM by Rob C » Logged

bill t.
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« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2009, 11:18:18 PM »
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The Golden Age of anything is never the present age.

But it is easy to locate...start looking with the age just before the present one, you can usually find it there.

Those of us old enough may even be able to see a string of several successive Golden Ages lined up behind us.  But best advice is to at all cost avoid turning around to look, that leads to nothing but trouble.
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