Digital Camera Systems
As the Millennium begins the move to digital photography continues to accelerate at an exponential rate. Moore's Law as applied to imaging, not just microprocessors. The late '90s were very much about the transition to the digital darkroom. Many professional and fine-art photographers have now made the move to digital image processing. But, with the exception of photojournalists and studio photographers, film is still dominant as the recording medium of choice.
There was an explosion during 1999 of consumer level digital cameras with 2-megapixels plus resolution at under $1,000. As well, the Nikon D1 and Kodak DCS330 created a new price point at around $6,000 for interchangeable lens SLR bodies with slightly sub 3-megapixel resolution.
2000 has seen the introduction of the Canon D30 and the Fuji S1 Pro. Consumer cameras with 3.4 megapixels are now common. Here are some looks at the evolving state of the art.
A year ago I wrote, " There is nothing available, either in 35mm or medium format sizes for less than $25,000 that can equal film." That was then and this is now. As of the fall of 2000 the Canon D30 does just that for less than $3,000. I therefore predict that with the exception of some specialized applications we'll all be shooting with digital cameras within 5 years.
After much anticipation Nikon in mid-summer 1999 Nikon announced its first "affordable" digital SLR. This camera will, I believe, be the shot across the bow of the camera industry that leads to the wide-spread adoption of digital SLRs by the photographic community.
Why would a serious fine-art landscape photographer want a point-and-shoot digital camera? Simple. I have family, I take vacations, and as for everyone else snapshots are part of life. But there's more to it than that. Why this model, and how does a consumer grade digital camera stack up. The results are surprising.
Working with digital cameras means settling for substantially lower resolution images than one is used to with the output from quality film scanners. For web use and snapshots this isn't an issue but what about for 8X10" and larger prints? Genuine Fractals is one product that attempts to address this issue.
Update ‹ December, 1999
Few people doubt that CCD or other imaging chips will soon have the resolution of film. It's just a matter of time. Philips has announced the development of technology which could bring this day closer, sooner. This page from EETime.com contains a story on this development. (I'm not certain how long this article will remain on line. Please let me know if it disappears).
Canon appears to be getting ready to announce several new cameras early in 2000. Here is what is currently known.
Update ‹ January, 2000
The well respected firm Scitex has announced a 6.6 Megapixel chip that could transform 35mm cameras into high-end digital imaging systems. The full press announcement is found here.
Update ‹ February 4, 2000
As expected Canon has announced its EOS mount digital SLR. Here is a page that will contain information on this system as it becomes available.
About a year earlier than I expected to see it, news of a sub $10,000 6 Megapixel SLR has just come out of Japan. Kyocera has announced the Contax N-Digital using a full-frame sized imaging sensor. More details can be found at the always up-to-date Digital Photography Review. (Could this be based on the Scitex 6.6 Megapixel chip announced in January?)
The N-Digital is an extension of the Contax-N1, a new 35mm camera system just announced by Contax. The N1 is an autofocus system utilizing a new lens mount that appears not to be compatible with the previous Contax mount. Interestingly it does allow lenses from the Contax 645 to be used with all functions available.
Update ‹ August, 2000
The Canon D30 is slated for release in September and there are now several sites offering previews. Links to these can be found here from now on.
Update ‹ October, 2000
The Canon D30 is now shipping and my tests are online. I'm impressed!