The Digital (R)evolution:


    Digital photography and imaging has changed the way that we now use cameras, photographs, images, content, computers, the internet, etc.  To ignore the presence of digital at this point (2005) would be silly.  Most of my friends say that I have been in the dark for far too long regarding digital photography, that I have been stuck on this "film thing".  Ok, so perhaps I have been stuck on this film thing, and a black & white film thing at that.  Just to let everyone in on a little secret, I used a digital camera way back in 1996.  I was shooting for the 14th Engineers, and they had one.  I took it out, played with it, shot a bunch of images with it, and was thoroughly UNIMPRESSED.  I went back to film ASAP, and did not even think of looking back.  Well, if technology doubles ever eighteen months, then we are now six generations further along from that crappy digital camera I used in 1996.  Yes, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds.  However, consumer (or prosumer) digital equipment has not reached the same level as 35mm film... YET.  Digital is rapidly approaching the break even point with 35mm film.  Professional grade digital is already there, and arguably past it a year or two ago.  The problem with the professional grade digital equipment is that it is soooo expensive, that even the professionals cannot afford it.  The prices are coming down, and more people will be using it in the near future.  In fact, by the time you read this, the costs may have come down to the point where mere mortals can afford the digital equivalent of 35mm film; things are changing rapidly. 

    So, is film dead... or soon to be?  Personally, I seriously doubt it.  However, as I am writing this, companies who have lived from film sales are trying to restructure them selves through chapter 11 bankruptcy or the equivalent of that in foreign countries.  Ilford has just recently started shipping film and paper again.  Agfa and Kodak are having the same problems.  Kodak has either cut it's own wrists or saved its self by investing heavily in digital, only time will tell how they are going to come out.  Polaroid has all but left it's name sake product line, the Polaroid instant print film.  They are now moving into the electronics market.  There are, however, a few firms who are making a name for themselves.  They are basically filling the gap left by the larger companies.  Companies such as Bergger, Forte, and Efke (to name just a few) are making black & white film and paper products that equal, and in a few cases exceed the products that have vanished.  Color products are still hanging on by their fingernails, and we will see what happens to that market segment over time.  Kreonite (*** Kreonite has been purchased by Dunning Photo Equipment, Inc.***), who made color paper processors, recently went belly up... leaving the few photolabs who still do chemical processing stranded.  A number of years ago, Ilford purchased the rights to a color reversal process called Cibachrome, and renamed it Ilfachrome.  From what I understand, it is becoming harder and more expensive to get the Ilfachrome chemicals, paper, and parts for the machines.  Digital may soon send color down the same path as black & white; again, only time will tell. 

    So, with all this doom and gloom, why am I so sure that film is going to live?  Well, before photography was invented, mass communication (media, books, etc...) made use of drawings.  People would draw, sketch, or paint the image they wanted to convey to others.  When photography came around, it pretty much took the place as a means to communicate an image on a mass scale.  However, drawing, sketching, and painting did not die; they changed.  They mutated from a mass communication device, to a form of art.  Or, at least more people seemed to respect the different forms as an art.  Why?  It took time and talent to create an image using a pencil or a paintbrush.  Photography was then seen as a means to communicate an image to the masses.  For nearly a century people tried to push photography as an art unto itself.  From Steichen to Adams, these people tried to get others in the art community to accept photography as an artistic medium.  They succeeded to a point.  Some in the artistic community still have problems with photography, however, that needs to be in it's own section altogether.  At the turn of this most recent millennium, digital was taking over as the means to communicate an image to the masses.  Old chemical and film photography was seen as taking too much time and talent to get a useable image.  Not only that, but with the advent of the internet, a digital image can be transmitted to others for viewing in seconds from when it was shot.  Where as film and chemical photography can take days.  Digital photography can be learned quickly, and mistakes corrected in seconds.  Images shot a second ago can be reviewed, problems corrected, and a better image re-shot in less than a minute.  Hundreds of shots can be taken in minutes, and then perused later.  A few images (just the best ones) can be culled from those hundreds, and sent quickly to another person thousands of miles away... or thousands of people only miles away; it does not matter.  So, then there is the old film and chemical photography.  Why would anyone want to use that anymore?  For the same reason people still pick up a pencil or paintbrush to create an image.  Film and chemical photography will become more of the field of artists, people who want to take the time to both learn how to make a good image and to create a quality image that has a certain look.  Not only will people pick up their old film cameras, but processes that were almost extinct will be reborn.  People will start making glass plate negatives using 8x10 cameras (people like my friend, Jack Eden).  Wisner has already seen an increase in sales of 16x20 film cameras.  This is because people are starting to make platinum prints or carbon prints again, and they need a large negative to make that contact print.  Jack Eden and I have been talking about making 20x24 platinum prints for a number of years now.  Even going so far as talking about how we could retrace W. H. Jackson's photography in the West (Western U.S.) using an ultra-large format camera and pack mules.  So, is film dead?  No, I believe it is alive and well, though changing and morphing into more of an art form.... mostly because it does take time and talent.

    I recently purchased a digital camera.  It is a simple point and shoot.  A Nikon Coolpix5200.  I am both amazed at it's compactness, and it's ability to capture 5.1 megapixils.  Why would I, the person who does not like digital, purchase a digital camera?  Well, to communicate in a mass medium.  If I want to shoot a image, and put it on Ebay, or on this site... doing it with a digital camera is much less time consuming than film.  If I am going to list a camera for sale on Ebay, it can be done in an hour.  If I am talking to a friend, and mention seeing something funny the previous day... thinking ahead, I shot a picture... and can now put it up on the web site here, and that friend can see exactly what I was talking about.      





Photo Gallery


1 picture = 1000 words.

Outdoors shot.

Making breakfast, with mushrooms.

It's interesting how close you can get with the little digital camera.

You can see the pixils (or grain if it were film) when it is set to capture at 400 iso.

Good shot showing the depth of field at close distance.