Monday, December 5. 2005
In The Dark Side of Digital Today, professional photographer and writer Dean M. Chriss offers some perspective on the "digital revolution:"
Many would have you believe digital image capture will solve every photographic problem you have ever had, seen, or imagined. There is a fairly good reason for this, and it's called money....Photography magazines certainly won't tell you the shortcomings of the technology being pushed by their advertisers. All of this feeds those who make a bundle offering "digital" classes and workshops. Who could blame them for not publicizing the shortfalls of going digital?
When you shoot film, you use a fresh piece of film for every exposure. While a speck may get to the film’s surface once in a while, it is usually not enough to be noticed....In a digital [SLR] camera the image sensor replaces film and it is there for the life of the camera. Dust accumulates on it and you end up with spots all over your images....The actual pieces of dust are invisible to the eye, so you need to clean them off without seeing where they are.
While on-camera displays prevent terrible exposure mistakes, they do not help with subtle exposure errors in the range of 1/3 or 1/2 stop. Shooting RAW files gives you the ability to correct some exposure error later when the file is processed, but digital cameras have absolutely zero tolerance for overexposure when shooting JPEG files. It is common to discover that some fine details are overexposed when a photograph is viewed on a large monitor, even though it and its histogram looked great when it was viewed on the camera’s LCD. Some details are simply too small to show up as flashing pixels on the tiny display. Since they are small they do not shout at you from the histogram either.
Cost and Obsolescence: When film was king the lifecycle of camera models was long, usually between five and ten years. Differences between models were limited to things like metering, frame rate, auto-focus, and the like. Any film camera that could hold the film flat and had a quality lens could be loaded with the latest film and used to take excellent photographs....This is why, until now, older professional camera models retained a large percentage of their value on the used market. Now that the film (a digital sensor) is an integral part of the camera, everything has changed. You can't upgrade your film without replacing your whole camera. Rapidly advancing electronics technology dictates that today’s expensive digital treasure will be nearly worthless in just a few years. This is significant, since top of the line digital cameras are more than triple the cost of their film counterparts.
Fragility: Film and professional film cameras are tough. Compact flash memory cards and professional digital cameras are tough too, but unless you invest a million dollars in CF cards you need to download your images to something. The only reasonably fast something at this time is a fragile hard drive. Drop it or give it one too many bumps and every image you’ve taken on an important trip can be lost. Of the thousands of rolls of film I have shot from Alaska to the steamy jungles of Borneo, I have lost only one roll to an accident that involved a wasp inside my shirt, a flying roll of film, and a bit of pain. Had I been holding a portable hard drive or notebook PC at the time, several thousand images would have been lost. Short of theft, losing every roll of film on a trip is unimaginable. Insuring the survival of your digital images involves expensive redundant equipment and the ability to carry it all.
For you cold weather shooters, let's not forget that cameras like the EOS 1V are rated to work at temperatures down to -20°C (-4° F) while all of Canon's digital cameras are rated only down to 0° C (+32° F)....Many people seem to forget about this limitation, but Canon's top technical representatives have not. They make no apologies for it, saying the temperature limitation is simply a limit imposed by the currently available battery, LCD, CF card, and other technology. Some people do successfully use digital camera bodies at colder temperatures. They usually work, but sometimes serious operational problems result....I do not mean to pick only on Canon here. Nikon and all other digital camera brands have similar design limits. Regardless of the brand you use, film bodies keep taking pictures reliably at the temperatures where all of these digital camera problems occur.
Read the rest of The Dark Side of Digital Today
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> When you shoot film, you use a fresh piece of film for every exposure. While a speck may get to the film’s surface once in a while, it is usually not enough to be noticed....
I've recently experienced a similar situation in reverse. Something got lodged near the path of the film inside my camera, and there was a scratch extending half-way across my roll of film. It was fixed when I had the camera cleaned (and perhaps I should've done it earlier) buy there's no way to find that out until film is developed. Then of course, one doesn't wait for the roll to be developed before popping in a new one, so I ended up with quite a few shots ruined (and having paid to have them processed)