MacInTouch Reader Reports

Photography: Commentary

Feb. 7, 2012
Feb. 8, 2012
Feb. 9, 2012
Feb. 10, 2012
Feb. 11, 2012
Feb. 13, 2012
Feb. 14, 2012
Feb. 15, 2012
Feb. 16, 2012
Jun. 29, 2012
Sep. 18, 2012
Sep. 19, 2012
Sep. 20, 2012

Newer entries...
Feb. 7, 2012

item.151845

Bob Grant

Paul Norton reminisces about the old days of photography... ah, what an apparently unalloyed pleasant set of memories he has. My pleasant memories are well mixed with another set of recollections as well. Note this is not intended in any way to disrespect or deprecate Mr. Norton's recollections or history with photography, it's just my set of experiences and recollections.

I remember carefully calibrating with the zone system my photographic work flow and having to do so repeatedly when one "merely" changed from one company's paper to another as well as from one film emulsion to another.

Sometimes, perhaps it was only the storage of a batch of film by a reseller that would move the curves, or maybe the temperature in the darkroom had gone up or down unnoticed if the water bath temperature drifted due to one thing or another. And heaven help you if the vendor sent a different brand or badly out of date chemistry or if you just pushed too many square inches of paper though a batch of soup because clients suddenly multiplied the size of the order while moving the due date backwards.

I remember when Kodak "forgot" how to make their own product, High Contrast Copy film.

I remember how much fun it was when the bayonet mounts on the lenses didn't match the camera body because you accidentally brought the wrong kit, and when all you had access to were Durst components when you needed Besseler carriers or the other way around. I remember how when a new camera format became popular you did have to go out and buy new carriers for the enlargers because cobbling your own from cardboard was a temporary solution likely to cause scratches in the only set of negatives you'd have. For new roll film formats you'd be buying new stainless carriers and tanks for developing.

I remember walls of drawers of negative storage instead of tiny hard drives. Backups? With silver or dye based originals? We've come a long way. Search for a missing/misfiled original image... good luck with that!

I wouldn't trade my wet chemistry or large(r) format experiences for anything but they were accompanied by their own set of issues of a similar and equally frustrating sort.

And, of course, properly processed, stored, and findable silver emulsion products may well outlast most of the digital files of today.

Feb. 8, 2012

item.151933

J Thorns

Has anyone noticed that the latest Nikon D4 digital camera has something that few would have imagined just a few years ago;

An Ethernet port

Yes, an electrical Ethernet port on a camera. How long before *every* personal device has an IP address?

item.151904

Paul Norton

OK Bob, ya got me... I can remember when Kodak put the code notches on some 8 x 10 Ektachrome in the wrong corner. When you loaded the film it ended up with the base side up. The Kodak rep grabbed that batch real quick. In those days, (The 70's) we had to buy Ektachrome by the case, run tests for filter balance and keep frozen until needed....

item.151906

MacInTouch Reader

Bob Grant writes,

"And, of course, properly processed, stored, and findable silver emulsion products may well outlast most of the digital files of today."

[But...] film is subject to mold, fire, flood, mishandling (scratches, bends, etc.) and other disasters. It will degrade, usually with fading and/or a colour shift. Just look at a lot of colour film from 10-20 years ago. Quite a bit of it has faded.

Digital does not degrade at all and can be copied an infinite number of times with every copy a perfect replica of the original. The only issue is to make sure you copy it to newer media as newer media is introduced, because the *media* on which it's stored may have problems, not the actual images themselves.

item.151912

Benoit Evans

I have recently jumped off the digital photography bandwagon and returned to analog (film-based) methods for taking pictures. However, I still use a Mac-based "digital darkroom" to scan my film negatives, do post-processing (Lightroom and Photoshop) and printing on a wide-format inkjet printer on photo paper. Lots of photographers interested in artistic photography are doing this now.

item.151926

William McGuire

I would like to echo Bob Grant's experiences with darkroom photography, except in my case the bulk of my photography used the venerable Kodachrome. For my purposes the rich, saturated, contrasty color of Kodachrome was ideal. But for the last couple of years, as I have been tediously digitizing thousands of slides, the limitations of analog film has become all too apparent.

The biggest problem with Kodachrome is the photographer's utter dependence on the quality of the processing, which in the case of Kodachrome is a subtractive process that must by done by a Kodak-approved lab. As I have been scanning slides, I have noticed a lot of processing artifacts I never noticed before -- lines, blotches, and in some cases totally out-of-whack color (despite having been stored in a cool, dark place in archival sleeves). Another thing I don't miss is having to bracket exposures and making duplicates "in camera," both of which entailed great expense. When I finally switched to digital, the cost of buying and processing a 36-frame roll of Kodachrome was approaching twenty dollars. I held my breath every time I picked up a few rolls from the processor and carefully laid them out on the light table, wondering how many of my exposure calculations had misfired.

The "what you see is what you get" advantage of digital is a huge boon, not to mention the nearly limitless possibilities inherent in the digital darkroom. I loved Kodachrome, but I would never go back. Anybody interested in some old analog Nikon equipment?

item.151929

Skot Nelson

Bob waxes eloquently about a number of problems with wet chemistry/film photo but many of the issues he dismisses haven't disappeared or are very real.

Complaining about bayonet mounts on cameras hasn't gone away. There are still multiple mounts, incompatible third party lenses etc.

Dismissing large format photography conveniently ignores the fact that there has been a fundamental change in the way photos are perceived, created by the proliferation of small sensor cameras with extremely high depths of fields. Point and shoot cameras used to be "full frame", as they'd be called now. It's a dramatic change; I'm not arguing that it's inherently bad, but I miss it.

Digital workflows aren't that much easier. I'd be willing to bet that the average digital photo album has millions of untagged photos with filenames like "IMG_975." Meta-data at least makes it easier to narrow a search, but not always usefully.

I'll add a complaint to the pile: it used to be that to "get into photography" I could spend a few hundred bucks for a good quality, 35mm lens, with all the depth of field and soft focus goodness that implied. I could probably find one used for quite a bit less. I'd then trickle out money to feed the thing with film: inconvenient to be sure, but perhaps less inconvenient than the several *thousand* dollars I have to fork out up front to get a full-frame camera.

I've moved to a full-frame 5D MkII, and I love it, but there's a reason I waited over 10 years to make the move, and it's not because I'm a luddite. The old tools still work well, and they're likely to outlive the current generation of digital tech.

Feb. 9, 2012

item.152040

David Charlap

To those who were critical of "MacInTouch Reader"'s comment that "Digital does not degrade", please read the next sentence:

"The only issue is to make sure you copy it to newer media as newer media is introduced, because the *media* on which it's stored may have problems, not the actual images themselves."

That is absolutely correct. While hard drives, CDs, SD cards and all other storage devices do fail, the image itself can be perfectly copied to new media indefinitely.

There's still the issue of file formats becoming obsolete over time (anyone still have images in PICT format?) but that's still not a degradation of the image, but a problem finding an appropriate viewer (much like the difficulty some may face finding a 16mm film projector today.)

item.152080

John Muccigrosso

To Ken Spencer I ask how he likes the two early Renaissance frescoes on the western wall of the Sistine Chapel.

You know, the ones that Michelangelo painted over when he did his Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.

item.151966

MacInTouch Reader

Skot Nelson writes,

"Digital workflows aren't that much easier. I'd be willing to bet that the average digital photo album has millions of untagged photos with filenames like 'IMG_975.' Meta-data at least makes it easier to narrow a search, but not always usefully."

Digital workflows are much easier for a variety of reasons, including searching metadata (e.g., all photos from June, 2011, or all photos taken in Australia), as well as being able to easily compensate for exposure errors (along with undo, something not possible with film).

With film and prints, most people kept them in the package they got back from the store. Then they would pull out a stack of envelopes (the proverbial shoebox of photos) to try to find the envelopes from their recent trip to share. The good shots were intermingled with the mistakes. Almost nobody sorted the photos to tell a story (never mind set it to music) and they certainly would never throw away the bad shots. After all, each print cost 30 cents!

If someone wanted reprints, they would have to hold each negative strip up to the light to figure out which ones to take to be reprinted. After you got the reprints back (which always looked a little different than the first batch), you would then have to figure out which envelope the negative came from to put it back where it belongs, or you'd never find it again. That's easy if it was just one roll of film, not so much if you had several rolls.

"I'll add a complaint to the pile: it used to be that to 'get into photography' I could spend a few hundred bucks for a good quality, 35mm lens, with all the depth of field and soft focus goodness that implied. I could probably find one used for quite a bit less. I'd then trickle out money to feed the thing with film: inconvenient to be sure, but perhaps less inconvenient than the several *thousand* dollars I have to fork out up front to get a full-frame camera."

You still can spend a few hundred bucks to get into photography. Most people don't need a full frame digital camera and certainly not for an introduction to the hobby.

Full frame 35mm digital matches (and even outperforms) what medium format film cameras used to produce. Entry level SLRs are as low as $500, which in today's money is less than what a similar one might have cost in the film days. A lot of the old film equipment still works too, including lenses. Today's compact digital cameras are also amazing, and you can get a very good one for $100-200.

item.151972

Martin Greenberger

William McGuire touches on, but doesn't amplify, the greatest attraction (to me at least) of digital. It's virtually free to shoot pictures.

I was a fairly avid amateur photographer for years, then drifted away. My first digital camera was a Fuji that looked like a miniature SLR. I shot a lot of pictures, but never felt I had the control I used to with my film SLR.

I bit the bullet and bought a Canon DSLR and have shot more photos in two years than I probably shot in any five years with film (maybe nearly as many as I shot on film total).

Change the exposure, the angle, the focus, the lens... shoot another picture. Even if you don't clear the memory card each shot only costs you a few cents.

I have more control in Photoshop than I ever did in the darkroom, especially fixing image defects.

My 2 cents.

item.151978

Ted McCabe

MacInTouch Reader writes:

"Digital does not degrade at all and can be copied an infinite number of times with every copy a perfect replica of the original."

Sadly, that's not true.

Checking a currently offered disk drive, it offers a non-recoverable error rate of 1 bit out of 10^14 bits read. Which translates to, on average, 1 bit of error out of every 12.5TB read. So with current drives in the multi-TB range, unless you're using a filesystem like ZFS, you are almost certainly experiencing some data corruption during the life of your computer, simply due to unnoticed read errors.

Practically speaking, ZFS (and any similar such) puts the likelihood of unnoticed errors back into the realm of earth-shatteringly unlikely, but even then, perfection is *not* guaranteed.

item.151987

Robert Sorrels

Having "learned" photography on an old Leica IIIc and developed the resulting black and white images, I can recall some great moments in the experience. One that can never be duplicated in the digital world is the magic of watching a blank piece of paper in the dim red light suddenly start to form an image and grow into something you didn't quite ever know what it would be. (I never developed in color.)

Still, I don't really have nostalgia for film for one overwhelming reason: the freedom to make mistakes. As a teenager and then university student, film was precious. I could only afford a bit of it, so I was extremely selective about what I shot and frankly didn't take too many chances.

People argue that this was/is good cause it forces one to develop their eye, but I believe I only get better by making mistakes and learning ways to overcome them. Yes, tens of thousands of my digital images are "mistakes," but I have evolved so much faster because I could make them and get instant feedback.

It was like the advent of the word processor. I took a typing course in high school (only "C" I ever got) and was a painfully slow typist because of the difficulty in correcting mistakes. Enter - can't even remember the name of my first - the word processor, and the blinding freedom it gave. I could just get ideas down and correct later. Things weren't frozen on paper for all time.

I still hold onto a 35mm film camera. Maybe I'll go out and try it again someday, but I promise I'll never use a typewriter again.

item.151988

Terry Maraccini

I remember those days well, Mr. Grant.

item.151991

Skot Nelson

"Digital does not degrade at all"

1) Ha.

2) That's part of the problem. It either exists or disappears. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel isn't in the shape it once was, but it can still be viewed and also restored. In a digital world, it would have long since disappeared... as if it had never existed.

item.152009

Ken Spencer

A question for Benoit Evans: I wonder what film types (color or B&W) you are using, and in which film formats (35mm, 6cm x 6cm, or 4x5), and what kind of scanners are you using for the negatives or transparencies. Just curious questions from a dinosaur who has been shooting film for most of my career as a professional photographer.

item.152011

David Rubright

I don't miss the chemical aspects of wet photography. In the early 90's I worked in a professional and scientific photo lab developing medical images. We used a machine with tanks for each chemical, and processing meant putting the exposed paper in one side and out the other side was the finished print. The chemicals were very toxic and concentrated. You had to handle them very carefully, as they would destroy your eyes if you spilled on your face. Towards the last days I worked there they were experimenting with a computer to replace the photographic process with digital images. At that point, the digital couldn't replace the photographic, even though the digital machine was $100K. It just didn't have the resolution and focus. I have no doubt they use digital imagery today. It was the fumes that drove me away from that job, the hours in the dark, the pressure to standardize and be professional with all steps in the process. Lives were at stake. If I screwed up with the water temperature, exposure times and all the steps to taking a roll and printing the images, the medical information could be misleading.

Now, I go into the dentist, and the radiography has changed. It's all digital. You put a sensor in your mouth. The radiation exposure is also reduced. Everything goes into the clinical digital record. I think it is for the better. Wet photography was messy. I don't miss it.

Feb. 10, 2012

item.152045

Steve Maller

Ted McCabe writes:

"Digital does not degrade at all and can be copied an infinite number of times with every copy a perfect replica of the original."

Sadly, that's not true.
Checking a currently offered disk drive, it offers a non-recoverable error rate of 1 bit out of 10^14 bits read. Which translates to, on average, 1 bit of error out of every 12.5TB read. So with current drives in the multi-TB range, unless you're using a filesystem like ZFS, you are almost certainly experiencing some data corruption during the life of your computer, simply due to unnoticed read errors.

Background: I'm a professional photographer, and I use Aperture to manage my photos. I have 400,000+ photos under management.

I agree with Mr. McCabe. I recently noticed i/o errors in my Console app on one of my drives (BTW, you should all check for that periodically: it's often a harbinger of doom). Fortunately I have a strong backup system, and the drive (2TB Western Digital) was still under warranty. So, when the replacement drive arrived, I proceeded to copy the (presumably) failing drive using Rsync. The transfer took about 10 hours (eSATA->SATA). At the end, Rsync reported 6 errors (files that had bad data) of the 95,000 photos (and other files) that were copied. 4 of those files were photos (Canon raw CR2 files). And of those files, 3 were also bad in the backups I have. So at the end of the day that corresponds to a 0.0031% error rate. Which is acceptable, in my book. But it is *not* perfect.

item.152047

Joel Moskowitz

I am not a professional photographer but an advanced amateur. From what I've seen, the only real negative of digital is the sheer volume of images taken. Before, you were limited to how many rolls of 36 exposure film you could carry. Now only the digital storage limits the number of exposures, resulting in a constant finger on the shutter syndrome. This even extends to professionals, especially in sports, where to burst rate rules. I just got back the proofs from my daughter's wedding done by a top notch wedding pro. There were 750 photos! When I got married (38 years ago) there were barely 100.

item.152049

Benoit Evans

Ken Spencer asked me:

"I wonder what film types (color or B&W) you are using, and in which film formats (35mm, 6cm x 6cm, or 4x5), and what kind of scanners are you using for the negatives or transparencies. Just curious questions from a dinosaur who has been shooting film for most of my career as a professional photographer."

I shoot mainly B&W (Ilford mostly) with a Bronica SQ Ai (6x6). After developing the film (D-76, HC-110), I scan the negatives with an Epson V500. I post-process using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Finally, I print on a wide-format (17x22) Epson 3880 printer.

item.152051

Benoit Evans

Martin Greenberg says he likes digital because he can shoot large volumes of photos at nearly no cost. I went back to medium format film to *avoid* that convenience. With film, especially medium or large format, the photographer has to take the time to think about what he or she is doing. Like any other art form, photography requires an understanding of composition, lighting, colour, mood, etc. Then that knowledge has to be applied to a particular situation to get a good photo. The shotgun approach is great for family events and fast-motion situations where the photographer has little or no control. But for fine art photography, a more reflective and determined approach is necessary. A digital photographer can do that too, but the temptation is to fire away and hope that somewhere in the myriad of photos, there will be a good one.

item.152052

Derek Fong

I primarily shoot film, with digital as a backup or when I want convenience for those times when I know I'll be posting stuff online for others to view. I can tell you that neither analog nor digital is easier or better than the other. Both mediums have their place and their own set of challenges.

It's relatively easy to counter just about any argument you can make for either one. Cost-wise, I find it's about the same. I develop and scan my own film. I shoot with old cameras and lenses that others have abandoned. Film is cheap - $3.99 US for a 36-exposure 35mm roll of B&W film. It's cheaper still if I bulk load. Medium format is a bit more expensive, but not outrageously so (especially compared to the cost of an equivalent digital medium-format kit).

I prefer the tactile nature of film. I think differently when I shoot with it compared to digital. I'm not a professional and the kind of subjects I photograph do not require a machine-gun style of shooting to which a digital camera is better suited. (In fact, my digital camera is mostly just a digital version of my primary analog shooter, with fully manual controls.) But digital has its place. The two can co-exist. Film will be here for a long time yet. Use what you like and what makes you happy, but don't kid yourself that either medium is easier or better. (Good) photography is not "easy" and "better" is a relative term.

item.152056

Jim Behlke

I'm not a professional photographer but I needed a good camera for an art project. I did some homework and went for a Pentax K-5 and got two good lenses, a 16-50mm f/2.8 and a 50-135mm f/2.8. This entire set up costs about $3000. The K-5 has taken some excellent pictures. Last December I was out shooting moonlit landscapes in Alaska for four hours around midnight at a temperature of about 10 above. I changed the battery once. The advantages of a digital camera were pretty obvious in this situation -- I viewed the histogram real time to help determine the exposure and then the camera bracketed at 2, 4, 8, 15, and 30 seconds. The camera shoots excellent high ASA and I usually set it at ASA 800 or 1600 for the night shots. I shot 400 10-mb raw file exposures without having to change film or the memory card. After returning home I was able to make adjustments in Lightroom to the raw files (fill light, blacks, color temperature, lens profile), and then in Photoshop I could "focus stack" foreground frames, photomerge for larger fields of view, and then make pigmented ink prints on an Epson 3880. I have never used a darkroom so I can't compare, but I don't miss photo labs or film rolls.

item.152062

Gary Kellogg

I am delighted to hear of the renaissance of film. Now maybe I can get more money for my Canon F1B outfit and associated lenses.

item.152063

Charles Rozier

I have been using scanned color negative film (medium format / Imacon scanner) and digital (5DII, careful raw workflow) side by side for a few years, making 20x24 and larger prints.

In my general experience over that time, my film output (at 800 iso) is a little sharper, much noisier (grain), less sensitive, and harder to color correct than digital. The stereotypes have truth: film looks more like the way I remember things; digital looks more like the way things are.

Dynamic range under extreme conditions is the biggest difference:
- Film is sensitive to underexposure, can clip and plug shadows. 5D has more shadow headroom.
- But if there are light sources in the picture, 5D cannot handle them and clips unpleasantly, even after bias in exposure. Film gives natural highlights, even up to a few f-stops (!) more.

I know there have been a million such comparisons, and there are always issues taken with method. This is just one data point; my experience after a lot of field testing in available light conditions.

Overall, I like film and my film camera better. But frequently I simply need the low-light sensitivity of the Canon and its faster lenses.

item.152073

MacInTouch Reader

Ted McCabe disagrees that digital can be copied without degradation,

"Checking a currently offered disk drive, it offers a non-recoverable error rate of 1 bit out of 10^14 bits read. Which translates to, on average, 1 bit of error out of every 12.5TB read. So with current drives in the multi-TB range, unless you're using a filesystem like ZFS, you are almost certainly experiencing some data corruption during the life of your computer, simply due to unnoticed read errors."

Let's put that into perspective, shall we?

A 12.5 Terabyte hard drive will hold hundreds of thousands of photos, possibly over a million photos, depending on the size of each image.

Although a single bit error could potentially corrupt an entire file, most likely it will just affect one pixel out of an image which isn't anything that would ever be noticed. The bit error might even be in non-image data and not have any visible effect at all. If there is a problem, you can get an uncorrupted copy from a backup, and as you say, that problem goes away with ZFS. In other words: it's very, very rare.

Now compare that to film. Out of hundreds of thousands of film photos, how many have been damaged by scratches, mold or have faded, to say nothing of fire, flood or other disaster? Even if people made backups of their negatives or slides (which almost nobody did), the backup would not be as good as the original so there's a loss right out of the gate.

Far more film photos have been lost or damaged over the years than digital.

item.152088

Chris Lucianu

Lest emulsion nostalgia dominate the current exchange on photography, let us consider a remarkable commentary, and a remarkable fact.

Thom Hogan, in his commentary "You Knew I Was Going to Say Something", dated Feb 9, at his website www.bythom.com, provides a short but devastating analysis of the multiple Catch-22 Kodak have cornered themselves into. Notably:

Kodak's strategy seems to be "we were too late with the right things for the game in market 1, let's see if that's true in market 2" (it is) and "Keep the things that still have higher profit margins and hold on as long as we can" (which probably won't be long).

The remarkable fact: as MG Siegler noted (http://parislemon.com/post/16997124721/size-matters), Apple's iPhone-based revenue alone in the last quarter was higher than the total revenue generated by Microsoft in the same period: $24.4 billion vs. $20.89 billion. Never mind that a business that didn't even exist five years ago has overtaken Microsoft. The iPhone is now the dominant camera in photography-related social networks.

Adepts of traditional photography, analogue or digital, may regret this trend. I am one of them. But we must acknowledge - indeed, awake to - an unprecedented paradigm shift, with huge and in part yet incalculable consequences, for our hobby, craft, trade, or art. Take note of Thom's predictions, the man has rarely been wrong.

Feb. 11, 2012

item.152142

Peter Fine

Commenting on the idea that digital photography downside is the sheer volume of images that can be shot:

I was a pro photographer for 20 years before digital and while the ease of shooting too many images may have been harder or more costly, we certainly *could* have used a motor and carry 20 rolls of 36 exp. film.

Point is that indiscriminate over-shooting has been a potential downside for at least past 50 years.

One of the few "excusable" venues of such behavior might be sports but even then, taking the 100's of burst photos down to a handful.

Self-editing is one of the hardest but most important aspects of the creative process and is what "separate the wheat from the chaff".

I know I would spend many hours doing exactly that, going through each roll and each image on a light table with a loupe and then only submitting the best of the shoot to my client.

Being selective and having a discerning "eye" is not dictated by the technology one uses to take a photograph; it is a discipline.

item.152135

Brian Timares

Ted McCabe writes:

Checking a currently offered disk drive, it offers a non-recoverable error rate of 1 bit out of 10^14 bits read. Which translates to, on average, 1 bit of error out of every 12.5TB read. So with current drives in the multi-TB range, unless you're using a filesystem like ZFS, you are almost certainly experiencing some data corruption during the life of your computer, simply due to unnoticed read errors.

This didn't sound right, so I discussed it with my friend, he says...

This is confusing unrecoverable and undetected errors.

There are very few statistics on undetected errors. A paper from IBM & U of Illinois probably has the best analysis:
   USAN_papers/09ROZ01.pdf

They figure 1 I/O out of 10^11 4 KB I/O operations (for non-enterprise disks) might have an undetected read or write error. That’d be one out of, hmmm, 10^11 * 4 KB = 1 error out of every 400 TB read.

My laptop has done about 25 GB/day of I/O lately, so at that rate (assuming laptop disks are similar, they are probably worse) - that is one error every 45 years. Of course, lots of that is temporary and never makes it into a permanent file (in processor design, there’s the notion of an invisible error, though I don’t recall the proper terminology — a bit error which doesn’t affect the final results — and disk errors are similar).

The *non-recoverable* errors described are those which cause an I/O error on read. Those should be much more common than the undetected errors. So unless you get a lot of I/O errors, you likely are not getting undetected errors.

item.152106

Stephen Hart

Steve Maller wrote, regarding digital photo data integrity:

"So at the end of the day that corresponds to a 0.0031% error rate. Which is acceptable, in my book. But it is *not* perfect."

Three points:
  First, of course, any camera could produce a file with errors internally. Cameras are no more perfect than Macs or the drives in them and attached to them. And transferring from the camera to the Mac, no matter how you do it, could also produce errors.
  Steve notes that his backups had the same faulty files. That's a problem with all backup systems. If a faulty file is backed up, it's still faulty, and may even overwrite a good copy.
  Finally, it's important to realize that if you return a failed drive, you'll probably get a refurbished or recertified drive in exchange. That might mean the drive is better than new, having been subjected to more rigorous testing. Or it might mean the drive worked when returned as faulty and was just passed along.

item.152109

Jack Mlynek

While the digital workflow is embedded in the professional photographer/designer/agency relationship, the magic of film has not been replaced. By magic, I mean that little something special and unexpected that film seems to deliver. Add to that the variations and hand work one can achieve in the photographic printing process.

So, let's not look at the film/digital debate as a binary choice; rather it's an additive environment, where the photographer can choose the best solution for him/her.

Keep film alive!

[In addition to "special and unexpected" differences anywhere in the systems, there are certainly clear and objective differences between film and digital systems - image capture is very different in response and characteristics between the two systems (not to mention the difference between digital prints are silver prints). I agree we should have both! -Ric Ford]

item.152112

Robert Mohns

A MacInTouch Reader notes:

"Far more film photos have been lost or damaged over the years than digital."

So true -- and it's not just the things from the 19th century that are in bad shape.

The restoration of the 1977 Star Wars for re-release in 1997 (and later Lucas edits) was incredibly expensive and challenging because the original negatives were in very, very bad shape -- despite being stored in cool, climate-controlled, sealed underground vaults (deep under Kansas).

The full story is fascinating:
Saving Star Wars: The Special Edition Restoration Process and its Changing Physicality

An excerpt:

"What they found when they opened up the cans of film in late 1994 was horrifying -- the original negatives had been severely deteriorated. Because film is photo-chemical it is prone to aging and the colors will fade like a newspaper; usually the yellow layer goes first, resulting in blue-tinted images and purple skin tones. This is what happened with Star Wars, where much of the film's existing prints had also faded to red. This aging process is expected, but the film was less than twenty years old and had looked fine less than a decade earlier when the last [interpositive print] was made--the film should not have been as deteriorated as it was. In some places the image was so degraded that it was unusable, plus there was the normal wear from handling damage and shrinking/swelling that occurs in the celluloid aging process.

Lab technicians began wondering how it was that the film could have deteriorated so much...

Ultimately, restoration cost over $10 million (plus more for Lucas's "enhancements") - more than the original budget for the film.

The more recent Star Wars movies were shot on digital HD cameras. Although these cameras have lower resolution than film did and lack the same dynamic range, at least Lucas can be confident that his original data won't degrade quite as catastrophically, even with the occasional 1 in 10^14th bit error.

item.152117

Walter Davis

I've been a fairly recent convert back to film, after a long time using digital (Nikon/Kodak DCS 720x and 660 cameras, bought on eBay for a song).

I found a Voigtlander 35mm rangefinder with Leica M-mount lenses last summer, and was so smitten. It's quiet, the lenses are so sharp and fast, you can focus in near darkness, and shooting film again has really taught me to slow down and think before each frame.

I have mostly shot Ilford HP5 and scan the negatives with a Plustek 7600 film scanner. The results are astounding. Film vs. digital is very much like the difference between a vinyl LP and a CD. There's a natural "warmth" that you get with film, a subtlety to the transitions between light and dark, and a natural compression of tonal values that can elevate an ordinary subject to new heights.

I'm very excited to be a part of this film renaissance, and I hope it hangs on for at least a few more years.

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William Ames

I am a semi-professional photographer and started selling my 35mm photos back around 1987. I made a quick transition to digital, scanning negatives when the technology was available and then jumping onto digital cameras when they started out-performing film, dollar-for-dollar.

Simply stated, digital allows me to be a much more marketable photographer at a fraction of the cost of traditional film. Since photography is a sideline for me, I could never afford the investment necessary to equip a traditional darkroom. It simply wouldn't give me the return on investment that I get from digital.

While some will say that true photographers create the entire image in the camera, that's not true for the majority of working professionals. Ansel Adams was famous for dodging, burning and filtering in the darkroom. He analogized the negative to a composer's score, while the print was its performance. I'm with Adams.

Some will also say, "The camera doesn't lie!" Yes it does. Digital allows me to remove the distortions of a camera and make an image more closely match my memory of the scene.

Whether it's the removal of distracting elements, distortion correction, saturation enhancement, what have you... I couldn't do all that with film on my budget.

Digital allows me to make my images more natural, oddly enough, and that's a comment I frequently get from my clients.

All in all, I would not be as successful or marketable were it not for digital photography and the digital darkroom.

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Steven James May

William Ames writes:

"...While some will say that true photographers create the entire image in the camera..."

True photographers make beautiful images regardless of the tool or the process.

Feb. 13, 2012

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David Ramos

Different tools offer their own kinds of limitations and affordances. I can grab a DSLR and shoot at the equivalent of ISO 12800, which is almost like being able to see in the dark; I can shift the color of a gum bichromate print by brushing away a little more of the emulsion as the print "develops" in the sink; I can open the viewfinder of a medium-format camera and delight in the image on that big ground-glass screen.

There are people who make, celebrate, and sell all kinds of photos, for all kinds of reasons, with all kinds of processes. The market shapes a photographer's choice of tools, but those decisions are also deeply personal and situational. There are photojournalists working with Holgas and compact cameras. There are fine-art photographers who value the physical qualities of a print, and who can't get the right results from inkjets. There are hobbyists who just enjoy the deliberate feel of an older film SLR.

It's tremendously arrogant to presume that [one's own] working method should be someone else's working method.

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Michael Fryd

A MacInTouch reader suggested that a single bit error in a photo file would most likely affect only a single pixel.

Actually, it depends on what format is used to store the image. Most compression algorithms work by removing redundancy. A single bit error in a compressed file (ZIP, JPEG, etc.) will usually cause the loss of a a much larger chunk of data.

JPEG is a very common format for storing image files.

Even most camera RAW files use compression.

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David Converse

I started with photography in 1983 while serving with the US Navy in San Diego. Queen Elizabeth had visited our ship and my little plastic 110 camera was barely serviceable to capture the event. I picked up a Canon AE-1 Program and 50mm f/1.4 lens soon after to launch a three decade hobby/business/avocation.

The Canon outfit grew to an A-1, five lenses, flashes, motors - all stolen about three years later. I replaced it with a Pentax Super Program (while pretty beat up, that little Pentax still works great!) and later added an Omega F 4x5. By 1998 I could afford the Mamiya 645 outfit I had lusted after for years. For the next nine years, I shot almost exclusively on 120 film.

In 2007, I made two big changes: I switched from shooting (mostly) landscapes to shooting (mostly) models. I also bought my first DSLR, a Sony A100. I currently use an A850 with some nice Minolta glass.

Over the years, I have shot well over a quarter-million images. I'm currently generating around 1500-2000 per month. I mainly use digital today, for cost and workflow reasons.

FWIW, I have never really done things that differently - regardless of whether I was using 35mm, 645, 6x6, 4x5, crop digital, or full-frame digital. The part that matters isn't really the technology (although that is a special kind of magic) but rather, how you use it.

Great gear is useless without a decently skilled operator, and fabulous creative vision is useless without capable gear.

Oh and Photoshop? Love it. Sure, I can get great results on film with no retouching (and I have thousands of chromes to prove it), but another powerful tool is a wonderful addition to my creative toolbox.

When I see a great image, I don't care how it was achieved. And when I see a terrible image, I also don't care how it was achieved. :)

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Skot Nelson

Re:

"Far more film photos have been lost or damaged over the years than digital."

This is a specious and self-serving argument. Film has 100 years of history; digital photography *really* has 10. (Though it's been in existence longer, that's roughly when it hit the the mainstream.

Your mother is more likely to lose photos in a backup then she is to lose the boxes she has stored in her basement.

I suspect the original commenter is really meaning to say "photos of cultural significance" and again, this shorter history makes the argument meaningless. Talk to me in 100 years.

David Pogue actually discussed this very issue with a data recovery specialist a few years go.
http://personal.penguinstorm.com/2006/02/why_i_shoot_film_yesagain.php

Data recovery hasn't gotten significantly better in the years since, so I doubt this argument will hold water in another 90 years.

item.152186

Ryan Edgecliff

Re:

"Ultimately, restoration cost over $10 million (plus more for Lucas's "enhancements") - more than the original budget for the film."

It does not appear that number is adjusted for inflation. So:

Star Wars Episode 4 budget (1977 dollars): $11 million
Value of $11 million 1977 dollars in 1997: $26.5 million
Cost of 1997 restoration (1997 dollars): $10 million

Clearly, the restoration cost was not greater than the original budget, assuming the $10 million figure is correct.

Sources:
IMDB.com
Inflation calculator at http://www.minneapolisfed.org/
As quoted in prior post

Feb. 14, 2012

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David Charlap

Michael Fryd wrote:

"Actually, it depends on what format is used to store the image. Most compression algorithms work by removing redundancy. A single bit error in a compressed file (ZIP, JPEG, etc.) will usually cause the loss of a a much larger chunk of data."

See also http://alkiratech.tripod.com/jpegcorruption/index.html

What's particularly annoying is that JPEG doesn't seem to have any error-correcting codes in the file format. Which means that as your hard drive (or your RAM) starts developing errors, so will your images.

Transferring your stuff to new drives over time isn't a bad idea, but this assumes you do so before you lose content.

I think a better solution is to use storage systems with ECC codes, so errors can be detected and corrected. When you start seeing alerts about errors being corrected, you can copy everything to a new drive without having lost data.

Unfortunately, I don't know what's available for the Mac platform. ZFS would probably work, but that was never supported by Apple. Does HFS+ offer some form of ECC? What about DMG files? Third-party products?

I suspect a RAID-5 system would get the job done, but good ones aren't going to be cheap, so they're probably not an option for most consumers.

item.152228

MacInTouch Reader

Re: Sony A850 camera with some nice Minolta glass:

Which Minolta lenses will work and is an mount adapter required?

The last of my Minolta bodies has died and I'm looking for options.

item.152243

Thor Legvold

Here's a great article discussing the same thing:

Digital Photography Costs More Than Film Photography

FWIW, I've been shooting primarily medium format for about 20 years (as a hobby), and use a cheap digital for snapshots and quick tests. I'm thrilled with the results I get (mostly B&W, some chromes) and don't really feel any need to go digital. Plus all my gear is paid for already...

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Gregory Tetrault

Ryan Edgecliff wrote:

"... Star Wars Episode 4 budget (1977 dollars): $11 million
Value of $11 million 1977 dollars in 1997: $26.5 million..."

Hurrah! You've addressed one of my pet peeves: the failure to correct economic comparisons for inflation. I used to read blogs by academic economists who often made comparisons over time and repeatedly failed to correct for inflation and population changes. My multiple posts with corrected comparisons were repeatedly ignored or deleted, so I stopped reading the blogs.

item.152260

MacInTouch Reader

Another MacInTouch reader asks about the Sony A850 SLR,
"Which Minolta lenses will work and is an mount adapter required?"

Any Minolta autofocus lens should work without an adapter. Minolta changed their lens mount when they introduced autofocus, so the older manual focus lenses won't work.

Feb. 15, 2012

item.152308

David Charlap

Regarding "Digital Photography Costs More Than Film Photography", the article is incredibly slanted. In addition to the comments already made:

Why does he think a $2500 digital camera body will need to be replaced every two years? And a film camera from the same manufacturer will last 20? Is Canon really producing disposable garbage at those high price points?

Why is the price for the computer and monitor a factor here? Don't all photographers (regardless of technology) need to buy these?

He counts software for manipulating digital photos, but no equipment for manipulating film photos. Does he really think professionals just mail their film to Clark and accept what comes back without further work? How about the scanner, computer, software and printer to digitally edit the film images? Or failing that, the darkroom full of equipment to manipulate images the old fashioned way? And if it's not necessary to edit the film, then why is it necessary to edit the digital images? You don't need expensive hardware and software to just copy image files from an SD card and look at them.

item.152262

Gregory Tetrault

Thor Legvold wrote:

Here's a great article... Digital Photography Costs More Than Film Photography...

Jeff Colburn's comparison is based on unrealistic assumptions. He claims that a typical professional photographer takes only 180 film photos in a full-day shoot. I believe that estimate is too low. He also claims that a typical professional photographer takes 3000 digital photos in a full-day shoot. That works out to one photo every 9.6 seconds throughout an 8-hour shoot. I believe that estimate is too high. (Colburn actually reports that some self-reported professional photographers shoot over 10,000 digital images per shoot, which is one photo every 3 seconds for 8 hours. Such photographers should just use a video camera and reduce the repetitive strain on their index fingers!)

Using more realistic numbers of 400 film photos and 1600 digital photos per 8-hour shoot, digital photography costs less than half as much as film.

item.152269

Gregory Weston

Thor Legvold offered a link:

Here's a great article discussing the same thing:
Digital Photography Costs More Than Film Photography

I'm only a hobbyist photographer, but I consider myself a fairly experienced computer owner and on the surface some of the costs indicated in that article seem highly debatable.

Why does the annual cost include both Photoshop and paid upgrades to Photoshop? (Ditto Lightroom.) Why are the software prices doubled without comment? Why are Photoshop and Lightroom mandatory when less expensive alternatives exist, and the film workflow itemized includes nothing comparable? Why are the computer and monitor at those price points, and why are they only rated for a 3-year lifespan? Why is it fair to charge the digital camera with 3,000 pictures per day and the film camera with only about 300? Why do the hard drives last only 2 years?

item.152289

David Converse

Re: Minolta/Sony lenses

Most Minolta Maxxum mount lenses will work fine on Sony digital bodies. You don't need an adaptor.

You might want to contact used dealers such as KEH, Adorama, B&H, etc to see what they have available.

Also, the folks over on www.dyxum.com have a huge trove of knowledge about Minolta and Sony gear including user reviews and compatibility information.

Feb. 16, 2012

item.152311

Pete Wilson

I used to run Prakticas (Pentax screw-thread mount) when I lived in the UK, but changed to Minolta on moving to the USA.

I eventually bought an autofocus 9000 (the first 'pro' model) along with a 24-85mm zoom.

I've used that lens on a second 9000, a Minolta Maxxum 9 (lovely machine), a K-M 7D digital SLR, a Sony Alpha 700 digital SLR and (now) a Sony Alpha full-frame 850 digital SLR.

And the sundry Tokinas and Tamrons and Sigmas purchased across the years all worked fine across this range of machines.

What won't work is a non-autofocus lens (prior to the 5000, 7000 and the 9000); nor any lens for the Sony NEX series of mirrorless machines (although there are adaptors going both ways, I believe).

Hope this helps

Jun. 29, 2012

item.159385

MacInTouch

Tiny Camera to Rival the Pros

This is a review of the best pocket camera ever made.

Sep. 18, 2012

item.163468

George Wedding

As a professional photographer who uses Macs, the iPad and iPhone, I can affirm that Nik Software products are terrific. However, the Photoshop plug-ins are too expensive, and a few months ago, I made a difficult decision to stop upgrading those Mac products. Consequently, I didn't purchase the most recent version when I upgraded to Adobe CS 6.

This development -- selling Nik Software to Google -- makes me very glad I made that decision.

As a loyal and longtime Apple customer, I already have come to truly dislike many things Google, a situation that started with its lack of respect for Apple's iPhone and iOS intellectual property, but more recently, escalated with a new round of diversionary, me-too lawsuits filed by Google's Motorola division. In the past year, Google also made things worse by hijacking iPhone privacy settings and demonstrating a lack of concern for the privacy of its own Web Search customers.

I hope that Nik's executives understand that this sale to Google is especially troubling for professional photographers. I can't believe Nik's founders would sell out to a company that has so little disregard for intellectual property, an issue that is extremely sensitive to its core customer base.

Google is an advertising company. Google's core customers are advertisers, not consumers. I for one, will never buy cell phones and tablets that infringe Apple's IP, tablets that also are designed so that advertising companies can track my Web traffic without my consent and complete control.

Even after refraining from the latest Nik upgrade purchase, I continued to be dogged by doubt about the decision. But this sale to Google makes me very glad I stopped the upgrades. Now, I have additional reasons to never again purchase Nik Software products: I simply don't trust Google to ensure my privacy or my photographic copyrights, or that it will handle software made for Apple's products with an equal hand.

Sep. 19, 2012

item.163512

Bill Fuller

You probably made a mistake by not upgrading. Current versions are exceptional. But, from all of the commentary I have seen, Google's primary interest is in Snapseed, the least useful, though most consumer friendly, application in the Nik line. What concerns me is the likelihood that Google isn't terribly interested in the professional plug-ins. I also have and use the current OnOne plug-ins. They are due to be upgraded next month and are moving to a much more Nik-like interface, which will be a definite improvement. While I own both, 90% of my plug-in usage involves the Nik plug-ins, though in some cases the OnOne plug-ins are more useful. I'll be watching very closely what Google does with the professional suite. I expect that they will do less than is required for me to upgrade to the next version, though I do plan on upgrading the OnOne suite next month. It looks like most of what I don't like about the OnOne interface is being replaced with things I do like, which may well make a Nik upgrade unnecessary. But, the current versions of Nik's Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro are absolutely essential to my workflow as of today. Silver Efex Pro is an absolute essential if you do anything in B&W.

item.163516

MacInTouch Reader

I agree with George. Disturbing. Nik - "Photography first"? That appears to changed.

item.163498

Chris Lucianu

George Wedding is not alone in his dismay at the news of Google swallowing Nik. Reactions all over photography forums are pretty much the same.

The message chez the former Nik Software is ominous, with the conspicuous absence of the slightest hint at continued support of existing products for current customers. We're just invited "on the next phase of our journey as part of Google." In other words, we're getting taken for a ride.

Vic Gundotra, Google's SVP, Engineering, is equally uncommunicative on the future of existing Nik products:
 https://plus.google.com/+VicGundotra/posts
Zero commitment. All too often, in my experience of executive prose, it has meant a commitment to precisely zero.

Freehand, iView, Canvas, Sibelius: we've all seen what happens to our mainstays when they get gobbled up by gluttonous conglomerates.
John Gruber at daringfireball.net has one line about Nik:

Will be interesting to see what happens to their iOS apps. Snapseed really is a great app.

Indeed. We may now safely assume that Snapseed for Android will be readied on the double. And Brutus is an honourable man.

Sep. 20, 2012

item.163580

Robert Sorrels

As a photojournalist and a professional photographer, I depend on several of Nik's Aperture plug-ins (notably Vivezia and SFX). These, along with a few other plug-ins (notably PictureCodes's Noise Ninja and BorderFX), keep me from needing to go to Photoshop 90%+ of the time.

I understand Google bought Nik for Snapspeed - a product for which I can't conceive a use - and frankly it doesn't bode well for the company's professional products.

I have long resented (and refused to participate in) Google's "if it's on our servers we own it" attitude. To a large extent, Google has already forgotten its "do no harm" founding.

I suppose Nik's selling of their company to the Giant constitutes success, as they certainly put a lot of money in their pockets. The fact that they have abandoned a lot of users and forgone their commitment to those who have used them for years is apparently no longer important in the story of "Success in America."

We will all work around the coming decline of Nik products, but they will be missed. (I'm extremely unlikely to buy a Google branded "professional" product.)

item.163557

Lyman Taylor

From a couple of the comments on the acquisition:

with the conspicuous absence of the slightest hint at continued support of existing products for current customers
...
Vic Gundotra, Google's SVP, Engineering, is equally uncommunicative on the future of existing Nik products:
...
Zero commitment.

The second point addressed first: Technically, they may not know how much changes will occur quickly. Google doesn't "have to" kill off the client side apps/plug-ins. Given that Google+ is making zero money directly now, whatever the Nik software is making (assuming they have real profits) is likely infinitely larger; at least over the short term. Continuing to sell Nik EFEX software is an extremely highly effective way of paying off the acquisition costs.

Furthermore, I don't think they have an accurate idea generated by the respective internals experts of how hard it will be to integrate into the Google stack. I think Google does have a "big picture" plan of where they want to go eventually over several years, but in the relative short term, the detailed tactical plan isn't worked out, so they don't comment. So no commitment. There is zero reason to commit to something they haven't worked out in detail yet.

A huge difference between Nik and many previous Google acquisitions is that Nik actually makes money, and it isn't one of this "potentially this will be significantly profitable later" companies like Instagram.

To the first quoted point above, while it wasn't "official", conveniently Trey Ratcliff ran a Google+ Hangout with some members of the Google+ photo team on the same day as the announcement. (It wouldn't be surprising if Google PR synchronized that in advance.)

Here is a jump into the Hangout's recorded video where the topic of "what is going to happen" is addressed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=lN0ByajctNM#t=326s

That runs for short while. Then more at 9:30 - 11:46
It boils down to "business as usual for now". If looking for 'hints', I think there as several hints covered over that whole session.

You'll see there is some push-back between "free photo storage" and photo size, even for Google. Unless Google figures out how to generate significantly larger revenue from storing more and larger photos, they actually won't host them. That means many larger (in number and/or size) photos will stay on client devices. Places where the EFEX line can readily reach them.


Indeed. We may now safely assume that Snapseed for Android will be readied on the double

It was already mentioned on the Nik website long before the acquisition. So, yes, that is likely an even higher priority now.

There are several competing additional directions to take the functionality. Client software on the camera (Smartphone cameras, android cameras, etc.). Client software in browser manipulating smaller pictures to be shared (Flickr, Instagram, Google+ photo, etc.), and processing "in the cloud".

In the Google-imagined future, where everyone has high speed, low latency fiber to the home and gigabit, low latency wireless network, the weighting between client side or on rented Google hardware.

However, the gap between mainstream photo sensors and high end photo sensors is likely to remain high and a data transmission problem. In order to have the effects and techniques 4-5 years from now to the mainstream the EFEX applications need to keep moving forward. It would short sighted for Google to kill those off quickly.


Nik - "Photography first"? That appears to changed.

That is rather an elitist viewpoint. The vast majority of photographs are being taken on "non-Pro" cameras. That is only accelerating, as people constantly carry around cameras with them all the time. Creating good pictures is photography, not highly stylizing photographs in post-processing. A good photograph doesn't necessarily need $300 of post processing software.

Even if Google did not buy Nik, Snapseed would have likely become an increasingly dominant consumer of R&D resources inside the company. The "EFEX" apps/plug-ins quite likely had started to (or already had) plateaued, in terms of revenue. Their price and limited audience would present that problem over time.

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