Wednesday, May 17. 2006
Last August, Bob Atkins published an article entitled The Writing on the Wall on photo.net. The article was rather inflammatory and generated numerous Reader's Comments, many of which were informative, insightful, and even humorous.
Unfortunately, when an article goes off photo.net's front page all reader comments are currently being dropped (see the current copy of Bob's article).
Fortunately, the wonders of html caching have preserved the entire article intact with reader comments. I've republished it below, unchanged except for minor formatting corrections. Read on for more..
The writing on the wallby Bob Atkins
Rembrandt van Rijn - Belshazzar's Feast (slightly modified...)
...In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over
against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king
saw the part of the hand that wrote "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN"...
Like it or not, digital rules. Digital Audio, in the form of CDs and MP3 players, have taken over the roles previously occupied by vinyl disks and analog cassette tape. TV and radio are going digital, more so in Europe than in the US, but the US will surely follow. Cell phones are digital. Computer data is digital. Why should photography be any different?
Of course it's not. Despite some wailing and gnashing of teeth by photo purists, digital is taking over - indeed has essentially already has taken over -
photography. Now talk of "film is dead" is, of course, something of an exaggeration, but if it's not dead, it's certainly not feeling well. I doubt any of us will live in a world totally without film, just as we don't live in a world devoid of horses, hot air balloons, vinyl records, model T Fords and 8 track tapes, even though inventions like the automobiles, airplanes, CDs and Ferraris have pretty much replaced their technological ancestors.
Most camera makers seem to have stopped film SLR development. Last year Kodak stopped making slide projectors. If more writing were needed on the wall, recently Dixons, a major chain of high street photo retailers in the UK, announced that it would no longer be carrying 35mm cameras. Whether or not 35mm film objectively gives higher quality images than current consumer digital cameras is a moot point. Dixons own research showed that 93% of their customers couldn't tell the difference and digital cameras were out selling 35mm cameras by a ratio of 15:1.
So it's not a question of whether or not digital will replace film. Essentially it already has.
"OK" the purists will say, "but your average consumer wouldn't know a quality image if it sat up and bit them on the leg. Those who care about image quality will still use film". Really? Have you looked at what wedding photographers are shooting with these days? Catalog photographers? Sports Photographers? Nature Photographers? These are professionals who depend on the quality of their work to make a living. More and more are switching to digital.
Yes, there are still film users shooting with 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 and larger cameras and it may be a long time before they move to digital (if they ever do), but like I said earlier, there are still people riding horses and flying in hot air balloons, but that doesn't alter the fact that transportation is ruled by the car and the airplane. Some people like to do things in traditional ways, and for them film will be their choice (some may even chose to use even earlier technology in the form of Daguerreotypes). A few photographers will value the ultimate quality of 8x10 contact prints, and for them film will be their choice. But for the vast majority of both casual, serious amateur and professional photographers, digital will be the medium they use. This is neither good nor bad. It just is. Film is (or will soon become) a niche medium.
So if film is in its decline, where is digital going? I think the answer depending on the application.
For consumer cameras I see two directions. One is small and one is the "Swiss army camera". There's always a demand for small, pocketable cameras. Such cameras are already fairly easy to find. We'll maybe see an increase in pixel count, but going beyond about 8MP doesn't seem realistic for various technical and practical reasons. Size constraints will limit the zoom lens range on such cameras to something of the order of 35-105mm (35mm equivalent), though we can always hope for a 28-105! I wouldn't be surprised to see the absolute number of digital camera models fall. The market is saturating and a number of camera manufacturers are being hit hard by falling prices and reducing market share - and pulling out of the market in some areas. Maybe eventually we'll see the market dominated by just a few major players (Sony, Kodak and Canon will probably be among them)
The "Swiss army camera" won't be pocketable, but it will be smaller and cheaper than a DSLR but with similar capabilities (up to a point), maybe ending up with something like a 28-420mm zoom (image stabilized of course), a 10MP sensor, and a continuous video mode limited only by memory capacity. We're already starting to see early versions of such cameras (Samsung pro815, Canon S2 IS). Such cameras will be able to do most of what consumers will want and could eat into the low end DSLR market if aggressively priced.
There's also the cell phone camera. The first ones were pretty useless, but there are some available now which don't do a bad job at all and the ones next year will be even better. As cell phones become even more ubiquitous (if that's possible), cell phone cameras will follow them. A number of camera (and phone) makers seem to think that cell phone cameras will be big sellers, and who am I to argue with them. I'm also seeing greater marketing and advertising of cell phone cameras, always a potential pointer to things to come.
When it comes to DSLRs there are lots of "small is beautiful" evangelists who praise the use of small sensors, pointing out that they can make cameras and lenses smaller, lighter and cheaper, though the lower prices and smaller sizes of these lenses don't seem to have been realized yet. I vaguely remember such arguments being put forth when the camera and film makers attempted to foist the APS system on consumers and we all know what a success that wasn't. With digital cost is the driving force for smaller sensors, no matter what the marketing departments of the camera makers say. If full frame sensors were inexpensive, I doubt we'd see anyone claiming that "smaller is better". At this point only Canon is seriously selling a full frame 35mm digital SLR (the 1Ds Mk II) and it's expensive ($8000?). However there are currently some fairly believable rumors that Canon may surprise some people with a full frame sensor camera at less than half that cost this fall. Are the rumors true? Who knows (that's why they're rumors, not facts), but if not this fall, then sometime soon someone will do it (and it's more likely to be Canon than anyone else right now). If someone does market a high quality full frame sensor camera at a price between $3000 and $4000, can the other camera manufactures afford not to follow suit?
All is not lost for the smaller format enthusiasts though. I think the proliferation of lenses with coverage only sufficient for APS-C sized sensors (1.5x and 1.6x), as well as the lower cost of such sensors may well result in a continued market for consumer oriented small sensor cameras for a long time to come, so I see the market splitting between professional DSLRs with full frame sensors and consumer DSLRs with APS-C sensors for the forseeable future.
Could I be wrong? Absolutely. If I could predict the future I wouldn't need to work for a living!
© 2005 Bob Atkins (www.bobatkins.com)
Have you looked at what wedding photographers are shooting with these days? Catalog photographers? Sports Photographers? Nature Photographers? These are professionals who depend on the quality of their work to make a living. More and more are switching to digital.This is a false analogy. Sports and news photographers care more about speed from camera to photo editor's desk than anything else. Image destined for newsprint or websites simply don't need to be of particularly high quality, big files just slow things down. Catalog photographers want to get digital images to the desktops of Mac operators with the least hassle; again, speed is of the essence, and most catalog shots are quite small too. How many wedding shots are printed over 8x10"? Not many. These are professionals who care about quality, true, but they care about workflow speed even more. If you want to bang the drum for digital, bang it there, not with demonstrably false "quality" claims. I remember when Michael Reichmann told us his 3MP D30 was superior to film, funny then that every year we're told we need more and more megapixels. And before anyone jumps on me as a film Luddite, I shoot Nikon D1h when I need speed, and a Rollei TLR and B&W film when I'm feeling arty.
-- Guy Hammond, August 15, 2005
How could "more and more" people be "switching to digital" when no one is supposedly using film, how could there be more and more "switchers"?Can't really see where they are coming from.
Or perhaps all of these articles are just a little bit exaggerated. Quality work is done using film as well as digital. We live in the most interesting times in photography, with so many choices and different techniques available to us.
-- Ilkka Nissila, August 15, 2005
I agree with Guy. Digital capture is a lot of fun, and it's extremely handy for getting an image to a client quickly and cheaply. I use it a lot. But it's got limitations. I just got back from a vacation where, shooting for myself, I used film. No worries about blown highlights (I used negative film) and no worries about storing the files on iffy media in iffy formats.
Bob's argument is really a variant of the bandwagon argument: everyone's doing it, so you should, too. In my darker moments I fear he might be right, because lots of people simply follow trends. But I hope photographers (as opposed to customers at mass-market photo retailers) are more sophisticated than that. I hope there will be enough people out there demanding the best -- not just the newest -- solution to their particular problem. I hope that all options will remain available.
-- Barry Carlton, August 15, 2005
Why bring this up? Digital is taking over, everyone knows that. Film is now a niche, everyone knows that too. Ditto, that the digital market will be split between full-frame and APS-C sized cameras (but not everyone agrees). Tell us something we don't know.
Maybe chips that can be embedded in the eye to take pictures, transmit via WiFi or WiMax to a network for storage, for instance? A lens breakthrough that doesn't require glass or barrels?
Be bolder in your predictions!
Image:LeeCooperDesktop_02_1024.jpg-- Wai-Leong Lee, August 16, 2005
Compared to a 1D or Nikon's equivalent with 28-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 lenses, the 4/3 E-1 system is a helluvalot smaller and lighter with its 14-54 and 50-200 lenses that compare very favourable to the competition. Heck, many pros that have switched to the system say they are every bit as good. And a lot cheaper. Sure, the 1D has more features (speed, focus system, etc) that the E-1 does not have. But I doubt adding those would have increased the size of the body and it certainly wouldn't chage the size of the lenses.
Strangely though, Nikon - the only one of the "APS" DSLR makers to offer one - have not made their pro standard zoom (17-55/2. any smaller or lighter than their 24-70/2.8. Canon's one offering is a consumer zoom that is as big and slow as it's full frame equivalent. Maybe 1.5x (or 1.6x) just isn't enough of a drop in size to make smaller lenses a real possibility?
-- Bas Scheffers, August 16, 2005
"Despite some wailing and gnashing of teeth by photo purists, digital is taking over"
Most of the wailing and gnashing of teeth I see in this article is from the author. Apparently he thinks there are still film users out there that need to be converted, but are either unwilling or unable to understand the gospel. Those that can be converted already are, so why bother any further?
I can't see how this article helps in any way to improve anyones photography skills, and wasn't that the objective of photonet?
-- Peter van de Haar, August 16, 2005
"Most camera makers seem to have stopped film SLR development."
Why? Profit. Digital SLR is being sold at higher price, and they're making more money. Digital SLR is kind of digital stuff, which follows Moore's rule. More powerful digital SLRs come out every year, at lower (or same) price, and the ones you bought last year is kind of obsolete. A couple of years later, you will have to buy another camera. Therefore, camera makers make more profit. Remember the good old days? A decent SLR camera body works for ten years and even longer. There's an implicit rule when using digital SLR: you switch to a new model for better sensor therefore better photos. But when using film SLR, what you need to do is to use better film instead. Obviously the film SLR way is cheaper.
What people consider when they're to buy a camera? Cost. I don't doubt that convenience is a key factor pushing people to buy digital camera. That's why wedding photographers use digital SLR. But the non-professional photographer who shoots occasionally will consider the cost. Taking into account that you'll buy a new digital SLR one year or two, how more you will spend on it compared to the cost of film?
Another key factor is quality. Check out Clarkvision's Film versus Digital Summary. Obviously digital SLR is on its way of rapid evolvement. As the result, digital SLR may exceed film SLR in quality in the coming year. But when will it be affordable and at comparable price to film SLR? Maybe another one or two years or even longer. So I'm happy shooting film right now and will buy a digital SLR then.
-- Bo Chen, August 16, 2005
Bo Chen is correct. Bob mentions Dixon's, the high street retailer. Well, Dixon's is selling digital cameras costing hundreds of pounds to consumers who can "save money" by not spending a few tens of pounds a year on film and processing - and in two or three years, they'll buy another digicam and "save money" again. The truth is that Dixon's makes a lot more money from these kinds of consumers, and another truth is that serious photographers would never pay Dixon's inflated prices for anything anyway!
By all means, if digital is the tool that solves the photographic problems you face, use it. It is for some of the shooting I do, and so I do. But don't believe the hype, and don't jump on the bandwagon unless you feel like wasting your time and money on the treadmill of endless upgrades.
-- Guy Hammond, August 16, 2005
Actually, whether digital is cheaper or more expensive than film depends on how many images you make. There used to be an adage that one could choose a camera by the cost of a year's worth of film and processing. A pro who shoots $10,000/yr in film and processing might own a hasselblad setup. A serious amateur who pumps $1000/yr into the photochemical economy might have a Nikon FE2 and some lenses, etc.
If you follow this metric in your film camera choices, then you could afford to replace your digital camera about once a year-- except that digital cameras are more expensive, so instead it is about every 2-3 years, which is in fact that expected lifespan of a digicam.
I think film will be around a long time. 1-hour film labs will go away, as will many film labs in camera stores. Processing film is getting more expensive-- I just paid $8.00 to have a roll of E-6 run when I used to pay $5.00, and that trend is likely to continue.
Fuji and Kodak are still coming out with new emulsions, so they obviously don't think film will disappear tomorrow.
My biggest difficulty with digital is that what I want as the final product when I make an image is a transparency. I like the idea of archiving an image in a format I can look at on a light table. For me it isn't a question of film vs. digital, which is easier, cheaper, whatever. Digital cameras don't produce the product I want.
-- Joseph Albert, August 16, 2005
Digital cameras don't produce the product I want.
That's not the point. You may well continue to use film until the last roll is sold off the shelf.
The point is the photo industry won't care. It's going digital - all digital - and fast. There was a recent industry survey which predicted that cell phone cameras (with autofocus lenses and 4MP sensors) will start outselling stand alone digital cameras within a few years, never mind film cameras.
Anyone who thinks that Kodak will continue to put money and resources into film development is likely to be dissapointed.
Those who think film will have any significant role in photography in the next decade are probably still listening to vinyl records played via their tube amplifiers when they're not out tinkering with their model-T Ford!
-- Bob Atkins (www.BobAtkins.com), August 16, 2005
The photo industry produces whatever will sell. To a certain extent that means film and related equipment. Remember, Kodak used to manufacture paper for exclusively contact black and white printing (Azo) until this year. How many years is it since contact printing stopped being mainstream? 50? I think I'll probably not be photographing after another 50 years and I'll be happily shooting film along with digital until then.
Bob, your articles used to be interesting and informative, even witty. It's kinda sad to see this kind of "since most people do this, you must, too" stuff coming from a once highly regarded writer. Nothing is proven until the last roll of film indeed is sold. I don't expect you will see that in your lifetime, and neither will I.
Trying to put all people into the same mold has never worked in the history of mankind, and this won't do it either. People will seek out new ways of being different and creative. Cell phone cameras aren't the answer to that. Just because you think you see the writing on the wall doesn't make it so for other people. Has painting disappeared when photography came to existence? Has writing on paper disappeared with word processors? Walking and biking with cars and airplanes?
Throughout the ages there have been people who think they know what's best and they've tried to force their ideas on other people. Do you want to be remembered that way, Bob?
-- Ilkka Nissila, August 16, 2005
Rock'n'roll guitar players use most likely Marshall amps, which are tube amplifiers.
Hi-end amplifiers use tubes. As well.
A good analog stereo system beats a 5+1 digishit in sound depth and richness without any problem. Guess what people want, instead! But maybe you might suggest to store all my CDs in mp3 format and then throw them away, so I cannot hear the difference anymore.
Anyhow, it's useless to go further... I just don't understand why, if I use film, there is at least every day someone who tells me I should go digital.
Could you please tell me why are you so much concerned (you all, and also you Bob) about what medium I use to shoot? Please let me die alone and don't shoot digital pics of my funeral.
I have a friend... he used to buy ready made potato puree in those bags and feed his children with that shit. Once, his mother, made a real potato puree to her grandchildren, and they didn't like the "real potatoes", since they were used to the "digital" ones.
Digital might be better than film. Ok. Just stop repeating it. It's getting boring.
-- Bruno Trematore, August 16, 2005
Those who think film will have any significant role in photography in the next decade are probably still listening to vinyl records played via their tube amplifiersVinyl users care about music, MP3 users only care about bit-rates and megabytes of storage. So what's your point, again? :-)As I say, people are spending hundreds of pounds on digicams to save a few tens of pounds on film and processing. The research backs this up; Kodak says the average consumer shoots 5 rolls of film per year and Canon says the average digicam owner shoots 5x as much as the average film camera owner. Hey, its their money, they can what they please with it. Real photographers would rather spend their money on lenses, lighting, studio/darkroom hire, framing...
-- Guy Hammond, August 16, 2005
Gee, it only costs $8000 to buy a digital camera that will replicate the quality of 35mm film. What are you waiting for?
-- Joseph Albert, August 16, 2005
There have been thousands of threads in photo.net about film and digital and about proffessionals using this or that. I like digital and I prefer it to film due to convenience and that is fine I suppose. It is fine for others to prefer film, because maybe they have a darkroom and do their own processing and they feel reluctant to change all that. I do not see the meaning of this article, what the writer wants to point out in this religious writing. That people should throw away their darkrooms because the statistics say so? I know people that still listen to vinyl records because they had record players worth thousands of dollars and also thousands of records. They know that most people listen to mp3 ..... so what? This article is kind of boring, repetitive and has actually little to do with photography.
-- Vasilis Apostolopoulos, August 17, 2005
There are advantages and disadvantages to both film and digital. I happen to use both mediums for different purposes, mainly driven by convenience and practicality. In terms of actual photography the medium (film or digital) you use doesn't really matter as long as you can communicate your message the way you want.
-- Dino Carubia, August 17, 2005
Vinyl users care about music, MP3 users only care about bit-rates and megabytes of storage.
Guy Hammond, August 16, 2005
Well thanks Guy for telling me what I care about, and what I should think! So I can now throw away my music collection, my guitars (btw, I use a Laney Tube head amp) and buy a new computer, because I don't care about music, only bitrates? Good that you woke me up, cause I actually foolishly thought I could think for myself!
Actually, your comparison brings us to the same old thing: Horses for courses! Why chose one of the two, chose the one that best fits the job at hand! (ever tried running or cycling with a vinyl player on your back?)
-- Claude R., August 17, 2005
Real photographers would rather spend their money on lenses, lighting, studio/darkroom hire, framing...
-- Guy Hammond, August 16, 2005
Once again thanks for assuming I'm not a real fotographer... Next time somebody asks me about me I'll just direct them to you and you can make some further bland generalizations about me! thanks dude-- Claude R., August 17, 2005
What's written on the wall for me is that my fanny is getting bigger as I spend so much more time working on photos in front of computer. It used to be so simple: shoot slide film, then process...voila!...a high quality, saleable product that could be instantly evaluated by client on a light table. Used to spend a lot more time behind camera; now it's in front of monitor. This cannot be healthy.
-- Waldo Lee, August 17, 2005
I agree with Dino. i have a digital camera and use it as well as film. on a recent trip, I took a pic with an Olympus C-8080 that I don't think ever could have been made with film, at least not easily.
A discussion of issues like this, ie types of images for which digital is far superior and types of images for which film is far superior would be much more interesting.
As far as the time spent in front of a computer screen someone referred to... this is my hesitation with digital photography.
One thing digital imagers may not have considered is that the time spent fiddling with a computer is only going to get worse over time as you acquire a life work of digital images. In 10 years you will have a database of images that must be administered-- backups, system upgrades, software upgrades, changes in image format to keep up with technology for managing the images etc. etc. Just like large organizations now cannot live without computers and a staff of programmers to administer them now that so much of their corporate information is digital instead of on paper in filing cabinets, so will you too be dependent on computers to manage your images even if you were to go back to shooting film. I can tell you that this administrative cost is not cheap. Many studies have shown that large corporations do not make one penny of extra profit as a result of having an IT dept. to enable their information to be live in digital format.
The hope is that the benefits of digital imaging will be great enough to balance this cost of administering your photographic infrastructure. It probably increases revenue in the short run, but it isn't clear that it does in the long run as administrative costs increase as one's digital infrastructure grows in size.
Upgrading digital cameras is only part of it-- you will need newer, faster computers to run the latest versions of software with features you need to be competitive. Once you board the train, it can be hard to ever get off.
I predict that in about 10-15 years, many photographers will rue the day the photo world mostly went digital, including many who today tout digital imaging as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
-- Joseph Albert, August 17, 2005
Why are "some" people so intent on seeing the demise of film? Why do "some" people take every opportunity to tell anyone and everyone that digital is King? It's like he, uhum, they are salivating and circling the prey (film) waiting for it to die so they can tell us they told us so.
It's odd that a moderator has taken to starting a flame war in essence by publishing an article with zero original thought and mounds of the obvious on such a hot topice known to get people heated. Well done! All the time we see threads deleted or given short lives because this has been beaten to death over and over the last couple of years. But hey, now we have a front page article. Hurray! Let's hope Bob does us all a favor and treats this article like so many similiar threads are treated and give this article a short life. There's no need for it.
Bob, we get it. No need to keep reminding us.
-- Jim Evans, August 17, 2005
I already stated this several times in other threads: my whole day at work is spent with a PC. Although I use a negative scanner and edit my photos with a PC... from time to time... I turn off the light and print photos with my hands (without a mouse).
It always gives me a great satisfaction and happiness. And each time I wonder why do I waste my time with a computer.
For several of us, dear Bob, photo is a hobby. And as a hobby I care much more about the fun I get out of it, rather than dpi's or megapixels or such stuff. When film will get unavailable... maybe I'll switch to digital... maybe I'll switch to painting.
Just a question for you, dear digital evangelist: how many girls where you able to get into your darkroom to see how photos came out and how many girls where you able to get next to your desk while you were ma*****ating with photoshop? If you had a darkroom you know the answer, if you never had one, then I understand why you write such articles.
-- Bruno Trematore, August 18, 2005
Talk about hitting a sore spot.... Bob's article did not claim film was dead, did not tell everyone they had to switch to digital, did not say there were no advantages to film, and did not make fun of anyone choosing to use film.
Yet the people who have responded act as if Bob made derogatory comments regarding the mothers and heritage of all film users.
Get over yourselves people! All Bob did was state the obvious, that digital now dominates sales, use, and R&D. And that digital has become a high quality medium that professionals who depend on quality trust and accept. Why do these plain facts inspire such defensive, knee jerk responses from film users?
Film users say they're tired of being told to switch, but Bob didn't tell anyone to switch. As a primarily digital user, I'm tired of hearing how long and tedious digital post production is (it's not), how my photos will never last (they're safer with multiple copies than a shoebox of film ever was), how I need to spend $8,000 to match 35mm in quality (I spent $1,200, not much more than a good scanner), and how "real photographers" use film (an insult to every professional and serious amateur who has switched).
Bob summarized what is happening in the industry. He did not 'attack' film or film users. Let's move on people....
-- Daniel Taylor, August 18, 2005
I am also using digital. I do not disagree with any of your points. Except maybe the point that Bruno also made, that as all day in work we are sitting in front of a computer it bugs me to go home and sit in front of my computer to process photos (I understand that other people do not care). The only problem with Bob's article is that really states the obvious without giving a lot of new information. Bob's articles are usually much more informative and scientific than this one.
-- Vasilis Apostolopoulos, August 18, 2005
I think the "sore spot" is the fact that this article really serves no purpose but to insight a flame war. There is no original thought in this article and simply states the obvious. If this was a thread, it would likely be given a short life because it's been done over and over. I also think it's a bit hypocritical for someone who takes action against people/threads for flaming now publishes a front page article on such a hot topic that he knew would cause and uproar or sorts. If he claims he had no idea this topic would start such a fire, then he is truly out of touch with the members and users of PN. I would expect more from a moderator.
What was the motivation behind this article other than the state the obvious?
Another potential "sore spot" is the vaque reference that suggest working with film today is like traveling by Hot Air Balloon or by horse. He brings this up twice. Regardless of intent by the author, this is a small slap in the face to film users.
I have no bad feelings about digital. I think it's a great way to take a photograph and it's clearly the best option for many people. I just like film. Simple as that. I am not wrong or right for using film and I will also likely move to digital down the road. I have a digital now and I scan all my negatives. Digital has opened up many doors for me by allowing me to print my own images and edit them. I happy it's hear and hope it stays. But while film is hear, which I believe will be forever to some degree, I will enjoy it as well.
-- Jim Evans, August 18, 2005
I haven't gone digital but it seems the world's gone digital on me.
The prints I get back from A&I have clearly been scanned - I see it in the edges, at 6x4. Ditto at my local camera store. Fuji Frontier, they say. Enlargements look downright crappy (they clearly scan to a low resolution) and I have no idea where to get a decent one without paying through the nose ($20+) here in Boston.
(On top of that, even though my pics do get digitised alond the way, I'd still have to pay extra if I wanted to get an occasional one as a file to e-mail to a friend.)
At least, I was hoping the slides would be OK - damn the prints! Well, having read this piece I'm not so sure - what will happen if/when my Carousel projector breaks, Kodak having stopped making them?
So, yes I would pay $2000 for a full-size-sensor digital EOS. Any gnashing of teeth from me is due to the fact that even if the rumors Bob mentioned are true, it's still going to be twice that (and some people used to say Leicas were expensive!)
-- David Barts, August 18, 2005
I totally agree with Bob. Film is on its way out...like it or not. I personally like film, but i like digital better. I have learned more in the past 4 months of owning my 20D than I did in the 5 years previous taking pictures. Why??? Because I can afford to take thousands of shots, and I know instantly if what i am doing is working.
In the past 4 months I have taken the equivalent of at least 200 rolls of film, at zero cost to me. I personally do not know anyone who would revert back to film after using one of the better digital SLR's on the market.
My only use for film now would be to shoot a scene in digital, and then swap camera bodies and shoot the same thing again with Velvia, once I sorted out my exposures etc with the digital body...this way I waste no film.
Just my thoughts.
-- Clint Dunn, August 18, 2005
Talk about hitting a sore spot.... Bob's article did not claim film was dead.
I think it is more the comparison of shooting film to driving a model-T or listening to an 8-track. That's why I pointed out that a digital camera does not produce the end product I want to have, which is a transparency. It would be analogous to a modern auto being far superior to a model-T except it doesn't take you to your exact destination-- instead drops you off 6 blocks away and you walk the final 6 blocks.
And there never was such a thing as a hi-fidelity 8-track tape.
Saying that digital was taking over most photo activities is hardly new news, and not worthy of any replies. Film will be a niche market for artists and hobbyists, and there will be some pro usage of it as well. There is no need to tar those who use it with your mouse.
-- Joseph Albert, August 18, 2005
1) Mobile phone cameras are not coming, they are already here. Nokia boasted that it's the largest camera maker in the world (I don't remember the number, but the amount of shipped units were something like an order of magnitude larger than Canon's and increasing a lot faster). This development is most evident in Japan and Korea, where digicam sales seems to be taking a hit.
2) The question of "full-frame" is more about mental images than anything else; Mamiya is bringing out an DSLR with a near-6x4.5 size sensor - obviously this is much better than "full-frame". Likewise, the quality that the Nikon D2X produces is so high than many people probably aren't even interested in "full-frame". Snapshooters tend to be quite content with 3 to 5 mpix and more serious photographers should also consider medium format options, "full-frame" being only one size of many, nothing special about it.
-- Oskar Ojala, August 19, 2005
Bob, this is the best analysis that I've seen of the current situation. Thanks.
-- Bill Mitchell, August 19, 2005
Bruno Trematore, August 18, 2005 is my favourite reponse .
-- Will Harwood, August 19, 2005
PLease Don't atack Bob. He is saying the truth. It is not always pleasent to hear that the hobby that you started 25 yesrs ago is changing his face totally. For those of you (like me) that fell in love with the darkroom smell of the chemicals and the mysterious of the red light, it is really sad. Sad but true. Anyone who doesnt like it, go find a new hobby. Film is going to be dead in few years!. It is not like horses or Ford-T examples that you gave bob. I had a friend who's hobby was to fix TypeWriter's. He was a proffesional on that skill. Does our children today even know how does a typewriter machines look like? It was less than 20 years ago!
Thank you bob for telling the true even if it is not pleasent.
Amit-- Amit Bronstein, August 19, 2005
I drive a car. I own several of them. I don't care for horses, They are out dated for transportation. But I do not promote killing horses. Film did not distroy drawing, oils or pastels. That market exists in a different form and co-exists with photography. Film will not ever reverse the digital movement. Digital is a great medium for most photography if fact the best medium for some things. Film also has is't place as an art form and for many technical,legal and archival applications. With that said why do so many photographers feel they must drive out film? I have heard and read many digital shooters say things like "When we get rid of Film" not "When film is gone". In Death Vally two years ago I had set up my 8x10 early in the morning and waited for the sun on the sand dunes only to have someone drive up, shoot a digital picture and then tell me "Your stupid to do that" Then after explaning the technical and asthetec merits of large format he said "But with digital you can shoot anything and shop it later". Mind you I have never gone up to any artist in the field and told them they are doing it wrong. Why can't some digital shooters accept the fact that many of us still love film and the darkroom?
-- John Bates, August 21, 2005
I am not attacking bob, I just think this is part of the digital mindset, ON/OFF YES/NO. If photography is digital then film must go. Indications are that there will a small film market for fine art photographers for a long time. So why try to kill it?
-- John Bates, August 21, 2005
Digital is most certainly here to stay. But these type of digital-rules-because-film-is-obsolete articles are really more for the market and investment capital world than they are for the photography layman. The reason the film-is-obsolete tag gets coupled to a digital rant is because nobody is going to invest in a market without first seeing the numbers. Film sales represent those numbers in the form of market shares where digital can still expand. But as Bob points out this digital market is saturating, which probably means it is already saturated. Anybody who might possibly go digital, I would guess, already has. And as the PC industry learned a few years ago, despite Moore's law customers are not going to continue to upgrade all their equipment every few years indefinitely. Interesting to note here is the three companies Bob selected to survive. Both Canon and Sony have stellar credit ratings that can withstand just about anything a downward market serves up. Kodak is also an interesting choice. Kodak isn't as solid as either Canon or Sony and it's had its share of problems. But Kodak does have strong name recognition in the consumer market and Kodak also has its film market to pull it through hard times. And then there's the phone-cam market which shows potential. Of course film isn't really going anywhere anytime soon. Anybody who goes to the cinema knows that. The film industry is still the film industry. This is a sore spot for some because back in the late nineties the sales pitch was by 2005 the film industry would be completely digital. And everybody who invested in that lost their money. As I said Kodak has their film market, which includes a monopoly on American films, i.e. Hollywood. This is really a huge market that digital can't seem to penetrate. Fuji controls the majority of the overseas film industry. And as long as these companies are selling film they will be making film. And as long as they are making film they will be selling film. I'm being purposely redundant for emphasis in light of all the fear mongering that tends to surround this issue. Worst case scenario is in a couple of decades you may have to mail order your 35mm from the same establishment where you purchase your 120 and 4x5 film. I already do that anyway. On the other hand the upside of all this is that since the casual consumer began abandoning film for P&S digital cams the choices and variety of higher quality films have steadily increased.
-- dave collopy, August 22, 2005
Dave, I think there are many photographers who will soon buy a digital camera who are currently shooting film, but part of the negative reaction to this article could be due to the increasing difficulty we face in our efforts to simply shoot and process as we always have. The cost of E6 processing is going up as is the inconvenience due to fewer local processors who used to give you several choices for a 24-hour turnaround. The success of the Madison Avenue approach that is able to convince so many people to spend more money on the latest and greatest has a clear negative effect on those who resist, for whatever reason.
Anybody know where I can buy a 10c magenta filter? I called B&H a year ago and was told they we're available. (No doubt, you're expected to do all color correction in PS.) I'm sure there are other examples.
Bob's best analogy may be the horse. They're still around, but the support system that was available for daily use is completely gone, so now they exist only for specialized use and at a greater cost.
-- Carl Root, August 23, 2005
I agree, Carl. There are many film customers who will buy digital. And there also many digital customers who will switch back to film. The only point I was making is that a 'saturating' or saturated market is not a smart place to invest your money. On the other hand if you already have Sony or Canon in you portfolio, you should be patting yourself on the back.
But I would have to courteously disagree with you on the horse analogy. As a tool the Ferrari outperforms the horse in every category: acceleration, speed, handling, braking and comfort. However, the selling point of digital according to the survey Bob sites is that 93% of those surveyed can't see any difference at all. Also no one in their right mind who has ever driven a Ferrari assumed that they were riding a horse. Yet many who produce digital images think they are creating photographs. The only way the horse analogy does work IMO is the Ferrari is a machine, the horse is an animal, and the difference between the two is as vast as the difference between digital and analogue, that is, for anyone who's bothered to look under the hood.
-- dave collopy, August 23, 2005
"Those who think film will have any significant role in photography in the next decade are probably still listening to vinyl records played via their tube amplifiers when they're not out tinkering with their model-T Ford!"
Lol. Come ON Bob. I understand your enthusiasms, and your zeal is positively charming, but come back down to earth with me for just a sec ...
If you're talking about magazines, editorial, photojournalism, docuphotography - business, money-making stuff OK ... whatever makes them money .... such is the world. I have not yet dabbled in that world so I can't speak intelligently to that.
I do know, however, that true craftspersons tend to stay true their crafts, themselves and their art. This involves exploring it to an extent that would bore the average person out of their mind. It means spending years honing their art. Aren't we told that in order to find ourselves artistically we have to find our own paths and not worry about what the market dictates or what others are doing? So what is this bandwagon everyone is jumping on? I have to ask, where are your beliefs and convictions as far as photography is concerned?
Real artists have spent way too much time developing their art and they are way too experienced and seasoned and smart to salivate at the sight of a hot product promised to deliver them and their work.
What you're saying is equivalent to saying that because the new fast-drying (plastic) acrylic paint was invented, the old laborious way of painting in oil will fade away. Absurd.
No, digital is not taking over. I don't feel like a dinosaur, an old person, a hold-out. I'm a relatively new photographer who recognizes quality and knows how to create quality photos on film. If what you say is true, which it is not, I have my painting and my writing. When they stop making film, I will quit photography. It's as simple as that.
-- Gloria Hopkins, August 23, 2005
I think it is fair to say that photochemical color printing is disappearing. One advantage to capture an image today with film is that you can continue to take advantage of improvements in scanning technology as they become available, but once you capture an image with digital, you cannot go back and re-take the image with a better camera/sensor when it becomes available. You've got what you've got.
I just celebrated the digital "takeover" by purchasing a Minolta SRT101 and 4 lenses (24mm, 50mm, 100mm macro, 200mm) for a fraction of what it would have cost just a few years ago-- basically for about a year's worth of depreciation on a digital camera. I think consumer 35mm is a goner, so consumer films will be gone, and maybe pro portrait films, too. The C-41 process may well disappear altogether, but I bet films like E100G, Astia, Velvia, and Provia, and E-6 chemicals stay around at another decade or more longer.
-- Joseph Albert, August 24, 2005
Here is what the chief technology officer of Kodak has to say publicly about this issue: The Future of Film. This seems to be focused on motion picture films, but still some relevance here.
-- Joseph Albert, August 24, 2005
I think there is a place for film and digital. I have both and recently I went back to film just for some of the reasons stated. I like the results I get better with film. There used to be a time when you bought a camera like the old Nikon F1 or the Leica and the camera did not become outdated in less than six months. With digital, a new chip, a slighly redesigned label or new firmware and you have a new camera. Now try getting rid of the old one. You're lucky if you can dump it on eBay. And the adds tell you how much better the NEW X1A is better than the old X1. A great marketing ploy for the manufacturers. They don't make film, they make cameras. And that is what they want to sell. I have a digital SLR and recently priced a D20 with a couple of IS lenses, not the fancy ones, for a friend of mine. It was around 3360 dollars for one body, some batteries, a card, reader, and a couple of lenses. No flash, no tripod, no carrying case, no cable relase for 30 dollars. Now that is a rich man's hobby. Let's get things in perspective and produce images and in an affordable way for a lot of people. After all, photography, is producing photographs and not purchasing the latest gadget you see in the photo magazines. Oh, by the way, count in the cost of a decent computer and a photo printer and an editing program and see what the total is. You can save $500 dollars by buying a Rebel 350 and see how you can work it in the cold with gloves. LONG LIVE FILM.
-- Erol Uner, August 28, 2005
The C-41 process may well disappear altogether, but I bet films like E100G, Astia, Velvia, and Provia, and E-6 chemicals stay around at another decade or more longer.
That was a bit misguided. C-41 film is what the movie industry uses for image capture. They like the tonal range and avoidance of blown out highlights. That should ensure the future of the C-41 process until some other type of image capture can be shown to be superior for their application.
-- Joseph Albert, August 29, 2005
Maybe I am not as advanced as so many of you posters appear to be. Funny that so many of you seem to be either large format users, or professionals with the means and facilities to develop and create your own prints from film.
There are an awful lot of us who are sick and tired of inconsistent developing/printing results (unless I go to a Pro lab..and pay Pro dollars). In fact, the combination of inconsistency and expense is what drove me to make the swap from film.
Now that the majority of camera users are switching to digital, what do you think is going to happen to both the price and selection of film??? Its going to get more expensive, with less selection...Its simple supply and demand.
-- Clint Dunn, September 2, 2005
Why would falling demand increase prices? The questions aren't so much about supply and demand as what is the fixed cost and variable cost of producing the product and is it viable at lower volumes, and how cheap does digital have to get before it isn't economically feasible to produce a competitive photochemical process?
-- Joseph Albert, September 2, 2005
Ok maybe 'supply and demand' was a poor way to say what I was thinking...I should have said Economies of Scale. However, it does apply to film selection. What do you think your film options will be in 10 years time? Do you think companies like Fujifilm are going to continue with development?? If so, for how long? Will we see yet another generation of Velvia..maybe Velvia 160 in five years??? I doubt it. Then again maybe I am wrong. I just don't see the point in dumping money into an ever-shrinking market. There simply won't be the same demand for high quality film that there is/was. This will especially be the case as image quality from lower noise/higher resolution cameras gets better over the next few years. Look at the latest batch of Medium Format digital cameras to come out. You may balk at the price but a working professional will recover that equipment cost in no time.
If anything film will be a niche market in ten years and you will pay top dollar for quality film/processing/printing. One simply needs to look at the ratio of digital vs film cameras being sold to see the writing on the wall. This is not a condemnation of film, rather a statement of reality.-- Clint Dunn, September 2, 2005
QUOTE "If anything film will be a niche market in ten years and you will pay top dollar for quality film/processing/printing."
So will gasoline, and coffee, and fresh produce. So what's your point Clint?
The moment that I can produce higher quality and higher resolution images with digital for less money than I can with film, I will switch to digital, completely. It's not a religious thing. The problem here is Bob has put the cart before the horse. As a reviewer of equipment, the only selling point he can offer for digital is its inevitability. And then you echo that point. It really insults the readers intelligence.
-- dave collopy, September 3, 2005
Dave, relax my friend...no one is trying to insult your intelligence...and last time I checked coffee and gasoline were hardly niche markets so don't insult mine. As you have already stated, the moment for you to make the switch is when the price-point and quality make sense to you. The quality side is completely subjective, and largely determined by how big you want to make your prints. My 20D produces amazing prints, although I would freely admit that I have yet to print anything larger than a 8x12 yet. For me personally, the price point was right as I no longer have to pay $10 Canadian plus developing for Velvia film...for one roll. If you shoot enough you will easily make up the extra money you pay on a body like the 20D over my previous EOS3.
As for suggesting that the only benefit that Bob offers for digital vs film is inevitability...give me a break. This was a specific article on the opinion that digital is replacing film. The benefits of digital are no secret, and I already named a few in my earlier post. Maybe instant feedback, the ability to select ISO100-3200 without changing film midroll, zero film/developing cost, the ability to adjust exposure later if you screw up (within reason of course), 2GB memory cards that hold 200 full rez shots on my 20D (instead of 8 rolls of film stuffed in a pocket), 5 fps shooting that is free....the list goes on and on....maybe these things are of no benefit to you...but they are to me.
Where were all of you film guys when was I selling my immaculate EOS3 on EBay????? It sold for no where near what it was worth.
-- Clint Dunn, September 4, 2005
"Dave, relax my friend...no one is trying to insult your intelligence...and last time I checked coffee and gasoline were hardly niche markets so don't insult mine."
Last time I checked neither was film. It was not my intention to insult, but you now can see how such claims do insult the intelligence, be it intentional or unintentional. The benefits of digital may be well known, but they only have value when weighed against shortcomings. The lack of balanced reviews on the subject is why so many photographers these days find themselves switching back to film after a costly venture into digital. That said, digital is a viable solution for many such as yourself, but these type of articles are better suited to rally investment capital and tend to rub some photographers the wrong way, because digital for some photographers is simply not there yet. And I'm sure you can appreciate that.
-- dave collopy, September 4, 2005
Take a chill pill guys. Do I tell you what brand of toilet paper to use? No. Do I tell you what cereal to have for breakfast? No. So why do you tell me what camera to use?
I don't have a dSLR. Why? Because the cost for me is prohibitive. My EOS 30 works fine and if I were to get a 350/20D I'd have to replace my lenses as I do like my FOV to stay the same. Plus I don't like the increase in DOF. So the only contender is the new 5D. But for the money it costs I can shoot a few hundrer films before paying off for the investment.
Not that I do not want a dSLR. Feel free to buy me one and I'll be the first to dump my film camera. Just because I can afford a 5D, doesn't mean that it makes economic sense. I'd rather spend the money on a few rolls of film and tickets to a nice place to shoot.
-- Panos Voudouris, September 4, 2005
Dave I didn't say film was a niche market...I said in ten years it would be.. So lets see who is right, give me a call on your rotary dial phone in a decade and we'll talk:)
Quote:"I'd have to replace my lenses as I do like my FOV to stay the same. Plus I don't like the increase in DOF."
Panos I completely agree with you regarding the field of view, but not sure what you mean by a greater depth of field. As you know the DOF is a function of your selected aperture...so what do you mean by digital giving you greater DOF??? As for telling you what camera to use..I could care less what you shoot with...just have fun doing it. Thats the thing..no one is telling you guys not to shoot film. All I am saying is that the times..they are a changing. I just think that it is funny listening to the Old School Elitists like Gloria who will 'quit photography the day they stop making film'...come on give me a break.
Anyways, lets all agree to disagree on the film/digital thing. I love film, but personally digital makes more sense for me now.
I understand the skepticism towards digital, because I was one of you guys before. All I know is I have no regrets switching. I do miss the hefty feel of my old EOS3 though....I don't like how the cameras are getting smaller.
-- ;Clint Dunn, September 5, 2005
&#34;Panos I completely agree with you regarding the field of view, but not sure what you mean by a greater depth of field. As you know the DOF is a function of your selected aperture...so what do you mean by digital giving you greater DOF???"
Clint, Bob Atkins explains it here http://www.photo.net/learn/optics/dofdigital/
-- Panos Voudouris, September 5, 2005
Panos, thanks for the link...I hadn't read that before. Very interesting article, although the math lost me:) I guess I now understand that theoretically you are right about the DOF, but I can tell you that from a practical point of view it is really irrelevant.
If you are concerned with too much DOF using 1.6X DSLR's...it isn't an issue. I almost always shoot in Aperture-Priority mode, as DOF is very important to me. I have numerous cases where I have shot portraits with my 70-200 2.8 lens and my DOF is actually too shallow..ie:only part of the face is in focus, when I was only trying to achieve background blur. I have never had an issue where I couldn't get a shallow DOF effect where I wanted it. So, while DOF may change a bit, you can always get what you want by changing your focus point and aperture. The one down side I guess would be that the distance/aperture markings on your lens would change a bit as Bob explained in that article.
-- Clint Dunn, September 5, 2005
I use film because I think it is FAR better suited to fine art photography than is digital capture. I shoot black and white 35mm and medium format. Digital capture usually looks PLASTIC to me, and therefore INFERIOR. If I do everything right, film capture is far superior to digital capture in my opinion. I also think that, typically, those who are hell bent on convincing everyone that film is no longer viable tend to produce dull, uninteresting and uninspired images, if any at all. This is based purely on observation, although I haven't seen all digital photographers' images, and this does not apply to all digital photographers. I know it is politically incorrect to say this. I don't care.
Let me be a luddite. Continue to produce plastic gruel to your hearts content; let me create works of art with my film. Too much measurebation will grow pixels on the palms of your hands.
-- F P, September 13, 2005
Mr FP, sorry you feel digital produces plastic images. I just had a file professionally printed to 12x18, and no one I have showed it to was able to tell it was a digital file.
Its funny that you feel people who work with digital produce dull and uninspired images....while you create 'works of art'...yet you have not a single file posted on photo net for others to see.
Another closet photog I guess.
-- Clint Dunn, September 15, 2005
Although this has turned into the stardard digital vs. film debate, I will feed the trolls with my two cents worth.
For me, there is only one reason to use digital - Photoshop. Were it not for Photoshop, digital photography would not be nearly as fun. I am not a professional photographer, nor do I make wall sized enlargements. My feeling is that 99% of people are in this category. I don't really understand the endless debate on this issue. Who cares what you use. Are you having fun?
Don't be a measurebator! [kenrockwell.com]
-- Chad Brown, September 15, 2005
(This article continues as Part Two)
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Film is fun. My Nikon F6 is the greatest. Digital shooting is fun, especially at the beach. Sitting at the computer for five days working on a digital wedding job is crazy.
My photolab will scan my film weddings onto a hi rez disc for me so I can sit in front of the computer working up the job with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
On the job, I can use the F6 and enjoy the best film camera I have ever owned. I can also keep spending money on updated digital cameras every other year to keep up with the quality of film and my F6.