From silver film to digital pictures


Four years ago, we try to do a point of situation on the digital photography.
Since the situation has strongly evolved: the digital photography has been required so for amateurs that for professionals. The average price of a digital camera is past from 750 $ in 2001 to 350 $ in 2004, in the same period, the CCD of this camera has passed from less of 1 millions of pixels to more of 3 ( Capital magazine source dec 2003).
If some points described four years ago are always, some others are not obsolete or necessitate an actualization.
This bulletin indicates the new possibilities but also changes of habits, news rule and constraints introduces by the digital age.
This bulletin tries to process the digital photography, independently of the evolution of cameras themselves.

1 Technical youth defects of digital cameras.

Current digital cameras (September 2004) have CCD with sensibility varies from 3,3 millions of pixels for mass-market cameras to 14 million pixels for the professionals SLR. The definition is already superior to film 24 x 36 and enough for all needs, the family, studio or reporting photography.
Among progress realized the last four years:

  1. The electrical consumption is now well managed on most of models with manufacturer and/or rechargeable batteries. The electrical model consumption has also been strongly improved.
  2. With an equal storage, the price of stocking supports has been divided on the average by four in four years. New cards exceed Giga byte and are completed by autonomous safeguard systems, from 20 to 40 Giga hard disks to 40.
Defects that subsist on current models are:

  1. Supports of stocking are normalized: SmartMédia (abandoned), SD, MM, CompactFlash (type I and II), xD-Picture Cardô or MemoryStick (simple, duo or Pro).
  2. The obligation to possess a microcomputer to stock, process, file images. Times of transfer between microcomputer and digital cameras remain often too long. Some external devices, end user access terminal, printers allow to be used partially without microcomputer.

2 A new manner to approach the environment: reflex and clear viewer

As indicated the review "Chasseur d'Images", in its number of April 2000, concerning the clear viewer (typical Leica M): 'the photographer does not hide behind its machine. The communication with photographed persons is easier and it suffices to open 1'oeil left while aiming to appreciate the scene in its ensemble.'
Disadvantages of the clear viewer on a classic camera: 'imprecision of the centering, image partially obstructed by the lens, difficulty to compose the photograph in long focal, impossibility to use judiciously the tele lens superiors to 90 mm' are becoming allow in digital photography with the integrated screen.

The "bridge cameras", kind of false reflex, because they authorize in simultaneous authorize in simultaneous direct clear viewer and reflex viewer, combine therefore the better of the two views. They rejoin in that them camcorders with their viewer type reflex but electronics and their screen. They do not allow to using interchangeable lenses.

Digital SLR cameras, with their optical viewfinder, are characterized by the possibility to receive different lenses. But the image is always visualized through the viewfinder (and the lens) and is not available to view simultaneously on a rear control screen (excepted the old Olympus E10). Thereby the image composition can be operating only to height of eye and it is necessary to wait the releasing to visualize the photograph taken.
Finally excepted for models professional which are expensive, the "amateur" DSLR have a viewfinder that reproduces 92 to 95% of the image recorded. Thereby these cameras are less precise than the mass-market digital compact.

We can only regret that the direct clear viewer is often through a screen. Indeed in silver photography there is a "manner to conform linked to the direct view". On the frosted glass of a reflex, the conformed black image and allocated by the passage through the objective seems already extracted of the reality.
In digital photography, the passage by the CCD sensor and/or through the lens introduces a distortion as compared to the reality.

3 The digital photo as common information

The silver photo shoot imposes naturally the notion of sequence in photograph, sequence that translates physically into the succession of views on the negative. The negative constitutes the womb from which are undertaken drawings.
The digital photo shoot generates a digital file by photograph. This digital file can be duplicated, updated without no loss of quality and without that it being possible to distinguish the original of the copy.

The digital file loses its quality photographic object to become common information.

4 The evolution of the processing of the image, its exploitation to its conversion

The facilities of utilization of the digital image, its immediate duplication without loss of quality do not have to mask the fact that its durability is linked to those of programs allowing to decipher it. Indeed does not import what daguerreotype, old of more hundred years, can again today be immediately visualized directly with eyes and then reproduced by optical expansion or by scanners. It goes similarly for the totality of the silver image: from miniature negatives of the Minox to plates of Linhof.

Today digital file images are stocked under computer formats necessitating specific software to read them. If files jpeg, tiff and others mpeg are today recognized by all software, but who guarantees that in five, ten or twenty years, these formats are again known and that there exists software to exploit them?
For example, the format CD Photo of Kodak, created there are just some years, is now reserved to professionals and has become marginal.

I will not approach here the problem of the amateur video or the durability of formats is again more problematical, including for the silver films. Difficult to visualize films in 8mm, Super 8 or Super 8 resonant, tomorrow difficult for video cassettes in VHS-C, Video 8, Hi 8, Digital 8 or DV for lack of material capable to reread bobbins and cassettes; and I think impossible for a format as the Micro MV of Sony that will have lasted only three years with confidential sales.

The alone solution seems to be to always choose a format of largely widespread images leaves to transfer / to convert its images enough often, by trying not to lose in quality during these transfers.
The format RAW, issued of the CCD and dependant of each manufacturer seems therefore the format of image it less durable. A simple security @is to keep he same safeguarded image simultaneously in RAW and in jpeg (or in tiff not destructive).

5 The evolution of the photography of reporting or people and the status of photographer

The digital photography allows the photographer to transmit more rapidly its images, these here are rapidly selected in function of needs of the news. Photographs retained are distributed largely and others are destroyed.
To the devaluation of the support corresponds the devaluation of the content that loses its will have technical to become a production as others (documents, infodrawing or video). What is not sold or salable can be eliminated. Even if this temptation existed in the past, the non reusable support and the film sequence (physical film) limited this practice. Will find we in thirty forgotten photograph years and not published of a new Lartigue?
How much masterpieces will be lost continuation to the defrag and successive hard disk cleanings .

During the war in Afghanistan, at the end 20001, many digital images were transmitted directly to press agencies and distributed in the whole world some hours after the shooting. The photographers could use the silver film only for a study in depth of the subject. The exposed film needs several days to be received. Some pro digital SLR possesses computer connection possibilities (WiFi or GPRS) for dispatching immediately image to the agency. The press agency makes a selection and attends to the sale while the photographer is again on the place of the event.
This evolution may be possible, accelerated, by digital camera that tends to define one photographer as a link of the chain, the person in charge of the selection in the agency or partners completing this chain.
This may explain partly why the status of photographer is currently changing with at end the fact to disguise and salary this profession and having the loss of royalties on photographs taken. For some agencies, we are passing from the craftsmanship to a production and complete logistics and effective chain.

6 To new images

Finally, the technique no longer limits now the photographs or image shoots. The separation between static photograph and animated sequence (film) becomes increasingly tenuous.
The decreasing of the price of equipment and the null cost of image will generate some new reporters there or today nothing exists. To them to invent news rules.

pierre j.

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Created June 2, 2000, updated August 15, 2004
v 1.2 © Pierre J.