Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Fiddler On The Roof notwithstanding, we Jews are not the only people who believe in Tradition... for any time a new technology comes in and sweeps away the old, there will always be those who cling to the Time-Honored Ways.

It’s a little too soon for digital devices like the Kindle to have completely displaced ink-and-paper books, but assuming they eventually succeed in doing so, there will still be people who will cling to the printed page. (Me, for one.)

Plenty of folks still use snail mail for their banking and correspondence, despite the inroads being made by e-mail and electronic banking. I am a big fan of the Banca Electronica... it’s amazing how much time I no longer spend writing checks, addressing envelopes, and licking (ecch!) stamps. And yet, I still have my checkboook.

My Little White Choon-Box currently holds almost 3,500 songs, with room for lots more. Unlike the several hundred LP’s in my collection, however, I can stick the Choon-Box in a shirt pocket. And the electronic revolution has changed the business of music distribution in a whole host of ways. When was the last time you bought an actual CD?

And then there is photography, where technological change has been a part of the art since its very inception. I wonder how the daguerreotypists felt when wet-plate glass negatives started taking over. “Aw, them new-fangled paper photographs are crap! They’ll never replace my beautiful silver plates.”

That’s pretty much how I felt when the cheap (but easy-to-use) Instamatic cameras and film came out in 1964. No longer did you have to thread film onto a take-up reel or worry about replacing flashbulbs after each shot. You just dropped in a film cartridge and snapped on a flashcube and you were good to go... for four flash photos at a time, anyway. But I cared not for this Johnny-come-lately junk. No, for me it was 120 film, and later, 35mm. I was, after all, serious.

All of that old Film Business has been swept away by the digital revolution.

Digital cameras, once expensive curiosities, are now the norm... and they’re getting better and less costly by the day. The venerable Kodachrome, workhorse transparency film beloved of magazine photographers, now belongs to the ages. (The very last roll was given to photographer-journalist Steve McCurry; its contents will be the subject of a National Geographic documentary.)

Anyone remember Polaroid? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Pictures in a minute? Yes, the idea of getting a finished photograph in just one minute was, once upon a time, a Big Fucking Deal. Now, not so much... ’cause with digital, it’s instantaneous, and a whole lot cheaper.

Film photography was a highly refined technology, but digital imagery beats it like a red-headed stepchild. Instead of shooting rolls of film and never knowing whether the images were any good until they were processed, now I see my results instantly. I can shoot as many photos as I want; instead of 24 or 36 shots on a roll of film, I can put over a thousand on a single tiny card. Wet, messy chemical development has been replaced by a few mouse clicks in Photoshop... and I can do things with my digital images that would be impossible (or difficult at best) with film.

Flowery HDR
Tonemapped High Dynamic Range color image... next-to-impossible to replicate with film, easy with digital.

Leave it to those clever marketers, though, to find a sales pitch that appeals to the Luddites who just can’t quite cross over that Digital Divide. Presenting... the Film Camera - as seen on TV! (Well, Grandpa thinks those “computers” and “megabytes” ’n’ such are all a mess o’ eyewash, anyways.)

What’s next? Buggy-whips?

(Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Houston Steve for the link.)


Randy Rager said...

Bah. Sure, digital is nice, and HDR (properly done, which it usually isn't) can look amazing.

Nice shot, by the way.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats good slide film. I've tried this at my lab. I can drop my current two greatest shots from digital (yeah, I shoot both) down on the counter, wait for the ooo's and aaaah's to die down, then drop my three greatest shots from Velvia 100 on the counter beside them.

Every time, and I mean Every. Single. Time. they pick the slide film shots.

No matter what you do with it, an image created by a Bayer sensor is fundamentally flawed by the fact that 2/3's of the color data is extrapolated at each and every pixel. Slide film, on the other hand, captures three layers of color everywhere.

Instantaneous feedback is nice, and I carry a digital (Olympus E-PL1, a sweet piece of kit you can get pretty cheap refurbished these days) to act as my "digital polaroid back" to check exposure when I'm shooting seriously. But I never use it seriously by itself. I tried it, owned thousands of dollars worth of digital gear, it mostly sucked, I sold it all and I'm done with it.

Speaking of Polaroid, the Impossible Project brought it back recently.

Vivitard's advert is pretty funny, but do you know that you can get new-build Konica 35mm point and shoots with a 38-140mm lens for about $50.00? Blew me away when I saw it in the camera shop.

Randy Rager said...

I sold my pro digital gear, I should say. Wasn't worth owning. Now anyone that wants to engage my services for portraits will get film and like it.

Obviously I still own some enthusiast level digital gear. But my Mamiya 645AF giggles at the thought of digital ever taking it's place.

Kate said...

Hey Elisson! I'm Kate (@kateyhays) from Small Act (@smallact) doing blogger outreach for AARP, for an in-progress blogger contest. One of our other contestants pointed me to you, and I was delighted to start my Friday by reading some of your recent posts.

We would love to have you participate in our contest. If you want more information, email me at kate (at) smallact (dot) com. Or check out the AARP blog ShAARP Session for more details.