RANT- Reality Check-"The Early Days of Digital Photography"

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by Drifter, Oct 1, 2004.

  1. Drifter

    Drifter Guest

    Okay, this one is driving me nutz so I'm going to blow off a little
    steam and be done with it.

    Repeatedly I have been seeing/hearing the phrase "back when digital
    photography was new", sometimes with a wry intent, but more often with
    complete seriousness that carries a sort of blasé "been there/done
    that" attitude (possibly a symptom of a sort of time-compressed,
    multitasking, revved-up, "Moore's Law" mentality that many of us live
    with today).

    I have to admit that I find it triggers equal measures of irritation
    and humor.

    Photography in general stems from the ancient concept of the "Camera
    Obscuras", but for the sake of my comparison I consider modern
    photography to be a direct descendant of the first film negatives
    created by Henry Talbot in 1834. That gives photography a pedigree of
    at least 170 years. Even starting from the first Leica (1924) we have
    a photographic history of 80 years!

    By contrast, digital photography (using a sensor as opposed to a film
    negative) can, at best, claim a history of roughly 17 years with
    Kodak's first commercial sensor around 1987 or, more practically,
    about 13 years because the 1991 release of the DCS cameras by Kodak
    could be considered the spiritual equal of the stunning release of the
    1900's "Brownie" camera. Today (2004) we have moved well into the
    equal of the "Leica/Kodachrome" phase (roughly equal to 1936 in film

    Obviously development of digital photography has been accelerated
    since digital took only 13 years to cover roughly the same span that
    took film photography 36 years. This is no real surprise as many
    aspects of digital photography (especially lens technology) rest
    firmly on the well developed shoulders of film photography. However
    even at this faster pace it seems apparent that digital photography is
    still a very young sibling to it's parent (film photography).

    Just as Talbot had no idea what his creation would (pardon the pun)
    develop into, we have no idea what digital photography will accomplish
    in 80 (or 170) years.

    We're standing in the shallow end and I'm telling you now that digital
    photography is still very, very, new.

    "I've been here, I've been there..."
    Drifter, Oct 1, 2004
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  2. Way back when I got my Oly E-10 I would hear people whisper "That's a
    digital camera!," others would freak when I showed them a photo on the
    viewer...they had no idea that digital existed. I think that is what people
    are refering to when they talk of when digital was new...the days before it
    was ubiquitous. I do agree though that we are where the PC was before the
    IBM-PC. There are no standards.
    Gene Palmiter, Oct 1, 2004
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  3. Man, if this be a rant, you've set the curve in the opposite direction!
    I thought a rant was supposed to be rude, condescending, filled with
    righteous indignation, no real point, and generally poorly written. You
    have "failed" to reach any of these benchmarks.

    Please do "rant" again sometime soon; I enjoyed it, and agree "the early
    days of digital" can be equally amusing/irritating.
    John McWilliams, Oct 1, 2004
  4. Drifter

    Robert Lynch Guest

    What kind of standards do you think are lacking in the world
    digital photography?
    Robert Lynch, Oct 1, 2004
  5. Drifter

    Mardon Guest

    Thanks for some thoughtful comments. BTW, I agree that your words are not a
    rant! :)

    Your comparison of the digital timeline to the overall photography timeline
    raises an interesting issue that you did not address. The quality and
    archival durability of many 19th century and early 20th century negatives
    (glass plate and film, as well as tintypes) are often much better than
    negatives produced by the 'advanced' technology of the mid-20th century. I
    have worked with almost 2,000 glass plate negatives and many large format
    film negatives from the period around the beginning of the 20th century and
    they are generally much better in quality and preservation than the
    negatives that I have from the 1960s and '70s. I think that, like many
    things, the loss of quality was a result of the disposable economy / lowest
    price mindset that overcame the marketplace in the late 20th century. Do
    you see a similar analogy being possible with digital; that is, where
    quality suffers even though the technology advances? In some respects, the
    very nature of digital photography creates this paradox, since digital is
    anathema to archival considerations. A hundred years from now, will my
    great grandchildren be able to see an image from a 1DMarkII, just as I can
    see images of my great grandfather in those old 19th century negatives?
    Mardon, Oct 1, 2004
  6. Drifter

    Big Bill Guest

    As opposed to film?
    I can go into a camera store that stocks 35mm film, and see the lack
    of standards there.
    Or lenses.
    Or cameras themselves.
    Standards? We've got hundreds of standards, none of them standard. :)

    How about Pentax calling themselves "The official camera of the
    Internet"? What standard elected them that?

    Bill Funk
    Change "g" to "a"
    Big Bill, Oct 1, 2004
  7. Well....RAW files....why can't they be standarized so that the programs that
    handle them can improve? Lion Battery packs...do they all have to be
    different and proprietary? But....the market will decide what the standards
    will be....but not for awhile.
    Gene Palmiter, Oct 1, 2004
  8. Drifter

    Jer Guest

    Big Bill wrote:

    Theirs, of course.
    Jer, Oct 1, 2004
  9. Drifter

    usenet Guest

    You mean like the 'DNG' (for "digital negative"?), open RAW file format
    that Adobe have just announced? ;)
    Yeah, that part still sucks, but I think it's unlikely to change. It's
    still the same way for laptops, & there have been a couple of failed
    attempts to bring in a standard set of battery formats for them over the
    last 15 years or so.
    Well, the memory cards are a standard format (well, maybe 1.5 formats
    :), & the communication protocol for downloading or printing direct from
    the camera is reasonably standardised already.
    usenet, Oct 1, 2004
  10. Drifter

    Mardon Guest

    Given the trouble that I've had finding a 'regular 8' (mm) movie projector
    to transfer some old family movies, combined with my contining search for a
    reel to reel recorder that will play some old family audio tapes recorded at
    3 3/4 ips, I have to be skeptical that the technology to read today's flash
    card format will be available 100 years from now. I did a university
    computer program in the early 1960s (a Fortran course) and prepared my
    program and data on punched cards. I suspect that the chances of finding a
    computer to run that program today are better than the chances of reading a
    flash card a century from now. Do you really think that the technology will
    still exist to do this?
    Mardon, Oct 2, 2004
  11. Drifter

    kashe Guest

    The International Pentax Marketers Association, of course.
    kashe, Oct 2, 2004
  12. Drifter

    kashe Guest

    I suspect the biggest archival problem with digital images is
    more a matter of being able to find equiopment to use in viewing them.
    Just as I'd have trouble scrounging up an 8-track tape player if I
    found an old tape in the garage.

    I wonder how much thought went into the issues of archiving
    the early film material. They'd not likely have hed accelerated aging
    processes to test for longevity so as to select the best materials.
    kashe, Oct 2, 2004
  13. I think you have the time line wrong. I took my first digital
    picture in 1976, recorded onto 9-track tape. The birth of
    digital imaging started much earlier in the space program,
    I believe with one of the first satellites that took pictures
    of the earth. That later led to weather satellites.
    Of course, the birth may have been in the spy business, but
    I have no knowledge about that (beyond reading aviation week
    and space technology). So my guess would be around

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Oct 2, 2004
  14. Drifter

    friend® Guest

    --------------------in general you're right. But there is one only
    thing in common amongst Leaf digital back, DSLR a nd compact digital
    cameras - [concept of a sensor. Otherwise, they are different
    friend®, Oct 2, 2004
  15. Drifter

    Drifter Guest

    Roger- I tried to make my whole point very clear that I'm talking
    about the development and use of both film negatives and digital
    sensors from their common -commercial- release point; that "everyman"
    usability that the "Brownie" and then the Leica gave to film, and the
    same with the Kodak DCS systems for digital.

    Having established (I thought) that point I was then trying to show
    just how short the digital timeline really is and how new everything
    surrounding the use of a digital sensor to capture images really is.

    The underlying points of my rant...(keeping in mind that this is
    directed to the world in general, not at you personally)...

    1) Digital based photography is still very new, not only have the bugs
    not all been worked out. Heck, we probably don't even know what all
    of the bugs are yet!

    2) The hype from the sales departments of various companies is that
    you are buying solid, mature, technology. "Oh we solved all those
    issues from the early days". Well there is some amazing equipment no
    doubt, but the truth is that if you jump in now the you are still an
    "early adaptor" (equal to the brand new Leica days) and as a result
    you are probably going to get "nicked" here and there by issues. I
    wanted to issue a really big "reality check" about where we are on the
    digital development timeline.

    4) Like film, many of the issues that plague us today (limited range,
    long term storage, incompatible formats, battery life, and so on) will
    most likely be solved as photography is too popular for the issues to
    remain ignored. In the meantime it's up to the user to either
    compensate for those issues, or avoid digital until it grows up.

    5) These problems will probably not be solved within the next 2-3
    years, but it will most likely take less than the 40-70 years that it
    took for film, so stop being so darn impatient! <grin>.

    The great divide that I trip on all the time can best be illustrated
    this way. I have a friend who bought the Digital Rebel and paid
    "serious bucks" so the camera would do everything for him. He
    absolutely cannot understand why I paid "serious bucks" for a 10D so
    that I could get the camera to STOP trying to do everything for me

    Ah well, east is east and west is west I guess.

    "I've been here, I've been there..."
    Drifter, Oct 2, 2004
  16. Drifter

    Drifter Guest

    Which has no bearing on my point...

    Summed up ..again...

    Film Photography development timeline
    Begin>-------------------long timeline----------------<current day>

    Digital Photography development timeline
    Begin>-short timeline-<Current day>

    Easily 80% of the complaints I hear about digital photography have
    their roots in people forgetting (or not knowing in the first place)
    just how new the technology is. The point of my rant was a reminder
    that it's all still very new (in spite of what corporate advertising
    would have you think, but hey, they're just trying to instill
    confidence in their product so it'll sell).

    Because it's so new be ready to compensate -for now-. If you aren't
    ready to compensate then don't let anyone fool you into jumping in
    until things have matured a little more.

    Personally, I love the fun of figuring out new technology <grin>.

    "I've been here, I've been there..."
    Drifter, Oct 2, 2004
  17. Hi,
    You raise interesting points. I guess I got confused
    about the origin of photography when you mentioned
    Talbot in 1834--that was not a commercial venture.
    In a sense the commercialization of digital photography
    did start in the 1960s with NASA funding contractors
    to build camera systems for spacecraft. It was that
    research and development that eventually led to
    commercial products.

    But what I think you should rant about has more to do
    with commercial decisions than technology. Companies
    dribble out a slightly better product to try and get
    people to buy it. Each company just puts out a product
    they believe slightly edges out their competitor.
    But they could actually leap way ahead. We see this with
    computers all the time: 2.6 GHz, 2.8 GHz, 3.2 GHz, and with
    digital cameras: 4 Mpixels, 6 Mpixels, 8 Mpixels. These
    are small steps in the scheme of things, but a commercial
    effort to keep profits rolling in. Once the top is
    reached, and one needs no better tool, sales will drop
    and profits will drop. At what point is it good enough,
    like the evolution of audio CD players, which have plateaued
    for years?

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Oct 2, 2004

  18. YES! That is exactly what I mean. How can a "standard" be "just announced"?
    At best it's something that is, or will be, a proposed standard. How many
    others like it are on the drawing board. Have others been announced? If so,
    then none are standard. Is Adobe's the first? The first bicycle was like a
    hobby horse....the gearing did not become standard for a long time. Time
    will tell. On the other hand....Mark Twain wrote a novel, Huck Finn I think,
    using a typewriter...the first to do so. He typed it double spaced on one
    side of sheets of paper....that became a standard.

    Being proposed by Adobe gives it an advantage...but time will tell.
    Gene Palmiter, Oct 2, 2004
  19. Given the trouble that I've had finding a 'regular 8' (mm) movie projector

    I bet its not as hard as that. I know people with Real to Reals. I bet movie
    projectors can be found on ebay University archives will keep the possibilty
    alive. Fortran is more of a problem....but I bet some machines are still in
    use....and some of those will be archived.
    Gene Palmiter, Oct 2, 2004
  20. Drifter

    Doug Robbins Guest

    "real to reals"?

    I suggest you sell your cameras and buy a spelling book.
    Doug Robbins, Oct 2, 2004
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