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The Digital Love/Hate Thread


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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 09 2006 - 06:39 AM

For some unknown reason, I have gotten the reputation for being "Anti-Digital" or some sort of "old school" digital hater around here. I can't imagine why. Is it because I started a thread titled "Digital Sucks"? Gimme a break. sheesh.

The truth is, I have this intense love/hate relationship with not only digital imaging, but most things digital and I figured it was time to open a discussion about it. I had already been thinking about it, but a thread in the After Hours area prompted me to go ahead and do it.

So, here it is as I see it...

What I love about digital
Being able to shoot a job, go back to the computer, do whatever editing and correction is required, burn a disc, and get paid. No more making sure I buy enough film, get it processed, get it scanned and so on.

Not having to worry about the additional out of pocket cost to shoot extra stuff.

Not having to be concerned with archiving film. Archiving image files is a lot easier, plus they are generally easier to find 10 years later.


What I hate about digital
The misconception that digital automatically equates to quality, whether it be image quality, creativity, suitability for reproduction, etc.

The staggering amount of ignorance regarding digital reproduction. Ex: When I go to a digital pre-production place to get some scans, and even they don't understand that dpi doesn't really mean anything. It's the actual pixel dimensions that matter. When people continually insist I take shots from their web site to use on another web site or even for publication. I could go on forever, but I'll stop there.

The (in my opinion) severe misbelief that the speed of digital is generally an aide in learning photography and visual creativity in general. My experience is that when it takes less effort to "learn" people generally learn less completely and are less inclined to truly understand.

The belief that film is of no use anymore. That it is some quaint blast from the past.

The belief that digital eliminates the need to do things right in the first place, since everything can be "fixed" on the computer or by pushing a button on the camera. Ex: shooting under different light sources by changing the white balance, the greatest photo scam of all time.

The fact that I am virtually forbidden to shoot film, even when I know it is the way to go, because the general perception is that there is no longer any reason to shoot film.

The misperception that digital imbues the user with talent and creativity. I know this is kind of a repeat from the first one, but it bears repeating.


So, that is really where I stand. I was a bit surprised when I did a few shots on film last month (my first film shoot this year!!) and realized all the extra running around it would take. It was a pain, but it was still right for the job and the results showed it.


Go ahead, skewer me with disagreement.

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#2 of 23 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted September 10 2006 - 01:23 AM

I agree with most of your points.

Exception - the instant feedback and its value as a learning aid.
The speed of feedback should not be considered "the teacher" - but since repetition and learning from experience are fundamental to the learning process, it makes sense that speed of turnaround can speed the learning process. It is a tool. Unfortunately, the misconception that the device becomes a teacher is problematic - students still need proper guidance. Having an "instant negative" allows review while the subject is "fresh". Thorough critique of the image is still possible - and necessary. Post processing is easier, but no less instructive - especially for today's young learners who need stronger stimuli than you or I did. The millenial generation processes information differently. Teaching methods must adapt to the learner. If a student cannot absorb information via an old-school methodology, then the learning is not effective. I should point out that I am an instructional designer / developer charged with deploying technology and new media in learning environments (hopefully with sound pedagogy) - so my views may be biased toward technology. I strongly believe that deployment of technology "because it is there" is a bad thing - but when technology can be deployed in a pedagogically sound way, appropriate for the learner, it is an effective tool in the toolbox.

I am one who learned photography by shooting roll film in a mechanical camera with no light meter, etc... There is value in the way I learned - but the cost-to-learn (in film and processing) and the time-to-learn were significant. And the processes used inthe 70's are not necessarily valid to young people today. Adult learners would benefit from a different approach.

What I find most telling in your argument is that the only tangible points are in the "What I love about digital" argument - speed, convenience, cost, etc.

Everything in your "What I hate about digital" argument hinges on the perception of the layman, rather than shortcomings of the format itself. Certainly there must be some tangibles here, regarding format, technology, cost or workflow? This is not to say that perceptions are not problematic - but should the blame fall on the technology? I know many people who think the internet is a bad thing - they see the news stories about online gambling and pedophiles, etc. The internet, like digital photography, is not good or bad. It is a thing. It is how we use it that stimulates its evolution, as well as people's perceptions of the technology.

-Scott

#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Terri Chu

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Posted September 10 2006 - 01:25 AM

Not agree or disagreeing with you, but the one thing I hate most from digital is that people (read: clients) tend to think that MP count is the only important thing about photography. Every single client asked "how many MP is your camera?" or some client sneered at me because I'm using an 8.2 MP dSLR (albeit using L series lenses etc) and they use a 12 MP point and shoot.

People tend to forget that the most important thing is not the MP count, not the gear we use, but the photographer her/himself.

#4 of 23 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted September 10 2006 - 01:31 AM

Terri,
You are correct.
I recently bought a 6MP point and shoot (another tool for my toolbox). Several people remarked that it must be as good as my 6.3MP SLR. Not until I took nearly identical shots with both cameras, and printed out 12x18 prints from each camera, could I convince them otherwise.

Ignorance (of the layperson, not of John) is key to John's argument against digital. John always seems to have well-reasoned arguments, even if we may disagree on some of the details.

-Scott

#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Terri Chu

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Posted September 10 2006 - 11:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Kimball
Several people remarked that it must be as good as my 6.3MP SLR.

Posted Image the general public is so ignorant they think a 10MP $600 point and shoot will be better than an 8.2 MP $4000 dSLR + lens combo Posted Image Posted Image

#6 of 23 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 10 2006 - 02:07 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Kimball
Everything in your "What I hate about digital" argument hinges on the perception of the layman, rather than shortcomings of the format itself. Certainly there must be some tangibles here, regarding format, technology, cost or workflow?
Not really, because every tool, format, approach, etc. has drawbacks. If I were left to use digital if and only when it was suitable, there would be no problem. Though, I see where you are going, such as I could say "What I hate about 4x5" is the cost, size and weight of the equipment, and so on. Except I don't think I have ever been "forced" to shoot 4x5 when it wasn't suitable. That's really where I'm coming from in my "Hate" section for digital.

I guess I just don't tend to "Hate" the inherent limitations of any approach, so long as I am permitted, as the professional, to go a different way when thhey are a problem. The climate of digital typically does not allow me to do that.

I'll respond to the "learning" part later. I'd rather be watching football right now.

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#7 of 23 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted September 10 2006 - 04:37 PM

Ditto what Scott already said. Posted Image I saw John's post the other day, but didn't have time to respond. Now, I find that Scott has said just about everything I would say and more and in better ways than I could've.
Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#8 of 23 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted September 11 2006 - 12:44 AM

I agree with Scott on the learning points -- this from the viewpoint of an amateur, not a professional. Digital gives instant feedback and allows me to experiment without worrying about wasting film or the cost of developing all that film. Also, the EXIF data is valuable for remembering which settings worked in certain situations, as well as evaluating which focal lengths I use most (helping with lens selection).

However, not enough people appreciate that it's not the camera, but the person behind it, that impacts the results. I shoot mostly outdoors (landscapes, wildlife, etc.), but there will never be a camera built that will turn me into Ansel Adams. Posted Image

I also agree with the comments regarding MP resolution. The first thing everyone asks me is "how many megapixels is your camera?". I blame that as much on the marketing hype as anything else.

#9 of 23 OFFLINE   Jeff Ulmer

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Posted September 11 2006 - 06:59 AM

The MP issue is interesting, but I can see why it is so often used for judging. Depending on the application (ie web or normal prints), beyond a certain point, more is not necessarily better. What most people fail to realise is that the MP count is simply what can be stored, it does not factor in the quality of both the lens and the person taking the picture, both of which are far more critical.

From a learning perspective digital definitely has advantages in cost, instant feedback, and EXIF data, but none of that is useful if the student doesn't know how to use that info. I know from my own learning process on film that by the time the pictures came back I had no idea what had happened (not one for note taking). My photography has definitely improved since going digital, primarily because I can see what problems I'm facing while at the shoot (outdoors primarily) and correct them.

#10 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Reynolds

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Posted September 12 2006 - 05:24 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Ulmer
What most people fail to realise is that the MP count is simply what can be stored, it does not factor in the quality of both the lens and the person taking the picture, both of which are far more critical.

It also does not speak to colour quality, dynamic range, noise, sharpness -- and a host of other things that are harder to measure and harder to market.

I recently transitioned from being a full time printer / part time photographer to the other way around. I had the following amusing conversation with someone while we were looking at two 16x20 prints, one of them hers and one of them mine.

HER: Wow, yours looks really good. Is that from your new camera?
ME: Yes.
HER: It must be like 12 megapixels or something?
ME: No, only six.
HER: ONLY SIX?? Why would you buy a new camera that's only six megapixels? Even my camera is eight!
ME: But my six megapixel camera made a better picture than your eight megapixel camera.
HER: No, higher megapixels is always better. You should have bought at least an eight megapixel camera.

Suddenly, the proof in front of her was meaningless -- the numbers came into play, and apparently they never lie.

Of course, I've had the same experience with non-digital -- I've been told that my cameras of choice are inferior despite the visible quality of the prints in the analog realm. Of course, I'm one of those guys who goes out and tries stuff and then buys what he likes best, rather than a guy who reads a lot of magazines and finds out what the coolest whiz-bang stuff is and buys that. It led me to buy a Pentax 67, which was ideal for my shooting needs, when everyone and their brother insisted that I should have a Hasselblad or a Mamiya. It had come down to the Pentax 67 and the Mamiya 7 as my final two choices; after an hour with a Mamiya RZ I knew that I would never buy one.

So, yeah, I hate the "arms race" numbers game among manufacturers and the marketing that enforces the importance of those numbers in the minds of the average consumer. And I really can't stand the "internet educated" people who know it all and yet have no actual experience with the cameras or their results, who'll go on and on about how thing X is superior to thing Y without having ever used X or Y or compared the results from the two. But those same people existed pre-digital; the booming internet has simply coincided with the growth of digital.

#11 of 23 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 12 2006 - 05:39 AM

I think Aaron makes the best points so far. Others have talked about the cost of a camera and headed in the direction of the inconsistency of MP (in fact, particularly in P&S models, higher pixel count is often worse) and gone more into results. When I went into buying medium format (over 20 years ago) thhe Pentax 6x7 was not an option for me for one major reason. focal plane shutter. No way I am dragging around an RB, so it was SQ-A for me, because it made sense.

Talk about a MP story, I have one client who years ago had a stack of 4x5 work done. They had them all scanned at, get this, 1,600 x 2,000 pixel. Now, for those slow on math, that is a whopping 3.2 MP. BUT, the source was top notch and the scans are higher quality all around (aside from MP) than you can get with a digital camera. He had 20x24s made (using interpolation to avoid blocking) and the results are amazingly good. No, they aren't tack crisp, but they are display prints and are intended for viewing from a distance. I was amazed how they looked.

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The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

The Surround Part: Sherbourn PT-7030, Thiel SCS3, Emotiva XPA-5, Polk & Emotiva Surrounds.


#12 of 23 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted September 12 2006 - 06:18 AM

Yeah, the MP thing (and all its ilk) can be very annoying. That we can certainly all agree on. And I also agree to a good extent w/ Aaron's point about the problem w/ people being "internet educated" vs actually trying things out for themselves and going w/ what actually works for them (and go out and make photos), instead of endlessly proclaiming what is superior and what is inferior for everyone or what is all that matters, etc. etc. For the average consumer, there's the MP thing, and for the "internet educated" crowd, especially those w/ DSLR rigs, there is stuff like high ISO noise performance -- not that it's not important, but it gets overhyped as though nothing else matters.

_Man_
Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

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#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Reynolds

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Posted September 12 2006 - 10:15 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRice
When I went into buying medium format (over 20 years ago) thhe Pentax 6x7 was not an option for me for one major reason. focal plane shutter. No way I am dragging around an RB, so it was SQ-A for me, because it made sense.

I was never much into doing weddings -- hated 'em, really -- so that didn't bug me. I did a lot of strobe stuff, but it was all in studio anyways. I did actually rent the leaf shutter 150 portrait lens for the P67 twice, both times for weddings that I was talked into doing. It works okay, but it's kind of a kludge.

I looked at an SQ-A. I liked Bronica's speed grip thingy. Ultimately, I didn't like the lenses in the conditions that I tended to shoot in.

See, that's why there are all kinds of cameras!

#14 of 23 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 12 2006 - 10:47 AM

Yeah, because the reasons I wanted leaf shutter had nothing to do with weddings. I've only ever shot one wedding. Not my thing. The speed grip is pretty slick.

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#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Reynolds

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Posted September 12 2006 - 11:07 AM

What did you want the leaf shutter for?

The most practical application that springs to mind is high shutter speeds that still sync with flash, like you'd need for balancing fill flash outdoors (thus the weddings assumption). The only other time I can even think of where I used the capability of the leaf shutter was when I was using a strobe on my subject and tungsten lighting on the background in a studio situation -- I could use the leaf shutter to control background exposure independant of the subject's lighting. But that was a weird circumstance that I never found myself in again, and then I sold my Arca.

I suppose architectural work where you're using strobe to illuminate but allowing some exposure in from the existing lighting...

Enough guessing. Share!

#16 of 23 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 12 2006 - 11:56 AM

Heh. Balancing daylight with flash is useful for more than weddings. The value of up to 1/500 sec with flash can be handy sometimes. Also, a huge focal plane shutter is not the best for long exposures. With leaf shutter you can lock up the mirror and have absolutely zero vibration from the shutter opening.

That's all.

Plus, Bronica lenses are killer and I was eligible for employee discount which made it dirt cheap, back in those days, anyway. As I recall, it was 25% off dealer cost. I got a SQ-A body, waist level finder, 120 back, Polaroid back, 80mm and 150mm for about $925. Decent starter kit.

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The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

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#17 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Reynolds

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Posted September 12 2006 - 01:00 PM

Holy moly -- that's pretty cheap. I might have jumped at that price. I paid about $2000 for my 67 kit, which was minimal -- 105mm f2.4, non-metering prism, body, helicoid extension tube set.

Still, I found the Bronica lenses too flare-prone in rough conditions, and I tend to shoot almost entirely in rough lighting conditions. Masochist, I suppose.

#18 of 23 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted September 12 2006 - 01:27 PM

Never noticed any flare problems with Bronica lenses. Of course, I am typically shooting under fairly controlled situations and I hood aggressively using that bellows hood system, I forget the name. Of course, remember that price was also about 1985. I've added a bunch more stuff since then.

Anyway, a photog I know who does mostly aerials swears by the 6x7 because he says he can shoot one handed while he flies, so, like you say, the tools for the job. No way on earth to operate an SQ-A one handed. But, for me, the 6x7 would be one of the last models I would choose.

The Hybrid System

The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

The Surround Part: Sherbourn PT-7030, Thiel SCS3, Emotiva XPA-5, Polk & Emotiva Surrounds.


#19 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Reynolds

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Posted September 12 2006 - 02:22 PM

I spend a lot of time shooting directly into lights. Bronica wasn't bad like Mamiya for flare, but it wasn't Pentax. The only one close was Hasselblad, and I absolutely hate the layout of those cameras. They drive me nuts.

I know an aerials guy who also shoots P67 for that same reason -- when my 67 was only about two weeks old he asked me if he could borrow it, because he had dropped his out of the plane the week before.

The only thing that broke on his was the aperture coupling chain, and you can break that on the 67 by mounting the prism wrong.

#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Terri Chu

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Posted September 12 2006 - 11:42 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Man-Fai Wong
... and for the "internet educated" crowd, especially those w/ DSLR rigs, there is stuff like high ISO noise performance -- not that it's not important, but it gets overhyped as though nothing else matters.

It realy depends on your shooting style. I take a lot of dimly-lit indoor scenes and concerts; for my photography style clean high-ISO is the utmost importance. Even during film days I shot a lot with ISO 1000 and 1200. So now I shoot a lot with ISO 1600.


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