Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/05/06

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Subject: Re: SV: [Leica] Leica-Users List Digest V3 #27
From: Jim Brick <>
Date: Wed, 06 May 1998 23:30:10 -0700

At 11:17 PM 5/6/98 +0200, you wrote:
>Make NO mistake about this.  An almost total digital take-over is very much
>closer than many folk realise.  There is a lot of jockeying for position in
>the old and emerging industries, and cards are being held close to the
>Alan Hull

Fortunately, the digital industry is still a long way away from taking over
real film. Unless you want to spend $15,000 and up, the digital capability
is barely equivalent to the Minox in film. The $2000 and below cameras have
megapixel CCD's (1024x768, 1024x1024), maybe by the end of 1999, it'll be
2048x2048. Enough pixels to compete with a Minox. You can get a reasonably
good 8x10. The expensive stuff that competes with film, is so far out of
the reach of the average professional photographer, and of course, with the
expensive digital back, comes very expensive computer processing systems
and lengthy training.

For the photographer (like you'all on this list) film is going to be the
primary photographic medium for a very long time. I can tell you from
internal knowledge that I have, that all of the digital cameras that are on
the market, in the $1500 and less class (Kodak DC210, Olympus 600, etc.)
cost more to manufacture than they are selling for. It a calculated loss to
stay in the forefront in a new (and perhaps someday dominant) technology.

I can buy some Velvia, an E6 kit, some Ilfochrome and chemicals, an
enlarger for a few hundred bucks, and make stunning 16x20's or 20x24's.
Total outlay, not much, and I can do it all myself.

To do the same with digital requires a very very expensive digital camera
or camera back. The under $1500 cameras have lenses akin to point & shoot
lenses (the $900 Kodak DC210 is fixed focus, relying on hyperfocal theory
for sharpness). And it's defraction limited based on the pixel spacing (lpm
resolution) of the sensor array. Certainly not even remotely close to Leica
lenses. Then a high speed computer, 128MB of RAM, Gigabytes of disk space,
and if you want to print these massive files yourself (16x20 or 20x24), a
$80,000 Iris printer is needed. You can get a good 8x10 from an Epson Photo
Stylus. But it won't be stunning. 1024x1024 pixels, mediocre lenses,
selling at a loss, high end computer system required to do any reasonable
processing, etc... This will change slowly over time.

Currently available cheap digital cameras are great for newspapers, web
sites, ID badges, drivers licenses, etc... Currently available very
expensive digital camera backs are great for catalog studios and any high
volume still setup application.

Nuclear power is great. But what do you do with all of those spent fuel
rods. High resolution digital photography is great (if you can afford it)
but what do you do with all of those HUGE HUGE digital files. You've gotta
keep the raw pixels if you wanna keep the resolution. You can't exactly lay
them out on a $50 light table to look at with a loupe. Thumbnails on a CRT
just don't look the same. We're talking dynamic range and correct color here.

Since I'm in the middle of this business, I can re-assure everyone, film is
here to stay. For a long long time. Kodak is putting in place, their new
K14 "minilab". I don't think Kodak would be developing new films and
processes if digital is going to edge out film anytime soon. There will be
some intriguing innovations (it's my job), but not exactly in the area that
competes with film.

Jim Brick
Senior Systems Architect
Photo Access
The Next Generation In Digital Photography