Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/07/18

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Subject: RE: [Leica] Wonders of plastic (digital)
From: Alan Ball <>
Date: Sat, 18 Jul 1998 10:09:46 +0200

On Saturday, July 18, 1998 2:43 AM, Eric Welch 
[] wrote:

> There are tradeoffs. I would love to do Ilfochromes, but since the Dye 
> is available to me, and I can make prints that are stunning, for $3 a 
> I am willing to wait until money is more available to get back into
> classical printing. (Not to mention a house to go outside my darkroom).

Eric, Mark, Robert, Alex,

We have been through this thread not so long ago. Four facts keep on 
amazing me.

The first is how wonderful Ilfochrome hand masked prints or careful 
negative printing can be. Large Ilfochrome or large hand tweaked prints 
from negs are certainly the best ways to translate onto print the magic 
that can be found on a piece of film, doing justice to the glass and the 
emulsion that are used. Everybody here seems to agree on this.

The second is the progress made in the digital printing field, including 
the availability of very low price scanners, high quality inkjet printers 
and competitive dye-sub printers. For those who use a private digital 
imaging setup they do provide a way of getting good proofs. But if you 
replace those SOHO scanners by  current high quality consumer range digital 
cameras ("megapixel" CCDs), the home digital chain can today produce those 
"nice" images without any usage of film whatsoever.

The third is the huge gap that remains between the extremely high quality 
enabled by 35mm film (not to mention larger formats) and high end optics 
and the 'interesting' quality obtained out of that SOHO imaging chain. Drum 
scanners and high end dye-sub printers or mixed digital/chemical print 
systems (such as Agfaprint) push the digital imaging chain prices up to pro 
lab and service bureau investment levels.

So my fourth source of amazement is the way people who have invested huge 
amounts of money into the best of the best in optical quality for 35mm 
photography seem suddenly aware of harsh economics when it comes to get the 
image from neg/slide onto paper, and happily accept high levels of 
compromise on the output side. Is there not something highly contradictory 
in glorifying the holy Leica name and paying the financial dues required by 
the Church of Solms, and then try to prove that holiness through the 
mediation of PC plastic point and click ?

Same pattern of reasoning when it comes to the observation of 35mm images 
through a high end projector equipped with a high end lens compared to the 
observation of these images on computer monitors.

I am convinced that digital will replace film in the relatively close 
future but I refuse to consider today's level of SOHO digital imaging 
quality as an alternative to traditional printing. I play with 
scanner+Photoshop to produce JPEG images for the web/emails or bitmaps for 
my Win95 desktop wallpaper, and it is great fun. I do a quick print on my 
Photosmart every now and then to show off with friends and family, and that 
is great fun as well.

But I would never dare try to sell or give as a present a print that has 
not been produced through the traditional chain. Since I do not have the 
knowledge and infrastructure to do my own colour printing, I outsource it. 
At a cost-per-print inferior to home inkjet printing and a quality level 
unbelievably superior, justifying to my eyes my investment in Leica (or 

Things will be radically different two or three years from now.

Friendly regards,