Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/04/08

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Analog vs. digital (long and barely OT)
From: Henry Ambrose <>
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2000 10:16:55 +0100

What does it take to convert your photo made on film to the printed page? 
Its pixels. Imagine your photo chopped up into zillions of little bits. 
All in particular order. The most extreme jigsaw puzzle you ever imagined.

The usual resolution for average (133 to 150 line screen) magazine or 
brochure printing is 300 pixels per inch. Thats 300 pixels per inch at 
the final reproduction size. A 4 inch X 5 inch image will require 
4X300=1200 pixels by 5X300=1500 pixels. Measured in pixels you'll want a 
1200X1500 pixel image. For black & white you'll need 1,800,000 pixels or 
as commonly expressed, 1.8 mb. Color is a little more complicated. The 
scan is done in RGB (red green blue) and then must be converted to CMYK 
(cyan magenta yellow black) for the printing press. You'll end up with a 
file that is 4 times the size of the black and white one - about 7.2mb.

35mm is pretty well proven to give two page spreads in print (@11X17 
inches) that are quite good. "average" 35 work may not look so good at 
this size. Its got to be really good 35 to look great. Medium format 
would be better. The digital file size needed to make this color 11X17 
inch reproduction is about 50mb! Thats where the digital cameras fail 
right now. They barely make files one third that size. 

Right now, portable and affordable digital seems to be capable of 
consistent 6X9 inch images in print. Thats about a fourth the size of 
really good 35 work. Sometimes they are used larger but I think they 
suffer when compared to good 35. There are exceptions as in everything 
else in the world. And still this is a good general rule. 

So why all the fuss about digital? Because its changing so fast. A year 
ago, the digital camera that did what I stated in the above paragraph 
cost 4 times as much as you can buy one for today! What will happen next 
year? Or 2 or 3 years out? We will see very fine images made without 
film. And they will have enough resolution to make large reproductions.

A few days ago I saw prints made by our local pro lab owner at 16X20. 
They were made from the Nikon D1, printed on a Durst Lambda digital 
printer. At normal viewing distance they looked great! Up close I could 
see all the various digital artifacts. Most people when seeing these on 
the wall would be amazed at the quality. 

What does this have to do with Leica? I came to Leica looking for better 
lenses. I found them. I consider them to be much better than anything 
else out there. The recent designs are spectacular.  I think they're the 
best in 35 - period.

When digital sensors catch up to film I want a lens that will be 
excellent. Just like I wanted better lenses to use with film, I want the 
best lens to image digitally and on film.
Digital is coming - and light still has to pass through a lens to form an 
image whether its on film or a chip.

Henry Ambrose