Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2003/06/29

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Digital has won....?
From: Peter Klein <>
Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003 12:02:21 -0700

First off, thanks to Sonny, Tina, and Amilcar for the advice about setting 
my Coolpix to minimize the blown-highlight blues.  I"ll try the low 
contrast setting--I think I've turned off everything else that matters.

Tina:  To whet your appetite for your 10D, have a look here.  It compares 
two shots of the same scene, tripod-mounted, one taken with a 10D, the 
other with a an Olympus OM-something and a Zuiko 35-70mm f/3.6 (at f/8) on 
Velvia.  The latter was both scanned at 4000 dpi and shot through a microscope.

C.H. Ling of Hong Kong just posted this link on the Olympus list, where the 
debate of film vs. digital is going strong.  Now punctuated by the 
marketing salvo about the new Olympus E1.  Download the links *below* the 
pictures, which are smaller center crops (600K and 2.4 megs) of the (huge) 
main images.  Then magnify the Velvia scan and 10D shot up side-by-side in 
your image editor.  Compare with the microscope shots, which show the 
Velvia down to the film "grain."

I think that C.H.'s pictures show that 6 megapixels is more than good 
enough for a lot of the "people pictures" we often take with the Leica, at 
any reasonable print size.  You might want the 1Ds for not-quite 
medium-format quality landscapes or huge prints (bigger than 
16x20).  C.H.'s pictures also show that for the size that most of us print 
at, 4000 dpi scanning gets all that is needed out of the film.  And 
probably gets all there is out of the film at higher ISOs.  The slow slide 
film is better on an absolute scale, but do we usually use or see all 
that's there?

This of course presupposes that these 6 megapixels are *good* 
pixels.  Sensor size, lens quality, lens-to-sensor match, dynamic range and 
software all play a part.  One of the frustrations of a lot of the 
consumer/prosumer digicams seem to be that they have higher noise and lower 
dynamic range than the high-end stuff. And the software is set so a tourist 
using fill-flash can print out snappy-looking 4x6 prints without further 

Still, at the current state of the art, if you go digital you are giving up 
dynamic range, lens speed (often), some depth-of-field control, lightness 
and size of the camera (with Leica anyway) and a certain "look"--in 
exchange for speed and convenience.  You are also giving up a way of 
controlling the camera.  With a digicam, you can't "just do it."  You are 
the operator of a very complex computer.  With an M7, the computer is 
simple, it is your servant, and you can turn it off.  With an M6 and 
earlier, you *are* the computer.  Leica people are going to notice this 
difference more than auto-everything SLR people, but even the latter will 
have many adjustments.

Remember Marshall McLuhan:  "The Medium is the Message."  Digital has its 
own message, its own subtext.  In addition to being faster and more 
convenient, it is *different*.  It looks different.  Sometimes smoother and 
more "perfect."  Sometimes bordering on plastic.  No grain, but at the 
limits, lines stairstep.  Film fails gracefully as you stretch its 
capability to the limit.  Digital hits a certain point and then goes to 
pieces all at once.  Hitting that limit for each medium looks different and 
imparts a different emotional content to the picture.

And with all this, and despite the marketing juggernaut, I still say that 
there are some places where the Leica M is superior.  Low-light candid 
people photography is one.  Tina, I suspect you'll get more keepers with a 
Noctilux, Neopan 1600 and manual RF focus.  And you'll have a prayer that 
the people will act naturally.  :-)   I wonder what those incredible 
Noctilux shots by inside a Guatemalan (?) family's hut would look like shot 
digitally.  I'm thinking of the one with the kid and the candle, or the 
mother and father holding the baby.

- --Peter

> >
> > Jim....but.... ? we give up on the leica look and dof control for
> > what,  exactly?   Steve
> >
>Convenience, Steve.  Many people have given up cooking real food for the
>convenience of frozen dinners or fast food, just as many people have and
>will give up film for digital capture.

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