Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2005/03/24

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Subject: [Leica] Digital Disasters: A Journey To Another World
From: paul at (Paul De Zan)
Date: Thu Mar 24 11:54:06 2005

Come with me now to a place where the concept of "workflow" does not exist 
and "bokeh" might be some kind of sushi you haven't tried yet. Come with me 
to the world of the "consumer digital market."

Episode I

Tuesday night, I got a call from my sister, who lives a few hundred miles 
away and sees me as her personal IT department, which is fine with me. I am 
one of those sick puppies that actually seems to enjoy fixing Windows for 
others. Somehow her JPEG program default had been switched to something 
other than her preferred photo viewer/editor application. At the moment she 
called me, she was on the verge of running a system restore utility to try 
and fix the problem. Rather like a diving-to-save-the-girl action hero in a 
bad movie, I yelled "NOOOOOOOOO!" and explained that doing such a thing was 
a VERY bad idea and that I would call her back with the right Windows fix 
later in the evening.

By the time I called her back - you guessed it - she had gone ahead and run 
the system restore. ALL of her pictures were gone. ALL of them. She was in 
an absolute panic; her 5 year old son has been (successfully) battling 
cancer for the past year and the photos she has taken of him during this 
nightmare are extremely important to her, because - who knows? - he still 
might not live all that long.

Her PC is now in the hands of a local service tech, who for a couple 
hundred bucks will almost certainly be able to restore her JPEGs.

Object Lesson I: How do you lose your 35mm negatives? You have a FIRE in 
your home.

Episode II

Wednesday morning, my Toshiba PDR-3310 digital camera died. Probable cause 
is a failed sensor; it takes "black" pictures now. A few minutes of web 
research revealed that lots of people have experienced similar failures and 
there is no practical remedy because:

a) Toshiba has exited the digital camera business
b) Toshiba no longer supports their former line of cameras (which they 
didn't build to begin with)
c) Toshiba refers support inquiries to a third-party company that wants $20 
before they will even talk to you
d) If parts were available (and they do not appear to be), the cost would 
vastly exceed the residual value of the camera

I bought the camera directly from Toshiba on May 31, 2002 for $600. At the 
time, it was the smallest 3+ MP camera on the market. It made pretty decent 
pictures, and of course provided me with all that new-digital-user "oooh 
and awwwh" factor. A quick check using Picasa2 shows that I have about 1200 
pictures taken with the camera on my computer. Note that these are not 
necessarily "good" or "keeper" shots; that's all the shots I've ever 
downloaded from the camera. Overall they are at least acceptably good, 
because I threw away the obvious flops right after they were taken. Still, 
I think I've printed somewhat less than 50 of them since day one.

Oh...and did I mention that the camera that died on Wednesday morning was 
actually my THIRD? Yes, I had the original camera replaced TWICE under 
warranty, the second time after a long argument with Toshiba.

So...utilization over the 32 months of the camera's life was roughly 
equivalent to a 36 exposure roll of 35mm a month, which is about right for 
a casual snapper. If you do the math, the cost of shooting 35mm color 
prints comes out at just about the half the price of the Toshiba camera. 
And that's before adding in at least part of the cost of a decent color 
printer, ink, paper, etc.

An equivalent camera costs less than $200 today, so the theoretical 
economics of P&S digital are a lot better now. A Canon Powershot A75 is a 
much better camera than my deceased Toshiba; whether it is any more 
reliable is an open question.

Although I'm a lot more technically sophisticated than my sister, I'm not 
all that much less likely to experience a catastrophic loss of data. I'm 
only occasionally a "serious photographer" (although this is starting to 
change...again) and I have no "digital workflow" (although I do burn CDs a 
couple of times a year for backup; whether that will turn out to be enough 
in the long run is another open question). When I do shoot for real, I use 
a 10 year old 35mm SLR and a handful of primes that have produced thousands 
of acceptably good images and have never seen the inside of a repair shop.

Object Lesson II: Convenience is expensive...and possibly not all that 
convenient. And maybe even dangerous.

Most average people, including me, consider their casual snapshots as one 
of their most important possessions. The "Film-Processing-Prints" model is, 
given the way most people are likely to (mis)manage digital, more reliable 
and vastly more permanent than Pixel Wonderland. It leads to a nice, safe 
packing box full of negatives and a line of albums up on the mantle, ready 
for the next generation (and historians, for that matter) to discover. Of 
course, right now no one cares about this, because the good things about 
P&S digital tend to make people ignore its problems. But I've come to think 
that a lot of what used to be called "Kodak Moments" are going to go up in 
digital smoke and decided that, even as a casual shooter, I'd rather 
retreat from digital cameras than "get serious" about them.

So I'm buying an M4 and a decent film scanner.

(Please note: Leica content above.)

pld (i've seen the light and become a luddite)

Replies: Reply from jim at (Jim Hemenway) ([Leica] Digital Disasters: A Journey To Another World)