RE: No strong to survive....

From: Baird, Darryl ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 09/26/04-09:16:04 AM Z
Message-id: <>

Something I received from another list, just this week...

_Digital outsells film, but film still king to some_

By Brad Cook

While he was certainly not the first to do so, cartoonist Berkeley
Breathed took the best stab at bringing the future of photography into
sharp focus when he tackled the subject in an installment of his
"Outland" comic strip published in the early 1990s. "The camera has
croaked," laments Opus the penguin as his pal Oliver dangles a 35mm
camera over a toilet like a dead goldfish. "Photography has kicked the
bucket, pushed into an early grave by digital computer imagery." After
they flush it, Opus asks "Should we get a shot of this?" and Oliver
replies "Naw, I'll make a digital composite of ourselves with an
enhanced background later."

Over a decade later, many professional photographers have followed
their lead, although others still hold out against the inevitable
advance of digital technology, and few have been as quick to discard
the old ways as Opus and company. In fact, some, such as Eric Welch,
photo editor for the Gemological Institute of America, believe film
could still be a viable alternative, but they're frustrated with what
they see as Kodak's abandonment of the market.

"I was a strong proponent of film for a long time," Welch said. "I
argued that film would always be better than digital and would
continue to improve. In fact, film could be ten times better than it
is now, but Kodak threw their research out the window."

"Nonsense," Kodak Director of Corporate Media Relations, Gerard
Meuchner, told MacCentral. "We invest in film and will continue to do
so. We also have said that we will devote more of our R&D to digital
imaging because that's where the market is headed, especially in
developed nations. In no way should people misunderstand that
statement to mean that Kodak won't keep investing in film."

As an example of this, Meuchner pointed out a February press release
touting the company's introduction of new Professional Ultra Color and
Kodak Professional BW400CN films, as well as improvements to its
Professional Portra 800 film. He thinks "film will be around for a
long, long time. Film is growing in developing markets such as China,
India and Russia, which is why we continue to make investments in
those regions."

Even Tom Shay, Director of Corporate Communications for Kodak's
biggest competitor, Fuji, told MacCentral: "I don't think Kodak has
given up on film. They stopped making film cameras, which may have led
to that perception. Last year, they introduced new slide films that
most professionals think are the best in the world."

Welch and other professional photographers interviewed by MacCentral
for this article have tended to prefer Fuji's film over Kodak's --
when they're not shooting digital -- ever since the Japanese company
sponsored the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Today, Shay pegs Fuji's
film sales at 10 percent of global revenues, although the 90 percent
attributed to digital covers everything from cameras to medical
imaging devices. In contrast, while 2003 numbers are not yet
available, Meuchner said that Kodak's 2002 digital sales, which are
also a broad catch-all category, comprised 30 percent of the company's
overall sales, and he expects that figure to hit 60 percent by 2006.

Getting rid of processing time and costs

Professionals' dramatic switch-over to film -- 2003 was the first year
that the entire industry saw digital outsell its traditional
counterpart to both pros and consumers -- started with
photojournalists, for whom time is of the essence when shooting
pictures on deadline. Welch in particular recalls an incident in Sept.
1997 when he was a news photographer and shot the crowning of Miss
Missouri at 9:15 p.m. one evening. "By 9:35 p.m.," he recalled, "that
picture was in layout and I said 'This is the future.' I was using a
US$13,000 1.3 megapixel camera and the picture was impossible to fix
completely because it was incredibly magenta, but it was a revelation

Welch's former boss, Ival Lawhon, feels the same way. He switched to
digital three-and-a-half years ago for his work with the St. Joseph
News-Press in Missouri and related a recent experience shooting
tornadoes that were whirling through the area. "I didn't get back
until 9:30 p.m. but two photos still made page one, and we were able
to send three to AP," he said.

Besides timeliness, another factor that has fueled the digital
adoption is megapixel count. Looked at by many the same way computer
users point to processor speed, megapixels have reached five to six in
affordable prosumer cameras, with high-end pro models hitting 12 or
more. All of the photographers MacCentral spoke to, as well as Fuji's
Shay, saw six megapixels as the benchmark for producing prints that
are good enough for not only photojournalists but even people like
Fred Ward, whose 5.3 megapixel camera can easily capture the sparkle
of the precious stones he shoots for his continuously-revised series
of gem books. "My customers can't tell the difference between the old
pictures and the new digital ones," he remarked.

Not quite dead yet

But is digital ready to send traditional film to the land where
8-track tapes and vinyl records went to die? "150 years ago, when
photography was in its infancy," said Ted Grant, who recently
completed snapping shots for a book about women in medicine, "people
thought painters would go away, but they didn't." He said he hasn't
switched yet "because they haven't come out with a digital camera as
easy to use as the Leica M7. I need to be quiet as I do my work." He
also pointed out that digital cameras can't snap shots as fast as a
traditional camera can, but he acknowledged that an upcoming Epson
camera that uses Leica lenses "may be a turning point."

Grant said that he recently took some black-and-white pictures with a
digital camera, "but there wasn't the same feel you get from film.
Film has a smoother look and digital has a sharper edge -- in fact,
it's sharp no matter what, because the depth of field is greater." He
believes digital and film can cohabitate, especially when one
considers that ad agencies and similar businesses need to take
high-quality shots for sizes large enough to accommodate billboards or
even the sides of buildings -- they won't switch until digital
cameras' megapixel numbers reach much higher than they are now.

Neither Kodak nor Fuji would speculate when digital will be become the
de facto standard and film will become a niche medium. Shay pointed
out that "digital photography is still in its infancy. It's made
tremendous progress, but film is not a stationary target. It will
continue to evolve too." He sees major digital advancements in the
coming years arriving not through megapixel increases but with "the
color palette and dynamic range, areas where film is still better.
People were fixated on megapixels but now they've come to realize that
these other elements are important too."

To illustrate how far digital has come, Tim Jones, who teaches
all-digital photojournalism courses at Texas Christian University,
discussed a recent display at the school. A photojournalist who had
gone to Iraq and Afghanistan to snap shots of soldiers with a 4
megapixel Canon 1D camera brought his pictures back and blew them up
to 30- x 40-inch prints. "The quality was amazing," said Jones. "If he
could get that with 4 megapixels, imagine what he could do with 6 or

Received on Sun Sep 26 09:18:20 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : 10/01/04-09:17:56 AM Z CST