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05-03-2012, 02:48 PM   #1
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35 mm vs. digital

My earliest Pentax was the Asahi S1 with a manually-cocked f/2.2 lens. Pentax was a dominant force in those days and I believe they invented the instant-return mirror. I learned the basics of photography with that camera and did some of my own black and white print developing. I had to be sure to frame the image properly, keep the image level, and to use my Weston Master IV exposure meter correctly to get the right exposure. I eventually bought a Pentax istDL, gave it to my brother, and now own a K100D and a Kx. If I take a "bad" shot, I can use software to level the image, crop the picture, enhance the colors, sharpen the image, etc. The computer can make a poor photographer look quite competent. I always feel that I am cheating when I process my shots electronically. Although I appreciate these features, especially the ability to make a print instantly at home, I really miss the old days when the cameras, not just Pentax SLRs, were entirely mechanical with all the cute knobs and levers, and silvery surfaces. There are few cameras that look better than the early Leicas, in this respect. That's why I have begun to collect old mechanical cameras and old lenses from that period.

Do any of you feel tinges of regret about the onrushing technology that will eventually make the camera and computer our masters? Can we ever again be proud to say these photos are MY work?

05-03-2012, 03:10 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Discussed to death in many previous threads :-)

In a word... nope. Images are still mine. Film was/is manipulated as much as digital.
05-03-2012, 03:44 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by P. Soo Quote
The computer can make a poor photographer look quite competent.
I agree with SpecialK's concise response in general. I do understand some of your points, but I wanted to comment specifically on this one.....

I think a computer and a digital camera's more forgiving qualities can assist a photographer to make a better photograph. But it doesn't make them any more competent as a photographer. Beyond the processing a computer or camera engine can provide, the lion's share of the skills involved with being a good photographer transcend those capabilities. Competency is more about SEEING, composition, and then understanding how to utilize the benefits of the tools at your disposal. The fanciest camera in the world won't help with that.
05-03-2012, 04:23 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by ccd333 Quote
I agree with SpecialK's concise response in general. I do understand some of your points, but I wanted to comment specifically on this one.....

I think a computer and a digital camera's more forgiving qualities can assist a photographer to make a better photograph. But it doesn't make them any more competent as a photographer. Beyond the processing a computer or camera engine can provide, the lion's share of the skills involved with being a good photographer transcend those capabilities. Competency is more about SEEING, composition, and then understanding how to utilize the benefits of the tools at your disposal. The fanciest camera in the world won't help with that.
+1
All the digital stuff allows someone with the skills to perform the same manipulations that were done in the darkroom. Certainly it allows many, many more people access to those tools because they are cheaper, less toxic, etc. But the raw material of the photograph still has to be good, nothing the computer does can make a photographer any better if they don't learn the basic skills.

05-03-2012, 04:25 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Film was/is manipulated as much as digital.
For some folks...maybe. For others, it's not even close. Digital is manipulated much more.
05-03-2012, 04:28 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
...nothing the computer does can make a photographer any better if they don't learn the basic skills.
I totally agree with this. If we look at the monthly winners of the contests here, very few win due to the digital manipulation. Most win due to better concepts. The digital adjustments only enhance the main idea.
05-03-2012, 07:53 PM   #7
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There has ALWAYS been tinkering in the darkroom to alter images according to taste... Dodging, burning, pushing, solarization, posterization... these are chemical processes that have been used in the darkroom since practically the dawn of photography. Digital just makes it cheaper and easier. And there's nothing wrong with that, IMO.

The only reason there's more manipulation with digital than film is because most people who shot film didn't have a darkroom and relied on the drugstore for their prints. Digital gives everyone a darkroom. I consider that a good thing.
05-03-2012, 10:47 PM - 1 Like   #8
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I personally never liked waiting 3 days for Fotohut to process my negs. I was pretty happy to see 1 day processing, damn near stroked out when 1 hr processing was available. In heaven with my SD card and a PC.

05-03-2012, 11:29 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by ccd333 Quote
...I think a computer and a digital camera's more forgiving qualities can assist a photographer to make a better photograph. But it doesn't make them any more competent as a photographer. Beyond the processing a computer or camera engine can provide, the lion's share of the skills involved with being a good photographer transcend those capabilities. Competency is more about SEEING, composition, and then understanding how to utilize the benefits of the tools at your disposal...
I kind of equate this to some forms of digital music. It is a matter of taste I suppose, but if I ask myself what would I rather hear - a drum machine repeating some pattern, or a Billy Cobham drum part? I would answer the latter.

QuoteOriginally posted by jcamero Quote
I personally never liked waiting 3 days for Fotohut to process my negs. I was pretty happy to see 1 day processing, damn near stroked out when 1 hr processing was available. In heaven with my SD card and a PC.
Right on. I'm not looking back either.
05-03-2012, 11:47 PM   #10
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I remember seeing a comic showing
a rock tablet with hammer and chisel calling a piece of paper and pen not having craftsmanship...
the pen and paper is calling a typewriter of no penmanship
the typewriter calling a Computer of not having touch typing skill
the computer with a sad face with no comment at an Ipad...

this just reminds me of the "back in the old days" discussion I always used to hear from my older relatives... funny how now I am starting to talk like that... must be getting old
05-04-2012, 01:09 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by P. Soo Quote
...
I really miss the old days when the cameras, not just Pentax SLRs, were entirely mechanical with all the cute knobs and levers, and silvery surfaces.
...
Well, apparently you don't miss it enough. You can still shoot a film camera. What is stopping you? A lot of people shoot both digital and film these days.

Last edited by tuco; 05-04-2012 at 10:28 AM.
05-04-2012, 05:03 AM   #12
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Back in the 60s the goal of our darkroom and manipulation work was to learn how to improve our shooting technique to minimize the need for "post-processing." That was more important with film, where each shot had to count or you might miss the opportunity. The real test was the slide show, where there was no post-shot changing.
With digital, although shooting technique is still important, people take so many more shots (in general) that there is less emphasis on getting each a perfect shot, and more on making the image what you want from the many chances.
Shooting a weekend assignment in 36 exposures is still a good exercize to develop careful technique, whether film or digital.
05-04-2012, 05:47 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by GibbyTheMole Quote
There has ALWAYS been tinkering in the darkroom to alter images according to taste... Dodging, burning, pushing, solarization, posterization...
Depends upon what you were doing with your images. "Back in the day"....if you were submitting them for publication, only slides were accepted. Negative film need not apply. There may have been some manipulation when the image went to print, but that usually occured after it left the photographer's hands.
05-04-2012, 05:55 AM   #14
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I think there are two different points to look at here. one is film vs digital as a medium to capture photographs or images, and the other is the skill set.

Aside from some specific qualities, where even with digital filters you cannot approximate film (grain is one of these) the digital medium is far superior in almost every way to film. We have better resolution at high ISO, no reciprocity failure to speak of, and the list goes on and on, but some qualities while possible to approach with digital, like the grain structure for really pushed B&W at high ISO are simply not possible. So here, am I glad to see film depart, yes.

as for the skill set, aside from the pressure to minimize editing with film, getting framing correct, exposure correct, etc, we also forget that you had to pick the correct film for the situation. I have made this point before, and will make it again here, picking film is like picking JPEG settings. you would select B&W or Color, print or slide and specific different films to get more or less contrast, cooler or warmer images, different white balance for other than daylight situations, etc.....

One of the big losses we see, IMO is the lack of this understanding and the attitude that these selections do not matter, because I can fix it later if I shoot RAW/. I dont want to enter a RAW vs JPEG debate or hijack the thread, but the lack of appreciation for this one aspect of photography is something that has been lost with technology, yet the basic understanding of these things can make your time behind the monitor much more efficient.
05-04-2012, 06:18 AM   #15
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Personally, I do agree that technology has made it easier to seem like a competent photographer, but maybe not for the reasons many people think. Sure, it's easier to get basic things like focus and exposure right, even for people who don't know what they're doing. But those people still can't see light, can't pose people for a high quality portrait, and can't necessarily compose. So technology has provided a less resistant path to the most fundamental aspects of photography, but has not much affected the path to great photos.

But there's a bigger way in which the digital world allows the lazy amateur to seem better, and that's by virtue of oversaturating all of our senses with crappy work. Mobile phones, Facebook, and even YouTube allow a daily assault on our senses with low quality garbage. Even in mainstream usage, because media organizations are struggling, can't pay proper photogs, and resort to "citizen journalism," posting incredibly bad content. When people are exposed to so much utter shite, then the stuff that is merely mediocre, or even poor, tends to look better by comparison.

I came to photography fewer than 10 years ago, and had never shot film until late 2010, when I decided to explore it to see if I was missing anything. Turns out I was. Now I shoot digital for my professional jobs, for quality and workflow and confidence that I am getting what I need. But I shoot film for pure enjoyment. What I was missing was a lot. The first thing I was missing was a whole truckload of knowledge and understanding about photography, and going to film has made me a better and more thoughtful shooter. And I love the aesthetic of film. All the technical stuff has been matched and exceeded by digital; but there's still an underlying gestalt with film that digital can't currently provide.

I'm sad that films are being discontinued, that so few people are making new film cameras, etc. But I think it's mostly false nostalgia. It's now my hobby, and I love to engage in it, but it's being ever more relegated to a "specialty" concern, which is only natural: when there's not a mainstream demand, stuff is harder to get and more expensive. That's a bummer, but it was always inevitable. In a way it makes my film work feel more crafted, and important. But it's also brought new elements of craft and care to my digital photography.
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