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Digital has been moved by convenience, not quality

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Bill, Apr 21, 2012.

  1. Bill

    Bill Mu-43 Regular

    176
    Apr 15, 2009
    Brisbane, Australia
    Bill (really)
    Mike Johnston in "The Online Photographer" remarked,
    "This [the ablity of the average photographer to engage in the digital technical debate - pixel peeping] has resulted in a whole generation of photographers who have been constantly reinforced in the notion that "image quality" is an essential building-block of a successful photograph. Actually, it isn't. Actually, it isn't at all."
    This struck a chord with me because I was able to return to photography becasue of the convenience of digital photography. I think he's right; and even though I'm still interested in quality digital files, it makes me think more careful about what I'm in it for.
     
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  2. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    An excellent point and reminder. It's certainly all too easy (and common) to get wrapped up in the technical minutiae and miss the forest for the trees.

    Still, I don't think it's an entirely new science issue. Perhaps it was less common before, but there have certainly be plenty of debates over the merits of various films, enlargers, paper and so on and so forth, usually with the implication that these items were of paramount importance to the quality of the output.

    DH
     
  3. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Fred
    My G2 consistently produces a higher image quality than ever got with 35mm film. My 11x14 prints are better than I got with 35mm film. There are cameras that can produce better images. I don't care. If I did care I would never be happy with my photographs.

    Back in the 80's I spent tons of time testing film and developer combinations. I worked out my own film speed for each film. I was obsessed with high ASA and low grain. I didn't take a lot photographs until I just gave up all that stuff and just started shooting Kodachrome.

    I'm trying not to fall into the same trap today with digital. I just want to make nice prints.

    Fred
     
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  4. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Texas
    1) Having not yet read the full article;
    2) And still being a film shooter;

    I very much agree with the title of this thread. Digital is quite convenient for me but not necessarily "better" than my film work.

    (And now to don my Kevlar body suit) :biggrin:
     
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  5. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Texas
    Edit:
    Shooting film actually relaxes me quite a bit because a lot of the digital arguments simply are irrelevant in film land :smile:

    (And now, back in my Kevlar body armor) :biggrin:
     
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  6. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    Ansel Adams at some point referred to the "holy water syndrome" that some photographers had (and still have, lets not forget) about their choice of developer.
     
  7. BSH

    BSH Mu-43 Veteran

    208
    Jan 18, 2012
    WI
    RT, what's to flame? I don't see anything anybody could take issue with, either still shooting film, or agreeing that digital is primarily about convenience. Film is a legit choice, and is primarily deficient to digital (IMO) solely for reasons of convenience. I like the original article.
     
  8. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    Yep! And he was also an extremely proficient printer, which included having very good workinghand knowledge of the chemistry he was using :smile:

    DH
     
  9. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Texas
    You never know when it will hit you....:tongue:
    But about the article, just finishing it up - it is an interesting read for sure :cool:
     
  10. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    It's way worse in the audio world. Convenience has crushed sound quality as a priority.
     
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  11. Ugh, these type of articles always seem to take the "image quality is irrelevant" too far. Yes, some great photographs are soft, out of focus, underexposed, or as grainy as hell. However, the overwhelming majority ARE sharp, ARE in focus, ARE properly exposed. It might be instructive if they mention that, too.

    P.S. I realize this wasn't the part of the article that Bill was highlighting, but I thought it worth a mention.
     
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  12. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Don't think he is really saying that 'image quality is irrelevant' - more that the obsessing over it at the expense of actually going out and taking pictures and creating interesting images is somewhat futile.

    sharpness, focus and exposure are not the responsibility of the sensor/camera - they are the responsibility of the photographer.

    you know well that 2 of my mantras here on this forum have been

    "quality of image is more important than image quality" and

    "cameras don't take photographs, photographers do"

    cheers

    K
     
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  13. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    693
    Jul 8, 2011
    The thread title is misleading, it's film that's been led by convenience, not digital, Mike is saying digital is not driven by convenience because it's not the photographers who initiated the switch to digital but people interested in technology and image quality was the main driving force, rather than things like EVFs, smaller bodies, faster autofocus, things that got smaller in the digital age.

    In other words, he's arguing that digital should be more convenient. Should be more like EM5, less like D800.

    The D800 might have the greatest image quality, but it's huge compared to film cameras from the 1970s.
     
  14. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I agreed with Mike when I read his blog this morning, but I think he left out one thing.

    While convenience is probably the primary driver, every new advance in convenience is followed by a series of secondary advances as we try to get the more convenient system to deliver the same quality as the previous system did and then eventually to surpass it.

    In many ways you could get much better image quality out of a 1990's 35mm camera and film than you could from a 1920s 8" x 10" view camera and that wasn't true when 35mm still photography started in the 1920's. Better lenses, faster lenses, better film formulations, things which we either would not have developed or not have developed as fast if people hadn't been trying to make the inferior new, convenient system more the equal of the older system. Convenience may be the big driver of primary development but it creates the need and climate for the secondary development which follows and refines and improves quality.

    Lots of people just want the advances in convenience. Others are prepared to forgo those advances and stick with their existing system. The real work gets done by the people who try to make the new convenient system deliver or surpass what the old system did. That takes place over time and also benefits the old system. Lenses for view cameras are better now than 50 or 80 years ago because of advances in lens design for smaller formats. Film stock for larger formats is better now than back then because of advances in film that were originally intended for 35mm. Digital IQ now is better than 10 years ago because people tried to duplicate the quality of bigger sensors in smaller sensors, and the bigger sensors are also better because of that.

    Here's to the next wave in convenience improvements that triggers more improvements in image quality, and I'll take a bit more convenience as well on the side, thanks.
     
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  15. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    Yep. You can get quality with a pocketable mirrorless today that required a MF film camera 15 years ago.

    Me too. The only danger is when convenience and quality come into conflict. As we saw with audio CDs and VHS, the higher quality solution doesn't necessarily win out. Sometimes (i.e. BetaMax) it disappears entirely.

    DH
     
  16. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    WHen CDs came along and forced everyone's hand I had several thousand LPs that I had no intention of getting rid of. Now I have Thousands more LPs and hundreds of CDs. There is an old monaural record of Oscar Montoya from the 50's: it sounds like he is playing in the room.

    In the same way, I shoot digital and film. At the moment, being without a real darkroom, it's mostly digital. I don't like other people printing for me.

    I've seen some gorgeous digital black and white prints; but they don't "take the place" of silver, not for me.
     
  17. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    989
    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    I can tell you that if Dorothea Lange's or Ansel Adam's photographs didn't have the technical image quality that they do, then those two wouldn't be memorialized today as great photographers. Not having read the article, and only the quote in the OP, image quality in many cases absolutely is an essential building-block of a successful photograph.
     
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  18. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    693
    Jul 8, 2011
    Actually with digital distribution, you can now distribute 24bit recordings, better than cd recordings. Before if you bought a SACD or a DAT recording, you would need a dedicated SACD player to play that recording. Not many people will buy a SACD player just to listen to one song they like at 24bit.

    With 24bit recordings distributed digitally, you can buy one high quality recording and then downsize into, smaller mp3s for your iPod, or CDs for your car stereo, or play through your home theater with a high end dac.

    No different than photography, If you want to send grandma a high quality print, your only option was to send a 40in print in the mail. You can now send a picture digitally, if she wants to print at 40 she can, of she wants to crop a little piece, she can do that as well, if she wants to have a low rez image to use as a caller ID can do that as well.

    Convenience makes high quality photography possible.
     
  19. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    My comment was that convenience has crushed sound quality as a priority. I said nothing about what is possible.
     
  20. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    The more things change, the more they remain the same. The biggest driver of film photography has been convenience. As Kodak said, you press the button and we will do the rest. Look at the development of 35mm technology as well as instimatic and Polariod cameras/ Film had its own versions of pixel peepers and technology nuts. It is kind of silly to say that digital is driven by computer geeks--film was driven by chemists? I guess when you are writing the history, you get to make up the facts.
     
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