Sunday, April 22, 2007

Film or Digital: Part - 3

Special Needs for Film

Working in the WildernessDigital cameras need power. Without batteries they are dead. Some cameras using film are the same, but it is generally easier to carry spares, as their batteries last for many films. There are still some that continue to take pictures without batteries.
For working with digital, you need to have some way of recharging batteries, and that generally requires a mains power supply. So if you are really away from it all, this may present a problem.
Few photographers have enough memory cards to store all their pictures on prolonged trips, although the prices of these have reduced considerably, making this a possible option. Most travel with either a notebook computer or a smaller device containing a hard drive. Both have batteries, which also need frequent recharging, which again can be a problem in out of the way places.

Some digital cameras can work with widely available batteries such as AA size, and this can make working around the world with them easier.

Learning to be a Photographer
Many photography courses still teach using film. I don’t think there is any good reason for this, more that it is a matter of personal and institutional inertia.
Most photographers in the future will not need to use black and white film or to make black and white prints. These activities have no particular merit in photography courses, although using black and white does help to concentrate the mind on particular aspects of image making. Black and white photography remains a powerful medium, as many photojournalists, landscape photographers and others prove day after day (and you’ll see the evidence in many of the links that appear on the front page of this site.) But increasingly black and white comes from digital cameras, some of which even have a black and white mode to use while shooting. For most it is simpler to use software to convert images shot in colour to black and white.

Almost all commercial uses of photography now require digital files, and the simplest way to provide these is by using digital capture. Even while teaching students using film, I found Photoshop to be a powerful (if not essential) tool, enabling them to see and understand how their images could be treated in different ways. What might have taken a term in the darkroom could be done in a few hours on a computer, and done with more precission as well as in ways that would be impossible in the darkroom.

But if you take a course that still uses film (and many otherwise very good courses still do) then you will need a film camera. Fortunately decent manual SLRs are now very cheap (and there are great second-hand bargains.) It would be useful to buy one that takes the same lenses as the DSLR you’ll get now, or later when you can afford it, for personal or commercial work.

Special Cameras
In my personal work, I use both film and digital. Most of my work, and almost all that might be sent to libraries or other commercial use, is still digital. But there are still some things that affordable digital cameras cannot do.

At the moment, there is no digital camera that enables me to shoot in the same way as on a Leica (although the expected Leica M digital may change that – if I can afford it.) Rangefinder cameras like this allow you to work rapidly and unobtrusively, and deliver excellent quality.

I also regularly use several film panoramic cameras, including a Hasselblad Xpan and a 6x12 swing lens camera. For static subjects, I could usually get similar results by stitching several digital exposures, but it is more convenient to be able to use a single exposure. With moving subjects, stitching presents problems.

Detail I don’t work often enough with either of my 4 x 5" cameras to afford a digital back. To get that equivalent quality on digital still requires an outlay of perhaps $15-20,000 for equipment. Secondhand 4x5" cameras and lenses can be found for a few hundred dollars.

1 comment:

Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog

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