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Why are the days of film photography still influencing the days of digital photography?


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#1 stenrasmussen

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 10:31

Seen from a biological perspective the days of Capa, Cartier-Bresson, Adams, etc. are over but from a legacy point of view they’re not. Their work/lucky shots will for always be regarded as work of art and this has without doubt inspired the whole world of photography.

Seen from a technical perspective the days of Leica M3, Nikon F, Canon A, etc. are over but from a legacy point of view they’re not. Their ruggedness/shortcommings will for always be regarded as brilliant mechanical devices and this has without doubt inspired the whole world of camera makers.

Seen from a photographic perspective, imagine this: Invert history. The old days were filled with megapixels, high ISO performance, billions of photos, global availability, cheap flights, etc. Then, society decided to stop this and restrict camera availability, no more digital, lousy ISO ranges, paper only, and no internet.

What would we then think if we then heard of Ansel, Henri and Robert and saw the grainy, rough, 10 zone pictures? Would we be impressed? Some would perhaps be but the majority most likely not.

And, why is the Leica M9 still such an almost iconic object? Why do we long for a digital “FM”? Why are we never satisfied with what’s available to us?
The M9 is not about the sensor or its LCD, the “FM” is probably just a romatic dream, the constant “more, more, more” is what the world has become. Will it ever stop? No. Do we want it to stop? No.
Would we, truly, be less happy if it did stop? No.

Edited by stenrasmussen, 06 August 2012 - 10:33 .

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#2 JohnBrew

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 11:33

Sten, at some point all us photography "elders" will die off and there will be no more personal film influence as the torch passes to those who only know digital.

OTOH, I think things like Leica bringing out a dedicated bw camera will keep film comparisons alive and keep awareness of the bw artform as practised in past alive. Even though Fuji offers a color film look as an option on some of their cameras, I wonder how many of their customers actually have color film experience?

Edited by JohnBrew, 06 August 2012 - 11:38 .


#3 Lars Hansen

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 11:52

The majority of users of digital cameras have probably never heard of Ansel, Henri, Robert etc. But they are probably the ones paying for the continued development of the technology. I'm sure they are quite happy with the development and the fact they don't have to spend money on expensive film and subsequent development, copying etc.

Art photogs always have a choice - the digital camera is just an optional tool. A Danish art photog, whos work I admire, still shoot b/w film. This is a deliberate chioce and I cannot see how she would be able to achieve her expression via a digital camera - I think much of the expression is created in the manual copying process in the dark room.

Personally I shoot digital because of the freedom it offers and ease of use. Would I be less happy it it was taken from me? Maybe not, but I would feel very limited I believe.

Iconic objects have a lot of emotion attached to it - people also drive vintage cars because they are special, rare etc. Same with cameras I guess.

Edited by Lars Hansen, 06 August 2012 - 11:53 .


#4 davepaterson

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 12:08

Sorry, Sten, but if you think Ansel Adams' work was rough, grainy and had only ten tones, then you've never seen an AA print.

A good black-and-white darkroom print from a large-format b/w negative has subtleties we digital shooters can only dream of.
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#5 stenrasmussen

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 12:16

Sorry, Sten, but if you think Ansel Adams' work was rough, grainy and had only ten tones, then you've never seen an AA print.

A good black-and-white darkroom print from a large-format b/w negative has subtleties we digital shooters can only dream of.


Please note that my comment on rough, grainy and 10 zones were not specifically aimed at Ansel. I know he went for more delicate, fine nuances but Capa's photos from Spain in the 30's didn't.
As to your last point re. subtleties: Agreed, but would a reversed history, in light of the film large format's drawbacks, discover that as the main superior quality?
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#6 stenrasmussen

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 12:19

Sten, at some point all us photography "elders" will die off and there will be no more personal film influence as the torch passes to those who only know digital.

OTOH, I think things like Leica bringing out a dedicated bw camera will keep film comparisons alive and keep awareness of the bw artform as practised in past alive. Even though Fuji offers a color film look as an option on some of their cameras, I wonder how many of their customers actually have color film experience?


Good points John and the thing is, as with my inverse history point, why do we "yearn" for antiqued"?
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#7 stenrasmussen

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 12:27

The majority of users of digital cameras have probably never heard of Ansel, Henri, Robert etc. But they are probably the ones paying for the continued development of the technology. I'm sure they are quite happy with the development and the fact they don't have to spend money on expensive film and subsequent development, copying etc.

Art photogs always have a choice - the digital camera is just an optional tool. A Danish art photog, whos work I admire, still shoot b/w film. This is a deliberate chioce and I cannot see how she would be able to achieve her expression via a digital camera - I think much of the expression is created in the manual copying process in the dark room.

Personally I shoot digital because of the freedom it offers and ease of use. Would I be less happy it it was taken from me? Maybe not, but I would feel very limited I believe.

Iconic objects have a lot of emotion attached to it - people also drive vintage cars because they are special, rare etc. Same with cameras I guess.


Most people have never heard of many things - and most digital camera owner don't know ISO from aperture.
Personally I do enjoy the analog works but we have not even begun exploring the digital era and it will "never" end.
Rock carvings/painting - that's vintage!
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#8 Akira

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 12:52

The most basic 35mm film cameras (rangefinder or SLR) were designed mainly with the photojournalism in mind. Considering that the majority of earliest adaptors of DSLRs have been newspapers and photojournalists, there would be no wonder if the designs of ditigal cameras for professional use have been based on SLR or Leica M.

On the other hand, P&S cameras aimed at consumer market were more "radical" in this regard. The first major hit, Casio QV10, was one of the most prominent example. It already offered live view, and also swivel body! Very innovative.

The professional world is conservative, because it is the mainstream. The consumer world is more radical in adapting new things, especially around the time when digital cameras emerged. The revolution of the photography stimulated by the digital cameras happened in the consumer world, not the professional world. What was revolitionized first in the professional world is the workflow, The images published by the media (in the days of Nikon D1 family) were not so different from those of film days.

That's my humble take.on the question.
"The eye is blind if the mind is absent." - Confucius

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