Is Digital Camera Sales a Conspiracy?
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© Darrell Young  

It IS a conspiracy!

What better thing for camera companies than to be able to sell you a new camera every three or four years--if you listen to the digital camera quick obsolescence propaganda.

In the old days, you would buy a new camera and happily use it for 20 or 30 years. Now, you MUST buy a new digital in only 10% of that time, so the camera maker economy is better. For some reason, camera makers want to make more cameras and have us buy them.

Plus, since digital is so gratifying, it appeals to the masses of camera point and shooters who want to see results NOW. And Professional camera users seem to love digital, since it allows them to create superior results in a shorter period of time, and the editors love that. (They want it NOW too!)

So, the conspiracy is obvious. We will use digital in the long term, or we'll be working with worn out film cameras. I suggest that those who want to use film endlessly, buy a new F6, or at least an F100 while they can still be had. These fine cameras will last forever. The rest of the world will switch to digital, and the great masses will be burdened down by their beautiful images, and new featured-laden computer cameras.

One thing though. I can use both today, and most likely in my lifetime that will remain. Even though I might like to listen to superior sounding music CDs, I can still find vinyl LPs in specialized markets. Old technology does NOT go away until the entire generation that used it has died. People do not want to change.

So, take advantage of the film cameras while they are still available, and buy yourself a digital too. Both are great ways to express yourself. Digital can do things that film can only dream of, so don't discount it, just because you like film. Why limit yourself?  

I am here to tell you from personal experience on both sides of the issue (film vs. digital photography), that digital capture resolves the image in a sharp, colorful, grainless way that is superior to scanned film. I have a Nikon Coolscan 9000 scanner, and regularly do 16-pass 4000 dpi scans of Provia slides. There is no way a scanned slide can even come close to comparing to a D2x digital capture, or even a D70 in most cases. The range of light captured by a scan is compressed. Darks (shadow detail) are basically gone. If you wet PRINT directly from a slide to a high-end photographic paper like Fuji Crystal using a high-end enlarger and chemical processing you can probably equal a digital capture. No way can a scan come close, even an expensive drum scan. There are many direct comparisons available out there on the internet. You can find them by doing a Google search.

I am not saying here that digital is better than film in all ways, because film is a mature process that has been around for a long time. And the new films that are coming out are better than ever. But, the industry is moving away from film quickly and it is the PROCESSING of film that is dying, along with the manufacture of film cameras. Those who want to do film primarily will find it harder and more expensive than ever before within a year or two. The industry support for film is dying for the same reasons the industry support for LP records and 8-track tapes died. Digital is more convenient for commercial reasons. And the quality is very consistant. It is locked in bits and bytes which never change.

Where film gives you a beautful original that is very satisfying, it is just that, a one of a kind object. The quality cannot be easily reproduced in other formats. There are too many steps between the analog film camera output and the digital display devices we use now, to maintain maximum quality. Digital quality does not vary from the time it is set in stone in a TIFF file. And it is instantly and consistently reproducible on digital display devices such as monitors, printers, and such. Plus, since it is digital, the original file can be copied over and over with no loss of quality, and even be stored in multiple places for safety against loss. Not so with original film images.

More than anything else, I think that the above is what is killing film. This society is interested in easy things and instant satisfaction. Can you imagine most people going into a camera store and buying an enlarger, chemicals, trays, motor bases, spools, tanks, etc. when it is time to get excellent quality image creation. No way! But, those same people can get comparable and more consistent quality pictures by buying a better digital camera, a good computer, and an inkjet printer.

Does that mean that discriminating people won't take the time to do wet processing to get the best images. No! But there are very few of those people left, and so industry support has basically disappeared. Now film companies are going bankrupt, favorite films are being pulled from the market, and film companies are becoming digital camera manufacturers instead. Film is dying, and it is NOT because it is inferior. In fact, I must humbly admit that in some ways film is better and more satisfying in the fact that you have created an original image that will never exist in the exact same way again. It is one of a kind.

So, don't beat me up because I rave about digital imaging. I am a realist. I certainly could refuse to shoot digitally, and thereby ignore the BENEFITS of digital photography. Those that are filmers ONLY are passing up on some very satisfying experiences. I cannot beat the digital industry so I joined them instead. I am not going to beat myself up for doing so, because it is fun and invigorating to do digital imaging.

This is NOT a film vs. digital rant, even though some may want to argue and make it seem so. For the realistic reasons above I am primarily a digital photographer. I am sure that you could come up with just as many valid reason to remain a film photographer...for the time being.

I am a collector of, and write about, obsolete film cameras, such as 1940s medium format folders. One of my favorite cameras is an Agfa Isolette III. And it shoots ONLY 120 film.

So, in conclusion, for my own reasons I choose digital as a way to make some MONEY and have great FUN with my camera. I choose old cameras and film as a way to re-enjoy the "good old days" of my youthful photography experiences.

What you choose is entirely your business. Nikon makes cameras for all of us. I do not want to argue. Some people look for an argument. Sometimes I take the bait. Other times I create the bait. With a monikor like Digital Darrell, you can expect that I'll take the digital side of the issue. What we really need is a person named "Film Fred, Provia Polly, or Velvia Vicki" to become a voice for film camera use in a digital age. Any volunteers?

Keep on capturing time...

Copyright © 2005 by Darrell Young, All Rights Reserved