Digital camera limitations

  Wilham 22:59 04 Aug 2003

Don't get me wrong. I'm fond of my digital camera, but I'm irritated by the hyped praise bestowed on them by people I suspect have never had more than the briefest aquantance with any other type of camera. So I'm listing a few backward steps that have accompanied the advance of digital stills.
(i)Using a digital camera (=DC) you can't avoid converging verticals in, say, a frontal pic of a church. My old quarter plate had a rising front to produce (near)uprights from ground level. 35mm users could do this almost as as well by tilting the neg in the enlarger. Result... your DC can't compete with the locally sold postcard.
(ii) You are unlikely to have a depth of focus scale on your DC, or even be aware of what it (tech incorrectly) means. A good film camera has two distance scales, one of which shows the range of distances in focus. Choosing shuter/aperture combination gives choice of what is in sharp focus.
(iii) I was lucky to go to a lecture by Karsh in the fifties, he was the world's most famous photographer, died a year ago. He said the worst possible position for a flash was right next to the camera lens. DC's not only put them there but make them tiny. Where do you ever see the flash factor for the built-in flash? I've recently seen 100's of pics from a wedding, the tiniest DC's produced white faces against dark backgounds on inside exposures. Outside were OK.
(iv) One lady had camera camera shake on every pic. I imagined she held the DC in one hand and pressed the button with the other. But then I saw my son-in-law also had shake on many pics from his fuji 401. He says his big hands found it difficult to tell if the little camera was held motionless.
(v) In the 1950's my contax 1 had a 3.5 zeiss tessar with which test chart showed 64 lines/mm. F2.8 was the largest aperture for a tessar.My spotmatic f1.4 in the 1960's had even better l/mm, but at the expense of rectilinearity. So if you desperately wanted to avoid barrel/pincushion you needed what was called a macro lens,- it was a return to tessar. So how does a modern DC x3 zoom perform? All reviewers seem to look for is the definition on an A4 sheet,...and the number of pixels, of course.
I'll leave it at that.

  Southernboy 23:09 04 Aug 2003

You are so right!

A DC trades on the novelty value, but cannot compete with a good SLR. OK, it is great for professionals who can pay the several thousand pounds to match a £500 35mm SLR, and OK for the "point and shoot" snapper who is not going to be too critical of his snaps of Auntie Doris, but for a keen amateur, forget it.

I am sure they will get there eventually, but it will be some time yet.

  GANDALF <|:-)> 23:36 04 Aug 2003

1) nor will any 35mm camera. The only way to correct verticals is using a plate camera, or a Hasselblad architectural lens. Verticals can be corrected in the enlarger but it is a royal pain. Of course the modern view of architectural photography is to use converging verticals as a way of making a dull technical shot come to life. It is rare to see a 'technical' shot of a lump of architecture these days and to be truthful, I find them deadly dull.....however 50 years ago....

2) DCs have a large depth of field. Most amatuers and weekend photographers will not need any settings for depth of field/focus. Most professinals know, by experience, what the depth of field will be with any lens combination (same with light readings....a professinal should know, from experience, the exact f-stop and speed combination without resorting to a light meter).

3) most 35mm negative cameras for the amatuer market have the flash in this position. It is only intended to light up to 10 feet away. The manuals make this blatntly clear. It cannot be helped if people do not read the manual. On many of the £400+ DCs an extra flash can be mounted on a hotshoe.

4) and negative camera users have no picture shake?

5) A good £500 digital camera will produce excellent quality prints that most people (including professional photographers and camera club members) would not be able to tell from negative prints.

I am also Southernboy is wrong as well.....A Fuji 602 (£450 ish) will produce professinal quality pictures for brochures, up to A4. A scanning back on a Bronica, Hasselbald or Sinar will produce pictures as sharp (some would argue sharper) as 50asa tranny film. Most of wilhams post concentrates on the technical aspects of photography. For the majority of users (including professinals) this is irrelevant. Digicams produce excellent quality shots and you can burn them onto CD and whack it in your DVD player for a slideshow on the old TV...better than grubby albums clogged up with fading prints.


  GANDALF <|:-)> 23:39 04 Aug 2003

me O's have gorn outa 'professional'

Delete 'I am' from...'I am also Southernboy is wrong as well'


  GANDALF <|:-)> 23:41 04 Aug 2003

wasn't Karsh the bloke who did the rather overlit B&W pics with harsh highlights and more burning in than the fire of London? ;-))


  anchor 09:18 05 Aug 2003

Bravo Gandalf!!!

I am an avid digital photographer; and yes, I do have more than a nodding acquaintance with normal cameras. In the past I have owned and used various types, starting with the family box brownie, (very young at the time), moving slowly up the scale to a 6x6 cm SLR, then on to sophisticated 35mm SLR.

When digital cameras first appeared I considered them not worth buying as the quality was so bad. However, technology moved on and I bought my first digital camera about 4 years ago. My latest camera is the Canon S50; the results are astounding. Yes, I can have full control on aperture and shutter speed, or just leave it on auto. I can also see instantly if the picture is what I want and re-take if necessary. Bracketing exposures is a doddle. Yes, it is a smaller size camera, but that suits me. I keep the camera with me tucked in my pocket, so it is always available for those "once in a life" time shots.

Gone are the days when I had to black out the room to process the pictures; now I work on them in my "digital darkroom", from the comfort of my PC, stopping and starting whenever I wish. The prints I achieve on my Epson 895 are so good that most people cannot tell them from commercial photo prints.

The advantages of digital photography so far outweigh the disadvantages that, for me, there is no going back.

  Tenner 10:43 05 Aug 2003

I agree whole heartedly with Gandalf and anchor - the World does move on ! Gone are the days of quarter and half-plate cameras - too cumbersome ! Leica, Hasselblad, Contax etc are still available to those who can afford them, but they were never cheap. For sheer popularity i.e. picture recording for the masses, you have to hand it to the Box Brownie, the Instamatic, the Agfa Sportsman etc., etc. of the 50?s and 60?s.

Converging verticals is a problem for a very small minority - the architectural specialist.

Karsh was ONE photographer of repute, there were others : Ansel Adams, Eve Arnold, Bill Brandt, Arnold Newman, Helmut Newton, Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy, Irving Penn, Dorothea Lange, Fay Godwin and everybody?s heard the name ?David Bailey? called at a party when a camera appears ! Some of these would discuss technique but others wouldn?t even tell you what camera they?d used, let alone what f-stop. They are/were each brilliant exponents in their own field - some were photojournalists whilst others were Society or portrait photographers, but they all had one passion in common : the final image. They have set standards to which many aspire.

Sadly, many enthusiasts get side-tracked by the technical / scientific side of the apparatus and they populate your local Camera Club. I once attended such a club?s monthly meeting and sat through the monthly competition show. The commentary was the bitchiest you could imagine as factions ?competed? - so bad, I left before the free tea and biscuits !

So, we move on. Developments in the last 2 years have brought DCs, like the Canon EOS 10D @ £1300 b/o, ( almost) within the grasp of some with standards/specifications akin to cameras costing £6,000+ from other stables last year. Similar development rates would / did take 2 decades or more when 35mm was in its infancy , when most of us had to put up with 127 roll film.

The holiday ?snappers? in their millions have pushed the photographic industry forward as the fore-runners have experimented. I see no reason why this trend will not be repeated with DCs.

Photography for the majority of us should be about pictorial recording, attempting to improve our results but mostly -- having fun.

The problem with ?serious? amateur photographers ? They have to do it in dark rooms. ;-)


  bfoc 11:11 05 Aug 2003

It really is a matter of what you are comparing with what.

Will a £350 digital camera produce the same quality output and have as many features and as much flexibility as, say, a Nikon F80? I would suggest not.

However, given the lack of film costs, should we be comparing a £350 digital camera with a £350 SLR? I would suggest that a £350 digital camera should be compared to its 'conventional' counterpart, a 35mm compact camera.

If this is done then many of the criticisms Wilham has given (converging verticals, difficulty in holding still, lack of DOF preview/indication and flash positioning) will be seen to be common to both.

The simple reality is that, at the moment, digital photography carries a premium over conventional photography. That premium is falling and is likely to continue to do so.

I would hope that in a few years i will be able to have an affordable, quality digital SLR to accompany my Nikon F80. I would then be able to change 'film speed' with each frame, view my shots immediately after they were taken and save on processing time and costs.

For me, and I suspect for many others, the major limitation for what we want is cost!

  Southernboy 13:11 05 Aug 2003

Yes, I agree.

People seem to overlook that you pay a premium for a digital camera, because those who buy them are looking for the ability to use it with a PC and cut out the processing element, and this is why I still believe they appeal to techies in the main. For c.£400, one can buy a Nikon SLR with two zoom lenses, covering 28mm to 300mm. I certainly agree that most digital cameras equate with a 35mm compact, such as my Pentax ESPIO 140.

At the end of the day, it comes down to what the individual is looking for. I prefer the visible depth of field that results from metering at full aperture with an SLR and then stopping down as necessary. A large depth of field can be a disadvantage as many shots which do not employ selective focus can be very boring.

I confess to not being a DC owner, but I don't think I would like to face the problems of battery failure and shortage of memory. I often shoot anything up to 50 photographs when out and I understand that this could cause problems for a DC user. I also want a camera of reasonable size and not some fiddly little thing with fiddly little controls, prone to shake.

If anyone thinks the days of the film camera are gone, think again. Yes, the Leica IS expensive but it WILL last a lifetime. My Dad still has his Leica bought in 1966, and it performs perfectly. Moreover, it has the lifetime support of Leitz, a quality of service one gets from buying the best. No obsolence with Leica.

Having read quite a few copies of a digital camera magazine, they seem to be almost entirely taken up up with creating wierd and wonderful effects for no other reason that it is possible to do so. Clearly, this is an advantage to the advertising industry, but who among the average amateur photographer wants to do more than produce attractive, well composed portraits and landscapes.

In conclusion, may I quote Adrian Clarke of Fuji -"I don't believe digital will ever fully replace film. Digital will get better and better, but will never rival silver halide for the resolution, depth and sheer quality of output. Expect to see many more exciting film emulsions from Fuji in the future. Film is far from dead"

There you are, from the "horses mouth"!

  jospar 13:16 05 Aug 2003

I had lost much of my interest in photography, for several reasons, one being the expense of it. Once the children came, I couldn't afford to process reals of film, and having the space for a dark room was lost also having all the chemicals around was just too risky for my liking (better safe than sorry), even cutting back what I took with me, being the mum, ment that I would spend a lot of time lugging around a SLR camera, spare film + a couple of lenes, at the same time as pusing push chairs, and trying to keep my eye on the others, one complete nightmare! And now they are older, rembering what does what, what the best setting seems to much hassel to bother with.

So I invested in a DC, I brought it at my local Asda's, having looked at cannon, kodack ect, these which were in my price range, were very basic indeed and weren't suitable. But Asda's were selling off there Vivitars, so this one has 3.3 mp, does some singing and dancing, what it doesn't do I wouldn't use or can recreate that effect using a editing programe on my computer.

I've just spent the last fortnight camping in the New forest, and have taken some of the best photo's I've ever taken. One perticular one is of a otter, which is turning under water on its pool viewing glass, not only is it clear, but it is sharp as hell, you can feel the momentum of its movement a very dyamic picture indeed. All I did was sat in front off the viewing glass for 5 mins watching it swimming up and down the pool, and then click and that was it, the chap next to me who had a SLR, missed it by the time he had worked everything out and was ready the otter had given up with the posseing. Was he pig sick, when he looked at my pici through my screen!

So for me my SLR equipment can stay in the cupboard, has the DC has given me back my love of photography, with out the on going expense and hassal and the wondering what the photo going to turn out like? Also the storage is a lot easier as I can burn all to CD for a hard copy and only print off ones that I realy want to, no stacks or cost of hundreds of photo albums.

  Jean-Luc Picard 13:23 05 Aug 2003

The stats(megapixels) for Digital Cameras can come nowhere near a cheap standard camera and Digital zoom is a waste of time. If you want a second class product buy digital otherwise wait until they produce digital cameras than can produce somewhere near the same quality at a reasonable price.
p.s I own a Fuji 602Zoom.

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