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Time to Start Thinking Digitally?

If you're like me at all, you've had at least a passing thought about digital cameras lately. They're all the rage, after all. If you're a serious photographer, however, is it or will it soon be time to venture into digital? I can't answer that for you, any more than I seem to be able to for me, but here's a few recent news items to think about:

Kodak announced the DCS Pro 14n at the recent Photokina conference in Cologne. Custom manufactured by Nikon for Kodak, the 14n is a 14 megapixel digital SLR that has a full 35mm area image (24 x 36 mm) sensor. Accepting the full line of Nikon lenses, this camera is truly a professional tool. You may need to take out a second mortgage to afford a 14n though. Nikon themselves, however, released the 6 megapixel D100 digital SLR only a few months before with a street price of under $2000. Canon also recently announced the EOS-1 Ds with a resolution of 11 megapixels and a full 35mm area image sensor. It's a game of one-up-manship in the digital camera resolution wars.

Earlier this year, a company called Foveon announced the world's first full-color image sensor. Image sensors in all digital cameras up till now actually only register either red, green or blue at each pixel, interpolating the remainder of the data. The magic of Foveon X3, on the other hand, is that each pixel can actually sense all three RGB primaries resulting in greatly improved detail by avoiding interpolation. Sigma has already released their SD9 digital camera based on the Foveon chip. Unfortunately for us Nikon shooters (and Canon for that matter), it only takes Sigma lenses. With an actual resolution of only 3.4 megapixels, it nonetheless produces excellent results by all reports. Expect to see more Foveon based cameras in the months and years to come.

On the flip-side of the digital craze is a company called SiliconFilm (formerly Imagek) that for years has been advertising a vapor-ware product that would consist of a digital insert that could be used in most existing 35mm cameras in place of film. When first announced back in 1998 it would have offered 24 exposures at 1024x1280 resolution. Over the years, they've upped the specs to stay abreast of industry trends, but they've never actually brought a product to market. Last year, they officially suspended operations, but this year they're back again with two "offerings" with up to 10 megapixels. Suspiciously, the picture of the thing on their site looks like it was created in Photoshop or some 3-D modeling program. For those who are interested, they're still seeking qualified investors.

Bottom line is that digital photography is a fast moving field with new products (both real and imagined) being announced all the time. How is anyone supposed to make sense of all this? Got me. One thing is certain though: sooner or later, film will fade into history and be replaced by digital much the way vinyl records did in the late 80's and typewriters before that. Personally, I bought a Coolpix 990 when they came out just two years ago; it's already been "outdated" by multiple generations of newer Coolpix models yet it takes pictures just as well as when I first bought it. I'm tempted to go for the D100 being a true SLR that I can use my existing lenses with; I've played with one a bit, and it feels just like my trusty F100 in my hands. Tempting indeed, but one never knows what's around the next corner or just over the horizon. OK, that's a mixed metaphor, but you get my point.

No matter what you do however, I would strongly recommend you start at least thinking about digital; I know I am.

Date posted: October 13, 2002


Copyright © 2002 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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