During the years after I returned to shooting in earnest, I was heartened by the significant advances in color slide film technology (still the media of choice for nature photographers in the 1990’s). We were shooting faster ISO ratings (the jump from 25 – or 64) to 200 was huge, and manufacturers were creating fine-grained, colorful versions of these films with the added advantage that they were able to be processed by almost any lab (or at home).
The “holy grail,” though, was still to be able to make a decent sized print to be published in a magazine, or matted, framed and hung on a gallery or home wall. And for some of us who knew the potential lying in the slide, but didn’t have access to our own color dark room, results could be frustrating. For those of us who lived in more rural communities, the mail-out option was a matter of giving your best instructions, waiting a week or longer, and often getting a result really wasn’t what you envisioned.
The Kodak NC2000/2000E DSLRs retailed for $17,950
Like many other shooters, I dreamed of someday installing a color darkroom in my basement. But the cost of the equipment was daunting–easily in the thousands of dollars. And the learning curve in the color darkroom was significantly steeper than the B&W work I had done in college. Ironically, it was probably best that I wasn’t yet economically ready. I have known a number of people who later found it very difficult to sell their expensive darkroom equipment.
By the beginning of the decade, digital cameras had been around for a while, but were not yet popular with the majority of photographers. They came in two varieties. Pro-level cameras and consumer “point & shoot” cameras. The pro cameras were mostly a sort of “hybrid” with an expensive digital “back” (really more like a bottom), made by Kodak, affixed to adapted SLR bodies obtained from Canon and Nikon. The were large, heavy, unwieldy, limited pixel coverage, and very expensive (The AP/Kodak NC2000/2000E series was introduced in 1994 and touted as the first “photojournalist” DSLR camera. It retailed for $17,950). Consumer point & shoot models showed up around 1994 and approached $1,000). For most photographers (other than photojournalists) these cameras produced image files that were just too small. Many felt that the low resolution images not only were inferior, but that they would never approach the quality of medium or large format color transparency images. But as we approached 2000, it became clear that not only would it match, but it would someday surpass. As we entered the “megapixel wars” between manufacturers (mostly Nikon and Canon in the early days), we began to see rising pixel resolution and falling prices.
My first digital camera was a 3 megapixel Canon point & shoot. I shortly traded up for a Nikon point & shoot that was more sophisticated and higher megapixel (but still only about 5). Neither of these were ever intended to replace my SLR cameras. It was my foray into digital. By then, I knew it was a matter of time until an affordable digital SLR (DSLR) would come around. For me, that happened in 2002.
My first DSLR was the Nikon D100. By then, I was shooting the “upgrade” to the N90s, the F100 and it was perhaps the best quality camera body I had ever owned. I had hoped that the D100 would be essentially an F100 with digital “guts.” Not to be. But wanting to take the plunge into digital, I traded the F100 in. Over the years, I progressed through a number of “upgrade” DSLRs, eventually so-called “full-frame.” And then I regressed back down to carrying a Sonyrx100iv a couple years back. :-).
Exposure media and mechanics remained essentially unchanged for a half-century
It is almost cliche’ to say the changeover from film to digital revolutionized the photography industry. But SLR pentaprism cameras were introduced to the consumer the year I was born – 1957. Over the next half-century, the mechanics and materials of the boxes changed. The lens technology changed. Electronics enhanced and in some cases replaced mechanics. But the exposure method and media remained essentially unchanged. Until digital. Digital changed everything and from my perspective, for the better.
By 2000, computers in the household were relatively common. In most business settings, they had become ubiquitous. I carried a Laptop Computer, and suddenly, with the advent of digital imaging, I carried my much-desired “color darkroom” in that laptop! Even in the late 1990’s when scanning became available to consumers, I began using Photoshop to work with images. From the day it debuted in 1988 as a graphics artist program, Photoshop was an insanely complex program. Both the software and my ability to understand and use it were pretty rudimentary compared to where it is today. It has — largely — become a photographer’s software. And, at the same time, a number of other photo-editing softwares have become available and in a couple of cases pretty much go head-to-head with Photoshop. So when in 2002, I got my hands on my first DSLR, I was off and running. I now could go from capture to print, all in my own home with my own equipment. That early DSLR was 6MP (contrasted with the 20MP my A7 sports today). Yet the images were pretty amazing.
What I have seen in later years, and hopefully the technical quality of the images show it, is a continual increase in image quality. At first this was by gaining megapixels. As technology allowed, it became about larger sensors at still affordable prices. In my own little world, I believe I have maxed out the “necessary” MP size and now I am amazed at how technology is producing better and better images with smaller sensors (which opens the door to smaller, lighter equipment, and–perhaps more importantly–smaller and cheaper high quality optics).
. . . and perhaps more importantly, smaller and cheaper high quality optics
I saw a brief video of the Light L16 camera, a soon to be available pocket sized camera with multiple small lenses built in and will give the user the ability to control not only focal length, but depth of field, and adjust them post capture (“The L16 is a compact camera that uses multiple lens systems to shoot photos at the same time, then computationally fuses them into a DSLR-quality image“). Technology is certainly fascinating and exciting.
Filed under: MUSINGS, PHOTOGRAPHY | Tagged: Andy Richards, color, DSLR, exposure, fall, fall color, Fall Foliage, foliage, Light, LightCentric Photography, Michigan, Nikon, PHOTOGRAPHY, Photoshop, Sony |