Just recently I was talking to the man from Hasselblad who came to demo a camera. Towards the end of our meeting he showed me a couple of images one taken on an “ordinary” digital back and the second using a multi-shot back. The pictures were of some fruit and the increase in detail in the second image was quite clearly visible. Yet the standard back would make most photographers, me included, very satisfied with their output. At this level we are talking figures in excess of twenty thousand pounds for the camera body and back, no lens included. This started a train of thought that has nagged at me for several days now. Is digital photography really such a big step forward? The answer for 99% of the people who take pictures in a resounding yes, the ability to see the images immediately means that all the guess work has been removed and it should be possible to go home from a holiday, wedding, party or other event with a half decent set of printable pictures. For the professional it’s not quite so clear cut.
There are still many photographers who remain firmly in the film is best camp and I can understand why. If you are shooting landscapes there is no doubt in my mind that a 5 x 4 camera image is going to give you a better result than anything a digital camera can produce at the moment. It’s possible to pick up a decent 5 x 4 camera body and lenses for a fraction of the cost of the highest resolution digital units. The downside is that film is slow, it has to be processed, treated with care and in the case of 5 x 4 loaded in single sheets in to double dark slides as they are called because each cartridge has two sides and therefore can take two sheets of film. The equipment is also heavy but the real clincher is that you have to understand light. It is necessary to research the location, know where the sun will come up. In some respects this follows through into the studio. In a controlled environment with digital I have heard it said that light meters are obsolete. Keep shooting till you get the exposure right. Film being more expensive required a slightly more considered approach. So what have I learnt? Well I guess I’ve confirmed in my own mind that good as the advances digital has brought to photography we are still along way from replacing film, dare I say replicating the quality?