One of the most interesting
facts about digital image capture is that we pixel pushers seem to shoot
more images during a typical session than we did when using film for the
same kind of project. For a typical model test shoot, I used to expose
two to three rolls of film through my Contax or Canon EOS 35mm gear. Sometimes
these were 24 exposure rolls, so a model test shoot might normally consist
of 72-108 photographs, some of which would be scanned and 8x10 portfolio
Now that I am shooting these tests using a Canon EOS D60, I'm making
a few more shots than normal. How many? A typical shoot now consists of
180-200 photographs, double my normal session. (Are they better? That's
a question for another month.) My guess was that not having to worry about
the cost of film or processing plus the EOS D60's speed of operation
lets me produce more images faster. At least that's my theory, so
I asked a few friends.
Bob Shell (www.bobshell.com)
told me that it "could be true. I did a shoot with a model recently.
I shot three rolls of 120 film, two rolls of 35mm, and 600 digital shots
with my Canon EOS D30! I tend to shoot a lot faster when working with
digital and go ahead and take shots I would have passed on with film."
My pal photojournalist Barry Staver (www.barrystaver.com)
told me that the "theory holds up in my opinion, with a couple of
exceptions. Just thinking about the film and processing cost savings eases
the resistance to pressing the shutter button." But it's here
where that the law of unintended consequences begins to peek its head
out of the water like the Loch Ness Monster. Staver then told me, "At
a wedding I did Sunday I found myself holding back toward the end--I was
just about out of storage cards! I went back through images, deleting
a few that wouldn't make the first edit."
In Pre-Digital Days
According to legendary camera repairman Vern Prime, one of the longest-lived
camera shutters was the Seiko used in "the old Nikkormat with a
vertical shutter." He told me that some of these cameras were used
in copy machines under controlled conditions and Kodak kept track of them
recording 250,000-400,000 exposures before the shutters finally failed.
"I never thought that any of these electronic shutters with magnetic
releases would last," he told me. But Prime did estimate they should
do "at least 100,000 exposures." That is borne out by what
manufacturers claim for some digital SLRs. Canon rates the shutter life
of the EOS-1D at 150,000 exposures and this information is published in
the camera's brochure. They do not publish a corresponding figure
for the D60, but, according to sources at Canon USA, "It's
quite likely that the shutter life would be lower for that model."
A Nikon spokesperson told me that "the shutter life of the D1X and
D1H is over 100,000 cycles as it is a `Pro' camera similar
to our F5 and other professional film SLRs." They estimate that
the "D100 would be less because it does not use the same shutter
due to its price point and intended market segment..."
Glen Sparks (www.dreamstokeep.com)
a Michigan-based free-lance and fine art nude photographer who works with
Olympus E-10 cameras told me that "my second Olympus E-10 is coming
back from the shop tomorrow; mailed it in 21 days ago for some sort of
seizure in its little electronic brain pan after three weeks of use."
What happened to his first E-10? He told me, "About two hours into
the shoot, my first Olympus E-10 suffered sudden shutter lock--it simply
does not function." The repair cost is $380.
I checked the E-10 forum boards and sudden shutter death seems to be happening
to E-10s at about 20,000 shutter releases, although one photographer reported
that one of his cameras failed at 12,000 exposures while another is "going
strong" after 25,000. Olympus reports that there is "no documented
history of sudden shutter failure with E-10 cameras." A spokesperson
told me that the repair rate for E-10s is less than 1 percent per month
for any kind of repair for the 40,000 cameras in use in the US, and that
includes all kinds of repairs, including user errors, not just shutter
Some digicam users are more sanguine and feel that in "real life,"
20,000 exposures made with a film-based camera is their estimate of the
life expectancy for a mechanical shutter but that doesn't track
with my own inquiries on this subject with repair people. Once again the
culprit is the idea that was expressed by another digital camera forum
visitor that "digital just lets you shoot away without film costs
so you hit the 20k mark much sooner."
Lost Your Image Files?
At Shutterbug's Digital Photo Workshop Series (www.shutterbug.net
/workshops) in Taos, New Mexico, one of my students ran into an interesting
problem. When making index prints using an Epson 785EPX printer with its
built-in memory card reader, he removed his card before the printer was
finished working with it, causing the images on the card to become unreadable.
It was another one of my students, Ira Gelfman a true gentleman of the
old school who is skilled in both computers and photography, that came
to his rescue using some of his old DOS computing tricks and rescued the
images for his fellow student. Many thanks, Gelfman. It was also Gelfman
who introduced me to software from DataRescue (www.datarescue.com),
which can restore images that were accidentally deleted from memory cards.
PhotoRescue is a Mac OS and Windows program that can recover "erased"
photographs from Smart-Media, Compact-Flash, Memory Stick, and IBM Microdrive
media. The software is available only for Mac OS X 10.1.3 and Windows
2000 and XP. The price is $29 for either version, with a bundle including
both Mac OS and Windows versions available for $49.
Plug-Ins Of The Month
One of the first shocks that new digital camera owners have is the image
noise that's created by long exposures, high ISO equivalent speed
settings, and too high JPEG compression ratios. The Imaging Factory (www.imagingfactory.com)
offers two different Mac OS and Windows Photoshop compatible plug-ins
that will reduce noise levels in digital camera files without turning
the images into mush. Noise Reduction is a $39.95 plug-in that's
designed to remove or reduce high ISO noise as well as CCD color noise,
JPEG artifacts, and color fringing. Need more noise power? Download Noise
Reduction Pro, a $99.95 plug-in that has additional sliders and controls
for luminance noise and color noise. While the interface for the Pro version
is slightly more complex, I was pleased with how well both of these plug-ins
worked on some of my noisy digicam files. Which one do you need? You can
download fully functional 30-day demo versions of both plug-ins and try
each one of them on your noisy files and make your own decision. While
you're visiting The Imaging Factory's web site look around
at all of their other interesting plug-ins. There's lots of cool
products designed specifically for digital photography enthusiasts, including
color correction, lens correction, and image enhancement.
One of the most common questions I get from black and white film photographers
who want to switch to capturing images digitally is how to convert color
digital camera image files into black and white. Convert To B&W is
another plug-in from The Imaging Factory that's available in standard
and Pro versions and approaches the conversion of color images into monochrome
from a new direction. Most similar plug-ins (you can forget Photoshop's
lame Image> Mode> Grayscale command) I've tested begin the
process from the input side showing a black and white film interpretation.
Convert To B&W Pro approaches the concept from both a film capture
and printing perspective and provides more user controls than similar
conversion filters. This plug-in is the most comprehensive I've
found and not only lets you apply a filter color of your choice to the
image, but audio mixer-like sliders let you fine-tune translation of the
original's color into monochrome tones. Using a pop-up menu, you
can emulate five different monochrome films including Kodak's Tri-X
and T-Max, Ilford's FP-4 and Delta, and Agfa Pan APX. To complete
the digital darkroom experience, there's a Multigrade slider that
mimics various hard or soft paper grades. If that's not enough,
there are sepia (or blue) toning controls that go far beyond similar controls
available in plug-ins or Photoshop Actions. Convert To B&W Pro may
just be the ultimate black and white conversion power tool. You can download
a fully functional 30-day demo of both versions of this fantastic plug-in
to try for yourself.