Digital SLRs Heat
Up: Going Hybrid Gets More Attention
First to the obvious...the digital SLR market is going to explode.
With the recent introduction of the Canon Digital Rebel model the $1000
price point has been broken and every manufacturer has to reassess if
they're going to get in on that game. Given that the Digital Rebel
does not meet everyone's needs, there will still be room for D-SLRs
with more pro-oriented features, like Nikon's D2H WiFi model.
But companies such as Nikon, Pentax, Fuji, Minolta, Sigma et al might
well feel the need to respond, and that should make for interesting
How does the D-SLR impact what happens in this industry? When we talk
with companies who make accessories--from independent lens makers
to those who supply memory cards and even tripod and bag manufacturers--they
all say that this is the breakthrough that they've been waiting
for. Film SLR sales have been dropping steady, if slow, and they have
not provided the big push that the digital SLR can deliver. That means
we'll all see a whole new flock of the above-named items specifically
geared to what everyone thinks will be an overwhelming migration into
digital SLR territory. All I can say is okay; now that we've broken
the $1000 barrier why not aim for $500 next? It might not happen right
away, but with 2004 being a photokina year--the worldwide show
in Germany in the fall--we are bound to see major changes in both
price and feature value sets for this product category.
Another area where we'll see lots of action is in printers and
the fact that more and more people will be doing their prints at home
or in their studios. We have worked with some new printers that give
amazing color first time out and even true continuous tone black and
white, without color shifts or weird crossovers. The new ink formulations
and the development of archival papers to go with those inks should
encourage even more people to try their hand at making more than just
snapshot prints from their digital image files.
The digital darkroom has opened more creative options for everyone,
and printers that produce amazing results--without too much fuss--are
coming in at better prices than ever before.
The same goes for scanners, which now sell for prices unheard of before
and deliver quality and resolution equal to those that sold for thousands
before. This brings up what I believe will be one of the main moves
this year--the understanding by many photographers who want big
prints, easy storage and retrieval, and, in some cases, the best quality,
that film and digital actually do go hand in hand. By shooting with
film and then scanning with a high-quality scanner, digital files are
produced that in some cases will beat even the best digital camera available
This might, just might, lead to a renewed interest in formats larger
than 35mm. Just as with printing with conventional enlarging techniques,
scanning from a larger film format can yield higher resolution, tonal-
detail-rich digital files that yield amazing prints. Having done a fair
share of scanning from both 35mm and medium format film I can attest
to the fact that the scans from medium format are the ones I return
to for prints again and again. Printing from a 72MB file can be a revelation,
both in the amount of RAM needed and the incredible image quality it
can produce. Perhaps medium format manufacturers might consider touting
this the overall enlargeability and image quality of film run through
their cameras--rather than trying to sell us on digital backs that
in some cases get lashed onto their camera bodies. Perhaps they should
get into the scanner business or partner with a scanner company to bring
us their recommended hardware and software solutions and tout the amazing
results you can achieve.
The Pro Market: Weddings
Since my business is based on portraits and weddings, I'm going
to stick my neck out and do a little forecasting about those sectors
of professional photography. Let's start with weddings.
Almost every photographer I know who does weddings as a business is
down. While you can talk about the economy and the losses in the stock
market, I think the reason is twofold. First is because of changes in
technology and second is a backlash to what the public perceives as
high prices. Let's look at technology.
Quick, how many videographers do you see at a wedding? I used to see
them all the time, now it's very rare. But I do see Uncle Joe
with his digital video camera. I think digital has killed the video
wedding business and it's now making an impact on the still photography
side as well. For many couples, having two or three friends with digital
cameras will be good enough. Looking at pricing, many wedding couples
will wonder why they should pay several thousands of dollars for wedding
photos when they're practically free from their friends'
video cameras. In this instance photographers have proven to be their
own worst enemy. They have sold the public on very natural, candid photography.
Now, many couples feel they can get that without using a pro.
In the portrait market, I've been saying every year that the photographer
who aims at the middle of the market will soon be gone, and every year
more of them are. The cheap department store guys are here to stay and
there will always be a market for the "prestigious" photographer.
Clients have a hard time distinguishing between the department store
and moderately priced studio, so price will win. Improve your photography,
sales, and marketing skills if you expect to be here in 2005.
Photo And Digital
It's clear that digital photography has become equal to 35mm film
in most situations and is now challenging medium format with the availability
of 14-megapixel cameras. I think we're going to see some of that
technology trickle down to consumer cameras. More cameras will address
some of the issues that make digital photography questionable, like
shutter delay that until now has inhibited more spontaneous shooting
to capture that "decisive moment." Larger file sizes will
add to the capability of producing larger prints. Most of the fine art
photographers I've spoken to are waiting to get into digital until
they can produce 20x30 prints that are indistinguishable from the ones
they now get from 35mm film.
The storage issue also needs to be addressed. Over a year ago I wrote
about the need for stand-alone CD burners that could work in the field
and replace traveling with laptops. Those are just starting to become
available. But with the larger megapixel cameras with increased resolution,
can stand-alone DVD burners with the ability of reading multiple memory
cards be far behind?
On a personal note, I was an early purchaser of a DVD burner to back-up
the data from three 120GB hard drives that were filling up. But I quickly
found out that it wasn't the large capacity DVD burning that was
needed as much as was taking the time away from my other computer work
to actually burn the data to disk. That didn't happen until I
purchased a new computer and was able to dedicate my old one solely
to burning the back-up DVDs. I think as larger file size cameras produce
large amounts of image files, photographers will be purchasing dedicated
computers to deal with archiving their valuable images.
A Corner Will Be Turned
From what I know that will be introduced in the last quarter of 2003,
I believe 2004 will be a year in which photography will turn a sharp
corner. The level of digital imaging photographic quality will match
or surpass analog, film-based picture making and will be affordable
to most professionals and many serious enthusiasts. However, not everyone
who can will make the switch to digital. Many will remain devoted to
the analog past because it is traditional; others will just plain reject
digital because it is new, and they don't like change of any kind.
What I anticipate will prove interesting, though, is how those who do
make the switch will individualize and stylize the images they produce.
Many photographers have customized the analog photographic process in
the past to put their personal "stamp" or look on the photographs
they create. With digital that capability is no longer limited. This
will make the potential for interpreting what a lens sees even greater,
resulting in personal visions that are virtually infinite.
What will photographers do with that creative potential? I doubt that
it will be immediately noticeable. More than likely, many will try to
make digital look like underexposed Kodachrome, if that was their style
in the past. Is that being cynical about creative self-expression? Not
really, especially when you consider how many people in recent years
have purchased Harley-Davidson motorcycles, thus conforming to the accepted
appearance of what it is to be a nonconformist.
--David B. Brooks
The Digital Wave
In 2004, the number of digital cameras sold will significantly exceed
the number of 35mm cameras that are sold, at least in the "compact"
category. Expect to see entry-level 3-megapixel models in the $199 range,
many new "single-use" models, more 8+ megapixel digicams,
and many new cameras with very long built-in zoom lenses, some with
an image stabilizer system.
According to a Photo Marketing Association study, less than 19 percent
of digital pictures were printed in 2003, "because of the complexity,
cost, and time requirements of home printing." Statistics like
this will encourage the printer manufacturers to release more affordable
photo printers, using less expensive ink cartridges as well as more
models with direct printing (from a camera or a memory card) capability.
At the other end of the range, expect to see more large format ink jet
printers. These machines will produce 13x19", and perhaps even
larger photo prints; at least one new model should sell for under $500.
Eight-color printers will also become common as will machines with 5650
"optimized dpi" resolution capability.
In digital SLR cameras, 5- and 6-megapixel sensors (smaller than a 35mm
film frame) will remain the norm. Still, we should see at least one
new 8-megapixel camera in the $1500 range and an entry-level model with
a 3- or 4-megapixel sensor, priced at around $499. Many new lenses,
suitable for use only with digital cameras, will be introduced, including
some with extremely short focal lengths, for producing true ultra-wide
angle effects with digital cameras that have less than a "full
--Peter K. Burian
I think that a trend that will truly help digital photographers will
be the release of the 64-bit computing platforms. The Apple G5, AMD
Opteron, and Intel Itanium coupled with 64-bit operating systems from
Apple and Microsoft will offer a huge gain in computing performance
at reasonable prices. Digital printing technologies and color management
are two areas in which I would expect continuous development and refinement
in the effort to create the best products and simplest workflow for
I would expect the digital SLR market to continue with its rapid development,
and wouldn't be surprised to see heavier competition and price
drops on digital backs for medium format bodies.
Lastly, I think that personal development is the key to remaining profitable
for the years to come.
Training classes, seminars, or books that can enhance your understanding,
knowledge, and expertise will always benefit your final product or business,
and minimize downtime.
Making The Switch
I have just finished reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that
states that Kodak will no longer be supporting research into new film-based
products. Instead, they will pursue the home and professional digital
printing markets. This article also stated that the digital revolution
was happening at a much more rapid pace than anyone previously had anticipated.
Like we didn't already know that.
I can remember not too many years ago thinking that digital photography
wouldn't change my way of working very much. Yeah, right! My darkroom
is now the computer sitting next to the one I use for typing, excuse
me, word processing. Let me be clear about this, I don't like
computers. But boy, I sure do love what they can do for me! I just wish
the upgrades weren't coming quite so fast.
Speaking of upgrades, are you wondering what new goodies are lurking
around the next bend and what they're going to do to your wallet?
(Just remember that you're reading someone who invested heavily
in Beta video and eight track audio equipment.)
In the short term I expect digital cameras of all types will come down
substantially in price while the image quality continues to rise. I
anticipate that 10+ megapixel cameras will be common and the prices
will be around that of today's 4- to 6-megapixel cameras. I wouldn't
even be surprised to see this happen by the end of 2004.
One area that has lagged somewhat is medium format digital camera/backs
and many would hope to see increased activity in this area in the next
year or two. Also, ink jet printers will continue to come down in price,
although I'm not sure how they can get much cheaper. On the other
hand, I suspect the actual cost of paper and inks will remain relatively
constant. In the near future, the color fidelity and longevity of ink
jet prints will achieve levels we can hardly imagine.
The president of Xerox once predicted that the market for copiers would
top out at something like 5000 units per year. I can only hope my predictions
are a little nearer the mark. In fact, I'm going to tack this
text on my wall and see how close, or far off, I was a year from now.
--Joseph A. Dickerson
Where Does Digital
Go From Here?
Yoda said, "there is no try, just do," but he never had
to deal with Washington bureaucrats at the Jedi Academy. What's
possible for imaging in the near or far future will be determined less
by technologic possibilities than political, social, and economic considerations.
Based on the success of NASA's Apollo program, I predicted manned
space flight to Mars by the end of the 20th century, but it didn't
happen. Right now, real digital innovation is hampered by dormant economies
in the US, Japan, and Europe.
Speaking only for myself, I think the digital SLR wars are over and,
with the introduction of the Digital Rebel, Canon won. Contax tossed
in the towel and Leica is determined to be a boutique company aimed
at deep-pocket collectors and traditionalists. Nikon is struggling with
a concept marrying expensive digital-only lenses to small chips and
is becoming the neo-Leica with people buying because of brand loyalty.
Olympus' all-digital approach is technically interesting, but,
like their fascinating film-based O Product, seems doomed to become
a photographic curiosity. The Pentax *ist siblings--one digital,
one film--makes so much sense you wonder why it took so long for
somebody to figure that one out. A set of $1600 digital and $370 film
SLR bodies will be a tempting package for many photographers, especially
Pentax users who hung in there with the company during their indecisive
If we follow the money, like Woodward and Bernstein, where are we going
to find the profits? In point-and-shoots, the Minolta DiMAGE Xt and
Konica KD-500Z are class acts but these companies seem happy building
Honda Civics while letting others construct Porsches and Ferraris. Minolta
and Konica should produce a small interchangeable lens rangefinder digicam--the
digital camera "killer app"--but they don't seem
to grasp the idea. Hey Kobayashi-san, why not a digital Voigtländer
that uses your optically superb lenses? Photographers would line up
round the block for one.
My forecast is for "snow pushing off to the east..."
sorry, for creeping improvements in digital cameras, a lackluster and
more Euro-centric photokina, and no breakthroughs until the world economy
sees blue skies. But that's just my opinion. I may be wrong.
If there is one thing that the last 20 years has taught us, it is that
the 21st century will see more and more niche marketing. The days when
everyone watched the same TV programs, ate the same food, and read the
same magazines (except Shutterbug!) are gone. As Bill Bryson memorably
phrased it, you can now buy magazines such as Christian Woodworker and
Machine Gun Collector. The same degree of hyper-specialization will
become increasingly true of cameras and materials.
You want to buy a "real" mechanical Leica, where the shutter
speed dial goes the right way? No longer are Voigtländer the only
suppliers: the Leica MP is available from the lads themselves--and
there are further developments in the works that I have promised not
to reveal. You want a proper wooden camera? Gandolfi is still in business
after 110 years, and they have over a dozen more modern competitors.
You want "real" film? Ilford never stopped; Kodak has signed
the pledge anew with revised Tri-X and Plus-X; and there are other superb
choices from Paterson, Forte, Foma, Bergger, and more.
If you want digital, it won't be a problem. If you don't,
that won't be a problem either. Photographers should focus less
on knocking what they don't want and concentrate more on buying
(and using) what they do want.
--Roger W. Hicks
A Note To Travelers
To all travel photographers: Begin making the transition to digital,
but don't give up those analog toys and tools. Have fun with it.
Experiment. Play around. Use different formats, film types, cameras,
and exposure guidelines. Work harder on seeing and discovering. Work
smarter with the equipment you lug around with you.
Pack light. Consider purchasing film at your arrival destination and
FedExing home. Keep an eye on those travel valuables. Get photo releases
of everyone you shoot. Shoot a roll of film per day--on anything.
Just shoot. Consider taking out trip insurance on those once-in-a-lifetime
excursions. Blend in. Don't stand out or bring attention to yourself.
Exhibit sincere humility. Be a diplomat for your country. Embrace all
people and cultures with love, acceptance, and honor. Camera tools will
come and go, but your vision (how you see the world and share it) abides
forever! Rock on, my friends and happy snaps.
A Creative Time Ahead
The coming year will be an exciting one for photography. It's
a given that image quality will continue to improve as megapixel count
climbs and post processing techniques employed by cameras are optimized.
The cost of digital cameras will continue to drop, introducing more
to the digital way of creating images.
Unlike shooting film, digital photographers are not constrained by the
significant cost of film and processing. Furthermore, the instant feedback
that a LCD gives can help a photographer improve their technique with
every shot they take.
Finally, the smaller, lighter digital cameras that are being produced
will encourage photographers to shoot everywhere, capturing moments
in time that otherwise would have been consigned to the "gee I
wish I had a camera" lament.
The upshot of all this? We can look forward to a creative photographic
year in 2004, as more and more people embrace photography and use their
new tools to push limits and produce a record number of images of the
world around us.
Digital Still Has
A Way To Go
My crystal ball is a bit hazy, but here are my thoughts about photography's
near term future. There's no question that the handwriting is
prominently on the wall for more and more digital capture devices. But
until the digital camera becomes much easier to use and faster in response
time it will not entirely replace versatile film cameras. I believe
most film cameras still have the edge in terms of high-resolution image
quality, immediacy of capture, and moderate price. They are also far
easier to learn. I'm not anti-progress and enjoy having a multitude
of built-in features and capabilities in any camera. But when you have
to keep referring to the instructions to accomplish any relatively basic
operation, digital becomes more of an aggravation than a convenient
way to quickly record images.
Now that even cell phones, that many people carry constantly, have multiple
capabilities including image capture and display features, why would
anybody want to also carry a digital camera? I predict that even more
versatile multifunction cell phones will become available in the near
future and perhaps even eliminate the need for a separate digital camera.
Then, having a conventional film camera for recording really top quality
images, plus a multipurpose cell phone/camera, will suit the image capture
needs of most snapshooters in the near future.
--Robert E. Mayer
A 2004 (Digital)
While everyone else may regale you with visions of better digital cameras
capable of even higher resolution and at lower prices, I'd like
to go on record with my "wish list" for 2004 instead, focusing
entirely on digital:
1. Digital cameras that use smaller batteries that last longer and cost
less. Rechargeable lithium battery packs are still too bulky, cost too
much, and don't last nearly as long as we need them to. With film
cameras, one or two tiny batteries lasted, it seemed, a lifetime. Today's
energy-crunching color monitors draw power at an unprecedented rate,
rivaled only by the built-in flash. It's time battery manufacturers
met the need of today's camera gear.
2. Considerably shorter shutter lag and processing times, with instant
start up. Except for the interchangeable-lens SLR genre, even prosumer
digital cameras take too long to do their business. Let's get
on with the show.
3. Industry standardization on a memory card, with high-capacity (multi-gigabyte)
cards priced affordably.
4. Image stabilization on every lens over 5x. It's hard to hold
a long lens steady, and we don't always have a tripod handy. Why
tout long lenses when users can't be expected to take sharp pictures
5. Color monitors that are easy to see in bright light, with a tilt-swivel
6. Ink jet photo printers that perform to expectations (and manufacturer
claims) right out of the box, and do so
7. Flat-screen monitors that are every bit as usable for digital imaging
as a CRT.
8. A merging of Macintosh and Windows platforms, or at least an operating
platform that doesn't crash every five minutes, no matter what
software is installed.
The Digital Darkroom
Epson has already started shipping new printers with archival, pigmented,
ink systems that even Epson says are good for over 70 years. I believe
that while ink jet printer manufacturers will continue offering dye-based
ink for regular use, there will be an increased trend toward more stable
inks with a better color gamut for photographers. Epson's UltraChrome
and DuraBrite inks are probably only the beginning.
Ink jet printers will become a bit faster, and one major manufacturer
will introduce a 17" throat photo-quality printer for less than
Computer hardware will continue to get faster, smaller, and less expensive.
The new serial hard drives will improve reliability and allow for better
performance. As image file size gets larger from the newer digital cameras,
serial hard drives will become more meaningful.
DVD+R recording will become mainstream with CD-ROM eventually phasing
Again, larger image files from newer digital cameras will drive photographers
to seek the higher capacity DVD capability for their archiving.
--Darryl C. Nicholas
Dial In The Monet
On the pro side, I think digital special effect filters (graduated)
and artistic (brush stroke) will be built into digital SLRs. Perhaps
the same type of filters could be built into consumer digital cameras.
Most important, I think battery life will be greatly extended...and
pro cameras and lenses will get lighter.
Silver Still Gleaming:
Don't Count Film Out...Yet
One technology rarely replaces another completely. So it is with digital
and silver halide photography: the energy and interest stimulated by
digital have helped improve silver halide.
Take film. Because many films are now scanned, the film manufacturers
have invested a great deal in research and development. Advances in
film technology have improved the results you get with film scanners.
They have also improved the results you get when you print traditionally.
Color negative films offer finer grain, more pleasing colors, and greater
consistency. Ever more chromogenic black and white films are now available,
alongside updated old favorites. And transparency films are finer-grained,
with better colors than ever before. You can have bright supersaturated
colors, or softer, subtler colors.
Backlash is another factor. Those who do not want to embrace digital
are determined to show what silver halide can do. Consider the revival
of the traditional rangefinder camera. Just one man, Hirofumi Kobayashi,
is mainly responsible. He decided to build a 15mm lens. He also made
a camera--the Voigtländer Bessa-L--to use it on. And
another lens. And another body. And some more lenses. And some more
bodies. Kobayashi-san has no intention of making digital products. He's
a halide man. But you can have the best of both worlds by shooting film
in a traditional rangefinder camera, and scanning it into a computer.
You then have the best available archive--film--plus the convenience
of manipulating and printing your photos digitally.
Crossover is fundamental. As people take the best of both technologies,
all products will improve. Just as photography stimulated artists to
experiment in new directions, digital photography has stimulated traditional
silver halide photography. That has to be good news for everyone.
--Frances E. Schultz
Last Gleaming (With A Nod To Bob Schwalberg)
The trend in digital is obvious to anyone with eyes and ears. Film is
on the way out. It will take years and there will always be film and
film cameras, but with a purchase ratio of about 9:1, companies will
probably begin to phase out film cameras.
With the next level of digital cameras it will probably be possible
to create about a 50MB file. That is pretty much the size of a scan
on a 4000dpi film scanner. There are 16-bit scanners coming out, 16-bit
digital cameras, and 16-bit printers. Photoshop 8 will be 16-bit capable.
The day is coming soon when you won't be able to see the difference
between a film print and a digital print. If you're worried about
losing the Velvia saturation look, or the 800 press look, you'll
be able to just dial it in on the camera. Filters? You'll be able
to easily handle that in Photoshop.
If I sound like I'm enamored with all of these things mentioned
here, or that I'm a digital guru of some kind, I'm not.
I am one of the last film holdouts, but the future is staring us in
the face, film shooters. I, for one, am beginning the process of completely
realigning my brain to enter the digital realm and leave film behind
within two years. It's a brave new world.
On The Film And Digital Front
Reaching for my crystal ball I still see more advances in the world
of conventional (film) photography. Film will not pass as fast as some
may think (or wish) and improvements will continue to move forward.
Kodak will replace Kodachrome in favor of a new and updated E-6 film
and Nikon will introduce a brand-new F6 camera.
On the digital front, Photoshop will introduce a completely new and
shortened version especially for photographers who don't need
all the fluff in the current version. Full frame digital cameras will
continue to emerge from the drawing board but present and smaller CCDs
will still be the favorite of serious wildlife and sports photographers,
simply because of the increased field of view they offer with longer
The Last Word...Going
Back To School
With all the new technical advances expected in 2004 I see a definite
return to technique as a means of survival for most photographers. Photographers
are being armed with so much photographic power that it's apparent
that photographic know-how has become the missing ingredient.
Digital technology can assist in making better photographs, but the
desire to create better images in the camera seems to be driving more
and more people to seek education. I already see an increase in people
seeking help in basic concepts of the use of light, composition, and
Websites for education seem to be the coming thing. They are becoming
more informative and less gimmicky. In the meantime, look for more and
better photographic instruction. One on one. Face to face. I, myself,
am returning to school as often as possible to learn how to take advantage
of all the latest advances