Reflections on the Transition from Film to Digital
Now that most photographers and camera-toting consumers have switched from film to digital photography, according to IC Insights' new 2007 , the market for digital still cameras appears to be leveling off after years of spectacular growth. However, I still meet a fair amount of film diehards that need a last push to make the transition. For those and others interested in the subject, Adobe has a comprehensive article "Making the Transition from Film to Digital" by Michael Reichmann on their website...
Photography became a reality in the 1840s. During this time, images were recorded on film that used particles of silver salts embedded in a physical substrate, such as acetate or gelatin. The grains of silver turned dark when exposed to light, and then a chemical fixer made that change more or less permanent. Cameras remained pretty much the same over the years with features such as a lens, a light-tight chamber to hold the film, and an aperture and shutter mechanism to control exposure.
But the early 1990s brought a dramatic change with the advent of digital technology. Instead of using grains of silver embedded in gelatin, digital photography uses silicon to record images as numbers. Computers process the images, rather than optical enlargers and tanks of often toxic chemicals. Chemically-developed wet printing processes have given way to prints made with inkjet printers, which squirt microscopic droplets of ink onto paper to create photographs.
While digital technology has revolutionalized photography, adopting these new technologies is an ongoing process. Now, both professionals and amateurs use traditional and digital photographic technologies. This coexistence of technologies is comfortable, yet contentious. Silicon is gradually replacing film, and many photographers are still uneasy with the transition. At the same time, there are passionate fine art photographers, as well as professional photographers, for whom traditional chemical-based photography is unfamiliar. Digital photography, digital image processing, and inkjet printing are the technologies they know, and no historical paradigms exist as points of reference.
But for many photographers who are versed in the ways of film, the transition is a work in process. This article is intended for both professional and amateur photographers.
December 16, 2006