The Photographic Historical Society of Canada

And whether pigs have wings...
Don Long
Program date: April 21, 2010

Don Long by Robert Lansdale
Long by Lansdale

Walrus and the Carpenter
And whether pigs..

BMFA
Boston MFA

Impossible Project
Impossible Project

instax pro
instax Professional

instax Consumer
instax Consumer

Fuji W1 Stereo digital camera
Fuji W1 Stereo

Lenticular Print theory
Lenticular Theory

Fuji Print
Fuji Kiosk 3D Printer

#d Specs for TV
Specs for 3D TV

Fuji 120 film camera
Fuji 120 film camera

digital niose
Digital Noise

Nikon Meltdown
Really Hot Nikon

eV 75 digital back
Sinar eVolution 75 H

SD flash card capacities
SD flash card capacity

dags to digital
Dags to Digitals

Canadian-based journalist Don Long is senior editor for PMA magazine and PMA Newsline Canada. For more than 35 years, his award winning writing has ranged from the highly technical to consumer oriented, with articles appearing in daily newspapers and consumer and trade magazines. His images have appeared on magazine covers and have illustrated his written work, with several of his giclée prints exhibited in a Toronto gallery. [A big thanks to Don for providing me with a copy of his Power Point slides and text script. They made my job much easier!]

Like many of our recent speakers, Don provided some thought provoking ideas on photography, past, present, and future. His present and future comments were based in a large part on manufacturer information given at the March 2010 PMA show. The title of his talk hinted at the tone he would use. It is a line from Lewis Carroll’s famous little poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” which says it is time “to talk of many things”. And talk of many things he did.

Don began with a question, asking how many of us had “been inside a camera”. I thought he meant a camera obscura, but he meant a photographic camera. In his case it was a room converted into a giant Polaroid camera at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The museum used the instrument to record life size reproductions of its paintings. This odd question reminded the audience that the very word “camera” comes from the Latin and Greek terms for a vault or arched chamber.

Continuing with Polaroid, Don reminded us that many photographers and artists where upset when the digital tsunami forced Polaroid to end film production. This past March an organization called “The Impossible Project” announced that it was making and selling some Polaroid films. The first products, PX 100 and PX 600 Silver Shade films, were black and white media for the SX-70 and series 600 cameras (I just received an email from Beau Photo in Vancouver saying that they have these films in stock). The company was formed by some staff from the old Polaroid company. They put together a proposal to raise funding and with technical help from Ilford - another victim of the digital era - they began making and selling film for existing Polaroid cameras. Interestingly, Fuji has continued to make instant film cameras. The commercial grade instax 200 camera and 210 film, plus two consumer level cameras - the instax 7S, and new later this year, the instax mini 25 which makes credit card sized prints.

Next Don moved to 3D which is experiencing yet another burst of popularity in movies and television. Fuji is marketing a digital stereo camera for stills and HD movies. The W1 has two synchronized 3X optical zoom lenses, two 10 megapixel CCD image sensors, and a specially developed chip called the “RP (Real Photo) Processor 3D” which instantaneously synchronizes and blends the data from the two sensors into a single high quality image. The stills and movies can be viewed directly on the camera’s 3D LCD monitor and a special digital frame. Fuji makes 3D prints viewable without special glasses. Their facility is in Japan (coming to North America too) but anyone can FTP image files and Fuji will mail them the finished prints. In the works is a Kiosk 3D Printer offering a range of smaller size prints.

A new 3D Virtual Store in Woodbridge, Ontario sells Chinese made 3D digital cameras, viewers and add-on lenses to convert existing digital cameras to 3D. The site also offers free software to convert 2D images to 3D so you can print 3D lenticular images on an inkjet printer. The software is actually an image masking tool letting you manually separate foreground and background subjects in a print - like masking in Photoshop which can serve the same purpose, although the free software is claimed to be faster and easier to use.

Closing the 3D door, Don touched on the latest TV trend to offer 3D capable sets used with special battery-powered glasses. The television sets alternately display left and right eye images at a high speed of 60 frames per second per eye allowing DVDs of recent 3D movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland to be viewed at home.

Next Don took a moment to report on the world of film. The Canadian Imaging Trade Association shows Canadian film sales in sharp decline (a bit under 50 million rolls in 2002 down to an estimated 2.2 million last year and estimated 1.4 million this year). Even single use camera sales have fallen now that inexpensive, rugged digital cameras are readily available. Colour photographic roll paper shows a (somewhat less dramatic) drop, but this may not mean as big a drop in prints since no one is gathering data on “dry technology” printing.

Bucking the digital trend, Kodak announced its Professional Ektar sheet film in 4x5 and 8x10 sizes as the world’s finest grain colour negative film, while Fuji has launched a medium format film camera, the GF670 Professional, for 120 and 220 roll film.

Moving on to digital, Don discussed a number of aspects of this relatively new medium, beginning with noise - its causes and solutions. A major cause of noise in electronics is heat and the solution is to keep the image sensor cool. CMOS sensors build up more heat than CCD sensors. Also, the higher the ISO, the greater the noise - just like the old films when a higher ISO meant more visible grain. The smaller the sensor and the denser the pixels on it, the greater the noise. Heat sinks and tethered backs ease heat load and noise problems.

A segue into digital backs drove home just how much more detailed digital images are becoming, along with jaw dropping file sizes and processing speeds. A new Sinar eVolution back has 33 megapixels resolution and uses both fan and Peltier cooling. Each image generates a 68 Mb RAW file, or a 168 Mb 48 bit tiff file! In spite of the file size the back is rated at a 24 images per minute capture rate.

After that opener, Don led us to 40 and 56 megapixel backs retailing at up to $33,000 US each. He then moved to research on a new QuantumFilm purported to have four times the performance of today’s silicon based sensors. This technology would convert a 3 megapixel sensor to 12 megapixel of the same physical size with no increase in noise and twice the dynamic range. Picture that in your iPhone!

And if progress in sensor sizes and sensitivity weren’t enough, there is a continuing growth in the capacity and speed of the flash memory cards we use instead of film. Pretec (link to 64 Gb version) sells a 128 Gb CF card with data transfer speeds of up to 85 Mb per second, while Panasonic plans to offer the physically smaller SD flash cards in an amazing 128 Gb capacity next year and a terabyte (1,024 Gb) within five years. It gets more exciting. The new cards are reaching the limit of today’s standards. For example CF cards max out at 137 Gb of capacity and transfers data at 133 Mb per second. The coming new specification, CF5.0 will raise the upper limit on storage capacity to 144 Pettabytes (1024 Terabytes) - this in a device physically a bit smaller than 1.5 by 1.75 inches! Our computers will be seriously out of date for working with and saving the large files generated by these large sensors and flash cards, not to mention the demands of a future release of Photoshop to manipulate such huge files.

Don finished off the digital topics discussing the advances in cameras, particularly the micro 4/3 cameras in the “mirrorless” style that operate like an SLR but use the LCD screen instead of a mirror and pentaprism to simulate through the lens viewing. Some of these cameras even offer selective focus with a touch screen LCD monitor. Just touch the desired area on the LCD to set the point of focus in the scene. We are beginning to see some cameras with the capability of accepting lenses from other makers via adapters from Novoflex. The micro 4/3 cameras have bigger sensors with less noise than a consumer camera while being physically much smaller than a DSLR.

Don wrapped up his talk with a few observations about recent industry changes. Jobo, an old (1923) respected name in lab equipment and accessories, was best known to photographers for its line of drum processing equipment. Sadly, when it folded this year, internet reports described it as a failed maker and distributor of digital frames. Ilford Imaging, Switzerland, the company founded in England in 1879, and widely acclaimed for its black and white films and papers, has once more changed hands, this time going from Oji Paper, Japan to Paradigm Global Partners, London, England.

The WestLicht Photographica Auction this spring will see an original Daguerreotype camera on the auction block. The wooden sliding-box camera was made by Daguerre’s brother-in-law, Alphonse Giroux of Paris in the fall of 1839. Don compared this rare artifact, the world’s first photographic camera with the world’s first digital camera, made by Kodak researcher Steve Sasson in the 1970s from spare parts. The eight pound wonder recorded a black and white image of 10,000 pixels in just 23 seconds using a cassette tape as its memory....

His closing comment echoed an oft heard digital concern: How will we view the digital images captured today as a string of 1s and 0s in a future time? Compare viewing digital images to the ease of viewing art (paintings, sculptures, tapestries, photographs etc) from centuries past.

PhotoExpoDon opened his talk with an announcement of the fall PMA Canada PhotoExpo in Toronto. From their website, the PMA expects "more than 1,100 owners, executives, buyers, and members to attend. With the main Canadian buying groups attending the PMA Canada Photo Expo to make key seasonal purchasing decisions, coupled with a potential attendance of over 2,000 photo enthusiasts, PMA Canada Photo Expo 2010 is one event you can’t afford to miss!". The show is at the Toronto Congress Centre on Dixon Road just east of the 427. This gorgeous facility is close to Pearson Airport and major highways. And just 15 to 30 minutes from downtown Toronto. Free parking. The show is open to retailers, and photographers - professional and enthusiast alike.

This page was designed in Dreamweaver CS4 on an iMac running OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Unless otherwise noted, images on this page are from Mr long's Power point Presentation and subsequently adjusted in Adobe Photoshop CS4. Presentation images are ©2010 by Don Long and may not be used without his permission. Contents and all other images are ©2010 by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada and may be used freely provided the source is clearly indicated. Copies of photographs displayed during this presentation may not be used without the copyright holder's permission. Contact PHSC at info@phsc.ca if you would like more information on the items discussed on this page.

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