Today it’s time to reflect for a moment on the continuing, rapid, inroads that digital cameras are making against film in the field of architecture history. Nikon announced this week that it is discontinuing most of its 35mm camera models (leaving only the F6 and… I think, the F10). What do I say to this? The evolution of my photographic work really took place after I had my first digital camera. Many of my images were taken with a Pentax K1000, a classic camera, but a little limiting in its lack of automatic settings and my stock lens wasn’t that great. Later on, I moved to a nice little Olympus point and shoot that decent enough shots and then to a series of point and shoot digital cameras. After a visit to Lithuania with my old family friend John Vinci, who had given up his Hasselblad for a Contax G2, however, I saw the light. This fantastic camera is just a little bigger than a point and shoot, but has interchangeable Zeiss optics that are able to take advantage of the rangefinder’s lack of mirror to produce sharper images than any 35mm SLR lens I’ve seen. The image at the start of this article is taken with the G2. The editors at first didn’t believe that a 35mm image could be good enough for a full-fleed magazine page, but after seeing what the G2 could do, they were fine with it.
That got me addicted to quality camera gear and I’ve set up a decent Canon EOS kit based around a digital 20D and a bunch of their L glass. With a “prosumer” Nikon film scanner, I am able to pull out some pretty big images from the G2, bigger than the 20D, however, because the grain bleeds across the pixels, the scans look less sharp blown up than the digital photos do. More important is the question of the lens. Even though L glass may be big, expensive and nice looking, it doesn’t compare to the lenses I have on the G2 (then again, to be fair, I am using zooms on the SLR and fixed lenses on the G2) in terms of what it can produce. I recently put together a show for AUDC and found that the images I chose were nearly all from the G2. The product just looks better. And of course the G2 is much smaller, easy to hide. Unfortunately, Contax was very poorly managed and discontinued its G2 and couldn’t see fit to follow up with a digital rangefinder (I’ll admit that I suspect the latter is harder to do than it might seem, although of all companies, Epson has tried). eIt certainly doesn’t say “watch out, photographer!” We’re about to take a photo trip next week, back to Quartzsite, Arizona, and it’ll be interesting to see what platform dominates that trip. On the other hand, I love the latitude of shooting in RAW format.
Last year, Kodak announced that it was discontinuing the slide projector. More importantly, digital projectors have moved up from VGA into XGA and beyond. This makes it possible for me to project at comparable levels to 35mm. I find that most university 35mm projectors are poorly maintained (I begged and begged SCI-Arc for functioning focussing remotes, a $30 part and they never did get them for me during my 8 years of teaching there) and the lenses aren’t usually in good shape. Digital projectors are generally newer and their expensive bulbs mean that the projector is tossed every year or two. Moreover, the brightness seems to captivate people, since they are, as Morris Lapidus once said, like moths, drawn to the light. And of course, if I can put all of my 15,000 slides into 30 or 40gb, it would be fantastic to carry around all of my images with me. So a big project this year is to digitize my slide collection. Every morning before going to work, when I return, and prior to going to bed, I load up my Nikon Coolscan slide projector. The quality is decent enough and I’m noticing the film base turning on some images, particularly the odd Kodakchrome, so I don’t want to wait, even if resolution might creep up in the next year.
On the other hand, the switch to digital means it will be much harder to use Wölfflin’s comparative method of two slides, side by side. And of course, there’s the thorny question of assigning metadata to all this! Lev tells me he hopes to have a metadata holiday one day, just go to an island and start assigning it. Maybe a good move! Technorati Tags: architecture, art, network culture, photography, slide projectors