The Economist has a fascinating piece looking at the similarities and differences between Kodak and Fujifilm, two juggernauts of film photography that took different paths when digital photography came around:
While Kodak suffers, its long-time rival Fujifilm is doing rather well. The two firms have much in common. Both enjoyed lucrative near-monopolies of their home markets: Kodak selling film in America, Fujifilm in Japan. A good deal of the trade friction during the 1990s between America and Japan sprang from Kodak’s desire to keep cheap Japanese film off its patch.
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak’s $220m. Why did these two firms fare so differently?
It seems like everyone has access to some kind of camera these days, but will the digital images captured survive long enough to become part of the historical record of our time for future generations? John Naughton at The Guardian writes,
[...] while digital technology has generally been very good for photography as a mass medium, it has also made the resulting imagery much more fragile and impermanent. Of the billions of photographs taken every year, the vast majority exist only as digital files on camera memory cards or on the hard drives of PCs and servers in the internet “cloud”. In theory – given the right back-up regimes and long-term organisational arrangements – this means that they could, theoretically, endure for a long time. In practice, given the vulnerability of storage technology (all hard disks fail, eventually), the pace at which computing kit becomes obsolete and storage formats change, and the fact that most people’s Facebook accounts die with them, the likelihood is that most of those billions of photographs will not long survive those who took them.
That’s a startling thought — while it’s true that digital photos can last for quite some time if you’re tech-savvy enough to preserve them well, how many people in the general population actually do so? For the ordinary photo-taker, making a print will likely last much longer than their haphazard — or non-existant — backups.
Here’s a fun blast from the not-so-distant past: the video above is a short clip from the TV show “Call For Help” that originally aired back in September 2003. In it, tech broadcaster Leo Laporte chats with digital photography pioneer Mikkel Aaland — who, by the way, was introduced to digital cameras by Ansel Adams — about the evolution of digital cameras up to that point. It’s an interesting glimpse into a time when the Nikon D100 was the state of the art.
Kodak uploaded a video to YouTube recently thats been causing quite a bit of controversy. It’s a talk by Rob Hummel at Cine Gear Expo 2011 in which he states that bringing your digital camera onto an airplane will damage its sensor and cause dead pixels (it’s about 8min into the video). The reasoning is that at altitudes of 20,000ft and higher, you would need 125ft of concrete to shield yourself from the gamma rays, which induce voltages in the sensors and fry the photo sites. He also claims that manufacturers only transport cameras by sea, and that they all keep quiet about this because they fear a class action lawsuit.
The comments on the YouTube video and the dpreview forums are filled with people who believe that this is simply an attempt by Kodak to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over digital cameras in an effort to lure more people to using film. So, which is it? Fact or FUD?
The Rolleiflex MiniDigi AF 5.0 is a tiny 5-megapixel digital camera designed to look just like the Rolleiflex 2.8F 6x6cm twin lens reflex camera. The camera even operates like an old school TLR: you look into the camera from above via a square 1.1-inch LCD screen, the camera needs to be readied for each shot by turning the handcrank on the side, and the photos taken are square format. It’s available on Amazon in black or red versions for about $270.
Reddit user geft created a useful primer to get newbies started in digital photography. It’s a single image measuring 1045×5480 pixels that covers sensors, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and camera controls. This would be a great thing to print out, laminate, and give as a gift to someone who’s looking to learn.
When a fake camera technology is unveiled, it’s normally called a “concept”. When it’s published on April 1st, however, it’s called an April Fool’s Joke (e.g. last Friday’s Canon iPad monitor). The RE-35 is another fun idea that would be absolutely awesome if it actually existed — it’s a 35mm canister that transforms any 35mm film camera into a digital one using a flexible sensor. Simply load the canister into the camera as you would with film, shoot your photos, and download them by connecting to the canister via USB.
Erik Pettersson was looking for a nice digital frame, but found that all the commercially available ones were too small, ugly, and cheap looking. He had an old Thinkpad T42 laptop lying around, so he decided to make his own custom frame. After installing Linux and writing some custom scripts for operating the frame, he disassembled it and joined it with a nice-looking IKEA frame. Best of all, he documented his entire process and published it online as a tutorial for those who want to make their own.
Digital hyper-realist artist Bert Monroy spent four years creating an incredibly detailed Times Square scene. The 5×25 foot image weighed in at 6.52 gigabytes as a flattened file, and involved more than 750,000 separate Photoshop layers and over 3,000 separate Photoshop and Illustrator files. The image is actually a “who’s who” for the world of digital imaging, and features individuals who have made an impact on the history of the field, including Photoshop’s founders, imaging experts, and notable photographers (see if you can pick any out!).
A new German company called X-Pire wants to give you a little more peace of mind with photographs you share online by allowing you to share them with a time-based “self-destruct” feature. According to Yahoo News,
The software should prevent the increasingly frequent occurrence of someone being refused a job or running into other embarrassing difficulties after posting a photo that maybe should have been kept private.
Before the user posts the photo, he or she drags it into the programme which assigns it an electronic key that is valid for a limited time period, said Michael Backes, founder of X-Pire.
If someone wishes to view that photo later, the server checks whether the photo has “expired” and blocks it from being displayed if its time is up.
While this might be effective in dealing with certain privacy situations, it doesn’t prevent people from downloading the “protected” photos since anything that’s visible online can be downloaded (e.g. a screenshot of it can be taken). Still, it’s an interesting attempt at a solution for people wary of having embarrassing photographs come back to haunt them in the future. It’ll be available by the end of Jan 2011 with a subscription-based cost of €24 ($32) per year.