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Thread: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Thumbs up Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    I dunno if this is the right place for this post, and maybe it has been answered already, but I'm curious on this one:

    Will the digital world ever have the analog equivalent for a large format system? In other words, take the Toho camera or any lightweight type of camera...even a weighty monorail or a weighty Wisner 8X10, etc. etc...Will the digital world "ever" have an "all-in-one" camera that is the equivalent of an analog system? I know there are "backs" and "laptop requirements", but what about an all digital 4X5 camera that weighs 4lbs and requires only CF cards that can store the large files? Not only this, but the system also produces an equally good and or better image than the analog equivalent. I'm not really concerned with a digital vs. analog comparison, but rather if time will produce an all digital 4X5 or larger cam with the same exact weight and "ease" of functionality...even easier by functionality, as a possibility?

    If long will it take for companies to develop such a camera, are physics "against" such camera types, meaning, the best one can ever expect to see are "backs" and "laptops" and this type of camera that I describe above is not "physically" possible to "invent"?

    Furthermore...would this type of camera, if it ever did exist, become something that sells for 20K even 10-20 years from now due to it being a larger cam and not your typical Canon type thing? In other words, will the digital world "always" be similar to say, the audio world in that in the audio world, you have what are the masses with their very cheap stereos, call them the point and shoot tribe. Then the low-mid fi people that are into DSLRs=Anything in the DSLR world period. Then the higher end people like the ones using backs on Rolleis and Hasselblads...and finally, the "esoteric" group that are using backs on LF cameras.

    Curious what people think will happen in the evolution or de-evolution of the digital world of things.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Manchester, UK

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    To be honest I can't see them bothering. The commercial world is pretty happy with their 39 megapixel backs and there are plenty of ways to attach them to LF solutions, a field that the manufacturers seem to be concentrating on. The people left shooting film LF are no where near a large enough market, and probably no where near rich enough for the camera you are talking about. To put it into persepective the medium format back manufacturers are playing with a tiny market that is dwindling due to the lack of bodies to put them on. The LF specific market that needs and could afford a one shot back of that size is far smaller and lets be honest, a sensor that big will need a lot of battery and memory, it ain't going to be as small as a film insert, maybe as small as all the film darkslides in your bag put together..

  3. #3
    grumpy & miserable Joseph O'Neil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    London, Ontario

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    Yes and no. Yes in that technically such a thing can and will be possible, or at least affordable down the road. Who knows, ten years from now you might be able to buy LF scanning backs for less than a 25 pack of HP5.

    No in that - well IMO, LF photography has moved into the same sort of area as wood carving, oil painting, etc. Or for example, if you asked somebody why they practiced Karate or Judo instead of just buying a gun, then you obviously would not get what martial arts are really all about.

    To me, LF photography is moving or has moved into these realms. It's the process of taking the photo to begin with. I would even hazard to guess that down the road as digital becomes more and more prevalent in our daily lives, you will see even more people who will take on LF photography move into alternate processing, such as platinum/palladium, etc.

    This may lead to a sort of which came first - chicken or the egg question. Did the person get into LF so they can do alternate processing or did they start with LF and move into alternate processing?

    IN any event, the way I see things, in about ten years you'll be able to buy a do-all digital device. We are already heading that way with items such as the i-phone, but I can see where you have one device that is cell phone, 100 gig MP3 and video player, web and wifi surfing, GPS, 10 megapixel camera - heck, maybe even a built in tazer. Who knows.

    My point is, they day is coming when you'll be able to buy such a device while standing in line at the checkout in Wal-Mart for $10, then interest in a digital back or an all digital LF camera will be very low, as the average person will see no use and/or difference. But traditional or older processes, IMO, will be alive and well because you will have something that the average person cannot reproduce. That's important. Give you an example - when I was growing up in the 1960's, thousands of homes had B&W darkrooms - hobby darkrooms, but the "big thing" was how colour was just starting to become affordable to the average middle class person, so everybody wanted colour.

    B&W was too common, in fact, I started shooting only B&W because at the time the cost of having B&W film commercially processed and printed - even at the corner drug store - was about half that of colour film. Now today, as I see it, the home computer and colour printer is the new "hobby darkroom" that is very common and "everybody has one" just like the old B&W darkroom of the 1960s. When something becomes common, it looses it's value in our society.

    LF is no longer common, and is becoming less so every day. Down the road, the things that keep LF from ever being seen as common are what will help keep it's intrinsic value up, amoung other things I think.

    eta gosha maaba, aaniish gaa zhiwebiziyin ?

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Westminster, MD

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    I'd love an 8x10 digital back, but I'm not holding out that I'll be alive when it happens.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    With film, maybe keep in mind that the format started rather large (plates weren't small!) and as emulsion and camera gear became more advanced, the formats shrank. For this reason there will always been a desire for larger format with a larger negative size.

    Digital has kinda taken the opposite route, starting with the smallest sensor. It is being developed in a world of compact cameras, so I doubt the formats will get larger, the chips will just get better resolution.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    Here is the problem I see with chips getting better resolution:

    Just how many MP's can one put onto a full framed sensor? I have read many places where 20ish MP's is about the limit which is a far cry from what backs for Rollei and 4X5 cameras have. But stick with sensor and its limitations. One wants a professional tool that isn't "too big". So lets take the Canon 1DSMKII as the primary example since it has the most MP's of any camera still today, in spite it is going on 4 years old. It's also a pretty large camera. How much larger would a "pro" DSLR shooter want the camera to be in order to gain more MP's?

    Looking at the digital world today:

    1) Consumer market has the same sized sensors and getting loaded with more MP's. We have nearly 13MP cameras out now...basically the same amount of pixels as a Canon 5D!!! But the output of these sensors is quite good at ISO 100, and quite horrendous after that. In spite all the MP's tossed onto these digicams, a print from a 5 year old 5MP Sony and one from today's heap of best cameras is going to be, in many cases, better with the older camera, though better with the newer camera...a toss up from what I have seen and read.

    2) Given more and more MP's leads to disaster OR to a "minute" increase in cleanliness/ in, 10X blowups of a scene can show "discrete" differences" I really question one can see in a photo...what will and what can the DSLR makers do about loading on a ton of MP's to the full frame sensor, or maybe even getting a larger sensor into the camera without making the camera too large? Where will this threshold be that no more MP's can make a difference, etc.?

    Speaking of digicams, the very best shots I have seen come from the second session art of photography, post-processing. I have actually seen, web only obviously, "way better" photos from tiny digicams than DSLRs because these people are so much better with photoshop. Leaves me with the question of what is a photo...Is it 99 percent post-processing work or is it the actual photo that was taken? I see people post-process and they take these photos that look like garbage and turn them into amazing photos in a snap!...well...their printed versions look aweful at larger sizes (8X10ish), but on the screen, it's amazing that the majority of these photos I see from shooters are cropped out, blown up, placed over here, there, adjusted for color, adjusted for this and is like taking a Yugo and Making it look like a Bugatti...

    DSLR users will photoshop and most will do so with the experience of having used extensive photoshop with their point and shoot days. "Most" DSLR users/photos use straight output with some photoshop to at least make the photo look like what the user intended it to look like, meaning, what you shoot is what you end up with.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Southern California

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    Not again! Didn't we have enough of digital vs. film crap?

    Sigh. Why didn't you put it into The Lounge, at the very least?

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Amsterdam, the Netherlands

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    The answer to the question of the Op is: yes and not in the future, but now.

    There is no field of photography left that cannot be done with digital equipment. There are large format scanning backs, 39 mP medium format backs, of 22 mP full frame bodies. They can be combined at will with a bellows/lens combination that offers any movement or use you like. In fact Cambo (and probably other brands as well) survives by selling these modern equivalents of the LF camera. Maybe what is missing is a 60 mP or even a 100 mP back, maybe with a larger sensor size, but that's not a principal omission and may very well be available in the near future.

    Only a few reasons not to go digital have left. For the commercial photographer it may be the lack of money for the huge investments or the lack of digital craftsmanship. The artist may need the "feel" of analogue processing or the kind of thinking the slow work with a LF may involve. And of course to the real amateur the most important reason of them all: FUN.

  9. #9
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    My understanding is that the resistance to large sensors is mostly because of cost, but also because of technical issues with light hitting the sensor at shallow angles, or something like that.

    These are both the kinds of technical issues that can be resolved over time, but the result has been a goal is to pack as many pixels into as small a sensor as possible (and to squeeze as much optical quality out of a low-coverage lens as possible). So it seems that most of the r&d energy is going in the opposite direction of LF. This is primarily an issue for LF photographers because we've gotten used to looking at the projected image on ground glass.

    My dream digital camera would be a big digital back, with a bright, sharp LCD on the back of it for focussing and framing, maybe with some tools like a virtual loupe built in. And magically the thing would run for days on a single charge, would weigh no more than my current setup, and be controllable with a couple of knobs that are so intuitive I could use them when I'm drunk. AND--i could afford it. Ha ha ha ha ha.

    I don't think view cameras are going away. They predate photography, and will likely be around after this new incarnation of photography has been buried by something else. It's the largeness of large format that remains in question.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Seattle, WA

    Re: Will the world ever have the Digital Equivalent of the Analog LF Camera??

    Quote Originally Posted by paulr View Post
    My understanding is that the resistance to large sensors is mostly because of cost, but also because of technical issues with light hitting the sensor at shallow angles, or something like that.
    Mainly, it's cost. Several companies have found ways to deal with the oblique angle problem using offset microlenses, which increases the cost as well.

    One of the reasons for the spectacular costs for the medium format digital backs is that the sensors for them are so big. A sensor for an 8x10 is quite likely never going to be feasible, because you'd only be able to get one from a 300mm wafer.

    I think that in order to get bigger sensors in the future, we'll start seeing companies actually making smaller sensors in larger volumes, and moving the interface circuitry behind the sensor (which requires more layers, and therefore costs more). There are some new manufacturing techniques that would make this possible, but being new, they aren't yet being used in volume manufacturing.

    Doing that would allow manufacturers to construct an array of sensors to make a large sensor.

    One can hope

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