View Full Version : Digital Depression

Martin Patek-Strutsky
7-Oct-2003, 16:53
I can’t get out of my mind that Agfa has decided to skip all LF activities. To me this has a strong symbolic charakter for the last convulsions of analog photography in general.

Ok, a complete digital workflow for studio photography is not just efficient but is definitely also fun to use. The same goes for photojournalists switching to something like a Canon D1s and the average consumer rediscovering photography with his point&shoot digital camera.

But what has the industry on offer for us? A digital back for USD 25.000 which gives us the unique opportunity to also carry a laptop and a bunch of batteries in our much too light backpack?

I can’t get rid of the impression that people like the members of this forum are the only ones on the loosing side of this game.

Contrary opinions are very much appreciated…

tim atherton
7-Oct-2003, 16:59
In Agfa's case, they haven't really been a film company for some time now, it's just not their main thing. SO it's not suprising they have dumped sheet film.

And on the other hand we have Fuji developing some very good brand new films in sheet size....

Frank Petronio
7-Oct-2003, 17:21
For every product that disappears it seems there are ten new ones to replace it, and sometimes we see companies revive old lines. Last summer I bought a NEW Weston Euromaster from a company in England that started making them again - pretty cool. Leica introduced the MP, essentially a modern remake of the M3, with better workmanship than the intermediate models... Who's to say that somebody won't start to make Bovira or Agfa 25 again in ten or twenty years? Heck, I wish I had a stash of Bovira from thirty years ago when it had some ummph.

Digital is spinning off some great things for large format photographers. I'm looking at my Epson 3200 scanner - only $400 and it's far better than scanners I paid thousands for just a couple of years ago. Same goes for inkjet printers and Photoshop - the tools are mature and capable. It'll be a long time before an affordable, portable, backpackable digital camera matches the resolution of a 4x5 Readyload - and while the number of emulsions will be shrinking, I'm confident we'll be able to buy sheet film for at least another generation. If you love film and wet chemistry, it isn't going away - people still do gum bicromate, platinum, etc. despite the hardships - who knows, maybe silver prints will become more exotic and expensive? What's the matter with that?

There is fairly large museum exhibit and archive market that will demand archival toned silver prints for many years to come - that alone should manage to keep a couple paper and film lines going. And you could always do what Fred Picker did - fill a freezer chest full of discontinued paper. Except he did it in the 1970s, and he thought the sky was falling then.

Use digital as tool to compliment your large format work. It's a great time to be doing this - more choices, changes, and activity than ever.

John D Gerndt
7-Oct-2003, 17:25
To the plus, a lot of old film equipment is hitting the market at low prices and there has been some reaction in the form of the antiquarian avant-garde. We will loose film choices and paper choices, probably most of them, but we will keep on making pictures even if we have to make our own stock. It IS happening even now.

I have seen some digital images that were very good. It took years of looking at some very bad ones though. Business will never go back to film as it will never go back to woodcuts. In some ways we loose but we gain in some areas. It always works for the good and the bad, change does.

D. Kevin Gibson
7-Oct-2003, 17:59
"There is fairly large museum exhibit and archive market that will demand archival toned silver prints for many years to come - that alone should manage to keep a couple paper and film lines going."

I was just looking at an auction catalogue of contemporary art that arrived in the mail - still plenty of the usual paintings and drawings, lots of mixed media and some installation pieces etc. Of photographs there were, I think three silver prints, one platinum print, one cibachrome and 4 or 5 color dye coupler prints. By contrast there were perhaps 25 photographs variously labelled giclee prints on watercolor paper, inkjet prints on archival rag paper, digital prints and lightjet/lamda C prints (oh and one photocopy transfer...) - all with reserves generally somewhat higher than the traditional prints - anywhere from $1500 to $15,000.

On the manufacturing front - people like Forte have always made colour film in 35mm. Wouldn't it be great if they went on and produced a colour sheet film? They seem to have no problem with up to date technology - I remember when Kodak chased them out of the US for selling their "T-grain" films... as I recall, they might have got away with it if they hadn't chosen "T" in the name! Maybe they will be able to do something interesting in color sheet?

Gene M
7-Oct-2003, 18:18
Digital sucks.

James Driscoll
7-Oct-2003, 18:18
On the manufacturing front - people like Forte have always made colour film in 35mm. Wouldn't it be great if they went on and produced a colour sheet film? They seem to have no problem with up to date technology - I remember when Kodak chased them out of the US for selling their "T-grain" films... as I recall, they might have got away with it if they hadn't chosen "T" in the name! Maybe they will be able to do something interesting in color sheet?

I have been blabbing about this, and it seems to fall on deaf ears. I keep telling people to support companies like Bergger and Foma. They make "old style" films right now....because there is a demand for them.

If and when the BIG companies stop making "modern" films, a company like Berrger, Foma, Forte, etc. will step up and start making similar films, because there will be a demand and the GREAT YELLOW FATHER, won't be meeting it.

Fuji, Kodak, and Agfa....have lots of intrests in product lines other than film and photographic paper. Bergger, Foma, Efke, and Forte...do not (at least not on the scale the BIG THREE do). Start supporting, and when the time comes they will step in.

By supporting, I don;t mean switching films if you don't want to. But buying a few boxes of 4x5, or 20 rolls of 35mm a year means more to a smaller company like Forte, than it does to Kodak.

tim atherton
7-Oct-2003, 18:21
Nah Gene - for LF colour it's hard to do better than a film/digital workflow best thing to come along in donkeys years

neil poulsen
9-Oct-2003, 01:59
I know from having been the photo engineer at a circuit board company that Agfa is a large contender in LF film (say 20"x26") for industrial purposes. They compete successfully against Kodak.

I spoke to them after they discontinued 4x5 Optima. Apparently, they weren't able to sell out supplies from a single run before those supplies went out of date. But, why not make smaller runs? The interest just doesn't seem to be there, and perhaps one could say that their interest in the customer just doesn't seem to be there.

They sell an excellent paper in Classic Multi-Contrast DW FB Glossy. Let's hope that doesn't go on the chopping block anytime soon.

Martin Patek-Strutsky
9-Oct-2003, 02:29
Agree that sheet film supply should not be the real bottleneck for the nearer future.

Photographing only in color my concern is more on the processing side. Regarding E6/C41 pro labs have already lost large parts of their business. More and more pro labs close their doors, other labs have increasing problems to offer stable quality as their machines run far below capacity.

In pessimistic moments I have the impression that in 3 years from now I will have to send my slides to the Fuji headquarter in Japan for getting them developed...

Frank Petronio
9-Oct-2003, 05:40
My friend Edgar Praus's lab (www.4photolab.com) intends to be one of the last chemical labs - we've lost several of his larger competitors here in Rochester already - and more of his business is coming from mail order. His business is booming because few labs do a good job with E6 anymore. Or fiber BW, or C prints, or Illfochrome. But even he realizes that a good scan and inkjet is far superior to making internegatives from chromes simply to make a C print. He recently got an Imacon and Epson set-up.

The chrome > interneg > C-print workflow was never any good and I'm happy to seee it disappear!

Give Edgar a try if you want good traditional lab work. He will be processing E6 with fresh chemistry for many more years. But the nice thing is he can scan it for you too.

James Phillips
9-Oct-2003, 06:38
James Driscoll,

I am wondering if Bergger and Foma actually have the facilities to manufacture the film or do they just buy the product elsewhere and re-label the film?

Just curious and asking. Thanks.

Kind Regards,

David A. Goldfarb
9-Oct-2003, 07:28
Foma (Czech Republic), Efke (Croatia), and Forte (Hungary) are real film manufacturers. Bergger claims to subcontract its manufacturing to various European companies. Whether Bergger films are actually different from the films that these companies manufacture under their own labels is a matter to be determined by careful testing.

Christopher Condit
9-Oct-2003, 10:06
I was picking up some prints at my pro lab here in San Francisco yesterday afternoon, and I asked the guys when digital was going to kill off film. One guy said "Don't hold your breath", and the other said "Film's fine." These guys don't have the emotional attachment to film that we do, they are just trying to make a living. I was moderately encouraged.


Geoffrey Swenson
9-Oct-2003, 12:01
The worst part of digital (for color it is the way to go by the way) is the storage. Film, through judicious storage will last you a lifetime, but digital storage is scary. Presently, there is no stable technology (it also changes daily) to securely store digital images. I hope that for some time we can continue expose on film and start from there.

I also believe that in 15-20 years the standard editing program won’t be PhotoShop, again it will be something else and then all your current files would be worthless, but if you have film then they can be rescanned yet again.

9-Oct-2003, 18:04
It seems that the computer/ digital industry learned very well from the white goods business.... That if you make a very good product, The best it can be..., It'll last for a long time. The consumer will buy your product again when it wears out.

Problem was, that they didn't wear out fast enough. So the computer/ digital industry is letting out improvements little by little. When a new jiggle pixel thing is introduced to the market, they already have a jaggle pixel in the works waiting to be introduced to the masses, just as soon as the jiggle pixel has run it's course. (about 3 years). By the way... the maxapixel is in the wings when the jaggle pixel is introduced. Every so many years, you'll have to upgrade in order to stay current or to compete with other commercial photographers/ firms.

Until this year, I've been using the same Tri-x for ever! I never had to upgrade!

I think that after a few years, the consumers will start to realize that film is the same as the old GE referidge. "Remember back in the old days when you could shoot black and white that was high in silver?" "The prints just glowed"! "why don't they make something like that in digital?"

I'm a simple person that dosen't want to chase the newest hot lick upgrade. I'm not a commercial photographer that needs to stay on the edge of invention. My income dosen't depend on it. I feel sorry for the person who has to compete for a share of the market in the digital world because they are doomed to be forever in a state of upgrade.


David R Munson
9-Oct-2003, 20:57
Still being at what amounts to the start of my career, I'm quite interested in this. I've been doing photography for about eight or nine years now. In that time, I've been involved with digital in one way or another for about the last four years. It started when I worked at a camera store in Cleveland and first got to play around with Photoshop, and since then it's grown to a considerable usage of digital in both my personal work and the work I do freelance and for my classes. I haven't paid for a commercial color print in years. My last three portfolios were printed digitally on my Epson and look absolutely wonderful. After I switch 4x5 and MF systems, my next big purchase will be a digital back of some sort.

As I work my way into commercial photography, I plan on making use of digital technology to its fullest potential. It seems to me that the use and application of digital technology in commercial photography is what's going to be the biggest difference between my generation and the previous generation of commercial photographers. Sure, lots and lots of pros shoot digital now, but I'm part of what amounts to the first demographic to be immersed in computer technology essentially from birth. I think that over the next ten years or so we're going to see a huge change in the way we do, use, and think about photography, and it's all because of digital.

And yet, I still love film. I won't be switching entirely to digital so long as film is available. Digital is great, but it's not perfect and I think there will always be things that film does that digital may never be able to do. Such as, look like film. I'm thinking primarily of B&W here. Give me a large format negative on Tri-X, a darkroom, some AGFA 111, and Ansco 130 any day and I'll take it over digital B&W. For now, anyway, it just isn't the same. And I honestly don't think that the demand for film, particularly when it comes to black and white, is going anywhere. And for those of us who shoot medium and large format, the risk of film disappearing altogether is even less of a risk than were we to all be 35mm shooters. Sure, some things will disappear, but as others have already said, so long as there's a demand, somebody will make what we want.

I honestly don't see digital and film as being opposing technologies. They do things differently, yes, but they're still both means to an end. They're just tools. We use them differently, and while there is currently and will likely always be some overlap, each has its place. The sky isn't falling, at least as far as LF B&W is concerned. Color film may be in a little more immediate danger, but even then I doubt we'll be forced to switch to digital backs before we really want to.

My random $0.02 on the subject.

2-Nov-2004, 07:21
Digital versus chemical and analogical photography?

To contribute to the endless debate, some words from France, homeland of early photography.

The real question is : which films and plates will exist in few years?

But every people interested in the chemical photgraphy will be able to practice and restore old process and re-making plates. Books will be still found after the decline of argentic photography. Knowledge will not disappear; just fewer people will know and will perform.

Many riders still ride a horse after the invention of the automobile. Sails and winds are still used after the invention of steam and motor boats.

Don't forget Great french painter Delacroix said once : "Give me some mud, I will make a masterpiece with it".

Mark Sawyer
21-Dec-2004, 15:17
Don't forget Great french painter Delacroix said once : "Give me some mud, I will make a masterpiece with it".

--Gérard FASCIODA, 2004-11-02 06:21:11

I think if Delacroix was a modern photographer, it might be "give me the latest digital mud and the latest version of Adobe Mud-Shop (ha-ha, get it?) and a mud scanner and mud-jet printer and a few months to figure it all out and I'll create a masterpiece, but I'll still have to buy and learn all new mud-stuff next year..."

(I like the darkroom, even if my prints sometimes look a little muddy...)