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The Limitations of the Zeitgeist of Film


User_Removed 2 155 2 South Africa
23 Oct 2012 2:05PM
With everything to do with photography from the terms we use, to how camera's are designed (do we NEED to copy the design limitations imposed by 35 mm film in a digital era?) to what extent is digital photography being limited by the mindset / zeitgeist of film?

I was thinking about this when buying a camera recently where everything is focused around how well the camera matches up to what could be captured on 35 mm film, but that surely is starting from a design point that is limited by the flaws / faults of a technology that doesn't have a place in the design of a digital camera.

Just one example of what I mean is that do we have to set as the design standard a 35 mm lens? That was set in 1909!! And even then it was an arbitrary choice. Surely more than 100 years later we can choose any other size more suited to the technological limitations of the digital age?

How many other ways is digital photography being limited and slowed up by attempting to reproduce and adhere to design set by technological limitations from up to 100 years ago?

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User_Removed 2 155 2 South Africa
23 Oct 2012 2:13PM
It's kind of like trying to design an modern automobile to match the design limitations and thinking of a horse-drawn carriage.

And it isn't just in how the cameras are actually designed. Its in the software as well. Why are we trying to reproduce what was done in a dark room with basins of chemicals when we are working with digital images on a computer?
franken e2
12 3.3k 4 Wales
23 Oct 2012 2:32PM
The power of a modern automobile continues to be related to horsepower!

I do tend to find it interesting when a digital camera is considered full frame as it has the same size sensor as a 35mm film camera. Many people consider 10 by 8 plate film as full frame.

What is a DSLR cropped sensor a crop of as it was new when it was invented and had no bearing on film and it came before 35mm sized sensors?

Ken
Carabosse e2
11 39.7k 269 England
23 Oct 2012 2:34PM
'Crop' really only makes any sort of sense when you are using a lens designed for a larger image circle than the sensor requires.
User_Removed 2 155 2 South Africa
23 Oct 2012 2:58PM

Quote:The power of a modern automobile continues to be related to horsepower!

Ken



Well that would be an excellent example of what I mean. When last did we actually measure anything by how many horses it took to pull it?


Quote:What is a DSLR cropped sensor a crop of as it was new when it was invented and had no bearing on film and it came before 35mm sized sensors?


another good example. why are we comparing apples with pears and worse still trying to design apples as if they were still pears?
Carabosse e2
11 39.7k 269 England
23 Oct 2012 3:04PM

Quote:When last did we actually measure anything by how many horses it took to pull it?


These days car manufacturers have to quote power in kilowatts as well as horse power. But kilowatts are so closely identifid with electricity, it hasn't really caught on.

I guess when most cars are electric it might do! Wink
User_Removed 2 155 2 South Africa
23 Oct 2012 3:12PM
the trouble is no-one bothered to think up a new measurement for forward power and we are stuck with this horse era measurement (which was literally how many horses it took to move a load).

I'm sure we all can think of many examples where our language reflects holdovers from the past, but we are discussing cameras and how much the influence of trying to design as if we still were using film, and "process" the image has - see even that is a holdover term - you processed film because there was a chemical process that had to take place to develop the film and then print the image which was another chemical process.

We don't process anything - we maximise a digital image for the best result.

I wonder what a camera would look like if it was designed by people who never seen a film camera, never knew about chemical baths and light filters and simply were given the mandate to capture images using light?
Carabosse e2
11 39.7k 269 England
23 Oct 2012 3:14PM
ISO is a leftover term from the film era (it used to be ASA). These days it's an approximation.
User_Removed 2 155 2 South Africa
23 Oct 2012 3:18PM
I wonder what would happen if we thew out the notion of designing a digital camera to be 'as good as' or 'as much alike as possible" a film camera and simply started from scratch with a totally fresh slate.
Carabosse e2
11 39.7k 269 England
23 Oct 2012 3:25PM
i'm reminded of what is probably now a non-PC joke about the old Irishman asked for directions to a town: "If I were you I wouldn't start from here!" Grin

It would probably look like a camera phone.
spaceman e2
10 5.2k 3 Wales
23 Oct 2012 4:44PM

Quote:I wonder what would happen if we thew out the notion of designing a digital camera to be 'as good as' or 'as much alike as possible" a film camera and simply started from scratch with a totally fresh slate.

I think it's called a camera phone Wink (edit - CB beat me to it.)

A camera needs a lens, a sensible layout of the controls and it needs to be comfortable to hold. That doesn't leave too many options for radical design.
User_Removed 2 155 2 South Africa
23 Oct 2012 5:00PM
yes I agree that in some respects if you think of the ergonomics of the hand certain design elements would probably come out the same. Ditto with the need for focusing element (lens) and capturing element (sensor) and some kind of straight line relationship between the two. However I think a number of other limitations might be radically different - size of the sensor for one.

But would you necessarily end up with the digital version of the pinhole camera AKA camera phone?
Sooty_1 e2
4 1.3k 203 United Kingdom
23 Oct 2012 6:53PM
Well, the sensor needs to be exactly perpendicular to the light from the lens, and it makes sense to keep the elements to a minimum, so rather than introduce mirrors and lenses to change the light path, the logical (and the best possible quality) solution is to have the sensor and lens in a straight line. The lens must point at the subject, so putting the sensor at the back of the camera gives the basic layout. Ergonomics suggest hand positions for maximum stability and control positioning for ease of access also limits where the layout can be...all in a package that is hand-holdable and easy to use.

Design doesn't have to be revolutionary, and the design of miniature cameras has been evolving for a hundred years into a package that companies vary, but not too much. Sensor size has a direct bearing on quality, but size is traded off against cost, and similar size to old film size is a reasonable compromise.

There have been any number of radical designs in the past, but they haven't been popular enough to pursue long-term...Canon Epoca and Yashica Samurai spring to mind.

The fact is, camera design has evolved the way it has because it works.

Nick
MikeA e2
10 1.2k England
23 Oct 2012 7:08PM
A few other areas where there is compromise is with exposure setting based on old technology Ie. the discrete steps we still have to endure for /f , speed and ISO settings. These are particularly annoying when attempting Day/Night/Day time-lapse sequences.

Why mechanical shutters for lens/ camera.
User_Removed 2 155 2 South Africa
23 Oct 2012 8:56PM

Quote:Well, the sensor needs to be exactly perpendicular to the light from the lens, and it makes sense to keep the elements to a minimum, so rather than introduce mirrors and lenses to change the light path, the logical (and the best possible quality) solution is to have the sensor and lens in a straight line.


well isn't that the design precept of the rangefinder cameras?


Quote:Sensor size has a direct bearing on quality


but if your design basis wasn't limited by thinking you have to reproduce film - perhaps a whole new way of designing the sensor could have come into being by now. Limitations / preconceptions in how you approach the problem from the initial concept stage limits the final potentials of the final product.

Its harder to think outside the box when you know the size and dimensions of the box. If you don't know the box exists you are free to move in any direction.

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