Ask this dude in this classic 50s sedan if he'd like to "upgrade" to a shiny new Toyota, Honda, or VW. My guess is his answer would be no.
Is it just me, or is there something ironic about a business that so prominently advertised its ability to finance its customers purchases being so prominently out of business?
Photographers who got into the hobby at the blossoming of the digital age find it hard to understand the attraction that other photographers have for film cameras and darkroom equipment. Many digital photographers find this attraction quaint at best. Others think it’s downright reactionary. How can anyone in their right mind not take advantage of so much obvious speed, economy, convenience, versatility and quality? Is film really all that wonderful? Is it really worth all the hassle involved with processing and printing it?
There is no one right answer to that question. I would like to point out, however, that it’s not all peaches and cream in the land of digitalia. Although you can a lot of wonderful things with a digital camera, these wonders require a certain amount of overhead. The greater your ambitions, the higher this overhead will be.
Let’s start with the camera itself. For it to be of any use to you you’re also going to need a computer. And not just any computer: a computer with plenty of hard drive space for all those digital photos you’re going to be storing on it--and for the photo imaging software you’re going to buy. You might need more RAM too. There’s no such thing as too much RAM when you’re doing digital image processing. Oh, and that LCD monitor the retailer threw in a part of the package? You’re probably going to have to upgrade that to something that provides consistent color over a wider range of angles; something you can actually calibrate. You do have a monitor calibrator, don’t you?
Don’t feel too smug if you’ve already got a smokin’ computer loaded with all the latest and greatest software. The time will come when you’ll feel the need to upgrade. It may be because you bought a new camera that only works with the latest Raw converter that’s only available if you have the latest software running on the latest operating system. Or it could be because Adobe informs you that you now have to have the latest version of Photoshop before you can qualify for the upgrade price on the next version. And since the new version may be released sometime this year, you may have to upgrade twice in less than 12 months. (This is not hypothetical. It is actually Adobe’s new policy.)
Whatever the reason, you’ll upgrade to the latest and greatest operating system or digital imaging software, only to discover that some of your older drivers, profiles, plug-ins, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces no longer work in the new environment. Now you’ve got to upgrade them too; that is, if you can. Not all developers have the time and money to update applications they released years ago. They might not even be in business anymore. I’ve described these miseries in a previous post. So real is this phenomenon that hard-core digital photographers have been known to maintain separate computer systems for the sole purpose of keeping older yet fully-functional software and drivers running.
Contrast this to what life is like if you’re the average film shooter. Forced upgrades are the furthest thing from your mind. Whatever camera you have is already “obsolete” and therefore not a candidate for an upgrade. In fact, if it’s something like a Leica MP, a Nikon F6, or a Hasselblad 503CX it’s pretty much as good as it gets.
The introduction of new film cameras and lenses is unlikely at best. If a manufacturer introduces a new film (admittedly rare these days), you can use it in any camera that accepts whatever size it’s available in. Access to ready sources of film processing is downgrading, if anything, yet if you already have a darkroom up and running then processing and printing is no more difficult than before. Depending on your preference you can practically eliminate computers from your workflow or use them only when you want to display photos on the web. And believe it or not, some people still prefer the results they get with film to digital.
Please understand that I’m not trying to resuscitate the now tired film vs. digital argument. Digital has clearly “won” and I myself have no plans to give up any of my digital cameras and switch entirely back to film. I’m just saying we should all keep in mind that the digital overhead can be heavy at times. Those who opt out of paying it may be more sane—and having more fun—than you think.