Things That Still Suck About Digital
In response to an email I am writing a fairly objective post regarding things that still suck about digital capture here today in 2011. First of all let me say that a lot of my love affair with film is completely biased, emotional, and somewhat irrational. I know that - so what.
- Post processing - I try to avoid it like the plague. It is a drag. Without post most digital looks like shit compared to the way film looks out of the can. Of course you can say ‘well film needs a guy to print and color correct it and that’s post.” Yea but that’s not quite true - slides look fantastic without that crap. A response could be.. “well just hire a guy to do all that with your digital”. Okay so there goes the “cost” benefit of digital in a big big way.
- Time - digital may be quick to turn around but it sucks down way more time than analog ever did for me. Especially as a commercial photographer.
- Highlights still render badly - really badly. Unless of course you go through amazing amounts of contortions both while shooting and in post. Trust me on this. I process prints for a couple of guys who know what they are doing and the specular highlights look like shit when printed large. No way around it. You could say ‘well the brand new leaf and phase one stuff is fantastic” Ummmm, yea but they are still not as good as film in rendering of highlights. They do have great dynamic range but they still suck on that highlight edge and who the hell wants to spend major bucks on a that just to compete with very very cheap film? Are you on crack?
- Leaves suck on most digital depending on the magnification ratio. Lots of leaves at small magnification - in other words a high spacial frequency on the image sensor and they look like absolute garbage in the way they render. I am sure I could work out the why but I really don’t care. If you “ring the bell” by going over some threshold on fine detail / spacial frequency you get dog shit with digital. Seems to be some sort of edge function with a bad transition and graceful falloff into nothingsville. Really good image makers have known this kind of thing for 100 years in terms of image appearance vs some arbitrary “numbers” hence the selection of lenses etc. that looked good vs “better”.
- Color that is not pleasing - loud yes - pleasing no. Oh and really horrible skin unless you put a ton of time into it on the back end.
- The amount of time and expense on the constant upgrade treadmill for gear, computers, software, on and on. Yea you can try to opt out but it will not work for long - you have no choice. Sticking with old digital (say 5 years at the absolute limit) will eventually result in a circumstance where you CANNOT shoot or process images. Think you can really run Photoshop 6 on your powermac G4 and continue shooting your D1x? Yea right. If anything goes wrong with any piece of that chain you are done with zero options. Got a new camera - still using and old version of PS - welcome to the upgrades. This really sucks but is part of all things digital. Everything in every part of your digital life is not only disposable, it costs a ton if you don’t proactively refresh and renew. One way or another computers/software/digital devices are a giant money pit. Fantastic if you are making a ton of money - not so good if you are not.
- Paraphernalia on trips - I am sick of the cords, chargers, batteries, etc, etc. What a drag.
- I can mathematically prove that digital sucks using a combination of logic and my acute rationalization skills that you have seen at work with buying stuff I don’t need. I will just use them in reverse. Here goes. Anything that can be improved radically so quickly must completely and undoubtedly suck - right? If it were actually any good it would take more time and the improvement would be subtle - right? Now we all know that next year every piece of gear that can possibly buy right now will completely suck ACCORDING to every one on the internet, all reviewers, all testers, AND the PEOPLE THAT made the stuff. Let’s assume that is true - hey your old digital stuff sucks doesn’t it? If we go with this line of thought then anything digital you can possibly buy right now completely and utterly sucks.
- Digital is in NO way “greener” than film - NO F’ing way. The all in resource cost for all this disposable crap in addition to the power requirements of storage display distribution is probably 2 orders of magnitude greater than shooting/processing/printing of film.
- The packaging for film is really really nice and a joy to behold - the packaging for CF cards etc is that horrible plastic have to hurt yourself to get it open style of nonsense.
For those that don’t quite get my humor - this list is interspersed with absolutes and sarcasm but I am quite serious about what still sucks about digital. By all means shoot whatever floats your boat or makes you money. I shoot both if you can’t tell - I really never have been all about what particular image capture method or media is “better” be it 35, 120, various sheet sizes, digital, on and on. I can tell you that I happen to enjoy the analog materials and process immensely and do evangelize a bit on either experiencing it for the first time or revisiting every once in a while.
Here is some food for thought - this image (yes it is just stupid crap) was shot on that roll of 10 year out of date Kodak 160 Portra VC in my 50 year old Leica just to see what would happen and how “bad it was” It was then processed and scanned at the local drugstore for six bucks at 8bit low res by an untrained glue sniffing teen that has NO idea what film should look like, nor cares. You will have to believe me when I say that the Highlights don’t suck, the skin tones don’t suck, and the color don’t suck right out of the box. I may actually scan these negs myself and show you in painstaking detail why all of the above do not suck with NO screwing around.
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