Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Digital Debate has ended for me

A couple of things happened this week. Agfa, one of the major suppliers of black and white paper are filing for bankruptcy. Epson has launched the Epson 4800 printer using 3 black inks. I went down to Epsite Singapore to see black and white prints by 4 local photographers including Tay Kay Chin, Ken Seet and Geoff Ang. I think that digital black and white prints have arrived.

I am sure that the debate on whether digital prints can match black and white handprints is going to rage for some time to come. For me the debate has ended simply because hand printed black and white is not a viable commercial product anymore. I cannot keep clients waiting because the black and white paper companies are facing financial ruin. For better or worse, it is time to go digital.

I have been a professional photographer for six years now. I started with 35mm Nikon equipment and bought a Hassleblad 501 for commercial assignments. I still use it for personal work. However, after 2 years with the equipment I bought the ill-fated Kodak DCS pro 14 hoping that it would let me into the digital area without have to re-invest in lenses. Sad to say I lost quite a bit of money because the Pro 14 was just too noisy to use and I shifted to Canon. The image size of the Nikon D2s just did not cut it for me. Now 60% of my work is done on a Canon 1D mk II. I still shoot black and white film for actual day wedding work. I am in the midst of testing digital capture for black and white prints.

My camera of choice for actual day wedding photography is the Contax Aria. A small inconspicuous camera coupled with wonderful Zeiss optics. Unfortunately Contax has been discontinued by its parent company and I hear that Leica is filing for bankruptcy too. By using a special adapter, I am now testing my Zeiss optics on Canon digital bodies.

It is a time of transition and like all other transitions there is pain and frustration. Yet I see hope. I see hope in companies like Canon and Epson who are committed to enabling the photographer to produce their vision. There is much to learn in how to produce high quality black and white prints. There is more work as photographers take printing into their own hands. As much as I mourn the passing of an era in photography, I see new horizons to explore. We have an exciting journey ahead of us.

1 comment:

kiampa said...

Very interesting words, it's given me a lot to think about thanks.

Meanwhile I am still in Sydney playing around with my old Pentax ME Super. In fact the shutter has seized up so it's gone for repairs, am struggling to use an even older MX at the moment!

I would love to get a digital camera one day, but first I need to justify the cost of the negative scanner I bought just a couple of months ago...

Maybe a good point and shoot will do the job - it did for Alex Majoli didn't it?