APUG is one symptom of a commercial industry (and a pleasant way to spend some personal free time) that is changing. If I was told 10 years ago that I would be signing up to a group that was interested in the use of film in cameras, I think I would have been more than a little incredulous. Today... thankfully, there is an APUG to subscribe to. The nicest of ironies is that it is the digital revolution plus broadband access that permits me this indulgence.
I was visiting a tourist location in London recently, when out with my family enjoying the public holidays. I think my eyes were truly opened for the first time. I have ignored the march of the digital gizmo almost since its inception... not because of any Luddite tendencies that I may have but because I, personally, have seen no need for anything more than focus/speed and aperture control on a camera. The heavy dependence on batteries also causes me some concerns.
Anyway, I digress... I was amazed to see that every single imaging device, that I saw being used by joe public, was digital. (did I hear anyone say... "welcome to 2004, Jeff"?) The imaging devices were the kind of poorly specified digital equivalent of the great yellow god's "you press the button and we do the rest". To judge from what I saw, most of the displayed devices had far too many buttons for that to be the case. The hapless owners appeared to struggle to get the right mode for the scene and lighting conditions... while peering at a small low contrast TFT rectangle to assess focus/colour balance/composition &c.
The marketing of these devices has been swift and effective. How many people have thrown away a perfectly useable film camera only to find that they have been sucked into the maelstrom that is digital imaging? Yes sir, your new inkjet printer is only 40 UKP and it comes complete with a whole set of inks. Hah! 20 A4 sheets of paper later and the replacement ink cartridges cost more than the printer. It makes more sense to buy a new printer than to replace the ink!
You all know this story... A new computer with a pentium # (whatever is next in the chain) plus software that costs an arm and a leg and the camera that has to be replaced because it no longer cuts the mustard (of course, it never did) unless all you want are 6x4 enprints.
Whither the professionals in all of this nonsense? I worked with one of the reputed 99% (who have changed from film in my county alone) of professional photographers that have got an entirely digital workflow, recently. I helped this man out with two of his weddings. The equipment he had abandoned was Hasselblad 6x6cm... in favour of a couple of Nikon D100 bodies with general purpose zoom lenses and the corollary of relatively slow apertures. That is to say nothing of the sub 35mm frame. He eyed me with that curious mixture of disdain and pity, that one reserves for pond life and other extinct life forms, when I turned up for the assignments bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and carrying my medium format kit.
The assignments were a 1 hour shoot and a 4 hour shoot. The imprecation to me before each shoot was that he "needed" 400 images from the quick job and 1000 images from the long job. This was the shooting rate he required from me! I have no idea how many images he had felt that he had to capture. Next job was to download all of this data into Photoshop and assess the images for colour balance, composition and suitability. If I say that this was a long job, those of you with any understanding of the digital processes involved, will understand what is meant.
It would not be stretching a point if I say that 90% of the captured data was not of an appropriate standard for a professional photographer. Now several things will occur to those who make their living at this sort of thing. If the customers are happy, who am I to gainsay it? It should go without saying that I was not comfortable with a camera that, whirrs, beeps, whines and attempts to do the things that are second nature to me (especially the thinking) without telling me!
I bought some studio lights recently, from a supplier of all things digital to professionals. He had one of the first 6 Megapixel professional camera backs (imported by his business) that was sold in the UK... it was in the trash! Not because it no longer worked but because it was a slow scanning back, that had to be tethered to a computer, and as such, it was superceded and could not be sold.
I can confess to feeling smug about my own Sinar Norma, that looks as good as it did when it was produced and operates like the piece of precision engineering that it is. I don't think the corporate world wants to see items that are produced to have a long working life. Sinar are happy to supply parts for almost anything they have made. Perhaps that explains the initial cost of their products.
As this tirade concludes, I am reminded as to what it was that pushed my buttons. Agfa... farewell. EFKE/Ilford Hello. It is unlikely (from what I can gather) that all manufacturers of film will follow because there will be a market for those that are interested to exploit it. As ws stated elsewhere... it is money that determines policy and the market is already well established. I think that Ed's analogy with fine eating houses is on the money and I, for one, will be looking to open a 5 star establishment serving silver based portraits to the photographic equivalent of gourmets... who appreciate the work involved, the quality of the actual print and have the money to pay handsomely. so that I do not need to be starving in my garret.