7.01.2013

Once upon a time we considered a 6 megapixel file to be the Holy Grail for digital cameras. Can you imagine going back?

Production Image from Aida.

I'm going back through a lot of older portrait work, looking for fun images so I can put together a presentation next week in Denver. I'll be presenting in front of video cameras for three days and I wanted to have samples of the kinds of images we'll be talking about and creating. Since I was in an exploratory mood I didn't put any date restrictions on my search but I did want to stick to good digital files and not get into a marathon of film scanning and post production.

Today's foraging brought up some images I hadn't played with in a long time and I was surprised when I found these promotional shots for a production of Aida at how much I liked both the lighting (which is simple and straightforward) as well as the tonality I got from the files. The color in the shadow to highlight transition areas is very clean and the transitions themselves are smooth and detail without much evidence of banding.

I was in Bridge so I checked the info on the file and was surprised to see that it came from one of my earliest professional digital cameras, the Kodak DCS 760. The image was taken at ISO 80 and lit with Profoto strobes. The lens was the Nikon 28-70mm 2.8 zoomed, used at f11 and around 55mm. The original file is 2000 by 3000 pixels but when I examined the file at 100% I found it to be tightly structured and fairly noise free. I tried a quick blow up just using the interpolation in PhotoShop CS6 and found that the file could be res'd up to much larger dimensions with very little loss in quality. I was impressed to see how well the old technology holds together in a modern workflow.

I have made a mental note to myself to go back soon and convert all the Kodak raw files to .dng files as I'm almost certain that fewer and fewer raw conversion programs will continue to support cameras from a functionally defunct camera maker.

Given that most work now goes up on the web I think this could still be a viable studio camera. This isn't the first time that the DCS 706 surprised me in a good way.  I guess that, and nostalgia, are the reasons I keep the camera, lenses and bit and pieces around still. That, and the fact that five pounds of hard alloy are good for driving nails when I forget to bring the studio hammer along on projects.

I sometimes feel that we've all been chasing the wrong rabbit. The cameras are fine, it's the education on why and when to use them that we should have been (should be) working on.

8 comments:

wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

Wonderful image Kirk. Hm but 'simple and straightforward lighting'? I thought I'd see at least three lights here...

Anonymous said...

"Can you imagine going back?"

Yeah, all the way back to Kodachrome.

-salty

Corwin Black said...

I would say that SLR/n was no slouch either.. Never saw RAW files from 760. Kodak really knew how to make a good sensor, world lost quite a bit when they decided to not continue in this.

6 mpix isnt that big limit when its really good 6 mpix. For me, per-pixel quality does matter..

Anonymous said...

Great read. We just retired our Fuji S5PRo. It was an older DSLR, but was still plugging away as a wedding workhorse.

Edward Richards said...

A good example of your observation that cameras do not matter much if the light is right so you are controlling the dynamic range and the exposure.

Stephen said...

Im still useing a D2H and love the output.Some of those older sensors manage to capture light so much better than a lot of the megapixel monsters around now.

Ron Nabity said...

I have some ten-year-old 6MP files upsized and printed at 20x30 hanging on my wall. Still awesome shots, mostly because of where I was and how I felt when I took them.

Anonymous said...

Sure. Do'nt need to go back. I am an amateur, still working with 6 and 10 megapixel camera's and Elements 6 under Windows 7. I couldn't be happier.