Old Tech. Sweet Tech.

I don't sleep much.  I like to stay up till one or two in the morning working on stuff.  Mostly post processing assignments and doing pre-production when things are quiet.  The dog usually comes out to the studio with me and sleeps on a purple carpet right next to the desk.  I like to get up in the morning in time for the early masters swim workout at 7am.  Sometimes I wake up late and go to the 8am workout instead.  But I guess the point is that I have time to think about stuff.  Maybe too much.  When everyone else in the house is asleep my brain likes to see what's new in the world of cameras......

I'm always interested in what's next but maybe to the detriment of "what's now".  Cameras are a good case in point.  I love the new stuff.  And there's a thousand ways to rationalize it.  Most rationalizations have to do with how much easier it will make my job or how much more accurate the screens on the backs are.  But sometimes I veer over the line and start pontificating about how much better the files are.  And it's true.  Camera files have increased in detail and resolution, and much of the noise and banding that plagued earlier digital cameras has been dealt with.

I've been shooting with a Canon 5dmk2 for the past few weeks and the files are, indeed, pretty spectacular. (not out to start a camera war so I'll pre-emptively say that the Nikon D3x files are probably even better!)  So, just when I'm thinking everything makes sense and I've got it all figured out I do something silly like rearrange my equipment cabinets and stumble across some old tech.

I pull it out, charge up some batteries (yes, in days of old a walk in downtown was usually a 3 battery adventure with many cameras and not just a 20% on one charge kind of thing) slap on an old favorite lens and head out for some shooting.  In this case the camera I stumbled across was the first really reliable, affordable (by some standards) full frame DSLR, the Kodak SLR/n.  Nice specs.  14 megapixels.  Lotta bit depth.  Good raw files.

Lots of downside too.  Horrible, horrible LCD screen.  Bad hump below the eyepiece made for an ergonomic nightmare.  The electronics sucked down battery charge like you wouldn't believe, even when the camera was turned off.  The ISO's above 200 were plenty noisy.  Over 400 they were  unusable.  There was sometimes moire.  And color shifts across the frame.

But.....it was a great camera.  Not to many menu choices.  And in its narrow window the colors and sharpness were superb.  I shot with it a couple weeks ago.  A bit downtown and a few portraits.  Toe to toe with the 5dMk2 for flesh tones and color.  The Kodak actually had deeper and richer color but I guess I could match the Canon to the Kodak with enough saturation, hue adjustment and steeper contrast curve.  But,  the fun thing is that it really is toe to toe in its narrow band of capability.  And this is a six year old camera in a field that changes every six months.

Not saying I'm going to head backwards to 2004 or that you should abandon your D3's or A900's.  Just a nod to some engineering that did a good job putting food on the table and making big, brilliant photographs for a couple of years.  I've sold a lot of cameras as the digital bus has lurched forward from pothole to pothole but for some combination of nostalgia and historical appreciation I've never been able to sell my two favorite Kodak cameras:  The DCS 760 and the SLR/n.  In a sense, the DCS 760 and it's ancestors going back in the fog of time, invented and codified our idea of professional DSLR's.

Sometimes it's fun to see how far we've come.  And all the ways in which we really haven't.

Photo with Kodak SLR/n and 50mm Nikon 1.1.2 lens.


Rob Dutcher said...

Interesting. I was doing some shooting with my D2X today, which I realize is not that old, and was truly impressed with the files in LR2. The LCD screen is terrible and I always feel like I'm getting terrible shots until I look at them on the laptop. Still a great camera.

kirk tuck said...

I'll second that. That's one of those cameras that you realize (too late) you should never have let slip through your hands.....

Anonymous said...

The Kodak sensors seem to be special..i bought or rather donated money towards "Cancer Cure" street sale and recv'd a Kodak Digicam.The colors are really good, the sharpness really needs the "sharp"tool. The look though is more like film not digital..Sure it had the magenta=black in certain light, chalky white skin with flash occasionally.Of course Kodachrome did these 'things' too! Shot a fashion spread and the coat became brown from green.So it's fun for me with the $5.oo camera!

Godfrey DiGiorgi Photography said...

My old tech digital camera is now the Olympus E-1.
Just 5 Mpixels, slow as molasses compared to anything modern.
Near perfect ergonomics, all the features I need at my fingertips.
Great lenses.

Still a very fine camera. Hard to believe it's only six years old.

Did I contradict myself?