Parallels in a Digital Universe

by Derrick Story

The question I used to be asked all the time, "Is digital photography going to replace film?" is now being replaced by the audio version, "Will online music replace CDs?" If you're in a hurry and don't have time for the rest of this post, the answer to both questions is "No."



I'll start with music because thanks to the Apple Music Store, many of us are all a buzz about legally buying single tracks online without having to bother with a subscription service. (Although, realistically speaking, Mac OS X is a subscription service. I seriously doubt that the next release, Panther, will be free.)



Aside from that, the convenience of buying music online through the Music Store is unmatched. It's terrific. But it's not CD quality. I read a nice little article where Gunnar Van Vliet, self-described Mac user and music lover, wanted to know how good AAC was in comparison to MP3, and finally to see if it could come close to standard CD. AAC is the codec that Apple is using for its Music Store. It's very good, but according to Gunnar, it's not CD quality. And my ears agree.



My view is that online music is a different way to acquire and listen to music. It sounds great when you plug in your earphones; it's good over a DJ's PA system, but on a high end stereo system in your living room, you can tell the difference between AAC and the original CD. Both versions are going to be around for a long time. They serve different purposes.



It's the same with digital photography. I have a 6.3 megapixel Canon EOS 10D. This is a great camera, and I enjoy shooting with it more than any other right now. So am I going to toss my Contax RX and Elan 7 35mm bodies? No way. Film is different than digital. I like both. And to be a complete photographer, I need both.



VHS did not put movie theaters out of business, AAC won't hurt CD sales, and film photography is here to stay. We have parallel universes right now, and I'm digging it. What a great time to enjoy and create movies, pictures, and music.



You want 5,000 songs in your pocket? You got it. Want the clarity of CD on a high end stereo. Enjoy. Store all of your photos on a FireWire drive, or make fine art enlargements from film -- it's your choice. And I didn't even have time to get to digital video...


13 Comments

anonymous2
2003-05-14 05:18:56
Foveon X3
Derrick,


I'm curious as to how you think Foveon's X3 chip will factor into your "digital will supplement, not replace traditional" theory?


I wish they'd get the chip into some more bodies other than just a Sigma SD9, but that problem aside...


I think this technologoy (whether implemented by Foveon, Cannon, Minolta or any other photo company) has the potential to relegate film photography to the hobbyists and purists. For all practical purposes, digital photography WILL replace film photography, much the way digital photo manipulation has replaced darkroom manipulation techniques.


Sure, people still do darkroom manipulations, but only because they enjoy some aspect of it (ie, a hobbyist) or because they're learning about the history of photography.


I see film photography heading the same direction, now that someone's proved sensors can surpass film.

anonymous2
2003-05-14 06:32:36
Foveon X3 - more info
Forgot - for those unfamiliar with Foveon's X3, recommended reading is:


http://www.dpreview.com/news/0202/02021101foveonx3.asp
http://www.dpreview.com/news/0202/02021103foveonx3preview.asp
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sigmasd9/

derrick
2003-05-14 08:15:18
Foveon X3 - Film Killer?
It's a good question.


First, I think the Foveon X3 chip has great potential to become "the chip" in quality digicams. I'm a little surprised that it isn't moving along faster. Right now it needs more megapixels and someone besides Sigma using it.


But let's assume that it does surpass film quality (the top Kodak camera is just about there, as well at Canon's flagship, at $4,500 and $7,000 respectively), I still don't think it will eliminate film. But it can dominate once:


- Prices come down so digicams are almost as affordable as film cameras.
- PCs get even easier to use. Let's face it, we're still writing books on how to use iPhoto, which is about as simple as it gets in digital photography. And even I have to refer to the book now and then.
- People figure out how to store and retrieve digital pictures. For most folks, storage is a disaster.
- My mom grabs a digicam for her next cruise trip instead of a Kodak disposable.


For shooters like you and me, digital photography is a no-brainer. But at the moment, film gives you the best quality for the least amount of money. You can buy a $75 camera, put a $5 roll of print film in it, and have enough quality to make a 16 x 20 print. That's hard to beat.


Plus, film technology isn't standing still either. And those pesky film manufacturers are making improvements all the time.


Personally, I think this is all great fun.

anonymous2
2003-05-14 11:03:25
double-blind testing
Any results provided by an 'audiophile' that isn't from a double-blind test is worthless. When the 'audiophile' starts the review of his results by claiming that *not* doing the test double-blind is a *good* thing, you know you are dealing with an idiot.


Would anyone approve of medical tests that ignored the overwhelming evidence of very real placebo effects?


The only people who "get it" less are those that compare perceptual codecs with waveform analyzers.


I hate the term 'audiophile' as the only audio these people love is the sound of their own voice. Kids with transistor radios and people who understand the joy of having 1,000 songs in their pocket are the real audiophiles, not borderline-autistic chauvanists whose 'golden' ears prevent them from enjoying music on any equipment tainted by actually being available to the hoi polloi.

anonymous2
2003-05-14 11:41:56
"realistically speaking"?
If Mac OS X, "realistically speaking," is "a subscription service," as you say, then what, pray tell, isn't a subscription service?


Are books the same as a newspaper, because I'll eventually want to read another one? If my flashlight a "subscription service" because I'll eventually have to buy new batteries?


And this ignores the fact that I'll *never* have to buy the next for-pay release of Mac OS X, as long as I'm happy with what I have.


I'm not sure "realistically" means what you think it means. :-)

anonymous2
2003-05-14 15:52:44
"realistically speaking"?
I'm new to this site. Is the sarcastic tone from the previous poster typical here?
derrick
2003-05-14 17:16:30
"realistically speaking"? Attitude
I think you'll see that most of our TalkBack contributors are quite gentile, and are really trying to join in a conversation. Others, well, you know...
derrick
2003-05-14 17:26:08
double-blind testing -- heh
I don't necessarily agree with your acerbic response.


We're having a nice friendly chat about codecs, not trying to determine if major surgery is required. Regardless of what testing method is used, the results are going to be that 128 MP3 isn't quite as good as 128 AAC, and that neither are as good as CD quality.


But, we don't always need CD quality. I just had a nice two hour drive back from meetings at Apple, and my iPod sounded great the entire way plugged into my car stereo system. Many of the tunes were from the Music Store.


BTW: I haven't seen the Cupertino folks this excited since the original iMac. We talked music on every break.

anonymous2
2003-05-17 15:43:45
Not parallel
The correct parallel question is: "Will digital audio replace vinyl records?". The answer for digital photography is equally clear, and it will happen sooner than you think.


The other question that you ask is about distribution format. And there also, the answer is that online audio distribution will indeed completely replace physical media. But not yet. Apple's offering is only one step in that direction.


For video, the switch to digital will take even longer. But it will happen. First in format. Then in distribution.

anonymous2
2003-05-21 09:00:25
"realistically speaking"?
You're right; my tone was sarcastic and out-of-place, for which I apologize.
anonymous2
2003-09-04 20:37:43
double-blind testing
what is double-blind testing?
philpot
2003-12-16 05:21:22
Foveon X3
I have tried contacting Kodak who make the sensor currently in the Olympus E-1. The question: are you looking into 3-layer devices like "Foveon". Not even an acknowlegement, they went quiet. I think that if Foveon hold solid patents then unless the others buy the rights or find workarounds we may see this taken up slower than it's excellence would suggest.
I read with curiosity that Foveon have returned to the microprosms solution with their SD10 with no mention of the shortcomings inherent in three-depth colour sensing. I have seen no reference to any explanation for this
philpot
2003-12-16 05:22:28
Foveon X3
I have tried contacting Kodak who make the sensor currently in the Olympus E-1. The question: are you looking into 3-layer devices like "Foveon". Not even an acknowlegement, they went quiet. I think that if Foveon hold solid patents then unless the others buy the rights or find workarounds we may see this taken up slower than it's excellence would suggest.
I read with curiosity that Foveon have returned to the microprosms solution with their SD10 with no mention of the shortcomings inherent in three-depth colour sensing. I have seen no reference or any explanation for this. Anyone know what's what?