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Digital Capture's Future

(April 2008) posted on Wed Apr 09, 2008

With film disappearing and digital cameras becoming more advanced, what happens to digital capture?

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By Jeff Dorgay

The progress in digital capture has been staggering over the last 15 years. We’ve gone from scanners that made funny grinding noises and bulky 1-megapixel cameras to relatively inexpensive desktop scanners with results that rival what used to require a color house and 10-megapixel compact cameras. It was never that good in the film-based world; the only advances we were treated to in the last 20 years of that product cycle were auto focus and T-grain film. So it’s been a whirlwind ride indeed.

How have the basic capture tools that we have always depended on changed? And where are they headed in the future? Let's take a look at these questions and others on the pages that follow.

The impact of film's fall

Kodak and Fuji claim that 70 percent of working professionals still use film, but in talking to the major film retailers it appears that film sales are way down from five years ago. That’s the big turning point: Many retailers report that their business has totally gone from a softgoods business to a hardware business-photographers who used to spend thousands on film, paper, Polaroid, and chemicals are now buying more digital cameras, software, and memory cards, and most professionals are not printing any major quantities of digital photos.

So who’s buying all the film these days? It has become three major groups: high-end professional photographers, entry-level consumers, and analog die-hards who just don’t want to give up shooting film. With deadlines constantly shrinking, most art directors want to walk out the door with a disc in hand, but the top agencies (possibly because of the age of their senior art directors) still are more comfortable with film. One told me that the reason film was still very attractive in a high-dollar campaign was 'because you can still hold a piece of film in your hand and re-scan it if everything else goes wrong." With SanDisc selling 12-GB Compact Flash cards for less than $100, however, I don’t know how long this will hold true.