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Has Digital Really Increased Image Quality?  
User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4939 posts, RR: 7
Posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 3814 times:

Hi all,

Just another attempt at making this forum fun again!

I came kicking and screaming from slide/film to digital as I didn't initially trust the digital media. Of course that's all behind me now and I love digital, however I often find myself shooting at though I'm still using 35mm!

Although I perhaps wouldn't ever again visit an airport with my old SLR, I still love film and it's what I grew up with. So my question is this - has image quality overall improved with digital? With film you had to get it exactly right first (and only) time, otherwise you binned it. Does past experience with the older media make us better photographers? Or just different?

Reason I ask is because a few weeks ago a chap was showing me some of his images taken with a 12.1MP DSLR. In many images the subject was tiny in the frame and completely unlevel, however by the time the images reached A.net they were perfect. Of course with a 3MP camera this amount of cropping would have resulted in far too much quality-loss, but with so many mega-pixels to play with it wasn't noticeable in the slightest. So are high mega-pixel cameras taking the art out of it? Are we getting lazy? Are we thinking less about the shot compositionally and relying too much on Photoshop (our personal digital darkroom)? Let's face it, Photoshop can mask a multitude of sins which would have stuck out like a sore thumb on slide or film.

Is this unique to the new breed of photographers or are some ex-slide shooters becoming a little idle? I must admit, since digital my personal standards have slipped slightly simply because I know that minor faults can be corrected in Photoshop - but my composition and framing is more-or-less the same as it ever was (not quite as tight-in as it used to be perhaps). Is there in today's standard of photography a right and a wrong way to do things? Is this a positive or a negative thing? Are some slide shooters too elitist maybe? And the ultimate question when taking into account everything above - is digital REALLY giving us better photographs? And is it creating better photographers?

Opinions please.


8 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineBelfordrocks From Australia, joined Nov 2007, 60 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 3803 times:

It's giving us better photographs, but not making us better photographers.

User currently offlineCpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 5058 posts, RR: 34
Reply 2, posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 3778 times:

Digital is giving us more opportunities, but it's up to the person operating the camera to be a better photographer.

Quoting JakTrax (Thread starter):
So are high mega-pixel cameras taking the art out of it? Are we getting lazy?

No. It's how you use them. I still treat things like I'm using film, meaning try to get the subject as close to full framed as possible, and do as little cropping as possible.

User currently offlineStealthZ From Australia, joined Feb 2005, 5898 posts, RR: 38
Reply 3, posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 3762 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Quoting Belfordrocks (Reply 1):
It's giving us better photographs


There is an interesting discussion all on it's own!!

If your camera sends text messages, that could explain why your photos are rubbish!
User currently offlineKukkudrill From Malta, joined Dec 2004, 1123 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 3688 times:

In my opinion cropping and framing depend on what you intend to do with an image.

These days I shoot with the possibility of print use foremost in my mind, rather than uploading to a.net. The more you have to crop, the smaller you can print at 300 ppi and the fewer the potential uses for the image. Ideally I would avoid having to crop at all, but you don't always get it right. I have adopted the benchmark that if I have to crop smaller than 2700 pixels width (that's 9 inches at 300 ppi, or a page width plus generous bleed area) I bin the image. Or else I keep it for a.net.

However I do not believe in a.net style tight margins because it limits the page designer's options. If you want to see what I mean have a look at the photo in this page:


This was probably a tightly framed 3:2 image but the BBC seems to have a 4:3 standard for all images on its website - perhaps a coding constraint. The result is an awkwardly cropped subject.

Also, photos with the subject off centre - too low, too high, or to the side - might look strange to most people here but they can make great magazine layouts. Think of a double-page spread with text occupying the empty space. So, for me, such photos are not necessarily rejects. Indeed some stock photo agencies tell you to try different compositions - close in, zoomed out, horizontal, vertical with lots of sky - because there is no telling what a page designer might need.

For a.net, however, I have no problem cropping as heavily as necessary provided enough quality remains. In this shot, for example

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Charles Polidano - Touch The Skies

the F-16 was tucked into the left side of the frame and I had to cut the image down to less than half its size. I would very much have preferred to frame it better, but the plane was doing a fast pass. The photo was a reject by my own 2700 pixel benchmark but it turned out ok for a.net.

Bottom line is I do not equate tight margins with image quality. How you frame your subject depends very much on what your purpose is.

Make the most of the available light ... a lesson of photography that applies to life
User currently offlineINNflight From Switzerland, joined Apr 2004, 3783 posts, RR: 56
Reply 5, posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3666 times:

It makes some people lazy indeed.

"oh, I can crop that later"

"yes it is dark, but I will adjust it in photoshop at home"


And yes, there's tons of them around, no matter where  Wink

As for better image quality, if you speak small format, yes I guess.

But just wait until the H4D hits the shelves...you could get some HIGH quality files with those.  beady 

Jet Visuals
User currently offlineSpencer From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1642 posts, RR: 15
Reply 6, posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3656 times:

Haha don't think we need to wait quite for that Flo!!! Remember Chris' pictures with the '3?! Amazing clarity.
But back to Karl's question. If you're talking about quality straight out of a DSLR then it's pretty poor quality and definitely needs working. So film wins there. But when I compare 6x4s from my film days with D prints then it's obvious to me which one has superior quality. I wouldn't however like to compare a slide on the projector to a fullsize D file, not from my cameras anyway...

EOS1D4, 7D, 30D, 100-400/4.5-5.6 L IS USM, 70-200/2.8 L IS2 USM, 17-40 f4 L USM, 24-105 f4 L IS USM, 85 f1.8 USM
User currently offlineCpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 5058 posts, RR: 34
Reply 7, posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3651 times:

Quoting Spencer (Reply 6):
If you're talking about quality straight out of a DSLR then it's pretty poor quality and definitely needs working.

They aren't always that bad. Maybe the definition of "poor" is subjective.

Perhaps it applies to consumer DSLRs with kit-lenses, but very high grade professional level DSLR's with very sharp, high-quality lenses are usually quite good.

Yes, not immediately airliners.net material, but you should at least get something pretty reasonable. When I resize an image down to 1280x853 or whatever, whatever bit of softness I did have disappears right away, and I have mostly a very sharp image that needs only a tiny bit of selective sharpening (if that), but never multi-pass sharpening like what some people use.

I don't even use in-camera sharpening.

User currently offlineDvincent From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 1801 posts, RR: 11
Reply 8, posted (6 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 3633 times:

Quoting INNflight (Reply 5):
"oh, I can crop that later"

I'm pretty sure I cropped and enlarged prints all the time when I used film. To be fair, though, I never shot much slide film, I used negative film.

Quoting Cpd (Reply 7):
I don't even use in-camera sharpening.

This is not a good idea because the in-camera sharpening (or the sharpening done by your RAW converter, in which case the camera sharpening setting obviously has no effect) is not the same as the sharpening you do later on in PS. Capture sharpening removes the inherent blur caused by the antialiasing filter in your camera, it works on different processes than your final output sharpening.

I think the "get it right in the camera with film" is a bit of a fallacy because people spent tons and tons of time in the darkroom in the bad old days. I know I spent more time than I would have liked with bottles of fixer. Maybe people forgot about that in the age of chrome slides that you couldn't process yourself, but the initial exposure was only half the battle. Even when you sent out your chromes to be processed there's a guy in the darkroom doing adjustments for you because that color film doesn't just come out by itself. You're just offloading the development expertise to someone else. Now, in the age of RAW, processing color photographs is back in the photographer's hands.

While you might be able to get a certain "look" from film, in terms of resolution and especially higher ISO performance combined with immediate turnaround today's modern digitals have a gigantic advantage. Digital image quality might not have improved in the compact market, but in terms of APS and full-frame sensors the creative opportunities opened up by digital are massive. Imagine thinking about high resolution clean color ISO 3200 fifteen years ago - you would have been laughed out for suggesting such craziness. Yet today it's an everyday occurrence.

From the Mind of Minolta
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