This question has been needed to be
asked almost monthly. Several years ago, when digital imaging
was just starting to grab a significant part of the terrestrial
market and moving toward the 1 megapixel mark, this question
began to be asked on an ever increasingly frequent basis.
Manufacturers of consumer cameras bragged that they could
produce a print almost as good as film could. At this time,
this statement was more helpful to the manufacturer than it
was to the end user. Even 3 by 5 prints were severely pixelated.
A decent photolab print off a throwaway film camera produced
a far superior result.
The vaunted kodak-nikon pro digital camera, with it 2-plus
digital image---the first "megapixel" digital camera----cost
megabucks! Great for news paper photogs, however, the serious
underwater photographer vaunted no part of it.
Underwater still photographers pretty much sort out into
basically two types---snap shotters and fine art photographers.
They are either very casual grabshotmeisters or they are going
to do a slide show for their club or hang 8 X 10—or
better yet—--11 x 14 or 16 x 20 prints on the walls
of their homes or businesses. Even more better, publication—--sales
(Skin Diver magazine would be OK, unless National Geographic....)
money! fame! romance!
Up until a couple of years ago, digital just wasn't cutting
it for the underwater folk. The cheap digital cameras, quality
at about 1 to 2 megapixels, could make a decent 4 x 6 and
push hard on making a not-too-gawdawful 5 x 7, but required
a reasonably formidable knowledge of computer technology to
pull it off. Way too much trouble for the average diver (with
some notable exceptions)! Very little interest on the part
of housing manufacturers was afoot.
When the "threes" came out a couple of years ago,
Nikon Coolpix 900 and 950 as well as Olympus 3000 3-plus megapixel
series, with Canon and others entering the frey, 8 x 10 prints
of a pretty respectable quality level came within the reach
of the now-burgeoning multitudes of digital camera users.
At this point, underwater housing manufacturers became interested.
Underwater still photography has been going digital ever since.
Five megapixel cameras, such as the Nikon Coolpix 5000 and
Coolpix 5700 are producing nice 11x14 prints -—and just
about all the rest of the camera manufacturers have 5 meggers
and many are being housed. And not just housed! The new housings
for these digital cameras are becoming slicker, tricker and
quicker than ever. Film camera housings, typically with 5
or 6 controls at most, until very recently, have evolved in
the last couple of years to the point that virtually everything
on the camera is controllable with up to 20 or more buttons,
knobs and levers on a housing. Digital housings started here
and went forward. If an accordian would fit inside, you could
The last holdouts for film as a serious group have been
the professional photographers-- magazine, advertising, commercial,
glamor, and such. We just got a call from one of the most
major of them all. She wants to house her new digital canon
at about 11 megapixels for a big magazine assignment. She
went bonkers over hearing about the coming Oceanhaus housing
for the new Hasselblad H1 with Kodak digital back. This will
be the new high-end pro standard at 22 megapixels, and will
get better with time.
Has digital caught up with film? It has caught up with, and
seriously passed 35mm film and seems to even have outstrided
medium format as a "by-the way".
Our love affair with film is over. As with most affairs,
some of us will remain in denial. Some have grieved. Some
have moved on-- easily dropping the old and enthusiastically
embracing the new. Some will never love again and will will
go on in a limbo-- in a state of concocted denial, grief and
self delusion. Their cry will be "it just doesn't have
the "look" film had!" "Boo-hoo!"
"It has no soul!" "Wah! Wah!"
Do these people really know the difference? You bet! If you
showed them 2 prints —side by side, one off film and
one digital, Iwould be willing to bet the farm that a full
51-----even 52% of them would get it right--- at least half
I know this because I am one of these people, having forever
given my heart and soul to film.
I will keep my favorite film camera! But don't be too surprised
if you see me in Fiji jumping into the sea with the latest
11 megapixel digital model, though.
Hubba hubba, you all!!!