Ontario Journalist, Writer, Photography & Filmmaker

The ‘Forced’ Digital Upgrade – A Small Morning Rant

I’ve recently been a part of some discussions on commonalities between film and digital and film concepts that have carried over to digital. In particular, a discussion on whether HDR techniques could be used with scanned film (they can) and on whether Zone System concepts could be applied in digital photography (some can). Sadly, there remain those whose raison d’être in life seems to be to turn otherwise positive and productive discussions into digital vs. film urinating contests.  Sadder still is the ignorance the luddites display with respect to digital technology and that their personal preference for film means that film is superior in every respect to digital.  These arguments have become more than a little tiresome.

But what’s perhaps most irksome is the specious argument that shooting digital forces upgrades.  The (il)logic goes that camera makers force photographers to upgrade each time a new generation of a camera model comes out.  Really?  I can’t speak for anyone else but I’ve never had a camera maker come to my door, put a gun to my head and say ‘upgrade or you won’t be able to photograph anything ever again’.  It’s a ludicrous argument.  And frankly it ticks me off.  The film shooters talk like new and improved camera models are unique to the world of digital photography.

It’s simply not the case.  In the B.D. (Before Digital) days of photography, camera makers were coming out with new and improved models with about the same frequency as they do now with digital models.  And keep in mind here I’m looking primarily at SLR-type cameras.  Why wasn’t the ‘forced upgrade’ palaver invoked B.D.?  ‘Oh, well because my 50 year old SLR still takes fine pictures today’.  OK, and an 11 year old Canon D30 still doesn’t take pictures today?  Sure it will, provided it’s been looked after properly, just as that 50 year old camera has to be looked after to still work.

Now, it is true that given the relative newness of digital technology in photography upgrading had significant benefits.  Image quality was improved (among other things), sometimes quite dramatically so, by upgrading to a newer model.  But no one is forced to upgrade.  I know photographers who are still using their 20D cameras and making outstanding photos with them.  The camera doesn’t define the photographer.

Increase in resolution and printing capability?  I’m not sure there’s a broad awareness that in order to double the resolution, you need to quadruple the number of pixels.  Yes, that’s right – QUADRUPLE!  So the increase from 12 to 21 MP going from the Canon 5D to the 5D Mk II wasn’t even a 50% increase in resolution.  Or that the 12 to 24 MP jump going from the Nikon D3 to D3x was but a 50% increase in resolution.  And that’s a staggering jump.  Rarely are pixel counts increased that much.  With the printers and interpolation algorithms available today, very good prints can be made from 6 and 8 megapixel cameras. So the idea that upgrading is required to be able to print BIG doesn’t fit either.

So let’s resign this flawed notion of the ‘forced digital upgrade’ to the scrap heap of photographic history, shall we?  And perhaps get back to more important discussions?  Like whether using a UV filter on the front of a lens is the ‘right’ thing to do. 😉