Back to film

After using my Olympus C-2100 UZ digital camera for several years exclusively I slowly revive my old film equipment. Despite the great practical advantages of digital cameras such as immediate feedback, in-camera processing, no dust (with a proper camera), no scratches, data safety, low snapshot costs, low weight, etc., there are still some problems. I was very happy with the Olympus camera initially and I learned a lot using it. But with the learning process the camera’s drawbacks became apparent: grain replaced by noise and aggressive image processing, too low depth of field replaced by too high depth of field, too low contrast replaced by too high contrast, high sensitivity replaced by inability to take long exposures. I consider the 10x zoom C-2100 lens being quite good, but it has its limits too: it doesn’t provide wide angle focal range and it suffers from occasional chromatic aberration.

Ironically, the camera buries itself by teaching me. The clever guys at Olympus have probably even implemented it as a feature – while the camera costed more than all my previous photographic equipment together, it lasted less than any of the other components. It took only a bit more than 3 years before it started to suffer from serious mechanical problems. So I started to look for a replacement not only because of my new requirements, but also because of possible future complete failure of the made-in-Japan camera.

Compact digital cameras haven’t made much progress since Olympus C-2100. The number of pixels increased significantly, but without big impact on the resulting picture quality. The processing algorithms were improved, but that’s basically all. It makes no point for me to buy another camera with a small sensor. And good digital cameras are still too expensive (Sony DSC R1 being the cheapest one, but still exceeding what I could reasonably pay).

In this situation I’ve started to make experiments with my old Praktica-based equipment about a year ago. I hope it can complement the Olympus camera or even to replace it completely for some time in case of its complete failure. One can’t resist nostalgia when holding the old equipment in his hands: Solid construction, no batteries needed, the feel of complete control over the camera, listening to the shutter and mirror noise again after the years of silence… But the primary result of this change (not counting changes to one’s physical condition caused by carrying the heavy equipment) is that I have to be very careful with taking pictures again. It starts by changing lenses, mounting the camera to a tripod, manual focusing, guessing proper depth of field, considering metering corrections, etc. It takes a lot of time to take a picture, but it’s the more amusing part. The tedious part is processing the developed film. I’m not going to make prints at minilab, I want to process the images myself electronically and store them in my computer. And this is no easy thing with film. I’ll write more about my experience with this later.

digiKam

My long term observation about GNOME and KDE is that GNOME is stronger in desktop, while KDE is stronger in applications. One of the excellent KDE applications is digiKam.

The most popular free image processing tool, GIMP, hasn’t succeeded to become a tool for serious work. Its lack of important features (such as 16-bit color support) and poor user interface make it suitable just for occasional use and perhaps for web designers. Lack of free usable photo processing and management tools has motivated me to develop my own photo processing program as a part of my Springtail Lisp tools. But due to lack of time and zero support from McCLIM developers Springtail didn’t provide completely satisfying results.

About a year ago I discovered digiKam. After trying it I’ve abandoned the Springtail photo application development immediately. Not that digiKam offered all the features present in Springtail and everything I needed, but it provided interesting features, good user interface and was well maintained. It was clear to me that this may be the right tool and it made no sense to invest my effort into development of my own tool instead of helping a promising project.

I can say that digiKam fulfills my expectations and I recommend it to photo enthusiasts who look for a good photo editing and management tool. It can’t do everything and there are many features that could be improved, but this is up to us – we can file bug reports, vote for bugs and make patches. I believe this project is well maintained and it’s worth to help it.

Grain in scanned images

There has been an interesting discussion on comp.periphs.scanners recently about scanners, film grain, noise and aliasing. I wondered why my 2400dpi scanner produces very grainy scans in comparison with prints (and the scanned images are of much worse quality than pictures from my 2Mpix camera because of the grain) and why the grain is more visible in dark areas. Now it’s more clear to me (I hope), especially thanks to the Web page mentioned in the discussion. Basically, grain doesn’t match well with digital technologies and you need a very high resolution device to cope with it.

Shiny nights

These days we have clear sky, full moon and a lot of snow. We can’t enjoy such wonderful conditions at our geographical location often. And because winter moon is high, I took my old photography equipment (which suffers of no problems working at -10°C for long time) and entered the night to take some snapshots of it. Unsurprisingly photographing under moon light proved to be tricky, I don’t expect any usable result. But I can give you one advice immediately: Before you take your heavy bag with tripod and dive into cold winter night, check the camera remote control, which always used to be in the bag, is still there and it’s there at its usual place.

photo.net subscriber

I finally became a photo.net subscriber. I don’t use the site much, but I like the idea of a non-commercial photo site supported by its users. I’ve found photo.net no longer requires a PayPal account to pay the fee, so it’s easier to subscribe now.

BTW, do you know who is Philip Greenspun, the photo.net founder and the author of the famous Greenspun’s Tenth Rule of Programming? He is an interesting person and I recommend reading his articles.