COLUMNISTS - DIGITAL DEAL
It's 1998 All Over Again?
Checking Out the Digi Take From "Mainstream" Media
By Don Sutherland
Hey, Digital Dude," called Slats the moment I came in the door,
"take a look at what I left for you on the kitchen table."
I saw an empty napkin holder alongside a disheveled stack of napkins, two salt shakers, two Victoria's Secret catalogs, 18 credit-card solicitations marked, "You May Have Been Approved," and a half-eaten jelly sandwich on a paper plate. I hardly know where to begin, I said.
"Under the sandwich. I put it there yesterday."
I lifted the paper plate, and beheld the May issue of Reader's Digest. What about it, I asked.
"I'll tell you what about it," said Slats. "It shows what a down-on-digital digital dude you've been. It's nice to see someone is up on digital photography!"
I'm so up on digital photography, my hair is brushing the ceiling.
"Someone with a little more circulation than thou," he continued, as if I'd said nothing at all. "I think they claim something like 34 million. Do you have 34 million readers?"
Maybe next week.
"To say nothing of their Website" he continued without skipping a beat, "and, of course, reprints! Right there at the end of the article, it tells everybody how to get reprints. So if you liked the article at home, you can get copies for everyone at school. Or at the office, if you're older.
And what is this resoundingly widely-read article about?
"Digital photography! What else? Take a look at how the big-timers do a digital photography article. Then, if you want to go stick your head in the oven, you're welcome to use my microwave."
What page is it on?
"What, you think I got a photographic memory, like Houdini? Look it up on the table of contents!"
There it was: "Should Your Next Camera Be Digital?" was the title. The subhead read, "What's not to like about virtually free photos?" I don't know how anyone can say digital photos are free, or even virtually free, I said.
"There you go! Right off the bat! You're so down on digital, you're making judgments before you've even opened the article. Of course digital photos aren't free! Who said they were? The Digest merely asks, 'What's not to like about them?'"
I get your point.
"You've got only the tip of my point! Take a look at the chart that runs with the article! That'll give you the entire shaft!"
The chart was titled "Close-up on Cost." From sources unspecified, it quoted "average" costs of film photography and digital photography over a five-year period. It assumed that "an active amateur photographer" shoots about eight 24-exposure rolls of film per year, or one 32MB memory card. The "average" price of a film camera was given as $225, digital as $300. Along with other economic considerations listed on the chart, the cost of using film over five years would be $1,050, and the cost of digital would be $745."
"They're playing your song, Mr. Down-on-Digital Digital Dude. Let's see you dance!"
It is kind of promising, I agree, to assume the average amateur will shoot 40 rolls of film over a five-year period. It gives me faith in my future as a columnist for Photo Trade News. I suppose it's even more promising to learn that a $300 digicam, in a footnote on the chart, requires only a one-Megapixel sensor to equal 35mm.
"Yeah, see? And here, all this time, you've been rambling on about the blessings of two-Megapixel, three-Megapixel, four-Megapixel, and now even five-Megapixel cameras in the consumer market. Just because Fuji and Kodak and Minolta and Nikon and Olympus and Sony are in love with those numbers, it doesn't mean anyone really takes them seriously. The Digest says you need only one Megapixel to equal 'film quality, and who knows more about photography? Minolta? Or the Digest?'"