(for the Fun of It)
New Technology Eases Transition
to Digital SLRs
BY GREG BURSON, PHOTOGRAPHIC SPECIALIST
FUJIFILM PHOTOGRAPHIC TESTING FACILITY, EDISON, N.J.
Working as a photographer since
1959, I've watched cameras evolve from simple manual machines into
very sophisticated fully automatic devices. When it comes to
capturing an image, most cameras today do nearly all the "thinking"
for you. These improvements in technology, however, have left one
thing unchanged—the way film is actually exposed. Until
recently, it took only a short trip up the learning curve to
understand how to use a new camera's controls before you could
start making images.
When interchangeable-lens 35mm SLR-body pro digital cameras arrived on the scene, they brought a totally new technology, along with a completely unfamiliar vocabulary, including JPEG, TIFF, and RAW image file formats, CCD and CMOS chips; a variety of memory cards (SmartMedia, CompactFlash Type I and II); and file sizes described in pixels. The list goes on and on.
My job at Fuji Photo Film U.S.A. Inc. involves shooting, testing, and demonstrating new and current Fujifilm Professional products. Nearly two years ago, I was presented with a Fujifilm FinePix S1 Pro SLR digital camera and told to test and play with it. I was both excited and intimidated when first handling the camera. I immediately saw that the S1 Pro had a lot in common with conventional 35mm SLRs—ISO settings, shutter speeds, f-stops, metering system, and an interchangeable lens mount. All that gave me hope I wouldn't have to start
One of the differences between conventional and digital cameras is how the correct exposure is obtained. With the S1, as with most digital cameras, it was very easy to determine where I wanted the "normal exposure" in a scene. All I had to do was view the image on the 2-inch LCD color monitor on the back of the camera and use the pop-up histogram that depicts the range of highlights to shadows of an exposure and the color range of the image.
When I first started testing digital cameras in general, I noticed that many didn't offer a highlight-to-shadow range as wide as that found on film. Like transparency film, the cameras would lose image detail in the highlights before the shadows. Slight over- or underexposure affects the contrast or color saturation of an image. This, however, can be fixed to some degree with image-editing software. But why use a program to subtract or add information to an image arbitrarily, when the correct data can be captured during the exposure?
By taking full advantage of the new Fujifilm Super CCD chip technology, the FinePix S1 Pro delivers professional image quality with high resolution, linear tonality from highlights to shadows, well-balanced color reproduction, and low-noise characteristics even in shadow areas.
A CCD sensor must be able to handle many different types of photographic situations. It's not like film, where photographers can change film types to meet the requirements of an individual photograph.
By making a selection on the camera menu, the FinePix S1 Pro, for example, is able to accommodate all types of image situations. The menu allows for overall shifts in color temperature. Saturation and contrast can also be changed exposure by exposure or remain constant as long as desired, as well as be adjusted when making multiple exposures.
With a digital camera, there's no more wasting frames when changing from one film to another. Lens focal length and perspective provides another difference between digital and conventional 35mm-format cameras. The FinePix S1 Pro Super CCD chip has one of the largest areas, measuring 23.3x15.6mm.
The difference between the sensor area and the 35mm-format frame size produces a focal-length factor of 1.5X. To determine the effective focal length of the lens used, just multiply the focal length by 1.5. For example, a 100mm lens has an effective focal length of 150mm on the FinePix S1.
Even though the S1 Pro is digital, when its images are printed on long-lasting Fujicolor Crystal Archive RA-4 color paper by a digital Fujifilm Frontier printer, it's almost impossible to tell if the photos were made with a digital camera or a high-quality film camera.
What surprised me the most about my first encounter with digital photography is that I was overcome with a strong desire to start creating images for their own sake. I regained fresh enthusiasm for photography that had somewhat diminished over the years.
It's like that first new car, and how excited you were to drive it. After a few years, the car is still okay, but you don't have that wonderful feeling there once was.