Magazine Article


The Golden Age of Photography Part 2: Beyond the Digicam Revolution

We could probably bring a portable USB disk drive on our jaunts through the world, and not a pricey notebook, plug it into the nearest desktop, and download on the spot. Have you seen some of the monster USB portable drives from the likes of Maxtor?

With the Toughbook at sea, however, I'm also able to do things that take-over the computer. Writing CDs is an example (or DVDs, more recently). Having a file on a magnetic disk is nice, but a CD-R or DVD-R is theoretically less vulnerable to some kinds of damage. With Photoshop also on the system, I can be way out to sea—but never at a loss for processing and archiving the day's catches.

That's where things stand at the moment. What can we imagine next?

The Wildcards

Well, it depends, first of all, on the photography industry pointing all these things out, and selling them to the public. The photography industry hasn't done much of that—too soon, they might think, if they've thought about it at all.

Can the mass market afford to buy gigabyte memory cards? Will they be willing—can they be trained—to go through a hundred photos, finding the one most perfect? Are they willing to tote notebook computers, or even USB drives?

These are the wildcards. They're more changes to the changes. Some of them are beyond our control. Some that are within our control may get ignored, anyway.

But if the $3,000 CD-burner of 1996 is the $69 special of 2002, I'm not that worried about prices. Back in our September 2002 issue I quoted a gent from Philips, saying DVD+R recordable blanks would drop from their $12-each price tags by the beginning of the year. I saw name-brand advertisements for them at $3 per disc in Thanksgiving sales circulars.

It's a new year. It's a new age. I'm getting that old feeling. ptn

Special Sneak Peek: Sigma SD9

As we've mentioned before, the Sigma SD9 is one of the most eagerly awaited digital cameras of the year because it's the first to use Foveon's innovative x3 imager. We published the first picture taken by a prototype in the Cygnus Photokina News, our on-site newspaper in Cologne last September, and re-ran that picture here two issues back. We commented favorably on the sharpness of the camera, but deliberately avoided discussing color quality—this should not be considered until shipping models are available. Just as this issue went to press, we were able to begin our tests with a shipping version. The picture appearing here is as it was acquired by the Sigma's excellent download software in "auto" mode—that is, we made no adjustments to the picture at all. This is the camera's "native interpretation," which to us looks particularly favorable in the skin tones. We bring this up in light of reviews elsewhere that judged the camera's color quality based on a prototype, and complained of excessive yellows in the skin tones. There's a lot of yellow in our shot—in the tugboat in the background—but that's the correct shade of orange for that vessel, which is also seen elsewhere in this issue of PTN.

Our impression of the SD9 camera so far: blow-away good on every score. We'll have a more comprehensive review next issue.

For those who are interested, the picture above is of Veronica, who is also the figure standing on the deck of the tug in our opening shot. We bring this up because, seeing that older picture, some people seem to assume that the "deckhand" is a guy. Ha. (Photo by Don Sutherland.)