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February 27, 2012

When Digital Wasn’t An Easy Sell

by Darren Stone

Way back in 1975 -- when Kodachrome color slides and Kodak Instamatics were all the rage -- Kodak researcher Steve Sasson built the first digicam, cobbled together from spare parts and bleeding edge digital technology.

It seems ridiculous now.

But if you were a photographer a decade or so ago, the word on the street was, digital cameras were going to wipe out photography. Kill the craft and lower the quality. I remember standing in front of photo students, pleading with them to embrace this brave new world of digital. It wasn’t an easy sell with the first generation of digital cameras. The bubble had just burst….the jury was still out on digital..

At newspapers we never had a choice. It was do or die. And initially, digital cameras were extremly difficult to use. If you used one the first digital SLR’s, you’d wonder why anyone would want to do this as a hobby. If you accidentally shot at 400 ISO you’d be panic stricken. Exposure had to be “slide film” accurate on one of those babies. The sensors? A whopping 2 million pixels. Try cropping that.

Newspaper photographers knew that digital cameras would become faster and easier to use. We just needed to be pioneers and slog through the early days.

But now, the skill and craft required to secure an image isn’t what it used to be. Anyone can get a properly exposed image on a digital camera. And you don’t have to practice the art of loading film anymore. And who cares?

The opinions on digital photography 10-15 years ago seem absurd in retrospect. Digital arguably saved photography when things were getting pretty stale in the nineties. The biggest news at the time was the introduction of faster films and auto-focus.

The only thing we can be sure of is change. So let’s grab our phones….or whatever….. get out there and take some photos!

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe


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