by Harry Flashman
Is Digital photography different?
the skills associated with film photography still used with digital
photography? There seems to be a very common notion that ‘somehow’ digital
photography is different from the old fashioned film photography. I do not
know how this happened, but let me assure you that digital and film cameras
do exactly the same job. It is only where the light falls and how it is
stored and recorded that is different.
All photography has worked on the principle of allowing light (the image) to
go through a lens and then fall on to a sensitized surface. Originally this
was a glass plate coated with silver compounds which got darker when exposed
to light. The degree of darkness depended upon how much light came through
the lens, and for what length of time. This is the principle covering
aperture (or lens opening), and shutter speed (how long the aperture is left
open). That principle still holds good today.
Originally, the aperture was literally as large as you could get, and the
time was measured in hours. This was because the sensitized material was
really not too sensitive at all.
The first improvement came in the lens design. These could let more light
through in a shorter period of time, and the aperture only needed to be left
open for a few minutes, rather than hours.
The next major development was sensitized film which could record an image
in fractions of a second. Photography in the 1900’s was very similar to the
technology today. You could capture an image at an aperture size of f 11
open for 1/60th of a second, on the film of the day.
During the next 100 years, lenses got better and gave less distortion, film
became more sensitive and gave clearer, sharper images, and the mechanical
shutter speeds approached 1/4000th of a second! Enough to stop a railway
train without being Superman!
Then came what people called the “digital revolution”. A completely new way
of photography, requiring special new cameras which could show you the image
you had just taken, immediately! No more agonizing waits at the film
processing shop. However, this is where the misnomer occurred. It was not a
“revolution” it was merely an “evolution”. The principles of photography
(sometimes called ‘painting with light’ by the romantics) were just the
same. And the application of them was just the same. A lens let in the
light, for a proscribed length of time, and this was recorded by light
sensitive electronic “film”. The difference was that you did not have to
develop this new electronic “film” in chemicals. It could be viewed
immediately by using electronic processing. Really, there was no difference.
Now, just as the old film cameras had aperture and shutter speed controls
that were adjustable by the photographer, guess what? The new digital
cameras have apertures and shutter speeds that are adjustable by the
photographer as well. And in the same way, you can get creative results from
your digital camera, exactly the same as you could with your film camera.
This is where some differences occur, however. With the ‘old fashioned’ film
cameras you rotated a dial on the lens barrel to open or close the diameter
of the aperture, and you had a dial on the top of the camera that you
rotated to give you different shutter speeds. The two factors could be
operated independently, and this was called Fully Manual Mode. However, they
could also be operated in conjunction with each other, called Aperture
Priority if the aperture was set first, or Shutter Priority, if the shutter
speed was set first. However, with these new-fangled revolutionary digital
cameras you got things called ‘drop down menus’ and you had to push
multi-purpose up, down and sideways buttons to select different apertures or
The message here is that all the old controls are still there, under your
control. It is just not as easy in my opinion (but I am still struggling
with the remote for the TV set). Simple rotary dials are quicker and easier
than drop-down menus for my money! But you are still in control.
Try a little creativity this weekend!
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