Links for informative reviews of digital photography camera equipment.
Digital imaging technology is improving at a rate which is hard to keep track of. The first digital camera I used took a miniature image half the size of 35mm (yet it cost about $28,000). One year later the Kodak sensors had improved in quality and size, just short of 35mm format (but still about $28,000). A year later, the large format Dicomed appeared, the price dropped from $23,000 to $19,000 in one year. Prices for the Dicomed have dropped substantially since then. BetterLight has taken over as the professional choice for large format digital scan backs (BetterLight was judged a superior large format scanning system at the recent PMA trade show in Las Vegas, the largest photography trade show in America). Now the prices of large format scanning backs have dropped to about $14,000 while the quality has climbed considerably.
FLAAR is currently setting up one more digital photography studio at Flaar facilities in Guatemala. This digital photography studio involve making the same kind of decisions that thousands of photographers face, namely, how to decide which digital camera to buy, and how to understand the many different digital technologies that coexist.
Fortunately FLAAR has a white paper all prepared for you. By late September 2001 this report will be available in PDF download, sent by our university at no cost. Just find the Inquiry Form (which is being added in a week or so). Once we receive your inquiry form we will send you the report.
Digital cameras have at last progressed to the point where the quality of a large format digital photograph surpasses 35mm and is even better than conventional medium format (2 1/4 inch rollfilm). Actually the new large format digital backs such as BetterLight equal and possibly surpass the quality of a 4x5" chrome. I have seen this with my own eyes.
Point-and-shoot digital cameras are what gave the whole digital system its bad name. Every review of digital photography dwells on the fact that these point-and-shoot cameras are incapable of matching the quality of even the cheapest 35mm film camera. For the same reason that FLAAR. Does not review low-end cameras, we also do not discuss cheap digital cameras. Plenty of information on this class of camera is available in the various popular photography magazines and popular computer magazines.
Our Web site reviews medium format and large format digital cameras and will mention 35mm cameras (such as the Leica S1) which are appropriate for professional work. However, it is not recommended to use any digital camera unless its image size is at least 80% of the camera format. Thus the Kodak DCS 460 system fails this test factor. Now Kodak has new CCD sensors. The new Kodak scan backs are portable as well. So we look forward to updating our evaluations of Kodak digital products later this year.
Since FLAAR. has a project to photograph all the plants and animals of the Maya area (Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras), the Carnival would be useful since jaguars tend to move, rapidly. Our goal is not only to aid in the preservation of the ecology and natural habitat of these endangered species, but also to study what Central America looked like during the epoch of the great Maya cities. Was the jungle all around the sites, or had the forest been decimated by the expanding populations? What animals were eaten, what animals, birds, and reptiles were worshiped as gods?
At present the Carnival is tethered to electrical current; it cannot run on a battery. But perhaps future generations can be adapted to function from a battery. There is an ample market of natural scientists, biologists, zoologists, and lots of professional photographers who need to shoot on location. The computers which power the digital software are all battery powered, so hopefully this option will be available in the next year for the Carnival camera control unit itself.
In the meantime, we can say that the high end flatbed and drum scanners of ScanView are precisely what museums, archaeologists, historians, general scientists, and other scholars need for their departments. We recommend you visit the web site of ScanView.
Michael Collette has already developed the next generational improvement to large format digital cameras. These new Better Light camera backs are now available from Calumet.
Our Maya archaeology photography, books, and research Web site is a year old and has won an award as an "outstanding educational site." As a result we are now expanding our presence on the Internet with additional Web sites devoted to digital photography reviews and to conventional photography as well.
Digital Cameras come in Two Flavors
Large format digital cameras are designed for product photography, namely things that do not move. People (who tend to move during long sessions), animals, and plants blowing in the wind cannot be recorded with most large format digital systems. But several variant digital systems can capture movement. One of these is the Carnival, distributed in the USA by ScanView (Foster, CA).
After reading about ScanView and the Carnival digital system, Andrea David and I decided to visit the home office in Copenhagen, since this meant we would also visit the home base for PhaseOne (digital camera company) a few miles away. The Carnival is actually made by a separate company, Color Crisp, but they are located in a building adjacent to that of ScanView. Olaf Gronvaldt kindly did a demo of the Carnival.
Updated Feb. 25, 1999; links added Jan 23, 2000 and April 22, 2000.