Digital Photography, Is It Right For You?

by : Jeff Colburn

Lately, people have been asking me the same question over and over, "Should I buy a digital camera?" And for everyone that asks, I have the perfect answer. Maybe.

There are many factors that go into the decision about going digital, not the least being whether you are a professional or amateur photographer. You need to ask yourself how you will use your photographs. Will they be for your website, magazine articles, stock agencies, advertising or something else? You then have to do some research and see what each of these markets asks for. Stock agencies love digital, as do many ad agencies, but most magazines want slides.

Do you want to stay with film? Great. Film still gives better image quality than digital. However, in a year or two digital will probably rival film. You also need to consider that film manufacturers are reducing the range of film they produce. I was amazed when a few months ago the owner of my local camera store told me that Kodak is going to discontinue Kodachrome 25 soon, and within two years discontinue Kodachrome 64 and 200. Film manufacturers know that eventually digital will take over, and they don't want to be caught flatfooted. So they're making fewer types of film, and starting to manufacture digital camera.

You also need to consider the costs of going digital. A professional digital camera or camera back, will cost between $5,000 and $15,000. These prices are dropping quickly, but they are still high. There's also the need for a computer (like a Mac G4 at $2,500), PhotoShop 7 ($600), high end printer (at least $500), maybe a scanner ($500 and up) and possible external data storage devices. This along with time spent manipulating each image in a computer, after you learn to use the computer and software, archiving each image on several sets of CD's so you can store at least one set offsite. An off-site set protects your images from being lost due to flood, fire, theft or some other catastrophe. As you can see, digital will eat up lots of time and money.

One way to get into digital, but save some money, is to go the hybrid route. Shoot with film, make some great prints then scan them into a computer using a flatbed or drum scanner. You can also scan negatives and prints directly. Some photo labs can even do the scanning for you. Many professional photographers go this route to have the best of both worlds. They can use their existing film cameras, while having digital images.

Still not sure which way to go? You could buy a nice digital camera, with at least 3.1 megapixels, for under $1,000 and give it a try. You can even buy a printer that connects directly to the camera, so you don't need a computer.

If you do decide to buy digital cameras, ask the same questions you would for film cameras. What lenses, shutter speeds, ISO's and flash sync speed do you need? What subjects will you shoot, in what kind of lighting and how portable does it need to be? Do you need to end up with prints, digital images or slides?

Then talk to photographers that you know, or that you can find on newsgroups, and see if they use the camera you're looking at, and what they think of it. If you live in a large city, you can probably rent the camera you want, and if you decide to buy it you may even be able to apply your rental fees toward the purchase price.

So don't jump on the digital bandwagon just because everyone else seems to be doing it. A camera is a tool. Select the proper tool to meet your needs. You will be happier and your pictures will look better.

Want to know what some of the pros are using for digital? Check this out.

Canon EOS-ID and D30
Nikon DI

Macintosh PowerBook G3 and G4
Sony Vaio PC

Agfa DuoScan and Arcus 2
Flextight Precision II
Imacon Precision II
Nikon Coolscan 8000
Scanview Scanmate 11000 drum scanner
UMAX PowerLook 1100 with transparency attachment

Epson 1160, 1270, 1280Business Management Articles, 5500 and 10000

Adobe Photoshop 6.0 and 7.0