6.4 plug-in is required
a double editorial because it covers two months.)
We place a marking on the wall, at each one my youngest
sons’ birthdays, he is by now ten.
He stands up against the wall and where the top of his head is,
we draw a new line. That way we can visualize better how much he
has grown from year to year. Of course we are aware of his changes
as he outgrows his clothing and toys, however, these lines on the
wall are what really provides us with a better perception of how
he has been growing.
Although I have not performed an equivalent set of markers for all
the equipment that I have used over this past decades’ digital
revolution, I have to admit that my studio is littered with all
sorts of obsolete tools, that are constantly being superseded with
more efficient tools that are always outgrowing everything else.
Nothing has lasted ten years that is still
being used, which can give you some idea of the speed of obsolescence.
Any equivalent markers on the wall would only show us, that this
a relay race, with the new items displacing the old at ever shorter
Having to face this continuous obsolescence of ones’ equipment
has become a new source of irritation and frustration, however,
one can’t deny that there are indeed benefits from the improvements
that can be had, very often at a much lower price ratio to what
was offered before, providing new creative options which are after
all the reason that all these tools get created and sold, in the
There are a number of very well meaning people who have said to
me, there is nothing “new” that is coming out in spite
of all these digital tools (as in content of the photographs), which
would justify all that is going on with digital photography.
I suspect that they are looking to find transformations delivered
so fast because of the speed at which tools are appearing. Obviously
this is not going to happen. This would be like expecting a tree
to grow to it’s full size in the space of twelve months. We
need to understand that new content can not grow by leaps and bounds,
but organically. What is more, if you inundate a sapling with water
and fertilizer just to speed it’s growth, it will most likely
succumb to such a deluge of usually very helpful resources.
As we move forward, we are facing new challenges by the never ending
diversity of new tools that are constantly flowing our way. The
challenge is the time needed to learn about all the tools and possibilities
they offer and how they work, and then putting it all into practice.
We have to also build a theoretical frame work, to understand the
transformation of the image and how all these developments end up
reshaping our social and cultural values in the process. We need
to acknowledge how much around us has already changed, in order
to deal with things in a way that helps us cope with this revolution
. Who would have thought that the iPod would force the radio industry
to rethink how they operate. To give just one brief example.
Lets face it, the main providers of our tools
for photography ( soft and hardware) are no longer those who were
the leaders of the analog photo industry. As a matter of fact the
majority of the most important players in todays photo world had
nothing to do with photography not too long ago.
such as Epson, who are in fact Seiko the watch makers, or Casio
the makers also of watches and calculators, or Samsung, or Hewlett
Packard, to name only a few of the main hardware makers did not
even have photography as a business plan, nothing to say of Adobe
the creators of Photoshop or Macromedia (recently swallowed by Adobe).
Their presence in the world of photography is something new, and
along with that, come new ways of doing everything, Just notice
all those places that cameras are being sold that never before had
sold a camera. Or all the objects that take pictures that did not
even exist before. Cell phones, video recorders, computers. etc.
someone addresses the expectations over the work being created and
suggests that nothing really new has been produced so far, they
are not factoring in that many of the tools that are in existence
today, have only been with us, in their present level of sophistication,
for only a scant few years. It’s like expecting a toddler
who is still struggling with his potty training, to have written
Don Quijote de la Mancha. And if a mother were to feel guilty that
her child had not yet written such a masterpiece, then you would
probably question the mother for being so unrealistic, or the person
posing the question, would have to be confronted for the lack of
understanding of what they were actually requesting.
Today more than ever, the arrival of new tools will in turn bring
with them, new options for producing new photographic work.
Quite possibly there are no more than a handful of people in the
world, who have come to use and experience all the intricacies of
a product such as Adobe’s Photoshop. What this means is that
the learning curve is quite huge, and to boot, is changing all the
Although I was working with digital images, a long time before Photoshop
1 came into being, and have used every new version since then (and
we are now on version #9), I would venture to say that I don’t
know how to use 40% of this product. However, it might just be that
we will never need to know it all either, because increasingly this
tool has abilities to do things that not everyone needs to use all
This can tells us something of the dimensions involved in learning
all the ins and out, of just one software package. But if you add
another fifteen applications, some that will allow you to make video,
to use sound, and to publish books and over the internet, and to
write, and on and on the list grows, I think you get the picture
of what it means these days to stay up to date.
In the last thirty days, a new operating system, Tiger, for the
Macintosh, came out, along with a new version of Photoshop CS2 (
or version 9), Now expect to face a river of new upgrades by everyone
as they adjust their software to work with Tiger, and you get the
picture of how all of this is supposed to function. You have to
be willing to learn new things from now on forward. This will never
So in this editorial I will take you on a short ride of just a handful
of new pieces to this puzzle of digital photography. And see how
these tools are changing content.
I will start out by the most surprising of them all, the EPSON
R-D1 model. This is the first digital range finder camera (
In the link above, you can see in five languages a wonderful 3 D
presentation of the camera that has all the functionality of the
real camera) It looks identical to a Leica M6, it even sound like
one, and I am sure this is by design, as most of the Leica lenses
will fit perfectly well. Even if the camera couldn’t take
a picture, it’s already a terrific conversation piece, On
a recent trip to New York, I got stopped everywhere there were knowledgeable
photographers around. They would ask, is that the new Leica? I would
have to tell them that unfortunately the company that made Leicas
went bankrupt, had they produced such a model in due time they surely
would have been doing well. It took an established watchmaker to
create a camera that is as solid as the original Leica was. I am
sure you get the idea of what the transition to digital photography
you all know the Leica M6, like it’s predecessors, was the
perfect camera to work in certain ways and places. It’s simplicity
was unique. With this being the first digital range finder camera,
we might start to see some new work as well. Especially as digital
technology allows us to work with poor lighting in so many ways
that are better than ever before. I would not be surprised that
this camera would bring some new images our way, just as Dr,
Erich Solomon did in the early thirties.
This camera takes phenomenal quality pictures, 6.5 million pixels,
and of course is almost silent, and light in weight. I don’t
think there is photographer alive who does not wish that all the
equipment they have, be as light as possible. The images I took
were taken in RAW format, letting me have a 72 megabyte size file,
after working on the images in the new Raw file format, which allow
us to make huge prints that look razor sharp. The noise factor at
high ASA ratings, like 1600 were almost negligible. Compare that
to the recent fiasco at Kodak with their top of the line model,
which they had to take out of the market and suspend any marketing
efforts because their five times more expensive camera could not
make images of any quality above a 100 ASA rating exposure.
Casio Z55 Exilim
back to the Epson R-D1, which costs around $3,000 US Dlls. the images
are of very high quality, the camera feels just right ergonomically,
but then I believe in the excitement of getting the product to market,
someone at Epson forgot to include, what even a $ 200 US Dlls. camera
has and that is the capability to connect the camera to some outside
device in order to download the pictures that were taken. In the
R-D1 you can only do so by taking the memory chip out of the camera
and inserting it in some other device that then allows you to download
the pictures. I did so by inserting the memory card, into a Casio
camera. Here the $ 500 US Dlls. camera had a solution the $3,000
(body alone) camera, did not provide.
Imagine a BMW car, were they forgot to include the inside door handles
so you can get out of the car, and you could only do so, by lowering
the window to stretch out your arm to open the door from the outside.
For sure that is one way of getting out, but for your money your
probably would want a better solution.
Not withstanding this flaw, I am sure there will be lots of camera
collectors who will want this first of a kind camera, and then also
a good number who grew up with the look and feel of a Leica will
want to make digital images while using their old Leica lenses.
All of these will want this camera.
Epson has proven time and time again, that even though they were
not in the photo business before, they patiently listened to comments
they got, and steadily improved everything and thus built up their
market lead for printers that cater to the photography world, something
not even HP has been able to challenge, So I am sure that in version
#2 of their R-D1, they will probably lower the prices and fit out
the camera so you can download right from the camera. Judging EPSON
by their track record, I think that this camera is going to become
a Classic. Sadly not made by Leitz, gmbh, Maybe Epson decides to
buy Leitz gmbh, it would be a very interesting combination.
We now move on to another price range, with equally stunning news.
The CASIO Z50 Exilim, Here the story gets interesting in a different
way. As I was flying on my way to Germany, I went through the catalog
of the stuff they sold in their on board duty free shop, I was thrilled
to see that now all of a sudden cameras were an item one could buy
even on a plane. Not too long ago, cameras were items sold only
in camera stores, today cameras are being offered of course in most
Casio Z55 Exilim
here was this CASIO camera, of which I had never heard off. It looked
very interesting, the price was around $ 500 US Dlls with a little
leather pouch to protect it. I asked the stewardess if I had the
right to open it, and see if the camera was worth the money, and
if I was not satisfied that I could return it. Right away she said
yes, brought me the camera, and I was hooked. It was a lot faster
than the Sony T1 I had bought a few months earlier. I knew that
I always had a lot of people who want to buy my used cameras, (they
can get a good price and a camera that is almost new) so buying
a new camera was less of an issue.
The camera was great, 5 million pixels, unfortunately not in raw
format, ( I expect will follow very soon). However, the camera had
one major flaw, also in design. The buttons to change the settings
all had been placed exactly on the same spot were my thumb would
land when holding the body of the camera to take pictures, So inadvertently
I would constantly change the settings. However aside from this
flaw the camera made great images. Then in Madrid one day I lost
the camera, and I was looking for it everywhere the following day
when I missed it for the first time, when all of a sudden in comes
this taxi driver who had taken me back to the hotel, from were I
was teaching a work shop the night before. He had found it, but
best of all, as he said, it was on the floor of taxi, and people
did not see it, only he did so when he was cleaning his cab at the
end of the day. As he said, if they had seen it, they would probably
not have given it to him. I think he was right.
My next episode takes place in Dhaka, in Bangladesh,
as my Sony T1 got lost there, Here I wasn’t so lucky. After
exploring all the possible places I could have left it, we came
to the conclusion that while riding in a rickshaw with all the inevitable
bumps in the road, it could have easily jumped out of my pocket.
to say the person who might have found the camera, will not be able
to do much with it, as I still had the power supply which is needed
to charge the batteries, and for downloading the pictures ) The
Sony T1, did not have a view finder, only through the back monitor
could you see what you were going to photograph, in a funny way
it behaved more like an old bellows camera, with the rear pane acting
like the usual matt glass to see the image you were about to take,
or miss, as the camera was very slow in responding
you well know, the ever present debate that the still images do
not reveal what is on the sides of that which is being shown to
us in a photograph. I was taking this image of a man shaving in
the old city of Dhaka, you can see here. However what you can not
see is that I was surrounded by onlookers, where in fact I had become
the object of attention, not the man shaving.
I took out my Casio camera and recorded a video of all that was
happening on the periphery of the image being taken. As a testimony
on the limitations of photography as a vehicle for showing “reality”.
Take a look here and tell me which reality were we talking about?
Next stop: Singapore. Of course my friends there took me around
shopping, and lo and behold I saw a new CASIO EXILIM Z57. This
is now thirty days after I had purchased the camera on the airplane
which was being presented as the latest and greatest camera in Europe,
and here a month later was an upgraded version already with all
the design flaws corrected, the camera coming in all sorts of decorator
colors to choose from, and a larger monitor on the back. Same price.
This present us with the constant dilemma I have heard all over
the world, When is the right time to buy a digital camera. My answer
is always the same: NOW! because if you want to wait around for
the return of the era when camera innovations happened over many
years, that time in history is probably gone for ever. Your cameras
should also be thought off in different terms. Since you are not
spending on film anymore, you probably amortize the value of the
camera in a relatively short period of time, allowing you to sell
it for less that you paid for, in order to invest in the new models
plus the savings you made from not spending for film.
The Casio Exilim, is fast, it has very good image quality. You can
make videos with it, you can use it as a recorder as well. However,
it does not work as a coffee maker nor can you use it to call someone
at home. Those are the other type of cameras, called cell phones.
Already phone cameras have arrived with a 2.5 million pixel capacity.
Well, I bought the new model, and sold promptly the one I had purchased
30 days earlier, you no longer can approach the ownership of your
camera with the same emotional attachment of the past, unless you
care more for the nostalgia bit, than for technological innovations.
A camera is seen by me today in a totally new ways. I view them
almost with the same detachment I have for a taxi. A taxi, I see
as a way of getting me from A to B. I pay my fare, give them a good
tip, and forget about the car ( unless the taxi driver, brings me
back my lost camera the next day). Essentially the cameras have
become almost a use and discard item.
So what does the Exilim from CASIO bring to the creative table?
With a built in flash that is very good, it can do things, that
the Epson R-D1 does not without additional equipment. The spontaneity
of having a camera with you at all times, that is both silent, even
more so than the R-D1 as I can turn down all sounds to zero, also
has a view finder option aside from the rear monitor, a big plus
compared to de Sony T1. I just read that Sony already came out with
a new generation of the T1 version, that is faster, and has seven
million pixels. All of this, is just to point out how fluid all
these comments are, and how however up to date a review is, you
can not hold on to the information too long.
I find that these cameras will usher in a new form of taking pictures,
because of their size, speed, and angles from which the pictures
can be taken. Let alone making videos, You might want to see an
article we published some months back here in ZoneZero, of how a
Viola did a small film from just such a small camera. I believe
it becomes quite evident when you see such fine work, as the “Sad
Song” by Fred Viola that indeed we are going places that are
you are trying to figure out why one camera costs $500 Dlls. the
other one $3000 Dlls, and the last one I will review which is the
new D2X from Nikon, $5,000. You can probably look at the car market
as a reference. All cars no matter how much they cost, will take
you from A to B. so you are not looking solely at transportation
as an issue. You have prestige, comfort, security, and all other
good reasons people like to buy one brand over the next one, or
one model over another belonging to the same brand.
With cameras, there are of course certain very specific needs, such
as very large file format, or certain speed, like 8 frames per second
at any setting. So when people ask what camera do you recommend,
the first question is always what do yo want to do with that camera.
If you needs are to have one of the highest quality images in order
to produce large size images, plus speed, then the new Nikon D2X,
will fit the bill perfectly.
I find it quite amazing how in such a few short years, the increase
in quality and size of images, has been made possible. To capture
images a 8 frames per second, at 12.5 million pixels is quite a
The camera is however very heavy to carry around, at least for me.
My wrists really feel it and so does my back, when I have gone out
to take pictures for a long time. The Canon cameras I think are
as much or more weighty, nothing to say of the digital Hasselblad
camera. This to name only a few. Would I like to have all the bells
and whistles with out the weight, of course I would, But then the
trade off is probably to have it lighter, is to have less options.
One thing that is quite wonderful with the Nikon cameras is that
they have been very consistent in having almost the same interface
and buttons from one model camera generation to the other. Making
it very easy to pick up the camera and without reading too much
of the manual figure out where everything is. There have been photographers
who had to go an assignment with their brand new DX2 camera, and
being able to use it perfectly well, right out of the box.
The D70 from Nikon, which has now become the previous generation,
is going to be replaced by a new model the D70S within a few weeks.
The D-70 is considerably lighter and if you can, pick up a used
one by all means try to do so, you will have great results and at
a modest cost.
The benefits of instant feedback, has not been spoken about enough.
I recall how we would waste an enormous amount of material with
Polaroid tests, and aside from all the litter that was produced,
it was always just a reference. Here the images are WYSIWYG ( what
you see is what you get). You get to see exactly what your camera
will be photographing and too boot, at no additional cost. Now you
understand why Polaroid went out of business.
- - -
Photography says that Canon’s 16 megapixel EOS 1Ds Mark II
digital SLR edges out film."
Popular Photography Magazine, which isn’t exactly an apologist
for digital photography. Has declared that in tests Canon’s
new 16 megapixel EOS 1Ds Mark II, took better pictures than a regular
shooting high quality ISO 100 film. They are saying that the better
color and lower noise of the EOS 1Ds Mark II gives digital pictures
the edge over film.
you tried the new lens baby version 2?, if not then do yourself
a favor, and explore their web site, at http://www.lensbabies.com/
these lenses are absolutely unique, they will fit most models of
didgital cameras, and it will convert your digital camera, in the
equivalent of a Holga or cardboad pinhole camera,combined with a
the old fashiond bellows camera, with the tilt.
You will obviously ask why, would I want to do that? make such images
with the digital camera. First because you are interested in the
style of images that such cameras deliver, but most importantly
because you have the benefit of instant feedback as to what you
are taking being along the lines of what you would like to get.
Lastly because you have a lot more production power behind you,
as you clip ahead, and gather the images that will work for instance
with your fashion assignment.
Pro2 filters. This is a set of filters that do make a difference
in your photography.
Their most important advantage is that you can apply the effect
with a brush. No more, applying a filter to the entire image, even
in those areas you would not want any change.
You can appreciate the impact of such tools, if you look at the
image on the cover of zonezero, and then look here at the original
without any alteration.
Aside the fact that they are very good filters, with very powerful,
controls. What I found that was quite stunning, is that you can
apply any effect with a brush, and undo what you just did, and do
it over again, with only a click of button.
idea of applying filters by hand selectively, rather than have it
land all over the image evenly, regardless of your intention, is
something that soon will make itself present in more and more work.
The difference in using filters in this way is outstanding, when
you consider the level of control that we have today over every
These filters are free to you if you buy the new Wacom tablet that
has bluetooth connection, which frees you up from all the cable
clutter around your computer.
image STRAUGHT OUT OF THE CAMERA
applying filters to the image, with a brush.
What comes across with all the new tools I have reviewed here, and
this is just a small sampling of all the things that are available
at present. is that content is just waiting to be transformed. I
am convinced that we are but at the very beginning of a new era
Coyoacan, Mexico City
May 16, 2005
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