By WIlliam P. Thompson
Conventional film photography is becoming more and more relegated to artists’ darkrooms. For family snapshots, vacation pics and general documentation, digital cameras are by far the tools of choice for Americans, according to Eastern New Mexico University photography professor Greg Erf.
“I read recently that 93 percent of cameras sold in the U.S. last year were digital,” Erf said. “Roughly speaking, 35mm film is equivalent to 20 megapixels. I’m sure digital cameras of 20 megapixels will eventually be sold (on a regular basis to the average consumer). There will have to be printers available to handle the higher resolution, however.”
Erf said his photography students still enjoy darkroom processing and he still sells artistic prints he creates by using the “old” way of photography.
“A film photo still has more value in the art world because it is not as reproducible as a digital photo,” he said. “The digital photo is so reproducible it isn’t worth much. The human eye will always be able to tell the difference from a 35mm photo and a digital photo because the 35mm photo is silver crystals impregnated into the paper.”
Erf said a digital camera of five megapixels is perfect for the average consumer and such a camera should offer all the quality the average person should need for everyday photography, for the rest of that person’s life.
Still, the megapixel capability of over-the-counter cameras is increasing rapidly. Eight- megapixel cameras are available.
Crystal Chavez, manager of the photo center at the Portales Wal-Mart, said the store will soon start selling seven and eight-megapixel digital cameras.
“There are still a few people out there who use 35mm film, but most people are using digital cameras,” Chavez said. “We sell 3-megapixel cameras in the $100 range. We have 6- megapixel cameras in the $250 range and up.”
Chavez said optical zoom options on digital cameras offer better photo quality than digital zoom options and a camera of fewer megapixels may cost more than a camera of more megapixels if it has a high-powered optical zoom.
“The digital zoom makes photos a little grainier while an optical zoom is more of a true zoom. It can keep you from getting that grainy look.”
Mary Beth Williams, assistant to photographer Donita Massey Privett at Times Remembered Photography Studio in Portales, said the studio’s portraits are about “100 percent digital.”
“The digital quality looks the same (as 35mm quality) these days,” Williams said. “Before, digital photography was all pixelated, not as clear. With digital photography, you can bring in an old family photo and we can correct for “red-eye” and glare from eyeglasses.”
Williams said the studio can send digital portrait photos to a lab and get finished prints back within a few days, a week at the most. She said the whole process is much quicker now than it was in the days of 35mm portraiture.
“Within the last two years we’ve gone completely digital,” she said.
Portales resident Nancy Miller said she and her family love their digital cameras. She said a digital camera serves all her needs and takes beautiful photos.
“We have a regular camera, but we don’t use it,” Miller said. “About four years ago we bought a digital camera. We bought two for our sons.”
Miller said she stores digital photos on computer disks and has some digital photos processed and printed.
“The (digital) prints look great,” she said.