Photography has evolved over the last 20+ years. The first digital camera I ever bought was a Polaroid PDC 700. The year was 1999. I still remember the excitement, it was the holidays and was in-stock at Sam’s club. 4 mb internal memory! Expandable with a CF card. A crazy 1,024 x 768 pixel resolution. My desktop monitor was only 640 x 480 pixels and every photo required me to zoom out to 50% or less to get them to fit on the screen. The 4×6 prints were good. Take 1024 pixels / 6 inches ~ 170 dpi. Print on an HP DeskJet 712C and life was seemingly good. I’m still not sure why… but the photos were good for such a low resolution.
Next up, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC20 (circa 2002) at an improved 1600 x 1200 pixels (1.9 MP). Many of the mid 2000s photos were from this camera and some that appear in a few social media posts. SD card upgrades made this a much needed improvement. Around this time, flash memory started to become cheaper, as did hard drive space and CD burners – when all else failed. Gone were the days of using floppies and zip disks. This camera became my work-horse for years.
Squeezed in there is the Canon PowerShot S3 IS (2006). This was a nice 2816 x 2112 pixels (6 MP), optically stabilized, and with a 36 – 432 mm zoom lens. It was good for taking a much better print grade photos. Some of the flower artwork for sale was taken using this camera.
For some crazy reason I wanted a smaller and more powerful Canon A1000 IS (2008). It had a better and sharper 3648 x 2756 pixel resolution (10 MP). It did a better job with compression, less weird color artifacts too. Which means that at 600 dpi, we had an actual 4×6 print or a 8×12 inch print at 300 dpi. While the photos were good, this camera was painfully slow! It never did do much and still sits on a bookshelf. I still remember trying to take photos at my parents birthday party, and missed 90% of the good photos as the camera just couldn’t take them fast enough. Buy the time the flash recharged, the candles were blown out, and people were cutting the cake.
I tried again and went with a PENTAX Optio P80 (2009). This camera actually had lower resolution than the cell phone that would come next. At 4000 x 3000 pixels (12 MP) this camera took nice crisp photos. However, it was increasingly annoying to carry another device, there was a dust spot in on the sensor that I couldn’t get out, and it became long forgotten – which was a shame. Considering the JEPG quality was better, lower compression artifacts, and a smoother photo than anything before or after (until the Nikon).
The cell phone camera comes in here about now (2014). Sure, lots of cell phones had low quality cameras that could almost pass in a text message. However, the first one that was a reasonable contender for vacation phots was a Motorola XT1094. It had a reasonable 4160×3120 (13 MP) camera. This phone could hold up against the slow Canon and finally displaced the Panasonic after 12 years. The only issue was the JPEG compression left a lot to be desired. There are photos for sale that were taken using this phone camera, cleaned up, digitally enhanced, and were ready for print.
I’m now using a Nikon D7200 (2015) with a few kit lenses and a Sigma 600 mm for those awesome bird and squirrel photos. Having a much improved 6,000 x 4,000 pixels (24 MP) we can print a nice 20 x 13 inch photo at 300 dpi. The raw camera format means there isn’t any JPEG issues with compression messing up the nice sky as it converts from a high bit rate of 14 (or 12) down to 8 bit. Amazing photos! I need more pixels! The latest Arizona photos on Etsy were taken with this camera.
Black & White
I tend to use a Cannon EOS Rebel T2 w/ 90-100 mm lens (standard in kit) with Arista 400 B&W Film – when It isn’t loaned out. Otherwise, I have an older Nikon or a medium format 110. Some photos have been developed with a low concentration of Arista 76 Film Developer at about at about 100°F, to increase contrast yet keep the grain to a minimum. However, the later images have been developed with Kodak XTOL and yielded some impressive results. This developer seems to produce a very fine grain and smooth contrast.
Like everything, digitize it! The developed negatives are then scanned with an Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner or a Pacific Image Prime Film XA scanner (which has some impressive dynamic range). Figure film is out at about 5400 x 3600 pixels (19 MP)1,2
Instant – Polaroid
For the old time classic, the Polaroid Land Camera – Automatic 104 is something of a novelty. Named after Edwin Land, it was manufactured by Polaroid from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. All of theses cameras were designed to be instant develop by incorporating the chemicals into the film pack. Since Polaroid stopped making the film in 2008, this camera now shoots with FujiFILM instant pack film (still in production). The best part is that there is no waiting. It is digital without the printer. Considering the cost of ink for the HP printer, the per-print-cost is about the same (90¢ each). Although more than 50 years old, you can still order replacement batteries on Amazon.com. Although, ordering the flash bulbs has proven to be a challenge. Check out this post for more details.