Let's look at the common "professional" cameras in use today. The Canon EOS-based camera comes in two flavors. The DC520 that produces a compressed file that expands to all of 3.5 Mb (and I really hope it's DH or LZW loss-less compression.) What some wires have been doing (and you know who you are) is resampling that image up to 8Mb or so and then JPEGing it. Not good. This wonder-box will do 2 frames a second for a burst of 8 or so before it has to rest and that's barely acceptable for modern photojournalism. The other option, the Canon DC560, produces a compressed TIFF file that expands to 18Mb, but can only do it once every 2 seconds....And that 18Mb file is only "good" in real reproduction terms for magazines.
Now look at what you get from a garden-variety film scanner (any Nikon Coolscan, most Polaroid Sprintscans, the Canon and Minolta scanners.) Slip in a neg or slide and you'll get a 25Mb file. That's a few orders of magnitude up from 3.5Mb and it shows....A lot.
Want more? Take your negative and have a good print made and give it to one of those magicians that do drum scans. You can easily get a 50, 100 or 200Mb file out of it and the quality will really show in the finished product. So, for now, film still wins on quality but "film" just isn't sexy enough for the 90's and beyond. It's old, it's tired, it needs a little Jazz. My suggestion? If you're trying to talk your editor/art director/managing editor into letting you continue to use film because you like quality and permanence just pitch it as a High Density Analog Data Storage device (H-DADS)....
Each of those little 1 x 1.5 inch suckers can store a CD's worth of information! There's a proven track record of reliability that goes back decades! We don't know if those CD's you burned last week are going to last 20 years much less the 200 or so that Kodak and Fuji's rapid-aging tests show for film.... Ooops, H-DADS.....Gotta start getting my own terms right.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed are barely my own much less my employer's so don't blame Time Magazine, Time Inc. or Time-Warner for anything written here. If you have to blame something there's the little matter of the Senate's "no still photography" policy that's been sticking in my craw all week.....
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