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SCUBA-L  October 2001, Week 4

SCUBA-L October 2001, Week 4

Subject:

Digital photo (was: Maldives and photography)

From:

"Huntzinger, Hugh A [AMSTA-AR-CCL-B]" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scuba diving discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 22 Oct 2001 10:07:49 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (241 lines)

Carl writes:

> Hugh,
>
> > On digital, there's going to be real issues with archiving
> > (see the book "Silicon Snake Oil"), but the first question
> > is its suitability...
>
> I'm curious, why will there be problems with archiving?  At this point
> I archive on CDRom.  When DVD+RW comes down in price I'll opt for that
> media.  In short, I will simply move my digital photos along with me
> to whatever media is prevalent.  I guess there will be an archiving
> issue when .jpg files aren't used anymore but I assume there will
> be something to change format and if there isn't, I'll write one.


There's two elements of the same basic problem:  with digital, there's "too
many" candidate storage formats and their standards change "too quickly".


- - -

Let me illustrate the baseline of 35mm film.  I haven't had to touch my 35mm
negatives & slides since they went into (cool, dry) storage, nor do I need
to.

And to use them, other than a basic cleaning, they don't need any particular
special attention before I could make a dupe, run a scan, or pull a print
from them.

The summary of this storage...up to ~25 years worth...is that I've had to
invest nearly zero dollars and zero hours to maintain them.  Looking ahead,
the huge installed base of 35mm pretty much assures that I won't have to do
anything special for at least another 5 years, probably longer.

OTOH, if I had digitized them and then aggressively (or "anal retentive", if
you prefer :-) moved them to new storage media formats as they became
available over the same basic period, the theoretical conversions that I
would have done are moderately boggling:

5.25" floppy (130K), 5.25" (360K), 5.25" (1.2M), 3.5" (400K), 3.5" (750K),
3.5" (720K), 3.5" (800K), 3.5" (1.4M), Bernoulli-44, Bernouli-88, ZIP 100,
ZIP 250...etc!


BTW, note in passing that some of these conversions would have been major
headaches, because the formats are not "paired" on the same PC platform (ie,
a PC with both a 5.25" and a 3.5" drive).  For example, the first pair would
be to move the data from an Apple ][ to an IBM PC.


Granted, most these formats are obsolete today.  But let's look forward at
CD's and DVD's for a moment before leaping to adopt one:

CD ROM?  Okay, but stored on which basic media format?

  650MB? (single sided)
  1.3 GB? (double sided)

...of which type?

  CD
  CD-R
  CD-RW

...which is then encoded in which disk format?

  CD-ROM XA?
  ISO 9660?
  Mac/ISO hybrid?
  Mac CD?
  CD-i?
  Video CD?
  Audio?
  Enhanced Music CD?


...and then using which image data file type?

  TIFF
  GIF
  RAW
  JPEG
  Photoshop (version?)
  Amega IFF
  Bitmap
  Encapsulated Postscript
  PCX
  PNG
  Adobe PDF (version?)
  PICT
  Pixar
  Scitex CT
  Targa



And similarly for DVD, "Oh my goodness...which one?"

Media:   DVD-5, DVD-9, DVD-10, DVD-14, DVD-17, DVD-18, DVD-R, DVD-RW,
Format:  DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-Audio, DVD-RW, DVD+RW


Granted, some of these formats are no longer available, nor effective or
compatible with each other.  But the above outlines roughly 50 permutations
each for CD and DVD before we even touch on the ~15 image data file formats,
which all sums up to all sorts of potentially fatal hardware and software
incompatibility issues to manage as soon as you update from your first
system to your next.  For example, even to this day, there are consumer TV
DVD players that don't support DVD formats that you can cut on your PC
(although that is getting better).


To basic problem essentially is how much work you're going to have to do to
simply maintain your archives.  This translates into an overhead expense.
History shows that if you try to ignore this archive maintenance cost,
you're going to lose your archives while they're still in your possession.

The full title of the book I mentioned is:   "Silicon Snake Oil : Second
Thoughts on the Information Highway" by Clifford Stoll  (ISBN: 0385419945),
and in it, one of the author's experiences that lead to the writing of this
book was to try to do some new research on the NASA Voyager data originally
created in the late 1970s.

He contacted NASA and found that when the data was created, NASA chose to
store it in *every available* digital data format of its day and put it on
the shelf.  However, when Stoll actually went to retrieve it for his new
analysis (only ~10 years later), he found was that there weren't any
computers physically left running that could support any of the storage
formats.  So this NASA data was functionally lost, even though they still
physically possess the tapes/cards.

So, yes, while you can throw time and money at this problem to solve it,
history shows that that's exactly what you're going to have to do...invest
time & money to maintain your image archives.

The summary problem with Digital is that you're going to have to work harder
so as to maintain that forward compatibility...pragmatically, it means
checking the backwards-compatibility of the TIFF/GIF/RAW/JPEG/etc files
every time that you upgrade any software, and it means that you have to at
least test, and you may have to transpose your data onto new removable
storage media every time you do a hardware upgrade.

IMO, I would expect that you'll probably need to re-copy your entire archive
collection every 18-24 months.  And as your collection grows, this job
becomes bigger, requiring more time, work and bandwidth...and this doesn't
even begin to account for the real headaches, such as when something "bad"
is found.  One extremely contemporary example is how Microsoft's Windows XP
is reportedly choosing to not supporting Java out of the box.



> > Consequently, I'm inclined to wait awhile longer.
>
> I tend to disagree here.  I've been using an Olympus 3030 for a year now.
> It's a 3.3 megapixel camera and I can tell you that pictures at 8.5x11
> using good photo paper are virtually undistinguishable from one done
> by a 35.  Now if I were to blow it up even more there would eventually
> be graininess, sure, but... 4 megapixel cameras are out there now
> and I don't see the trend stopping.

If its good enough for you, then its good enough.  It always comes down to
your intended application as to if a product is going to be suitable for it.
FWIW, I do know that Kodak has been working on a 16 MPix CCD for a year now,
which should be adequate for 11"x14", which is one of my personal criteria
for adopting.  But there are a few things on digital cameras that I was able
to see firsthand when I was up in Alaska earlier this summer.

The first was on "film" cost.  This came up after I got back in a discussion
with a coworker on how much 35mm film I had shot on that trip.  What we
found was that the cost of the SmartCard-type media that I would have needed
to carry was roughly 10x my film cost (approx $2500 vs ~$300).  Granted,
these cards are reusable, but to reuse them requires time/money to archive
them in some other medium, so its merely another trade-off.  IMO, spending
~$200 to put the stuff straight away into an archival format is very much
worth it.

The other is I'll call "readiness".  One digital camera user
(coincidentally, it have been your same Olympus model?) on our trip was
often found grumbling when his camera would go into some sort of "Power
Save" mode after a few minutes on and shut itself down.  Murphy's Law made
sure that this always happened ~10 seconds before the humpback whales would
resurface :-), so he missed some opportunity shots.  He was also having
battery runtime issues due to this as well and while this was managable
because he had near-constant access to a 110vac outlet to recharge, I can
see batteries being another management issue.  Overall, I think this was an
example of trying to push a technology that's not quite ready yet.


> I remember when 640x480 was the norm.  At that point a lot of people
> said... well, it's just not quite up to snuff yet, I'll wait until
> we go up an order of magnitude.  Well, guess what, it has gone up
> more than an order of magnitude since those days!

True.  And as this technology has come along, we've learned what its good
for, and what its not so good at.  Plus we've then had classical scope
creep, in part brought about by color printers that are a lot better in
resolution than what we had ~5 years ago.  Our expectations will continue to
increase as the technology allows us to do just that.



> > In closing, while I'd personally like to try digital, I'm
> > not particularly satisfied with the price:performance of the
> > systems as it relates to
>
> I guess that depends too... Digital is great for people that
> like to take LOTS of snapshots.

Yes, its quite cost effective when your yield is lousy :-).  Otherwise, it
can get down to the "depth of cycle" costs - the number of photos until you
can download your cards to exploit their reusability.  For example, my peak
this summer was 9 rolls shot (36 exposures each) in one day, which works out
to a bit over 300 images for only ~$100 worth of film/developing.  Assuming
that I already owned a laptop that I could have downloaded these images to
at the end of the day, just how many SmartMedia cards would I have needed?



> Heck, I've even seen a digital picture frame (yes, you download
> a digital picture to it and it displays it).

...and at around $500 MSRP, its a (cough!) bargain :-)


> No cost of developing and the cost of printing is still less than
> the cost of buying prints...

I think people tend to deceive themselves here.  Its not the cost of paper
and ink (although inkjet ink isn't all that cheap), the problem is that
you're comparing apples to oranges.  The problem is that when you
do-it-yourself, you tend to assume that the cost of your labor is free,
which is not true.   This "time thief" becomes even nastier when you make a
print, not like the results, tweak the image in Photoshop and print it
again, etc.  IMO, to make this a reasonably fair comparison, we need to
normalize our User labor, which means that we should use the cost of having
the digital image printed down at our local photo shop.


-Hugh

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