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If you are not into photo, I suggest that you delete this post now.
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Control, control control.
I wish I'd gone digital earlier - at least 6 months earlier.
There is already more control than with analog.

This post kind of addresses some of Hugh's issues. First let me say that if
you are an accomplished u/w slide photographer to the point where you "see"
exactly how a shot will process when you take it, I am not talking to you at
all. There is no reason for you to switch to digital, yet.

IMHO, It has taken digital a long time to build in quality to a point where
it became reasonable to use it recreationally underwater. I think it is
there now. I don't think it is for everyone, though. If you have no computer
experience, you may not like the learning curve of putting your photos on a
computer. If you are attached to the analog thing, then it is not even a
question - stick with analog. If you are in publishing, you will not be able
to avoid digital.

I have been doing analog a long time. I took my first photo class at 12
years old. It was the whole hog - roll your own film, dodge your own prints
sort of start. I got into 35mm stuff eventually using 3 Cannon bodies and a
number of lenses to do such mundane things as shoot race cars, rock concerts
and weddings. I'm glad to be done with that. I never look at those photos.
There are tons in storage.

Now, I do teach a HS class on Video Production, so my biases have switched.
I have long suffered through the shortcomings of analog video - enough so
that I would be willing to chuck the whole analog video kit for a nice
digital camera.

I would not call myself a novice, even though I am not very advanced in U/W
photo or the gear to support it. I do use a number of computers and this
might sway me too. At work, I edit video on some old SGI computers, plus
some flavors of Mac and Media 100. What this means is that I don't shy away
from what computers can accomplish one bit.

I switched to U/W digital still photos this summer.
I did not get a huge system - Sony Cybershot with the housing made by Sony
to 30M. They now have a new one to 40M with a new camera. During the
collection process the biggest issue is light - duh. You will need to solve
this with strobes or a video light or two.

So, I feel the minimum acceptable digital cameras are the 3 megapixel
models. I shoot mostly in jpeg and get 100 shots on a 128meg memory card. I
expect to take some TIFF's when I am more experienced in getting the shots
right. Tiff's are big, and slower to process. Format is a personal issue and
not a hindrance to fun u/w photography. I can not recall loosing anything of
value due to format changes. Most new software goes backwards.

Hugh is incorrect in thinking you need memory media to archive all your
shots. I have 10gigs of disc space on my laptop and an external 20 gig drive
that works independent of the computer. I can download from my camera to the
20 gig drive. The "working" memory I use is about 400megs. That's enough for
the 4 weeks of diving I did in July. I do delete many shots, though. This is
an advantage for sure. I am not processing anything I don't like. I can
delete underwater. With a CD burner, you can archive 650megs of photos for
about 30-90 cents.

One negative that support Hugh's arguments is it is optimal that you have  a
good computer system to use the pictures well. Most people have such systems
for work or home now a days. Although I don't own any, I clearly have access
through work.

I capture to a Mac laptop, adjust the photos in PhotoShop, and print on an
HP photo printer. Hugh is right in that this is not a small consideration if
you are starting from scratch. BTW, I also scan my old prints into
PhotoShop. I really like working my shots myself. Why pay a lab...

A few more advantages:
1) I can play my shots on the hotel TV right after the dive. Heck , I can
view my shots on the boat... Common post dive conversations go like, "Did
you see that purple fish? What was that?..Let me show you.."

I don't have to wait for the lab - when and if I can find one - to see my
shots.

2) I can play a slide show on my TV and record it on a video - real time and
have something to show and share.

3) My camera does QuickTime movies up to 15 seconds long with sound. I
treasure the Yap Mantas I have recorded in motion. That really takes you
back to the dive.

4) My camera has a web mode that makes low-res copies that can be uploaded
to my web page. They don't look great, but you get the idea.

Hugh wrote:
\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?\

One, but it should be the biggest one you can get. I use about 100 megs a
day. I don't open my camera on day boats. Here's a new one for Hugh; water,
salt, digital = bad things. I protect against that as best I can.

 But with media, Hugh assumes that he wanted to keep every shot. In 360
shots I would keep about 36 if I'm lucky. This effects the equation. But of
course, you would not use your smart cards for storage.

Hugh was right when he wrote:
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.

These really are not the same - analog and digital photo. But I can state
very confidently that if you are thinking of buying a low-end intro type u/w
camera - go straight to digital. You will learn more in one day with a
digital camera than you can learn on a whole trip of shooting slides. You
will be much more pleased with your pictures even if you are only watching
them on the TV. When you are tossing so many shots, the cost of media will
be less than processing. Actually the cost savings will pay for the camera
and housing kit. No doubt in my mind.

As far as printing goes:
To get really good prints in analog, I needed to go to the custom lab where
they process by hand and print every shot with a test strip. Although the
lab does the work, that process is even more difficult for me than using my
own computer. I have to communicate what I want on every shot to the
technician.

Now I use PhotoShop to make the corrections I desire. Boy that is nice.

On the analog side, the good camera gear can run run you well over $10k for
a kit that is only really useful underwater. If I didn't care about $10k, I
might get both digital and analog gear. The digital gear can be much more
versitile - and a be smaller travel kit. I bet I'd use the digital more.

In Yap, I did some dives with both my digital and my analog u/w kits. On the
same dive - yes. Weird, I know, but I wanted to compare quality. For me the
digital was better. This means I had more higher quality usable shots at the
end of the trip. This may also be due to the fact that I could take 100
shots per dive digital to 36 shots analog. Also, my analog u/w camera is a
Sealife with one external strobe - very intro but I've gotten some fun shots
with the macro kits.

Poe wrote:
I'm relatively terrified of how much resolution may be eventually necessary
for a high quality projected image :-).

Not a worry to me. I feel that the technology will keep pace with itself. I
heard that the common word on the street in that negatives are about 16
megapixel resolution. Right? Anyone know?

I've been told that CCD's are more receptive than film. To me, the
adjustments in low light are easier.

Hugh also wrote:
Thanks for mentioning this...I recall reading in one of my journals that
someone's production of CD-R's had had a major storagability problem...some
manufacturer's disk were showing significant losses after as little as one
year.

This is a very good point. Some CD's are horrible, some are great. The audio
collectors have done a good job at weeding out the bad ones. The CD-R mail
list is a great source if you get into those media issues. FYI, the cheap
Maxell's that they put on sale are almost useless.

quoted again, Marv this time:
In summary, for pro and semi-pro work, film remains a well tested archive
media.  I do believe professionals can recover deteriorated tracks in
digital media [magnetic tape, disks or CD ... with some effort and
cost].  For those priceless digital images and to keep archive and
retrieval process in my control, my practice is to make duplicate archive
copies [likelihood of the spontaneous deterioration hitting the same sector
is very small].

If you care a bunch about special archives for those 1 in 100 shots, you can
send them out to be printed to slide film. Seems a good idea.

I guess you can tell I like digital. The day I dread is when I find the next
latest greatest kit I really want - ouch! OTOH, My wife will love this
because she will get my current kit.

John