Thursday, April 02, 2015

Some Cameras Don't Age Well

The beauty of film cameras is that there are thousands of models that have been made over the years.  If one were limited to 35mm SLRs, well, there are still many hundreds of models, and it's likely that a 50 year old SLR may work just fine, even if the meter does not.  Pop in a roll of film, and you can get high-resolution images without much effort.
Now, forward (or backward, if you prefer)  to 1999. Kodak introduced the DCS 315 Professional SLR. Based on a Nikon Pronea 6i APS body with Kodak digital guts, the camera shot 1.5 megapixel images on a sensor that was a 2.6 crop factor (similar in size to the Nikon 1 sensor!).  Why am I bringing up this camera? Well, we have an area at work where we are accumulating digital detritus to be taken away.  Today, I saw the DCS 315 with some accessories and manuals, so i thought I would give it a try and photograph it before it gets sent away.

I plugged in an AC adapter because the battery tray was missing.  It originally took 6 1.5 v AA batteries.  Sure enough, it powered up.  I attached a Tamron 28-80 AF lens, and shot a few images with it.  The images are stored on a full-sized PCMCIA card of 160 MB.  The other outlet is a firewire port.  Well, none of my computers have firewire, so that was out. My Dell Inspiron laptop runs Ubuntu Linux 14, and has a PCMCIA slot, so I inserted the card (many times the size of a CF card, by the way), and....nada.   So, I could not get any images off the camera.    End of experiment.

As I said, some cameras do not age well.  Just about any digital camera at the dawn of the digital photography explosion is pretty much useless now.  1.5 MP's are nothing to write home about, even then, but because it was DIGITAL, it was cool.  Guess what, it would have been better to shoot slides and scan them in than the images  those cameras produced.  I remember shooting with an Apple Quicktake 200, and regret using the damn thing now, as the 640x480 images are worthless.  Yes, things have progressed, and today, any current DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera will produce bigger images than most of us will ever have a use for.  I suspect the turning point on SLR sales was when 6 MP cameras became the entry-level for the consumers.  You can make a damn nice 8x12 prints from 6 MP (which I have done many times with my D70s, which I still have).  The DCS 315 didn't age well, and was surpassed by better cameras in a short time.  Like some of the other film/digital hybrids, it was too early, too clunky, and expensive.  Early adopters get screwed, don't they?

Meanwhile, the Nikon Pronea 6i used APS film, which of course, had its own set of problems, but good photos from the film was not a problem.  That was a pretty nice body for an APS SLR.  So, there was no feeling of loss as I put the DCS 315 back into the box of junk.  It served its purpose 16 years ago. Now, if that had been a Nikon F5...!

The PCMCIA card is huge, and it's next to an old CF card of only 16 MB!


anthony ho said...

The DCS 315 shot images in a proprietary Kodak TIF format as well as jpeg. To get the most out of it, you needed a TIF converter. The advantage in 1998/1999 was speed; yes film scanning gave better results, but a digital file via modem was faster in producing an acceptable result.

Adam Paul said...

I do tend to think that the more organically mechanical a camera is, the better it will age. The reliance on increasingly dated computer firmware will make even some advanced film cameras less usable or even unusable in time. Not so much with a simple spring shuttered old relic from the 40's, which needs only some basic tlc.