Hybrid Imaging Returns from the Grave

Every so often I take a class at the San Francisco Art Institute. There are a couple of generations between me and the other students, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that to them, age seems irrelevant. I find it interesting that probably 3/4 of the students capture all their images on film. Is this an example of the saying “once a technology become obsolete, it is free to become art”?

Of course, once they get their negative they scan it to create a digital file, manipulate it in Photoshop and print it on an ink jet printer.

I find this particularly ironic since through the 1980s and 1990s I was part of a substantial effort at Eastman Kodak to make it easy for people to capture images on film and receive a digital file as well. PhotoCD was one of the products developed by the group.

The data structure on a Photo CD was such that you would quickly (with 1990s era computers and CD readers!) retrieve an image of video display quality, but you could also access a digital image with the resolution of the original film negative.The quality was as good as a professional drum scan at a price which was incremental over getting the roll of film processed. As a result in caught on quickly with news organizations, publishers and other professionals.

But it never caught on with the target market – your typical Instamatic-wielding consumer who couldn’t see the point of looking at still pictures on a video screen (“Why don’t they move?”).

Inexpensive, high quality digital cameras all but killed those efforts. And now with smart phones and apps like Instagram, looking at still images on a tiny screen is the dominant mode of looking at photos!


A worse-for-wear Kodak Hawkeye Instamatic II camera, captured with a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone.
A worse-for-wear Kodak Hawkeye Instamatic II camera, captured with a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone.

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