Digital Memories
Article by Rick Leinecker, January 14, 2007

When I worked at MCI's Digital Imaging Division, I was assigned to several software projects that interfaced with high-end Sony digital cameras. These cameras cost about $30,000 and were used for professional photography. They captured approximately 3 megapixels, less than many cameras that you can buy at Walmart today.

Meanwhile, I took vacation pictures with my 35mm film camera. Digital cameras were out of my reach due to their high cost. And I wondered why anyone would prefer a digital camera over a film camera anyway.

But the introduction of inexpensive digital cameras ushered in a paradigm shift in personal photography. Almost overnight you could buy affordable digital cameras that took stunning pictures. And almost every establishment that developed photographs started offering a kiosk machine for digital images. Just put your memory card in the machine and in an hour you can come back to pick up your printed pictures.

Digital cameras have a lot of advantages over film cameras. You can print only the pictures you want, and not the ones you don't want. The digital image kiosks all allow you to select the pictures you want to keep, and they even allow you to perform operations on the pictures before printing such as brightening so that they look even better. You can also send the digital images via email to friends and family without the need for printing them.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, my family and I used digital photography to capture a memorable event in a way that we could have never done with film photography. My parents live within walking distance of a famous person: the munchkin coroner who pronounced the witch dead in the Wizard of Oz movie. His name is Meinhardt Raabe. We made arrangements to have our picture taken with him, and used our digital cameras.

Once back at the house, we looked at the pictures on the computer screen and selected the two best ones. My kids and I had to leave for North Carolina, so my father took the selections, had them printed, had Meinhardt autograph them, and sent the printed copies to us in the mail. Not only that, they were duplicated four times (including the signature) for each of us. So we all have our own printed picture of us posing with the munchkin along with his signature.

These pictures will be with us forever. We'll always remember the day we met the munchkin coroner and had our picture taken with him. And using the digital format enabled us to get better results in less time for less money.

I will admit that there is still a place for film photography. Film cameras still give a much better outcome in terms of resolution and quality. They are also much better when you're using a camera as an artistic tool. Professional photographers will probably not adopt digital cameras this year or next, but I think it will eventually come to that. But for most picture taking, it's hard to tell the difference.

Digital photography is a fantastic medium that will enhance your memories, now and in the future.