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Here's more reason to convert to digital photography
June 1, 2003 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Kodak gives more reason to convert to digital photography. Eastman Kodak's "Kodak Park facility" in Rochester, is #1 in New York for releases of suspected toxicants and neurotoxins to endocrine, gastrointestinal, liver, cardiovascular, kidney, respiratory, and reproductive health. Remember dioxin? The stuff of Agent Orange, used in the Vietnam war that caused so much grief to war vets and Vietnamese, well Kodak released more dioxin into New York's environment in 2000 than any other source. In 1996 they were dumping methylene chloride concentrations as high as 3,600,000 parts per billion into area rivers, when the legal level is five parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found Kodak guilty of illegal disposal of hazardous wastes, illegal use of incinerators and waste piles, failing to notify the EPA of groundwater contaminations, making undocumented shipments of hazardous wastes, and for 20 years having leaky underground pipes, among other violations.
posted by giantkicks (30 comments total)

 
Agreed that many companies behave like they're a bunch of spoiled kids (but unlike spoiled kids, they kill or endanger people) , but I'd like to know what chemicals are involved in the production of CCD/CMOS sensors as well.
posted by elpapacito at 12:12 PM on June 1, 2003


3,600,000 parts per billion

Um. Isn't that just 3,600 parts per million, or ppm. What in the hell is this ppb crap?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:33 PM on June 1, 2003


civil- it functions as a more effective comparison to the legal limit of 5 ppb.
posted by Wingy at 12:45 PM on June 1, 2003


O.K., but Tri-X is a hell of a good film

I don't get the same results with my Powershot. just make Kodak clean up its act
posted by matteo at 12:46 PM on June 1, 2003


Hey Civil_Disobedient, just quoting the article. If the numbers are wrong, they're wrong at the source...

elpapacito, I googled for a while but couldn't find anything specifically about toxic chemicals in camera production. anyone want to take it on?
posted by giantkicks at 12:52 PM on June 1, 2003


No one believed me when I suggested you could drop an exposed roll of film in the Gennesse and get it developed for free.
posted by yerfatma at 12:54 PM on June 1, 2003


Kodak film lost out to Fuji when Kodak made the bad choice back in the 70s to continue using chemicals that they knew would have a limited lifespan. Memories to last a lifetime 50 years. So now today Kodak film is evaporating while Fuji took the lead in developing long lasting paper and taken much of the high end market. Bill Gates bought Corbis which is millions of historical pictures and they are storing it at below freezing in an old salt mine in western PA till they figure out what to do about their disappearing stock.

I hope Kodak is sued for everything possible under the law for these violations.
posted by stbalbach at 1:00 PM on June 1, 2003


stbalbach - sorry, but you're wrong. the majority of kodak and fuji film produced today is color print c-41 chemical process. same chemicals - nearly identical materials. furthermore, gates stored the millions of negatives in PA because anything - *ANYTHING* - given enough time and enough moisture will break down. i'm in no way apologizing for kodak (although I don't know what i'd do without their portra b+w pro c-41 films) but to make the statement you made is to discount the billions of images made over the last 60 or so years and to wish they had in fact not been made because the majority were produced with kodak film and chems. it would be a sad sad existence without folks like david harvey, james nachtwey, cartier-bresson, salgado and maybe even yourself not having had the opportunity that is kodak.

granted, all of my friends who attended RIT tell me the myth about being able to fix photo paper close to the kodak plant off the gennesse river is true.
posted by photoslob at 1:46 PM on June 1, 2003


photoslob - I got my information from this Washington Post story

The superiority and ubiquity of Fuji's Crystal Archive paper are a result of Fuji's decision, 20 years ago, to make a major effort to improve color permanence at a time when Kodak, which had a near 100 percent market monopoly, chose not to do so. Kodak's decision is now widely recognized as a massive management failure, says Wilhelm, one that gave Fuji an opening to develop and patent materials that it controls to this day.

But what good Kodak has done, it does not justify dumping toxic chemicals into the environment. The price is too high.
posted by stbalbach at 2:20 PM on June 1, 2003


Kodak is the leading employer in the Rochester area, bar none. It seldom gets unfavorable press in the local paper (Gannett) and you hardly hear much about the pollution (except this one incident where a bunch of cars had their paint damaged). You're way more likely here to read about a Xerox layoff than a Kodak pollution violation (Xerox moved it's company headquarters to Connecticut while Kodak's stayed in Rochester).

It's not quite the same as it used to be though, thousands of layoffs tend to discourage even the most staunch supporters.
posted by tommasz at 2:55 PM on June 1, 2003


Ahhh, Rochester. "Image Center of the World"

No need for photolabs at RIT! Just go dip it in the Genesee at night!

One of the most depressing cities I've ever been in.
4 years too long . . .
posted by cinderful at 5:40 PM on June 1, 2003


One of the most depressing cities I've ever been in.

tell me about it. that's why we were all alcoholics by the time we graduated.
posted by goddam at 5:53 PM on June 1, 2003


And here I was thinking I had a problem.
posted by yerfatma at 5:57 PM on June 1, 2003


ah crap. i always forget about all the gazillions of lousy 3 1/2 x 5 inch prints that the photo labs cranked out over the years. so, stbalbach - i stand corrected! just don't let the lawyers take away my portra!

and speaking of chems and RIT - we used to always joke that for every print we selenium toned was one more day off our life. ahhhhh.....the price we pay for our art.
posted by photoslob at 7:36 PM on June 1, 2003


Hmm, sorry, no changing to digital for me. Just doesn't produce the image quality. Now, it's convenient for simple point and shoot cameras, but for real photography I'm sticking with good old fashion film.

Personally, I like Kodak Royal gold (now it's called something else, but same film), and man, EktaChrome slides are just great (and that stuff is really nice and toxic to process from what I understand).

Besides, I live in a town with a lot of car plants, they'll kill me before the film plant gets to me.
posted by piper28 at 9:21 PM on June 1, 2003


"Hmm, sorry, no changing to digital for me. Just doesn't produce the image quality."

There's a lot of professional photographers who would disagree with you. There are still things you can do with film that you can't do with digital, for example you can't emulate having ISO 50 film. But raw quality is there. Lens quality is easily achieved by an SLR with a digital back, or one of the "digital SLR" cameras on the market. A six megapixel CCD offers enough resolution for large prints that still capture fine details.
posted by CrayDrygu at 2:29 AM on June 2, 2003


Remember dioxin? The stuff of Agent Orange, used in the Vietnam war that caused so much grief to war vets and Vietnamese...
Do not forget also the Seveso disaster.
The root source of dioxin in the environment is industrial chlorine-chemistry and, according to Greenpeace, the largest single polluter by far is Dow Chemical (Summary, Full Report).
More facts about dioxin from the WHO.
posted by talos at 3:10 AM on June 2, 2003


"Just doesn't produce the image quality."

Time to get with the 21st century. Side by side quality prints at 13x19 will be indistiguishable. The things a film camera can do that a digital can't are very hard to find. The things a digital camera can do that a film camera can't are many.

Stay with film if it makes you happy. But don't babble on about how it gives you more quality.
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:59 AM on June 2, 2003


The things a film camera can do that a digital can't are very hard to find.

A camera that takes interchangable lenses for under $1000?
A camera with the equivalent of a 24mm lens for under $1000?
A camera with interchangable lenses that weighs less than several house-bricks (or so it feels after hiking any distance with one)?
A camera with manual exposure control for under $500?
A camera that works without batteries (or even only needs new batteries once every 6 months or so)?
A camera that doesn't have the control settings (LCD) black out and become unreadable at 100 degF+?
A camera that works reliably below freezing temperatures?

The things a digital camera can do that a film camera can't are many.

Such as?
The biggest examples I can think of is being able to see the results as soon as the picture is taken, although that's over-rated in my opinion (unless you're taking pictures in very controlled and repeatable situations), and in photojournalism where you need to send the picture to an editor very quickly, which isn't relevant for the vast majority of folks.

Where digital wins almost completely is in post-exposure workflow. Film may not be quite obsolete yet, but the darkroom is, thanks to affordable high-resolution desktop film scanners. But even there, editing of a set of several similar pictures (more than 2 or 3), when you need to make side-by-side comparisons, is still much easier and quicker in an analogue format, be it slides on a lightbox or proof prints laid out on the table.

I've no dispute with the final image quality attainable with (the more expensive) digital cameras nowadays, but I'm nowhere near convinced it saves money or work for the photographer, except in certain professional situations.
posted by normy at 7:14 AM on June 2, 2003


A camera that..... blah blah blah"

A D30 addresses most of these issues (and probably a used D60 in a few months). I've used my D60 in both winter and summer desert situations and haven't noticed the temperature issues you raise. For practical usage I'm going to have to call bullshit on that.

Not sure what you're getting at with the weight issue. I hiked about 8 miles with my D60 this weekend. The lenses and the tripod weighed many multiples of the D60's weight. Saving a few ounces by using a film camera that would take my lenses? Really?

And batteries? This makes your list? You don't think this is perhaps more than offset by not having to carry bags of film? Or for that matter no longer having to worry about film types and speeds at all? Carrying two extra batteries allows me to take enough pictures to fill at least ten rolls of film.

"Such as?"

decreased production costs
saved time during post-production
in camera deletion of bad shots
ability to take 100+ pictures before changing "film"
RAW files allow faster and more efficient archiving
no film to buy, no processing to pay for, no unusable prints
instant feedback on exposure and aperture experiments
media is stable without refrigeration
a digital image ready for transmission
no loss of image information as happens when scanning film
no processing or handling damage, and no need to clean film
ISO and saturation changes with the push of a button
increased archive lifetime
exact copies made at minimal (or no) cost

Bottom line: No scanning, no developing, post production using the original. And more than once being able to go from ISO 100 to ISO 1000 in three seconds has saved a shot. The thought of me going back to film is laughable.

And of course we're talking about prosumer concerns here. At the casual level digital blows film out of the water.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:25 AM on June 2, 2003


And high temps are a damn weird context in which to argue for the superiority of film.
posted by NortonDC at 9:28 AM on June 2, 2003


There's an area (a few blocks) around Kodak where quite of few families have had boughts with cancer. I am not sure how obvious or not that this is a result from Kodak, but no one seems to want to admit anything.

Driving in and around Kodak is depressing in itself because of the huge stacks of incinerators, which constantly pump out dark clouds of whatever. Someone mentioned the Genesee River, which runs through Rochester. It is the greenest river I have ever seen. My job sits on the edge of the river. During the summer months, it reeks of chemicals.

A few miles West of Rochester, in Holley, NY, a company named Diaz had a chemical spill a year and a half ago. Allegedly, the amounts of harmful chemicals are low BUT Diaz recently shut down because they could not conform to EPA standards.

That's Western NY for you.
posted by jasonspaceman at 12:39 PM on June 2, 2003


I've used my D60 in both winter and summer desert situations and haven't noticed the temperature issues you raise. For practical usage I'm going to have to call bullshit on that.

LCDs black out after prolonged exposure to direct hot sunlight, I've seen it often (admitedly on a less expensive digital camera). It's not permanent damage, but inconvenient. Try it with a digital watch left in direct light on a hot day sometime. Battery life is significantly decreased in temperatures below freezing. That's why manufacturers of pro level equipment make battery packs that can be kept under clothes and wired to the camera, for use in cold conditions. You may call it bullshit, I'll call it physics.

Not sure what you're getting at with the weight issue. I hiked about 8 miles with my D60 this weekend. The lenses and the tripod weighed many multiples of the D60's weight. Saving a few ounces by using a film camera that would take my lenses? Really?

No, not really, but it depends on your style. There's nothing in digital that can reach the functionality of, say, a Bessa R2, or an OM1 and 2 or 3 lenses (including that 24mm wide-angle) for the same weight. I hope you're including the weight of those spare batteries in your calculations. I've got a Canon G2 and even for that, the battery's a monster by film camera standards.

And batteries? This makes your list? You don't think this is perhaps more than offset by not having to carry bags of film?

Only the individual can answer that, its a diminishing return, dependant upon how many frames you might shoot in a day. Bags of film? How long a trip are we talking about here? I might shoot three rolls in a day, maybe 5, max. So that's one jeans pocket, or by a quick comparison with the G2 battery here, about half the weight of the battery. 5 rolls = 180 exposures. Do you get 180 full resolution exposures fromj your D60 on one battery? (I honestly have no idea). I imagine you carry at least one spare, so in reality that's 4x my film weight, or so (obviously I'm being rough here). Point being, film is way less dense than a battery.

Or for that matter no longer having to worry about film types and speeds at all?

This is a very valid point, even with modern chromogenics that have really very impressive exposure latitude, I do find that aspect of digital very attractive.

Carrying two extra batteries allows me to take enough pictures to fill at least ten rolls of film.

10 rolls of film = 360 exposures. By my highly unscientific estimate above, that's one battery, so weight-wise, you're carrying 3x what I do. About 1lb, roughly?

"Such as?"

decreased production costs

Be careful, there. We have to amortize the significantly more expensive digital equipment capital cost over the equivalent cost of film for the same number of exposures/time. I've no doubt that for a hard working pro the economics are preferable with digital. For an amateur weekend photographer who nonetheless wants quality results, I'm unconvinced. Sure, with digital overhead consumable costs are removed (but don't forget that photo paper when you do print and the cost of memory cards on top of the camera and lenses themselves), but the equity tied up in hardware is significant.

I might shoot 200 rolls a year. 200 x ($4 film + $5 dev and proof print) = $1800/year.

To get the same functionality as the film kit I've built up over the years in equivalent digital kit (2x slr bodies with manual control, lenses ranging from 20 - 400mm) would be, very optimistically, $5000.

I suppose i could just stop taking pictures for a couple of years....

...balls, never mind the math, I just don't have that kind of spare cash, its a moot point.

saved time during post-production

This entirely depends upon your prefered workflow. In my case, digital actually slows me down. As I said in my first post, try filtering through a dozen or so prints or transparensies of a similar subject on a lightbox or with proofs on a table. Then try it with digital images on-screen. It's pretty unpleasent and slow on-screen.

in camera deletion of bad shots

Delete them in camera or throw away bad transparencies or prints later. Whatever. I see no net difference in effort.

ability to take 100+ pictures before changing "film"

Again, depends on your needs. I take it you must shoot a lot of fast moving sports or something, if you don't have a few seconds in the space of 100 frames.

RAW files allow faster and more efficient archiving

Again, depends on your style. As I said - editing is slower.

no film to buy, no processing to pay for, no unusable prints

Again, you fail to mention the initial very high capital requirement for anything but auto-everything-take-this-lens-and-that's-it digital gear.

instant feedback on exposure and aperture experiments

Another genuine digital advantage. Although, again personally, exposure is the least of my worries - composition is the challenge and the pleasure - I shoot very little slide film, these days.

media is stable without refrigeration

I guess, but film doesn't exactly go bad in a week these days, either.

a digital image ready for transmission

Again, depends, I'm not a journalist nor would I want to be, so I couldn't care less.

no loss of image information as happens when scanning film

Whether from a scan of my film or from a RAW file from your camera, present technology is such that both can produce fantastic quality. If you're really that concerned about faithfulness of reproduction and high resolution, you should be using a field camera and 5x4 sheet.

no processing or handling damage, and no need to clean film

Mind you don't get the tiniest dust spec on that CCD (I know D1s had a bad reputation in this dept for a while, perhaps later kit is better now). Anyhow, I've put hundrerds of rolls through the lab I use without the slightest problem, so its the least of my worries. Spill hot sweet coffee over a compact flash card or some sleeved negatives and the grief is probably not dissimilar.

ISO and saturation changes with the push of a button

...or in photoshop.

increased archive lifetime

I'd be surprised if anyone is going to want to print my negs in 100 years... I'm really not that good a photographer. Of course, scanning the "keepers" means I get the best of both worlds.

exact copies made at minimal (or no) cost

see scanning

Bottom line: No scanning, no developing, post production using the original. And more than once being able to go from ISO 100 to ISO 1000 in three seconds has saved a shot. The thought of me going back to film is laughable.

The cost, for me, is laughable. The extra editing time and increased time for proofing is laughable, if you want to put things that way. Personally, I prefer to recognize that what works for me might be useless for someone else, but I won't laugh at them for it.

And of course we're talking about prosumer concerns here. At the casual level digital blows film out of the water.

Absolutely. And for prosumers it may well become economical sometime not too far off. But not yet, for me, nowhere near. They'll need to start making wide-angle lenses for digital cameras that don't cost a month's salary, first.
posted by normy at 3:42 PM on June 2, 2003


normy, my Canon G1 (a two generations old prosumer model, 3.4 Mp) takes between two and three HUNDRED pictures on a battery, even when using the IBM microdive which uses more power than the more common flash cards. The battery is about the size of two AAs, and longer-life replacements (of the same size) are available.

Two batteries and you've got a vacation covered.

And newer kit is even better on the battery life.
posted by NortonDC at 4:57 PM on June 2, 2003


NortonDC - thanks for the info. The G2 is a recent aquisition, so I haven't pushed the battery to the limit. The whole battery issue I consider somewhat secondary, anyhow, and I regret dwelling on it so much, above. It's certainly not my reason for avoiding digital equipment. Actually, I wouldn't even say I was avoiding it - I've seen some stunning results from better digital kit - I own some digital kit.

But film produces great results, too. Despite the digital evangelists and marketing noise I simply cannot see significant advantage in selling off the film kit and doing everything digitally. Yet. I've no doubt that film will ultimately become obsolete just as the darkroom has.

And I'm grateful to the early adopters of sophisticated and expensive digital equipment who are subsidizing the later adopters like myself who will buy digital equipment once the development costs have been absorbed and the costs decreased.
posted by normy at 5:22 PM on June 2, 2003


normy - good points.

"Then try it with digital images on- screen."

YarcPlus baby. It's the workflow magic wand.

"who are subsidizing the later adopters like myself"

Tell me about it. I'm very cranky that Canon made the 10D so soon after the D60. I want it, but I certainly don't need it. Probably buy it anyway.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:09 PM on June 2, 2003


I know a professional photographer whose wife got Parkinson's (and died). Then he got Parkinson's too. Then his daughter got Parkinson's................

Photo chemicals. Hmmm.
posted by troutfishing at 6:39 AM on June 3, 2003


I love the smell of Dektol in the morning...
posted by NortonDC at 7:56 AM on June 3, 2003


Xtol smells pretty good, too...
posted by matteo at 3:31 AM on June 4, 2003


Yeah, but does it smell like victory?
posted by NortonDC at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2003


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