Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Printing our Digital Images, Scanned Negatives, and the Limits of the Digital.

I print out some of my digital or digitized color images using a color xerox machine. They look ok, until you get close up and realize that what you will see are the dot patterns of the screen. If I printed them out on a inkjet printer (or even at Walgreens), one that was good on photos, the deeper details would be retained. I will have to find out.

Put differently, insofar as a photograph will necessarily capture all that is within the purview of the lens and film, there is usually lots more than we attend to--details, and whatnot in the fore/background, whatever. When we make a print, we are selective but also give up lots of the detail, usually. Yet for archival purposes you want everything. Hence the archives we have of digital images, and often of scanned negatives and transparencies, are abstractions from the originals. Yes, you can get better resolution up to the Nyquist limit in a digital, but film loses its resolution more gently and may go further (albeit with weak quality) than the digital sensor or scan. None of this is new or surprising, since what we save is often such an abstraction, whether it be sound or materials or images.

One might argue that digital will become much more capable as we get more resolving sensors. I believe that will be the case. And a well scanned negative will print better than the negative itself (at least in most enlargers), since you are not demanding anything of the enlarger lens since it has been replaced, for a scan, with a lens that is typically of fine quality since it need not cover a large area. The mechanics of the scanner is also important.

No comments: