archiving, digital vs. film

Started Oct 3, 2003 | Discussions
david.mitchell Junior Member • Posts: 36
archiving, digital vs. film

So, in reading back through various people's strategies for backups, most of them seem to be oriented around making multiple redundant copies, as well as periodically refreshing those backups to newer, possibly to a more current format.

For me, the HUGE advantage of shooting film is that as long as you keep the negs relatively dry and in a safe place, they'll be usable indefinitely. Digital, on the other hand, requires effort to maintain those backups. That means even if for my entire life I keep my backups refreshed, my children will have to bear the burden (if they care).

Forget that, I want to shoot digital, but back up the keepers to FILM with a film recorder. Not only does film last much longer without any kind of maintenance requirement, but it would be much easier to come up with some way to print from some no-longer-standard film size than an antique backup format. Even now I have some 8mm backup tapes from a few years ago that I have no way to read, EVEN IF the tape is still good.

Im wondering, are most ordinary people for the most part just not really concerned about the longevity of their images? I'd be willing to bet, that beginning in just a few years from now, people who werent very diligent about their backups are going to start discovering that their CD-Rs aren't so permanent after all, and they're going to be just FREAKING OUT.

So, doesnt anyone share my opinion that film recorders should be seeing the same kind of progress that scanners and printers have over the past few years? As far as I know, there's no such thing as a "consumer grade" film recorder. The cheapest one i've seen is $500 or so for a well-used bulky old thing. I dont quite understand why they would be any more or less complex than a decent quality film scanner.

Your thoughts would be welcome!

-dave

ChromeLight Senior Member • Posts: 2,584
Re: archiving, digital vs. film

I agree with you completely. If anyone bothered to make a film recorder that worked with OS X (and wasn't a mid 90s design) I'd buy one, shoot a lot more digital and 'burn' those images to film for archiving and slide show purposes. But it just isn't going to happen.

MennoB Contributing Member • Posts: 984
Re: archiving, digital vs. film

david.mitchell wrote:

So, in reading back through various people's strategies for
backups, most of them seem to be oriented around making multiple
redundant copies,

Being able to make multiple copies is IMO an advancement digital has over film, as you can store/backup a copy of your work somewhere else. A poll in my country asking what people would take with them when their house caught fire, showed that adfter the obvious (children, pets etc.), the next thing was "our photo albums".

as well as periodically refreshing those backups
to newer, possibly to a more current format.

That's hardly a real issue IMO. Even the old archaic floppies can still be read by 99% of todays machines. Also the storing capacity is increasing enormously every turn of format. Pretty soon it will be possible I think to backup a full lifetime of shooting on one single media.

For me, the HUGE advantage of shooting film is that as long as you
keep the negs relatively dry and in a safe place, they'll be usable
indefinitely.

Well, indefinitely... Todays photo museums have a hard time preserving their oldest collections. Slide material has a bad reputation of color bleeding of the layers after a certain period of time. I'm preserving my father's archive of 9x6 B&W negs. A lot of them are over 60 years old, and believe me: they are certainly not 100% anymore.

Digital, on the other hand, requires effort to
maintain those backups. That means even if for my entire life I
keep my backups refreshed, my children will have to bear the burden
(if they care).

True. But technology is getting better. DVDR is already said to be better than CDR. Also digital refreshing is easy and lossness.

Forget that, I want to shoot digital, but back up the keepers to
FILM with a film recorder. Not only does film last much longer
without any kind of maintenance requirement,

Auch! Film is quite picky on the maintenance department. Store your negs in ol' shoe boxes in the basement and you can be sure they'll be destroyed within a relatively short period of time.

but it would be much
easier to come up with some way to print from some
no-longer-standard film size than an antique backup format.

I'm not at all sure about that. Getting those old 9x6 cm negs, I wrote about above, printed is a real problem where I live. On the other hand, for instance JPG is quite an 'old' picture format, still used today. It seems very likely to me that it will be possible to somehow print an old JPG file in the upcoming decades.

Even
now I have some 8mm backup tapes from a few years ago that I have
no way to read, EVEN IF the tape is still good.

8mm backup tape was never that popular. Not in comparisment with floppies, CDR or DVDR anyway. These are used all over the world. Millions, Trillions, Gazzillions of such discs with digital data must be around on our globe. I'm sure they will be replaced some day, but hardware that can read them will be available for a LONG time, IMO.

Im wondering, are most ordinary people for the most part just not
really concerned about the longevity of their images? I'd be
willing to bet, that beginning in just a few years from now, people
who werent very diligent about their backups are going to start
discovering that their CD-Rs aren't so permanent after all, and
they're going to be just FREAKING OUT.

Yes, caution is necessary. On the other hand, personally I havent lost a single CDR disc since I began burning them, about 7 years ago. People who did, probably used cheap ass no-name junk.

So, doesnt anyone share my opinion that film recorders should be
seeing the same kind of progress that scanners and printers have
over the past few years?

Personally I dont have any intrest in such thing. But if you want one , sure why not. But shooting digital usually means shooting A LOT of images. And the conversing from digital to film takes time, even if you would only do your best ones. It would take far less time IMO to periodically check -and if necessary refresh- a 100% digital photo archive.

Marty Scher B Senior Member • Posts: 1,205
I do not...

agree that archiving to film is an acceptable long-term solution.

As another poster had stated, film has a finite lifespan and it is certainly possible that (low cost at least) traditional film processing methods may not be available in the future. Also, if the film media is not properly cataloged or identified, it may be of little future use.

Digital archiving is the future and should be, since the images do not deteriorate over time and archiving mediums are both robust and low cost.

Digital archiving will, for reasons that you have stated and others, have to be managed, or it too, can be unusable in the future.

IMO, the two main issues with digital archiving is storage media readers becoming obsolete and changing file standards.

Archiving to CDR is fine for now, but with DVD writers well under $200, users should at least start thinking about making this relatively painless change. When the next archiving "standard" comes along, simply start archiving to whatever it is.

It file standards change, say no more JPEGs, surely some 8th grader will write a free conversion utility.

Like throwing negatives and prints into a shoe box with no markings, if data images are not managed, they will not be as useful, especially to future generations, if they want them ; )

Marty

david.mitchell wrote:

So, in reading back through various people's strategies for
backups, most of them seem to be oriented around making multiple
redundant copies, as well as periodically refreshing those backups
to newer, possibly to a more current format.

For me, the HUGE advantage of shooting film is that as long as you
keep the negs relatively dry and in a safe place, they'll be usable
indefinitely. Digital, on the other hand, requires effort to
maintain those backups. That means even if for my entire life I
keep my backups refreshed, my children will have to bear the burden
(if they care).

Forget that, I want to shoot digital, but back up the keepers to
FILM with a film recorder. Not only does film last much longer
without any kind of maintenance requirement, but it would be much
easier to come up with some way to print from some
no-longer-standard film size than an antique backup format. Even
now I have some 8mm backup tapes from a few years ago that I have
no way to read, EVEN IF the tape is still good.

Im wondering, are most ordinary people for the most part just not
really concerned about the longevity of their images? I'd be
willing to bet, that beginning in just a few years from now, people
who werent very diligent about their backups are going to start
discovering that their CD-Rs aren't so permanent after all, and
they're going to be just FREAKING OUT.

So, doesnt anyone share my opinion that film recorders should be
seeing the same kind of progress that scanners and printers have
over the past few years? As far as I know, there's no such thing as
a "consumer grade" film recorder. The cheapest one i've seen is
$500 or so for a well-used bulky old thing. I dont quite understand
why they would be any more or less complex than a decent quality
film scanner.

Your thoughts would be welcome!

-dave

Pete Biro Veteran Member • Posts: 3,798
1000s of negatives and how to find something

I have 1000s of negatives and as many slides and to sort through and find images is a nightmare.

With digital you can search CDs and make dupes and send to publications and never lose the originals.

I have had thousands of original negatives/and/or slides lost by publications over the years.

If only digital was there from the start of my career.

Today's new folks are so lucky.

merlin70 Regular Member • Posts: 124
Re: archiving, digital vs. film

david.mitchell wrote:

So, in reading back through various people's strategies for
backups, most of them seem to be oriented around making multiple
redundant copies, as well as periodically refreshing those backups
to newer, possibly to a more current format.

For me, the HUGE advantage of shooting film is that as long as you
keep the negs relatively dry and in a safe place, they'll be usable
indefinitely. Digital, on the other hand, requires effort to
maintain those backups. That means even if for my entire life I
keep my backups refreshed, my children will have to bear the burden
(if they care).

Forget that, I want to shoot digital, but back up the keepers to
FILM with a film recorder. Not only does film last much longer
without any kind of maintenance requirement, but it would be much
easier to come up with some way to print from some
no-longer-standard film size than an antique backup format. Even
now I have some 8mm backup tapes from a few years ago that I have
no way to read, EVEN IF the tape is still good.

Im wondering, are most ordinary people for the most part just not
really concerned about the longevity of their images? I'd be
willing to bet, that beginning in just a few years from now, people
who werent very diligent about their backups are going to start
discovering that their CD-Rs aren't so permanent after all, and
they're going to be just FREAKING OUT.

So, doesnt anyone share my opinion that film recorders should be
seeing the same kind of progress that scanners and printers have
over the past few years? As far as I know, there's no such thing as
a "consumer grade" film recorder. The cheapest one i've seen is
$500 or so for a well-used bulky old thing. I dont quite understand
why they would be any more or less complex than a decent quality
film scanner.

Your thoughts would be welcome!

-dave

With computers, admittedly it is a pain to keep up with rapidly changing technology. But it is also a pain to physically store negatives, and you always have the possibility of envronmental damage no matter what (fire, burst pipes, etc.)

CD-R's are tougher than you might think. Sure there is always the story of "some guy" who lost a million dollars because he couldn't read his cd-r. I have CD-R's that are 4-5 years old now and have been subjected to temps ranging from -30 to +165, water, sand, being dropped, being stepped on, and not one has ever missed a beat. Try storing you negs in 165 degree heat and see how long they last.

Dan O. Regular Member • Posts: 238
Re: archiving, digital vs. film

Auch! Film is quite picky on the maintenance department. Store your
negs in ol' shoe boxes in the basement and you can be sure they'll
be destroyed within a relatively short period of time.

I agree with you on everything. But I have a question. I have 244 negatives that were taken between digital cameras during the months of March, April, May, June, and July. Many of them are very important to me as about 100 are from our trip to Europe. I will probably not go to Europe for at least another 10 years, and I have never been before.

Anyway, all the negatives are stored in archieval negative sleeves in a 3 ring binder that I keep here in my basement. I figured the basement was the best place to store them as the rest to the house can easliy reach the 90s during the summer. Of course, it's also quite dark down here. There is almost no sunlight.

Now you said that if I store my negatives in a shoebox in the basement they will be no good in a short period of time. Why is this and what can I do to prevent it from happening?

As a side note, I sent half of my negatives to the lab to get scanned onto CD-Rs this morning. I plan on sending the other half in soon. I fear that my negatives are not safe in the basement without any backups. We do get floods down here on a rare occasion, so maybe the basement is not the best idea. But what is?
--
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MennoB Contributing Member • Posts: 984
Re: 1000s of negatives and how to find something

Pete Biro wrote:

I have 1000s of negatives and as many slides and to sort through
and find images is a nightmare.

Tell me about it :o(( And btw, dont forget the storing capacity it needs.

With digital you can search CDs and make dupes and send to
publications and never lose the originals.

Yes, and there's also lots of special photo archiving software to make the job even easier.

I have had thousands of original negatives/and/or slides lost by
publications over the years.

Some twenty years ago, during the movement from one house to another, something desastrous happened to me. The bottom of a cardboard box full of boxed slides cracked open and hundreds of slides fell in a dirty wet gutter. It took me months of spare time to clean them, and quite a few were damaged beyong repair. Acid ingrediants (apperantly from the dead leaves in the gutter, it was in the fall....) had affected the film surface. Luckily we have photoshop now. Every now and then I take a few of those old damaged slides and retouch as much as possible on the computer.

If only digital was there from the start of my career.

I've started to digitize my archive of old negs and slides. Every now and then I do some. But to be honest, I have so many, and it takes so much time if you want to do a good job, that I'll be probably still busy with it by the time I live in an ol' pensioners home...

MennoB Contributing Member • Posts: 984
Re: archiving, digital vs. film

Now you said that if I store my negatives in a shoebox in the
basement they will be no good in a short period of time. Why is
this and what can I do to prevent it from happening?

Moist is a film's biggest enemy. Much worse than warmth. Where I live basements are usually cold and damp.

As a side note, I once read that some (cheap) negative sleeves can do lots of harm to your film. Paper sleeves are said to better than plastic ones, as the "weak makers" (sorry, dont know the english term for it) in the plastic ones tend to come loose after a while, damaging your negs and/or slides.

Floyd Kessler Contributing Member • Posts: 654
Re: archiving, digital vs. film

I have over 2800 slides from European trips back to 1980. I am now in the process of removing them 4 at a time from the carousels and copying them in a film/slide scanner. The biggest problem is remembering the locale and/or subject to title them. It's slow. I was doing correction as I went but now I'm saving that for sessions with PS Elements later. At the rate I'm going I may finish in six months. I bought the Minolta Dimage Dual Scan III for $300 and it does a good job (the only one at that price). The next choice up is 3 times that amount and I could't justify that for a one time project. I won't even think about the film strips, if I could find them. I can always copy the photos on the flatbed scanner which I have already done.

I'm also transferring them to CD by date and locale. It keeps me out of bars and such.
Floyd

merlin70 wrote:

david.mitchell wrote:

So, in reading back through various people's strategies for
backups, most of them seem to be oriented around making multiple
redundant copies, as well as periodically refreshing those backups
to newer, possibly to a more current format.

For me, the HUGE advantage of shooting film is that as long as you
keep the negs relatively dry and in a safe place, they'll be usable
indefinitely. Digital, on the other hand, requires effort to
maintain those backups. That means even if for my entire life I
keep my backups refreshed, my children will have to bear the burden
(if they care).

Forget that, I want to shoot digital, but back up the keepers to
FILM with a film recorder. Not only does film last much longer
without any kind of maintenance requirement, but it would be much
easier to come up with some way to print from some
no-longer-standard film size than an antique backup format. Even
now I have some 8mm backup tapes from a few years ago that I have
no way to read, EVEN IF the tape is still good.

Im wondering, are most ordinary people for the most part just not
really concerned about the longevity of their images? I'd be
willing to bet, that beginning in just a few years from now, people
who werent very diligent about their backups are going to start
discovering that their CD-Rs aren't so permanent after all, and
they're going to be just FREAKING OUT.

So, doesnt anyone share my opinion that film recorders should be
seeing the same kind of progress that scanners and printers have
over the past few years? As far as I know, there's no such thing as
a "consumer grade" film recorder. The cheapest one i've seen is
$500 or so for a well-used bulky old thing. I dont quite understand
why they would be any more or less complex than a decent quality
film scanner.

Your thoughts would be welcome!

-dave

With computers, admittedly it is a pain to keep up with rapidly
changing technology. But it is also a pain to physically store
negatives, and you always have the possibility of envronmental
damage no matter what (fire, burst pipes, etc.)

CD-R's are tougher than you might think. Sure there is always the
story of "some guy" who lost a million dollars because he couldn't
read his cd-r. I have CD-R's that are 4-5 years old now and have
been subjected to temps ranging from -30 to +165, water, sand,
being dropped, being stepped on, and not one has ever missed a
beat. Try storing you negs in 165 degree heat and see how long
they last.

BobTrips Veteran Member • Posts: 7,848
Re: archiving, digital vs. film

Floyd Kessler wrote:

I have over 2800 slides from European trips back to 1980. I am now
in the process of removing them 4 at a time from the carousels and
copying them in a film/slide scanner. The biggest problem is
remembering the locale and/or subject to title them.

I started trying to 'name' my slides as I scanned them in. Then I realized that there is a better way.

I scanned all the slides from a single tray into one folder and named that folder the same as the slide tray (France 1976 Tray 1). I just let the scanner assign a unique number.

Then I used a organizing/database program (Thumbsplus) to add keywords that let me find my images. An entire folder can be tagged with general words such as '1976' and 'France'. Then as I have time I can go back and add keywords for individual images.

After this the individual names become irrelevant. If I want to see water lilies, I can see them only from Thailand, all of the world, only the ones I shot in 1986, etc.

I also wrapped the slides from a single tray in paper and labeled the paper packages, got rid of the trays, and gained a closet.

-- hide signature --

bob
Latest offering - 'Two Hours in Delhi'
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Pictures for friends, not necessarily my best.

http://www.trekearth.com/members/BobTrips/photos/
My better 'attempts'.

slipe Senior Member • Posts: 1,885
Me too

I worry a lot more about the negatives and slides I haven’t backed up to digital a lot more than I do about the long term viability of my CDRs. I have 6 year old CDRs recorded on ElCheapo Cyanine based CDs that still work fine – even sitting in the hot sun in my car and boat changers. I use archival CDs for my images and check the error rate even if they are completely readable. Burners are so cheap I have two exactly the same and always burn two at once. They get stored in different places. They claim 100 years for the archival CDRs and I agree that estimate might be optimistic. But based on my experience with short lasting dye types I don’t think 25 years is an excessive estimation if you store archival quality CDRs in the dark.

There is also the point that the digital recording is 100% accurate where transferring to film involves some quality loss. There is more quality loss when you transfer the film back to digital in the future. And IMO you would have to be deaf, dumb and blind to trust your images to one instance of vulnerable film where multiple digital backup is practical. So there is considerably more expense and time involved in going to and from film considering the redundancy required.

The cataloging is also more difficult as has been mentioned. I think a program like IMatch will keep thumbnails and keep track of images transferred to film, but most organizing programs won’t. But it is a lot harder to manually log each film strip so you can relate it to an organization program. And if you don’t trust digital you will lose the tracking ability anyway.

OP david.mitchell Junior Member • Posts: 36
Thanks for the responses, was: archiving film vs digital

Hey, thanks for your response, you (and others) made a pretty darn good case for digital backups over film. It settles my mind to think that a decent CDR would be able to last longer than there will be readers available to read them!

The searchability argument was particularly persuasive to me, but on the other hand, I do love looking through my boxes of prints (I dont use slides) and doing a little time travel My motives are are purely amateur though, so im seldom needing to actually look up a particular photo.

Anyhow I went and made the big decision and listed my f3 on ebay and some other things to help offset the price of a new A1! Its been very hard to resist ordering it before getting the other stuff sold

-dave

slipe wrote:

I worry a lot more about the negatives and slides I haven’t backed
up to digital a lot more than I do about the long term viability of
my CDRs. I have 6 year old CDRs recorded on ElCheapo Cyanine based
CDs that still work fine – even sitting in the hot sun in my car
and boat changers. I use archival CDs for my images and check the
error rate even if they are completely readable. Burners are so
cheap I have two exactly the same and always burn two at once.
They get stored in different places. They claim 100 years for the
archival CDRs and I agree that estimate might be optimistic. But
based on my experience with short lasting dye types I don’t think
25 years is an excessive estimation if you store archival quality
CDRs in the dark.

There is also the point that the digital recording is 100% accurate
where transferring to film involves some quality loss. There is
more quality loss when you transfer the film back to digital in the
future. And IMO you would have to be deaf, dumb and blind to trust
your images to one instance of vulnerable film where multiple
digital backup is practical. So there is considerably more expense
and time involved in going to and from film considering the
redundancy required.

The cataloging is also more difficult as has been mentioned. I
think a program like IMatch will keep thumbnails and keep track of
images transferred to film, but most organizing programs won’t.
But it is a lot harder to manually log each film strip so you can
relate it to an organization program. And if you don’t trust
digital you will lose the tracking ability anyway.

toughluck Veteran Member • Posts: 3,074
For film disbelievers, I believe

The streamer, or a 'streaming unit', using 8 mm film cartridges, can store up to some 40 TB (Terabytes, or much rather 40 TiB - tebibytes), and it is vastly preferred over any digital disc backup storage.

1. it's faster - 100 GB stores in less than 10 minutes (if the transfer between the harddrive and the streamer is fast enough)

2. storing cannot be wrong - anything is stored as a stream, the file allocation table is written first, then data, and data can be accessed without 'closing' a session, so even if there is a power down, data is still 'burned'.

3. it has variable speed storing - the streamer has a large prebuffer, and is ready to slow down the cartridge, as well as stopping it completely once the buffer runs empty.

4. deriving from points 2 and 3 - it can backup for any amount of time - if there is a appending dump file that you are backing up, the streamer can store the data concurrently with a hard drive (stopping the write once there is no longer data in the buffer), and finish the backup after elapsed time (like one month's time), and you can replace the cartridge with a new one, and backup to a new cartridge - like the header of a new file, and dump data from a new month.

5. the cartridge is much smaller than an optical disc, and the footprint is much smaller as well (magnetic as opposed to optical)

6. it's digital, the cartridge is magnetically sealed, and comes in a magnetic shield, so there is no possibility of wiping data. The cartridge also has a VERY simple mechanic system that cannot break, and the tape is environmentally protected (to heat extremes, for example).

Examples of use: service centres of GSM operators. All messaging systems' messages, and operator billings are backed up on a cartridge in monthly intervals. It is much preferred over any compact disc.

As for consumer units? Well, tough... The cheapest ones start from around $1,000. And yes - there have been VERY many advancements over the course of the last 10 years, and the new units are very advanced.

The lowest speed streamers have transfer speed of 10-20 MB/s. Yes - it is much faster than CDs.

There are speed monsters, achieving speeds from 150 MB/s up, but those cost a lot (never really that interested in that technology to check exact prices).

The major downside, aside from the price, is the definite need of a SCSI interface (for internal streamers), or a Firewire (external ones). You probably have Firewire if you're shooting digital, but there are speed compromises with Firewire, and the price of such a unit is higher than an internal one + a SCSI interface card. It is a downside, because you usually don't have a motherboard native to SCSI (P4 ones starting from $300 up), and a PCI SCSI interface extension card is a lot slower than native support. And you probably don't have a SCSI hard drive in your PC, so that means lower transfer rates as well.

The other downside is the media cost. A 10 GB storage unit costs around $40-$50, which is much less than an HDD that size, but still a lot.

Of course, the price of streamer units should start dropping, and companies should begin to introduce low-end streamer units equipped with E-IDE/ATAPI interface in a few months, once the market for such devices grows above the critical point - the market being enthusiast photographers.

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KenEis Veteran Member • Posts: 4,055
Dont think so

I have slides from the 1970s that were always kept dry and in the dark. All the blues and greens are gone. Fuji, Agfa and Ektachromes all gone. Kodachrome is the only long term surviver. Print negative are slightly better. Prints are all fading.

Digital will last for ever. The only problem is media and format. Any kind of tape is a bad choice because the earth's magnetic field and the instability of the tape base holding the magnetic particles in allignment is a problem.

I keep my images on CDRs and now DVDs. These media are very stable.

Your concern that 30 years from now there will be a new media and DVDs will all be gone is a possibility, but usually when you purchase the new media system its an easy transfer from the old. Since the new media will always be higher capacity a bulk copy is easy.

The only problem, and I share your concern, is what will be the format. If I keep my Nikon NEF files will I be able to read them. JPGs and TIFFs will probably still be readable as a back compatibility feature of some advanced format but the camera-specific formats will probably be long gone.

david.mitchell wrote:

So, in reading back through various people's strategies for
backups, most of them seem to be oriented around making multiple
redundant copies, as well as periodically refreshing those backups
to newer, possibly to a more current format.

For me, the HUGE advantage of shooting film is that as long as you
keep the negs relatively dry and in a safe place, they'll be usable
indefinitely. Digital, on the other hand, requires effort to
maintain those backups. That means even if for my entire life I
keep my backups refreshed, my children will have to bear the burden
(if they care).

Forget that, I want to shoot digital, but back up the keepers to
FILM with a film recorder. Not only does film last much longer
without any kind of maintenance requirement, but it would be much
easier to come up with some way to print from some
no-longer-standard film size than an antique backup format. Even
now I have some 8mm backup tapes from a few years ago that I have
no way to read, EVEN IF the tape is still good.

Im wondering, are most ordinary people for the most part just not
really concerned about the longevity of their images? I'd be
willing to bet, that beginning in just a few years from now, people
who werent very diligent about their backups are going to start
discovering that their CD-Rs aren't so permanent after all, and
they're going to be just FREAKING OUT.

So, doesnt anyone share my opinion that film recorders should be
seeing the same kind of progress that scanners and printers have
over the past few years? As far as I know, there's no such thing as
a "consumer grade" film recorder. The cheapest one i've seen is
$500 or so for a well-used bulky old thing. I dont quite understand
why they would be any more or less complex than a decent quality
film scanner.

Your thoughts would be welcome!

-dave

-- hide signature --

Ken Eis - D100 and S45 Nikon 18-35, 28-105, 24-120VR, 70-300, 80-400VR, 500mm and 60mm macro

Michael Meissner
Michael Meissner Forum Pro • Posts: 25,879
Re: archiving, digital vs. film

david.mitchell wrote:

So, in reading back through various people's strategies for
backups, most of them seem to be oriented around making multiple
redundant copies, as well as periodically refreshing those backups
to newer, possibly to a more current format.

For me, the HUGE advantage of shooting film is that as long as you
keep the negs relatively dry and in a safe place, they'll be usable
indefinitely. Digital, on the other hand, requires effort to
maintain those backups. That means even if for my entire life I
keep my backups refreshed, my children will have to bear the burden
(if they care).

I heard part of a story on All Things Considered (National Public Radio news/magazine program in the USA) on Friday about photographer Jacques Lowe who was John F. Kennedy's personal photographer.

One of the things they mentioned was Jacques never wanted to be without his negatives, and would buy a second seat on an airline just so he could take the safe with him wherever he would go. I remember thinking at the time, that with a DVD writer, you should be able to take your whole work with you with much less bulk.

A second point is you always want multiple backups, no matter what the medium. Evidently after Jacques dies, somebody pried into the safe and got the negatives (I didn't hear all of that part of the story, so I don't recall the details). One of the minor little stories after the September 11th attacks in the US was one of the photographers from the 60's losing his entire negative archives, since they were kept in a bank vault in the World Trade Center.

Thirdly, do you think there will still be the infrastructure around in 20+ years to convert negatives back into prints?

Here is a link to the stories done on Friday and you can hear the audio segment if you have a real one or quicktime player:

http://www.npr.org/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=2&prgDate=3-Oct-2003

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toughluck Veteran Member • Posts: 3,074
Re: Dont think so

Digital will last for ever. The only problem is media and format.
Any kind of tape is a bad choice because the earth's magnetic field
and the instability of the tape base holding the magnetic particles
in allignment is a problem.

Tapes are stored in a magnetic shield, have magnetically and environmentally sealed cassettes, and the best ones are made from ferromagnetic on composite. My guess is that they can and they WILL be stable much longer than any optical media, especially dye-based, as are CDs and DVDs.

The only problem, and I share your concern, is what will be the
format. If I keep my Nikon NEF files will I be able to read them.
JPGs and TIFFs will probably still be readable as a back
compatibility feature of some advanced format but the
camera-specific formats will probably be long gone.

I have another question: will you keep a NEF to any_format_you_like converter on your disk, or will you carelessly wipe it. Do you keep it updated so you will not lose the most recent version once NEF support will not be kept by Nikon anymore (I doubt that very much)?

Camera-specific formats will outlast any manufacturer. Or - more precisely - SENSOR-specific RAW formats, as they are more flexible than any widespread format.

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MennoB Contributing Member • Posts: 984
Re: For film disbelievers, I believe

toughluck wrote:

The streamer, or a 'streaming unit', using 8 mm film cartridges,

Eh, thats VIDEO cartridges. Nothing to do with film.

[snip long text]

6. it's digital, the cartridge is magnetically sealed, and comes in
a magnetic shield, so there is no possibility of wiping data.

Magnetically sealed or not doesnt really matter that much. Iron dioxide, as applied on the tapes in such cartridges, after a certain amount of time loses the (magnetically stored) information on it by NATURE. Nothing you can do about it.

The
cartridge also has a VERY simple mechanic system that cannot break,

Can not? Come on, all tape systems are vulnerable of tape breaking and tape damaging. Specially the narrow & ultra thin tapes used in 8mm systems. Also, since there's physically contact between media and reader (the tape heads) tapes wear out because of the polishing effect of the rotating scan heads. And besides that, anyone owning a VCR can tell you that a tape CAN break or be damaged quite easily.

and the tape is environmentally protected (to heat extremes, for
example).

No its not. Not completely anyway. A tape cartridge simply can not be completely sealed as the tape has to be transported out of the cartridge, into the inner parts of the streamer during reading and writing. At that moment, when the streamer mechanism is faulty, it could brake or 'eat up' the tape. This can never happen on an optical reading system like cd/dvd.

Examples of use: service centres of GSM operators. All messaging
systems' messages, and operator billings are backed up on a
cartridge in monthly intervals.

The one and ONLY reason streamers are often preferred there is because of the immense storing capabilities. Not because it is more reliable. Becasue it isnt.

It is much preferred over any
compact disc.

But not over HD. Many systems you mention only use the streamer for the backup of large amount of data. For daily use they -of course- use the hard disks in their computers. BTW, in a lot of office environments DVD writers are used now for backing up. They usually do their automated job at night, when there's no activity in the office anyway, so speed of writing is of hardly any importance.

The lowest speed streamers have transfer speed of 10-20 MB/s.

That will be the WRITING speed, in a continuous flow. The read speed is MUCH slower, as the tape has to be advanced/prewinded to the place where the file to be read is positioned. Optical media have random read capabilities.

The major downside, aside from the price, is the definite need of a
SCSI interface (for internal streamers), or a Firewire (external
ones).

What are you talking about? There are plenty IDE streamers. For instance the popular HP Colorado 3000 is an IDE type.

And you
probably don't have a SCSI hard drive in your PC, so that means
lower transfer rates as well.

In what age do you live? Todays IDE hard drives can be virtually as fast as SCSI ones and dont heat up (like SCSI drives do). Face it, the golden days of SCSI are over, period.

The other downside is the media cost. A 10 GB storage unit costs
around $40-$50, which is much less than an HDD that size

I've seen plenty small capacity hard disks (like the 10 GB you mention) being sold for LESS than $40-$50

Of course, the price of streamer units should start dropping, and
companies should begin to introduce low-end streamer units equipped
with E-IDE/ATAPI interface in a few months, once the market for
such devices grows above the critical point - the market being
enthusiast photographers.

A streamer can be of use to store large quantities of data for back up, such as in an office environment. But it is clearly NO good for storing photo files.

daishi Regular Member • Posts: 271
yes

film is currently the only viable long term storage format for photographs. Most people seem to be thinking on a short term basis when thinking about digital archiving. 70 years down the road who knows if any current media or digital image format will be readable, but negatives certainly will. Also the level of technology required to make a print from a negative is relatively low, an enlarger is a relatively simple device and paper emulsion can be made by hand if need be using a relatively simple process. The amount of technology and infrastructure to be able to read a simple CD is immense. If the world ever reverts to a pre 20th century technological level photographs stored in negative form will still be readable

For true archival purposes, film is the only way to go at the moment. Alternatively platinum or palladium prints can be used, which should out last even film (I think I've heard 500 years of life for either format)

There was an article on photo.net about a photography who used a professional kodak DCS camera and he is no longer able to read many of his images because kodak no longer provides support for the image format

BobTrips Veteran Member • Posts: 7,848
Re: yes

daishi wrote:

film is currently the only viable long term storage format for
photographs. Most people seem to be thinking on a short term basis
when thinking about digital archiving. 70 years down the road who
knows if any current media or digital image format will be
readable,

If you're using a non-standard file format just store a copy of a conversion program along with your images.

but negatives certainly will. Also the level of
technology required to make a print from a negative is relatively
low, an enlarger is a relatively simple device and paper emulsion
can be made by hand if need be using a relatively simple process.

How easy do you think it will be to find a film scanner or enlarger 70 years from now?

The amount of technology and infrastructure to be able to read a
simple CD is immense.

Not at all true. Bouncing a laser off a CD and reading the blips is pretty simple in terms of today's technology. One can purchase a CD burner for well under $50, it can't be too complex.

If the world ever reverts to a pre 20th
century technological level photographs stored in negative form
will still be readable

And if the world ever reverts to a pre 19th century technology level negatives won't be much use. (Me thinks you really reach too much on this one._

For true archival purposes, film is the only way to go at the
moment. Alternatively platinum or palladium prints can be used,
which should out last even film (I think I've heard 500 years of
life for either format)

Or use digital storage, resave your files well within the lifespan of the media used (make multiple copies). We will see even more stable and larger volume media become available in the near future.

There was an article on photo.net about a photography who used a
professional kodak DCS camera and he is no longer able to read many
of his images because kodak no longer provides support for the
image format

I've heard this one before. Strikes me of yet another urban myth. You're saying that Kodak (and everyone else) destroyed all software routines that can read this format? And that someone couldn't write a quick conversion program if the images had any value?

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