Page 5: Analogue images
Technological advance does have a downside, in that demand for new products affects sales of older ones. As a market, analogue photography has almost reached maturity. It is still
significant in size with almost 70% of the market. However, with plenty of scope for further product developments and for repeat business. The growth of digital technology has not deterred Agfa and its competitors from bringing out new, improved products for use with ‘old’ technology.
The real difference between analogue and digital lies in how images are recorded and processed. Analogue photography uses traditional cameras to expose silver-halide film. This still remains the most widely used way to capture images. Customers are well served with a variety of excellent products, from traditional slide and print films to Advanced Photo Systems (APS) films and single-use cameras with enhanced capability.
Compared with digital systems, recent analogue advances are ‘low tech’, but so too is their cost. Image quality is excellent, and represents optimum value. The technology can also be applied widely; even single-use cameras take good pictures. However, analogue images cannot be viewed instantly, take time to enlarge or reduce and are on prints or negatives that cannot be re-used. Negatives need optimum storage conditions to remain in good condition long term. The chemicals used in processing also raise some environmental issues. Digital technology represents a genuine advance because it removes many of these difficulties.
Digital images are based upon a grid or matrix. They vary in the quality of their resolution, which is expressed in pixels or dots per inch (dpi) or millimetre. The higher the resolution, the better the picture, and the more expensive the equipment producing it.
There is a wide range of affordable digital cameras on the market now, offering varying levels of quality, capabilities and prices. There are also thousands of commercially available CD-ROMs offering images, graphics and more, all at different quality, sophistication and price levels. Consumers can also turn to the Internet, where millions of images are available for downloading to a PC.
Digital offers some real advantages. Images are held in a digital file and are available for use immediately. They can be transferred immediately from camera to PC, where they can be compressed, amended, altered and despatched using e-mail, fast ISDN lines and the internet. They can be downloaded and printed or transferred to CDs using recently developed copying equipment that retains image quality at a high level.
Consumers can take CDs to an Agfa Image Center where the quality, format and resolution can be chosen. Digital images have transformed access, ease of use and transmission of images to provide a flexible series of solutions for customer needs. With instantaneous image capture, digital images require only minimal storage facilities. Images can also be manipulated and altered and only the chosen images need to be put into print format.
However, at the present stage of development, really high quality digitally produced images do not come cheap; the equipment required is expensive. Professional users face high set-up costs, but in industries where speed, quality, and flexibility in use really matter, the price is worth paying. Imaging is an industry where copyright is jealously guarded, and ease of transfer brings with it problems of security and copyright protection. Digital files can also be lost or become corrupted, so some form of back-up is vital. Agfa is aware of these additional consumer and business needs and continues to work on ways of meeting them.