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Silicon film finally develops; image cloudy

by Porruka, porruka@macedition.com

When was the last time you took a picture? When was the last time you took an important picture? The former may have been on a point-and-shoot or even disposable camera. The latter, likely a 35mm, unless you’ve already converted to digital.

Unless you’re willing to spend ungodly amounts of money, going digital for photography is still very much point-and-shoot territory. Sometimes very good, but point-and-shoot nonetheless. To find a digital camera with interchangeable lenses generally takes you well above the US$1000 range (and even into the $10,000 range depending on the features you want).

Furthermore, if you’re a photographer, you likely already have a camera (or three) and lenses to go with it – and the knowledge of how to make it all work for you. You usually have to choose one camera or the other, or go pure film and wait until the scans come back from the lab.

One company has aimed to change that, to allow photographers to use their own cameras to generate the digital experience. This company has aimed to do this for several years, and it appears they are finally about to release a product.

They’re taking reservations. Big deal.

This may be a big deal to some people with a large investment in lenses, though photographers do seem to have mixed emotions. No huge surprise, given the history of Silicon Film (spun from the fiber that is Irvine Sensors, and formerly known as Imagek) and the ongoing saga to release a product that would have been cutting edge back when one-megapixel cameras were still $1000.

When first announced several years ago, the concept was novel: Take the guts of a digital camera and stuff it into a film form factor so you could put the cartridge in a normal camera, snap a few digital frames, and off you go. Like most ideas, this one suffered in the implementation phase. Every camera body is different and the tricks necessary to make the image sensors work with each camera model were apparently quite extensive.

To this date, even Silicon Film is conservative, making inserts that will work with a limited number of film bodies.

Snap one for the Gipper

If you happen to have a Nikon F5, N90/F90 or F3, or a Canon EOS 1N, A2 or 5, you’re in luck ... sort of. You can be one of the first on your block to snap up one of these (and only one, as supplies are limited) for only $699.

Is this an attractive solution? That really depends on the intended use. With “pure” digital cameras in that price range having two to three megapixels in resolution, convenience and optical quality (fewer units to carry, familiar equipment and lenses) would have to outweigh the limited body availability and resolution.

It’s not dead yet

If you look at the tech specs, you’re not likely to be too impressed. This is imaging technology that doesn’t seem to be cutting edge in terms of resolution and speed (even though it likely was advanced when this product began its lifecycle).

However, the whole system does sound interesting; the imaging cartridge is able to dump pictures directly to a laptop or into a wallet (akin to the digital wallet being offered by other vendors).

Should the system actually work as advertised – remember, they’re not actually for sale yet – improving the imaging sensor may be worth quite a bit. Get people hooked on using their own cameras (with their own collection of lenses), then improve to the three-megapixel (and up) imaging range at a reasonable price, and Silicon Film may have a hit on their hands.

Unfortunately, it’s probably a crapshoot as to whether enough people will bite for the initial model, or if the owners of those cameras will even be the right initial market, given the limited resolution of the current EFS unit.

Should any readers actually get one of these beasties, we would love to hear about it. Does it work? Does it work with a Mac?

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