The other day I was doing some tests on the now new Lightroom5 beta to see what Adobe has got for us photographers as a summer present. As a result of me doing some spring cleaning in my database systems and file system not to mention my backup system, I stumbled up on some (not so) old files I wanted to take a better look at.
There is only one problem with those files. They are DCR files from my first full frame digital camera, the Kodak DCSn pro and as such meant to be developed in Kodak Photodesk. And there comes the real problem. I was doing all this system cleaning because I installed the latest system on My Mac and in doing so some of the older version of software disappeared or ceased to function.
Photodesk is no longer working and there is no hope of it ever being upgraded as we know what happened to Kodak. Their moment is gone. The kodak moment is fading and the sad story is that lot of images are fading with them.
Who would have believed that Kodak, this giant in the photography industry would go under. They had one of the first usable full frame digital camera which was reasonably priced. They had bodies for both Canon and Nikon lenses and most importantly they had Kodak Photodesk. The software that in so many ways resembles Adobe Lightroom and in its first version outdid many of the features both Lightroom and Aperture later advertised as breakthrough. And the best, but saddest. The camera is still fully functional and used by many
Its maybe not impossible to say what went wrong in the vision of Kodak and no need to worry about the future of Photography, but there is a reason to worry about the past. Because there are not only digital raw files linked to Kodak. There is also The Kodak Photo disk or photo cd format.
Back in 2010 when I took on work for the state archive in Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. A good deal of the files in the archve where in Kodak Photo CD format and I made it as my main goal to convert as many of them as I could while working for the archive. Little did I know when I took the decision that things would change as fast as proofed to be.
Already then I had some trouble with the conversion. When I came I updated photoshop to version 5 and there was no support there for photo CD files. It was gone. A litle reasearch with the help of oncle google helped me find the right support file but things where going to slow but I managed to convert the files.
In sorting out the files renaming (photo CD did not hold original names) and sorting the system that is where Lightroom came into the story. Lightroom became tool of choice to work with and I converted all the files from the Photo CD format to DNG. The big question though is for how long will the support for photo CD and DCR files exist. We already see that support for tethered shooting with some "older" types of cameras like Canon 1DsMKll has vanished.
Lightroom for one reason or an other has a support for the DCR file and even though Im not fully satisfied with the conversion results. Its preatty deasent. Only the colors where some how brighter and more luminisant in Photo CD. But DNG files are not all born equal and neither are raw conversion software. I tried opening a DCR file in Capture one to no luck.
I created a DNG in Lightroom and exported to Capture one. The result was not to my satisfaction. I guess I'm stuck not so fully unhappily with using Lightroom, or I could go retro and set up an old mac that can run the Photo CD software.
Then I stumbled up on RPP now there is a nifty little software that does a tremendously good job on my Kodak files. But yes its a niche software and we do not know how long it will last or exist and neither is it the easiest to work with .
Its a shame that modern day photographers are locked in by decisions made by camera manufactures and software developers and its vital that photographers and archivists think about this and the future to come, because no company is so strong that it lives forever as we have seen with Kodak.
At the moment there are only two main ways of preserving your image in hope for future accessibility. DNG for raw lossless conversion and Tif for high quality end result. Tif has been with us for ever and can be opened by all computer systems. DNG is fairly new but is being adopted my more and more companies and camera manufacturers.
Problem is even though both are said to be open source now, they are owned by Adobe and giants can fall.
When giants fall images fade away.