by Larry Zeitlin in leica-users.org
The contrast vs. resolution thread (still yet again) brings back long suppressed memories. In the 1950's, after my obligitory stint in Korea, I spent a couple of years at RCA working on value implementation of commercial television. This simply meant cutting the costs of the TV set enough so that RCA could make sufficient profits to satisfy both Elvis Presley and the stockholders. The design engineers had produced the Model 630 set with 30 tubes that was intended to squeeze every last photon of quality of of the broadcast signal. All aspects of the picture, size, linearity, contrast, grey scale, and resolution could be adjusted. The set cost a fortune to make. If you are my age you will remember that a 19" screen B&W TV in a coffin shaped cabinet sold for over $1000.
Our consumer testing showed that all this complexity was unnecessary and worked against market acceptance. A high tube count meant frequent repair visits for tube burnouts and the many controls meant even more frequent visits when Junior played "space pilot" with the adjustments. The public preferred a bright, high contrast picture. Consumer panels judged brighter more contrasty pictures to be "sharper" and of higher quality than higher resolution pictures with full grey scales. Not much else mattered. The adjustment controls and the quality enhancing circuits beloved by the design engineers could be eliminated without influencing consumer acceptance. Costs tumbled and sales soared. We set the stage for the "vast wasteland" that TV has become.
Now substitute photography for TV. To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, "No manufacturer ever went broke underestimating the taste of the photographic public." I'm sure camera manufacturers (including Leica) and film makers conducted tests similar to those that we ran and/or read the reported results of these tests in the IEEE journals. Except for a few cranks the general public neither wants nor values high resolution large sized photos. The largest selling category of cameras is P&S, soon to be overtaken by digital cheapies, and the modal enlargement size is 4"x6". In my next trip to the Smithsonian Museum I expect to see a Leica M3 in an exhibit case in the Hall of Abandoned Technologies, vying for space alongside that old TV set, a mechanical typewriter, and a slide rule.
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Publié par Thierry Dambermont - la gestion des couleurs - 14:10
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