We're so lucky today. Do we really appreciate it?
I've been digitizing some of my old negatives and slides recently. Interesting to dig through almost 50 years of pictures and realize I never labelled most of them as to date, place, person, etc. I've been printing some of them this morning along with some more recent photos.
Anyway, I came upon a photo I had taken probably in early 1973. It was of my girlfriend at the time inside someone's apartment. She was still in college at the time. I recall taking the picture but I don't recall the details. I know it was done with a Nikon FTn and a cheap, off brand 25mm lens on Kodachrome X film. I like the picture but it's soft, poorly exposed, lacking in shadow and highlight detail and it would be a candidate for the poop chute except for the subject and my memories. I made a print of it despite its limitations. I also found some Kodachromes of my wife that I had done somewhat later. I recall using a 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor for those photos. A pretty decent lens of the time. I love the photos but the aberrations present in that old lens made individual hairs on her head have bright blue outlines and fine details were lost.
Another picture I printed was of my step son playing with our dog on the floor in the den. The light was poor and very dim so the ISO was banging on the high side. I shot it with a fairly recent wide to short tele zoom wide open at f/4 with a DSLR using Raw. This zoom doesn't get much respect on Internet forums or lens review sites. But the image is sharp, detailed, with excellent shadow and highlight detail and the built-in image stabilization meant I could handhold it at a slow shutter speed, necessary despite the high ISO.
It occurred to me that we are blessed with photography equipment today that exceeds the capabilities of anything from the past yet I don't think we really appreciate how lucky we are. In the 1970's, I struggled to get a printable negative from high school football games when the meter said Tri-X at 1600 was at least two stops under. Today, no problem. You can shoot it in color at ISO 25,000 and get usable images.
Admittedly, Kodachrome was beautiful film. But today we can use software to create a color palette and quality close to most films and use ISOs much higher than the original film's speed. Lenses are better, cameras are better. The world's not perfect but some things are better than they used to be.