CATALYST FOR CHANGE
Twelve years ago, television had a profound effect on photography. Sony shook the photographic world by launching Mavica - the magnetic video camera - a camera for still photography which had a revolutionary difference: it did not use film.
Photographic manufacturers thrive on making consumables - film, photo-sensitive paper, processing chemicals and so on. Any move away from this is a threat to their business as a specialised chemical plant. Mavica alarmed photographic manufacturers, who had two alternatives: start research on electronic photography products, or face decline.
In many ways, Mavica was just another Sony television camera, for the pictures it produced were television pictures. But instead of twenty five television pictures a second (in Europe) or thirty (in Japan and the USA), Mavica produced single frames of video - a video still camera. 'Video stills' is almost a contradiction in terms: the camera produces video pictures which, taken as individual frames, are still pictures. In place of film, Mavica recorded still video images on a two inch floppy disks - looking just like miniature computer disks. A common misconception is that the recordings on these disks are digital, as on the larger floppies used in computers. In fact still video cameras produce and record a conventional analogue video signal. To use the images in a computer they had to be converted from analogue electronic to digital using a digitizing card.
Video stills became possible when solid state imaging devices known as Charge Coupled Devices, or CCDs, became available.
CCD chips, in their infancy when the first Mavica was launched, developed
rapidly for use in broadcast television cameras. Today, CCDs have completely
ousted camera tubes from domestic, industrial and broadcast television cameras.
Although Mavica cameras were marketed in Japan and America, Sony never produced a 625-line PAL camera for the European market. They left that honour to Canon, who introduced the 625-line PAL Ion RC-251 still video camera through high street stores. With a digitizing card in the Mac, digital images can be obtained from these cameras.
ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL?
The phrases 'Electronic Imaging' and 'Digital Imaging' may seem interchangeable but do they mean the same thing?
The truth is that all digital imaging is electronic but not all electronic imaging is digital. And, if we are to be pedantic, there is no such thing as a digital camera because CCDs are analogue. Confused? You won't be.
Most television cameras, and video still cameras such as the Sony Mavica and Canon Ion, are electronic but not digital. Digitization if any, takes place outside the camera. Those which we call 'digital' carry out the analogue-to-digital conversion inside the camera. No longer are special Nu-Bus cards required to digitize the image.