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Farewell, photography as art
- Shutters down on nostalgic era of 35mm cameras

London, Aug. 8: The 35mm camera is dead, killed off by digital technology, it was announced today in London by Dixons, the UK’s leading retailer of consumer electronic goods.

“Goodbye 35mm cameras, thanks for the memories,” proclaimed a dramatic statement from Dixons, that last year said the VCR had been put to rest by the DVD.

Dixons will stop selling both 35mm cameras and film when stocks run out, the company said.

“Digital cameras are more and more efficient,” said a spokesperson. “People are not prepared to wait a week or so having their films developed.”

Many small Asian businesses, which developed 35mm film for their customers, have either had to abandon this sideline or move over to printing hard copies from memory cards.

Since digital cameras are outselling 35mm cameras by 15 to one, the Dixons’s announcement is recognition of the inevitable. Sales of 35mm cameras in the UK have plummeted from a peak of 2.9 million in 1989.

But since digital pictures can be “manipulated” to improve images, the departure of the 35mm cameras will also be seen widely as the death of photography as an art.

Photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Norman Parkinson, Yousuf Karsh or India’s Sunil Janah would probably have not been held in awe as masters of their art had they been products of the modern digital age.

Today, thanks to stores such as Dixons, almost everyone can be a competent photographer. All they have to do is, “point and shoot” ' or so the purists would argue.

After the recent London bombings, police invited members of the public to send in their photographs, usually taken on mobile telephones.

When Dixons, originally a photographic studio, opened its first outlet in Southend in 1937, the first products it sold were cameras. “Last year, we pulled the plug on video recorders, but today’s announcement is in many ways a more sentimental event,” said Bryan Magrath, marketing director of Dixons. “35mm cameras were the first products we ever sold and film processing has been a part of our lives for several decades. Time and technology move on, though, and digital cameras are now the rule, rather than the exception. We have decided that the time is now right to take 35mm cameras out of the frame.”

The company accepts that “the digital photography vs film photography debate” has been raging in photographic circles for several years, with many professionals and purists favouring the 35mm camera. But as technology progresses, the quality of digital photographs has improved enormously, said Dixons.

It added that three-million-pixel digital cameras are now available for under '100 (even cheaper in the US). While the cost of digital cameras has fallen dramatically, image quality has risen substantially since they were first launched in the early 1990s.

Industry estimates suggest that around three-quarters of photographs are taken on holiday. A test of 100 customers carried out by Dixons revealed that 93 per cent are now apparently unable to tell the difference between digital prints and 35mm film prints.

“Statistically, this tells us that there is no real difference in quality between digital and film,” said Magrath. “The digital camera, which delivers huge benefits due to its memory, speed, image quality and transferability of images, is a big winner with the millions of customers that shop with us every year.”

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