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WSJ Documentary - US spy planes continue to use wet-plate photography

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WSJ Documentary - US spy planes continue to use wet-plate photography

Old 21st Jun 2018, 13:23
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WSJ Documentary - US spy planes continue to use wet-plate photography

From a link seen elsewhere:-
The Wall Street Journal has made a 19-minute documentary about the United States’ U-2 spy planes who continue to use film photography in its operations. Photographs are shot with wet-plate cameras before being shipped to their base in California for developing and analysis. The documentary explores this process and why the US military continues to use wet-plate photography.
The video is a closer look in general at the U2 rather than just about how it records images, plus the journalist enjoys the (rare?) privilege of a flight. All quite interestingWatch the documentary here.
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 15:31
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The original 'wet-plate' film - which was on glass or tin plate - had to be exposed whilst the chemical was still moist. I think this was about 5 - 10 minutes after coating. Are we certain this was wet-plate as opposed to film? If so it must have been a very complicated camera and I would have though unlikely for use in a U2 at high altitude.
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 16:15
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Modern use of the term 'wet' meaning film and wet development rather than dry process using digital?

I recently scanned some negatives, 120 years old, that were 2x3. To look at the negative there was little to see. Scanned and digitally enhanced the detail was remarkable.
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 16:29
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Yes, the term 'wet-plate' is a misnomer - large format black and white roll film is what is being used and this (of course) requires processing in liquid developers - which is what I do at the kitchen sink with b&w films from my 35mm and 6x6cm cameras
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 16:41
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I recently scanned some negatives, 120 years old, that were 2x3.
Your holiday snaps, eh PN?
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 17:34
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Originally Posted by BEagle View Post
Your holiday snaps, eh PN?
It reminds me of Philomena Cunk’s line about the Battle of Hastings:

”We know what happened because somebody took a tapestry of it”

YS
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 18:11
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You can get cameras up to 50MP res over the counter.... You can get expensive Hasselblad that do something fancy with the sensors and produce a 200MP image but as the aircraft is moving this won't be an option.

I have a film scanner on my desk which can spit out 90 MP res and 24 bit colour on a 35mm film. Consumer Medium format scanners are 180 MP res and 24 bit colour.


As much as people love the ease of digital photography large format film digital can't touch even remotely for resolution or quality.
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 19:10
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They're probably using an array of cameras with lots of post-processing and a stablizing platform, would be my guess. The goal is probably to track serial numbers
A 7200 MP camera with 10 degree opening at 120,000 ft would be about 2.8 feet per pixel. I'm sure they want more than that.
The other factor is the range of data per "pixel". Hmmm, hard to compare film vs. CCD there.
Also there's the whole multiple pass trick too, which is great for satellites but maybe not aircraft.
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 20:19
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I recall that the U2 aircraft was designed around the camera. 36"inch wide film 1 mile of it.
Designed by Mr Land.
Surely someone will know better.
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Old 21st Jun 2018, 23:14
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Originally Posted by esa-aardvark View Post
I recall that the U2 aircraft was designed around the camera. 36"inch wide film 1 mile of it.
Designed by Mr Land.
Surely someone will know better.
Yup, it has 2 huge rolls of film, I seem to recall over 100 Lbs. per roll. The two rolls run in opposite direction to not alter the CG of the aircraft as the film is exposed. The lens is pretty awesome, too!

Jon

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Old 21st Jun 2018, 23:47
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Originally Posted by jmelson View Post
Yup, it has 2 huge rolls of film, I seem to recall over 100 Lbs. per roll. The two rolls run in opposite direction to not alter the CG of the aircraft as the film is exposed. The lens is pretty awesome, too!

Jon
Which was the same camera in the Canberra PR9.
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Old 22nd Jun 2018, 01:40
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I am pretty sure that the instrument in question is the Itek Optical Bar Camera, a remarkable piece of kit that dates to the 1960s.
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Old 22nd Jun 2018, 08:45
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Originally Posted by tescoapp View Post
As much as people love the ease of digital photography large format film digital can't touch even remotely for resolution or quality.
I think I know what you mean, but to remove doubt, would you care to puncture the sentence?
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Old 22nd Jun 2018, 10:10
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Originally Posted by Pontius Navigator View Post
I think I know what you mean, but to remove doubt, would you care to puncture the sentence?
You really mean punctuate don't you?
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Old 22nd Jun 2018, 10:54
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The camera! (At the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum)
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Old 22nd Jun 2018, 13:58
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Originally Posted by air pig View Post
Which was the same camera in the Canberra PR9.


You mean this then?
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Old 22nd Jun 2018, 14:38
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Presumably airpig means System III (Hycon HR73B?). I think the photo shows a SYERS/RADEOS camera, which was digital.
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Old 22nd Jun 2018, 23:51
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Again, it's not any conventional framing camera. It's this dude:

https://history.nasa.gov/afj/simbayc...an-camera.html

NASA used a space-hardened version, but the original was for the TRA Model 154 Firefly stealth reconnaissance UAV.
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Old 23rd Jun 2018, 08:41
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Originally Posted by Pontius Navigator View Post
I think I know what you mean, but to remove doubt, would you care to puncture the sentence?
There's more to photography than just resolution. Contrast, or dynamic range, is also a big issue and from what I hear good old film still has the edge over digital sensors in this regard. You can get a sense of this from looking at what a mobile phone does these days; HDR photographs are a composite of 2, taken with different exposures, and then snaffling the good bits from both to make a HDR image. Ok, so phone camera sensors are pretty rubbish, they're silicon based, not GaAs like any decent CCD that a proper digital imaging system would use. But film still beats a CCD for contrast range.

It underlines how remarkable the human eye is with its ability to see detail in gloomy shadows on a bright sunny day that no digital camera can easily capture.

The other irony is that, by definition, digital scanners are also likely incapable of scanning a film print and capturing the full dynamic range, and flat panel monitors aren't capable of displaying the full dynamic range of the print either (even if the scanner could scan it). So there's likely still the odd occasion where a pair of well tuned Mk 1 eyeballs looking at the film itself will see things that are not apparent any other way.
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Old 23rd Jun 2018, 13:39
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Originally Posted by msbbarratt View Post
There's more to photography than just resolution. Contrast, or dynamic range, is also a big issue and from what I hear good old film still has the edge over digital sensors in this regard. .
It seems likely that this is no longer the case. Comparison of digital and film images

The win with these cameras is the huge sensor/negative size. These days, at equal image size, digital wins (as I know from the fact that 4/3 digital images of my Leica and Rolleiflex negatives record all the detail they've got).
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