Friday, June 24, 2016

More on the importance of the Hasselblad X1D . . .

Will ALL current cameras become museum pieces?
I've owned and operated many Medium Format cameras over the years.  I've owned Bronicas, Mamiyas, and I still have a much loved Yashica Mat 124G.  What can I say about that last one?  Some cameras just speak to you, regardless of comparative quality. 
The dialog around the X1D is starting to separate out into two camps.  Those who see the X1D as an expensive, and conspicuous show of wealth, with no real impact on photography, and those who see the X1D as something that is inherently a game changer and a threat to the FF DSLR.  I am in the second camp.
Modern photography is now very much a part of the consumer economy.  The X1D isn't important because it is a good camera, indeed, it may or may not be a successful new camera introduction, the results are not in on that.   There are many reasons why a given camera may succeed or fail.
The X1D is important because of what it means for the future of photography.   What we are seeing is that sensor/film size no longer has as direct a correspondence to camera size and usability that it used to have.
The X1D is only a tiny bit larger and a tiny bit heavier than the Sony A7RII.  And as much as I love my m43s E-M10, the X1D isn't THAT much bigger and heavier than the larger m43s camera bodies.  The gap between 'big' and 'small' is narrowing.
It may be too early to tell until we get the camera into hands of the early adopters, but It seems that it is not just 'reasonably hand-holdable', it is VERY hand-holdable!  We've all seen MF SLRs, they are NOT ideal hand held devices.  People use them for the image quality, and NOT for how convenient they are.  Hasselblad seems to be trying to develop a convenient MF camera.
Is the X1D a threat to the current crop of FF DSLRs?  Probably not, at least at list prices.  But I remind you it uses a SONY sensor.  What if Sony decides there is a market for a lower priced MF mirrorless camera similar to the X1D? It would seem a 'doable' project for Sony if the design and build costs work out.
What if Olympus decides the "M" in m43s should actually stand for "Medium"?  
I think the need to differentiate the quality found in dedicated cameras from the cameras found in smartphones may force manufacturers to seriously consider upsizing their sensors, and when/if that occurs, the mirrorbox will be discovered to add a lot of size, weight, and mirror flop tortion for no good reason.
What we are seeing is a result of the success of the smartphone as a "go everywhere" camera.  The recent smartphone offerings are getting pretty good, and no one thinks the image quality of the smart phone cameras will stop getting better.  
Hasselblad has given us a possible way to keep the stand alone dedicated camera a viable photographic tool.  I think the other manufacturers would be foolish to ignore it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Does the Hasselblad X1D Change Things?

Do you remember in the absolute very first Star Wars movie, when Han, Luke, and Leia are in the garbage pit of the Battle Star, and the walls start closing in?  I imagine that must be how Canon and Nikon feel.
Is how we will come to think about the DSLR?

My very first reaction when I saw pictures of the camera, was a yawn.  So it was a big version of what I already had with my Olympus E-M10!  Big deal! Yeah it was a much bigger sensor, but it WAS essentially a 4:3 sensor, and I DID have a better selection of lenses.  And the price, while something of a bargain, considering the format and manufacturer, is so far out of my financial capabilities that I saw the thing as irrelevant to my life and my photography.

However, once I started thinking about what the X1D actually meant to photography and photographers, in general, I realized that this just might actually BE the game changer, we all like to  talk about but never really see!

Click to go to Hasselblad Web site.

A medium format mirrorless camera that weighs only a small bit more than the Sony A7RII is a very remarkable thing.  And while the price is high, it is priced low enough that it will undoubtedly draw some sales away from many FF DSLR cameras particularly those higher cost, and presumably higher margin camera bodies. Particularly so for those who are interested in studio work, or possibly, landscape photography.

I think Nikon and Canon have to start thinking about what this means for the DSLR camera format.  Is it SO absurd to think that DXO/Mamiya, Pentax, Sony, or even possibly Olympus could produce a similar camera at a lower price?  A price that skirts dangerously close to the upper end DSLRs?

Canon and Nikon MUST see that the walls are starting to move.  The area in which they are free to operate just got smaller, and once some manufacturer recognizes that there is a market for a less costly camera, their ability to move freely will be even further restricted.

I would remind you that our Star Wars heros, ultimately got out of their shrinking prison, but they found it a rather unpleasant escape.  Will Canon and Nikon escape their newly encountered situation?

I don't know, but I do believe this is one more nail in the coffin of the DSLR.  the DSLR isn't going away for a while yet, but I believe the handwriting is on the wall.  And that wall is moving towards Canon and Nikon, it is their actions that will determine how well they survive.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Psychological and Attitudinal Implications of Photographic Gear Choice

During a conversation I had with a new adopter to m43s from a FF system, he mentioned that he felt that his photos were different from the photos he had been taking, and when he made a conscious decision to shoot his "old style", he felt the composition and overall quality of the photos were not as good as they had been.  Overall, he felt a bit dissatisfied with his change to the new m43s system.

I wasn't sure how to respond to his complaint immediately, so I let the comment slide past me.  However, it kept nagging at me, and this post, however inadequate, is an attempt to respond to his complaints.

In looking back at my photos taken over the years with other cameras and other formats, I see a significant difference in the type of photos I take with 4/3s and m43s cameras than I did with 35 mm cameras and other cameras with other aspect ratios.

The photos taken with 4/3s and m43s cameras all seem to be more, "intimate" in nature than do the photos taken with other cameras.  Those photos, the ones not taken with 4/3s of some sort, all tend to be more 'sweeping' in nature.  I acknowledge that the terms "intimate" and "sweeping" are rather indistinct and not defined by me, but those are the feelings the various photos evoke in me.

However, I first adopted 4/3s roughly at a time when I was

  1. Acknowledging that I was not, and never would be, the next Ansel Adams.  
  2. Concerned that maybe I was using photography to separate myself from my life.  That maybe that viewfinder was a convenient tool to prevent me from experiencing my life, so I could just watch it like a CinemaScope movie.
With the 4/3s formats, I tend to create a lot of square format photos and do a lot of close ups, both of which, in my mind at least, are features of a photographer trying to connect with his subject.  And my landscape photos seem to be less sweeping and more focused on the details of the natural world.  Even my 'sweeping' landscapes tend to have little details in them than really only get noticed on close examination, and they are frequently stitched panoramas since I don't associate 4/3s with 'big sky'. 

In Memoriam

I think I have grown as a photographer since I switched to the 4/3s formats. I can't say, if that growth would have occurred anyway, or if my adoption of 4/3s accelerated that growth, but I do know they are connected in time. 

My point is, I think I unconsciously selected 4/3s because I associated it with the qualities I wanted to develop as a photographer.  Whether 4/3s actually has those qualities or not is almost irrelevant.  In my mind they did, and still do have those qualities.  M43s helps me SEE the photos I want, and it helps me create the photos I want.

I think our choice in hardware is far more complex than we want to acknowledge. And I bet that photographer I mentioned in the first paragraph isn't having problems with the format, as such, so much as he is in reconciling his attitudes about the gear and what he expects from himself.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Inevitability of Change

On a forum I frequently visit, I asked a question about wireless charging of our cameras.  I like the idea of wireless charging.  I have it on my smartphone and on my smart watch, and it is VERY convenient.  
The way I use my camera, is that there are weeks of idleness, that are punctuated by a few days of frenzied photographic activity.  Then more idleness as I sit down and try to figure out what I want to DO with the photos I have taken.
The problem I face is that the batteries in my idle Olympus cameras gradually fade until they are empty.  And I run the risk, at some point, where my custom settings cease to be.  When the capacitor that holds a small charge to keep the camera functional when the batteries are removed, also fades away.
A wireless charging system would keep the batteries topped off and eliminate the need for me changing the idle battery  for a fresh battery once a week or so.  This isn't a major problem for me, but it WOULD be a minor convenience that I would like to have.
Naturally, in that forum, I got all sorts of detailed explanations of why such a thing would never come to pass, why it was impractical, that the the technological differences between cameras and smartphones are too great, and why the manufacturers would never be so stupid as to even try such a thing.  I also got a lot of suggestions that I should just shut up and continue to rotate batteries the way God intended.
It is my belief that anything that sells cameras is good for digital photography in general.   We no longer have consumables that can drive the ongoing profitability of companies involved with photography.  We don't have film, or developing chemicals, for example.  We do have printer ink and printing paper, but in this online age of photo sharing, their value is greatly diminished.
All the photo industry has for ongoing profitability is new technology and gear churn, and that is why we see annual model changes in camera model lines.  This isn't greed or venality on the part of the photo industry, it is basic survival.
As a result, I think wireless charging is an inevitable feature in the quality cameras aimed at the consumer and professional users in spite of all the very valid and technological reasons as to why (some people think) it will never happen.
Perceived convenience on the part of the consumer is really all the justification that is needed for offering this feature and making an investment in the R&D.   I suspect that the minute it becomes do-able, or even kinda/sorta do-able, it's going to happen. 
The early models will no doubt be of marginal value, and all the nay-sayers will say, "See! I told you so!" But if there's any merit to the idea, and in this case, merit, means an affirmative answer to the question, "Will it SELL more gear if we make a few tweaks?", then the second and third generation devices will be produced and improved.
This is the same path that smart watches have taken. And is the path that Smartphones took from the original Palm Pilot, to the Apple Newton, to the Treo, to the iPhone, to the Samsung G7 which DOES have wireless charging, btw.  Please forgive the missing steps in smartphone development, but you get the idea, I hope!
It is also the path that Auto exposure, Auto focus, and image stabilization took within the camera industry.  I was there, back in the days of the dinosaurs.  There were people back then who also gave detailed and very well reasoned explanations as to why those things would never work either!
I believe that ultimately, the need to sell me, and you, new gear will overpower any technological reasons of why "it can't be done."  As a result, we will not only have wireless charging in the near future, but several new convenience features we haven't even thought of.
I don't care all that much what sort of engineering and technical design issues the Camera manufacturers face, so long as they give me the convenience I seek.   We are long past having to worry about basic image quality in cameras,  even the cameras with one inch sensors produce pretty good images, and the 4/3s and APS cameras produce downright outstanding images.
The future for photographers is going to be great and more convenient, I think!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Best Explanation of Pixel Targeting I've seen, so far!

The tutorial I link to is so good, I wish I had produced it!  Several people have tried to explain ACDSee's Pixel Targeting tool, and have not done so well.  I did one early on when PT first was released, but It wasn't very good and I removed it from this blog because I was ashamed of it!

I won't call this the best Pixel Targeting tutorial ever, because who knows, a better one might come out tomorrow!  But it is the best so far!


The Best Pixel Targeting Tutorial so far!