The One Camera that has me Salivating Today. And the one that's still prodding my acquisition gland....

I've got a short list of cameras and lights I want for Christmas. It's a really short list. There are only three objects of desire on it as of right now. And with bountiful rationalizations all three of them could (just barely) be considered practical purchases. The top of my list is pretty obvious. I've been buying up Sony and Minolta lenses over the course of the year and I seem to have jettisoned all my other non-historic cameras in favor of Sony a57, a77, and Nex 7 cameras. All of which have evolutionarily cool electronic viewfinders. So it's only logical that I should rush out and buy a Sony a99.  It's got all the stuff I like and adds in what may be the best all around, full frame sensor sitting in a camera today. Yeah, I know that people are losing a lot of saliva playing around with the Nikon D800 but while its specs seem drool inspiring I think the reality is that 24 megapixels is the current hyper-sweet spot for most workflows and for most subject matter.

The 36 megapixel chip in the Nikon feels kind of like an after market hood scoop and super charger slapped onto a Honda Accord. Not the most practical everyday car. And, at a zillion megabytes per file the D800 might not be the most practical daily driver for a working photographer either.

I want the Sony a99 but I'm trying to be disciplined and wait until I've saved up the cash to pay for one. I turned over a new leaf this year and decided to go easy on the credit cards where non-essential camera purchases are involved. But to quote Wayne Campbell in the movie, Wayne's World: "It will be mine.  Oh yes, it will be mine...." It just seems to be taking me longer than usual.

The more I read about the Fuji X-E1 the more I think that this camera might just leapfrog over the Sony a99 and cut in line, priority-wise. The truth is that I was ready to buy the Fuji Pro-1 when it first came out and I rushed to the store with a checkbook in hand when my personal sales consultant called to tell me the store was holding one for me.  I went and played with the demo and I was even willing to overlook the slow focusing but the one thing I was not willing to overlook on a modern camera (and at my eyes' age) was the absence of an adjustable diopter adjustment. Yes, at sometime in the not exact future I might be able to special order an eyepiece that would make the camera workable but in its raw form....no. And I'm not really a special order kind of guy.

I'm glad I waited because it appears like the X-E1 is everything the Pro 1 offered but more by having less. In getting rid of the vestigial optical finder Fuji was able to provide the same sensor and guts for about 1/3 less scarce American dollars. I like the X-E1 because it's simple and the body is elegantly spare.  I've owned Fuji S2's and S3's and even an S5 and while the bodies (largely Frankenstein adaptations of cheesier Nikon bodies) were operationally ragged the sensors were really, really good. The skin tones remarkable.  All reports so far (both the Pro-1 and the X-E1) point to the same gorgeous skin tones and color palette but this time around bundled with ample pixels and very low noise.  My Nex 7's will get jealous, no doubt, but I'm not in this to make friends with my cameras. They need to serve me and not the other way around.  I'm heading into town tomorrow to look at the X-E1 and the kit zoom lens, which is also supposed to be a cut above the competitors. I'm sure, if I pull the trigger, my VSL readers will be among the first to hear about it.

The final thing on my short list is just more and more of the small Fotodiox 312AS LED panels and more of the generic (cheap) Sony camcorder batteries that work with them.  At some point I'd live to build a frame and make a free standing LED softbox that's about four feet by four feet and usable anywhere. I just need about eight or ten more panels...... I'll add them one at a time. I've already put them on the Christmas list for my family and friends.  Thinking about getting me something really nice of the holidays??????? I'm sure there's another Fotodiox 312AS out there with my name on it........

What do you guys have on your always ready short list? 

Great stocking stuffer for almost every photographer on your list, a good, solid 16 gb SDHC card for the price of 3 lattes:


Robin Wong said...

Oh Kirk please do get that A99!!! I am dying to hear what you have to say, and see what you can do with it with your amazing portraiture work. I know I have had a few friends who already have it for a few weeks now, but nothing beats reading a real world review on VSL!! I am sure you have many readers anticipating this too.

Anti Money Laundering said...

Oooh wow. I just wish I can have at least one of these. I'm trying to save for a camera early next year.

Art in LA said...

As an early present, I bought myself a NEX-6! I've enjoyed my NEX-3 the past couple of years, but the OLED EVF got me (along with WiFi) ... my main goal is to avoid "dirty diaper" picture taking. Since I'm not in the business, I'm waiting for a budget-priced full framer so that I can take advantage of my older A-mount lenses ... one day.

(BTW, I enjoy both VSL and Robin's blog. I am amazed at how much energy you guys have.)

hugo said...

My list 1 year ago was really simple: A99 (or more precisely at that time, the future successor to the A900)

In the mean time I sold the A900 and got a nex-7 to wait for the A99. After the A99 and all those new 2012 cameras were leaked and announced, I got bored with most of them even before considering buying one.

So my short list currently is quite different:
1) FM2 or FM3 + some Nikkor AIS or voigtlander SL2 lenses
2) the X-E1, but that's only because of the lenses, not the camera itself.

Dave Jenkins said...

Aahh, Kirk! First you beguile us with a moving post about the art being more important than the equipment, and then. . .GAS!!!

Eli Burakian said...

Kirk, I'm thinking along the same lines as you.

Question though. What would be your processing pipeline with the Fuji? I hear the LR/ACR conversion of the raw files is just terrible and the idea of having to deal with another converter is a little off-putting.

Your 2 cents?

Mr said...

my buddy just got an a99 from prec... promply went out on an urban night shoot with the 50/1.4. wow reflections. exchanging for the sigma! have you experienced any wackiness with the sony 50 and reflections?(no uv filter, hood on)

im a small camera guy, but after playing with all the latest big cameras, id definitely go with the a99. i loved the feel, and things were where they should be. i did like the 5dmk3 tho

also, i love the sensor in the fujis, but hate all the "omg i cant use normal flow to process files" comments online. *cringe* also the slow focus and the less than stellar evf keep me with my em5

am looking fwd to the rx1!

Anonymous said...

1. Nokia 808 Pureview smartphone without a SIM card, for use as a camera only.

2. Olympus E-PM2 with a 15mm f/8 lens.


Fletch said...

I jumped a bit early and got an x-e1, samples here:


I then got carried away and bought the 18, 35 and 60 lenses, I'm really happy with it. The nex was the logical option as most of my stuff is sony but the e mount lens lineup doesn't really appeal to me yet and full frame alpha lenses via an adaptor aren't that appealing.

I have an a900, Minolta dynax 7, a55 and a load of alpha lenses and flashes so I'm drooling at the a99 and nearly pulled the trigger recently but managed to hold off (actually my girlfriend dragged me out of the store).

What I'm really looking forward to is the 50mm f/1.4 Carl Zeiss, auto focus on alpha mount that looks like it will becomea reality in 2013.

Vu Le, DDS said...

If you want the EVF, or perhaps the 1080p60 video with available XLR inputs, the A99 makes a remotely justifiable replacement for the D800. I can't imagine too many of your clients wanting 36MP over 24.

The Fuji X-E1 seems to add a lot less to the party over your NEX7. The Fuji brings along the moderately annoying autofocus speed deficiencies and the still unsolved third party (read: adobe) RAW conversion. I know you shoot JPEG a lot, but don't you want the option of RAW sometimes?

IMO, you'd have the most potential equipment synergy going Sony NEX + Sony a99. And maybe an RX1 for good measure.

Govis said...

Lots of photographers have medium format cameras. Much less practical from a storage standpoint that the D800..... I've played with that new Fuji as well- the lag and stuttering in the finer indoor at Photoplus Expo was very disappointing, and the OMD's finder was much superior under the same conditions.

Anonymous said...

My list is D600 and an XE-1 (+18 & 35mm). Dont have any sony compatible lenses, so at this point the a99, though very intriguing is out of the equation. The xe-1 would be primarily for travel photos and the d600 for all purpose.

Antony Shepherd said...

If I had the money to hand right now I'd go for a Sigma DP2M to replace my old DP1. Higher resolution, same Foveon quality in a small package, and a focal length I'd prefer. I don't care about it being slow to use, not being able to shoot HD video, or not being able to shoot black cats in coal cellars at midnight.

The thing i like about the Fuji XE-1, and the Sony NEX-6 (and 7), is that both Fuji and Sony have built their EVF into the corner of the camera unobtrusively, without seeing the need for a huge fake pentaprism bump on top like the Olympus OMD.

Noons said...

If only Fuji would let 3rd party RAW processors into the "secret sauce" for those files...
There is NO WAY I'll go through the pain of changing my RAW workflow ever again, however good the camera might turn out to be!

Carlo Santin said...

I'm taking your advice from yesterday's column: I need better photographs, not better cameras.

Paula said...

I do love my Fotodiox LED light panel that I got from your recommendation. Have you seen Manfrotto's new LED light panels? I should be getting my hands on one soon.

Keith I. said...

I caved on the A99 and absolutely do not regret it. I still break out the NEX-7 from time to time since it is still so much more compact, but I have only used my A900 once since getting the A99 and that was to take a photo OF the A99. I figured I'd like the ISO improvements, but even the low ISO dynamic range is improved. I am much happier with the camera than I thought I would be. If I were in Austin instead of Houston I would gladly let you take it for a spin.

Kirk Tuck said...

I'll admit to having gear Ac syndrome, like every other male photographer in the western world, but I do shoot every single day and for a living and sometimes my purchases are rational.....sometimes....maybe....a little.

Kirk Tuck said...

Until they come out with a real solution to processing in Adobe Raw I'd stick with best quality jpegs and just hit the WB more carefully.

Kirk Tuck said...

Paula, I saw your video about Jpeg versus raw and I liked it. The more carefully we shoot the more options we have.

Jim said...

Due to budget my list is very short, restricted to the make I already own and will require breaking out the credit card anyway but I'm pondering getting a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS to use with my 7D. I'd like a small camera that can be focused manually to replace my Canon G11 but I haven't found one yet that sings to me. There are no serious camera stores around where I live so I don't get a chance to handle them. Maybe I should come visit you.

soboyle said...

Looking forward to your thoughts on the X-E1. Looks like a great travel and street shooter in a small package. I think the raw issue with this camera is way overblown, as these things tend to get in the forums.

AdamR said...

Well, I just got a D300 and I'm pretty happy with it (yeah, I'm a little behind the curve but it sure is a big jump from my D40!). Right now my short list is a Berlebach tripod, an 85/1.4, a Fotodiox LED panel, and friends who want to have their picture taken.

More pie-in-the-sky, I've always wanted to try making 8x10 contact prints :D


Kirk Tuck said...

Adam, of all the digital SLRs I've owned that had the Nikon logo on them the D300 was my hands down favorite. It's a great shooting camera. You'll have fun with it.

Frank Grygier said...

If Santa could bring inspiration, motivation and a muse in good light I would be happy. An A99 in my stocking would be OK.

AdamR said...

I've had it for a month and really liking it. I've used for everything from a wedding to goose hunting and its been great. In fact, my wife liked it so much the first time she handled it that she had to have one of her own.


Anonymous said...

Just Do It Kirk, you know you will anyway. Don't punish yourself like this, LOL!


texascbx said...

I want the A99 pretty bad. But for what I shoot, I don't think it's worth it over my A77. I'm hoping they come out with the A99 and the 24-70 lens in a kit and save a few hundred then I might get one.

Gregg Mack said...

I hope that you buy either oone of these two fine cameras, as I know that I will truly enjoy seeing the photos that take with them and post on your blog. I also know that you will tell us what they are really like, from a perspective that matters.

Also, maybe you could toss a nice muse over to Frank - maybe just for the holiday spirit!

Philip Ho said...

Well, I just won a bid on ebay for a Pentax Spotmatic with a Super Takumar 50mm f1.4. That was my Christmas present to myself.

So the only other thing left on my list is a Canonet GIII QL 17.

And an entire mountain of Neopan 400.

And a cheap plane ticket to anywhere.

Speaking of which...Kirk, when was the last time you took your Canonet out for a spin?

Tony's Vision said...

Who woulda thunk ... Canon and Nikon getting sidelined by ... a tape recorder manufacturer?! But sure enough, other than for wildlife and humanlife on the wing, my fast-focusing D300 is lying idle as I've been exploring my new Nex-7. It has bumped my Canon G12 as my everyday walkabout camera, now that I've found it fits, along with my cell phone and wallet, into a BlackRapid bag. For Christmas - a couple more lenses for it.

John F. Opie said...

My shortlist is really, really short:

1) Take more time to take better photos
2) Take more time to master my equipment
3) Take more time to think before pressing that button
4) goto 1


Seriously: this will be a year of consolidation and pushing my existing equipment to the ragged edge. More large-scale panoramas, more existing light work with legacy lenses (on m4/3), more figuring out how the market for what I do. Sold my first really large scale panorama (3.4GP, printed out to 24 feet by 10 feet for corporate art) and I know I can sell more of them: I just gotta figure out how. :-)

No gear until I know I can't do what I want to with what I have.

Tony's Vision said...

Re: The dirty diaper hold - the Sony EVF is indeed wonderful. But I also discovered the wonders of the flip out LCD at a reception over the weekend: the waistlevel view option provided an eye-level view for those shots of folks seated at tables, avoiding their craned necks from looking up at the camera - and also kept table litter to a minimum.

cidereye said...

After trying one at my local dealer and examining plenty of images it has to be the new Sigma DP2 Merrill. For all it's faults the images are stunning and it fits in my pocket. £799 is a big ouch though!

Corwin said...

Just word of "advice" about X-E 1.

1) its Fuji = quirky
2) EVF is good, but thanks to special color array it can sorta "lag" sometimes
3) there is RAW, just you cant use it
4) ok you can, in SilkyPix or RPP, rest is useless due various artifacts

Otherwise fine, its just bit more like "polaroid" camera. What you shoot is what you get and not much PP possible. In certain point of view, its actually good thing.

A99 is probably best camera Sony made so far. :D Would love to have one.


1) Kodak SLR/n or 645 back (36x36 CCD)
2) Fuji S5 Pro
3) Canon 1Ds
4) Contax N Digital
5) Leica DMR
6) Samsung NX20
7) Sigma SD1
8) Nikon D3X
9) Canon 1DMK3

Each camera is somehow unique, I dont have much love for regular cams. Some of their "specialities" are well hidden. :) Some bit less.

Kirk Tuck said...

I love your quirky list of cameras. Have always wanted both the Leica DMR and the Contax N Digital. You were cruel to remind me....

Biro said...

If I were building a DSLR kit from scratch today, I'd probably go Sony. But I have far too much Pentax glass now to switch systems. Besides, I do like my K-5 quite a bit. But I'd consider dumping my micro four-thirds gear for the Fuji X-E1. Only $200 more more than an X100 with kit zoom. A no-brainer. On a slightly more practical front, I almost pulled the trigger on an NEX 6 with pancake zoom this weekend. But I hesitated. Perhaps when the price comes down a bit in 2013. One more camera is on my wish list this holiday season: The Sony RX1. Like that's going to happen, right?

D&E Photography said...

Just picked up a D7000 during the holiday price specials but the XE1 is crying out to me. It hits all the right buttons in my rangefinder-ish addiction problem.

But the dual SD cards, overall capabilities and price made me vote in favor of common sense. Strangely my positive experience with the D3200 also probably tipped the balance.

D&E Photography said...

Forgot to add my quirky always wanted one camera: Contax G2.

Corwin said...

Both can be bought, but both are pretty expensive "toys". :)

I have only number 10 from list, Konica Minolta 7D. Pretty quirky too..

Corwin said...

G2 is very nice one, pretty special camera.

Nice thing about it is that if one does have NEX, its possible to use that Zeiss goodness on both. :)

Terry Cioni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Grey said...

Mmmm, of all the big clunky, heavy DSLRs out there, the a99 is the one I'd totally consider, just for the lenses. I got to handle one a few weeks ago, and it was comfortable and the buttons were in just the right place and the viewfinder is better than expected. Unfortunately it's out of my price range, as such it will not make my Christmas shortlist. Not until I win the lotto at least.

My very short list:

- CF T* 50mm f/4 for the Hasselblad
- A trip to the mechanic to sort out spacing issues on two of my backs

And that's it. Though, a new film scanner, something along the lines of the Nikon CoolScan, would be very nice and is something I'd get alongside the a99 and the 24-70 Zeiss if I won the lotto...

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