A spectator's seat at the battle of the big cameras. The Sony A7Riii and the Nikon D850.

Just as an aside I find it humorous that back in 2010, about seven years ago, I was testing three medium format cameras and I never once heard from full frame (35mm) or cropped frame (APS-C) shooters that the advent of the new raft of medium format digital cameras would render their current "mini-camera" (35mm style) collection obsolete. Even though the MF cameras were demonstrably and, in some cases amazingly, better image makers I never saw the flood of "must give the clients the best tools in the universe" people who now pontificate about how one must have a 40+ megapixel, full frame camera in order to compete; to even survive, as a professional photographer. They could have had 40 megapixels back then if they truly believed their bravado and had the balls to drop the cash...

Then again, as we all know, all that self-serving gear worship is just so much horse crap. 

But, people love to read about the latest, priciest, most prestigious gear so let's hop into the meat of the blog. Sony A7Riii versus the Nikon D850. TL:DR version = The Sony is the better camera, the better system, the better video camera, the more flexible option and the sensor is pretty much the same. 

Of course I say all this having never handled either camera. I've only read the specifications, listened to people on YouTube who once held the camera in their hands for about the amount of time it takes coffee to cool, and talked to a few industry insiders. In other words, about as much actual experience with the cameras as most of the people out there "reviewing" them. 

Let's start with the Nikon D850. It's basically a Nikon D810 with a few more pixels added to the mix, a vast improvement (but still nowhere near its competitors) in video, slightly faster frame to frame performance and very slightly improved auto focusing. The body is large and ungainly in most people's hands and the consensus is that the majority of Nikon's lenses will not match the resolution performance of the sensor --- not by a long shot. The lens mount mostly precludes using lenses from other makers with adapters and whomever buys the camera is buying a last century construct that uses flapping mechanical mirrors, mechanical lens linkages and a "dumb" (OVF) viewfinder. Really, the only thing that sells the camera is the sheer resolution of the sensor and the implied "leap" in quality that the sensor might deliver if all the stars line up, you use the best lenses you can't afford, and your technique goes from mildly compulsive to absolutely anal. 

You get all the usual Nikon "features." The nagging dread that all of your lenses are either front or back focusing (or both) at many focal lengths and distances. The inability to use the finder when shooting video in bright sun, or in any light. The potential for at least one manufacturer's recall; maybe two (or more as in the case of the D750). In exchange for getting a full frame (35mm) sensor with resolution that matches medium format digital cameras from seven years ago you also get the privilege of walking around with huge and heavy lenses. 

One might argue that this is the price one pays for imaging perfection but there is always going to be that nagging doubt in the back of one's mind that the compromise of much smaller sized pixels will logically put the sensor at a decided disadvantage when compared to the larger pixels of the bigger medium format camera sensors. Oh well, at least the D850 doesn't seem prone to overheating...

So that must mean the Sony A7Riii wins the race, right? Well, if photography were actually a race, or a head-on competition, you might make an argument for the Sony camera but it's not such a big deal either. When you splash out the extra cash for the newest Sony full framer you are basically getting the same sensor (and performance) as the previous model along with a second card slot and some feature gingerbread, like the (poorly conceived) multi-shot ability. A second or two between shots? Have they never met humans? Humans don't wait. Call me when multi-shot from Sony works handheld, for moving objects or, when it's at least as good as the multi-shot feature implemented years ago by Olympus. 

I'd conjectured that Sony improved the video but a quick glance at the specs still turns up no full 4K setting, no 4K 10 bit 4:2:2, and no All-I codecs. Not even an increase in information throughput. Just the same old, same old video that you'll get from the previous cameras. In fact, the video in the one inch sensor RX10iv might just be a higher quality file. Pretty wild, huh?

For around the same basic price of the Nikon D850 you get a camera with a bit less resolution, much less battery life, an "interesting" approach to physical handling and a smaller system of available lenses from Sony (not that most people should care). Why bother? Well, you do get to operate your camera as though it was designed and made in the 21st century. It does have purport to have a higher resolution, more beautiful EVF than its predecessor  (which is vital in a professional camera that will be used for high end advertising and all video...the EVF that is...) which makes for a nicer user experience. You get the second card slot you think you want (even though it is not the same performance as the #1 card slot). You get access to a vast ocean of adaptable lenses and you get bodies that are much less ----- fat. I don't want to "body shame" Nikon but the days of wanting to carry around extra weight and buy larger cases with wheels on them are pretty much over. Electronics should be able to reduce the complexity and number of parts in a camera and Sony cameras go a long way toward validating that idea. 

( full disclosure: I owed the predecessors to both of the cameras being discussed here. I no longer own them).

The Verdict? Both of these cameras were designed for  last decade work targets and the general use for cameras has morphed beyond the need for most of what those cameras offer. The majority of users in the world are no longer members of camera clubs; meeting up to show each other all the glorious detail in their 16x20 prints of kittens and wine bottles and coffee cups. We no longer haul around big tripods (which you'll need in order to see any advantage between the two cameras discussed above and the next models down in each company's line up). A person walking around town with a D850 and a 70-200mm f2.8 draped over one shoulder with a Black Vapid camera strap seems so much like a photographic anachronism now. 

We find ourselves in a situation where progress has made most cameras, of all different formats, equally good, and certainly sufficient, for 99% of the uses for which people undertake. People are using one inch superzoom cameras to do work that used to be the territory of film Hasselblads and then full frame digital cameras. The targets for the images overall are different than they were ten years ago. The culture has changed. Technology changed. Venues for sharing all changed. The obsession for horsepower has dissipated. The big, traditional, full frame camera is now more or less the replacement for the gold watch at retirement. A talisman craved only by those who lived through the (previous) golden age of photography. 

Both the cameras are largely irrelevant. My recommendation would be to keep what you have till you find the point where it fails you and where that failure actually bothers you. So few people (including the vast majority of professionals) need any camera with more than 24 megapixels for modern work. 

Most people would be more productive with a small, portable, powerful camera, like a Sony RX100V, than any big, interchangeable lens beast. And they'd most likely use it a lot more often just because it's easier to carry and offers 95% of the performance. If you want to enjoy photography instead of using camera gear as a status measure you might take a Fuji, Olympus or smaller Sony... or even small, plastic Nikon consumer DSLR out for a spin. The sheer quality of the files might surprise you. The smaller footprint will surely please you...

I guess all the "journalism" surrounding these camera introductions is akin to car magazines reviewing the latest Porsches, Corvettes and Ferraris, interspersed between logical and straightforward reviews of Hondas and Toyota family sedans. Fat guys with slow reflexes driving cars fast that no rational human would consider for everyday use....same.

"Ah yes. I see what you've done here. I needed to get my 100x loupe to see it but...I think you are right, the left edge of the Nikon D850 green pixels are slightly off square....pity." 

This man believes that camera choice important. Minute by minute choice.
Not chimping -- winding to the next frame.... 

Make sure you buy cameras that, when draped over your shoulders, don't ruin the line of your suit.

Of course we still measure performance and final quality by the 1970's Gold Standard. 
(Still in use in 2017). 

Millions and millions of ancient images reveal the lie that no good work was ever done before the advent of BSI sensors and (alleged) 14 bit raw files.

"Real Pros have to use.....XXX" What a bunch of self serving crap. If you were really hellbent on delivering the "very best" to your clients you would have been using a camera like the one just above seven or eight years ago. Or one of the new 100MP models available right now. 
Go ahead, trade up. I dare you.

Let's see. I'm going to post some stuff to Instagram. And some stuff to Facebook. Oh, and to that contest on DPReivew, and it's all going to be about my rock climbing hobby. I wonder which camera might be the best choice? Can you help me?

"It is fundamentally impossible to take actual photographs with small sensor cameras...."

Three above. The logical evolution of reportage video.

Sure wish I'd used a full frame camera....

I can hardly wait for the next camera announcements. 
I wish I could be there to see some of the reviewers wet themselves....

But which camera would I use to document it?


I was so excited by the Sony A7Riii announcement, and the afterglow of the Nikon D850 announcements, that I pre-ordered something.

It's the Olympus 45 f1.2 Pro lens. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a great lens and I'm equally sure I won't be able to use it on either of the cameras in the headline.

I'm so impressed by the Olympus Pro lenses I've been buying that I'm started to consider the cameras just an accessory.

I am preparing myself to be wowed!!!

Also, an announcement. Tomorrow is my birthday. I have a job booked from 7am till 4pm, and must attend a wedding out at a ranch that starts at 5:30pm (No, I am not the photographer...). I may not have time to squeeze in a swim tomorrow, much less a blog post. I'll look around and see if our impresario, Charlie Martini, has anything in the hopper he can offer to fill the space.  tempus fugit

A gallery of ONE INCH SENSOR photographs. Just for fun. Click on them. They are happy to be large.


The process of "zeroing in" a camera. It takes longer than one might think...

There are hundreds and hundreds of building projects all over Austin. 
I walk downtown at least once a week and many times stumble across 
a new building that was only a hole in the ground weeks before...

I've been working with the Panasonic GH5 cameras since the end of the Summer and I'm finally starting to feel like I understand their color and the best way to use them. I think the best way to get a handle on any camera is to use it a lot for stuff that's not client-centric so you can push the envelope hard enough to break it. Then you know what your limits are but you also know where and how your system looks best. 

I think the GH5 does best at ISO 100(l), 200 and 400 for most things. For portraits the lower the ISO the better. But the compensation for not being the most stellar high ISO camera is that the camera, with the best lenses, has a really rich color palette and a wonderful ability to render flesh tones at these lower ISO settings. 

I've learned that I don't like using very flat profiles with the photographs because it's hard to replicate a nice tonality in post. Why bother when using "standard" or "natural" will give you really adorable files?

My one wish for the next version of the camera is for a physical exposure compensation dial on the camera body. I'm comfortable with the on-screen version now but....
Looking behind the advertising curtain. I love that the torn graphic exposes a couple yards of plywood. 
The same could be said for the general construction of many buildings. 
A new appreciation by contractors of planned obsolescence. 

It's all about the bright spots and the shafts of light. 
The buildings are only the foil. 

I've loved compressed building shots since.....forever.

So, when did this wall at the east end of Barton Springs Pool get painted pink?
Nobody asked me if that was okay...

I've had two lenses in my hands for the last few days. One is the 12-100mm Olympus Pro (which I love more and more each day) and the other is the Panasonic 42.5 f1.7. It's tiny and cute but an imaging machine. Working with them for hours at a time helps you feel comfortable when you have to turn around and use them for a real job. Then, they don't seem like strangers; they seem like friends.

Morning Travels with a camera. Set on "Photographic Nostalgia" mode.

The lens of the day is the 42.5mm f1.7 Panasonic. It's sweet. It's tiny. It's sharp.

I spent all last week shooting what my clients wanted to today I got up with the sunrise and headed out the door to shoot stuff that was just for me. My style. My subject matter. Nothing serious or well thought through but satisfying to my eye and my ongoing curiosity. I cut my teeth with square cameras like Rollei twin lens cameras, Mamiya twin lens cameras and an endless assortment of Hasselblads. For years pretty much nothing but Tri-X film saw the inside of my personal cameras. So, when I found the dynamic monochrome filter setting on the GH5 I thought I'd see how close I could get to the feel of yesteryear in modern Austin. 

I parked at Barton Springs Pool and headed around the lake to First St. where I left the hike and bike train and lurched into downtown. I shot along Second St. and then, after buzzing through the Seaholm Power Plant I reconnected with the hike and bike trail for my long looped return to the big pool. 

The photography this morning was fun. The GH5, in square, black and white mode is very satisfying, mostly because the EVF is so incredibly good. But the real nice thing is how life affirming early morning is in central Austin. Hundreds and hundreds of people are running around the hike and bike trails, people are already swimming laps in the brisk waters of Barton Springs, couples are walking their dogs, talking and laughing. 

When I walked across the street and into downtown I saw so many people biking to work, walking down the broad sidewalks with their cups of coffee and already having animated conversations with their work mates. I saw people with stabilizing rigs shooting their video versions of Austin morning and a number of photographers doing just what I was doing; getting exercise and working on their vision the world. It was glorious. 

It makes me wonder why we go to work at all; there's so much other fun stuff to do!

Getting Lucky with the "Brick Wall" test. On Sixth St.

I was walking around with the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens stuck on the front of a GH5 when I saw this wonderful brick wall to photograph. Sadly, there were no kitties or puppies to also include in the frame... At any rate I loved the blatant advertising messaging from the bar attached to this wall. They really cut to the chase with their marketing "promise."

I just don't understand where the bike rentals fit in.....