10.08.2018

I laughed my ass off when I saw the camera Zeiss was proposing at Photokina. Don't these manufacturers ever learn from each other?



The Samsung Galaxy NX. How many hundreds sold worldwide?

I laughed and laughed when I saw what Zeiss was proposing the build. It's a camera with a fixed lens, a huge screen on the back and the ability to run apps like mobile Adobe Lightroom right on the back screen of the camera. If I read the promo material correctly it's based on the Android operating system...

Can you say, "Deja Vu?"
I sure can because I was part of the crew that tested and shot with the Samsung Galaxy NX camera. It featured a big and bold screen on the back. It ran Android's Jelly Bean implementation. It could run many apps. It was the most connected camera of all time and included: Bluetooth, Wi-fi, and full on Cellular connectivity. It even did the Zeiss pipe dream one better by providing an interchangeable lens system that could take advantage of some really well made and impressive lenses. But it was one of  the biggest camera failures in recent history and, in my opinion, was a strong component in Samsung's decision to exit the camera making market altogether. Be careful Zeiss. Be very careful.

Why did it fail? I'm sure there were as many reasons as their are photographers with opinions but for me it was all about actual usuability. Since the camera ran a consumer operating system with many installed apps (feature or sabotage?) it took a long time to start up once you hit the power switch. On the first samples we're talking as much as thirty seconds from switch flick to useable. If you had cellular enabled and you didn't change the default which asked the camera to look for software updates upon resuscitation you could doom yourself to longer waiting periods (with little or no recourse) as the camera downloaded and installed the usual patches and crap. Nuts to you if you saw a scene with Lady GaGa and the Pope making out on main stream with UFOs landing in the background ---- you weren't going to have a camera that would take photographs until your Galaxy NX finished downloading and installing the latest rev. of Angry Birds. 

So, if you have a camera in which the controls are apps and they are embedded with communication apps and gaming apps you just got yourself a menu that makes the Olympus OMD menus look like, "See Jane run. Run Jane run." I made notes. They hardly helped. And I guess I should have expected it because every software update meant new application icon positions and permissions. 

And while the IDEA of a really big screen sounds enticing (yes, you could probably watch a movie on Netflix on your flight home from wherever) it's a shitty idea on many levels; or at least in the levels that have anything do to with taking photographs. 

I'll admit that the screen was nice when shooting stuff in the studio but only until you experienced one of the (regular and frequent) OS crashes and had to restart. Again. And Again.

But shooting out in the streets you quickly realize that the screen is for shit in bright sunlight ( and will be equally or nearly as bad on the Zeiss --- no matter what the sales brochure says.... One Million Nits....!!!!!) and all the money spent on the big rear screen meant scrimping and saving on the low res and slow refreshing EVF. You may think you love doing everything on the rear screen because you are young and stupid and don't know any better, having cut your teeth holding a phone out in front of yourself like a dolt, but when you start photographing with intention you discover how important and enabling a good eye level finder can be.... That's why we don't use twin lens reflexes or view cameras anymore. 

I hope Zeiss doesn't scrimp on the EVF, it will kill the camera before it hits the local Hermes shop. Perhaps they'll stock them at Gucci as well....

Thom Hogan and some small handful of tech-y photographers constantly pine for massive interconnectivity but I'm betting that when they get a bad taste of the distraction and cumbersome nature of their phone, laptop and camera having sex and giving birth to a Frankenstein-ish all purpose appliance they'll want to go back and edit out everything they ever wrote about wanting to process images on their cameras and then uploading them to the millions and millions of buyers who are, in their imaginations, just waiting for their photographic produce to come banging over the bandwidth to their (tiny phone) screens. Multi-Tasking is just another conglomeration of words that essentially means, "I like the gimmicks more than the art. I can't concentrate on one task for more than a few seconds. And, everyone wants to see my stuff RIGHT NOW. Even surgeons pause their procedures just to take a gander on their phones of someone's latest ferret foto)

I can see it now. Legions of people misled by false technology messiahs spending Frustration Fridays uploading a new version of Lightroom to their camera. Uploading new versions of Android to their...camera. Playing Angry Birds and  Candy Crush on their cameras.  Waiting for their cameras to reboot so they can catch the last few moments of the asteroid that is about to decimate the planet. 

Me? I'll laugh and photograph them slamming their new interactive, interconnected cameras down on the hard concrete in frustration as they come to understand that real creativity requires real, undiluted attention and focus. Yeah. A one tool per job mentality. It's why we don't have Sporks in Michelin star restaurants. Multi-tool camera clutter is why Zeiss's latest grasp for the gold plated ring will result in abject failure. 

I'd go the other way and make a camera with three controls: Aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Everything else we'd handle in post. It's true. If you don't believe me go find a Samsung Galaxy NX and give it a whirl. Yes, I can write this because I used one for a year. And yes, I'd never buy another camera like that again. Even with YOUR money. 













Most photos above: Berlin 2013. The launch.


Choosing between micro four thirds cameras and full frame, Nikon D800 cameras for tomorrow's portrait assignment.

A self portrait from 2013 with the failed Samsung Galaxy NX APS-C camera.

I have an unusual assignment tomorrow. I'm going to a hotel in the downtown area where I'll set up a temporary studio in a large meeting room. The studio will have a gray background at one end and a black background at the other end and a bunch of lights in between. I need to photograph about 25 people that work for a telecom company because each of them needs a new headshot for LinkedIn and other social media. 

I'll photograph each person against the black background and then move them over a few feet and photograph them against the gray background. I'm not sure why the need for two different backgrounds but that's what came in the bid request. I connected with this client through a telecom client in San Francisco and, in spite of needing two different backgrounds the shoot should be fun and lighthearted. 

I was down scouting the location today so I'd know what to bring tomorrow. I've packed four monolights to use on the shoot (main light and back light on each set) as well as two pop-up reflectors for fill. I'm also packing two speed lights to use as background lights for the gray background set. But the decision that made me pause was about the cameras. 

Should I bring the Nikon D800s or the Panasonic GH5 cameras?

In the end I decided to continue my successful run with the Panasonic cameras, packing the GH5S and the newer G9. But I paid attention to my thought processes and the way I came around to deciding on which system to use. I thought it might help instruct me in future engagements...

The first part of the equation is that we'll have to shoot the equivalent of 50 portraits over the course of the day. That's a lot to shoot but that's a hell of a lot to post process. I bid the job differently than I usually would because I'm trying to streamline the amount of work I need to dedicate to post production. What I told the client was this: I'll shoot between ten and twenty shots of each person against each background. At the least that's 500 images and at the most around 1,000 images. In the past I would have made a global color correction and exposure currection, put the edited (meaning "culled down") images in a gallery on Smugmug.com and had the client go there to pick out the best image of each person. Then I'd retouch that single image for each person. But that makes the process cumbersome and time consuming. A lot of people take their time getting back with selections and there are few things I hate more than projects that come back to me in dribbles and drabs. 

This time around I'll light and shoot them to the best of my abilities, do a very precise global color correction and apply (almost like a LUT in video) a look to the files, and put all of them up on Smugmug.com and make every image downloadable in full resolution by the client. I'll effectively take myself out of the selection and retouching process. Taking it one step further I'm shooting all the files as Jpegs (yes, I'll take a hand held meter, and yes, I'll do a careful custom white balance...) which will save me time and space in the backend of the process. To take it one step further I'll use the GH5S as my primary camera depending on the G9 only as my back up camera. Why? Well, the 10 megapixel files, of course. 

I did mention above that the aim point for delivery was files to use on social media...

I considered using the Nikon D800s because they do very nice files. But they are also bereft of things like eye and face detection autofocus, which I want to use in case my attention drifts away from the task at hand and I truly go into autopilot. 

The D800 is less agile about nailing focus; especially when compared to any of the recent Panasonic cameras that do face/eye AF. I also have to admit that I like the color straight out of the GH5S better than anything else I've played with. Better than any camera since the Kodak D760. 

The ten megapixel files have ample detail for any sort of social media use and the ability to use the 4:3 aspect ratio is also a bonus for this particular project. 3:2 vertical just never really looks good on LinkedIn. Using the GH5S allows me to use one of my favorite portrait lenses of the last two years, the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro. And by using it at ISO 200 and f5.6 I'll get ample depth of field while keeping the needed flash power low enough to ensure that the lithium batteries in the Neewer monolights lasts all day long. 

So I end up with files that absorb fewer archiving resources, are faster to upload to the final gallery and have the color and tonality I like. Seems like a win on every level.

The score would be much different if the parameters of the job were different. If the client was using the images for big, scalable banner ads or full screen graphic I might elect to use the G9 as my primary camera in order to get a larger file. If the client also needed images for print advertising and intended to use the images in advertising or in trade show graphics then I might step up once again and go to the raw files in the Nikon. At some point it's all contextual and the days of re-tasking images for all imaginable uses are long gone. Current clients understand that different images have different uses, different values and can be created with various tools. Part of my job is choosing the right job to both satisfy my clients and my need to continually streamline and drive costs out of my process in places where the requested quality won't be affected. 

We have no obligation to provide our clients with more than they pay for or more than they contract for. If clients want to sharpen their accounting pencils and make budgets smaller we're okay with complying as long as we are able to structure our offerings to reduce cost and complexity. 

But what if one of the participants wants to have his photograph retouched? Well, we have an ala carte price in this job for individual retouching. It's extra and it's billable. And that's how I think jobs should be going forward. 

For all you folks still having issues figuring out how to get the best auto focus from your Panasonic GH5, GH5S and G9 cameras.....

Here is Panasonic's in-depth and very well produced answer/guide:

https://www.panasonic.com/content/dam/Panasonic/Global/Learn-More/lumix-af-guidebook/LUMIX_AF_Guidebook_1809.pdf

It's a full of great answers, suggestions, settings etc. Some of the features discussed are upcoming in a firmware released tentatively scheduled for October 28th but most of the material is relevant in the here and now.

A tip of my hat and a "thank you" to motion picture superstar, James Webb, for sending this along to me. Should make all of us Panasonic users look that much better....

from the Pecan Street Art Festival.