11.30.2020

Come on Tuck. That light's not going to light itself. Well, actually it did. Buying more lights is NOT crazy.


 It's funny to me when I look around the studio and notice how few electronic flashes of any type still live here, and at the same time how plentiful LED lights have become. Flash used to be the "work horse" of any photographic studio and, after cameras and lenses, it's where most commercial photographers tossed their money. But then 2010 came along and changed everything. 2010 was the year mirrorless cameras really started showing up on people's radar but it was also the year when the market started to deliver an accelerating deluge of LED products of all stripes, sizes and prices. 

One photographer even was commissioned to write a book about LED photography for photographers, a little more than ten years ago. It was published in early 2012. You can learn more about that book here: 

https://www.amazon.com/LED-Lighting-Professional-Techniques-Photographers-ebook/dp/B008Q0Q8CA/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=LED+lighting+for+professional+photographers&qid=1606759468&s=books&sr=1-3

I'm not suggesting that you run out and buy a copy because everything has changed in the markets and the information space in the ensuing almost nine years. Three or four lifetimes in LED world. Yes, everything has evolved.

At any rate LEDs have become pervasive in the imaging world. On movie sets. For TV production. In the equipment lists of every videographer. And in the studios and equipment cases of an ever growing number of photographers. Even the ones who don't make videos.

Early on there was a demarcation between lights with great color and lights that were cheap. That boundary has pretty much vanished and now we're concentrating more on power output and features. Almost every light being pressed into professional service has a CRI (color rendering index) or 95 or better and does a great job of hitting their color temperature targets. Earlier lights depended on a panel implementation because the lights were made powerful enough for work by using hundreds or thousands of smallish bulbs spread across the panels. 

Panels work fine and I have four Lightstorm panels that do a nice job ---- except a panel has a big spread and it's difficult to get hard edge effects. Also, if you want to use good modifiers you'll probably need a two light stand set up. One stand for the light and a second one for the modifier. 

COB, or chip on a board, LED lights started to become affordable about five years ago and were made insanely popular by the Aputure 120D light which used a 1.5 by 1.5 inch COB LED and featured a Bowen's mount. Even at over $650 it sold briskly and there's now an "improved" model.  The LED/COB tech basically took the spot where flash tubes used to sit on lights and allowed for the use of the same modifiers and reflectors that most people were already using on their various flashes. 

I'd been buying more expensive lights from Aputure until I found the Godox SL60W which is a no frills COB light, rated at 60 watts, is daylight balanced and uses Bowens accessories. It's also really cheap at around $130. I wrote about these lights a while back and I like them so much I bought three. I use them all the time. Literally, every day. If not for work then for lighting up stuff around the compound.

The three SL60W lights and the four Aputure Lightstorm panels were working for me until I did a job back in August for a bio-tech company, at their headquarters. I needed to light up a 5,000 square foot laboratory and I did it, just barely, and by the skin of my teeth. At that point, and anticipating more work from the company (which arrived last month), I decided I needed to bolster my LED collection with some more powerful lights. I came across some good reviews of some new Godox products by Vlogger, Gerald Undone. Here's one review that's on topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbBN_b7OGec 

I watched his take on a new generation of Godox COB models and assessed how his results applied to my needs. I don't need battery power or fully silent lights but I can be parsimonious so I decided to purchase the SL150Wii. It's an update from a previous model and provides a mode whereby you can work at a reduced power output but are able to turn off the cooling fan entirely. The light is sturdy, fan cooled and plugs into wall sockets and runs off AC. The light belts out a good deal of clean illumination and seems to fit in well, color-wise, with the rest of my LED inventory. 

The light comes with a faceted reflector that makes it very efficient at delivering a lot of lumens. There's a dial on the right side of the rear panel for power output and also a switch to go into a lower power/fan-less mode. On the left side there's a switch to enable special effects and a dial with which to choose them. Think: Lightning strikes and emergency flashers (albeit with only white light). The light also comes with a remote control which allows you to raise and lower the power levels of the light without having to access the rear panel. 

The light is rated at 5600K and does not have a sister model to provides multiple color temperature settings. 

A week after I received the light (which I ordered from and paid for at Amazon = no freebies! No sponsor!) I had my second multi-day engagement with the big bio-tech company. I used the new, big Godox mostly by bouncing it off the high, white ceilings to provide overall illumination in big rooms while filling in and accenting my subjects with the less powerful LED lights. It worked very well and we breezed through two days of shooting "What you light is what you see." stuff. Adjustments to the lights, made by an assistant in real time while I observe on a hand held monitor, was a great way to work, giving large amounts of control.

But, if one big light is good then two big lights is better. When I bought the first light it cost $349. This weekend I decided I might really want that second light so I headed back over to check on pricing and availability. They were on sale for $279. Having had nothing but great experiences with the first one I was happy to click "yes" to a second one. Especially at 25% off. 

The SL150W/ii is not a powerful enough light to offset the sun outside but it's a good balance of size, weight, price and power for indoor photography shoots, and just about any sort of video production. With two of them bouncing off high, white ceilings I feel like I've got more options to play with in large spaces. If I push them both through a couple layers of white diffusion, stretched across a six foot by six foot panel frame, then I've got some really beautiful lighting. 

While I wait for the second light to arrive I wanted to photograph my first SL150wii for this post and it was already set up on a C-stand with a white umbrella in front of it. I pulled a 4x4 foot piece of foamcore and held it at the back of the product and just out of frame and took a few shots with a tripod mounted Sigma fp. In effect, the light actually did light itself. All of the light on the product camera from the product. Pretty cool. Very easy. 

I'm not suggesting you rush out and buy an SL150Wii. I just wanted to share why I like the light and why I wanted a second one. Forward, into a mostly flash-less future.

New murals spring up on Lamar Blvd. Just north of the lake. Really wonderful stuff.

Artists taking a break from an amazing job of painting huge paintings.

The city of Austin funds "Art in Public Places." A certain percentage of the fees and taxes paid by big developers is used to enhance the city in many, many ways. The new (not too new now) international gates at Austin's airport got some awesome and enormous murals five or six years ago and fun stuff keeps cropping up everywhere I look. While some projects have been in the works for a while I hope they keep the program going during the pandemic so young and upcoming artists get some $$$ support to show and grow their art. 

It's also much more visually exciting to see huge murals instead of old concrete walls next to our well travelled roads. More like this, please. 

From today's walk through downtown with the big honking camera and a big zooming lens. 

Nice to have some cooler weather to walk through. Trying to be careful what I ask for though, the temperature is supposed to drop into the twenties (f) tomorrow night which means we're in for a chilly jaunt from the locker room to the (outdoor) pool on Tuesday morning. And again on Wednesday.

Happens every year. We get used to it. The coldest day I remember swimming was one January day when the temperature was down near 20° and we had a brisk north wind. The pool deck was too icy to walk on so the coaches sanded a path from the side of the pool closest to the locker rooms and we all entered and exited the pool at that one narrow point. 

It was a bit unnerving to see big icicles hanging from the starting blocks. But the pool is always heated to 80° so our biggest issue during the workout was the thick cloud of steam hanging over the top of the water.

Ah, good times.
 

11.29.2020

A "landscape" photograph of downtown Austin today. Chilly but beautiful. Tech note at the bottom of this post for Panasonic S1x users!!!


 I'm going to have to walk more over the next two weeks otherwise I'm going to get fat. I just re-read the instructions from my surgeon. Surely his handout/pre-op written materials are aimed at worst case scenarios but it threw me for a loop when I read "no strenuous exercise for two weeks." That's criminal. We'll negotiate, but I have a feeling walking will be the recommended recourse. We'll beg for swimming dispensation after the first few days. They do make waterproof bandages you know.

Since I have to be out walking anyway I thought I should work on my landscape photography skills. I took that old, rusty Lumix S1R out today, along with the dusty and dented 24-105 lens. I do appreciate it when the weather cooperates. That's the actual sky; not a retouch. 

Austin can be beautiful in the Fall. I was going to break all the rules and get on a plane to go watch the Aspens turn but someone told me that already happened this year and look! Our trees are turning color too!

I'll probably be grumpy and in pain, and addled by my experience at the clinic on Wednesday so don't expect a flurry of early December posts --- BUT that doesn't mean I'm pulling the plug and wandering off into the desert. By Thursday I should be so bored and restless I'll be banging on the keyboard for hours. 

Tech Note. People with S1 and S1R cameras are reporting issues with the new camera firmware (1.6). Some weird pulsing and stuff during AF; especially under fluorescent and other non-continuous lighting. The current "fix/workaround" is to set the EVF screen refresh to 60 Hz instead of the typical 120 Hz refresh and that seems to help temporarily resolve nearly everybody's issue. 

I'm sure Panasonic is getting an earful this week and that they'll have a fix rushed out in no time. But I think the update really did make the C-AF faster in video. Too bad it messed up something else. Unless you really need the new video features you might want to wait on that firmware upgrade until we all have more info.

11.28.2020

And today we get our first taste of winter. What have I been playing with lately? Can a camera be too eccentric? Sure.


It wasn't raining when I went to swim practice today. The temperature hovered around 60° and if there was a breeze I didn't feel it. I swam in a lane with Sheila and Ed and we did our best to socially distance and still keep a uniform pace and workout strategy. I liked two things about today's workout: the ominous skies overhead and the "swim ladder" that we did in the middle of the workout. You basically start with a 200 yard swim, then a 150 then a 100, then a 50 and you work your way back up the "ladder" to the 200. Do the set two or three times in a row and it really helps you with your pacing. You want to get faster on the 50s but you want to keep a pace you can handle on the 200s. 

By the time I got home a gentle rain started coming down and the temperature started to nudge down too. The rain has gotten stronger over the course of the day and the temp is slowly heading toward the 40's. 

After reading so many blog posts about veganism at my favorite photography blog, and after running in to Austin's most famous vegan-tarian at the pool this morning, I had a strong urge to un-comform and go counter to the cult trends today. To that end I got out a big, heavy cast iron frying pan and set it on the stove top. I foraged in the fridge for that package of hormone free, dry rubbed, thick-sliced bacon I bought this past week at Whole Foods (of course they have bacon --- how else can you cure people of vegetarianism?) and put six big slices into the pan. 

I turned them over and over again to get the bacon strips crispy but still chewy. While I was engineering the perfect rasher of bacon I brewed up 16 ounces of Columbian Supremo coffee and stuck some fresh, sourdough bread in the toaster. I splurged with the coffee and tossed in some half-and-half that someone stocked in for the holidays. Then I pulled two brown-shelled eggs out of the fridge and fried them over easy. 

I do respect some limits; all six slices of bacon were not for me. I knew Belinda would enjoy one slice before detouring back to healthier fare and I knew Ben would eat two slices, if he decided to wake up. 

The eggs wound up on top of the perfectly browned toast and made for a delightful post-swim breakfast. 
While this is not a routine breakfast for me it was a nice change from the bowl of fresh berries, mixed with muesli and low fat Greek yogurt. Yesterday I subbed the blackberries and blueberries for cranberries. It was festive. But also not an every day thing. Ben appreciated the rare treat of bacon ready made for him.

Cameras. Can a camera be too eccentric? I guess it depends on how you use cameras and what kinds of options you have in choosing cameras on a day-by-day or job-by-job basis. I will say that if one started photography in the midst of the digital camera age then the Sigma fp might be right out there on the edge of happy usability. On the other hand, if you started your imaging journey learning on 8 x10 inch view cameras that were fitted with 5 x7 inch reducing backs then I'd say a modern camera would have to be pretty far out on the weirdness spectrum to be too eccentric. And I guess that's the relationship I have with the mysterious fp. And part of the affection I had for Pentax's K-01.

I can't quite ever get the fp configured exactly right but I think I'm closing in on it for one variety of my still photography. Video with the camera I've got figured out. It all came together for me in that medium when I paired it with an external monitor. But I'm certainly not entertaining making it a practice of walking around with an external monitor clamped to the top of the camera when taking photographs. 

Every once in a while I get frustrated with the little camera. There are times when I feel like I just have to have an eyelevel viewfinder and so I bolt the big loupe to the back. But then the camera becomes so ungainly that it takes all the fun out of walking around with it. At that point I go back to the office and rummage through the Lumix inventory for something more convenient and fun to carry. When the friction of use settles in and aggravates me like a blister on your heel when you are breaking in new hiking boots, I think about selling it to some unsuspecting but well-heeled photographer who might have a masochistic bent. 

But then I take an image that is so uniquely fp and so profoundly beautiful (to me) that I fall in love with the small machine all over again. In the first week of this month I was asked to make a few portraits for two friends who own an ad agency. We've know each other for quite a while and they are given to saying things like: "We love the way you shoot. Make the portraits any way you like them. I'm sure we'll love them."

Given full license to play I pulled out the Sigma fp and put the 90mm f2.8 Leica R Elmarit lens on the front. I also changed the aspect ratio to 1:1 and set the file selector to 14 bit DNG+Jpeg. A couple days before the scheduled sessions I put the camera through every color profile set-up available, and tried dozens and dozens of tweaks. But I knew I'd end up using the Jpegs only as guides while leaning on the DNG files and a good dose of Photoshop to get me where I wanted to go. 

As a side note, have any of you played with the LUTs that are now available under the "Image > Adjustments > Color Lookup" setting? I presume that these cinema-oriented LUTs are there for those times when foolhardy people try to edit their entire video project in PhotoShop instead of retreating to Final Cut Pro X or Premiere. But the LUTs work just fine as wonderfully weird visual adventure starting points with photographs as well. I've been trying out all of the LUTs and then using the "fade" control under the "edit" menu in PS to change the strengths of their visual effects. 

On that particular portrait project I stuck with the Sigma fp all the way through. I think I got images that I might not have been able to get if I had used a different camera. Those recipes for color, contrast, noise and what not are really quite different from camera to camera and from brand to brand. 

I love some of the stuff I've been able to get with that little gray brick. And I really enjoy using all the crazy lenses I've bought, and also adapted for use on the L system cameras. But something about the fp is just addictive. I guess it's like all those people who are reviving single speed bicycles. Or shooting film in nasty old hand cranked cameras. Maybe the friction of the camera's operational quirks, and the lack of features some photographers feel like they can't live without, drives those of us using fp's to work harder at trying to make them work. But the thrill of victory is always sweeter when the pathway to glory is tougher. The Passion is in the Risk.

Anyway, I recently started musing about using the fp more and more in the manner I used to work with my old, square format film cameras. I never worried about how cumbersome they were to drag around and I never hesitated to screw them onto tripods, and take my time making portraits with them. Today I spent time putting together the fp for its debut as a mini-Hasselblad. The taking lens for my latest foray is something like the 110 f2.0 Planar lens I had for the 205TCC version of the camera. I originally got that lens in a deal with a 2003f camera. It was a charming, fast "long normal" focal length for the two and a quarter format. The 50mm f1.4 S-Pro lens from Panasonic for the L system is much like that old Planar when it comes to analogous focal length and aperture, and I like manually focusing it (although it's more fun to focus when it's on the S1R with the lens menu set to provide a long, long manual focus throw). 

After I got the camera set up and dialed in for studio work I cajoled my captive housemates to take turns sitting for a bare minimum amount of time so I could see how the whole melange works. It works well. Very well. I guess I'm stumbling down a new/retro pathway back to how I shot with some film cameras. But we'll see. 

Like any craftsperson with an outsized appreciation for his tools I felt compelled to photograph the bizarre combination of camera and lens. And I swear the lens weighs three times what the body does. 

I have been playing with a new app on my iPhone XR called FirstLight and I wanted to see just what I could do with that. See if I could coax something sparkly out of the fp+S-Pro combo. I set the phone app to shoot in Tiff format. I could have used .DNG but you don't get access to the "look" filters if you do that. I shot images of the beautiful couple and I present them here. I am amazed at the amount of detail and the wonderful tonal gradation the phone is capable of when its native camera app is overridden by a dedicated, full control app. Anyway, pix below. Sit in front of your 27 inch, 5K Retina monitor and click on them. The pix get big. See if you get what I mean. 



SOOC

PS LUT applied.



 SAME. 

11.27.2020

My newly unleashed super-cam finally became a high performance competitor after I, painstakingly pulled $7.95 out of my plastic squeeze purse...

New art on the underpass walls where Lamar Blvd. runs under 2nd St.
This is the west wall.

do you know someone who spends money like a drunken sailor on hardware but is as cheap as Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to buying inexpensive software and apps? I do. The guy I'm thinking of makes impulse buying seem like long planned strategic acquisitions. He can go from, "How much is that plastic nifty-fifty?" to "Oh hell! just give me the one that says 'Leica' on the front." In seconds.  I've literally experienced him going out for a quart of milk and coming back home, hours later, driving a new car. But ask him to drop five or ten bucks on an app for his phone and he clams up and goes comatose. It's astonishing to watch. It's like spending pocket change on productive apps causes him physical pain (ellipses desired but resisted).

Sadly, I'm basically describing myself. I can rationalize a $2300 50mm lens but I actually agonized for days last Summer about whether or not to spend $7.95 to acquire what all my cinema-intensive friends assured me was the best software package to give me complete and easy-to-use manual control of all the video settings on my iPhone XR. Once I decided to make the purchase, and spent a few hours getting up to speed, I couldn't see how I had managed to live so long without it. That app is called, Filmic Pro. It turns any recent iPhone into an even better video camera than it was to begin with. I use it all the time. 

In fact, I found myself wishing, a few days ago, that I could get as good an app to do still photographs with my iPhone. Silly me. I should have known that Filmic would have that covered with an app called, Firstlight. 

Before I continue, a disclaimer: I don't have any links or advertising of any kind on the on the current blog. There may still be some dead Amazon Affiliate links from 2019 or early on some of the blog posts that are still up and readable but those links don't work and I an not an affiliate agent for any company. Nor do I get stuff for free. I learned my lesson on that back in the Samsung camera days. It's hard maintain a posture of strict neutrality when readers see you getting free stuff and then read your posts talking about how great the free stuff is. I just am not interested in that whole program right now. Go scream "paid shill!!!" somewhere else. End Disclaimer.

So, I think iPhones are really great everyday cameras for a lot of people but my biggest aversion to joining the cult was not being able to wrest complete control away from the phone's native app and bending it to my will. Of course, my friends at Apple would laugh and tell me I was just feeling threatened because the phone's apps know how to make great photos better than I do. (ellipses sorely desired).

Filmic's Firstlight (for stills) gives me a ton of control. I can change focus deliberately and in conjunction with a focus peaking feature that works great. So, highly controllable manual focusing. I can change shutter speed and ISO as well as WB. I can lock focus and lock exposure. And I can shoot in four different still photo file formats: DNG (raw), Tiff, Jpeg and Heic. There are filters for artsy interpretations as well as several different, and highly usable B&W settings. It's actually both amazing and makes the phone much more useful. Click on any image to see it bigger.


I loaded the software on my phone, took a quick, online tutorial, and went out in the rain to see what I could do with the new combo. The app and camera/phone worked perfectly together. The only things that hampered my shooting were my glasses continually fogging up and the lack of exciting, half-naked super models roaming the streets, demanding auditions and test shoots with graying art photographers. 

My watch tells me that I spent an hour and a half walking around on the downtown streets and that I walked a little over three and a half miles today. That was to be expected since our pool is closed today, as it was yesterday, out of some misguided concerns about the holiday. Surely the coaches could have abandoned their families and friends just for a couple of hours each day so we could get some swims in. (ellipses so strongly desired it's become painful--- must fight the urge). 

Austin style toy store on Second St.




This is the last photo I can take of my ancient and long serving, favorite umbrella. 
It's recent tenure in the back of my little SUV caused structural damage that 
I can't repair. I bought if from Starbucks nearly 20 years ago. 
It's been a noble and wonderful umbrella. 

It's black on the outside but on the inside the lining has a nice, iconic 
coffee cup drawing and the repeated saying: 
"Into every life a little coffee must fall." 

It's still partially functional so I left it on the pedestrian bridge in case 
someone needs it. Perhaps someone more practical than I can 
fix the bent strut. 

A screen shot magically appeared. I have no idea how it got there.





I'm now changing my tune and will embrace new apps when they very first seem useful to me. I just downloaded the same company's "remote" software. It allows any iOS device to monitor and control another iOS device. I'm going to use it to trigger the video on my B (iPhone) camera next time I shoot some video. I have a collection of old phones that might just work.

It was a whopping $2.95. Gonna break me if I don't watch out. (damn ellipses ban).

 

11.26.2020

You've heard about walking meditation? What some of us do is walking/photographing meditation. (I can no longer use ellipses; my son says they have become passé).


I've wondered for a long time what exactly I expect to accomplish as I wander down streets and around the downtown trails in Austin, with a camera in my hand (actually, over one shoulder), and I think I finally figured it out. It's about taking time out just for myself and having an excuse to let my mind and my eyes roam. 

Taking photographs is part of the meditation. The recording of images can be somewhat non-judgmental but in essence I take photographs of things that catch my attention in the moment with no real intention to use the resulting photographs for anything other than as decoration for my writing. It's the act of selecting a scene and taking the photograph that has value for me and it is a value that's greater than what I get from sharing the images in any way not related to my writing, or creating some sort of ongoing collection. In fact, often at the end of a long walk I end up sitting in my car, letting the air conditioner cool me down, while I look through the afternoon's take and then erase them from the memory card. 

I realize that I change cameras when I want to add a new twist to a routine walk. There are cameras that just aren't good walking companions and that becomes obvious to me when I discover that I've had a camera over my shoulder on a traditional strap, I've walked for hours and never felt inclined to slide the camera off my shoulder to take a photograph. It's not about the size or weight; or the complexity or image quality. Some camera just have a specific feel to them that's antithetical to my idea of a good companion. 

Eccentric cameras are as addictive as playful dogs. If I see the Sigma fp, with its 45mm lens, as I'm leaving my house or office I just have to bring it along. I choose it even if I already had a different camera in my hands. The Sigma fp wags its tail and I want to let it jump into the front seat and come along for the ride. I even roll the window down for it sometimes. The same was always true with my Leica M4 and the 50mm Summicron.

The Panasonic GX8 is another eccentric player. That camera, with a small prime lens on the front, is irresistible and once we're in the middle of walking I feel like I have to do my part in the our game of "photo fetch" by using the camera as much as I can. It's almost like wanting to let the camera know that I'm happy it came along with me. 

A camera doesn't have to be eccentric to be a valuable walking partner. Sometimes a good, quiet and competent camera is most welcome. When I need a companion that I can trust with any kind of imaging imaginable I tend to almost always reach for either the Lumix S1R or the GH5. The other cameras are just as good at actual photography but the combination of features and their personalities make it all work with those two. 

A walking camera meditation is, for me, less about taking winning/remarkble photographs than it is about shaking off frustration, ennui or burnout. The process gets me away from my phone, my computer and my usual surroundings and always delivers unexpected results. I love getting caught out when a rain storm blasts through and the winds howl through the wind tunnels created by the downtown buildings and the temperature drops 30 or 40 degrees in the space of an hour. The cameras like it too. I love being out alone in the Summer watching the heat waves wiggling off the pavement and feeling the sweat drip down the back of my neck. 

It's been years since I've taken along a camera bag and an assortment of lenses. That would make a walk too much like a mandatory photo mission. Like a job. Paring everything down to one camera and one lens makes it an exercise in paying attention instead. If a shot doesn't make sense for the lens I've brought along I look for a different shot. Or I hang the camera over my shoulder and move forward. But I'm always aware that this kind of photography, a blend of street shooting and looking for abstract shapes and colors, has nothing to do with my perception of what my own photographic art is all about. If there's not a person in the frame, interacting with the camera, the photo is more like a quick note than a thoughtful expression. 

I know this probably makes no sense to a lot of folks but when I discovered the meditative side of walking with a camera I understood why it's something I like to do solo. Something I can't do in a group; even group of 1+1. The quietness of my own walk is what gives it value to me. 

  


I guess it's all about being in the moment. And I'm a selfish person; I don't want to share those moments with anyone else. It would change everything, and mostly not for the better.

There seems to be a huge appreciation for 35mm focal length lenses. For me the 50mm is much more comfortable as a leisure companion. It focuses my attention is a way that's totally different from the wider lenses. I can't just point and assume, I actually have to decide what gets included in a frame and what gets left out. It's a fun part of the process.

My recommendation for a good walking camera and lens? Today it was the Sigma fp and the 45mm. Tomorrow it's going to rain and that always feels like a GH5 and something fast. 

For me the important thing is to go out with no preconceptions of what I'll come across or what I'll shoot. 
The motto is to embrace the gear you chose in the moment and to feel the energy of the city when you left your feet guide you along. That keeps your eyes and brain free to soak in what's right in front of you. 

This holiday will be one of the weirdest ones on record. It's our first Christmas shopping season where interest in video seems to be outstripping traditional photography.


I'm still a photographer at heart but I can't help noticing that 7 of my last 10 commercial jobs were about video production and not photography. And, if I look on social media sharing channels (TikTok, Instagram, etc.) I'm finding more and more video snippets interspersed among the photos of cute dogs and stereotypical beauty models. I think this will be the first holiday season in which my shopping list for myself (that's my favorite one) is larded with video-oriented toys instead of cutting edge still camera gear.

I recently produced three different video programs for my actor/singer/performer friend, Kenny. On each project I figured out something new that would make my productions either easier or better --- or both. 

Here are my three generic recommendations to make video more productive and fun:

Monopods with video heads. I get so much use out of the big Benro monopod with the S4 "fluid" head I bought a couple of years ago. I use it a lot for fast moving productions because it's so much faster to set up than a big tripod. Mine has the little feet at the bottom which provide a relatively stable base; but it's a set up I have to keep my eye on if my intention is to walk away from the combination of  camera and monopod for even a second... 

I mostly use the monopod for those in between shots where I want the option of quickly repositioning but I'm staying relatively still and stable when shooting. Much different from the gimbal shots where movement is the entire reason to use a gimbal. 

The biggest revelation, vis-a-vis monopods, that I've had this year came while watching videos about video production by Brandon Li, over on YouTube. I love the look of crane shots in movies and I've worked with big cranes and movie cameras before. The cranes were heavy and mostly required lots of set up and rehearsals. They are not what I would consider "portable." So, with that preconception in mind, I was sitting in the office watching a video by Li about gimbals when he put his gimbal on the end of a monopod (taking off the fluid head first) and effectively uses the combination of gimbal and monopod as a highly portable crane. He showed his techniques and results as he started with a very high shot and swooped the camera down into a food market into a level shot of a shop keeper. I played that part back five or six times. 

You'll need to develop some arm strength to do those moves on a regular basis but he did it without all the drama and complexity of setting up a huge stand and a ten foot crane. And he did it without a crew.

No matter how complex you want to get with video, or with many different subjects in photography, a monopod is an ultimately useful starting point for camera stabilization. For the most part, except for locked down video interviews, or technically demanding photography, I prefer a stout, footed monopod to just about any tripod. I'm brand agnostic. I mentioned the biggest Benro monopod but there are dozens of good choices in the market from which to choose. 

External Monitor/Recorders. I'm currently on my third generation of Atomos external monitor/recorders. I call them monitor/recorders because these are the two different functions the products  I use offer. You can get inexpensive five and seven inch monitors that do not record digital video, and they work great when it comes to offering you a magnified view along with some better focusing options, but I really like the ones that record as well as monitor. My last "upgrade" was from an Atomos Ninja Flame to an Atomos Ninja V. 

If I was looking for strictly a monitor the "Flame to V" wasn't much of an upgrade. In fact, in a couple of ways it was a downgrade. I moved from a clear and bright seven inch screen to a five inch screen. I moved from a unit that could take two "hot swappable" batteries to a unit that takes only one battery. But since I was also looking for a state of the art recorder the V is the better option. 

It's smaller and lighter so you can more easily balance it on a cage or on your camera. The screen is capable of higher brightness and the touch controls are more detailed and mature. I like using it because it allows so much more choice when it comes to the kinds of video files you can create. While files straight out of most cameras are a very compressed file type called Long GOP, which saves space on memory cards but is tougher for computers to edit, the Atomos units can take the uncompressed content over HDMI and make ProRes or DNx files that are in an All-I format. It's a format that takes up more space on a memory card (or an SSD) but which requires much less furious calculation and demystification in the editing process. And, since every frame is self contained it's less prone to showing motion artifacts and compression artifacts when edited. 

But I really like the Ninja V because it opens up nerdy, fun file types from certain cameras. With the Sigma fp you can import ProRes Raw files in 4K. If you use a Panasonic S1H you can import files into the same ProRes Raw format but you can do it in 5.9K file sizes. You can do the same with the S5 and, promised in early 2021, an upgrade to the S1 will allow it to do the same.

A good monitor is a lifesaver for stuff like long lens follow camera work in theater or sports. You can punch in a focus while you are rolling which is something most cameras don't allow on their own. You can also set exposures quickly and accurately via waveforms on the monitor and, if you have a human subject you can use your vector scope feature to get near perfect flesh tones which will save you a lot of time and energy in post production.

I love the fact that my "V" takes fast, relatively cheap (compared to big, fast SD cards) SSDs. I just bought a terabyte SSD for additional storage and it's faster than any of my SD cards (which are mostly V90s) and cost me about $100. I can shoot video to the SSD and then, using a simple SATA to USB-C cable, hook the drive directly to my computer and edit to and from the drive. Of course, I would generally back up the original material somewhere else first. 

Gimbals for everything. Kind of kidding here. If I were getting my feet wet in video I'd start out the way I did and buy a decent $100-$150 gimbal for my iPhone. The Smooth 2 from Zhiyun is the one I bought but I'm sure it's been superseded by something better at the same price by this time. What this "entry" gimbal does is teach you how gimbals really work and let you practice without wearing yourself down trying to grapple with the weight of a bigger gimbal+camera+lens. Gimbals add the ability to move with and around subjects with a lot of freedom. And most phones are good enough video cameras now to make the exercise fun. 

If you aren't shooting video professionally or if your style of video only calls for using a gimbal on relatively few shots you can look in the used market and find some real bargains. Gimbal makers are in that classic super fast improvement stage where more and more features are being added and more controls put at operator's fingertips. The integration with phones and iPad is also accelerating. What this means is that gimbal power users, and twitchy consumers, are dumping recent models of gimbals at a record pace. 

The Ronin-S used to be the "go to" gimbal but that was two years ago. It hit the market at somewhere around $700-800, depending on the accessory package. I bought a complete, clean, used one a couple months ago for a little over $100. A couple of weeks ago a local videographer upgraded from last year's ultra darling gimbal, the Weebill S to the newest DJI RS2. He went from a $500 gimbal to a $900 gimbal and sold me his clean and perfectly function Weebill S for around $250. And that's with a transmitter package included. 

At those kinds of prices I think most of us can afford a good gimbal. And the funny thing is that the two used gimbals I bought this way were both models that operators were raving about and salivating over in the last couple of years. Tons of great work has been made by users of both models. 

Here's a couple of important things to be aware of when using a gimbal: You have to take the maker seriously when it comes to weight limits. The overall weight of the camera package affects the motors of the gimbal and can cause muttering and vibration if you go over the limits. Second, getting the camera balanced correctly makes the gimbal easier to operate and provides the smoothest results. Small cameras work better than bigger, heavier cameras. I'll happily trade off a bit of full frame S1H performance for a more nimble and manageable camera like the G9 or GH5.  Finally, don't think you'll be using big, long zooms with your gimbal. While there are models out there that will handle heavy loads those are not the models that most of us want to toss money out for one man projects or advanced amateur learning adventures. Long tracking shots with f2.8 Zooms are probably still better handled by using dollies or other methods.

These three categories of accessories have provided the most fun and the best looking video for me in 2020 and I think they up the production quality of projects in a cost effective and meaningful way. 

Beyond that the biggest lure for me is still lenses. I'm constantly surprised at what a different the right lens makes. But you can research that just about anywhere. 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I'm feeling gratitude for just making it through such a chaotic year. I hope we all make it intact into 2021. 

We're sticking to home base this year. No celebrations with relatives other than a call on Zoom with Belinda's family. We'll all bring pie and coffee to the call. Ben, Belinda and I are all fortunate to be able to work almost exclusively from home. I'm probably the person in the family who deals with people outside our "bubble" the most but in my work encounters up until ten days ago I've been extremely careful to always wear a mask and require mask wearing by ANYONE at my location. We're finishing up for the year. All the rest of my work is post production alone in my studio and delivery via FTP. 

I'm hoping all three of the major vaccine makers are up and running with safe vaccines in very early 2021. I'll be first in line to get my two doses, right after they take care of all the essential medical personnel and the first responders. Oh, and the workers who have to deal with the vagaries of face-to-face service with the nut jobs in our culture.

It's bittersweet to see the stock market set new records while pandemic induced poverty is still rampant and may be growing. We're the lucky ones. We have a great roof over our heads, food on the table and gimbals in our bags. Time to think about 2020 contributions to charities. 

If you itemize on your tax returns your advisor should let you know that there was a rule change just for 2020 that will allow you to maximize your deductions to charities. I've got the local food bank on my list. 

If you can it's a good time to make a difference. Everything helps. 

Off to see what I can do to help with dinner. Have a great holiday and I hope you drop by tomorrow to see what my fevered brain has concocted for your reading pleasure.  - Kirk

11.25.2020

A quick set of observations about the Panasonic S1H and the newest Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens.

Autumn leaves in Austin.

When I got back from swim practice yesterday morning I got right to work updating the firmware in four of my Panasonic cameras; in all three of my S1x cameras and also a nudge forward for my (wonderful) G9. The updates were quick and easy and I encountered no snags. By mid-afternoon I'd finished all my busy work and realized that while I have used the S1H for five different video projects I had, in fact, only put about 400 frames of photographs through the camera since I purchased it. I thought it might be a good afternoon to evaluate it as a still imaging camera instead of only viewing it through the prism of video.

Another recent piece of gear that hasn't gotten enough of a workout was the new version of the Sigma 85mm DN DG Art lens. This was a good opportunity to split two atoms with one electron so I checked the camera for battery freshness and memory card occupancy and headed out to walk on my usual walk. 

The day started out gray and chilly but by four in the afternoon the sun was dominant and the temperature climbed back up to the low 80's. I left my phone at home, dialed in the camera's diopter, left my glasses in the care and went out as low profile as I possibly could. It was nice to be untethered from the hive. 

When I started taking images with the S1H two things struck me on the first little burst of frames. One was how crisp and color-rich the images were; even with the standard profile engaged. The other was just how solid and well damped the shutter noise and operational noise of the camera was. It is easily the heaviest of my recent cameras and I think that even includes some heftier models like the Nikon D850. I like the density, heft and outrageously good build quality of the S1H but I don't think I'd tip over into the morass of excess and put a battery grip on this one unless I'm shooting video anchored to a tripod and need a long, long run time. 

The finder on the camera is exemplary. I thought this might be one of those instances where the camera maker tweaks the EVF to make images look better than they will in real life but when I brought the photographs into Lightroom they matched the camera looks without lifting a finger to intercede. 

Weight and bulk aside this may be the nicest camera I have ever used. It does make me wonder if the Leica SL2 could possibly be even better.... 

I love the 85mm focal length on full frame. I bought the original L version the 85mm Sigma art lens and the image quality was amazing. Just amazing. But the darn thing weighed about 35 pounds and stuck out from the front of the camera at least a couple of feet (hyperbole alert!!!) and after trying to casually carry it around it had be consigned to "paid job" or "studio only" duty. Not a good thing for such a flexible and muse-like focal length. 

I'm glad I traded the original version in for the latest one because it's Lilliputian by comparison and seems to me to be equally sharp. Of special note is the external/physical aperture ring which I have come to adore on the Panasonic Pro lenses as well. 

I tried to stay in the nonsense apertures all afternoon and early evening yesterday. Most of the images shown here were shot at f2.0 or 2.2. Sometimes I got crazy and went all the way to f4.0 but that was only in photos where I wanted to see more and more instead of less. 

Perfectly round bokeh "balls" in the background. Nice. 

Happy close up performance and mellow background bokeh add to the lens's charm.

I've started to trust my Panasonic S1x cameras more and more and none better than the S1H. In a break with all past history I've actually started using Auto ISO and I don't care where it lands, up to 6400, because I know it will be as saturated and noise free as the cameras I thought were great but only usable at 200 ISO. 

I've also found that I like using many of the L-mount lenses manually. While the Sigma is MF focus by wire it's well damped and doesn't overshoot like crazy. It does a dignified march to your optimum focus point. I have the camera set, when using manual focusing, to show me a magnified section of the frame when I grab the manual focusing ring. Using the "punch in" you really know when you've nailed the perfect focus. 

I also have the camera set up so I can push the AF button on the back of the camera and have it override the set MF to auto focus. When I release the button the focus remains glued into place. I don't use the back button focus when I use the camera's regular AF. It's just not a habit that's been ingrained yet. 

I didn't take a tripod with me but I did continue shooting after dusk. The combo of a great sensor and a fast lens, along with good IBIS meant that not having a tripod along for the ride wasn't important and didn't affect my photos. 

All in all it was a fun afternoon and I'm over the moon with the S1H. I was already in love with the lens. 

Swimming: A little over 3,000 yards in the pool this morning. A decent amount for the 50 minutes I invested. I'll bracket the day with another walk this afternoon and then we're scheduled to have Thanksgiving (Thursday) and Friday off from swimming. TRAGIC! But there it is. 

I'm on schedule to get five more days of swimming in before I go in for the Mohs surgery next Wednesday. I'm trying to put a lot of yards in the bank to tide me over for those seven doctor-mandated days of aquatic deprivation. Working on a work around already. 

Click on the images to see them bigger. 










Meditation Benches thoughtfully added by the Hiking Trail Foundation. 


Walking over Congress Ave. Bridge. Zillions and zillions of bats live underneath and come out at dusk to look for mosquito snacks. People are getting ready to try and capture images of the fast moving aerial experts with their phone cameras. 

OMG. Kirk does a landscape. Kinda.

 

11.24.2020

Taking a break this morning to unwrap my Holiday Gifts from Panasonic. Santa came early with updates!

 


One of the many things I like about buying and using Panasonic cameras is the company's amazing generosity when it comes to firmware updates and the "gifting" to older cameras with the latest features. 

I was pretty impressed a while back when, out of the blue, Panasonic did an upgrade to the G9 that improved focus and, more important to me, added a bunch of higher end video capabilities to the camera even though those new additions would potentially reduce the market for their own GH5 camera when it comes to video use. Impressed again when Panasonic introduced a free firmware update to the GH5 this Summer improving continuous AF in video, along with lots of other tweaks. Not a paltry move when you consider that the G9 is already two years old and the GH5 is a three year old camera. In a couple of free updates Panasonic increased the useful life of two of their most popular cameras by a number of years!

When the newest addition to Panasonic's Lumix S series cameras came out the S5 included the newest and fastest AF software in the line up. Other camera makers might have waited to see how to leverage sales of the new camera but Panasonic announced, almost immediately, that all of their S1x cameras would be getting the same high performance AF algorithms in short order. They even gave us a date; the 24th of November!

Back to the studio. When I got back to the studio and fired up the computing machine I went straight to Panasonic's site to look for firmware updates. There were FOUR camera updates for four of the cameras that I regularly use. Those included the G9 (improved I.S.), the S1, S1H and the S1R. 

All of the S1 cameras got the same AF improvements which should bring them to par with the S5. We'll see it most in continuous AF and then most noticeably in video. I can't wait to see how it affects the S1H as I'm getting more and more video use from that camera. 

I won't go through everything but I will go through some of my favorite updates by model.

The S1R and the S1 both get the red frame line around the edges of the rear monitor when video recording is active. This is a feature that was already on the S1H and also on the Atomos line of external monitors. It's a very quick and obvious way to tell whether you are actively recording or if you didn't push the right button to get things started. It's a great "user" update. 

The S1R now shoots in 5K (4992x3744) video in both 24 and 30 fps. In .Mov you can shoot in 5K internally at 4:2:0 but with 10 bits. You can now shoot 4K in 10 bit, 4:2:2 to an external monitor up to 60 fps. I can't wait to try out the 5K performance and hope that downsampling to 4K makes for a more detailed 4K file, even if I can't shoot in 4:2:2. But speaking of 4K the camera can now be using at up to 60P with 10 bits and 4:2:2  when you output over HDMI to an external monitor/recorder. That's pretty spiffy. 

In the S1R the tracking and recognition of AF have been improved by way of a head recognition feature. My hope for this is that when using face detect AF I won't lose contact with the subject when they turn their face away from camera. We'll be testing that right away.

The S1R can now do high resolution audio recording using the XLR microphone adapter. You gotta use .Mov to get this.

We can now set shutter angle in the video menu. This is great for productions when we want to match cameras and we're working quickly. It's more control and gives more accurate video settings. 

The S1 had a major update earlier in the year which improved the range of video options in the cameras by a great deal. It's also slated to get a big update in the first quarter of 2021 which will add 6K ProRes Raw to the mix. But for right now the big improvements, in addition to the AF improvements which all of the S1x cameras share, are more about usability and minor functions.

The camera adds shutter angle to the video menu and it's AF performance has also been improved in V-Log mode. You can also now using the {AF+MF} when recording video. A few of the improvements are less important to me such as the ability to play back vertical videos vertically or being able to transfer 4K video files to a smartphone via wi-fi. But as soon as I talk down a feature I end up having a use for it so I'm glad they are there. 

The S1H got a huge update in July with Raw video being able to be output over HDMI to the Atomos Ninja V monitor/recorder. That's actual 12 bit Raw video data. That's really cool. So, on this firmware update we got the basic improvements in AF and the lesser upgrades like being able to transfer 4K to smartphones. They also mention some operational improvements in the way of bug fixes. 

All the improvements are most welcome and they go a long way towards solidifying Panasonic's video forward reputation in the hybrid camera market. With the S1H as the flagship video model the rest of the line closes the gap by a quite a bit which means better file matching across "B" and "C" cameras. For users who only occasionally dip into video it means that the S1R and base S1 become more than "good enough" to do 95% of the video work most of us will ever need. While having traditional photography cameras that are among the highest rated for overall image quality at sites like DXOMark. 

It's like an early Christmas present but without having to go out shopping or even spend more money. 

It's one of the less advertised features that makes me appreciate the Panasonic camera line. 

If you are shooting with Lumix/Panasonic cameras go here to see what kinds of updates they've got for your cameras: https://av.jpn.support.panasonic.com/support/global/cs/dsc/download/index4.html

A break for swimming. Swim practice left me with mixed feelings today. We've done so well as a group at practicing pandemic safety at the masters swim workouts. We're supposed to be masked any time we're not in the pool swimming. But it seems like "pandemic fatigue" has set in with a number of our swimmers who are starting to act like the rules don't apply to them. That attitude really put me off today since we're in the midst of rising case numbers and hospital beds filling up. 

I talked to our coach and let him know we needed to honor the contract we make each week as we sign up for our choice of swims during the upcoming week. I hope he follows through and gets people back on track. I would hate to have to escalate to the club's B.O.D. (I served as V.P. of the board for 10 years and I'm sure they'd hate to have to deal with this...) and get everyone twisted up. 

Otherwise it was a good swim. Lots of medium distance repeats for a change. I'm still working hard at extending my reach in my freestyle stroke. You always need a target for improvement. 

Keep masking up till we get those vaccines out to the public. It might save someone you know from a world of pain.

11.23.2020

Zeiss XZYZX1 camera. Oh Boy! Here we go again. Ghost/Zombie of the Samsung Galaxy NX....


Back in 2012 Samsung announced a camera that they assumed would take the photography world by storm and revolutionize the (then) burgeoning market for mirrorless cameras. Working with an existing (and very, very decent --- sometimes inspired) line up of interchangeable lenses they unveiled the Samsung Galaxy NX. Like the new(?) Zeiss zx1 the Samsung camera ran on a version of the Android operating system which allowed for lots of great(?) third party apps to be included. While the Zeiss camera is running Adobe's Lightroom the Galaxy NX was much more promiscuous with its selection of apps; it actually came with Candy Crush preloaded and ready to go. The Samsung also featured a huge, five inch screen on the back of the camera so you could take advantage of the camera's ability to send images via wi-fi, cell data or Bluetooth, and also to aid you in making some changes (although rudimentary on the Samsung) to the images you captured. 

I was asked by Samsung to take possession of one of the first few Galaxy NX cameras in North America, to put it through its paces, and to share the results/information I discovered about the camera with both Samsung and photographers in our vast market. As the camera's firmware progressed and the camera improved I was asked to go to the 2013 Photo Expo in New York City and demo the camera in Samsung's trade show booth. I spent two days there shooting two gorgeous models and watching my images float up to a pair of big flat screens in near real time. In this way visitors to the booth could see what could be done with the camera and its ability to stream at full resolution. 

After the Photo Expo I was also invited along with a half dozen other photographers from around the world to go to Berlin, shoot around Germany for a while with the camera (with upgraded software!) and to write honestly and without any pressure from Samsung about my experiences with the camera. I have several nice things to say about the Galaxy NX. The 85mm f1.4 lens and the 105mm macro lenses were both superb and made beautiful images. The sensor rendered beautiful flesh tones which converted nicely and easily to great black and white photographs. 

The rest of my experience with the Galaxy NX was fraught with frustration. The battery, though huge, ran down quickly because of the full operating system which was always muddling away in the background, and the huge screen that must have been as inefficient, electrically, as having a cathode ray TV set glued to the back of the camera. The Android OS took nearly 30 seconds to boot up (a similar complaint with the Zeiss cam...) which meant that a fast response to a beautiful scene/event was well nigh impossible. And the camera, with even firmware 1.0 loaded tended to shut down and re-boot often. Again, because of the Android OS. But when it worked the camera could make very, very good images. 

I'm guessing that Samsung sold about 1200 of these cameras world-wide and I'd further conjecture that the mass market rejection of the product was at least partially responsible for Samsung's decision, about a year and a half later, to completely exit the consumer camera market. A stunning move since the NX1 camera that followed the Galaxy NX was a great product about which ardent fans still rave.... But a wise decision when one looked at their small market share and the rapid and radical decline of the entire camera market.

All of which brings me to the Zeiss product. The ZX1 (or is it the XZ1? Can't keep that straight...). I simply don't get it at all. According to early reports the Zeiss development team went back in time to 1988 and acquired a focusing module from an early AF camera. It's reported to be dodgy, at best, and is set up to measure focus only at one center point. There are no recent decade goodies like face detect AF or even reasonable focus tracking. Just one dead center AF sensor with the response of a sedated box turtle. And, again from early reports, the "hit" rate in single AF is embarrassingly low. Painfully low.  Especially for a $6000 camera, released in 2020.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What is the Zeiss ZX1? Like the Samsung Galaxy NX it's a camera that's running Android OS. It's built into the Zeiss cam in order for Zeiss offer a truncated version of Adobe's Lightroom photo editing software in the camera. As I understand it you can run the camera without paying a monthly fee to Adobe to use the embedded software but you'll only be able to generate Jpegs. Yes, if you want to shoot raw and export the resulting files you'll need to subscribe to a third party software vendor. Even I'm shocked at the thought. And I subscribe to all kinds of Adobe work-ware.  

The camera features a big rear screen, a la the Samsung Galaxy NX, as well. Perhaps Zeiss will offer a Bluetooth keyboard for an additional $1200 and you will actually be able to write e-mails with it and send them via your AOL account. Or post images to MySpace.

The camera has a new design aesthetic which I call: "Weird camera design for the sake of just wanting your camera to look different and modern in a 1960's jet age style." Given the spare exterior interface and lack of settable buttons I believe that Zeiss was following the playbook from Leica in trying to make menus and settings as minimalistic as possible but I think they stumbled over their own feet by trying to include ponderous and ungainly operating system software which adds many layers of near useless complexity to the system. 

The camera is small enough and it does look pretty. To like this camera you have to be a fan of 35mm focal length lenses because this one is built onto the camera body and non-removable. While I know many are fans of the 35mm focal length I'm not one of them and the fixed lens on this camera, like the fixed 28mm on the Leica Q2, puts both cameras into the dreaded "deal-killer" category for me, right off the bat. 

But let's move on and explore a few more "features" of the Zeiss camera. You might be pleased to find that you don't need to buy memory cards for this camera. It's got a built in 500 GB hard drive to fill up. And, I suppose, at the time the camera lingered at the design stages that seemed like a lot of memory, and much cheaper to acquire than standalone SD cards or, God forbid, CF Express cards. But what it really means is that you'll need to drag your computer around with you to offload images as you fill up the card. You also end up with "all your eggs in one basket." If you go on a "once in a lifetime" trip with this camera and fill up that drive and then you have a massive drive failure your trip will probably remain forever undocumented. There's certainly no mechanism for in-camera back up with this one.... But hey, instead of being out, seeing the sites and sampling the night life at your vacation destinations you can ignore your spouse and remain hunched over your camera, editing the day's images and then exporting them to some imagined audience as you watch sports on TV. Sad. 

The camera ticks a few popular boxes but it never rises to "best of class" in any regard. The sensor is big and  full frame but a bunch of camera companies offer bigger, newer, better full frame sensors. I'm sure the lens is technically great but good luck taking that tight, non-distorting portrait photograph of your favorite super model with the system. Or, coming at it from the other direction, maybe you'll have to spend the rest of your free time stitching together frames to make one decent super-wide shot.

In short, I think Zeiss learned very little through observation of the Samsung Galaxy NX fiasco. The one thing they seem to have learned is that they might need to sell far fewer of these to make the same amount of money since the Zeiss camera is priced at least three times higher than the Samsung product was (and that one came down in price at an exhilarating pace...). 

Do you want a good, handy camera with a fixed 35mm equivalent focal length to carry around? Have you heard about the Fuji X-100-V? It's pretty great if you're looking for nice usability and built in formalist boundaries. And HEY! you can buy four of them for the price of one Zeiss. Yeah, you'll have to supply your own memory cards but.....

Am I being overly harsh about this one? Maybe. I guess you could make an argument that the Zeiss camera would make good male jewelry. If you didn't have to depend on it exclusively for photography it might make a nice symbol of financial success to wear around one's neck. And it may take really nice snapshots (as long as it can nail focus on a non-moving object) if you work at it. 

If I'm going to do some post processing to a photograph I really prefer doing it on a 27 inch, 5K Retina screen. If I'm going out to take some photographic "art" I really prefer and assortment of focal lengths that can be better matched to various subjects I might come across. If I want to play the Android version of Candy Crush I'm betting I still have an NX Galaxy laying around somewhere. In short I am considering this camera to be a cruel joke, and a poke in the eye to other camera designers who are more serious about providing useful solutions to people who are passionate about picture taking. 

If you are sitting at Zeiss H.Q. and reading this you are welcome to send along a copy and try to prove me wrong but if I were you I wouldn't risk it. Not given my track record of new camera involvement. You might end up deciding to exit the entire market altogether. And that would be kinda sad. You guys do make good lenses! 

This particular idea of camera "design" must be some Zombie virus that infects otherwise rational camera engineers on some cyclical time frame....


 The End.