12.13.2013

Thinking about creativity and re-invention reminded me of an older article. Allow me to re-share...

http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-good-stuff-is-in-wiring-dirt-just.html

From: A Christmas Story. Zach Theatre


I am of the belief that becoming an expert in anything is the quickest path to boredom, stagnation and being rolled over by progress. People often take me to task for buying new equipment, changing systems, working with different kinds of light. My take on it is that doing the same crossword puzzle over and over and over again isn't sign that you are smart or agile, it's a sign that you are bat shit crazy. 

I work with different cameras to see if they make me see in a different way. Isn't that what we want? Don't we want to differentiate our points of view?  I use different lights to see how they affect my subject, the way motion is expressed or to create a different mood or environment for my subjects. They are mostly people. Isn't exploration something we pretend to value highly?

The tools we use have an influence on how we put stuff together. That's been true since the dawn of time. It was true when we learned that spearing our dinner with long spears killed it more effectively (and safely) than trying to club it to death in very close quarters. Fellow caveman, UGGG, might have invented a better club but caveman, Bob, moved the game forward with his sharp, pointy stick. Fewer cavemen showed up to the Barbecue injured after Bob's discovery went mainstream...

The important part is your story and your own interesting self. But it's folly to think that new technology has no effect on the continuing commercial enterprise of photography.....



An article that I really enjoyed reading. Not necessarily about photography. But maybe.

Which side? (Samsung Galaxy NX camera. Kit lens)

I read this article (below) on Slate today and the last 30 years of my life seemed to make a lot more sense. I found it interesting but you might not.

12.12.2013

Two cameras that point to the new direction in photographic tools.


As camera imaging sensors get denser and denser with pixels the last remaining frontier in current camera design is the exact marriage of the optical system to the sensor. Sony, beginning with their RX1 and continuing with the RX10 has this just exactly right. With fixed lens cameras (cameras where the non removable lens is an integral part of the design and manufacture) the makers have the ability to precisely match everything in the system. According to interviews with Sony the 35mm Zeiss lens incorporated into the RX1 sits very close to the sensor and every RX1 camera is individually calibrated down to less than a micron of error. 

The usual interchangeable system has tolerances that are ten times or more looser. But even beyond the mechanical linkages a fixed lens camera system let's the design team have precise aim points for everything from lens fall off to pixel well rationalization and correction. Instead of designing a system that is a jack of all trades a fixed system is optimized to a much higher level because all variables are known and can be accounted and compensated for. 

To my mind the RX1 (at the high end) and the RX10 (in the average consumer space) go a long way toward inciting a new revolution in camera design. While these two products may not exactly suit your needs I think we'll see more and more products that have a closed loop design aesthetic because it makes engineering sense. I shy away from the RX1 not because of reviews that reference slow AF and not even because of the high price. My objection is to the 35mm angle of view. I think it's too wide for nice portraits and way too short for dramatic vistas. If they were to come out with a version with a fixed, f4 zoom that spanned 28 to 70mm I'd be first in line.  Another alternative (probably not palatable for most camera buyers) would be to create optimized versions in popular single focal lengths. I'd want to see a classic trinity of (the existing) 35mm, 50mm and 85-90mm lenses. But I don't think that's on the horizon. 

But the camera that really caught my attention this year, and is steadily working its way onto my "want to buy!!!" list is the RX10. In part my desire for the camera is driven by its video capabilities but having owned several Sony R1 cameras I understand just how good a well designed lens, coupled intimately to a good sensor, can be. And how convenient it can be in day to day shooting. 

While the sensor in the RX10 is smaller than m4:3 I have to believe that the tight integration (both in design stages and in manufacturing) of the holistic system will allow the camera to compete on par with its bigger sensor rivals and perhaps exceed them in terms of sharpness, due to tighter tolerances.  

The RX10 is one of those cameras that falls outside the current vogue of being able to "customize" your camera with lenses from hither and yon. It is also out of fashion by dint of having a smaller sensor. I'm sure these things will keep traditional photographers somewhat at bay but I'm equally sure that a small subset of photographers will recognize the camera for what it truly is: A powerful, portable multi-media tool kit with great optics and great output. 

My one gripe is the continued use by Sony of the hobbit-sized Nex battery. I would love to have seen Sony use the same battery that's graced the Alpha camera for many generations. There's a lot of screen real estate to power, including a very good EVF. Oh well. That's what aftermarket batteries are for..... And I'll want a batch of them.

I wouldn't be considering this camera if I weren't trying to straddle both video and traditional photography and, if I were solely a videographer I might not consider it either. But for anyone for whom narrative filmmaking has allure and fast moving photography is daily bread I think we've finally got a digital camera that's nearly the perfect all terrain vehicle. 

Beyond the specs and details of the two Sony products I mention I think the time is ripe for other manufacturers to take a step forward and optimize lenses and sensors into more effective and cohesive packages . For a generation or two the products that result may be pricey or feature-limited but I do think it's a rational path forward in the pursuit of ultimate image quality.

In the same vein I would also point to the Leica Vario X. Samples I've seen point to the same kind of inclusive design philosophy. While that camera's marketing and general acceptance is crippled by the apparent slowness of the lens camera cognoscenti who have embraced them have come to find that the lens/sensor combination can produce breathtaking results. 

Whether you are ready to give up lens interchangeability or not these optimized packages are a very interesting story in the world of camera design. 




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12.11.2013

Top Camera of the Year? That would be a three way tie. The winner depends on your point of view...

If high ISO image quality is the number one priority on your camera evaluation spreadsheet, and you are a Nikon shooter. This is your winner. It's also the perfect nostalgia booster for anyone who started photography with an SLR (no "D") in their hands.

If you are looking for an incredibly detailed sensor and the ability to use it with Canon, Nikon, Leica, etc. lenses, and you want all that at a reasonable price, then this should be at the top of your short list. It's the D.I.Y. fanatic's dream. Can I wedge a Nikon 43-86mm zoom on there? You bet!

Looking for a camera that's so well stabilized that it takes five times as long to hit the ground when you accidentally drop it? How about the camera that's the most fun to use? Or the one with boxes full of cool lenses? So, what's a few fewer pixels between friends?

It's been an interesting year for cameras. Not that there was a record number of them introduced or that there were tremendous technical breakthroughs to celebrate. This year was like a maturing process for the main camera types. But there's enough going on to keep the enthusiasts clutching their checkbooks and trying to decide if now is the time to plunge in and buy......more cameras.

For full on marketing innovation you've got to hand it to Sony, they turn total product indecision into a plus, wipe out whole product categories and re-label stuff with reckless abandon. We'd call it the "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" methodology but so the consumer wall has proved to be more or less Teflon(tm) until now. 

But let's drop back a few years and look at where Sony has come from. Five years ago they introduced the rock hard (and heavy as a brick) ultra-traditional DSLR, the a900. They quickly followed with almost exactly the same camera in the form of the a850. These were both built like tanks and made very few concessions to the digital age. No live view. No video. Just full frame sensors (which were rare at the time) and lots of heavy metal. Popular with the Sony faithful (all 50 of them) and a good platform for using Zeiss primes and G series zooms. 

But by 2010 these two cameras were getting long in the tooth and the Sony-ites were screaming for a new full frame body. It came in the form of the a99 which was both loved and hated. Loved because it used a state of the art sensor and put Sony shooters in range of the Canon and Nikon faithful for high ISO performance. And it was optimized for best color. But it was also hated because Sony pulled a "Sony" and gave us yet another flash shoe standard. One that is anything but standard. Just ask anyone who tries to put a radio trigger on the new flash....

12.10.2013

Rush Hour at the Pool.

Warm up lanes at USMS Indoor Short Course Nationals.

It was tough to get out of bed today. The temperature here in Austin was 27 degrees. I know that's a walk in the park for our northern neighbors but down here our blood gets thinned out by the relentless summer heat and the plethora of peppers we eat. It was still dark outside at 6:30 am but Ben and I hopped into the car and headed out to greet the day. First stop was the school and cross country practice for Ben. A bunch of really skinny guys, bundled up from head to toe, and ready to get some road miles under their proverbial belts. I headed down the road a mile to the Rollingwood Pool which was already full of my fellow masters swimmers when I got there. 

The hardest part of swimming outdoors in the winter is making the mental commitment to drag the suit on and head out of the locker room door. Once you're moving across the deck to your lane you have become committed. The plunge into the water just seals the deal. And then, after five or ten minutes of warm up you get the relaxing feeling of dropping into something you've done so often that it's nearly automatic. There's no thought of cutting a workout short. Your focus become about matching speed with your lane mates, executing efficient flip turns and making the challenging set of intervals. There's little time to talk and when it's really cold no one wants to keep their head out of the water for very long. 

There are two dangers in any endeavor. One is that you'll find an excuse to skip a day and that will lead you down the path toward finding more and more reasons to stay under the covers and skip practice. One day you wake up and find that it's been weeks since you've been and then you deal with the feeling that you're so far behind; that your fitness level has dropped so much, that it will be impossible to get back in and get back in shape. The second danger is that of making your swim (or photography or whatever) too routine and finding one day that you are just going through the motions but your passion has left the pool. That's easier to fix. You develop new goals and you find coaches that surprise you with the creativity and fun quotients of their workouts. Maybe it's time to challenge yourself by moving up into a faster lane. Or maybe you need to switch to a different time schedule and swim with a different crew for a while. 

One thing is certain. Being good at something requires commitment and practice. Being great at something requires the first two along with a liberal dose of passion. If you don't get a tingle of excitement when you head out the door for practice (swimming or photography) you might need to re-align your focus and revisit your goals. Bottom line for both practices? Swimming and Photography should be fun. 

Gear notes: Today we did a few sets of kicking drills and we used our fins. My choice was a set of long Tyr fins. I was using Speedo Vanquisher 2 googles with reflective lenses. My swim suit was a classic jammer (just above the knees) from Speedo's Endurance line. On the pull sets I used green adult size StrokeMaker hand paddles, modified by removing the wrist band and adding an extra finger band. 

12.09.2013

THE FIVE CAM SLAM.

Samsung Galaxy NX. Kit Lens.

I had a fun, raucous and loud assignment this past weekend. I was asked to photograph the opening of the new location for the Children's Museum (re-named, The Thinkery) on Saturday. I spent most of my day there and, capriciously, used five different cameras to take nearly 2,000 images. When I left my house at eight in the morning it was the coldest day we've had yet this year in Austin, with the temperature hovering aroun 27 degrees. I packed two Panasonic GH3s, one Panasonic G6 and a Sony a99 into my big Domke bag, along with a fun assortment of lenses. But wait, that's only four cameras... Oh, yeah, I also had a brand, spanking, new Samsung Galaxy NX body and a kit lens lingering on the passenger seat of the car. It had been there overnight for a routine "chill test."

When I got to the new museum location at the old Mueller Airport (now a trendy, cool and growing neighborhood) I grabbed the bag and left the Samsung in the trunk along with my swim bag and an extra tripod. The first stop was into the main museum building to check in and then across the street to the big, multi-level parking garage. The wind was whipping and their was moisture in the air. We would start in the parking garage and there would be a mariachi led parade over to the museum. I grabbed out the Sony a99 with the 24-105mm lens and a flash and started making images of kids and their parents enjoying hot chocolate and coffee. The light levels in the garage were very low and it was a difficult location in which to shoot. If I pointed the camera at the walls the outside lighting overwhelmed the interior light and burned to white, even with the flash. I tried to compose images without showing the outside but it wasn't always possible. 

We started the parade and I made images of the whole short procession. When we got into the museum there were a few speeches, a ribbon cutting and then the kids got to tear through a big paper barrier and enter the guts of the museum. I shot the speeches with a mixture of flash, fill flash and available light and figured I would sort out the right direction in post. The paper barrier shot was very much an on camera flash shot.

After the images that required flash were over with I dripped the Sony and the flash into the bag I left under the client's desk in the second floor warren of offices. I spent the rest of the morning shoot with three other cameras: A GH3 with the 14-42mm, a GH3 with the 45-140mm and the G6 with the 25mm 1.4. The cameras all focused quickly and accurately and the files from the GH3s are good and clean up to 3200 ISO. Occasionally I would switch the 25mm to one of the GH3s just to see how the cameras looked with that lens at higher ISOs. After a couple hours shooting available light with that combination I pulled out a 40mm 1.4 Olympus manual focus half frame lens and put in on the G6 in order to try out the focus peaking feature. It worked great, even at f2. 

Around one in the afternoon I decided to put all the rest of the cameras up and go out to my (refrigerated) car to get the Samsung Galaxy NX and use it for a while, just to mix things up. Rookie mistake here. As soon as I walked into the well heated museum space with the 27 degree camera and lens everything condensed over. Instant fog filter. I put the camera under a hand dryer in one of the restrooms and gave it twenty minutes or so to warm up. As soon as the moisture cleared the camera was up and ready. In the next few hours I shot nearly 800 images with the camera and the kit lens at every setting from ISO 400 to ISO 6400 and I decided that, now that I'm shooting with a full production version of the GNX instead of a series of prototypes and pre-prototypes, that the GNX is a pretty good shooting cameras with really good files. Now I regret sending all the super cool lenses back.... 

As the day wound down I finished up with the 25mm Pana/Leica lens on the G6 body and was very happy with how fast (very) and fluid the operation of that combination was. 

So, when I finish shooting a job like this I try to get into post production mode the very next day. I shoot large, super-fine jpgs in all of the cameras (this is to be interpreted to mean that I shot at the largest size setting and the lowest compression setting for each camera) and I am able to do a fair amount of Jpeg file tweaking in the Apple, Inc. program, Aperture 3. 

First thing in the morning, before coffee, I head to the office to ingest every file into Aperture, renaming them with a different code for each camera. I also append metadata and caption info. Once I have them ingested and I've had some coffee I make a quick pass through the whole folder looking for obvious trash (blinks, wildly bad exposure or pegged color) and I dump those files.  Then I go through files with lots of versions and try to find the best versions from each group while dumping all the lesser versions. Once this is done I get down to the work of post processing. Nearly every file is touched; either in a  batch mode or individually and it can be as time consuming as the post processing that wedding photographers do. 

I start with color correction because doing exposure first and then color correcting will shift the first exposure correction and require a second pass. After the color correction I move to exposure  and brightness settings, then on to contrast, then to definition and clarity, then to saturation (most cameras need a slight decrease, the GH3s need a tiny increase...) and finally on to sharpening. I try not to sharpen much as the camera Jpeg engines are already tweaked with my preferred sharpen settings.

Once everything is tweaked I go through one more time to see if there is anything I can throw away. That done I burn three sets of DVDs. One for the client and two for my archives. I know DVDs aren't archival but I also know that some jobs have lifespans that are measured in a few years, even months and not everything I shoot is so amazing that I need it to outlive me. I also have the originals backed up on two hard drives. A final fallback is my written disclaimer to clients advising them that once I have delivered a set of final files they are responsible for archiving their copy. We have no legal obligation after 30 days to maintain the files or provide replacements. In practice we keep them for as long as we can but it moves clients to at least think about safeguarding the IP they've paid for and will need to use in the future. 

How do I like the cameras? The Sony has the best files of all but the worst exposure consistency and the worst auto white balance. I'm starting to think of these full frame, DSLR cameras as more studio cameras or cameras to shoot when you can tether them and take your time to assess the shot closely. The Samsung has the second best files in terms of depth, resolution and low noise. The AWB is somewhere between the Sony a99 and the m4:3 cameras. The best compromise (and all cameras are compromises) is the GH3.  The files from those two cameras stand up well to scrutiny even at 3200 ISO at 100%, if you shoot them bright enough. Underexpose and you'll get back high ISO files from just about all cameras. For sheer joy of shooting the G6 is the best of the bunch. It is so small and light that it becomes almost invisible in actual use. I love it with the 25mm Pana/Leica on it. It weighs next to nothing but the EVF is good and the files, though not as noise free as the GH3 are very good and sharpen up nicely in post. It's a least a full stop noisier than the GH3 but with a fast lens you go right back into the whole compromise thing.

Next time I shoot a day long event I'm leaving the Sony stuff at home and shooting exclusively with my trinity of Panasonics. I love pre-chimping with the EVFs and I love carrying around three cameras with different lenses that, in total, weigh less than the one DSLR with a zoom and a flash. 
Your mileage may vary and you may have emotional reasons or nostalgia to deal with in selecting your gear. It's all a compromise so everyone gets to make the compromises that work best for them. That's the way the photo world works. That's my story from the weekend.

I will say one more thing. I was familiar with the menus and the operation of the cameras and had shot all of them pretty extensively before but if you really want to know how a camera handles then use it for a fast paced, all day assignment. I guarantee that by the end of the day you'll find out what bothers the hell out of you and what makes you smile. Saturday reinforced my feeling that the G6 is a wonderful and well thought out camera for the money. Its only flaw is that there is no "constant preview" (or setting effect, in Sony language) in the manual mode and I think there should be. Even if we can never fix this one thing in firmware I'm happy with the camera.  Too plastic?  No, that's just silly.

12.05.2013

A life in balance.


It's important to balance work and play. Especially when your work is play. The relentless people in life are painful to be around and the lazy ones are worse. Business and pleasure should be like two sides of a sinusoidal wavelength on a graph. A symmetrical balance of achievement and fun. Too much of one dulls the senses. Too much of the other dulls the thrill.

We shoot for fun. We shoot for business. And then we do other stuff like read books and take naps. Swim and go out for lunches. Too much of anything affects the balance. Too many obligations affect the balance. Not enough fun is just as bad.

So, when I think about photography I wonder how to maintain the balance and resist the temptation to overindulge. How much gear is too much and how much is too little. How long to hang on to tradition and when is it time to create new traditions.  A life in balance is smoother, easier, more efficient and more effective. I think it's a more comfortable way to live.  A life in the arts should alway have room for something mundane and necessary to balance out those feelings of intensity that come bundled with creativity. For every super model shoot done with priceless cameras there should be a balance of rinsing the dinner dishes and doing the taxes. One side is fun while the other side keeps everything in the right perspective.

And don't forget to make mistakes now and then. They can lead you in very interesting directions. 

12.04.2013

On a road trip for a magazine. And other stream of consciousness errata.

I was on a private road and I stopped the car and put it in "park" before I even touched my camera!
(clarification suggested by my attorney.....)

I photographed at a law firm yesterday and I had a blast. I did fun portraits with everything from available light to massive strobes. We did non conventional group shots. I fought with my mild acrophobia and leaned over the railing on the 28th floor patio in order to take some skyline shots. It was an enthusiastic day. And then I came home, downloaded files, charged batteries and got ready to do it all over again. But in a totally different venue. 

Where yesterday was about a group of fun, kinetic and interesting attorneys, right in the middle of the pulsing coolness of downtown Austin, the stuff I shot today was rural and calm. 

Yesterday I shot with Sony a99's and Rokinon Cine lenses and I lit up everything with the big Elinchrom Ranger RX AS power packs (strobes). Today I shot with a Panasonic GH3 and the new lens, the 12-50mm. Yes, you are allowed to go back and forth between systems...

I packed two GH3s, one G6 and eight lenses. I used the new 12-50mm lens exclusively. Loved it. Everything was on a tripod. Every shot was RAW+Large Jpeg (just in case of worse case...) but I didn't worry because you may have noticed that I tested the lens for a couple days after I bought it but before I used it on a paying job with a client.

I hauled along four Elinchrom moonlights and a case full of umbrellas and stands. I had a nice, calm day of shooting interior and exterior photographs for a shelter magazine that covers early American life.

I loaded up the car last night. Yes, I live in a safe neighborhood, unless you consider the coyotes. I got up this morning---early, zapped some French toast that Belinda made me last night, filled a travel mug with coffee from the Keurig and got dressed. I munched and swigged coffee while I got Ben up for early cross country practice. He didn't want to get up but I was already envying him the workout because I had to skip my swim.

We cruised to the school at first light and I dumped him out of the car and then headed west on Hwy 290, through Johnson City and onward to Fredericksburg, Texas and points west. I followed my instructions perfectly and punched into the gate about ten minutes before nine. I was at a ranch about 8.5 miles from the edge of Fredericksburg. As I drove in the half mile to the main house I went past herds of cattle and herds of goats and sheep. Reminded me that I live in Texas. 

I was greeted by the owner of the house and her faithful dog. I unloaded three cases of gear and got to work with the GH3 and the 12-50mm trash lens. The point of the assignment was to capture a the interior of a fully restored 17th century log cabin, lovingly transported piece by piece to this Texas ranch and decorated with historic and authentic Christmas decorations. I started in the kitchen with two umbrella lights. Why was I using studio flash? Because the house is covered with windows and I wanted to maintain detail outside ( f8 @ 1/160th of a second) and still have the interior show normally. Can't really do that yet with continuous lighting. Well, at least not continuous lighting that's either budget-able or cool to operate. 

I spent all day working the house. I used Raw+Jpegs as a life jacket because, as you know, I am a newbie in this system. I tried the HDR settings and I also experimented with the automatic dynamic range settings. I did custom white balances and sometimes I just dialed in the color temperatures I knew were right.

The home owner/rancher was wonderful and even made me lunch. By wonderful I mean that she was warm and welcoming and, after introducing me to the house, she went off to read a novel and let me work through by myself. 

By three in the afternoon I'd covered everything I could think of, inside and out. I packed up the lights and the stands and umbrellas and dumped them into the car. I played with the dog for while and I played six degrees of separation with the home owner. Yes, I went to high school with her physician. 

We chatted for a bit while I rubbed behind her dog's ears. Then I put the cameras in the old, beige Domke bag and headed out toward the highway. On the homeowner's suggestion I stopped for coffee at the Java Ranch on Main St. in Fredericksburg for a coffee and it was good. Then I headed back to Austin. 

When I finally made it through rush hour traffic, greeted the kid and kissed the wife I found a cardboard box on the dining room table. The folks at Samsung sent me a final production copy of the Galaxy NX camera. Another source sent along a package with a lens hood for the Olympus 12-50mm lens (just after the nick of time....). I've got the Samsung battery charging and I did promise to give the production model a try out. I'll only write about it if they improved the stuff I bitched about and made it a fun shooting camera. 

Belinda ran off to a school meeting about college finance and the kid and I had a quiet dinner and talked about our "work" days. He went to school---I shot pictures.  We both did pretty well. 

I just downloaded all 227 files from today and looked at random shots. The lens, on a tripod, is pretty darn good. The camera is great. Aperture is a wonderful software programs for tweaking and the files looked pretty darn good with a little bit of sharpening and a bit more mid-range contrast. Yeah, you can do decent work with pretty much everything on the market these days...

Tomorrow? A swim just in front of the arctic blast coming through. Then lunch with a friend/client at the Indian Restaurant and the rest of the day spent in the studio post processing the last two jobs. When the boy gets home we'll order a big pizza and share the day. In the later evening I'll finish editing a TV spot for the Theatre.

I'm spending Friday swimming in the cold and then charging batteries and stuff and testing a few new flashes for the Pana/Oly gear. On Saturday I've got a full day of photographing the parade, ground breaking and grand opening of the new Austin Children's Museum. It's called: The Thinkery. I haven't decided on cameras yet but I'm having the urge to take them all. And since the weather is threatening temps in the lower 30's, a 20 mile per hour wind and sleet or freezing rain I'll also take a couple pairs of gloves and my "Indiana Jones" hat with the wide brim. Life is continually exciting.

So......this is what this photographer's life is all about this week. Good jobs, good clients and checks clogging up my mailbox. Nice. Lots for which to be thankful. Hope your year is ending well too...

12.03.2013

Our fascination with indestructible tools should be over by now.....


The camera above is an Alpa 9D. It's an indestructible, handmade, Swiss camera from the late 1960's or early 1970's. If there is plastic on the camera I've never been able to find it. Everything is steel or some sort of magic Swiss alloy. It was built on the premise that we'd always be using film and that while film might change and lenses might get better the basic box would never change and precision shutter speeds would always be precision shutter speeds. And that's why these cameras were very, very expensive. They were expensive because we expected that they may last for thirty, forty or fifty years. That's what your money bought.

But why do we give a sh*t about indestructibility now? Why do people pass over the very, very good visual performance of Nikon D800s and Canon 5D mk111 cameras to (over)pay for D4s and 1DX cameras?  You may be able to strafe them with machine guns or drop them from your Apache attack helicopter and have some sort of reasonable (but irrational) belief that they will survive intact but the reality is that almost every camera out in the market will be tossed into the trash can because its sensor has become obsolete long before any of them blow a gasket or disintegrate. Since a tiny, tiny slice of professional photographers make any sort of money shooting sports it certainly can't be pragmatism that motivates buyers. I think it's more a matter of ego or talisman worship.

I haven't bought a "Professional" camera body in quite a while. The last one I bought, brand new, was a Nikon D2Xs which I had for..........all of eighteen months. And I re-sold it because Nikon came out with a raft of much cheaper cameras that materially out performed the D2Xs in image quality. And hey, as a commercial photographer I rarely needed to take my cameras out in the rain or drop kick them into some rigorous service. And I rarely struck the camera vigorously with ball peen hammers....

Now I'm getting into the habit of buying cutting edge consumer cameras that deliver great images in more or less temporal packages. Stuff that will fall apart if you beat the hell out of it. But you know what? Everyone I know who buys D4s, 1DXs, and all the other "indestructible" cameras out there sticks them into padded cases and then inside additionally padded, wheeled cases. The cameras are coddled like babies. And why wouldn't they be? The owners paid a premium to own them....

I talked to a camera repair professional who works on all brands and all models. Guess what? In the current digital age the cameras with the lowest shutter counts, which he evaluates as trade-ins for a retail chain,  are the "pro" cameras. The cameras most used? The mid-tier cameras. Cameras that deliver between 85 and 105% of the visual performance of the pro cameras at fractional prices. 

The new paradigm? Buy the cameras that work well for you and just anticipate that they'll be gone in two years. Need rugged? Buy three cheap ones at $600 each ($1800) and pocket the rest of the money you would have spent on a D4. Or you can use that other $3200 dollars to buy some really nice lenses. 

The Alpa 9D is like a rugged, aging biker who would look at the current crop of "pro" cameras as a bunch of "flash in the pan" poseurs. The whole rationalization of ruggedized cameras is so bogus in the digital age. I'd rather think of my cameras like laptop computers....if they lasted two years I'd be happy. If they lasted four years I'd be ecstatic. The lenses are a whole other story. 

Go figure. Need a weather proof camera? Have you tried spraying your cheap Canon Rebel with some ScotchGuard? Have you heard about ZipLoc (tm) plastic bags? Indestructible? A super premium for weatherproof? Get over it....



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