9.05.2018

Now my serious opinion about the Canon mirrorless full frame cameras and why they will once again dominate the photo-landscape.

The extinction event. Goodbye D700?

About ten years ago I predicted that we would see the end of DSLR cameras as EVF technology improved and mirrorless concepts matured. The logic was simple; people didn't really understand the basic principles of the photographic process but seeing the image in real time, on a screen, would enable them to make corrections by eye and obviate the need for training. An even more compelling argument (and one I made at the time...) is that the two most expensive things in a traditional DSLR camera, after the imaging sensor, are the semi-silvered pentaprism that makes a DSLR a "reflex" camera and the moving mirror construction which requires many more mechanical parts and must be very well calibrated in order to work. So, more parts, more expensive parts and more delicate parts created the writing on the wall that prophesied the approaching demise of traditional cameras. 

The camera makers have done a magnificent job of convincing most consumers that the much-cheaper-to-make mirrorless cameras are worth large sums of money even though the costs to camera makers have been reduced, overall, by 40-50% (manufacturing being only part of the cost; there is still marketing and distribution to cover).  That Sony A7Riii is most likely 40-50% cheaper to create than the Nikon D850 but, if the end results are the same, so what? Sony pockets more profit per camera and dumps more cash into marketing their product, creating a narrative about it's prowess that is partly true. 

So, now that the conversion from DSLR to mirrorless has reached its tipping point we can pretty much agree that camera makers will now move from cameras with flippy mirrors to cameras with.....less stuff. The ardent fans of mirrorless (in some camps) misinterpret the move to mirrorless as being motivated by a size and weight reduction but they are, of course, wrong. Mostly. Serious photographers and working pros are still more interested in the results from cameras rather than a scramble to own "dainty" cameras. But with stodgy Nikon and glacially slow Canon joining in the evolution to a new camera ethos, and Panasonic reportedly waiting in the wings, I think it's safe to say that mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras will be the primary choice of the demographic ready to spend thousands of dollars on gear, and ready to spend similar thousands, year after year, to upgrade and acquire more. 

And that begs the question: Who's going to win?
And I firmly believe that Canon will trounce everyone else for a few simple reasons. First, the smart engineers at Canon created a lens mount in the EOS series that was fully electronic and amply sized for future work. Even though the R series has a new lens mount the fully electronic nature of the previous mount should mean that all those wonderful Canon lenses, made from the late 1980's through now will work flawlessly, not just partially, with a Canon supplied adapter in conjunction with the new R mount. That's huge. They can make the new R lenses a premium line but still have fast to focus and very sharp lenses from their entire EOS legacy catalog available. Win-win. 

It's a different equation for Nikon whose long line of pre-G lenses will be only partially capable with adapters on their new Z cameras. Nikon will sell a bunch of Z cameras to the faithful but not because of a flawless backwards compatibility; more of the sales will come from a regard for the color science and handling, and, to a certain extent, a very usable video implementation. 

Canon will either kill Sony's momentum or force them to come to grips with their engineering mistakes (see: lens mount dwarfism...) and the shot across the bow, from Canon to Sony, is the initial Canon introduction of the 28-70mm f2.0 lens. That's fast. And no one other than Sigma has done an f2.0 constant aperture zoom for full frame before. This is shorthand for: look what we can do with a wide mount diameter. Match this nex guys.  Nikon can do it too. 

While Sony has been on a tear recently one has to understand that Canon has many times more current users, many of whom have been loyal for decades. They might all want to be mirrorless owners but sales and statistics have shown that they were willing to wait till Canon came out with the product they ultimately wanted. 

But wait! What about Panasonic. It's been rumored that they'll be unleashing their full frame camera in the first quarter of next year. The smart money is betting that it will be a Panasonic branded Leica SL body which as gotten very, very good reviews as both a still photography camera and a video camera. If a meteor took out my entire studio and I was starting from scratch that system (the Panasonic version) would be at the top of my list. Right now I'm making videos that are so vastly superior to that which I was getting from Sony's top cameras just a year ago that I am stunned by how far ahead Panasonic is in video from everyone else in the multi-use camera market. 

But sadly, they will not blunt Canon's momentum. Why? Because most people who buy consumer cameras are still buying them to make still photographs. Yes, they like the ability to push a button and make and Instagram video of their kid blowing out birthday cake candles but they really never do the deep dive into high end, high sweat video that would show off the difference between implementations in Nikon, Canon and Sony. 

The ardent researchers/fans/pro-users/dedicated hobbyists make the mistake of believing what the camera marketers have been trying to sell in this camera space; that every camera hitting the market from now until the end of time must achieve exact parity with all the other companies in all aspect of performance and across the entire list of features. But it's not true. 

Canon may not have state of the art, full frame, 4K video but the cameras will still sell like hotcakes to all the Canon fans and loyalist who want to use their cameras to shoot the things they've always shot. Things like kids playing soccer, family vacations, fun events, recitals, casual portraits. These are all things that Canon cameras can do as well of better than other brands. That's the big market. 

Some will argue that Canon failed miserably because they did not put image stabilization into the newly introduced R body. But there is always the argument to be made that image stabilization in a lens can be better because it's customized exactly for that lens and the focal lengths involved whereas in body image stabilization is, from an engineering point of view, a compromise. If I were a consumer looking at the new Canon the one lens I'd be buying first (and for most families, the onliest) would be the 24-105mm lens which I believe is stabilized and is a focal length range that has a long and excellent history in the Canon lens family. I bet they got this one just right. And in today's photo circles it's pretty much the all around lens that ticks all the crucial boxes. 

Panasonic will make a better camera (especially for video) but they will market it as a niche product for people who need killer video as well as great a great photo tool. Canon will always sell millions more bodies. 

Nikon will have more desirable features (in the short run) and pull ahead of Canon on their video implementation but Canon will out market Nikon and actually point out things like their lens prowess and ease of use. They will continue to gain on Nikon. I love the idea of the Nikon products but if starting from scratch I'd still feel some pull from Canon. 

Sony will be the net loser on this one. They had a good run with the A7 series and they've done some innovative things but the lens mount will eventually strangle them and they will launch a secondary system down the road. That'll piss off the faithful.  I'm betting that Sony sees things more as consumer products (individual products) rather than being long term systems which need to be backwardly compatible and cross functional. Their A7 series video codecs are already starting to look dated. They are better video cameras than the current Canon but Canon can change that whole paradigm in one product cycle. And, as I've stated above, I'm not sure small differences in video performance matters to the vast majority of buyers.  In fact, I'm almost certain of it.

If you are a current Canon professional user who shoots mostly stills but has the routine requirement of shooting some video for clients in 1080p the R camera will be a no-brainer for you because, with one adapter you'll be able to use, without limitations, that 70-200mm f2.8 that is best in class, the 24-70mm f2.8 that is so well established and any number of other lenses that you already have in your bag. 

How will both Canon and Nikon prevail over Sony? It's very simple, you just have to try each camera in person, in your own hand. The handling differences are tremendous skewed in favor of the established players. The small, incremental differences in handling and feature sets will pale next to the realities of good, livable industrial design. Count on it. 

Canon > Nikon > Sony > Fuji > Panasonic > Olympus. Everyone else can go home now and we'll get ready for the next round of musical chairs.

Me? After I take a call with a client on the east coast I'm tossing a fresh battery into the D700, sliding on the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art and heading out to take a nice walk with a beautiful, historic camera. I feel kinda like a guy with a 1964 Corvette Stingray in the garage. You know it's an ancient car but it's still incredibly fun to drive and gets you to the same destination as quickly as your new, aerodynamic jellybean lookalike car. Yeah.

Fact for today: Cameras can be too small and too light to be optimally effective. The way a hand tool feels is as important as the way it works.

9.04.2018

I can't seem to get this image out of my head. It's the offices of a major, online, camera review site on the day of the Canon mirrorless announcement.

It's a nice office on the west coast. Another cool, rainy day but the people in the office don't care; they've got important work to do. As each person heads into the office they bring along backpacks, cameras bags and shopping bags filled with the accessories they'll need for a tough day in the trenches. They'll be writing copy about a new line of cameras and they aren't planning to slow down the process for anything.

We look into a typical "content producer's" backpack and find a large bottle of water and a thermos filled with espresso. They've got granola bars and trail mix (with genuine soy nuggets). They have Ace Bandages to wrap around their wrists to combat carpal tunnel syndrome. And they have empty plastic bottles in case there are calls of nature that must be answered before they've completed their hands-on review, eyes only preview, "10 things you NEED to know" article, comparison with the Sony A7iii and Sony A7riii, and their "My boss took this camera to the micro brewery just to try the video video".

There's also the "Five new ways to use technology you don't care about" and "Why you shouldn't fall behind in the camera buying revolution guide." One of the staffers took a math course in high school; he's the one they've assigned to write about anything NYQUIST-Y. He's spent weeks looking through old camera reviews so he can re-hash sly mentions of "the physics of the BSI sensor". They've also trained him to write words like: Delta, diffraction limited, edge effect, acutance, quantum transfer and so much more.

The big push today will be about the latest mirrorless full frame camera from Japan, and this particular review site took all the writers on staff (and some of the freelancers) to a team building exercise last week to set some goals and quotas. This time? Hundreds of articles, thousands of words. Seems the 800 pound gorilla of cameras will be announcing their very, very late arrival to the mirrorless party and the writers and marketers at the review site are hellbent on making up for all those lost years in the space of a week ---- with an endless cascade of mindless articles about whatever the big camera company announces. And some counterpoint (to keep moving that Sony product...).

Beholden to current camera maker superstar, Sony, the writers will be instructed to write "balanced" articles which have Sony cameras, and the new cameras being introduced by their competition, seeming to be fairly evenly matched; at first glance. Then the sly marketing hammer comes down. OOMMMGGG!!! The new emperor is wearing no clothes. Unbelievable! The new camera being introduced doesn't have two memory card slots. How can this be???? (Everyone with a camera needs a back up slot for the same reason that every passenger on a Boeing 787 is issued a personal parachute as they board. Once in a while planes crash. And that's sad. But once in a great while (cough, cough, user error, cough) memory cards fail and that's downright tragic).

The new cameras will have a better mount, and that will be discussed in a largely dismissive way, but soon the Sony will rise into the highest level of the camera pantheon when it's revealed (like a reality show reveal) that the newly introduced camera lacks (oh dear God!) built-in image stabilization. Sony to the rescue. The writers will imply that the unlucky camera maker is trying to drag us back to the (shudder) 1980's. Who would ever buy a camera with no built-in image stabilization? As if.

Meanwhile a solo blogger on a totally different site will write a few thousand words about the poems of William Carlos Williams and then discuss how the new camera release taught him once again about the subterfuge of iambic pentameter.

But back to the big site. Not a hundred monkeys typing for a million years. Just a handful of highly motivated content producers cranking out a flood of slightly differentiated articles meant to convey the idea that everyone needs to change cameras as often as they change their underwear.

By the end of the first day after the well hoarded camera information is released the writers are exhausted. Tens of thousands of words have been expended in the combined praise and trashing of the newly launched camera. Now they sit back and wait as the hordes of readers create the real ground swell of SEO, and freely produced content, by claiming that they will either rush to buy the camera, rush even faster to pillory the camera, or whine incessantly about the perceived shortcomings of the new camera. ("The neck strap isn't soft enough --- deal killer!!!, I hate the placement of the fifth function button ---- deal killer!!!, The micro texture of the lens release button chaffs my fingers --- deal killer!!! All contained in the contents appended to each of the (surely cynical) articles written by the staff.

The head technical guy is so busy responding to endless questions and taunts that he's locked into the computer in his quasi-cube. He's using that empty plastic bottle well so he can argue with the fervant about how many quantum particles can traverse the copper connectors on the sensors. And why that makes a difference for, well, everyone who will ever use the camera to photograph their child's first bassoon recital. But that's okay, he's young and his historic reference point about the mists of the past is the dark days of 12 megapixel sensors...

Oh, by the way, I think Canon is introducing their new mirrorless camera today. Do you think DP Review might have a few articles about it? Let's go see. 

A quick segue to a different site finds the inhabitants there arguing about the new Phase One camera and whether it will outperform the last Phase One camera when it comes to shooting fields of Andalusian grass in dimly lit meadows. And how large those images could be printed (if anyone cared to print them....).

But steady up and drink hardy my friends because tomorrow is also the day that launched a thousand YouTube sites with sassy young photographers busy conjecturing about a camera they've only seen in its prototype form. Watch as our heroes pull up the online equivalent of PowerPoint presentations re-presenting to you the same specifications you could easily read yourself on the camera maker's site.

With this oppressive avalanche of mindless pseudo camera reviewing is it any wonder that camera sales are dropping again like rocks in a competition sized swimming pool? Most consumers are so over the excitement of a new product announcement. They just want to go home and play with the toys they already bought.

I wouldn't feel right though if I didn't drop by and see what the tech-y guy who also has much to write about Apple computers says about the new camera. Oh. I see. He's predicting the future will be all 16K and  he vows he won't buy any new camera with fewer than 120 megapixels. He's out of the market for a while. But that's okay he's got to figure out how to get his Cray Supercomputer wedged into his photo-RV.

When Canon finally gets some of these new cameras into a store I guess I'll go by and look through the finder and see how the shutters sound. Then I'll go some place and have lunch. I'm also thinking of taking up smoking cigarettes. Anything to assuage the boredom of yet another niche camera or lens review. But, of course, it's blandly ironic that I'm writing about it, too. Yes, life is boring like that.

Sure hope those reviewers don't get their once empty plastic bottles mixed up with their  regular water bottles in the twilight of their journeys back home. Could be a nasty surprise. Almost as unsavory as discovering that the camera which held such promise is sadly shipping with ....... only one card slot.

Two major camera makers forget the dedicated parachutes. whatever will we do?

What I love about photography and what I hate about video. At least where client projects are concerned.



From "Tortoise and the Hare" at Zach Theatre.

Photography: You go out and do the very best image you can and after you've shot it the photo is more or less carved in stone. Sure, you can fix some stuff but it's pretty much done the second you deliver it. You get to move on to the next job. If you really, really screwed up you have to do a re-shoot. But if the client is just being indecisive you'll probably never have to do that re-shoot because they'll have to go through the whole process again. If it's a portrait of the CEO and the marketing people decide he should have worn a blue shirt on instead of a pink shirt anything they want to do to change the photograph after the fact will require them to have skin in the game. Wanna try making that pink shirt blue in PhotoShop? There will be a charge associated with that.  Wanna reshoot in order to change out a shirt or tie? Well, you'll have to get the CEO on board, schedule him, schedule me and, since we didn't dress the guy, we'll be charging for the re-shoot.

So. Usually a benefit of taking photographs is that once delivered the project is more or less locked. You get to move on.

Video Production: You start with a concept and a script and you get approvals at every step of the way while filming. You deliver the first edit and sometimes the path from there is right into the middle of a committee. "Can we take out the shot (incredibly shot and beautifully lit) of the CEO sitting in a meeting and replace it with a blurry snapshot we found of the same CEO standing at an shopping mall in some god forsaken city shaking hands with the mayor?" "We know it's kinda blurry and the color is really bad....can you fix that too?" Left to most committees the good content in a video will eventually all be sucked out of the project and replaced with crap that is just included to check boxes on a list. In some cases moving from a nicely paced motion project to a slideshow of snapshots.

Unlike photography clients seem to think that a video project comes complete with an infinite set of revisions and tweaks. It's our job, when providing an estimate, to let them know how many major and minor revisions are included in the your bid and, how much more revisions after a "final approval" will cost them. After our client sends us directions to "just make these XX changes" we consider (after making the changes) that they video they paid for is complete and any additional revisions or tweaks are to be billed in addition to our original bid. If they know the clock is ticking it helps most clients become more decisive and rational.

My (least) favorite is a request we once had was to change out a product shot for a newer, much less beautiful product shot. Why? Well, the product had "changed" and the product manager wanted to make sure we were using the absolute latest product in our video. Made sense until we asked, "What was it about the product that changed?" (we couldn't see a difference in the product at all...) And the product manager responded, "Oh, it's absolutely identical except for the type...on the back." That would be the back of the product, which didn't show to the camera. As in.....IT MADE ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE except that we replaced a really nice shot with a lesser shot.

I very much dislike the whole idea of "teamwork" when it comes to project approvals and think it may be the single most costly distraction in all areas of advertising commerce; even worse than focus groups. Can't imagine Picasso calling in his "team" and asking if the dove in his painting should have a more leafy branch in his beak. A singular vision is a benefit. Teamwork approval is a tragic flaw.

With some video projects you never know when you are truly finished.

9.02.2018

Which camera maker will be the first one to incorporate graphene super capacitors instead of traditional batteries? And other random, industry-centric thoughts.

With all the bubbling, frenetic attention we've been paying to camera introductions I think we missed, almost entirely, the latest news about graphene super capacitors. Researchers have found new ways to work with graphene distribution and to incorporate it into super capacitor manufacturing. What would this mean for cameras? Much faster charging cycles (by a factor of 10X?), much higher current handling and thousands more charge and discharge cycles than we currently get from lithium batteries. The downside? The graphene super capacitors are still mostly lab proof of concept examples right now. But in five years......? They might just be the next portable power source...

I predict that in five and one half years every high end, mirrorless camera will feature this new technology and then battery life will largely cease to be an issue.....

My 2010 prediction that we would abandon optical viewfinders in favor of EVFs is coming true in front of our eyes. Gosh! Was that series of predictions really eight years ago?

We are at an inflection point with expensive cameras. Hasselblad and Fuji medium format cameras made the leap to the EVF future and now Canon and Nikon are following along after Sony. If Nikon's foray into the Z universe is successful (and pre-sales indicate that it will be...) I can't imagine that higher spec pro units aren't just ahead, from everyone.

This will be, on a smaller scale, reminiscent of the switch from film cameras to digital cameras. Pundits predicted the film-to-digital switch would take twenty years for the transition but the majority of adopters had new digital cameras in their hands in the space of two years. The transition to mass market mirrorless will be equally quick and decisive. In the short run Nikon, Canon and other new arrivals will benefit from sales resulting from full system replacements and pent up demands from Canon and Nikon users for mirrorless tech.

CF cards are almost completely dead and I can't think of a single camera maker who is introducing a new product with a CF card as part of the design/feature set. If you plan to keep your D700's and other CF hungry cameras around for decades to come you may want to start salting away lots of current, state of the art CF cards to fill the void that WILL be created by the mass exodus from the market by card makers.

But don't get too comfy with SD cards, even the UHS-II cards might be nearing a tragic end-of-life, being displaced by QXD cards that offer a more robust package and better performance. Oh gosh! All this change is so.....disquieting.

Electronic flash that plugs into the wall is on the way out. Oh, people will still want powerful flashes that can slam light through soft boxes, and go toe-to-toe with the sun, but they're quickly becoming comfortable with battery-powered units and the convenience of not having to carry extension cords or find electrical outlets will carry the day and all the money we've sunk into A/C powered Profoto units, Elinchrom units and other pricy brands will haunt us as we source supremely cost effective new units with lightweight battery packs that go on forever and ever. Until those, in turn, are replaced by graphene  super capacitor energy source packing lights.

It's all so quick and zany. Sometimes the rush of progress makes me want to rush to the camera store, buy bricks and bricks of medium format Tri-X film for the old Hasselblad and re-purchase another enlarger. I hear they are going cheap these days...at least on the used market.

Just a few thoughts for a cloudy, humid and scowling Sunday afternoon.

And, yes, my visit to San Antonio was fun and happy. Dad is doing very well.

Sometimes the old stuff lasts and lasts....

From the set of "Tortoise and the Hare" at Zach Theatre. Post rehearsal.




9.01.2018

Currently mired down in upload hell. Why oh why do I photograph with reckless abandon? It could be worse, I could be uploading Nikon D850 raw files....

Leslie Anne Leal in "Tortoise and the Hare" at Zach Theatre.

What is Saturday like when there is so much uncertainty in the camera world? Upon the announcement of the new Nikon Z cameras did my older cameras shut down and cease to function? Am I stuck making spreadsheets and comparison graphs of all the new, announced and unannounced but rumored cameras? Am I on the phone with the credit card companies, trying desperately to get my credit limits raised? Getting ready to plunge into frightening debt in order to "keep up"? 

Naw. I got up early this morning so I could go to the 7:30-8:30 a.m. Masters Swim Practice (all caps, just for fun...) and get in a few thousand yards of competitive swim practice done before the day revved up in earnest. A quick stop at the coffee shop for caffeine and a bagel and then into the office to pack for my Saturday morning photography assignment. 

I spent the last part of the morning and the first half hour of the afternoon photographing the dress rehearsal of a play by Allen Robertson, based on the old fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Original story, music, stage set and choreography. It was absolutely delightful. One of the best family oriented theater productions I've seen in years and years. 

But before I could get to the theater and start photographing I had to decide what to shoot with and what all I needed to pack. 

I had two considerations that drove my choices. First, the production was in one of Zach Theatre's smaller spaces and the lighting in the space isn't as ample as that which I am used to in the larger, newer, Topfer Theatre. The lights in the small theater are still mostly tungsten fixtures and not as bright as the newer and brighter LEDs in the bigger theater. My other consideration was a very positive one; we wouldn't have an audience for this dress rehearsal so the noise of the camera shutters was immaterial. I could choose the cameras I wanted to use without any concern for audience experience. 

I'm in the middle of three video projects for which I am using the GH5 cameras pretty much non-stop. I thought I'd give them a rest and use something different today. I considered the Nikon D700s but I decided to be boring and safe and use the Nikon D800 and D800e cameras on the off chance that the theatre's marketing department decides to do huge posters or building wraps with the resulting images. Pretty sure the D700s could handle those kinds of enlargements but I was looking for an effortless experience that I would not have to explain after the fact. 

In the smaller theater the lens that is most useful most of the time is the 24-120mm f4.0 VR lens. It's not super sexy and doesn't boast super fast apertures but I'm always pleased with its performance and detail rendering. It was the first lens in the bag. I also brought along a first generation Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 but it never made it out of the camera bag. The lens I used alongside the 24-120mm f4.0 was the older 85mm f1.8D lens. I wanted it along for the ride so I could shoot some individual actor shots with the lens wide open. It's that depth of field thang. 

In one respect I was a bit brave today, I opted to shoot the D800e with the 24-120mm and to do so in Jpeg instead of Raw. Since experience informs me that I'll likely shoot between 1,000 and 1,400 images during the course of the show the thought of processing somewhere close to 64 gigabytes of rawness made me yawn and grind my molars. Besides, I actually like the way the D800e handles high ISO noise reduction in Jpeg better than the way I end up handling it from raw files. Go figure. 

I never use flash or any other photographic light source when photographing theatrical productions. One reason is that it's annoying to the actors, the audience, the crew and even the rats living in the walls. Secondly, there are people who design beautiful light for stage shows and part of our documentation is to showcase those lighting designs. The lighting designs are as much a part of the show as the music and the costumes...

I use the camera's spot meter to help me stay in the right exposure arena and I use the 3D AF setting in continuous AF, controlling the focus by using the back button AF to grab and lock onto a subject. If  subject is moving I just keep the button depressed and keep an eye on the AF squares to make sure the camera is adjusting focus for the movement. Button un-depressed and we're locked in. I resisted shooting this way for years but I finally capitulated and came around. It is a faster way to track people and it's usually very accurate. I'm lucky with the used 24-120mm f4.0 I picked up on re-entry to the Nikon system; so far I've experienced no back or front focus on any of my four Nikon bodies. Nice. 

True to form I came home with nearly 1,500 exposures which I pared down to about 800 images. I tweaked them in Lightroom and saved them out as high quality Jpeg files with a maximum of 6,000 pixels on the long side. Today I threw caution to the wind and shot at both 3200 and 6400 without a care in the world. I was banking on some software engineer at Nikon six year ago to have produced a nice balance between chroma and luma noise and I was happy with what they spit out. 

I am now uploading the 800 files to Smugmug.com. My client will use the online galleries for quick selections for short deadline publications, and I will also set up download links to deliver the entire full res collection from Smugmug to my client. They get to archive all these images; it's in my contract....

I still have stinky, slow broadband here. I don't do cable TV and AT&T wants way too much money for any service that isn't bundled with all their mostly useless "content" products. Eventually I'll get Google Fiber in my neighborhood and it won't take hours to upload these precious files. My friend, Frank, lives in an area where they have access to Google Fiber and he suggests that it's so fast that his big files are uploaded before he even pushes the "return" button on his keyboard. Time warp fast. 

I'd like a faster connnection but I'd also like world peace, an uncorrupt U.S. government (I can only take care of one country at a time...), a couple of different Porsches from different decades, more I.Q. points -- preloaded,  and a roll of one hundred dollar bills that automatically replenishes itself. I'll just be happy right now with having no health issues, having a nice and fun family, and having a net worth that's in the black territory instead of in the red. The rest of the stuff will need to get prioritized. But right now that's not my job. My job is to swim and to occasionally take nice photographs. Everything else is a waste of time.


A program note: Try not to be snarky and combative in the comments if you can help it. If you can't help it then do me a favor and see a mental health care professional before sharing. I'm not here as a willing  target for your misguided rage....


8.31.2018

I just heard more Full Frame rumors. I'm not buying anything new until I see what Panasonic is really coming out with. Announcement at Photokina?

An added source to my conjecture: https://www.eoshd.com/2018/09/panasonic-full-frame-mirrorless-camera/

The most impressive camera I've shot with this year is not the Sony A7Riii or the Nikon D850. Without a doubt it's been the time I've spent with the Panasonic GH5S that's made me sit up and take notice. It's pretty much perfect for shooting video and I'm happy with the noise performance up to 3200 ISO; maybe a little bit past.

But as I was laying in bed, counting 50mm lenses in my head, trying to get to sleep in defiance of my insomnia, it came to me that what I'd really like to see in a new camera would be all the stuff that's in a GH5S but with a full frame sensor. I could care less about actual resolution. I would not even care if it was a 10 megapixel sensor as long as it featured dual ISO (lower ISO = great dynamic range; higher ISO = low noise and nice files) and shot the incredibly beautiful video that I'm already getting out of my current GHS. These guys get the idea of hybrid camera technology, and use, better than any of their peers right now.

Can you imagine a beautiful GH full frame with glorious and gigantic 10 ┬Ám diameter pixels? With incredible color science, minimal noise and 400 Mbs video files, in camera!!! Sure, the camera would still only have 10 to 12 megapixels but the files would look incredible, and never mushy.

I read the rumors and some people were suggesting that since Panasonic and Leica are partners that the lens mount would be the Leica SL lens mount which would give access to a small but highly respected group of modern lenses. But I'm equally sure adapters would abound.

We've seen the Nikon Z introduction and I think it's pretty darn good for photographers. We're all pretty sure Canon is about to drop their mirrorless miracle on the 5th of September and even Olympus seems to have something up their sleeves.

I'm predicting that what happened to film cameras between 2002-2005 is about to happen to traditional DSLRs remaining in the market. They'll be gone as new stock products the minute mirrorless sales jump the line. Traditional camera users will be as vehement in their resistance as their kind were when facing the onslaught of digital during the waning years of film photography. They will kick and scream and prognosticate about how DSLRs will take decades to recede. But then we'll be reading their blogs three years from now as they tout the amazing capabilities of their XXXXXX brand camera. More telling will be their gushing praise and total allegiance to electronic viewfinders. Brace yourselves DSLR users, you are about to be hit by the wave of EVF. Resistance is largely futile.

Don't like EVFs? Better stock up on (now) retro gear. Those D850s won't last long. That is, if we can actually get them out of backorder status....

Just passing along rumors. Don't want you to go on a Z shopping spree if there's something much better just around the corner.

I read this "review" of the new Phase One and laughed so hard espresso came out of my nose. (Did a damn good job clearing my sinuses.....).

http://photothunk.blogspot.com/2018/08/phase-one-camera-for-photographers-who.html#comment-form

From the brilliant and un-opinionated mind of Andrew Molitor. His blog is now on my list of:

I-went-there-but-he-didn't-post-anything-new-for-the-last-couple-of-days-so-I-kept-going-back-until-there-was-new-content-and-I-read-it-and-went-away-feeling-smarter. 

And sometimes I think he may be even more cynical than 1.

Don't trip over the profanity --- my lawyer sez I'm not responsible. For anything which may happen anywhere.....

Environmental Executive Portraiture. Nikon D810. Nikon 70-200mm f4.0.

This is my portrait of Mr. Mark Agro, until recently Mr. Agro was the 
CEO of Ottobock Healthcare Canada. 
I photographed him on location at the north American headquarters 
of Ottobock Healthcare, north America;
here in Austin, Texas. 

I like the recent practice of making offices in buildings with exterior walls that are all floor-to-ceiling glass. If the interiors are also spare and well designed then my clients and their architects have taken away much of the grunt work of environmental photography for me. I need only to find a background that will look nice and unobtrusive when I toss it out of focus by using an open aperture on my taking lens. Then it's a fairly simple matter to figure out the best angle for my subject to provide short lighting (or "Rembrandt" lighting). 

The equipment I brought along for this photograph was pretty simple. I used a Nikon D810 and the cheaper and lighter 70-200mm f4.0 Nikon zoom lens. I could have used a faster lens but I've found that it's considered "normal" to have both the tip of my subject's nose and his ears in acceptable focus and I would end up stopping down any of those fast, sexy lenses to f4.0 or f5.6 as well. And since this is a person and not a product I surely don't need the files to be astringently sharp. 

I did bring along a giant (six foot) white umbrella, a tall light stand and a shoe mount flash with a remote trigger. It's directly behind the camera and positioned up over my head. It adds just the right amount of fill lighting to balance out the light softly gushing in from the windows. My one last nod to the light and lighting design was to float a diffusion frame over Mr. Agro's head in order to block light from an obnoxious "can" fixture in the ceiling above him. 

Conversation was easy since Mark Agro is fun, charming and well informed. Main topic of conversation? Leica cameras and lenses. And an article I wrote about them that ran on Photo.net in 2000 (A.D.).  You may not like the bright lights in the top right of the frame but the art director and I found them charming and insouciant.  We could have retouched them away but that would have been wrong. 

I love doing portraits like this. I started experimenting with this style in the ramp up to writing my first book on photography. Which I am NOT linking to here. 

On a related note. 

Sometimes, when I get too engaged in writing here at the blog, I almost forget that I have another job which entails actually using the various cameras I write about (too often) in order to make money by creating photographs that people and companies actually want to buy/license and use. I know. It's almost counter-intuitive to the usual practice of writing about cameras on the internet to try to make money and then, maybe, grudgingly using the cameras reviewed to create some modest visual proofs that the writer has actually used the camera they have written so vociferously about... 

I can't imagine why most "professional" cameras reviewers would even have opinions about features such as dual card slots since so few of them photograph in fast moving commercial situations with money at risk and clients howling at them to meet deadlines (while adding more shots the brief willy-nilly). Why would the reviewers care if they have to re-shoot a snap of their coffee cup, their Thai food, or their depressed/beleagured looking date? Where's the drama? 

I am often asked why I don't do more to "monetize" this site and I think the best way to answer that is to throw out some stats that I read in a recent article on branding in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  In writing about YouTube personalities (think of Hugh Brownstone's Three Blind Men and an Elephant channel with has 28,000 subscribers, or Tony and Chelsea Northrup with over one million subscribers for their photography channel) Amanda Hess's research unearthed some interesting numbers. I'll just quote her here: 

"The opportunities to market ourselves online are never-ending, but the financial rewards remain elusive. Headlines heralding the multimillion dollar incomes of YouTube stars can make cultivating a brand there seem like a real career option , but a recent study found that even those with channels among the top 3 percent of viewership can bring in as little as $16,800 a year. " NYT Magazine, May 6, 2018

It turns out that most of the YouTube channels that we, as photographers, reference and visit are engaged in what the Cornell professor, Brooke Erin would label as "Aspirational Labor"; which Erin describes  as a "mode of (mostly) uncompensated, independent work that is propelled by the much-venerated ideal of (trying) to get paid to do what you love." (Also from Hess's NYT article).

To be fair, I don't think all online photo personalities are moored on the shores of poverty. I can imagine that Tony Northrup has figured out how to add affiliate, and self-propeled, income streams galore with various products (training programs, books, videos, etc.) which at least leverage his online popularity among amateur photographers, but I also imagine that a life dependent on YouTube is daily hard work for him and most others. There are, on his channel, almost daily well produced video episodes, podcasts, training videos to star in and produce and so much more. While many would look with jealously at the opportunities he and Chelsea have to travel to camera maker events and to write about each of the latest cameras in order to continue to attract viewers, I'm wondering when the couple has time to spend making their own art; as opposed to creating their own examples for consumer programming. 

I think many people flocked to YouTube to become celebrities only to find that, for most, being a mini-celebrity on YouTube, preaching the new equipment theology, and trying to brand themselves, is probably not paying as well as driving around in your dusty Chrysler mini-van driving for Uber. At some point the reality settles in and many find that the $200 to $600 (or less) per month that the vast majority of bloggers or vloggers pull in is barely enough to keep the lights on and the air conditioning rolling. They come to grips with the necessity of working a "real" job to keep pace. Ever hopeful that some day their blogging/vlogging ship will come in and make them rich. But not leaving nearly enough time in a day to step outside the process to make art for oneself. 

So, who is getting rich amongst all the people that YouTube touches? Oh right! That would be the owners of YouTube who sell mountains of paid advertising, inserted in an amongst the free content. Content given freely to YouTube by people desperate to create a brand that may somehow, someday, pay off for them. Any wonder Google stock is sitting at $1,218 today? With a total company valuation north of $ 800,000,000,000? Not bad. I would love to open a retail store in which I only paid rent while all the products were donated to my store with no strings attached. 

So, why aren't I making every attempt to monetize? Basically, I'm too lazy and probably not the sharpest UV laser in the fab. I like writing here because it provides a low maintenance soapbox while ensuring enough distance between me and most of my audience to prevent real, physical attacks because of something silly I've written. But most of my reticence is about trading a current sense of community for the neediness of a transactional relationship. If I'm not badgering you to buy stuff and I'm not shilling for an advertiser I think it goes a long way toward establishing my credibility as a writer on the subject of photography. I may still be wrong on any given subject but it won't be intentional and it won't be in the service of separating you from your money; just your time. 

Like when we're all trying to evaluate the newest products from Nikon and no one in the bloggosphere has used the product with final firmware....

Ah well, executive portraits. 

I also wonder, as a working photographer for over thirty years, why the incredibly talented and hard-working YouTube Photo Celebrities have not figured out that working in advertising photography, for a high day rate, coupled with usage fees, is a much less iffy way to make more money. 

Ah well. I want to thank them all for the well produced and completely free content they provide me. Perfect for those delays at the airport.....




Fence. Austin, Texas.

Fence. ©kirk tuck.

Nothing to say this morning. 

Well, maybe, "Hello Coffee."


8.30.2018

A brand new camera from Nikon that is destined to save the company's bottom line. And make great photographs.

The Nikon D3500.

I'm pretty sure that the Nikon announcement of the Z6 and Z7 cameras was just a ploy to distract attention from other parts of their product line that were about to be announced. I'm sure they did not want Sony and Canon to gain too much pre-knowledge about the camera that will be the real money maker for Nikon; far outselling any of the models marketed to overly-excited, ardent camera "connoisseurs" that line up to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on luxe camera bodies that are 1 or 2% better than the models (bought a few months ago) that they will replace. Now that Nikon has pulled the decorative cover sheet off the D3500 I'm nearly certain that Canon will be rushing to get out a competitive Rebel model as soon as possible while Sony will gin up another cynical advertising campaign meant to move their ancient a5000 or a6000 stock in response. 

As camera enthusiasts we like to believe (deep down) that good photographs can only be well taken with a "prosumer" or better camera. Afflicted Nikon worshippers draw the line at the D7500 as worst case, and really have come to believe that the only cameras that seriously matter to the true believers are full frame and as new as cheap wine. Likewise, the Canon camp will tolerate 7D cameras, with their tiny cropped frames, but secretly they suspect that "authentic" Canon cameras begin with the 6Dmk2 and hit their stride with the 5D models.

There are no current, newly launched, state-of-the-art cameras from Sony that can compete with a camera like the D3500 for one simple reason: The Nikon D3500 will come ready to shoot, with an 18-55mm version 2, VR kit lens (which is actually not a bad lens at all) for the princely sum of....
$499. Camera, lens, 24 megapixel sensor, no anti-aliasing filter on the sensor, and 1080p video for the paltry sum of $499. (yes, some would have killed for performance like this from a $6,000 camera only a decade ago...).

When the Z cameras were announced I was interested in the way a student of English Literature might be about some newly discovered poems by Andrew Marvell. I'd love to read the poems and understand how they fit in with the existing poems. But I would not be quite ready to bid on the original manuscripts... I think the Z cameras are interesting, capable, new and different but I don't think I "have to have one right away!!!!!!!!!" and I'm pretty certain that even the Z7 won't be that much better an image maker than the little collection of D800's and D800e's that I've been stacking up in the drawer just beneath the mirrorless drawer in my office. I probably won't rush to Precision Camera with my American Express Mocha Edition card with the intention of dragging home a whole new system. But the D3500; now that's a different story. And I'll tell you why....

This is a mature, time tested product line which is limited, really, only by the lenses you choose to put on the mount. The sensor itself should be in the same ballpark as the Fuji and Sony APS-C sensors that photographers love to gush about. But instead of ripping well over a thousand dollars out of your wallet in order to own one you get basically the same level of performance, in the camera, that you could get from a $2,000 trendy body in a delightful and agile DSLR for > $500. Slap a $4,000 Otus super lens on the front of a D3500 and I bet you'd be able to generate pix that would absolutely blow away competitors' cameras, outfitted with "lesser" lenses,  that come with the same basic 24 megapixel, Sony derived sensor. So the limitations for the D3500 should not come from the imaging pipeline, they'll come from the glass you choose to use. 

Of course the little camera will have a number of limitations that pricier cameras will not. But most of those features on the pricier cameras fall into the unnecessary category, equivalent to seat warmers in car seats of automobiles sold and used in Texas. (Believe me, there are maybe three days a year when you might actually want to use seat warmers in Texas....). 

But the limitations will be concrete things like: A smaller buffer. A less impressive eye level finder. A slower frame rate. A less sophisticated autofocus implementation. Less battery life (although the press release states 1200-1500 shots --- so much better than all previous generations of exotic cameras like the 380 shot spec of my old Sony A7Rii...). AND THE MOST SAVAGE DEAL KILLER OF ALL TIME: Only one card slot in the D3500!!!!!

But if I already have GH5 cameras and D800 Nikons and D700 Nikons why would I be at all interested in a cheap-ass camera like the D3500? Hmmmm. Because it's small, quiet, almost disposable and able to take most of the lenses I used on my other Nikon cameras (sorry, no "D" series and absolutely no metering or automation with Ai, MF lenses). I can see using a camera like this when I want to travel with almost zero burden. I'm even considering using a camera like the D3500, combined with a lens like the 24-120mm f4.0 VR to shoot dress rehearsals with because the range is perfect in a way that it's not with full frame Nikons. And much quieter.

I also think it would be a nice camera for a challenge I have in mind for all my friends who walk around spouting things like: "It's not the arrow, it's the Indian." "It's not the camera, it's the photographer." "the most important thing is what's two inches behind the camera" etc. All while routinely dropping thousands of dollars a year on over-engineered cameras of which very little of the camera's potential is even tested, much less used. I would like to get all of them to buy one of these cameras (or the equivalent Canon, or entry level mirrorless) and prove to me (and the world) that it really is more about the photographer than the inventory of toys. 

But here's the bottom line: Nikon may sell a bunch of Z cameras but they will sell a bunch x10 of cameras like the D3500. You'll be able to pick up your D3500, along with your 120 roll pack of toilet paper, from Costco. You could get one along with your driveway oil change kit at Walmart. Might even be able to get one at a Sears store, if one still exists... The Z is not the camera line that will make or break Nikon financially ---- it's the small, cheap highly competent cameras at the bigger bottom of the product pyramid that will keep the wheels turning. And each student, struggling to find a job millennial, mom-turned-photographer-on-a-budget, will  start out with a camera like this and keep the pricier cameras at the top alive by establishing a brand loyalty and by upgrading (as many of us have) over the course of their careers and lives. 

I can hardly wait for the reviews to come in. I hope while DPReview and all the other "usual suspects" are thrashing and trashing that single card slot, and that smaller buffer, etc. they take the time to mention that, used correctly and with good glass, the images out of the camera have the potential to be every bit as good as those from a $1500 Sony a6500 or a $2200 Fuji X-Pro-2. 

When I get mine I'm going full beginner chic and using the big black and yellow camera strap that will, no doubt, come boxed with the camera. No pre-order necessary. These will be flying off the shelves like candy at a supermarket checkout line but Nikon will keep these in stock.