Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pentax 645D Information

Pentax is releasing what will be, as far as I know, far and away the cheapest medium format digital camera on the market. It's a complete camera, meaning no separate back and body assembly, so pop on a lens and you're good to go. At $10,000, it's half the price of the next cheapest medium format cameras from Phase One and Mamiya, which ring in at $20k. While this prevents you from swapping out backs, when the whole camera only costs this much, who cares?

I'm surprised to see SD cards being used for storage. When photo files can easily hit 100MB, where's the CompactFlash?! Other than that, all of the limitations and advantages common to medium format apply. This is very exciting for someone looking to either expand their studio or an enthusiast who wants to take their art to the next level. The price is still quite high, and buying this over a Nikon D3x or Canon EOS 1Ds/5D is something that's going to have to be mulled over. But if you like portrait photography and/or, as Pentax discusses in the interview, landscapes, this camera is just drool-inducing.

My skills are still nowhere near maxing my EOS 5D, but if yours are, what the hell. Go for it.

DPReview posts sample images!: Link

DPReview, the bestest camera site on the net, has posted sample pictures of the new 645 and even in their studio setting, the detail capture by it in comparison to every other camera they have is amazing. In a studio, it's pixel-peeping. The big differences will be revealed in complex nature and landscape shots, but even here, the difference is significant. For example, look at the small globe.

Obviously, noise levels are still far behind the DSLR's from Cankontaxony, but at only ten grand, and the Sony Alpha A850 now below $2,000, the new flagships from the likes of Canon and Nikon will have to stump up some serious performance to justify their likely-to-be over $7,000 prices.

Early Preview/Review with sample photos

Japanese site Digital Camera Watch has posted a review of the 645D along with multiple full-resolution sample photos. Dynamic range is .5 stops lower than most other medium format cameras at 11.5, but the images are still great. Without a direct comparison, I see no difference between these sample photos and samples available from Mamiya, Phase One, and Hasselblad.

From fō-tō-gră-fē

As with many (all?) medium format cameras, the Pentax has no low-pass filter. On such large, high-res sensors this rarely results in moire, and even the complex city scene I was only able to spot the smallest amounts. I did find one of their photos with a noticeable degree, and that was on some rough wood. I've posted the crop below.

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Interview and Photos

Luminous Landscape has an interview with a Pentax rep and a few photos. As with all Luminous Landscape posts, he doesn't provide anything at full resolution, thus rendering all of his photos useless. I don't get this. It's a behavior common along many photo websites. Fuck you. Give me the files.

DxO Mark Releases Test Results

DxO Mark, whose test methodology befuddles me, has released sensor information on the 645D. It's not at the top of its class, but it it definitely earns magna. It's beaten out by two Phase One backs and the Nikon D3X, but that's it! The Nikon is half the resolution but brings many other benefits to the table, it also costs a few grand less, and the two Phase One backs cost well over twice as much as the Pentax. Go Pentax!

Ken Rockwell Hates the 645D

As any good critic, it's not their job to explain why something is good or bad, but to say whether they liked something or not and to effectively explain why. Ken Rockwell does an excellent job with this.

Basically, he's arguing that Pentax is retarded for making a medium format camera aimed at the hobbyists who buy point-'n-shoots. Pentax has loaded the camera up with useless features that, if anything, get in the way of the pro shooter. He's also upset that this is not a true medium format camera. The sensor is too small. This criticism is truly damning since the value proposition of the Pentax is predicated on being a direct competitor to more expensive medium format cameras while being only slightly more expensive than Canon and Nikon's top-pro cameras.

I appreciate all of his criticisms, and understand them quite well, I'm still leaning towards liking the camera. Its sensor is larger than Canon and Nikon, has 40MP regardless of sensor size, good dynamic range, and is an excellent introduction to the 645 world. And for only $10k, I'd learn to work around its faults.

Luminous Landscape Full Review:

They like it! They really like it! If anyone was going to kvetch about the 654D it was the Luminous Landscape guys, and they like it enough to call it a "defining camera." Obviously, the price is amazing, but also the ergonomics of the camera were called "stellar."

Luminous Landscape Comparison:

After their review, they've posted a comparison of the 645D and the PhaseOne P40+, they also threw in a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and a Leica M9 for good measure. The Canon Performs very poorly, but I think that is a combination of both the lens and the camera. They suspect something might have been wrong. The Pentax performs almost identically to the P40+, even outperforming it at times, but is beaten in the dynamic range competition, but not by much. This means that Pentax was actually telling the complete truth when they said that their dynamic range would slightly trail its competitors.

They're very impressed by the Leica M9's resolution, which was undoubtedly helped by its total lack of a low-pass filter, but admit that for larger prints, you want to move up to the medium format camera. This was an epic comparison and a frank analysis that I'm not used to seeing on photography websites.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Terry Richardson Makes Glee a Bit More Gleeful

Noted five-alarm pervert Terry Richardson got a ahold of a few members of the cast of Glee and promptly performed his standard pervert-o-conversion on them in photography. As should be entirely unsurprising to all of us, one of the cast members has since come out to say that they regret it and it's "not me."

First, you're retarded, second, what?! Not you? Please. You got into it. You could have left at any time. Terry Richardson isn't some unknown guerrilla photographer who surprised you with the style of his photography, nor are you some young model who thinks that they need to make some famous photog happy to further your career. What he does is well-known, and the instant the bra and panty shots started being staged, I think that you should have figured out what was going down.

Now that I've got that out of my system, Richardson is also famous, famous for coaxing people, especially those of the fairer sex, into photography that borders on pr0n, and sometimes trying to bed them as well. He's a nasty old man and he's not even old. He uses his position as a powerful photographer to manipulate young girls into things. The only reason why I'm not standing by the Glee cast is that they are not unknowns. They could have walked out and suffered no damage to their career. If they did something, it's likely because they wanted to.

And while we're on the subject of pervs, why do they all look so damned similar. For example, Dov Charney (founder of American Apparel) is another five-alarm perv and it's as though the two of them go to the same fucking barber. WTF, people?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tree Hollow Wallpaper

4:3 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

Moss And Leaves Wallpaper

4:3 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From fō-tō-gră-fē Wallpapers

Nokia N8 Camera Comparison

I've been a fan of Nokia for about a decade. I had the venerable "Brick" (a title which encompassed a number of nearly indestructible phones), and jumped on the N-Series bandwagon from the very beginning. I was a huge Nokia fanboy. Still, Nokia has been dragging its feet recently and the new N8 does little to make me think that things are going to change.

Regardless, this is a photography blog, and the camera in the N8 is a beast. GSMArena has a comparison between the current camera king, the Samsung Pixon12, and a compact camera. The large, 1/1.6" sensor in the N8 schools the lot of them. The detail is amazing and the low-light capability is excellent for a phone. Sadly, as we saw in the Engadget photo test, the software fails to live up to the hardware. Using the physical shutter button causes horrid shutter delay and ultimately blurry photos. Using the touch screen, which anyone who's used an iPhone knows is kind of a pain, is the only thing that works.

It's really unfortunate. I'd love to have a cell phone with such a kick-ass camera, but, goddamn, can Nokia get anything else right?

Compact Cameras

I'm of the mind that compact cameras are hitting a ceiling. They've hit a ceiling as far as resolution goes, with most of them, even the expensive ones, not going very far above 12MP. And all of the technological advancement in the world isn't going to overcome the limitations of a 1/1.6" sensor. I doubt that we'll see 4/3's sensors popping up in compact bodies, even though I think that would be ideal, but it seems a fait accompli that new generations of compact cameras will have to bump up the sensor size.

I raise this issue because of the clash between the two top compact cameras, the Canon S95 and Panasonic Lumix LX5. Both are rocking 1/1.6"(ish) sensors, both are around $500, and both produce near-identical images. Camera Labs has a comparison between the two and the Canon SD4000IS, which has a significantly smaller 1/2.3" sensor, and yet performs admirably against both of the more expensive cameras. It leaves one with the question, why even bother buying the more expensive compact cameras?

You could go to the top-tier 1/1.6" cameras, like the Canon G12 or Nikon P7000, but again, really? They're bulky and don't give you much of an image boost over the compacts with similar sensors. They've got slightly more pro-ish ergonomics, but who cares? I'm a huge advocate of Micro 4/3's and it's because of these issues that, except for the cheaper compacts, M4/3's has completely obviated the high-end compact market.

Obviously, the compact market will have its place. Even the smallest lens on the smallest m4/3's camera isn't completely pocketable, but if quality is at all important, the ceiling has been hit. Curiously, it's at this time that the compact, integrated lens market is seeing its biggest explosion at the high end. Nikon has just released the P7000, Canon has its upcoming G12, Panasonic has its excellent LX5, Olympus is even jumping in with a new entry. I don't get it! There are only so many people out there who want to spend $400 or more on a pocket camera.

I think that Fuji's (fucking gorgeous!) upcoming camera is likely the vanguard of the new compact camera high-end. Surprisingly, they've leapfrogged smaller sensors entirely and gone to a full, APS-C sensor, installed it inside one of the most gorgeous cases I've ever seen, and are, unsurprisingly, charging a vanguard price for it ($1000). I suspect that if it's successful, other companies won't be too far behind with their own options.

I'm disappointed in Olympus. Considering the amount of development that they've put into the 4/3's sensor, one would think that they'd be itching to slap that puppy into any form factor that they can think up. As for me, if you only want to take snapshots, buy a cheap P&S. The value equation just stops making sense when you move up to what's, essentially, the high-end of the low-end. What's the point?


I forgot to mention, and not to put too fine a point on it, but Photography Blog has a review of the Canon SX30 superzoom, which gives you 35mm focal length equivalents of 24mm up to 840mm. The only way they were able to manage that stupid 840mm was to use a miniscule 1/2.3" sensor, and as you would expect, the image quality isn't good. The images are unusably noisy at anything past ISO-400. In the race to sell new cameras every year, companies are going to be forced to increase sensor sizes. The Nokia N8 portends a future where cell phones are using sensors once restricted to point-&-shoots, which will effectively kill the compact camera market as it is.


Camera Labs has uploaded a review of the Panasonic LX5 and expresses opinions almost identical to mine in their conclusion.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lecia M9: Rich Bastard Edition

As if more evidence was needed to prove that Leica exists to let rich people feel self important, they have, in conjunction with the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog, announced the Neiman Marcus edition M9. This beauty can be yours for the low, low price of $17,500. You get a free lesson from some Leica expert (because, being rich, you don't actually know how to do anything).

I've never been a fan of Leica. And as their prices have gone from high to stratospheric in the last ten years, I don't even hear Leica fanboys defending the company as much as they used to. In the late 90's, Leica's most expensive lenses, like the Noctilux, were either on par, or only slightly more expensive than the best lenses from Zeiss, Canon, Nikon, and other optics companies. Now, their top-end Summilux lenses are clearing the $5,000 barrier, with the Noctilux coming in at an eye-watering $10,000. You could buy a Canon 5D MkII and two or three lenses for the same price. Utterly absurd. There is no way that price can be defended...

Unless you treat the Leica as a luxury item. You don't buy this if you care about photography, you buy it if you care about the camera. Because people don't buy luxury clothing because they care about keeping warm, they care about the style and the brand. That's a totally legitimate reason to purchase something! Still, I'm going to make fun of it. In the same way I make fun of men driving Ferraris and Aston Martins through rush hour... while, honestly, at the same time wanting one. I care about the photography and the final product. I've created some of my most beloved photos with plastic lenses, and rarely reach the limits of my six year old Canon EOS 20D.

If I was a top-pro photog, and resolution was really critical, I'd spend my money on medium format. If I was a journalist, I could never stomach the compromises of prime, viewfinder lenses. If I was an amateur, how the hell could I rationalize a camera that costs more than some cars? The only market left for Leica at these prices are rich people who care about the camera at least as much as the photo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Flickr Amafessional?

I just read the Flickr community guidelines for the first time. The usual stuff, no hosting images here, don't call other people mean names, don't post your amateur porn, don't facilitate a Neo-Nazi uprising in Washington, you know, stuff that would otherwise happen all the time. There is one thing that stood out as definitely odd and possibly stupid.

Don’t use Flickr for commercial purposes.
Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account. Any other commercial use of Flickr, Flickr technologies (including APIs, FlickrMail, etc), or Flickr accounts must be approved by Flickr. For more information on leveraging Flickr APIs, please see our Services page. If you have other open questions about commercial usage of Flickr, please feel free to contact us.

What the hell are they talking about? Only for personal use? Flickr has a paid designation called pro! What the hell do they think pros are? People who just spend lots of money on camera equipment for the hell of it?