Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nikon D5100 DxO Mark Review

DxO Mark has just reviewed the sensor in the new Nikon D5100. It's the same 16MP sensor from Sony that's used in the Pentax K-5, a camera that I enjoyed enormously, and the D7000. Aside from some goodies like a large buffer, high-speed shooting, and some more pro-oriented controls, the picture quality of the D5100 looks like it would be identical to the D7000. Which is to say, excellent. DPReview did a test between the D7000 and Canon 60D which illustrated the low noise floor of the new sensor. Spoiler: The Nikon D7000 hands the EOS 60D its ass on a platter. These new sensors are on a different plane than the competition.

It makes me all the angrier that Olympus had the gall to release the E-5 with a three-year-old sensor and try to sell it for full price. If the Olympus E-3 hadn't been such crap, no one would even be interested in the E-5. The only thing Olympus had going for it, and truly likely the only reason that they sold any cameras at all, is its lens selection. Olympus' semi-pro and pro lenses are among the absolute best on the market. And focal-length to focal-length, the Oly lenses are half the weight (or less) of larger-sensored cameras.

I'm not changing my opinion that your best bet would be 4/3's and then a full-frame camera if you want the best quality, but with cameras like the Pentax K-5 being so small, that's primarily because of the lenses. I once wrote that Canon's creation of the 7D might indicate a newfound focus on the enthusiast cameras, and that a collection of new, high-quality EF-S lenses was on the way. That was wishful thinking. It's obvious that Canon would rather try and protect their cash cow than actually blaze a trail into any new markets.

So we are stuck with excellent APS-C cameras that have crap for lenses. One of hte advantages of a smaller sensor is, with lenses DESIGNED FOR THE SENSOR, you get a broader depth of field for any particular aperture. That allows more things to be in focus. But you only get that benefit with lenses designed for the 1.6x crop factor. Simply slapping an ordinary EF lens onto the back of the 7D nets you no benefits except for slightly better vignetting, and in return provides lower resolution. Yay.

Sony has their NEX Cameras, which might finally result in good, APS-C glass. As might the rumored Fuji mirrorless system camera coming next year. Until then, m4/3's is the only system that's pushing the boundary of general photography, and for that, it gets my money.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Olympus and Panasonic's Different Goals

The 4/3's consortium is dominated by two major players, Olympus and Panasonic. Until very recently, Olympus, and I think anyone who wanted to produce 4/3's cameras, had to buy their sensors from Panasonic. That era is over and, I've heard, Olympus plans on taking Kodak up on its new sensors.

What's annoying with this situation is that the two primaries of 4/3's are at loggerheads. Any time a company gets a monopoly on something, they will manipulate it. Panasonic has an amazing sensor in the GH1/2, which will never be allowed into non-Panasonic cameras. But all things being equal, Olympus has been making better cameras around the same sensors. Panasonic and Olympus' lenses are compatible, but based on different philosophies. Even the cameras are based on different philosophies.

Panasonic seems to be going after the enthusiast crowd, while Olympus is going after the entry-level crowd. As such, Olympus offers the cheapest cameras, but the worst lenses. All of the same infuriating behavior that we see with other camera companies, who are all desperate to lock users into their proprietary systems, is cropping up in the 4/3's consortium, only in silly and half-assed ways.

Go all out! 4/3's is attractive because it's more open and more group-oriented than Canon, Sony, or Nikon. People want that! Look at Sony, for example, and their NEX cameras. They tried to operate on the same, tired, old business model of proprietary mounts which lock people in, and it failed. Not horribly, but it failed, and look now! Now, they've opened the mount's specifications to other companies in an attempt to build what 4/3's has stumbled into.

Get your shit together, Oly and Panny. Stop butting heads and get your philosophy straight. Straighten out your product lines, start using next-generation sensor tech, and make your shit truly compatible.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Fuji X300?

Rumors have just started circulating that the success of the X100 is not going unnoticed at Fuji. It appears that they may be working on two more cameras in the "X" series, including a simplified model that would slot in below the X100. And the real juicy bit, an "X300" model that would be the X100 body, but with interchangeable lenses.

Considering the praise that the X100 has been getting, this should be a guaranteed super-happy moment, but it's not. First off, it's yet another system being pushed by only ONE small manufacturer, which means an absolute trickle of lenses, which are the real heart of any system. Second, I've never been a fan of Fuji's lenses, and the one on the X100 is no different, with it being noticeably soft at F2. For only $1,200, perhaps I'm being too demanding.

I remain very curious. Fuji has done something that has very much captured my attention, and if they can hit the ground next year with 3-5 high-quality lenses, I'll completely drop 4/3's cameras for them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where Is Ai Weiwei?

Ai Weiwei has apparently been detained by Chinese authorities. That government has been allowed to get away with a lot of shit because they make so much of our crap. I think it's about time that the West finally makes some noise about the oppression going on and stop with the limp-dicked admonitions.

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Nikon Confirms What I Suspected

As I said in an earlier post, if the rumors of Nikon's entry into mirrorless cameras are true, and they will implement a super-small sensor, then Nikon is saying that cheap interchangeable lens cameras are catering to the compact market. This is, apparently, Nikon's explicit position now.

I already explained why I think that this is wrong, but I'll go over it again. Nikon is wrong in saying that people who buy compacts will move up to an interchangeable system. The biggest variable in consideration in almost every market survey for those buying a compact is its size. After that it's style, then ergonomics. The TOP THREE variables in consideration are the three variables that compacts, by their very nature, are better than SLR and 4/3's cameras. I wish I could provide a link to this, but the survey's are done by

That is, of course, only if Nikon is referring to, as I put it, the Club Crowd. These are the common point-&-shoot buyers who take photos of themselves at clubs and upload them to Facebook. Perhaps, instead, they're referring to the enthusiast who buys cameras like the Olympus XZ-1, Panasonic LX5, and Nikon P7000. These are people who are willing to plunk down $500 or more on a compact. If that's the case, then Nikon's proposition is a bit more believable.

But still unlikely! If 4/3's was stealing exclusively from that demographic, the market would be incredibly small. So small, in fact, that there would be no reason to enter it. The only way that a market with cameras that cost, at minimum, $500 is going to succeed is if it goes after people who were already spending that much, and that means SLR sales. Moreover, I find it no surprise that groups 4/3's and DSLR cameras in the same department, while putting compacts in their own.

I'm sorry, Nikon. Your position has nothing to do with market research, and has everything to do with you not wanting to endanger your cash cow. Thankfully, the world is moving forward regardless of Nikon's choices, and in the end, Nikon will be left with a stale, dying product line and two years of development before they can get reasonable products to market.