Saturday, May 21, 2011

Olympus EP-3 and EPL-3 On The Horizon

Rumors of new Olympus cameras have been circulating for some time. These rumors apply to a fundamental error that the 4/3's consortium has made. Namely, they think that their cameras are upgrades for people from point-and-shoots who want higher quality, but like the smaller size compared to traditional SLR's.

This is wrong. The majority of buyers of m4/3's are enthusiasts. I think that this is revealed in the leaked info that the new Panasonic GF2 is not selling well. Apparently, it was being outsold by the old GF1 up until, well, NOW (which explains the INSANE used prices for the GF1). The GF2 is very small, but they ditched the pro-oriented things to get that size. Moreover, the quality difference between the GF1, who's sensor was notoriously noisy, and its direct competition from Sony and Samsung is large. The GF2 is offering nothing unique anymore.

I do not find it at all surprising that the two shining stars of the m4/3's world were the two cameras aimed at enthusiasts, while being unique: the GF1 and GH1. The belief that their bread and butter lay with the point-and-click crowd was a critical error. Olympus is paying the price most harshly since they put ALL of their eggs in that basket. Their recent financial results were dreary.

Now, about those new Olympus cameras. They will likely have 12MP sensors very similar to current models, and the naming scheme still doesn't fully explain which cameras are supposed to be better, and how they're better. Olympus M4/3's lenses are still middling. Olympus advertising is terrible. And the sensor that they're using is two generations old.

At least Panasonic has decent sensors and lenses, but they still DO NOT FUCKING UNDERSTAND THEIR MARKET. They produce cameras that are not cheap, and aim everything at the casual user. No. Morons. Aim it at the MEN (more on this later) who count pixels and care about manual controls. Could you imagine a M4/3's camera with no flash a full manual controls and every pro-level goodie that they could wedge onto the tiny body? Men would be selling their children for it.

You want evidence? Out of all of this, which camera is getting the world in a tizzy? The Fuji X100, which is aimed squarely at enthusiasts. It's a TWELVE-HUNDRED-DOLLAR POINT-AND-SHOOT! I don't understand how these two companies don't get it. While women buy more cameras, more money is spent by men. Much more. Photo websites are visited almost exclusively by men. Magazines are read by men. Men know things about cameras that most people couldn't care less about. Cameras, like most things that require batteries, are the male domain.

Why the hell is that? Because cameras are what men buy instead of jewelry and nice clothing. We buy watches, and cameras, and televisions. Do you think most men need a $12,000 Denon home theater system? Of course not! No one does! Do you think any women are buying these things? If you do, you're the opposite of correct.

Women buy their own stupid shit, but men by stupid gadgets and machines. They want Ferraris and Rolexes. Status is important, very important to humans, and devices and gadgets that show how much disposable money we have are important to men. And because of that, men ALWAYS want the high-end. If they can't afford the high-end, they want a poseur version of the high-end. Whatever is closest to the high-end is the ideal product. It's as though "halo product" is a concept that these two companies can't seem to figure the fuck out.

Their FIRST products for M4/3's should have been all enthusiast and pro-sumer cameras. It would have been a battle cry, letting the competition know that they had plans for world domination with their products. Instead, their cameras whimper onto the market.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Panasonic G3 Launched. Looking Good!

Cooooooool. Panasonic appears to finally have its noise problem fixed. I like my GF1 very much, but its got a motherhumper of a noise problem. By ISO1600, it's essentially useless. With the release of a new sensor and camera, Panasonic has finally closed the noise gap with Olympus.

Reviews at DPReview, Photography Blog, and ePhotozine all confirm that this is the best image quality of any Panasonic digital camera, and importantly, of anything Olympus is making. Granted, once Olympus gets its hands on the next generation sensors, the noise gap will likely reappear. It's also nice that the huge gap that existed between the new generation of APS-C cameras and 4/3's has lessened significantly. I look forward to the G3's DxOMark score.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem for 4/3's seems to still be in attendance: color saturation. At high ISO, saturation on these sensors just disappears. Fades and transitions into shadow still get pummeled. Regardless of that one issue, I can safely say that 4/3's is definitely the system of choice for family photography.

I have a feeling that this opinion will only strengthen when Olympus releases some new cameras later in the year. Olympus has fucked up a lot of their product mix, but the quality of their photos when comparing like-prices is beyond reproach.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's All About The Color

I am not like most self-important photogs who repeatedly say that sharpness in a lens doesn't matter. Fuck that. Sharpness in a lens is critically important because it widens the tolerances in which you can work. Don't frame a shot quote right? No worries. Your lens is so sharp, you can take a crop of the shot without any degradation in image quality. I know that these guys are full of shit because, right after saying sharpness doesn't matter, they will then extol the sharpness virtues of their chosen lens brand.

And truly, when doing portrait work, which takes up most of my time, sharpness is the thing that is most important to me. There is nothing like a shallow-focus portrait shot, with the face so sharply in focus that you can count pores.

But as I've been playing around with nature and landscape shots, the importance of color over sharpness has been revealed to me. Here, you can use insane apertures safely since you're using a tripod on a subject, land, that isn't moving terribly quickly. It's also here that makes me think about processing.

Anyone who has every zoomed into a shot of theirs knows what I'm talking about. Compression evinced by small blocks of horizontal and vertical lines. Color transitions that look like they've been dithered by a web browser circa-1997. A distinct lack of the rich, smoothness of color that is seen by the naked eye.

I am lead to believe that this actually has more to do with processing than the sensor. For example, I get richer transitions of color out of my old-ass Canon EOS 20d than I do my new Panasonic GF1, but that makes no sense. Likewise, the Olympus E-5 produces better, richer transitions and shades than does the Panasonic GH1/2, even though their sensors are technically superior on every level.

I wonder what algorithms are being used to take the real raw data from the camera, not the pseudo-raw data from supposed raw files, and turn that into an image. It's there that the holy grail of perfect color transitions must lie. It's also apparently a grail that camera companies don't want to give up, since the quality of shade transitions is one of the biggest differences between high and low-end cameras.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Olympus Designing Their Own Sensor.

I like Olympus. They're the underdog. I mean, they're incompetent when it comes to designing a compelling product and marketing it, but their heart is in the right place.

As I've mentioned before, Olympus had a contract with Panasonic whereby any 4/3-sensored camera that they made had to have the sensor assembly be one of Panasonic's design and manufacture. In the grand tradition of monopoly behavior, Panasonic wouldn't give Olympus access to the newest generation of sensors, meaning that Oly had to make due with leftovers.

Even then, Olympus' implementation of the old sensors was vastly superior to Panasonic's. Truly, as far as noise went, the Olympus sensors were dancing with the big boys of APS-C territory. The GF1 and 2 can't say that. The E-PL2's noise levels are even comparable to the new GH2.

That contract ended a few months ago and we have yet heard nothing. This is the first rumbling that Olympus might be gearing up to produce a new sensor, and they're going to be dropping it into a pro-sumer oriented Pen camera. I'm very excited.

I am surprised to hear that Panasonic will be manufacturing it, though. I expected that Olympus would turn to Kodak, since they were one of the founders of the 4/3's standard along with Oly. I can only assume that it's because Kodak didn't have camera-ready products, whereas I assume that Panasonic could fire up a factory and get sensors out in a few months.

Still, this is good for the 4/3's system. It needs internal competition to get the companies to focus. And having one company beholden to the other won't do it.

Mushroom Wallpaper

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

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