Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Nikon 1 System Is Just Plain Weird

Nikon has announced their new mirrorless system, and talk about odd. We have yet another sensor size, this one is a 1" sensor. That's larger than compact cameras by quite a bit, but significantly smaller than 4/3's. But, that will allow the lenses to be even smaller, but not quite as small as the Pentax Q. All of these are smaller than the APS-C cameras which offer the best image quality. This is getting confusing.

I think that the takeaway from this, and the inevitable release of Canon's mirrorless system, is that technically, things have gotten so complex that the actual quality of the various cameras and systems will have no bearing on their success. It will be 100% branding and marketing. This will be interesting, since none of the major camera companies, save for Sony, have any idea how to properly market something. It's for that reason only that I place my bets on 4/3 and Sony. 4/3 because it's simply been around longest, and Sony because they at least have a vague idea about how to advertise.


Nikon appears to have listened to the criticisms of the 4/3 cameras and introduced a system that is squarely aimed at enthusiasts, which is smart. What is not smart is using a sensor that is even smaller than 4/3 and attempting to beat them in the size game. Why is it so hard for these companies to grasp the idea that enthusiasts don't care that much about size. The Panasonic GF2 and GF3 are already so small that many photogs complain that the cameras are so small as to hinder ergonomics.

As such, the new system seems to suffer from the same problems as the Pentax Q. First off, it's obviously trying to be a "toy" enthusiast camera. I mean, seriously? A macro ring? Who the hell would ever use this camera for macro photography? This means that, like the Q, the 1 is priced VERY high. Like, try $650 for the cheaper J1 and a thundering $900 for the more expensive V1. I can't think of anyone who would buy this camera over a cheaper APS-C or 4/3 camera.

I've looked at the photos, and they are decently impressive. Granted, Nikon hasn't released any photos above ISO 400, which is conveniently about where I would expect a 1" sensor to start to fall down. Still, the lenses shown appear to be of very good quality. And with such a large selection right out of the gate, it's apparent that Nikon is playing for keeps. They are all in, as it were.

Still, I think that Nikon is making a mistake. They should have stayed with APS-C for their sensor. The quality of those new sensors, such as the Sony A77, is nothing short of stunning. A sensor that is only slightly removed from a compact camera will never compare. Truly, 4/3 appears to be the quality boundary, with Olympus and Panasonic cameras not keeping pace in either dynamic range or ISO. And if you think talking about technical stuff like this is beside the point, perhaps arguing that the buyers of the new 1 series won't know these terms, again I say, look at the price. The only people considering these cameras will be those who understand precisely what I'm talking about.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Favorite Photo: The Last Supper

There are a number of contemporary photographers who have captured my imagination, but few as much as Howard Schatz. He enjoys classical themes but is always playful. When looking at his work, I have never thought to myself "Oh, look. Another nude. Another black-&-white." No! He has an amazing sense of composition and dedication to constructing scenes that must have undoubtedly taken weeks. I've selected one of my favorites, The Last Supper, but you should check out his website here to view his large portfolio.

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Pain Of Wildlife Photography

Have you ever tried to get a really good shot of a bird? No? Good. Don't EVER try. Fate, and birds, are fucking cruel. On your first attempt at photos, you will get precisely one that is almost perfect. The bird will sit still, pose dramatically, Apollo will shine upon your impromptu stage like a nuclear-powered Care Bear, and the only problem will be your focus having been slightly off.

Every other time you go out from that point on forever, no birds will cooperate. I've heard stories of photogs who wear wetsuits to slither through the mud without making too much noise, just so they can get within 100 feet of a bird before it flips out and flies to Capistrano. It's insane. My recommendation is to simply shoot the birds. Like, with a gun. Then simply walk up and photograph them on the ground. It's much easier.

But if you absolutely have to photograph them, I have some recommendations. One: seed. Unless you are the most patient person in the world, seeking out the birds is 100% pointless. Set out traps of seeds, flowers, and anything else you can manage that will attract birds. With this, your own back yard can be one hell of a studio. This is doubly helpful since you'll only ever want to shoot in sunlight. At the focal lengths you will need, shutter speeds below 1/800 are useless.

And this is a big one that has paid huge dividends. Set your stage, be it flowers, a bird feeder, a tree with peanut butter and seed, whatever. Frame your shot. Connect to your camera via a WiFi memory card. Use an RF remote shutter. Then take photos from WAY far away. Likewise, if you have time, you can set up a full blind with a two-way mirror. I have never gone so far as to do that, but I'm seriously contemplating it for the next few months.

Birds are bitches.