Friday, March 25, 2011

Sun Through Trees Wallpaper

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

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

Spring's First Flowers

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Fuji X100, To Buy Or Not To Buy.

The early reviews of the X100, leading up to the review that everyone cares about at DPReview, are very good. It's unfortunate that Fuji did not completely exorcise many of the functional issues that seem to affect high-end point & shoots like the Leica X1. Auto-focus is slow and problematic at times and writing to the memory card is slow as shit, but unlike the things that made the X1 a purchase only for the most self-important photogs, nothing on the X100 makes it a non-starter.

The leaf shutter is exciting for anyone who's ever tasted the ability to sync a flash past 1/250 sec, and the ISO quality is amazing. They've wedged a sensor that's as good as any sensor on the market into a body that's only slightly bigger than the new Pen cameras. My only equipment disappointment is the lens being soft at the maximum aperture of f2. All things considered, the quality of the images is simply wonderful.

As with Micro 4/3's, I hope that the wild success of this camera fosters more creativity in the market. Aside from the growing 4/3's group, the major players have been annoyingly conservative. Yes, Fuji produced some funky sensors in the past, and Foveon is cool, but Nikon and Canon own 80% of the market together. Even 4/3's was uninventive (stupidly so) for most of its time on the market. 4/3's had to fail and be forced into a new product paradigm to find success.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ongoing Fujifilm X100 Review

ePhotoZine has an ongoing, live-post review of the Fuji X100 camera. This is easily the most anticipated camera of the last year, and from the looks of things at this early stage, it will not be a disappointment. The images and their color look buttery smooth, and ISO performance looks to be top-flight, at least on par with the current crop of APS-C cameras.

I'm disappointed that the sensor's base ISO is apparently 200, since ISO-100 is only available via the camera's JPEG output. This means that ISO-100's dynamic range will take a significant hit.

If the early photos are any indication, I'm also a little disappointed with the lens. The center of the images appear sharp, but wide-open, the edges and corners are more than a little soft.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Future of Mirrorless Cameras

Quite a few very influential people are claiming that mirrorless cameras will take over the mid-range completely within the next five years. SLR cameras will be reduced to a niche, and an entirely new age of cameras and lenses will emerge. I doubt this. What's more, I doubt it for entirely market reasons, not technological.

While people enjoy the small size of mirrorless cameras, the majority of mid-range camera purchases ($500-$1500) are made by men. Men like gadgets, and men also like to pose. The NEX'es and 4/3s'es of the world will never have the pro cachet of SLR cameras. And since neither Nikon nor Canon will threaten their huge installed base of lenses, their pro cameras are going to be SLR's for some time. That halo effect means that the mid-range will have a significant amount of SLR sales happening for the foreseeable future.

That said, I think that people are idiots for doing it. We should all be buying into the new systems. The more we do that, the more the market will experience upheaval, and the greater the progress. I've cast my lot, at least for the time being, with 4/3's, but any of the other systems could lure me away easily.

I've gone in with 4/3's because lenses are more important than cameras, and high-quality lenses will always be smaller and cheaper on the smaller sensor than they will on the APS-C sensors of Samsung and Sony. Still, Samsony has an inherent advantage that will always exist with every generation of cameras, so I want to see some serious product definition and refinement out of Olympus and Panasonic.

Neither company has effectively delivered a well-defined array of cameras. All of their cameras seemingly offer the same things for a wild array of prices and with obtuse alpha-numeric names. Olympus, Panny, here's some advice.

Have ONE camera under $400. Make sure it's branded as the discount version. Different name, different style, different everything. Have your standard camera, which is kind of the flagship camera. It's the philosophical representation of your models: good cameras, low price, small size. And then have one model in the $1,000 range. Don't go higher than $1,500. I don't care what your market research says. NO ONE WILL BUY IT. That's it. Three cameras for each generation. It seems easy, but instead we have this bewildering array of cameras.

Next, focus on fast, high-quality zooms. People in this price range are going to prefer zooms. You can cater to the enthusiasts with quality primes later, for now, zoom. The fact that the Olympus 12-60mm isn't already available in m4/3's is insane. Whatever you guys do, do it quickly. Sony and Samsung will market the hell out of their larger sensors, which has you at a perpetual and inescapable disadvantage. You must push out more lenses, focus your model line, and then cater to demographic tastes. For example, sell your entry-level camera in a multitude of colors. Sell a camera package specifically marketed as a party shooter with the 20mm 1.7 lens.

But not before you cut the fat in your product lines and grind our some better zoom lenses.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On a Boat and Berries and Sun Wallpapers

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

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

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

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

Olympus XZ-1 Mini Review

I got a chance to play around with the new Olympus XZ-1 through a friend. I'll keep this short and sweet. I never use compact cameras. I have one, a Canon S90, but I almost never use it. I've played around with the newest compacts here and there, but I'm never tempted. But, if I was interested in a compact camera, this would be at the top of my list. The interface is efficient, but nothing that really blows the competition away. Everyone has a competent interface on their cameras, nowadays. The body is well-made, feels good, and everything performs snappily.

No, while all of that is fine, what has impressed me away is the sharpness of the lens. Across the frame, this is easily the sharpest lens on a compact camera on the market. It's fast, and sharp, sharp, sharp. A number of other compacts, like the Panasonic Lumix LX5, are equally sharp in the center of the frame, but that drops off quickly. And woe be you if you try and use the zoom, your image quickly looks as though you took it through a thick miasma. The Olympus' lens never suffers from this.

It is sharper and suffers less distortion than even the Canon G11 (I don't have access to a G12, but they perform very similarly). Truly, this is a marvel of a lens. The camera isn't perfect, though, and its problem runs counter to other Olympus cameras. Whereas Olympus handily outperforms Panasonic 4/3's cameras when it comes to noise, this Olympus is very noisy. ISO100 is highly detailed but, even at this low ISO, noisy. Up to ISO400 can be easily cleaned up in Lightroom (Or Capture One or whatever), but by ISO800, it's getting hard. ISO1600 loses considerable saturation and is so noisy that really Facebook-level pictures are all that you can expect from it.

Still, even at high-ISO, when other cameras are outperforming it, the superiority of the lens means that I see more detail amongst all of that noise. I prefer that over the other cameras. All that said, I'd wait a generation. If Olympus can produce a version of this camera with noise on par with its competitors, they will have, without doubt, the best compact on the market.