Saturday, December 22, 2012

Full Frame NEX? Ugh. Why?

A rumor has exploded onto the Internet. And by exploded, I mean that it is being discussed by a few dozen guys. This is the camera industry, after all.

But yes, the rumor. Sony is apparently in the final stages of development of a full-frame NEX camera with an expected reveal in 2013. If this is true, and I'm not sure that it is, I would be very disappointed. Sony hasn't done shit-all with their NEX series of cameras. The lenses are, save for one of them, sub-standard. No, they're not bad lenses, but they don't impress, and they positively fall on their face on the NEX-7.

If Sony does release yet another system, they will be stretching themselves ridiculously thin. Unless they plan on tripling their investment in cameras, which is certainly a possibility, but even then, triple your investment in your current systems. Sony has half-assed many elements of their current products, and the only thing causing me to continue my recommendation is that they have great potential. But if Sony is going to just throw out a system, not support it, and move on to something else, only a maniac would by their products!

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Sony is indeed developing a full-frame NEX system. First, the larger the sensor gets, the more the size benefit is negated. The lenses on the NEX cameras are already much larger than 4/3, and full-frame will be larger still. We could assume that Sony will only product compact, prime lenses in the vein of Leica. But even on Leica, their more extreme focal lengths, like the 135mm, are large and slow.

Second, Sony's success with the RX1 is only because the camera is profoundly unique — a combination that is both unavailable and indeed impossible in other systems. But with an ILC, Sony will have a hard time making a good value proposition. Remember, size benefits are increasingly negated with larger sensors, and the performance of traditional, mirrored cameras will be more robust than the Sony. People with the cash to buy a camera that will undoubtedly cost as much as the FF-NEX would find a purchase hard to rationalize. Holding up Leica as a counter to this argument doesn't hold water, since Leica's sales are mostly due to the Leica name. Sony has no name, at least not in the photography world.

Third, Sony will now have another system that will need lenses. They've already shown little interest in developing the lenses in their current NEX line, and they're not doing too well with their APS-C and FF SLR cameras, either. Will they simply pop out an adapter for their current A-mount lenses? All that will do is further negate any size advantage, by adding a huge, honking adapter along with large lenses. WTF?

I will be very disappointed if Sony releases this. The thing that kept me from leaving 4/3 for Sony was its pitiful lens selection, and this seems to indicate that they won't bother with lenses anytime soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

First Small Price Drop On The Panasonic 35-100mm

Panasonic has instituted the first small price drop (a scant $50) on the new 35-100mm lens. I'd say that it's funny to watch Panasonic hunt and paw its way through the dark with its product pricing, but since I'm actually invested in m4/3, it more just pisses me off.

The 12-35mm has been selling slowly. Not so slowly as to call it a catastrophe, but certainly not with any exciting speed. This is partly expected — the lens is very expensive, and even in Cankon's systems, the expensive lenses sell with less vim and vigor. And if the numbers that I am gleaning from discussions with resellers and the number of reviews online had been achieved without sudden, large price discounts, I would say that I was wrong and Panasonic's pricing strategy was correct.

Only that's not how things are going. My local resellers had the lens sit on the shelf until they lopped $150 (or more) off the price. Even on Amazon, we saw similar large discounts straight from Panny, with the lens inexplicably dropping $200, then gaining it back, then losing $150, the gaining back $50. Used examples sell for well under $1,000, with many dipping below $900.

It seems that Panasonic's strategy is to drop the price, sell a bunch of lenses, and then increase the price, thinking that the early sales will cause some sort of "momentum." Or perhaps they want to sell the lens, but maintain that it is still "premium," with this charade of a pricing scheme. This is stupid.

The 35-100mm appears well on track to follow the same strategy. Not a single example  of the 12-35mm that I know of has sold for MSRP. I'm sure some have, but I don't know them. The 35-100mm similarly won't sell. Stop fucking around, Panasonic, and price these lenses at something the market is willing to accept.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Steve Huff's Review Of The RX1 Continues Piling on The Praise

Steve Huff is now calling the RX1 the Camera Of The Year. That's one hell of a statement in a year that brought us some stellar pieces of kit like the D800, A99, D600, RX100, GH3, and E-M5.

I can barely contain my excitement for this camera. Three years ago, I bought the GF1 at launch because of comments people made in early reviews talking about how the camera, combined with the 20mm lens, made them get up and go take photos in a way that no camera had motivated them to do for years. It was a new kind of tool. It was compact, fast, with great image quality for the size. It was more than just a tool; it begged you to use it.

This is the same thing. It is the GF1 on steroids. The comparison is closer than it would appear, since even though the GF1 was an IL camera, neither I nor anyone I knew ever really took the 20mm lens off. It was the lens that completed the GF1's raison d'être. With an equivalent of 40mm, it's only 5mm off from what the 35mm lens on the Sony has.

My only complaint, and I don't think it insignificant, is that the lens is not optically corrected. For the price, that is a shame. It's as though the one thing that other companies took away from m4/3 was that it is totally fine to release crap optics if you can correct them in software. NO! You correct the lenses optically, especially when you want to charge a bucket of money for them. It's why I will never, ever buy the 12mm Olympus unless I can buy it for a song. It's why I laugh at the Panasonic 12-35mm. When your lenses are rocking 6% distortion, they are bad fucking lenses.

There, with that out of my system, I certainly hope that the distortion is small. 2% or below is fine for me. If I was an architecture photographer, I would be pissed, but I am not... so I am not. Moreover, from what I have seen, the lens is sharp across the frame, meaning that any distortion can't be too bad, since anything significant would be lossy.

Steve also mentions again the autofocus — it hunts. This isn't surprising since the camera is CDAF-only, but after using the E-M5 and even to a lesser degree the G5, where autofocus seems to work in almost any light level, it's a small let-down. While I ranted and raved about Olympus not using current technology in their cameras, I should have also been ranting about how other companies couldn't make a functional autofocus if their lives depended on it. It's the one thing Oly nailed.

All of that is beside the point. The camera's gestalt is incredibly impressive. They have taken many of the characteristics that drove photogs into the overpriced arms of Leica and created a ground-breaking camera. If they can manage another version of the camera with a zoom lens, there will be no doubts: the RX1 in both guises will be the go-to compact camera for every photography enthusiast on the planet. And probably a few well-off soccer parents as well.

The RX1 is an amazing camera, and I cannot wait to own one.

Autofocus Matters: Olympus E-M5 vs. Canon EOS M

Not much to say about this. It's a knock-out. Good autofocus is an amazing photographic tool. There's a very good reason why its invention thirty years ago caused such a massive upheaval in the industry, resulting in the rise of Canon and Nikon and the nearly complete destruction of the old European photographic industry.