Monday, July 30, 2012

I'll Say It Again, The Nokia 808 Pureview Will Blow Your Fucking Mind

DPReview has posted a full review of the Nokia 808, and if you ever wanted proof that it is the camerphone, this is it. DPReview gives you their studio comparison tool that shows, in stark detail, how well the 808 Pureview compares to full cameras. The detail is jaw-dropping. The ISO performance so completely obliterates all other cell phones as to make them seem like toys. Obviously, there is only so much magic that can be done on a sensor of a set size, and the Nikon V1 noticeably outperforms the Pureview at ISO 1600.

The 808 is not without its faults. Most of them are in the software and interface, which can be fixed with updates or with aftermarket software. The only fundamental issue is that the sensor clips highlights, but this could undoubtedly be fixed with access to the raw files.

This is a company-making product. It is unique in the market. Nokia should be proud, because it finally delivered the innovation that people have been wanting since the iPhone came out. With this and the Sony RX100, the P&S camera market has been completely upended.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

First Nikon D800 Medium Format Comparison

Camera Labs has published a quick comparison of shots between the Nikon D800 (the non-E version) and the beastly Phase One IQ160 60MP. I would have preferred a comparison with the Pentax 645D, since it is the closest in both resolution and price. While we can go to DPReview and use their comparison tool, any good photog knows that the studio shots that are conducive to standardized testing are rarely a good measure of a camera's real-world resolution abilities. That's what makes side-by-side, landscape comparisons like this so useful.

Regardless, it is a foregone conclusion that the Phase One out-resolves the Nikon. In some cases, by a noticeable margin. Unfortunately, the lens choice on the Nikon is not Nikon's sharpest lens. A good prime would have been a better choice. Still, as is mentioned in the article, the difference cannot be wholly attributed to the lens — the Phase One is resolving an amazing level of detail. I think a more interesting choice would have been the Nikon D800E since, without the AA filter, it is more architecturally similar to the P1.

One thing that I took from the comparison is that the medium format companies will have to bring their A-game yet again. I remember writing years ago that I thought medium format was a pointless purchase. Phase One then came out with a back that had more than double the resolution of FF cameras at the time, and I was made a believer (a believer that could never afford one, but a believer nonetheless). Now, the FF crew has stepped up their game and closed the gap between them at MF to such a degree to again make the massive price premium, to my eye, not worth it. The 80MP IQ180 is still in a class of its own, and if you need it, you need it. But every step down from that makes the D800 loom ever larger. Perhaps its because back then, the numbers were so small as to make any jump immediately noticeable. The jump from 36 to 60 is smaller than the numbers make it appear.

But likewise, at numbers this high, the correct comparison can reveal a camera's true abilities, and that may not be happening here. A studio model, or a more complex landscape may provide the images that "pop" in the same way that the mountains in the upper-left of Camera Labs' test pop in the Phase One's image. It's very impressive.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Canon G1X Drops Price By Nearly $100

When the Canon G1X came out, I mocked it, as I've been known to do to Canon. It was a camera built on pretensions, over-priced, and under-lensed. At $800, only a madman would buy it. It has been outsold by almost every primary competitor in that price bracket since launch. The NEX 5n, 7, E-M5, every major P&S, and now the Sony RX100.

Well, at some time in the past month, Canon saw fit to drop the price on its poorly selling, malformed baby. It is now available for $709 on Amazon, Adorama, and B&H. I don't know when this happened, but it doesn't matter. It hasn't been enough to lift the camera out of the doldrums of the Amazon sales rank; it's currently hanging at #224 in cameras. Just for the sake of confirmation, the G1X doesn't even appear on Flickr's Camera Finder charts.

This reminds me of the wild discounting that started happening on Panasonic cameras after they realized that everyone was buying the Olympus E-M5. Just take a look at these two charts to see where Canon is headed.

The Panasonic Cameras Flickr Chart... Ruh Roh. The magenta line is the 3-year-old GF1.
Meanwhile, here is the Olympus chart. Take a guess as to which line is the E-M5.
That about says it all. How long do you suppose we'll have to wait before we see a price drop on the new Canon EOS M? A month? Two? It took the G1X six.

Canon EOS M Shoots Itself In The Foot

Ok. The Nikon V1/J1 hasn't been a terrible sales success. It hasn't be a failure, either, but it is far from setting the world alight like the Olympus E-M5 and Sony NEX cameras have. I think that it's philosophically wrong, but I suspect that another problem with the whole thing was the insane price.

Apparently, Canon thinks that the only problem with the V1/J1 was, in fact, the sensor! Haha! Oh, silly me! And this whole time, I thought cameras followed basic laws of consumer economics. Man. I'm glad that Canon is around to tell me what's what.

The only detail that we didn't have previously was the price. It was, considering the shape, size, quality, and reports et al., safe to assume that it was going to be cheap — more in line with the Sony NEX C3 than the 5n or 7.

Ohh, how wrong we were to assume that. Canon has done what big companies do best and woefully misjudged the market. The new EOS M will cost eight-hundred dollars with the 22m pancake lens, $1,200 with the 18-55mm kit zoom, and $1,500 with both lenses (the last two numbers converted from GBP). To whom are they selling? The only people in this price range are enthusiasts and pros — the very people who don't give a crap about sleek yet accessible styling.

This. Is. Laughable. The Olympus E-M5 will eat its lunch. Sony will barely feel it. After the initial burst of sales that any company with a huge marketing and distribution budget can manage, this camera will fall off the map. Guaranteed. I will put money on it.


EOSHD posted his thoughts on the EOS M's official specs and everything is summed up pretty well in this:
There is still a very small chance that Canon have put something useful in this thing… Like a better video processor, or more resolution in 1080p, or…

No, I’m dreaming.

This is Canon.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Canon EOS-M Mirrorless Camera Fully Leaked

As I said, I'm here to taunt Canon a second time!

Canon will officially announce the EOS-M sometime tomorrow (the 23rd) in an event in the UK. I have complete confidence that it will totally fail to set the world on fire. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what an arrogant company, artificially segmenting and differentiating its product lines, looks like! Give them a round of applause.

Seriously. I am at the point where I have nothing but contempt for Canon. They seem to have very little interest in actually innovating and pushing boundaries. Everything they have put out is either a "me-too" product, or an overpriced monstrosity aimed at a niche market. They apparently think that the non-professional market is simply stupid enough to not notice that Canon's cameras stopped competing years ago. At this point, they're just squeezing blood from the faithful.

So what are the deets, then, what's the 411, what are the specs that are sure to set aflutter the hearts of hard-core Canon fanatics and no one else come release day?

  • 18MP APS-C
  • DIGIC V Image Processor
  • 3″ 1MP Touchscreen
  • Phase & Contrast AF
  • 1920×1080 Video 30p/25p/24p
  • 1280×720 Video 60p/50p
  • MPEG-4, AVC/H.264
  • SD Card
First, we have the exact same sensor as is in Canon's current entry-level cameras, the tried and true 18MP soldier. A good sensor, to be sure, but one or two generations behind other cameras. The sensor will be paired with a single DIGIC V processor. Not bad. Not good either, but not bad.

The touchscreen is good. They are at least not skimping on that (*COUGH*Olympus!*COUGH*). At over 1MP that makes it competitive with essentially everything on the market. As far as I know, it's only bested by the (much) more expensive Fuji X Pro 1.

Yes, you read that right, phase and contrast detection autofocus. There's a reason for that, and some great commentary from EOSHD on the subject.

Everything else is competitive for what will likely be a low price. The various film modes are nice, especially the 24p at 1080 resolution. That said, Canon's video has been surpassed many times over by other cameras, and this video will likely suffer all of the same problems that current Canon cameras suffer.

Finally, the EOS-M will come with the usual assortment of consumer features like "fun" filters and a full touch screen interface that will suck. It will not come with almost anything that an enthusiast or professional may want, like physical controls, a fast shooting speed, CF cards, and large buffer.

Canon is so positively, absolutely desperate to avoid any possible cannibalization of their traditional SLR market that they are paralyzed. They cannot innovate. This is a wan response to Micro 4/3 and NEX, taking the same trajectory that Micro 4/3 failed at. What makes Canon think they can succeed? Who cares! As long as they don't eat up any sales of SLR's!

This conflict between wanting to make something good and make something that "fits" into Canon's family is best evinced in the lenses and autofocus. As I mentioned, this camera has both contrast and phase detection AF, which makes perfect sense when you see that Canon is releasing an EF lens adapter right from the get-go. This is both in response to Sony's adapter, but also yet another desperate attempt to keep people involved in the EF line of lenses whether they fucking like it or not. Too big, you say? Not enough primes, you say? Too bad!

EOSHD has an excellent point about the strategic failure of this new camera and it's lenses, and instead of paraphrasing, I'll just post it.
Focus groups keep telling camera manufacturers they want DSLR quality in a small camera.

Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic took this to mean a small DSLR with interchangeable lenses.

This pleased their accountants – there is much margin in cheap glass. Rather than sell only a body like they were doing with compacts, Sony, Panasonic and Olympus could now sell multiple lenses to the mass market for the first time not just to enthusiasts and pros.


What they needed was to listen to a visionary like Steve Jobs instead, because a focus group doesn’t actually know they really want.

Sure enough it turns out that what these people really wanted was a compact camera with a massive zoom lens built in...

The 7D’s sensor went into six more cameras [after the 7D] – important ones at that. The 550D, 600D, 60D. Then the G1X which cut the size down but used the same sensor, and the 650D which used the same sensor but with a few pixels turfed off for AF sensels. Now the EOS M looks likely to use that sensor AGAIN. Effectively for the 6th time Canon is serving up the same camera in a different shape aimed at a different focus group.
I couldn't have said it better myself. It appears that Canon is so God-like as to succeed where everyone else has failed. Or perhaps they just want to succeed in Japan, where the tiny Micro 4/3 cameras have indeed found success. Or maybe Canon is just stupid. Both options seem equally likely.

As I pointed out in my posts on the Sony RX100, Sony is the one breaking new ground. And while it sometimes takes awhile to become successful, especially when entrenched players control so much ground, it eventually happens. It happened with the massive success of the NEX-7 and 5n (the latter of which is the most popular Flickr camera that Sony has) and the now world-beating success of the RX100. Let me reiterate that last point: the RX100, the most expensive P&S currently on the market, is the #1 camera on Amazon and has been for weeks.

That is huge. It beats out insanely cheap Micro 4/3 cameras, a Panasonic GX1 that's been discounted all to hell, dozens of Canon and Nikon SLR's that cost the same or much less; it confirms what I and many others have been saying for years: people do not want tiny, cheap, SLR's. They want a camera that you turn on and then press a button.

Cell phones took over that market, and instead of fighting back, companies either did nothing like Canon, released crap years late like Nikon, or they thrashed around in some blind alley for three years like Panasonic and Olympus. Don't even get me started on the still-born Pentax-Q. Only Sony stepped up the plate.

There are two markets: those who want simplicity and those who want control. Both markets want better image quality. Neither market wants these quasimodo halfway cameras. I don't understand how these camera companies don't get that.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Small Waterfall

Details Of Canon's New Mirrorless System Leak Out

Canon is readying a new mirrorless system to do battle with the likes of Sony, Fuji, and Micro 4/3. Much like the Nikon V1/J1, it appears that Canon's offering is going to be a wan piece of crap.

Early reports indicate that the camera is aiming not for Micro 4/3, but for Sony's NEX cameras, which is why Canon chose an APS-C sensor over the smaller one in the G1X. This, yet again, confirms to me that the arrogance of Canon and Nikon knows no bounds, and they don't even consider Micro 4/3 a player. Those same reports indicate the camera feels cheaply built. This means that Canon is artificially segmenting their product lines... again... and this camera line will be aimed entirely at an entry-level market. 'Cause we know how well that worked out for Micro 4/3.

Combined with the fact that Canon's sensor development has essentially stood still for the past three years --and really even longer than that if we ignore simple increases in resolution-- Canon's new system will be a non-option. For those who want an APS-C sensor, Sony will be the only logical option. And for those with even greater pro/enthusiast aspirations will certainly not be lured away from the Fuji X Pro 1.

I await more details so I am given the opportunity to taunt them a second time.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

EOSHD Posts Dynamite E-M5 Review

EOSHD, a website that is quickly becoming one of my go-to sites for digital camera info, has posted its review of the E-M5, and boy howdy, he loves it.

First, the bad news. EOSHD is a video-oriented site and his critique focuses on that. His breakdown is thus: the camera exceeds the inherent abilities of the GH2 but fails frustratingly in its implementation. In so many ways, the E-M5 falls flat when Olympus could have gone the extra mile to make the camera superb. The HDMI port is useless for anything above simply displaying stuff on a television. The camera won't do any frame rates besides 30p and 60p/i, which is a killer for anyone with semi-pro aspirations. The codec is quite poor, with some types of shots looking blocky and bad. And most troublingly, lens compatibility is poor, with the IS system being kinda' kooky.

Everything else is amazing. Resolution, dynamic range, color: it's all great. When this camera gets hacked, it will be an amazingly capable video camera. If the HDMI-out can be fixed in firmware, this will a true replacement for the GH2. If not, we'll either have to wait for Olympus to produce a more hybrid-oriented camera or for Panny to release the GH3.

If you only do videos now and then, the E-M5 will be more than enough. But if you like to do more than simply capture a party, you'll want to wait for the camera to get hacked, or just buy a GH2. You can get one used for half the cost of the E-M5.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Panasonic's New G5 Performs Well

Panasonic has released media organizations from the embargo against talking about the new G5, and a few reviews have trickled out, most notably at TechRadar. It's not a complete iteration of the same freaking camera, but it's close.

The good is that the sensor's quality has received quite the bump. Not Olympus level, which does lend credence to the assertion that the Oly's sensor is a Sony, but the sensor does have slightly lower noise and about 1-EV worth of dynamic range over the Panasonic G3's sensor. Interestingly, the comparison between the RAW resolution tests at TechRadar all but confirms that Oly is cooking their RAW files, which is annoying. Sony did that in the past and it was always a turnoff. Other than that, it would probably be difficult to tell the G3 and G5 apart, even when processing RAW.

There are also a few welcome ergonomic tweaks, but nothing to get excited about. So while this isn't an iteration on the level of the two years of repeated GF1/EP-1 clones, it's not good either. The E-M5 is a significant leap in every way from the Pen series of cameras, making it a good buy for those already in the system. If you already have a G3, there is little reason to buy the G5.

Panasonic better have something much more significant in the works for the GH3, else I am going to be one disappointed little camper.


Panasonic also released their new 45-150mm lens. It costs slightly more than the $250 45-200mm lens at $299. There had better be a significant increase in... something good otherwise I will mercilessly make fun of them. Panasonic's supplied MTF charts show an increase in quality at 45mm, but as we all know, manufacturer-supplied charts are worthless. The 45-175mm was supposedly superior to the 45-200mm, but was all but identical in tests.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Panasonic 45-150mm Lens Confirmed

Wow. You know, for a minute there, after the release of the two Panasonic X zooms, the Olympus 75mm, the E-M5, the aggressive price drops on Panasonic's Micro 4/3 cameras, and the rumored abilities of the GH3, one starts to forget that not more than two months ago, the entire Micro 4/3 consortium was borderline mentally disabled. For example, only in their twisted little world did it make perfect sense to release six different versions of the same freaking lens (the 14-45mm or equivalent).

Well, Panasonic reminded us in a big way with the release of their new 45-150mm lens. It hasn't been officially confirmed, but a good leak is just as good. This will give us five different versions of this lens available. Panasonic made the 45-200mm. Then they made the 45-175mm. And now they're making a 45-150mm. I'm assuming that they will continue with this trajectory until they create the world's first inverse lens with a focal length of 45-25mm. And don't forget their 14-140mm lens as well! Olympus joins the part with two 40-150mm lenses, just to make sure people don't forget them.

This could all be forgiven if these lenses had very different characteristics. For example, in Canon's gargantuan system, they have many lenses that cover the same focal length. But these lenses are all at very different price targets and speeds. For example, Canon makes three 50mm lenses, but one is only $99, the next is $400, and the next is $1,600!

This just reminds me that, while I hope Panny and Oly are entering a new phase of their optical market development, they are still Panny and Oly, and it may take them a long time to get past that.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Goose By A Waterfall

Sony RX100 Racks Up Two More Stellar Reviews

As if the Sony RX100 being a kick-ass camera needed any more confirmation, both EOSHD and Luminous Landscape have produced reviews of Sony's little wunderkind and have come away impressed. Luminous Landscape said that
For demanding quality-conscious photographers looking to own an always-along camera able to produce pro-quality results, the RX100 is not just hard, but for the moment almost impossible to beat.
Nearly every review has mentioned that this camera makes the Canon G1X a pointless exercise, and EOSHD echoes the sentiment, saying
Bluntly the fast focussing, smaller, brighter lens on the RX100 makes the G1X’s lens look like it was designed a couple of years ago by a much lesser company than Canon.
One of the biggest reasons for that is because Canon has been artificially segmenting its market for over a decade. It stopped pushing the limits of technology and innovation long ago. Not so with Sony, again as EOSHD says
There’s clearly been no artificial market segmentation here and the RX100 is as good as the new technology inside allows it to be. I am sure Sony will cannibalise a few NEX sales with this beast but far better Sony do it than someone else.
I await the upcoming Sony full-frame cameras, because the NEX-7 and 5n, their continuing innovation with SLT technology, and a stated dedication to expanding their line of enthusiast lenses, keeps a switch to them on the table for all sensor formats. I doubt that I'm going to leave Micro 4/3, especially after the Olympus 75mm, but it's at least possible.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

DPReview Posts, After Much Ado, Its Fuji X10 Review

DPReview finally got its replacement Fuji X10 back and put it through the paces. It does as well as other reviews indicated that it would.

As with every Fuji camera, there are some pretty significant quirks. Autofocus is poor, software is odd, operational speed is hit-&-miss — you should be used to this by now. The biggest issue for me is the price. I do not think that it significantly outperforms the Canon G12, Panasonic LX-5, and Olympus XZ-1, yet it costs hundreds more. And with the Sony RX100 soon widely available, the X10 has been almost completely obviated. The one advantage that it holds is that the lens only drops to f/2.8 at the long end, which is impressive.

DPReview brings up a pretty big operational problem: RAW processing. When playing around with the Fuji X Pro 1, I was disappointed that shooting in RAW gave a performance hit. Only the Jpeg images were able to extract all of the detail that the sensor had to offer. Still, the differences were hard to notice most of the time.

That is not the case with the X10. Shooting RAW is literally not an option, at least not yet. The RAW files look like total crap. It's obvious that the processing software makers have not yet figured out what to do with Fuji's quirky sensor. You can shoot RAW and then process them in-camera — an increasingly popular feature — but no camera will ever come close to what is possible on a dedicated workstation.

I still kinda' want this camera. Just as I still kinda' want both the X100 and X Pro 1. For all of their problems, Fuji has injected a sense of romance and quality into their cameras that other companies just have not managed. I still won't buy it, since the Sony RX100 is a wildly more capable camera for only a bit more money, but I can't help but like this thing. As I have said with every camera that Fuji is making, I hope that they fix the problems in version 2, because I'll absolutely jump on board.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Olympus E-M5/OM-D Sensor Is Made By Sony?

An Olympus rep recently spilled the beans that the sensor in the Olympus E-M5 is made by Sony. Perhaps I sound like a Doubting Thomas here, but... what the hell is a Doubting Thomas, anyhow?! Is it religious? Whatever. I don't believe Olympus. There is one bit of data that lines up with their statement, and that's the dynamic range.

The DR of the new E-M5 is easily the best of all Micro 4/3 cameras. That's a big deal. But even in this, the guess that the sensor was the same as the G3/GX1 was a good guess. The increased DR came primarily from the shadows, which can be achieved by lowering the noise floor, meaning that more meaningful data can be gleaned from the shadows amongst the noise. This is entirely in line with the assumption that the main difference between the E-M5 and the G3 wasn't the sensor, but the pipelines and processing. Just as the Panasonic GF1 and Olympus E-P1 showed wildly divergent noise characteristics.

Two other bits of data cast doubt upon Olympus claim. First, Olympus refused to say who was manufacturing the sensor. If Sony was actually the manufacturer, there would have been no reason to keep quiet. People would have been ecstatic. It is exactly what everyone wanted. The fact that Oly was remaining intentionally silent all but confirmed that the sensor was the same old sensor made by Panasonic.

Second, the noise performance of the sensor; if it was actually a Sony, it should have easily outperformed the new Canon G1X... but it didn't. Not at all. In fact, its noise performance was very similar to the Panny G3, as was stated in DPReview's workup of the camera.
The Panasonic's result looks worse but this looks like it is as much to do with the profiling (and lower black-point) than the Olympus, we suspect if we raised the black point to reduce the magenta tinge, the results would be comparable to the E-M5.
These two points, and the fact that the one point for Olympus is tenuous, leads me to believe that the Olympus exec is wrong. I don't think that he's lying, since that would be too risky, but he may simply be misinformed. Lord knows, that happens a lot in large companies.

I hope that I'm wrong, but then the question arises, if the sensor is a Sony, why do the images compare poorly to other cameras? Olympus is usually a magician with their image processing. Perhaps they're just not used to working with the Sony sensor. If that's the case, cool. But I doubt it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Sony RX100 Is Already #1

If you ever wanted evidence to prove that producing a truly impressive, kick-ass camera, and not listening to idiot executives who seem to think that keeping their marketing 101 book in their trunk makes them experts, is a good idea, it's what's going on right now.

First, the Sony RX100 has immediately become the #1 camera on Amazon. The most expensive compact camera ever made is #1. Why didn't the Canon G1X or Fuji X10 nab that honor? Because while customers will happily pay, they want actual quality and innovation. The Canon G1X was an eight-hundred-freaking-dollar camera with a lens that only dropped to f/2.8, and the X10 was $600 while sporting a tiny-ass sensor and disappointing lens. That's not the way to get people to part with hard-earned coin.

Second, the Olympus E-M5, which has been rolling out into the market and only recently became widely available, is already the #1 Olympus camera on Flickr.

Third, and similarly, the Fuji X Pro 1 is selling so quickly, its market availability can actually be tracked by Flickr's camera chart. It rockets up as people get their cameras, flatlines as the shipments to market slow, then rocket up again as more cameras become available.

We've seen similar results with every groundbreaking camera that's been released in the past two years. We saw similar results from the launch of the Sony NEX-7 and NEX-5n, the latter of which quickly became Sony's most popular Flickr camera. Fuji's X100 saw insanity when it, while costing well over $1,000, drew immediate acclaim, and even with a panoply of glitches and problems, became far-and-away Fuji's most popular camera on Amazon and Flickr.

People want groundbreaking stuff. They are willing to pay for it. They don't want the same crap, packaged in something new, and priced in the sky, like Nikon's "1" and Canon's G1X.

Woot! Sony's Prosumer NEX Lenses May Be Coming Soon!

Big 'n' Stupid
The single biggest weakness of the NEX line of cameras is the absolutely pitiful lens selection. The cameras are just past their second birthday and have a single high quality lens, the Zeiss 24mm. Even Micro 4/3 did better than that.

But worry not, Sony fans. Rumors are circulating that the next batch of lenses to be announced will include some compact zooms for the low end, and,*drool*, some high-quality primes for the high-end. This makes perfect sense since zooms for the APS-C sized sensor have to be enormous. If they use primes, they can keep the size down and thus avoid the silly situation we currently have with the NEX-5n, one of the smallest cameras on the market, being paired with the 18-200mm, which is exactly as big as one would expect an APS-C 18-200mm lens to be.

The lens system for such a small camera doesn't need to be huge. A couple of wide-angles, a couple of standard, and a couple of portrait lenses. There's no need to exceed 150mm-equivalent since the size advantage is completely wiped out by lenses that large. The pros and enthusiasts have embraced the NEX line in a big way, so do it like Leica — give them some sharp glass, and some super-fast glass. The casual users will be fine with their zooms.

Sony is also going to announce, some time soon, a prosumer-level NEX camera. I'm assuming what we will see is a weather-sealed NEX-7, possibly a bit larger to accomodate better processing and more memory as well. It's really the only direction left to go, and I think that it's a pretty good direction indeed. With a viable NEX system, a rejuvenated Micro 4/3, and The X Pro system rising to prominence, Holiday 2012 may be one of the most exciting times in photographic history.

Here's hoping that this is the beginning of a shift in the camera market, where the dominance of Cankon finally comes crashing down.