Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Increasing Disillusion With Micro 4/3

DxOMark recently reviewed the newest version of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens. It performs fantastically. It is easily the best lens in their tests. It has autofocus and costs only $900. And this is the rub: with a Metabones image reducer-type adapter, this would become a 17mm f/0.7 on m4/3. F/0.7. For $900.

Note: I converted the focal length into 4/3 terms. The image actually seen on the frame would be identical on full-frame or 4/3.

Tell me again why Panasonic is trying to sell its 42.5mm f/1.2 for $1,600? On what fucking planet do they live?

The Olympus E-M5 is a great camera. I love it. The E-M1 is great. I even feel much better toward the GX7 now that I've had a chance to use it. But the Speed Booster just makes the entire system untenable. A $600 adapter opens up the lenses of other systems and turns the market on its head.

To play Devil's advocate against myself, I understand that some degree of design must go into keeping the lenses at a particular size. Yes, the FF lenses are significantly faster, but they are also larger — often by a great deal. That said, it doesn't matter. Any photog on Earth would happily trade a little size for a lens that is faster than f/1.

Metabones hinted at a live micro 4/3 adapter, and that would be peachy keen. I do like my tiny lenses and frequently go back to my beloved GF1. Especially when I don't want to truck along a Nikon as when just going to a restaurant with friends. And while FF equipment is usually larger, it isn't always by much. Canon's 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm primes aren't very large and wouldn't appear out of place on a small body. And again, with the Speedboster, their apertures are all below f/1.0. But whither Micro 4/3 with that ability at hand? A system of small cameras that people buy to then use their Canon lenses?

The prices of 4/3 lenses are just becoming too big a burden for the sake of maintaining the system. The Panasonic 42.5mm really drove that home in grand fashion. I've felt a bit ripped off with my current lenses and their public statements indicate that they will be making no course corrections in the future, meaning I will feel even more ripped off then. The Speed Booster has made it so I can no longer abide this. Not when the Sigma 35mm becomes f/1 on the Fuji X Pro 1, a camera that can shoot ISO6400 without much breaking a sweat.

You can see in the freaking dark. Nothing in Micro 4/3 offers this, and if it did, they would try to charge a bazillion dollars for it. That I will not accept.

There is a concept in economics called the opportunity cost. It's the sort of thing you learn in econ-101. Basically, when you spend money, you are not just spending the money, you are spending the opportunity to buy other things. So when I spend $500 on a lens, it costs me the $500, any other lens I could have bought, a wardrobe, four pairs of shoes, one-hundred $5 Footlongs from Subway, and on and on.

Included in that cost are all of the other competitive camera products out there. Some of them are truly amazing. And that's the rub, right there. That's why camera companies are so desperate to get you into their closed or semi-closed system. That dynamic alters the value equation. Because then, when you spend $500 on a lens, you are not spending the opportunity to buy another lens, because you would have to buy into an entirely new system. It reduces the number of alternative uses of your money, reduces the opportunity cost, and thus increases the value of the lens beyond what it would be in a perfectly competitive landscape.

The art of pricing is thus determining how far a camera company can squeeze its adherents before they start to jump ship to another system.

I bought into Micro 4/3 at the very beginning. I even bought some old 4/3 lenses. And I have felt squeezed ever since.

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