Magnum's greatest hits, from Slate. Magnum is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Mike (with thanks to Victor J. Liew)
Magnum's greatest hits, from Slate. Magnum is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Mike (with thanks to Victor J. Liew)
It's a bit scuzzy to recommend a book after it's been remaindered—given all the work the people who made it put into it, it's only fair that they earn something back out of it again—but I missed the, er, boat on this one.
In my view, wooden boats, mainly but not exclusively wind-powered ones, count among the world's great triumphs of design and craftsmanship. Like horses and antique cars, I enjoy them mostly these days as art, and only as art—and then almost entirely in pictures. Still, they're things of great beauty. The best are worthy of reverence.
Benjamin Mendlowitz is one of the great contemporary photographers of wooden watercraft of every description. Joel White, son of Charlotte's Web author and essayist E. B. White, was a naval architect responsible for many superb designs. His life, in turn, was chronicled in A Unit of Water, A Unit of Time: Joel White's Last Boat by Douglas Whynott, a recent classic in boatbuilding literature.
Wood, Water & Light by Mendlowitz and White is now available for a mere pittance, not a cent of which, I'm sorry to say, is likely to end up in the hands of Mr. Mendlowitz, a situation I hope he forgives me for encouraging. However, it is entirely possible that whiling away some pleasant hours with dreams of sailing with serve to introduce you to his work, and make you into a fan. Anyway, that's the tack I'm taking.
Joel White is past care about coin, sorry to report.
Kodak obviously wants its inventors and researchers to be doing their primary scientific work and not answering idle questions from blokes like me, but thanks to Bruce Graham at Kodak I was able to put a few questions directly to Dr. John F. Hamilton, Jr., of the Photographic Science and Technology Center at Kodak Research Labs, one of the inventors responsible for the just-announced partial-panchromatic array.
A graduate of Cornell University, John Hamilton received his Ph.D. in mathematics at Indiana University. In 1974, he accepted a position at the Kodak Research Laboratories where he applied mathematics to various problems in graphic arts (printing), medical imaging, clinical diagnostic imaging, and electronic digital imaging. He is a Research Fellow, a recipient of the Eastman Innovation Award (2003), a recipient of the Rochester Intellectual Property Law Association (RIPLA) Distinguished Inventor of the Year Award (2005), and a member of Kodak’s Distinguished Inventors Gallery with 41 patents in the area of digital image processing. Currently, he is developing novel image processing algorithms for Kodak's digital camera business, Kodak's sensor business, and related applications.
The Online Photographer: Dr. Hamilton, to what extent is Kodak's new sensor filtration array really a new idea? Doesn't the Bayer standard already allow for panchromatic pixels or undyed photosites?
John Hamilton: The Bayer patent shows a 3-channel sensor, but the new sensor has four. Other patents show four channels, but not the family of patterns that interest us.
T.O.P.: My readers are mainly interested not in the high-volume applications that probably greatly interest Kodak, but in high-quality applications. Is this something we are likely to see in high-end DSLRs and digital medium-format backs?
I have no idea what to expect regarding product offerings. We are in research and that is a business decision.
T.O.P.: I speculated that one thing that made this new type of array possible is the greatly increased number of pixels in modern sensors. Is this one of the factors that enables this new array design?
John Hamilton: Yes.
T.O.P.: If the panchromatic pixels permit one stop more light sensitivity, doesn't that also mean that they'll saturate one stop earlier too? Wouldn't that affect highlight resolution?
John Hamilton: Yes, the panchromatic pixels would saturate before the others. The exposure controls should be set to suit the panchromatic pixels.
T.O.P.: One of my readers expressed surprise that the new array maintains the old G-G-B-R ratio in the colored photosites. Why is it important to still have double the number of green pixels?
John Hamilton: Many cameras have video ASICs that require Bayer RGB input. The new filters were designed to accommodate that fact.
T.O.P.: Would the new array lend itself better to B&W-only implementations?
John Hamilton: I would expect a B&W sensor to be entirely panchromatic pixels, such as the one used in the Kodak Professional DCS760M from about five years ago.
T.O.P.: The human eye puts an emphasis on luminance information for the sake of image detail. Is the new sensor likely to increase the level of real detail in digital images?
John Hamilton: Not really. The panchromatic pixels function just like the green pixels of the Bayer pattern except that they are photographically faster. However, under low light conditions, the new patterns will outperform Bayer because of improved signal-to-noise.
T.O.P.: I appreciate that part of what will make this new array practical is that new interpolation algorithms will have to be devised for it, and some of that work is still in the future. But knowing what you know, do you anticipate that the likely problems or advantages will make the new array best suited for certain applications as opposed to others?
John Hamilton: The new filter patterns were designed with low-light conditions in mind, but it's too soon to say where they work best. Under well-controlled lighting conditions, such as in a studio, I would expect the new filters and a Bayer filter to be roughly equivalent.
T.O.P.: One last question—so how come the new array isn't named after its inventors, like the Bayer Array was named after its inventor, Kodak's Dr. Bryce Bayer, in 1976?
John Hamilton: We are just the tip of the iceberg. Many sensor and algorithm people are involved in bringing this technology forward.
T.O.P.: Thank you, Dr. Hamilton.
John Hamilton: Thank you.
As a follow-up, I should add that I did press both Bruce and John about likely applications and possible products, but I was brought around to their view that the story for now is the success of the technical research—it's really too early to tell how the idea will be implemented and in what kinds of products it will be most successful. Kodak can make sensors for its own products, or make sensors as OEM products for other cameramakers, or design products to be fabricated by others, or license its intellectual property (IP) for products designed and built by other companies. How any given research will "filter" through to the market is dependent on many people and tiers of decisions in other departments of Kodak and at many other companies, so the inventors can't really speculate about such things.
One little tidbit that doesn't quite come through in the foregoing is that Kodak is working with a G-G-B-R color arrangement so far only because that's what established technology demands, but the inventors are actively experimenting with other color pixel combinations. Obviously, the biggest hurdle to overcome is that the new array only yields half as much color information directly. A Bayer array requires interpolation, but the new array requires more interpolation. It's at least possible that the most successful implementation of the new array (I still think it needs a name...) won't be RGB at all.
My thanks to Bruce Graham and John Hamilton at Kodak for their generous cooperation.
I've argued in the past that resolution isn't necessarily a mandatory quality that fine art photographs need to have. There are plenty of great photographs that have low resolution. The toy-camera subgenre makes a virtue of it. In fact, at the turn of the last century, there was a whole style built in part on a lack of resolution— pictorialism. Photographers back then paid good money for the best fuzzy lenses.
One thing I've never disagreed with, however, is that there are some forms of photography that require the highest resolution. Satellite photography is the highest resolution photography of which I'm aware. Surveillance photography is usually put forward as another example—if you're taking a picture at night over a long distance and you want a car's license plate to be readable, you get no points for artistic blur. Those interested in the subject of high resolution photography should seek out John B. Williams' excellent 1990 Focal Press book on the subject, Image Clarity: High Resolution Photography. (Fun fact from that book: the best tripod isn't always a total cure for vibration, because, as surveyors are well aware, the ground itself is often vibrating, and not just on city streets where you can feel it, either.)
Another example of a situation in which low resolution is anathema? Look no further than the humble eBay auction.
I've never been able to confirm this, of course, but I strongly suspect that some sellers use blurry pictures of items for sale on purpose. When fine detail is obliterated, the brain tends to interpolate a detailed image, but anomalous detail is elided, and salesmanship segues into scam. I'm especially suspicious of sellers who claim to be professional photographers, or even just imply that they're experts, but whose pictures look awful. Any half-competent amateur should be able to manage a decent product shot. Just as suspicious are sellers whose sales run into the tens of thousands, but who have egregious motion blur in their auction pictures—all those sales, and they somehow can't manage to procure a half-decent tripod?
Anyway, it's good to remember: You really do have a tendency to assume clean surfaces and crisp edges from a blurred picture, but fine detail that would show imperfections really is hidden by that blur. On eBay, blurry pictures = Buyer Beware!
Featured Comment by Jon Fitch: "I've got a better one than ground vibrations. Permafrost. I was surveying once when the ground temperature was around 20°F and the air temperature was about 40°F. The tripod and instrument kept getting out of balance every couple of minutes. It drove me crazy. I finally figured out that the steel tips of the tripod were transmitting heat into the frozen ground, melting it around my tripod and sinking everything into the ground. I gave up and went home at that point."
by Ming Thein.
Question: "I have a William Christenberry print of 5 Cents. I bought it years ago in D.C. at the Tartt Gallery. What is the best method to determine its value?"
Reply: The best method would be to sell it through an auction house that handles a lot of fine art photography and preferably a lot of Christenberry. Whatever you get for it is what it's worth.
Second best—check auction records for any recent sales of the same print. This is a good estimating method but doesn't take into account increasing or decreasing demand. Sometimes actual auction prices depart from such "comps" considerably.
Third best method, ask (or pay for) a competent photo dealer to perform an appraisal. You can find such dealers through AIPAD, the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (www.aipad.com). Again, as reports from actual auctions will make clear, an appraisal is an educated guess and is neither a limit nor a guarantee.
Worst method: arrange a private sale to or through a friend, local collector, local museum, or art or antiques dealer, and simply take whatever they see fit to offer you. While any given individual may be perfectly generous, in general these resources really don't have much incentive to pay you any reasonable facsimile of the going price, never mind top dollar.
So, how many of you know the name Bill Atkinson? Maybe you've heard of a niche product called the Apple Macintosh? Okay, how about MacPaint and HyperCard?
Yeah, that Bill Atkinson. Did you know that Bill's been an avid and accomplished photographer his whole life? And that these days he's one of the reigning printer gurus? I know many of you did; now you all do.
Bill is a fellow of many talents. And an extremely talented fellow.
Bill's also produced one of the nicest coffee table photo books that's ever been printed. Those of you who really love fine photo reproduction will remember landmark books like Ernst Hass' The Creation and Ansel Adams' first books with "laser-cut" plates. They set new standards for fine press reproduction.
To that list of benchmark books, add Within the Stone (Browntrout Publishers, 2004). This is absolutely, positively the very best 4-color reproduction I've ever seen. Depending upon whether other presses follow his lead, it may very well be the best for color reproduction I ever see.
Even if you don't care about the subject matter, even if you don't like the photography (Philistine though you'd have to be), you just have to love the sheer lusciousness of the pages themselves. Richer blacks, greater tonal ranges, and maximal color saturation that is beyond anything you'll see in a conventional photographic print, darkroom or digital. Let's not even compare it to conventional press printing. It wouldn't surprise me if the color gamut exceeds that of Hexachrome and other color-super set printing methods; certainly the density and saturation range do. You don't have to be a connoisseur to see the quality; it will smack you write upside the head of the moment you flip open to any page of the book.
Here's the best part: this isn't even an expensive book. Autographed copies are $40 directly from Bill. Cheaper if you want to buy it through Amazon, I imagine, and don't care about the signature.
Here's the worst part; the press run was 20,000 and when I saw Bill last week he told me that all but 5,000 had been sold. There will not be another press run. When they're gone, that's it. That's what impels me to write this column; you'll hate yourself if you miss out on this remarkable book.
So, what's Bill's secret? Bill took the printing press and applied the standard color management and profiling techniques that he'd use with any home inkjet printer. Traditional practice is to hand-tune the ink and pressure levels of the printing press to produce the best reproduction of each photograph. Instead, Bill ran profiles on the press and adjusted it until it produced the best possible output of a standard profiling test pattern. He tried different ink and paper combinations and settings to find which one would give him the maximum range and fidelity in a print. That gave him an "optimal press." Then he created a printer profile for that press and applied it to all his files. The platemaker machine then turned out plates that were corrected and balanced for the optimized press. There you are! Maximum quality with minimum fuss (once you've done all that calibration, of course).
If you'd like to see Bill' pictorial diary about making this book, go here and download the Acrobat file, "Making Within the Stone."
Featured Comment by Sergio: "What I find curious is, how can a mechanical and in constant movement machine as printing press, which is usually printing all the time various jobs of probably very different characteristics, be profiled, and keep consistency enough till you print the final run for the profile to be precise. I suppose the best way would be to have the press for yourself, profile it, the have it waiting still for your run. A luxury I would love to have.
"For practical reasons (and economy) I target the contract proof. The perfect contract proof. That will take me to a 90% match."
Ctein Replies: Quite so! The printing device has to be stable for a profile to be of any value. That's why the better inkjet printers have built-in calibrators to insure their output is consistent from day to day.
On an offset press, there are two main run-time variables for each color—the rate of ink flow and the pressure of the offset blanket. Very crudely, think of the effect of ink flow as altering density and contrast and blanket pressure as altering gamma. The 100% and 50% primary color squares printed at the edge of each sheet tell you where those variables are.
In "old style" printing, the pressmaster would tweak these controls on the fly to produce the visually-most-pleasing result for a given sheet of content. As we've all seen the results can be excellent. But, there are two flies in the ointment. First, there will be some optimal settings for the run-time variables that produce the most faithful color. When you mess with the ink flow and blanket, you move from optimum. It may make one class of photo look better, but on average the rest'll look much worse, which is why you have to worry about which photos are ganged together on which sheets. If you can't insure that all the photos on a sheet need the same tweaking (impossible for a book, pretty much), you end up sacrificing the quality of the less important photos.
Second, because you're calibrating by eye, on the fly, you can't use higher-quality-but-more-finicky paper and ink combos. One major reason Bill's book looks better is that he uses high density inks that produce a much larger gamut. Working with those inks is like printing all your photos on grade 4 paper—you can't just guess at the exposure and hope to get many good prints. Bill's approach makes it possible.
On a calibrated press, all you have to do is monitor the densities of the 50% and 100% ink squares, to keep them at their target values. If they start to drift, you adjust the ink flow and blanket pressure to compensate. On a modern press, that's done automatically by a built-in densitometer. But you can do it by hand (as was done on Bill's book).
As for cost and effort? Well, it's a rare case of "faster, cheaper, and better." Books produced this way get done in half the time with only 1/3 the wastage. (Or possible vice-versa, I forget. Either's good!). They cost less to print, get finished faster, and the print quality's better.
Bill had to hunt for a while to find printer willing to try his approach, and even then it was only because he was waving a big checkbook that they went along with it. But Vanfu was so impressed with the result they converted their regular operation over to it, and wound up making several million more bucks on the same work, because their profit margin went way up a the same time the clients were getting better printing.
The nasty part's calibrating the system to begin with. But once that's done, you're in fat city.
pax / Ctein
The Venice Biennale's prestigious Golden Lion lifetime achievement award has been presented to a photographer for the first time.
"No African artist has done more to enhance photography's stature," said Biennale art director, Robert Storr.
"This prize honours all the world's photographers, Mali and myself," said Sidibe, 72, as he picked up the award....
Mike (thanks to Sean Keane)
Craig Ferguson notwithstanding (see below), you can't believe everything you read on blogs. The following, for example, is a mixture of educated guesses, speculation, analysis, reading between the lines, and forecasting. All or some of it might turn out to be right. You know the alternative. I'm doin' the best I can.
First guess: the smattering of news you've seen about this on the internet recently is because Kodak's attorneys just locked the last patent down and gave PR the go-ahead to spread the news.
Second, starting in 2008, virtually every sensor maker in the world will be paying Rochester's Great Yellow Father a licensing fee (or, more likely, another licensing fee) for every sensor they make.
Third, this is the biggest news in digital photography of this season. "Biggest" as in "most significant." In several seasons, in fact.
Fourth, the idea is simple, and brilliant—brilliantly simple, in fact. One of those smack your forehead and say duh, why'n't I think of that?!? ideas.
What is it? It doesn't have a name yet (I even asked). It was invented by Kodak's John Compton and John Hamilton, although evidently they're too modest to call it the Compton-Hamilton Array. Call it Kodak's Transparent Array. (I just coined that; I'm always doing that. Better not quote me.) The idea is that since digital sensors have so many photosites/pixels now, perhaps not 100% of them need to be used to pick up color information. In the Bayer Array (the industry-wide standard), half the photosite lenses are dyed (filtered) green, and the other half are split between red and blue. But just as with a colored filter on your old black-and-white camera, the color filtering cuts down drastically on light transmission (remember how you used to have to add another two stops to your spotmeter reading whenever you made like Robert Adams and slapped that green filter on the ol' view camera? Sure you do). So, Kodak reasoned, why not use half the pixels to pick up color information and just not filter the other half at all?
Brilliant. Simple. But patentable.
In the Semitransparent Array, half the photosites/pixels are not filtered/dyed at all, and the other half are split in the old 2-green, 1-red, 1-blue ratio.
The result is an array that is one to two stops more sensitive to light. It will presumably yield less real color information that the old Bayer algorithms, but that's not so important now that almost all sensors have so many millions of photosites (quite a different situation from when the Bayer Array was devised in the mid 1970s, or with early digicams when "a megapixel" was a huge deal. Ancient history, eh?) (Please note also that this has nothing to do with how "colorful" your images will look. How the information is interpolated is still the determinant of that.) Counterbalancing that loss is a higher capture of real detail, in the form of a true luminance channel, and a true increase in light sensitivity.
That jump in light sensitivity is a big jump, too. It will mean that the same quality you get from your digicam and cameraphone at ISO 200 will be available at ISO 800. And it will mean that the quality you get from your DSLR at ISO 400 now, you will be able to achieve at ISO 800, with better real detail. (I'm assuming here that DSLR sensors are already optimized for high sensitivity, and that they represent the "one stop" end of the quoted "one to two stop" range of sensitivity improvements Kodak's press release touts. I could be wrong.)
Possible outcomes of all this: a) All digital imaging devices are in for a quantum jump in performance, and soon. b) Fuji or somebody has already done something similar but didn't protect the idea with patents adequately, and we'll see a roiling of the surface waters as Titanic legal battles go on under the surface. c) Some big company or other that already has good high-ISO-sensitive sensors could decide to soldier on with the Bayer Array and we'll see supremacy battles waged. d) Kodak gets added revenue of the best possible sort: a leetle bitty dose of money for every sensor made anywhere. Could be worse. Could be workin'.
One thing's certain. This is potentially very, very big.
"If it's written down, it's true. I'm right about this. Check the internet. If it's written in a blog, it's true."
—Craig Ferguson, The Late Late Show
Featured Comment by mwg: "That's incorrect. My website/blog is right. Everybody else's is wrong."
The British Journal of Photography reported yesterday that Epson has ceased production of the Epson R-D1, the first digital camera with a mechanical rangefinder. The R-D1, which became a cult camera around the world, has continued to be in good demand, causing the run of camera production to sell out earlier than had been planned.
Some dealers do still have small amounts of stock, and Epson will reserve the last stocks for the Japan market, where the camera will continue to be available until stocks are depleted. Epson did not explicitly say why it isn't considering another run of production.
This is speculation on our part, but how specialty products like this usually work is that a camera company analyzes the potential demand for a product, decides how long it would like its product to remain "in production" or available new, and then a single run of production is carried out. The item is then sold as "NOS" or new old stock, meaning all "new" units come from the stocks from that original run. If the product sells less well than anticipated, it can remain available ("in production") for a long time; or, if it sells better than anticipated and stocks run low, the company has to face the decision about whether to make another run or let the product "go out of production," i.e., become unavailable.
Committment to another run can change the economics of the product, sometimes dramatically. Production realities may have changed; the company now knows much more about profitability and the rates and costs of service and repair; and the market situation may have changed. In the case of the R-D1, for instance, DSLR prices have come down dramatically since its introduction, and it also has gained a direct competitor in the Leica M8. Sometimes, decisions about whether to commit to another run can have to do with things like potential costs for retooling, the availability of a subcontracted part or assembly, or even whether someone within the company or companies involved is advocating for it or not. Also, in projecting future demand, good current demand is not the only determinant.
The R-D1's demise leaves the M8 as the only digital 35mm-style camera with a mechanical rangefinder and manual-focus interchangeable lenses.
Mike (thanks to robinpywell)
Featured Comment by Janne: "The 'British sportscar' analogy is probably spot-on. The long-time actual advantages of a rangefinder camera has been small size and silent operation, and that is frankly well-covered by pocket digicams today, cameras that are far smaller, and completely silent, and with better focus performance than the fiddly, not-too-accurate rangefinder mechanism.
"You get a rangefinder today for the same reason you buy a green car with a Lucas electric system: you're certifiably insane. No, scratch that—you're a fan of the technology itself, more than of the results you can achieve with the device in question. A friend of a friend is a British car enthusiast. He can tell enthusiastic tales of juryrigged radiators and oil leaks emergency plugged with tape and a t-shirt, beaming happily as he describes crawling under some car in pouring rain just to be able to drive it home.
"It is an understandable, laudable enthusiasm. The problem is often that a niche enthusiast market just isn't very big, and it's hard to havbe a product that doesn't really offer anything for consumers outside that market."
By Michael J. McNamara, Popular Photography & Imaging
If patience is a virtue, photographers shopping for a new Sigma DSLR are saints. After all, it’s been three years since the last Sigma digital (the SD10), and it was more than six months between the announcement and availability of the new Sigma SD14 ($1,600, street, body only).
Clearly, a truly unique camera takes time. And the SD14 is unique. It’s the first and only DSLR to use a second-generation Foveon X3 sensor, which has a 1.7X lens factor, boasts 14.1 megapixels, and is promoted as a color-accurate, detail-obsessed, low-noise alternative to the CMOS and CCD sensors used in other DSLRs....
Featured Comment by Craig Norris: I find the Pop Photo review somewhat lacking in imagination. The reviewer only compares what the SD-14 can do that a Nikon D200 can also do, under general consumer snapshooting conditions, and finds the Nikon D200 the better camera. Fine. If I was a general consumer, I might agree.
In my photography business, I often shoot executive portraits, mostly head and shoulder, with a Canon 5D at about 70mm focal length. I always shoot at ISO 100 in the studio for maximum quality, because I do see noise and other image degradation at any higher ISO, even with a Canon 5D. But I am plagued in almost every session by moire patterns in the texture of some people's clothing.
The Sigma SD-14 would solve my problem, because it is free of moire artifacts, an important fact not mentioned or tested by the Pop Photo reviewer. What the SD-14 lacks is a tethered shooting facility, and that's the only reason I'm not rushing out to buy the SD-14. The lack of high ISO range is not an issue for me. I'll use my Canon 5D when I need to shoot at high ISO settings. Use the right tool for the right job.
My point in making this post is that camera reviewers often do the general public a disservice. They sometimes publish a rather negative conclusion about a camera, without really understanding that there is no such thing as a perfect camera (that's why I have 16 cameras) but each camera has some great strength that suits it to a particular application. The reviewer should highlight what that great strength might be for each camera under test.
My other gripe is that I've never seen any of the usual camera reviewers test high ISO image quality under low levels of tungsten lighting—which is the most common scenario when a general user needs a high ISO. The published tests, such as the Pop Photo review under discussion, waste space by showing high ISO images of outdoor scenery, or high ISO performance under daylight colour studio lighting. What's the point? Who shoots at high ISOs in the bright outdoors? Who shoots at high ISO with daylight white balance? Shift to tungsten white balance where the blue channel gets amplified inside the camera significantly, and the results are somewhat different, and infinitely more relevant.
I'm prompted to write today because I'm becoming very jaded and dissapointed by the generally poor quality of today's camera reviews. The only good camera reviews I regularly see are in Japanese camera magazines. I'm fortunate in being able to read a little bit of the Japanese text, enough to gain an insight into the reviewer's reports and findings.
After reading Japanese camera reviews for several years now, I feel embarrassed at the poor standard of most camera reviews published in Western countries. (Perhaps I'll start a new business publishing translations of the Japanese magazine articles....)
"Accepting his 2007 TED Prize, photojournalist James Nachtwey talks about his decades as a war photographer. A slideshow of his photos, beginning in 1981 in Northern Ireland, reveal two parallel themes in his work. First, as he says: 'The frontlines of contemporary wars are right where people live.' Street violence, famine, disease: he has photographed all these modern WMDs. Second, when a photo catches the world's attention, it can truly drive action and change. In his TED wish, he asks for help gaining access to a story that needs to be told, and developing a new, digital way to show these photos to the world. Help grant James Nachtwey's wish...."
Don't miss David Goldfarb's featured comment in the CatCam post.
I think I need to link to Thom Hogan's Compact Camera Challenge just out of self-defense, because so many people have emailed me about it.
It's a nice article. Although more highly specified, this is essentially what I wrote about 18 months ago as as the "DMD" or "Decisive Moment Digicam." Apparently Thom is as mystified as I am that in this world of excessive consumer choice, we still don't have a compact digicam based on a large (4/3rds or APS-C) sensor. It's a natural product category that just doesn't exist, but should.
We ought to get the first one very soon, however, although it will of course be different in its particulars than the cameras Thom or I specified—the Sigma DP1.
I worry about the DP1, however. Product categories are overly dependent on their first implementation. How it works is this. Somebody tries a new idea, and everybody else watches and waits. If the new idea is a hit, everybody scrambles to jump on the bandwagon. If the new idea is a bust, then nobody ever tries it again. I've been around long enough that I've seen some great ideas go down in flames this way. It's a shame when that happens.
As the first large-sensor compact, the whole idea of large-sensor compacts is riding on the DP1's fragile shoulders (and somewhat questionable—from a marketing standpoint at least—specs. That ƒ/4 lens might work out fine, but it seems slow to people and might make them hold off opening their wallets. Could be bad news for the concept). What I'm worried about is that Sigma's particular implementation might fall flat in the marketplace, and hurt or even kill the whole idea of the category altogether, before it even exists. I hope not.
Small sensors rampant
Then again, there's the possibility that Thom and I are just both wrong. Maybe a large-sensor compact is not what the world needs after all. Maybe the camera makers will just go on improving the small sensors until they do everything we need 'em to do.
Things sometimes seem to be moving in that direction. Take the Ricoh Caplio GX100 (above) that a lot of people are getting excited about, and that have just recently started getting into the hands of end users. First of all, I can just tell from the language in the press and advertising material that Ricoh is proud of this lens, and has put a lot of design and engineering time in on it. Next, the daylight samples, I have to say, are unusually impressive for a compact.
Granted, low-light performance is yet to be evaluated, and it probably doesn't match that of big sensors. But it's possible we just need to give 'em time.
P.S. The exclusive dealer for Ricoh products in the USA:
Now this is funny added to funny. Not long ago David Emerick posted an article here about Piero Manzoni's exquisite riff on the art-industrial complex. Now it turns out that the contents might not be as advertised—which allegedly has some people worried. Does it matter? I certainly don't think so. Isn't the whole point that it's the idea of art and not its actual content that counts?
Art marches on. Piero's laughing, even from the grave.
Mike (thanks to Tim)
I wonder if it's possible for information to become too accessible? For instance, hikers—and, of course, photographers—can now go online to see five live or recent views of scenic vistas around Yosemite National Park taken by automatic fixed cameras. Not the right light or weather conditions? Not the kind of cloud formations that suit your fancy? Ho, hum—no need to get out of bed, then. Just roll over and go back to sleep.
The picture above was taken from Turtleback Dome, elevation 5266 feet, at 9:00 p.m. PDT last night. (Rather amusingly—but of course, perfectly accurately—the live cams show rectangles of plain black many nights.)
I have to admit, though, that if you're nowhere near Yosemite, living the life vicarious via webcam can be oddly soothing sometimes. I kinda like it.
In Camera Reviews, "My Favorite View Cameras." Slightly outdated, since it was written in 2003. In 2003 it was slightly out of touch.
And, in Columns and Essays, "Train Your Brain...to Guess Exposure," a 1997 article that's basically an exquisite elaboration of the Sunny 16 rule. My proudest accomplishment.