I get a lot of tips, for which I'm grateful. Maybe a quarter to a third of the posts you read here are the result of tips. I don't use most of them, but I don't want to stop receiving them, and I thank those who send them.
That said, one phenomenon that's part of my daily online life is that occasionally I'll get a blizzard of emails—sometimes dozens—with the same tip all at once.
Perhaps surprisingly, these are often things I just don't have much to say about. Here are a few recent examples, along with my comments:
1. The fact that the Sigma DP-1 appeared in prototype at the recent PMA show. A large number of tipsters thought I should know about this, I must admit for perfectly sensible reasons. I've been calling for a digicam with an APS-C sensor for years now, and I've written several times about the allegedly forthcoming Sigma DP-1, which seems to be the only example of this obvious but missing-in-action breed of camera that's even on the horizon. It's been delayed repeatedly, revised probably several times in prototype—and we've covered all that here.
So here's the big PMA news: "It's still coming. No—really."
That "No—really" part is the upshot of the news from Vegas. Yeah, there is a new teaser at the website and there were some samples posted. But it's still not here. How many times can I write about vaporware while it's still vaporware? I also still think we'll need several entries into this category before we'll know if it's viable as a category. I'm still interested, still concerned, but let's face it—nothing's really changed. When it's finally a real product, I'll let you know.
2. The fact that Leica is offering an upgrade package for the M8. Yes, I know. It strikes me that there are two possible interpretations here, to wit: a) Leica is making a bold, admirable, and sincere attempt to adapt its historical commitment to non-obsolescence to the digital age; b) Leica is "harvesting money" from its fanatical (and rich) customer base by offering them a set of semi-meaningless upgrades for the price of a Nikon D300. Which is it? Well, if I knew, or even had a good guess, I might write about it. But I don't.
One question I have about it is that pretty soon, we will know the price point of the 24MP Sony "flagship" camera and the Canon 5D replacement (neither are here yet). Whatever that price point is, it will be significantly less than the cost of an M8. Will Leica be able to perform a sensor-swap (the only meaningful form of non-obsolescence in the long run) in the M8 for anything close to that number, with a new sensor anywhere near as good? Just asking.
3. Lots of people thought I'd be tickled by this article, which supposedly points out George W. Bush's deficiencies as an art critic by revealing that his favorite painting, which he thinks depicts a Christian missionary charging up a hill, actually shows a horse thief attempting to elude his pursuers. But I'm afraid I don't see anything wrong with the President (or anybody else) imposing their own personal meaning on works of art. That's sort of how art works—it's not semantic communication, it's an interaction between the artifact and the viewer. Even the Saturday Evening Post, which commissioned the illustration, used it to illustrate two different stories, of which the horse thief story was merely the first. Bush in effect uses it to illustrate a third story—one which, you must admit, is now indelibly a part of the picture's meaning and provenance.
Besides, we all know why our President really likes that painting: he thinks the cowboy looks like him!
4. This video. In the multiple-tip sweepstakes, this one wins. But why this particular "tip" amongst the tens of thousands of photographic tips 'n' tricks happened to surface recently is due to...well, this video. A well-organized presentation and some judicious enthusiasm…nothing wrong with that. But this tip has been around for decades. I first tried it in the '80s, and I'm sure it had been around for decades by that time. It sort of kind of works. And sort of kind of doesn't. Either way, what used to be a poor man's monopod substitute is now a poor man's IS substitute, and in either case my humble opinion is that you'd be better off going for the real thing or else forgetting about it. Of course, there's nothing wrong with trying it for yourself. Maybe you'll like it.
5. This lens. This makes me slightly grumpy. If people really cared about long telephotos, they'd be much more enthusiastic than they are about the photographic possibilities of the APS-C crop factor. But, as I've opined before, what people are really interested in is who can buy the biggest, baddest, most expensive status symbol in the form of massive glass. Plus, the narrowed field of view of the smaller sensor has now come into direct conflict with the preferred status symbol in sensors, so-called "full-frame" (i.e., 35mm size). We're back to the best of both worlds in terms of one-upsmanship: the people with the biggest sensors also need the biggest lenses. Perfect. My problem is that I don't care a lick about status symbols, as such. I just care about pictures.
My friend John Gossage declared in the 1990s that there wasn't a single significant body of art photography that has ever been done with a super telephoto. He attempted to be the first with a book of pictures taken with a 1200mm lens. All the pictures are of Mexico, taken from California. The book was called There & Gone, and I'm afraid my critical judgment would have to be that, well, there is still no significant body of art photography that's ever been done with a super telephoto. (With all due respect to John, it's not my favorite of his books.)
Besides, why settle for a paltry 1200mm when you could have a real long lens for your Canon?
But keep those tips and links coming.
Mike (Thanks to Phil Aynsley and many others.)
Featured Comment by Mark Hollings: "Mike, You've made the Gossage telephoto comment before, but it comes via Robert Adams. Gossage's quote, in an interview: 'Robert Adams made a comment in his book Beauty in Photography that always stuck with me. [He wrote] that no photographer of major ambition had ever sustained important work taken with long telephoto lenses.' Full interview here.
"But my vote for the best telephoto images ever taken: those from the Hubble Space Telescope. Also happens to be the longest telephoto ever made."