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Thursday, 25 September 2008

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For me, the no brainer is Canon. I already own and use a 5D to make my living, along with, to a lesser extent, a 1Ds Mk2 and a 1D Mk2. I have many pounds of Canon glass that I like very much. Video however is a feature that I will use right away as my main client is itching to be able to put video clips on the web. The notion of being able to make a quick video at an event, and shoot stills at the same time is astonishingly useful to my being able to keep up with the demands of the new media, the desires of my clients, and my ability to continue to be able to bring home the bacon. I am also a committed natural light shooter, and a useable 6400 that looks like the current 800 is the bees knees for me. I'm in line already!

You know I'm very happy for all those professional camera people who have been lusting for HD video capability. But I'm a landscape photographer and it (video capability) just doesn't do a thing for me. I know the guy on Luminous Landscape has been pushing this, but really, what does video have to do with still photography? Don't need it, don't want it.

As a happy KM 7D owner, of course I automatically got interested on hearing about the Sony A900. I'm with Mike, I really like IS. But, you know, it looks like the high-ISO performance of the new Canon is so good that maybe you can get equivalent results without the IS, just by using higher ISO speed.

Kinda clouds the distinction between the two (exclusive of video, of course, which I'm not really interested in just now).

About the differences between the A900 and the D5II -- isn't IS in the lens better than the built-in sort? I really don't know.

JC

Interestingly, I think the choice was made many years ago for many of us. As you mention, many people have a significant investment in glass which makes "choice" a relative term. Personally, I can't imagine selling XX number of "L" lenses and bodies to switch systems. Really, though, Canon hasn't left those of us in this situation wanting for choice: the abundance of really great bodies out there designed to work seamlessly with all that really great "L" glass and further designed for a pocket-book of any size, is astounding. In the race for digital nervana, the leaders may occasionaly change, but the others will never be far behind.

Well, I agree on the "easy choice" part, but I don't agree on the "closely competing" part. As if a Toyota Corolla was "closely competing" a Lotus Elise because, in fact, they share the same engine.

Who would go for the rookie that has a limited choice of lenses/accessories and actually costs *more*? I am all for the added competition--in the end that's all good news for us--but frankly, I don't even feel like there's a contest here. We will have to wait for complete reviews to be able to judge how good of a job Sony did (...with their semi-pro camera that uses *MemoryStick* cards!)

If i were starting from scratch, I think I would definitely have a hard time choosing between the sony and the canon (and the nikon) systems for a full frame camera rig. Fortunately, having shot with canon for the past 4 years and having built up a collection of lenses helps make the decision easier for me today.

I'd be hard pressed to imagine an advance that any camera manufacturer could make that would lead me to want to replace not only my camera body but all of my lenses as well (which is an investment, at this point, nearly 2-3 times what i've spent on bodies).

"Who would go for the rookie that has a limited choice of lenses/accessories and actually costs *more*?"

As I think I mentioned in the post, I would.

Mike J.

"About the differences between the A900 and the D5II -- isn't IS in the lens better than the built-in sort? I really don't know."

JC,
As I've written before, the built-in sort is a lot better when it's the only sort available. Canon makes some of its lenses with IS, but with many it's simply not available.

Mike J.

Mike -

This is coming from the part of my split personality that leans towards news photography. Many of the Canon zoom lenses have image stabilization. They are slower than primes and quite often benefit from IS. The faster primes don't have IS, but they do allow faster shutter speeds that stop both subject motion and my camera shake. As a shaky photographer photographing gyrating, dashing people, more and more I'm depending upon the higher speed primes. And have found that good human moments make good pictures even when the focal length of the lens isn't quite the one that I would have chosen when equipped with a zoom.

Bill

They say the noise in A900 files is 2-3 stops worse than that in 5DII, with the latter being quite possibly the new low-noise benchmark that would either compete with or trump the low noise in Nikon D700/D3. Is there any truth to this?

"They say the noise in A900 files is 2-3 stops worse than that in 5DII, with the latter being quite possibly the new low-noise benchmark that would either compete with or trump the low noise in Nikon D700/D3. Is there any truth to this?"

I think we kinda need to wait and see.

Mike J.

Mike,
I don't understand why the presence of video means anything to your desision if you don't use it.
BD

". . . reactions which occasionally exhibit features of mass hysteria"

I happened across an astonishing one on some gearhead forum the other day, just before the 5DII was announced. Responding to a rumor that the 5D replacement would be called the 7D, one fellow said something to the effect that "If true, that would be a serious disappointment. In fact if that's the case, I really can't imagine myself buying one."

In other words the poor guy was totally bent out of shape by the possibility that the new camera had a model number not to his liking.

Adding to what Bill said...

IS is great. It helps to compensate for *camera shake*, if you prefer to do handheld photography instead of using a tripod. (I personally have trouble with the tripod thing--too cumbersome for my taste--so IS is welcome.)

But even a 16-stop IS would be of no help at all to freeze your subject. I'm happy to be able to take a shot at, say 1/15, with no visible camera shake, but if there are people in the picture, they just won't be sharp!

So the value of IS is mitigated. I would personally go for faster glass and high ISO performance before image stabilization, but it really depends on the style of photography you make.

Maybe one day outrageously high ISOs will be so clean that IS won't have so much a raison d'être anymore. Oh, wait...

There are a few things about the new 5D that would make this choice easy for me. First, the original 5D has a track record. It is an amazing camera in terms of IQ. Even though I have always had a top of the line Canon, I have most often used the 5D, and it has always impressed me. I use many lenses, but on the 5D, I have rarely removed my 24-105 which has IS and has a very usable focal length range. Also, I expect the 5D to have better low light capabilities.

It is not sufficient to just say that the 5D can take video. Those of us who do video will now have access to video capabilities not available even on high end, high definition video recorders. There is very little that any consumer or most pros could afford that can match the capabilities of the 5D.

It shoots true 1080p which is better than almost all video cameras, but it also allows you to make videos using a large sensor and interchangeable lenses which allows depth of field and other effects previously only possible on cameras costing perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. It also takes very good low light videos based on early samples.

Every videographer I know who can afford one has pre ordered a 5D already. Of course, it is set up as a still camera first, so it is not truly convergent, but may be the first real step in that direction.

Also, I am aware that Nikon's latest does video, but it is 720p and apparently has significant motion artifacts. Canon, therefore, offers a real breakthrough product.

In regards to video in DSLR, the world did not think they needed Post-It notes before they were launched.

In regards to IS I think with the L lenses and improved quality in high ISO ranges IS may be obsolete.

My bet is on Canon, thinking also that their next move is in the direction of the "big" Leica

I print large and I have waited on pins and needles for the 5DmkII, knowing Canon would not disappoint. I have not seen any reason to change from "L" series lenses to anything offered by any other maker. There is simply so much more available in quality and quantity and type from Canon, lens and body. It'd be a different story if the image quality wasn't there, but it really is there, and I'll bet the bar was just raised with the new 5DII.

I find it amusing that people discuss camera bodies purely on the specification. No mention of how they handle or their interface. Lots of these people argue endlessly over computer interfaces, Apple versus Windows etc., yet with cameras this doesn't seem to apply.
To me it is one the important aspects. On a personal level, having owned Canon, Minolta, and Nikon digital slrs over the last few years Minolta was the one that handled best for me and the Canon interface I never really liked. Current camera is a D300 which I get along quite well with, but I still hanker after the 7D

Regarding A900 as a choice - what lens would you recommend and why? In film days, Minolta was a very good camera but looking at standard zoom lens, actually none impress me: 18-70, 16-80 or 16-105.

Probably the low noise advantage of the 5DII erases the IS on the Sony ...
My 5D is practically noiseless till 1000 ISO. With the new one I expect that has been raised to 3200 ISO. Sony looks awful at 800 ...

Great Article! I've not seen any other contribution on the net that succeeds to boil down the difference between those two cameras to the essentials.

One comment with respect to the need of megapixels to print big. You really have to print very big to need 20+ MP. I print up to 24"x16" with my 10MP 40D. I guess there are not so many non-professionals that need to print bigger.

The faster Canon primes don't have IS?

The Canon 300/2.8, the 300/4, the 400/2.8, the 200/2, the 500/4, the 600/4, and the 800 all have IS. That's at least seven by my count.

If you look at the attention drawn by the different brands/models, on DPReview, the public have made up their minds.

I can't believe the nitpicking some show while ignoring the larger differences.

Noise might be better controlled on the 5D. However, for the A900 raws I have developed, it seems to me the noise control on the A900 is plenty good enough. It appears Sony has given more priority to definition than to noise suppression. An interesting choice, especially for, as Mike said, fine art. It is a matter of what Canon and Sony choose to show more than a matter of engineering ability.

Any way, the difference is not enough to ignore the 100% viewfinder and in-body IS that will have far more impact than the tiny grain one could see up close to a 20x30" print. Of course, 20x30" is the minimum size people buy, since the average person evidently lives in gigantic mansions full of empty walls to cover.

Or, on the other side, having high quality video is very important for others and that would then be the overruling factor.

Everyone says Canon has IS zooms. Fine. Problem is, their offering below 70mm disappoints a lot when one comes from Leica, Zeiss, Schneider or Rodenstock. It seems the Zeiss offering on the Sony can make the A900 much more appealing to discerning people. Was it mentioned they all get IS? :-D

The big downside to in body stabilisation is that it's a one size fits all for all lenses. Longer focal lengths magnify everything including shake more than wide lenses so the in body system will inherently work optimally for shorter lenses ie 3 stops of shake help at 50mm will only get you 1 stop at 200mm.

I would argue that fast glass and good high iso is best for hand held, wide angle, low light shooting and that its best to save the IS for the long lenses where it is most useful (nay invaluable) instead of as a convenience feature for the wide lenses.

But then if you don't really shoot with longer glass etc etc it kinda makes sense.

Also technical issues with the stabilisation mechanics not keeping the chip perfectly flat--time will tell how well Sony have done.

Harumph!

"The faster Canon primes don't have IS? The Canon 300/2.8, the 300/4, the 400/2.8, the 200/2, the 500/4, the 600/4, and the 800 all have IS. That's at least seven by my count."

Oh, sorry, yes, that's true. I was being myopic, I'm afraid, looking at things from my peculiar personal perspecitve. I meant SHORT fast primes. The longest lens I've ever used for making real pictures is probably the 75mm x 1.5 of my current zoom. With film I never shot anything longer than 100mm. I'm not a long lens guy. (I had a 180mm once, but I used to joke that I couldn't get far enough away from ANYTHING to take picture with it--it even made the moon look too big!) That doesn't mean long lenses don't exist, though, you're right.

Mike J.

"Mike, I don't understand why the presence of video means anything to your decision if you don't use it."

bobdales,
Having it there doesn't mean I have to use it, but it's also not something that would attract me to the camera. As you've read in this very thread, for some pros it's a very attractive prospect.

Mike J.

"If you look at the attention drawn by the different brands/models, on DPReview, the public have made up their minds."

Pierre,
First, dpreview doesn't make any of my decisions for me. Does it for you?

Second, only votes with wallets really count.

Mike J.

Great points, Mike. I think it's also worth noting that Sony (or the dealers who carry Sony) have been much more aggressive about discounting than Canon. I often saw the a100 at 25-30% discount almost immediately after it was released. If they're similarly aggressive with the a900, the comparison with the 5dII could get quite a bit more interesting.

Pen,
Right you are. I suspect both cameras are already priced pretty aggressively. I'm looking forward to seeing what the selling prices are going to be 6-8 months from now.

Mike J.

"The big downside to in body stabilisation is that it's a one size fits all for all lenses. Longer focal lengths magnify everything including shake more than wide lenses so the in body system will inherently work optimally for shorter lenses ie 3 stops of shake help at 50mm will only get you 1 stop at 200mm."

Simply not true. In-body IS works just as well for short focal lengths as it does for the longer ones. All the talk so far about the supposed merits of in-body IS vs lens based IS is purely conjecture. I've yet to see any convincing test that shows one is significantly better than the other.

With in-body IS, all your lenses benefits, e.g. the nice 17-50mm f2.8 Tamron or 16-50mm f2.8 Tokina (for APS-C), neither of which cost too much money. An equivalent stabilised lens for a Canon or Nikon would cost a considerable amount more.

In the end, buy whichever floats your boat. Either of the 5D/A900 will likely be able to perform way above the capabilities of many of the measurebators ;-)

Most of the serious art photographers I know still use either medium or large format film. Many art photographers print big (30"x40" is on the small side these days for a major league artist), and the 35mm DSLRs to date don't have the resolution to make really good prints at that size. The medium format digital cameras do, but are out of the price range of most artists. The new Sony and Canon are big steps to bringing digital to artists who print big.

I've been waiting since I bought a 6MP Nikon 3 years ago for a higher resolution camera. The Nikon is great for family snapshots but I estimate I need 4x the pixels to make a 24" print I would be happy with, and that my MF film system produces with ease. The Sony and that superb 24-70mm f/2.8 Zeiss lens might be just the thing. (Canon's 24-70m doesn't have IS.) Not sure if it's worth nearly $5K to me though.

Big prints are all the rage since a couple of years. The maximum print I made from my 5D was 100x130 cm (40x50inch). At very close inspection it was not razor sharp, but better then I ever made with 35mm film.
Now how big a print do I need? In 10 years of photography I made maybe 5 prints over 30x45 cm (12x18 inch) - so after some thought I decided to jump this seasons megapixel kings ...
Maybe if the DP2 is fast and good :)

Where are the stabilised f/1.4 lenses, fisheyes, ultra-wides, and short primes? It's a pleasure to shoot a 20 year old 100mm/2 with in-body stabilisation down to 1/20th and getting sharp results, same goes with using a 50mm/1.4 and 35mm/2. And when are you going to get an in-lens IS 24-70mm/2.8 or 16-35mm/2.8?

The (flawed) arguments against the effectiveness of in-body IS do not stand up to empirical evidence, I get at least 3 stops "under 1/f" at 200mm, not 1 stop. There is no issue with keeping the chip flat, arguably there are more issue in designing an optical system where you deliberately decentre lens groups, both mechanical and optical. For the same design effort and manufacturing complexity, I'd rather have a lens which didn't have floppy bits inside but was instead designed without that compromise to optical performance.

Remember that IS helps even at moderate shutter speeds, such as around "1/f". You can see benefits of IS at 1/100th with an 85mm/1.4 lens. I find it's invaluable when doing available light portraits when the shutter speed would be marginal for sharp hand-held shots otherwise, saves having to drag out the tripod or supplementary lighting.

Some (maybe those who have an economic or emotional investment in in-lens IS?) have continually derided sensor-based IS, first saying it wouldn't work on large sensors (the 7D proved them wrong), it was inferior to lens-based IS (PopPhoto did a test which found it was at least comparable to in-lens IS), that it would be impossible on a 35mm-sized sensor (the A900 proved them wrong), that it would be worse (preliminary impressions are that it is no worse than on the A700, possible better), that you'd need a much bigger mirror/shutter limiting frame rates and shutter speed (A900 5fps and 1/8000th, same as the 1DsIII), or that you'd get terrible vignetting due to sensor excursion (none reported so far, nor do you get anything significant using APC-C lenses on an APS-C in-body IS camera which should suffer from the same argument).

The ideal would be a synthesis of both systems, Minolta has a patent US2005/0140793 precisely on this, combining in-body and in-lens IS in order utilise the advantages of both. I'm waiting for Sony to exercise this option.

The A900 has both MS and CF slots (same as the A700). Surely better than only a single CF slot? I have a 4GB Memory Stick in the MS slot of my A700 as a backup to the CF cards I usually used, saved my bacon on more than one occasion. If anything, I can use it as a photo album and show friends my favourite shots. You don't want to use it, nothing lost.

The A900 actually costs less than the 5DII here in the UK (List £2100 vs £2300, A900 street is £1840 from a reputable dealer).

Tino: The 16-80mm is a great walkabout zoom, except it's an APS-C crop lens ;-). Take a look at the ZA 24-70mm/2.8, I think that's what you want in a standard zoom. The ZA 16-35mm/2.8 looks like it will be a good match to the A900. The 70-200mm/2.8 SSM G is also a great lens. Rumoured (Jan?) is a 24-105mm/4 SSM G lens which also should be a great walkabout lens ("G" is roughly equivalent to "L" in Canon terms).

David: Preliminary examination of RAW output from the A900 suggests that it is comparable (on a per-pixel) basis as the A700/D300, possibly slightly better considering that RAW converters have to catch up with the new camera in order to give optimal conversions. I'd ignore the JPEG output samples as they are not representative of what the camera can do (unless you only shoot in JPEG).

These days when I'm not at work I'm either an amateur photographer or an amateur musician. I have been spending my last few weeks agonizing on whether to save my pennies to buy the Canon 5D when it comes out, or buy a baritone saxophone. So far the baritone sax is slightly ahead in the race.

Buying cameras used to be like buying a musical instrument. I would buy the best one I could afford at the time, and then learn to use it properly. It would never get out of date as you just bought new film. It would age gracefully with me, just like my saxophone would gain the patina of regular use. There was something nice about using a 20 year old camera and knowing that it was just as good as the latest gear.

Up until 2002, when the whole digital thing transformed cameras from wristwatch-like jewels into whitegoods that were hopelessly out of date within the space of five years or less. Gah!

Yes, I'd love to have a Canon 5D-2 - but then I'll be getting sucked into that wonderful consumer rollercoaster of endless dissatisfaction and upgrades....

If I buy the bari sax then at least I can still 'get creative' and not have to fuss about it for another 35 years or more!

(Let's not talk about mouthpiece and reed geekdom, a very strange strange world that parallels photo geekdom...)

Not sure how well Mike's decision tree stands up in practice. I don't want video, and I would use in camera IS (as long as I can have in lens IS as well/as an alternative). So I should buy the Sony. Except, I've used Canon for ever - do I really want to learn a new system? And more to the point, I have a huge investment in Canon glass and accessories.

I think this may be Sony's problem with the A900 - are many people really going to buy this class of camera as their first camera? I think it is more likely they will be adding to (or replacing part of) an existing system. The Canon 5Dii doesn't really need to beat the Sony (or for that matter anything else) it just has to be a less painful choice than replacing everything.

Actually, I'm quite excited by the 5Dii, but a bit disappointed by the video. I don't want it (technically brilliant, but ultimately not very practical) and I have to wonder what was sacrificed to keep the camera at its price point - better AF? dynamic range? For me the video is the "print button" all over again - a feature Canon decided we should have, though few actually wanted it.

Cheers,

Colin

Actually, video in this still photography is, for me, a waste on the part of Canon's R&D budget.

The features which I would like to see in the 5D MkII class of camera are a fully 100% high-eyepoint (22mm) viewfinder, at least 5 fps with a quiet shutter, dual memory card capability (with a card access door which stays closed until you want it to open) and a really, really good low light capability and IQ in a 12 to 15 MP imaging chip (21 MP may not meet this last item on my wish list).

The 5D MkII has come along with better weather sealing and a highlight priority (which works great on my 1D MkII). But video--give me a break, I'm just not interested.

I like how the original article was about people pontificating about products that aren't even in the market yet & then the comments page is full of ...

Tino wrote: "Regarding A900 as a choice - what lens would you recommend and why? In film days, Minolta was a very good camera but looking at standard zoom lens, actually none impress me: 18-70, 16-80 or 16-105."

Those are all APS-C lenses. You can use them on the A900, in APS-C crop mode. The Carl Zeiss 24-70/2.8 has been reported to be a stunning lens, and the fastest focussing lens ever made for the Maxxum/Alpha system. A 24-105/4 SSM has been rumored for some time and it is a bit disappointing that it was not announced with the A900. Personally, I'd be looking for that lens as an all-purpose lens on the A900, with a couple of fast primes for low light.

Regarding noise, I think the 5DII's advantage will prove less significant than early speculation implies. More and more tests are showing the A900, when converted manually at least, to do just fine compared to other FF cameras.

Stephen wrote: "The faster Canon primes don't have IS?

The Canon 300/2.8, the 300/4, the 400/2.8, the 200/2, the 500/4, the 600/4, and the 800 all have IS. That's at least seven by my count."

Great ... now let's talk about the fast primes that people besides George Lepp shoot. Like 28/2, 50/1.4, 85/1.4 ...

Anyway, the decision for most people will be blindingly easy: most people in the market for a $3000 camera are already shooting Nikon or Canon so will buy the 5DII or Dwhatever. A few Alpha users will upgrade to the A900 and then you've got the handful of swing voters who aren't commited and will actually be influenced by features and test results and lens lineups :)

For me the choice is easy too. APS-C is really good and I don't shoot enough to justify a $3000 camera, so I won't be shooting FF for a few more years at least.

JC wrote:
"About the differences between the A900 and the D5II -- isn't IS in the lens better than the built-in sort? I really don't know."

In a 300/2.8, possibly. In a 50/1.4, no. In-lens gives you a stabilized viewfinder image, which some people like and others claim makes them seasick. (I've only tried Canon w/in-lens IS a couple times and I kind of like the stabilized view, though it's not a dealbreaker by any means).

To me it really boils down to whether IS is available in the lenses you shoot. If you shoot "big glass" you're not going to think about Sony no matter what. Sports & wildlife shooters have no reason to look outside of Canon & Nikon. I primarily shoot my CZ16-80 (24-120 equiv) and 28/2 and 85/1.4 on APS-C. I could get a stabilized Nikon 16-85 (Canon doesn't offer a 15-75, stabilized or not), but neither company offers stabilized versions of the fast primes. I regularly shoot the 28 or 85 at f/2, with stabilization on, at shutter speeds down to 1/30s. Below that, the motion blur I get shooting people tends to be distracting; at 1/30s some shots are throwaways and some are fine. High ISO helps, but I don't believe APS-C camera offers more than a full stop advantage over any other camera (with same sized sensor) ... at least when comparing same-sized output and not 100% views.

I think Canon should have made two versions of the 5DMkII. One for taking pictures (only) and one for making videos. The latter could have been more expensive than the former, with better features for its intended use (better handling, for instance).
I am not going to make videos; so I feel like I am paying for something I don't care about. In my case video could be useful only to get my wife's approval.

Colin wrote:
"So I should buy the Sony. Except, I've used Canon for ever - do I really want to learn a new system? And more to the point, I have a huge investment in Canon glass and accessories."

But Mike wrote:
"Either you're a satisfied 5D owner looking to upgrade or already invested in Canon lenses, or you need or like the video capability, and you'll go straight to the Canon"

So Mikes decision process does not suggest you go for the Sony.

Colin wrote:
"I think this may be Sony's problem with the A900 - are many people really going to buy this class of camera as their first camera? I think it is more likely they will be adding to (or replacing part of) an existing system. The Canon 5Dii doesn't really need to beat the Sony (or for that matter anything else) it just has to be a less painful choice than replacing everything."

Absolutely. Sony has a huge uphill battle for market share outside of the consumer market. I imagine their marketing gurus are realistic about their sales forecasts - well-heeled and/or rabidly enthusiastic existing system owners and some unattached fine art/landscape photographers intrigued by 24MP FF and Zeiss glass. A900 sales ought to pale in comparison to 5DII sales, but hopefully they'll at least meet Sony's forecasts.

Personally, I'm not bothered by the inclusion of video or main sensor LV (though I'd prefer not to pay extra for secondary AF system) because those features should cost very little to implement. I wouldn't want to sacrifice anything to get either of those features. I read a post in which someone claimed they would NEVER buy a DSLR with video because it wouldn't be a DSLR any more.

I kind of like that the A900 is still a photographers camera; I suppose we'd all like a camera with just the features we want, and none of the features we don't. But those features we don't use will pull in a few more sales. Hopefully we won't be calling our cameras 'bloatware' in a few years.

"To me it really boils down to whether IS is available in the lenses you shoot. If you shoot 'big glass' you're not going to think about Sony no matter what. Sports & wildlife shooters have no reason to look outside of Canon & Nikon."

Very true.

Mike J.

The reason I wondered about the efficacy of the in-camera IS is that Pentax has it in their K10D and K20D, but also promise to add it (and I think have added it) in at least some of their lenses, and have made provision on the cameras to use in-lens IS. If in-camera IS was just as good, why do they do that?

JC

It's kind of funny how people think that Canon will have the best video SLR out there. Anybody who knows their stuff will tell you that while Canon makes a very good video camera, Sony makes a stellar camera. They are the king of the broadcast business--I've been professionally broadcasting for the past 30 years. It's true that the A900 doesn't have a live view or video capabilities, but just imagine what will be included in the next model. If that's what Canon can do (and it's pretty amazing) then the next Sony will have an unbelievable video capability.

For those of you who don't believe that video is relevant to your profession, I think you'd do well to think about just how much the industry has changed over the past few years. The people who will stand out in an ever increasingly competitive world will be the people who will adapt and change what they offer. If you can take the place of a videographer and a photographer, then you can double the services that you offer.

I am one of those who finds all the Sturm und Drang that accompanies new camera releases amusing at best. That said, a few thoughts:

From a personal standpoint, I would be hard-pressed to care less about high-ISO performance. While it can be useful to have, a quick check of my Lightroom database shows that less than a quarter of a percent of all the pictures I have taken with my Sony A700 -- and the KM 7D that preceded it -- were shot above ISO 800, and many of those were mistakes. Admittedly the image stabilization helps, but even when I was using film I rarely shot over ISO 200. The amount of angst expended over high-ISO performance in online forums is astonishing to me; does everyone shoot in the dark these days? Or is this just one of the few characteristics in which there is any perceptible difference in the output of all these devices, thus giving people something to bicker about?

One thing I keep thinking about with regard to the new Canon and it's video capability is this: When you are shooting video with the thing, you aren't shooting stills. I'm given to understand that this thing will be very popular with wedding (and presumably other event) photographers, but I really wonder about the decisions one would face in real-life situations -- do I stop the video to get the great still shot I see over to the side? Do I stop taking stills to get a little video? The either-orness would seem to me to be a challenge, unless one is looking at this as a second camera -- in which case I'd think that it would be held up against a video camera in the $2500-$5000 range (taking lenses into account). For some applications it may in fact be a better video camera than you can otherwise purchase with that amount of money (especially taking the exceptional stills capability into account) -- but all of a sudden we've completely changed the topic away from still photography. Now that Canon has done this, is still photography even a topic any more?

I expect that most who have a non-trivial investment in lenses and other accessories will primarily be considering cameras which work with those lenses. I'd think that it would only be in a relatively small number of extraordinary cases that a photographer would be likely to adopt a second system, or switch altogether. Much of the angst, I suppose, is how these cameras will sell to those who are buying into their first autofocus SLR system -- and sadly I expect that marketing and corporate image have as much to do with this decision as anything else. But a lot will have to do with what the new customer ideates him- or herself doing with the camera. Like it or not, the Sony system remains more limited than those from Nikon and Canon.

Not that Nikon and Canon have no limits -- they cannot compete with e.g. Leaf, Phase One or even Leica for some applications. But there is little that one can do with the Sony system that cannot be accomplished with Canon or Nikon; for a given task one might work better than the other, but in the overlap neither is likely to get in your way. Don't get me wrong, I love having a stabilized 50mm prime lens, and I love having a stabilized, autofocus 500mm reflex lens; I have no regrets about investing in the KM 7D a few years ago. But the 1D/1Ds series will go places and do things that no Sony can, and if you need -- or think you will ultimately need -- to go there and do those things, Sony just isn't an option. For others, this will not matter.

Every photographer has their own range of subjects that they wish to photograph, and each of these cameras -- the 5D II and the A900 -- will be closer to optimal for different photographers. For me, I shoot mostly landscapes, still lifes, close-ups and macros. In this regard, I'm thinking there's hardly a dime's worth of difference between the to choices, and my investment A-mount lenses and other Minolta-heritage accessories (as well as my level of comfort and familiarity with the Sony interface) would tip the scales (as with M.J., I have no intention of buying either at the moment). But if I had invested in Canon a few years ago, I don't think I'd be disappointed.

And to say that Sony doesn't have good glass? One thing that the 5DII and the D700 are showing us is that there really isn't that much difference between video and stills. Sony has been in the business just as long as Canon. They know about making glass. And they have plenty of Zeiss lenses. Who's gonna say that they aren't at least as good as Canon's L lenses?

For the video agnostic, use the video capture to collect a humungus pile of images that you can then stuff into HDR.
BD

This is the best thing I've seen so far in all the photokina reports ...

http://www.dpreview.com/articles/photokina2008/Pentax/DSC_0951.jpg

To me it seems like IS is most useful in lenses that are generally used hand held. I can't imagine using a 400/2.8 hand held very long, IS or not.

I think pretty much everyone arguing against chip based IS have never used it. It would take something really special for me to be willing to give it up.

I see built in IS as expanding the creative possibilities. I often like the look of some subject motion. Panning aside, I pretty much never like the look of camera motion. Better high ISO also expands creative possibilities, but I want it all: great high ISO, IS and fast lenses. Then I have a choice.

A lot of interesting discussion regarding the merits of in-lens or in-body IS which has already been rehashed here on several occasions.

The original 5D, quite rightly, quickly became the laboratory reference standard for image quality, and it's clear that Canon recognised this as much as it's customers and all the reviewing media did. It still produces absolutely magical files with respect to image quality. For example, *every* photographer I ran into on a landscape photography vacation taken about a year at this time was using a 5D with a 24-105.

From all the intelligence available on the web, the 5D MkII looks like it will significantly raise the bar on the original, and will likely become the NEW reference standard against which all others will be compared.

My guess is that three years from now, we'll still be talking about the 5D MkII in this respect, but I doubt we will be talking about the Sony A900.

For anyone who shoots from tripod the choice is fairly easy - Canon. Two words: Live View. No more hunching to peer through the viefinder, no more guessing in manual focus.

"My guess is that three years from now, we'll still be talking about the 5D MkII in this respect, but I doubt we will be talking about the Sony A900."

Is that a challenge? [g]

Mike J.

As more and more news publication rely heavily on their website, the ability of a camera to shoot still and motion is going to become more important to news photographers. I'm told the 5D II shooting 1080p for any longer than it does would have to be called a movie camera. For news guys this may be a necessity rather than a bonus.

I think we're heading in a direction where we will have cameras, not still cameras or motion picture cameras, just cameras. At that point I hope photographers realize frame lifts from motion are often crappy stills and just holding the button down for longer doesn't make a movie. The cameras will do both stills and video. I hope the photographers can.

Anyway, I think newsies may have to buy the camera that does good still and good motion.

Bill

Pixel peeping has a long and honourable tradition dating back decades, if not for over a century. Pick up a copy of Darkroom photography from the 1980s and you'll see Ctein and his colleagues comparing Tech Pan with T-Max and various 50mm lenses at mega magnifications!

It just so happens we're now doing it with camera bodies, which is the modern equivalent of being told that you can only use one type of film for five years.

The chatter about camera bodies seems to mimick the Kodak / Fuji film debates, whilst the RAW converter arguments are reminiscent of the D76/Microdol/Rodinal fights :)

I totally agree with the sentiments in "Reserving Judgment". I bought a D700 before these Sony and Canon announcements. The main reason I'm glad with my decision is that it prevented me from having to make a hard decision later. The Sony and Canon look fantastic, and I'm guessing that I would be thrilled with any of them. If there is a significant problem with image quality in either the Canon or Sony, it is surely too soon to tell.

I just read a post in a forum which said "after i saw the pics came out from the A900, i sold all my minolta and sony system(28mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4, 100mm f2.8, 24-70 f2.8ZA, 70-200 f2.8ZA, A700, f56am) and im planning to get a 5D Mk2 or 1Ds MK2...."

Amazing.

"The reason I wondered about the efficacy of the in-camera IS is that Pentax has it in their K10D and K20D, but also promise to add it (and I think have added it) in at least some of their lenses, and have made provision on the cameras to use in-lens IS."

That is incorrect.

The one time I used a Canon SLR was in November of 1998 so all I can say is I'm sure the 5D is a great camera. I do know that having shot with stabilized 24/2.8, 28/3.5, 50/1.4 and 200/4 primes since the SR is built into my K200D I feel it's a shame Canon and Nikon haven't added in-camera stabilization to their DSLR lines. Lately I've been experimenting with over-rating the SR for my 50/1.4 at 85mm and I've liked the results. Just this evening I used my 135/2.8 on my 1.4xTC with the SR set to 200mm. Sure, I've read the Canon white papers on why in-lens IS is better than in-camera SR but I've also really enjoyed using my 42 year old 50/1.4 wide-open at 1/60th with what I find to be excellent results.

Dear Kelvin,

Since you invoked me as a supporter, I have to step in and disabuse you of that notion. I spend almost as much time railing against pixel-peeping as Mike does, and I do it for the same reason. Pixel peepers look at minutia and do not understand it is minutia. They do not evaluate data as information and they do not evaluate it in context. Any difference they see they think is profound.

Mike and I do not deride them for looking at fine, subtle points of image quality. We deride them for not understanding the import (or more often, the lack thereof) of what they're looking at.

Classic recent example: someone complaining about the noise in a high-ISO JPEG based on looking at a 100% scale screen view... which corresponded to something like a 4' x 5' print! That's pixel-peeping at its best or worst, depending on how you think of it.

Picking my Tech Pan 120 versus Tmax article was an excellent choice … because it refutes you. First, context: the only reason for Tech Pan to exist was for ultra-fine grain and ultra-high resolution. Otherwise, it was useless for pictorial purposes... unless you think it's a bonus dealing with an unusually short exposure range and unusually fussy processing.

In that circumstance, it only makes sense to test the film against the previously-best example of those characteristics. And since both films are exceptionally good, it required looking at minutia and making huge blowups of exceptionally carefully constructed photographs.

And, if you go back and reread the article, you will note that I concluded that Tech Pan was indeed better, and that the difference in resolving capabilities of the two films would never be evident in a 120 format photograph (in-camera, on-film resolution of 120 gear simply wasn't good enough).

That's called context. It points out when minutia really is minutia.

The reason I remember the review well is because we got an amusing letter from Hasselblad after it ran in which their PR person confidently asserted that had I been doing my tests with a 'Blad, I clearly would've seen differences in the sharpness of the photos made with the two films. This was amusing because I had recently tested a 'Blad for the magazine, and, no, I certainly wouldn't; it was not a miraculously sharper camera.

I could provide numerous other examples in my writing of looking at minutia for the sake of determining whether it's really important or is indeed minutia (see my review here of the FujiS100fs or my long-ago article on the sharpness of black and white papers). Pixel-peepers look at minutia for the sake of minutia and assume that what they see is important.

Pixel-peepers also engage in excessive binary judgments. If they deemed Characteristic X to be important and Camera A is better than Camera B in that respect, they declare that B has no reason to exist. Regardless of how substantial or subtle differences off and regardless of whether they would be detectable in most (or even any) practice. In contrast, one rarely saw a film/paper/camera product review where it was declared that A was so much better than B that there was no imaginable reason for using B. It happened, but only if A was incredibly good or B was astonishingly bad.

Yes, there have been film techies who pixel-peeped. It does have a long tradition. It is not an honorable one. And digital has allowed the ranks to increase massively, because it is so much easier for people to collect data that they are not competent to evaluate and communicate their findings to the world at large.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ please excuse any word salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
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-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com
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"The reason I wondered about the efficacy of the in-camera IS is that Pentax has it in their K10D and K20D, but also promise to add it (and I think have added it) in at least some of their lenses, and have made provision on the cameras to use in-lens IS."

Pentax has been publishing lens roadmaps twice a year since at least 2006, and none of them has mentioned in-lens IS. No current Pentax lens has in-lens IS either, afaik.

I think you may be confusing it with SDM (ie ultrasonic AF).

Although there is still a healthy debate on in-lens vs. in-body IS, all tests I have read consistently report at least a 2-3 stop improvement from in-body IS, at various focal length.

I was incorrect about Pentax adding IS in lenses. What I was remembering is that Panasonic (not Pentax) and Leica use MEGA OIS system in its 4/3 system, which is an in-lens optical stabilization system, while Olympus and others use in-body IS in their 4/3 cameras, and that I had read a comparison of the two in 4/3 system bodies.

JC

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