I've had some great ideas over the years about photography—and a statistically significant number of them have come from Carl Weese.
Carl, who is currently investigating a Panasonic GX7 for us, is an artist and a working pro, a student of photography and a teacher of it, a navel-gazing artist and a social documentarian, a fastidious craftsman, even a graphic designer. (At one point he augmented his photography services by offering fully integrated graphic design services.)
Among the ideas he's tossed my way over two decades or so are the notion that B&W was already perfect in film but digital is the coming of age of color; the idea of using a digicam as a note-taker for ULF scouting; even the proper way to get to grips with the meaning and use of a Leica. He's the one who first explained to me what bokeh is.
And it's frustrating for me, now, because occasionally he'll toss off, in emails, these perfectly formed little thoughts and insights that could really be whole essays.
Or at least whole blog posts.
Most recently, last night: Is "Micro Four-Thirds" actually a colossal naming blunder?
Why "micro"? In this day of proliferating sensor sizes, many of which really are tiny, wouldn't it cause confusion in the general public when you take an accepted but not particularly well-known or well-defined term (4/3) and add to it a word that means "exceptionally small?" Doesn't that imply, at the very least, that the sensor is smaller than regular 4/3? (Even Carl assumed so at first; so did I. Of course, it was the cameras that are supposed to be smaller, not the sensors.) Doesn't "micro" appear to intentionally underscore the difference in size of a format that is in truth just a little smaller than standard (if standard is APS-C) but difficult to distinguish from it in practice?
Fascinating. Xander told me last night about a company that tried to launch a new product with a name that very soon after became profoundly wrong. The time was just before the outbreak of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome epidemic, the product was a weight-loss pill, and the name the inventors chose for the product was "Ayds." Oops. That's like those poor mothers who named their babies "Harry Potter" a few years before the J.K. Rowling juggernaut burst on the scene.
Carl thinks "Micro 4/3" might better have been called "Mirrorless 4/3," because it's "descriptive, not much more awkward, and wouldn't give the impression the sensor had been downsized."
Of course the common usage of "mirrorless" came along after Micro 4/3 did, I think. It was a retrospective descriptive term. But what if the official name had been, say, "SuperSensor"? Just as accurate, really, because it's supersized compared to digicam sensors...and those were, for the most part, the "mirrorless" cameras that existed before Micro 4/3 cameras along.
I'll bet that would have been a whole lot more popular with the public.
If this is a perception problem in the general public, though, it would be all but invisible to us. Core aficionados of any activity tend to sort out and demystify the terminology of their field of interest very quickly (because it's important to them) and then they just can't see any longer how that terminology might strike an ordinary person who is coming to it cold.
Maybe this a bigger part than we realize of Micro 4/3's marketing doldrums: bad name. As in, actively misleading name. As in, a name that creates rather than ameliorates confusion and poor impressions. (This could be cultural. As many people have noted, miniaturization is prized in Japan, whereas "bigger is better" is normative in the West. Interestingly, market acceptance of Micro 4/3 follows the same pattern: it's popular in Japan and Asia, struggling in North America and Europe.) Too late now, but it sure is interesting to think about...like an awful lot of the ideas I get from Carl.
(Thanks to CW)
P.S. Incidentally, a not very well-known fact: Carl teaches private one-on-one photo workshops on request. Subject: Anything you want. Most often they're about LF platinum/palladium photography, but, really, whatever you're having problems with and want to know more about, he could help you with.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Jeremy: "Please don't suggest 'mirrorless' as a name for anything. It may be expedient in one era but it can't be lasting to call a thing by what it is not. 'Horseless carriage' (automobile) comes to mind as does 'wireless' (radio)."
Greg Brophy: "I just took a platinum printing class last weekend with Carl at The Center for Alternative Photography. My only regret was not taking it sooner. For months I tried to learn it on my own and the money I spent on failed attempts would have easily covered the cost of the class. Carl helped me learn how to do it and demystified the process. We also learned how to process negatives in a tray with pyro and showed how easy it was. I plan on taking more classes from Carl in the future.
"On aside note I got to see Carl's GX7 and it is a really amazing camera. He showed me some things I have not seen other cameras do, which I am sure he will talk about in a future post."