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Wednesday, 01 January 2014

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I think all the companies are in minefields, including Apple. Their problem is that their main-line products are converging in both style and function, and choice is now being driven more by fad than by logic or price.

In that kind of environment, survival may depend on what other resources you have, outside the fad-driven business -- whether or not you're diversified. Olympus, for example, which is very weak in camera sales, has an extremely healthy medical business, and if it chose, could simply take the losses in the camera department until the camera business shakes out. The same is true of Panasonic (which is larger than Sony, and has more revenue, though most people don't realize that.) Nikon doesn't have that choice -- it's camera sales or nothing. Samsung, Apple's main competitor in phones and tablets, with the Google OS, is also widely diversified -- makes ships, has a big defense subsidiary, etc. -- as Apple doesn't. With Apple it's consumer electronics or nothing.

So, I'm not really sure that survival depends much on the precise qualities of the products, which are converging, but rather on the ability of the competitors simply to hang on as fad choices swing from one product to the next. For consumers, trying to come up with some kind of long-term plan (should I really buy all those m4/3 lenses?) is almost impossible. Frankly, I wouldn't buy any Apple stock: over the next few years, it may be widely successful, but on the other hand, it may be wildly unsuccessful. There's simply no way to tell.

For one I put lenses rendition ahead of sensors. To paraphrase Mike the best camera is the one to come. The ratio of engineer in microelectonics and computer field over the ones doing optics is probably past four orders of magnitude in 2014.
Therefore the optical part of a camera matter even more today.
From there the choice was way simpler: For me Olympus ended up been the one.
I choose them first and foremost because of the rendering their lenses provide but I am also rationalizing that Olympus with its core business in medical devices keeps and accrues in house know-how and engineering in optics.

From there the choice was rather simple Olympus PEN & OMD with Zuiko OM, FT and mFT lenses and for the long OM telephoto lenses I added a A7r for kicks and try to understand what people are talking about when they refer to "FF looks" ;-)

Happy New Year!

It seems worth noting that at the iPad vs. 11" MB Air comparison point, there are some pretty huge differences in what kinds of tasks the OS and available software are well-suited for. Those gaps are diminishing, but it's not clear how quickly, and they're not diminishing with equal for all audiences (if you're using your computer for coding and compiling and whatnot, say, the iOS is sufficiently locked-down that you're not likely to be happy with it not matter how many bells or whistles they add).

And there are some tasks (though not nearly as many as we used to think) for which something like a windowed OS is in fact desirable, and currently iOS offers little in that area.

I don't mean that these issues will always stay the same, or even that they'll look the same in a few months, but it seems like the way Apple approaches tablet/laptop convergence is going to depend on how they handle their two currently very different OSes, and in particular on how much they're willing to lock down OSX, and how much they're willing to turn iOS into something a little more general-purpose.

As the convergence conundrum has intensified, it became pretty clear to me what was necessary, at least for me. Simplify to the bone. Choose one, or two at the most, key requirements. IOW, what do I REALLY want to do? WHY am I making a choice, a purchase? What's most important?

Shut out EVERYTHING else, throw it away. Take everyone else's input with the proverbial grain. If you can't figure out what you really need to accomplish your vision, then stop until you can.

For me it's the human/camera connection. I don't give a flying fig how "oh, amazing!" the specs are, how much the camera is a tiger on paper, if I don't connect with it to the degree that it is an extension of my eye-brain, it's just an expensive bauble.

To the extent that choice is the source of complexity I pondered this a bit in the iPod context way back when...

http://tleaves.com/wp-archive/2005/02/17/axiom-of-choice/index.html

Rumors of a 12" MacBook Air making the rounds indicate that Apple is aware of this particular problem (they could hardly not be). I would expect that the next revision of the Air line will settle on one (Retina) screen size, and will see it replace the ancient 13" MacBook Pro, as well. That machine still does well for education markets, but it can't survive more than one more year.

Once that happens, you'll have a 10" iPad, 12" MacBook Air, and 13" Retina MacBook Pro. (For the moment, we'll ignore the OTHER rumor of a 13" iPad also in testing.)

When you say "kuh-TINE", is the last bit pronounced 'tyne' or 'teen'?

[That's unknowable, but "kuh" is pronounced "quark." Did you know there are undetectable particles called Ctrinos? --Mike]

" One of Mike's commenters pointed out that there was remarkably little difference in form factor between the notable Sony RX10 and the more compact full frame digital SLRs. Note, I'm not saying there is none, "

Having owned a full-frame Nikon with 24-85mm and 70-200mm 2.8, the Sony RX10 replaces that bulky and heavy kit. Yeah, not quite the same IQ (horrors!), but more than good enough. For me, that's a good thing.

There are many many signs that Apple is now run by traditional Businessmen, who are a pretty useless bunch. The sociopathic madman with the incredible clarity of vision is gone, and now they're just another company with a nice set of technology which the usual suspects are busily monetizing, not very well. I'm pretty pleased. Jobs had the focus and vision to change the world, and he did change the world, and I think a strong argument can be made that many of the changes he wrought are not that great.

Damn my head hurts after reading this!! Will just stick with my aging PC!! Better yet Tri-x in D76 ( though it is better in Microphen)

I thought you'd given up on 'analogues'. Or do you mean 'analogies'?

US$100 is still some money and hence the gap between them is fine. However, it is the lack of some options which affect it, not not differentiation of goods.

I am quite sure I bought the Galaxy Note for my wife precisely Apple has ignored the segment of people who like one device and larger screen (to read text; not movie, not even Skype just text).

For that matter, I am using 15" Macbook pro and can you actually use those text. 13" has no problem but those character in the top bar, for example, are we ignore customers again - Apple.

We grow old and we can still pay!

Size matters. Not just in files for images but with the gear in use. Tried the Fuji X-E1 and while I loved the images the camera was too small in my hands. Got a Fuji X-Pro1. A bit larger and fits just fine. Same fine images but much more comfortable in use which translates to better images as I am not fighting the camera.

Too many choices? Just how many variations of the same thing can a company actually sell? We are past Henry Ford and 'they can have any color they want as long as it it Black'. But too many choices mean the entire line is diluted.

It is made worse when someone with little knowledge stops in a camera or electronics store. The flavor of the week changes as the 'spiff' changes.

It's because of all the increasing and confusing choices that my three favorite words when shopping electronics (or most things actually)are "Last Year's Model". By the time I choose a product/camera/computer the bugs/preferences/quirks have generally been discussed to death and I can generally get what I want at a discount. No trendsetter here. Late Adopters RULE! shrug.

"So, is it terribly surprising that we end up picking over minutia trying to decide what camera to buy? To paraphrase an old homily, the purchasing debates are so heated precisely because it is so hard to find any kind of clear distinction between the products."

Well, I'd agree that this may be one factor for some people. I don't buy that it is THE factor. I find significant differences in a matter of seconds, especially when handling cameras as opposed to reading about them. These differences are not minutiae to me. They are, as I say, significant and obvious.

I suspect that a much larger factor in what you call the 'heated debate' is that the move to digital along with a new online world opened the door for complex cameras to become more mainstream consumer products. Most photographers are deeply interested in gear, and of course they are consumers so will defend a purchase and be very interested in developments. But they do spend way more time making photographs than they do in heated debates about gear. Those who are more consumer than photographer seem to spend more time wondering about their next purchase and reading about the next XYZ 'killer'.

The Sony camera modules for smartphones (QX-10 I think) are interesting from a convergence point of view. By putting the UI on a small tablet device, they give a different set of price and weight and button tradeoffs than other approaches. Dunno how responsiveness works out, and I might miss the buttons myself, but I'm an enthusiast, not a snapshot parent.

Google's Chromecast kind of points the same way. I might think of getting one, even though it duplicates functionality I already have twice (built into my TV and built into my BluRay player) -- because trying to interact with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, etc., etc., though the medium of the TV remote control is a horrid experience (you're actually back to entering text on a numeric keypad for doing searches!). To many people the benefit of the Chromecast is that it gives you a good UI on your phone to those features.

@Adam Isler:
Brilliant stuff, thank you (and Mike) for the link. I, however, particulary like everything but the conclusion. No fish bowl for me, thank you very much mister and missis policy maker. I'd rather have some more education...

Computers and Digital Cameras are gated by the chips. There are only a few chip manufacturers of either product. The camera companies and computer companies really just add bells and whistles. It is the only differentiation they have left to them. The economies of scale have homogenized the product. Can't expect much out of Marketing when all they have is bells and whistles to make noise with.

I mean, you could design a fabulous system around the Nokia 40-megapixel camera module, except you'd end up with gadgets the size of sugar cubes and lenses the size of small jellybeans

Sounds perfect for an artificial eye.

Just need to sort out the interface.

This comes at an interesting time, I was just having a discussion with someone else about computers, not an expert, but since I use both Mac's and PC's, and Windows XP and 8, and Mac 10.whatever, I felt I had an opinion. I'm poor, and since I recently had to replace a small laptop for doing e-mails while out and about, they wanted to know why I didn't buy a Mac for this. Easy answer. I got a really nice, high quality built, and partially packed Acer, in the small screen size I wanted, for sub-350 dollars. Sub-350 dollars (not a pad, a laptop)...Even my sister, a struggling artist, and long time Mac user, couldn't believe the quality of the machine for sub-350 bucks, and said she couldn't make the same decision she made about buying hers today.

Now understand something, I love Mac, but in most cases, the money is just not justifiable. I have an ancient Dell Laptop, running Windows XP, which is as fit as a fiddle since the day it was bought On the other hand, In the same period of time, I've had the use of three Mac laptops, all of which have had busted disc drives within two years of purchase, and now the last one has a non-functioning finger pad. Those computers were a lot of money for those type of break-downs.

One of the "wags" in the conversation, a PC person, has tried a few Macs and likes them and the OpSys, but made the most observant statement: the buy-in is just too damn high! He said he might end up loving Mac, but the inability, or just plain onery-ness of Mac to deliver something in the 500 dollar range that functions like a laptop and isn't a tablet/pad, is just too much of a risk for people on a budget. He speaks the truth. mac may end up being wildly profitable for years to come, but they are fast approaching the world of Leica for the lower middle class....

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