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Monday, 18 December 2017

Comments

I have the A7RIII in my hands. The camera is everything it is supposed to be but I am still scratching my head as to the lens selections. The options available are either too bulky/too heavy zooms, lightweight but mediocre zooms, or excellent primes. I am sure I will figure out reasonable combo using some adapters, but I just wanted to highlight that Sony lens lineup still has a long way to go.

I took delivery of the A7R3 and Sony 24-70 F2.8 GM day after it came out. Shortly before I divested of all my Canon gear: 1Dx2 and various L glass.

While I’ve not had time to come close to testing the Sony, and it’s my first Sony still camera, as I date back to 13” Trinitron days, there is one incredible plus and some minor annoyances. First the plus. Oh my, that sensor. And I previously owned the Canon 5Ds so not my first rodeo into high mp count. The quality and incredible detail of the most mundane picture is literally out of this world. With the 24-70 I took macro-like shots of a pineapple. Zoomed in you’d have never known what it was as it looked as if you were viewing through a microscope. Imagine a true macro lens.

The foibles are more than a few. Menu system is, well, esoteric, hard to figure out what some things do and generally works in strange ways.

The EVF, being my first experience with ine, is like viewing an OLED tv in miniature. Wow, just wow.

I just received my second lens, the Zeiss Batis 85 1.8. This thing will grab focus in a dark room. I’ve never experienced that before.

Good choice, Mike.

I think you should do a post on the topic of bad camera names. As bad names go, "KP" hardly scratches the surface; the silly "ist" series of the early 2000's was far worse. But Nikon a few years ago came out with a pair of cameras called the "V1" and V2". That'll take some beating!

The KP is a really nice little camera with the Limited lenses such as the 35.2.8 macro that you mention. It's a nice backup for the K-1. Each has excellent image quality with good lenses.

One aspect that I've found to be true with both my K-1 and KP is that both cameras tend to front-focus and need to be calibrated with a Lens-Align or similar device and each lens's focus adjustment separately set in the focus settings menu item.

Well, having been raked over the coals for a Leica review, I suspect you'll be plenty toughened up for the ramifications of not picking a Fujifilm camera as the best of 2017.

I can't say that any new camera for the last year or two has gotten me even the slightest bit excited. Long gone are the days of, "That new baby has just the features I need," as I have found from being burned/disappointed with purchases in the past few years that none really do. I think I have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a camera I really wanted that when purchased mostly lived up to my wishes. The three cameras I have purchased since then, I could have done just as well without.

In my view, for a camera to be in considered for "Camera of the Year", it has to be in the calendar year in which the camera actually goes into production becomes availble for sale. Neither the Hassy X1D or Fujifilm GFX 50S can be considered 2016 cameras because, while they were annonunced in 2016, they were very much still in development, and did not ship for sale until 2017. This means they are 2017 cameras, not 2016 cameras.

I also find it your choice ironic given that you just posted the week before last how very few cameras are being made today that allowed photographers to do "good work" rather than meeting manufacturer's sales goals. Yet, your choice falls exactly into the latter category.

For me, the answer is clear: The Fujifilm GFX50S is easily the Camera of the Year for 2017 because of how much ground it broke, the paradigms it rewrote, and the magnitude of impact it had on the camera industry and photographic community as a whole.

From an industry perspective, no other camera generated so much press and review content for a market segment that had not seen it's like before (MF digital), but much more impactfully, drove significant product development from 3rd party manufacturers. The Fuji GFX generated 3rd party support from industry heavyweights like Broncolor, ProFoto, Cambo and likely soon to follow, Elinchrom. Not to mention the myriad of lens adapter manufacturers. Additionally, the number of working professionals that had never previously considered using digital medium format, but with the advent of the GFX, transitioned from working solely with either FF or APS-C to the Fuji GF MF format was both considerable and significant. Then there are all the expert "enthusiast amateurs", amazing photographers like Jonas Rask, that switched to MF format digital for the very first time because the GFX "democratized" MF digital for that segment of end users; end-users that were previously excluded from realizing the advantage of MF digital because they simply could not afford the cost of entry into a Hasselblad H or Phase One system.

Lastly, and most importantly, to get back to your post a week or so back about cameras that were specifically designed to allow photographers to do "good work", I can't think of a better camera that significantly broadened the range, applications, and scenarios of use for MF digital, and is so well-realized from a design perspective, that that it just "gets ouf the way" and lets photographers do "good work" in meaningful and previously unrealized ways with a digital medium format system, that for many, was for the first time in their lives.


Mike,

Have you actually used the A7RIII?

I was interested in trying it as I had heard wonders about its eye focus tacking abilities, particularly with fast moderate telephoto lenses for portraits.

I visited two (reputable) camera shops - who sell a lot of Sony - in London; neither could actually figure out how to activate it.

Par for the course - designed by software and computer engineers, not by real photographers.

ACG

Agree. Sony is innovating and improving to the extent that DSLR's just tend to stay home. Even the RX100 series is/was a revelation, and the sensors sing. Just look at the noise from a 2014 a6000 compared to a 2017 77d.
Anyway, I agree with your selection and comments.

Yep, that was the camera I expected you to name Mike. Nothing wrong with it, it is frankly the best new camera of the year, it's just not interesting to me because of the limits of Sony's lens line. I'll stick to m4/3 because of the lens line up (I'm very fond of the lenses in the 1.8 range, less so the enormous & bulky "Pro" lenses) and their adaptability to old manual lenses.

But something you mentioned struck me: "When a camera is popular enough that it spawns a family of variations, that signals an especially successful design." By that measure, either the Nikon S2 (by inspiring the F1 & almost every other classic SLR before 1985) or the Canon T90 (by inspiring the basic shape of nearly every SLR body since 1985) would be the most successful camera design! What do you think of that idea?

"Way, way back at the dawn of the autofocus era (yeppers, sonny boys, that's how far I go back)"…WOW! That's just yesterday, at least to me! My first serious (let's discount my Brownie 620 box and 127 medium format folder) camera was a Minolta 135 format rangefinder (with interchangeable lenses, no metering) that closely imitated an early Leica M body. I bought that in 1953, at an Army PX in Korea. Then, in early 1960, came the original Nikon F (still no metering) with 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm/f3.5 lenses. The next update was an F3, in 1986. That was my first camera with a self-contained light meter. Auto-focus dawned in 1988, although I waited until 1990 (F4). Hey Mike, you're a near-newbie.

Bryan Geyer

Not that it really matters a great deal, we can all sit in an armchair and pick whatever camera we like as Camera of the Year, even if we haven't used them.
I haven't used any of them and while I am certain that every camera you mention is indeed a fine camera I would tend to give the edge to a Camera like the Fujifilm GF x partially because of Stephen Scharf's excellent review, but also because it created the category of affordable MF and shipped with useful lenses. That seems like new ground to me. I'm sure the Sony is also superb, but like the D850 it is the next iteration of a nice line of cameras that has been around for a while.
I also agree with him that since no one could buy a GFx until 2017 it is indeed a 2017 Camera
The Fuji just seems to break new ground and creates new possibilities we didn't have last year.

If you lived through the M5, ya just knew the M8 was a "transitional" Frakencamera cobbled together to get something, anything out there in the marketplace when the technology just wasn't really there.

Only difference was that despite all its perceived faults, the M5 was actually a pretty decent workhorse that did incorporate new technology in a well thought out manner (loved those vertical lugs). The M8 however, never rose beyond Frakencamera...

"When a camera is popular enough that it spawns a family of variations, it signals an especially successful design."

Interestingly, this seems to hold true not just for the A7r III, but also for the Panasonic G9 that you fleetingly mention.

After all, that camera is a variant on the GH5 in absolutely everything but name. And rumours are that in very early January there will be yet another variant on the GH5, a GH5S targeted at low-light videography. 3 variations in barely over a year must mean that Panasonic is happy with the buy-in they've received for that family of cameras.

To me, there’s something sad about a camera like the A7RIII being considered the camera of the year. It’s merely another incremental step in Sony’s efforts to one day produce a real camera, one that’s technically extremely competent and also a joy to use. In my view, they aren’t there yet and the fact that each new version is hailed as “what the last version should have been,” is proof to me that even true believers actually think Sony isn’t there yet. At the same time, your choice underscores that actually all cameramakers have basically been running in place this year, with not one of them offering a breakthrough that makes much of a difference in the real world.


"Par for the course - designed by software and computer engineers, not by real photographers."

As a software and applications engineer I have to take exception to this oft mentioned fallacy. Personally, if a piece of consumer software, be it on a computer, iPad, iPhone, or camera, can't be figured out in a few minutes it's poorly designed.

In my few decades of experience, design decisions are not made by the engineers or coders. Implementation decisions are. And if you HAVE to put 500+ options in a camera, there just isn't an elegant way to do it. I certainly wouldn't want my name on the Olympus menus.

BTW, I checked out the Camera of the Year...HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRICE OF THOSE LENSES?

So I bought a Canon M5 though your B&H link. Merry Christmas to us both.

When my M9-P went in for a new sensor, I thought I'd use my M8 until new newer Leica returned.

Oh, lordy. I'd forgotten just how awful the M8 was. Bless its heart.

I would love to get an M 10, but dammit, it's just too expensive. I'll be over hear, waiting for the "lease returns."

There's no doubt you can ask 10 people for the attributes that qualifies a camera as "camera of the year" and you'll get 11 different responses. Likewise for the attributes that disqualifies a camera.

Some qualifications that come to my mind...

1. Is general-purpose, in that it appeals to a broad range of serious photographers

2. Does a very good job of stills and video

3. Is ergonomically sound (haptics and response)

4. Is affordable (but unlikely to be "cheap")

5. Is currently used and appreciated by enthusiasts and professionals

6. Has a EVF rather than an OVF. I say this because it's clear the future of cameras is EVF; OVF is likely to become a niche

7. Has a good selection of lenses

8. Has IBIS and even better, a hybrid of in-body and lens stablisation

9. Etc

It's fair to say the Sony A7Riii ticks all of the above boxes and a few more. Another contender would be the Panasonic GH5.

Of course, no Camera of the Year post will satisfy all TOP readers - nor should it. But although I don't own the Fuji GFX, I tend to agree that it is more innovative than the new Sony. You damn the new Fuji and Nikon with faint praise ("essentially derivative designs"), but although I'm not a Sony shooter it seems the A7RIII is as much "essentially derivative" as the Fuji XT-2 and Nikon D850. They are all show significant improvements over their respective predecessors - and their predecessors were no slouches - but the Sony still retains a confusing menu system and still lacks the breadth of lenses that either Fuji or Nikon has.

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