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Monday, 10 January 2011


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I agree, Mike, a truly sad weekend....

Here's a bright note, possibly: maybe phones will become the camera of choice for all happy snappers and casual types, leaving cameras to us serious amateurs and the pros so that camera design might once again become something for the few and the serious...digital M4's everywhere!

Until that day, my M4 (at your suggestion) works as well as it ever did.

Apropos of that, my "phlog" has a snapshot from a children's birthday party on Fuji 800Z taken with M4 and a 28mm that I have to guess the framing on...and it is otherworldly beautiful! I think it's the film and the children but the lens is nice too! Who needs an iPhone!

I want to take the optimistic view of things. Most digicams are fatally flawed as, you know, cameras, by the apparent need to appeal to the masses. "Features" like direct print buttons, smile detection and automated e-mailing of low-rez JPEG's are obviously aimed at a very different customer than (I presume) most readers hereabouts. Such features on a digicam that lacks a real viewfinder or any usable method of manual focus to me are like pre-installed 'fuzzy dice' dangling from the mirror of a Yugo.

Perhaps as the masses migrate over to use of cellphones for 95% of picture taking, the surviving camera makers will spend more of their time designing and building cameras that are simply excellent cameras, rather than Internet/social accessories.

I don't mind seeing only minor updates when there are no fresh ideas. Helps spare the gimmickry. Although previously announced, at least we got to see the formal unveiling of Fuji's half price answer to the Leica X1.

I think you're right Mike. I see lots of Japanese tourists walking around Hollywood Blvd. holding their tablets in the air, while the Midwesterners are armed with a big DSLR that sports the manufacturer's name on the camera strap.

I guess what's left for us to do is to embrace products like the Fuji GF670 or new Kodak Ektar films and just go back to basics and take pictures with the great technology that's already out there.

I own an M9, so honestly what more do I need. I also just realized something else: I had a new baby and very little time for photography. Whenever I don't take pictures a lot is when I am tempted to buy new gear to compensate for it.

I think you're right - cameras as we know them aren't the big news any more - but that it's also a good thing.

No, really:

Surely the digital compact camera has millions of users because the output (digital snapshots) are so easy to handle and fling around? If so, fair enough. This aspect of photography - let's call it the lowest common denominator, shall we? - is being absorbed into other devices, and to be honest, I won't miss it that much.

I don't think cameras will die out, though, because there will always be lots - really: lots - of people who want to think at least a little more about their photographs. It may be that the biggest market is to be found in tweeting something funny you just snapped with your phone, but fear not - there are plenty of other markets out there for cameras too. DSLRs are still doing just fine, of course, and it seems to me that smart, well-designed compact cameras are probably a little more likely to evolve - and stay around long enough to get to know them, for that matter - in a market which is happy to work at a more considered pace than that of phones and tablets.

The resolution arms race of the last few years seems to have slowed down a fair bit, and if social networking, post-production, and video functions migrate to other devices, what will we be left with as the battle ground over which manufacturers can compete? Decent glass? Build quality? Design? No bad thing, says I.

I can't back it up, of course, but I hope there's something in it!

I like to think there will still be cameras. I think the professional (and serious amateur) photographer will prefer to use a device made specifically fro taking high quality photographs, rather than some multi-function device, like a cell-phone camera.

Maybe "contaminate" is too harsh a term ... IF (and only if - for better or worse and richer and poorer), multi purpose devices can equal the current "single use" (not that there are many of them now with the advent of video "DSLR") cameras, then GREAT - we have gained not lost ... unless you wish to make the argument that ANYTHING designed for a single use will beat a "less focussed" (pun semi-intended) design, which may be true, but not by a significant margin and may become a specious argument when economies determine "single use" devices to not be worth developing any more ... Yef, even ye olde language of the Englifh hath changed greatly over the yearf.

PS - Is it just me, or is the new Olympus sexy and sleek in a manner befitting Natalie Portman before she was pregnant ... in a manner which makes one think Audrey Hepburn (Fuji X100) may have had her day ??

In the wake of such a big "Vivian Maier" weekend I found myself having a conversation (actually, a monologue) with my Rolleiflex. "Why in the world can't you be designed to accept a digital back?", I asked it. No answer. OK, so the results wouldn't be pretty. So you'd look like a little box with a serious bustle. But could it really be any tougher than adaptation of the old Mamiya or Hassy bodies?

Geez. Still no answer from my pretty-but-dumb-as-a-rock Rolleiflex.

Well, don't you think the Olympus XZ-1 is cause for a smile? Very fast (zoom!) lens, dual wheels for decent manual control - including one around the lens, hotshoe, raw output, decent-ish sensor, $599 RRP? That sort of price is usually the preserve of the fatally-compromised.

I wouldn't get too worried about it Mike. Same as it ever was. For example, what most people consider a "chef's knife" and what actual chefs consider a chef's knife may look similar but in fact are two very different things. Same for cameras. The consumer electronics companies can offer as many new POS digicams and cameraphones as they like. Most readers of this blog will never confuse such products with the real deal and will continue to buy products that meet their more demanding needs and expectations.

Thanks for turning me on to that wonderful run by Marshawn Lynch. I don't get to see nearly enough football here in the UK ... and of course we do get a lot of bad news from the States ... but this has made my day. And it was a grim day, too: hovering just above zero Centigrade, 120% humidity, nasty Siberian wind, the people down the main street looking a miserable bunch (and that's when I know I'm in a bad mood; in a good mood they're all interesting). Still, I'm zeroing in on something else that would cheer me up, namely a pair of fingerless gloves for snapping during a cold snap. But before I consume: do you have any suggestions along those lines?

Camera companies are adding all kind of useless fripperies to cameras, who will be the first camera company to add a phone, news guys would love it, to shoot and distribute images right away.

Since this is the second post on TOP today lamenting change (are we getting old?), let me add that not only is the digital landscape changing rapidly, it is highly impermanent.

For example, I have owned and used my Pentax MX for going on 30 years. During that time, of course, the whole landscape of photography has changed, but the camera is still usable, and I expect to use it as long as I can get film for it. Does anyone seriously believe that I will be able to use my Pentax K10D 30 years from now?

The landscape is not only changing, but whole territories, some still inadequately explored, are disappearing from the map.

I propose that we re-purpose ourselves to the use of film and the scanning of same (at least for color printing). Perhaps Ctein could expound on what can be achieved with scanned film vs. digital?

One digicam that has my interest is the Olympus XZ-1. It promises to have an exceptional lens and takes the EVF that is used on the EPx cameras. Also important to me, it will apparently have selectable neutral density filters so that you can use the lens wide open in most situations and enjoy the benefits of selective focus with a small-sensor camera. Some nice innovations.


Now, take a look at CP+ show at Yokohama, next February... Let's see what is presented then...

You still have a camera store in your neighborhood? :-)

Soon they will make a cradle that turns into a house with wheels to get you to school and then your job. After an appropriate period it will become your casket. Perhaps we'll all just get plugged into something that keeps us in constant virtual contact with everything or does that sound a little too much like the Matrix?

I think there will always be a place for the "real" thing and enough dedicated photographers out there to ensure the marketplace for manufacturers survives.

Personally I'm a total dinosaur when it comes to mobile phones. I only changed my trusty 10 year old model, which just made & received calls (can you believe that?!) last month to take advantage of the Bluetooth facility in my new car - frankly wish I hadn't bothered as it's more trouble than it's worth.

My new phone has camera, video, MP3, internet, email and heaven knows how much other totally useless (to me) geegaws and gizmos, none of which I will ever use. It cost £39 (maybe $55) in the UK and was about the cheapest I could buy with Bluetooth. I couldn't find a single phone without the other features anywhere.

While of course there are millions of users who do value all the extras on their phone or tablet, my feeling is that anyone who buys a "one size fits all" phone/tablet or whatever, complete with camera, music player, book reader, jacuzzi, home cinema, tanning bed and what have you, is not going to be serious about photography. If they are then they will still buy a proper camera.

Undoubtedly those people do represent a huge market, but it's a very different market and I somehow don't feel it will impact on the "real" camera market much if at all to be honest.

@Geoff: "lacks a real viewfinder or any usable method of manual focus".

A lot like the family box camera we had in the 1950s. Without it, I would have no pictures of my childhood.


I think that point and shoots at CES will go away, and far sooner than 2021 - but CES is about tech gadgets, not photography. Smartphone cameras are getting better, much better, and what's really great about them beyond the amazing ease of sharing your pictures is the multitudes of software to take that picture. High-end point and shoots will survive, as will some form of advanced amateur and pro models, if for no other reason than people like to show off:) Now, it's a crapshoot if there's one mirror or pentaprism amongst the crowd at a 2020's photokina, but stand-alone cameras? Sure. The big question is what OS they will run:)

Anyway, what does it matter? Aren't you and your readers interested in photography, not cameras?

(apologies for double post, but i'm stupid today. southerners can;t handle snowfall, ya see)

What about the high-end compacts at the show? Fuji's drool-worthy X100, Olympus's entry into the 500$ premium pocket camera crowd? I can't remember a time when we were spoiled by so much choice - 2 amazing small cameras from Canon(the S95 and G12), the Nikon P7000, Pentax LX5, The New Oly, the Samsung TL500, and the somewhat waning Ricoh GRD III, in a market that used to have...well, really, the Canon G series.

I have to say...without intending to be too critical...that a lot of this sounds kind of, sort of, maybe a little bit like: Equipment Snobbery.

Now I love my Canon 7D as much as the next guy, and I really like some of my Canon lens. I eagerly look forward to reading the reviews of the latest and greatest pieces of technology from the Camera Makers (and am still waiting to hear about MJ's new Pentax......) and the latest, must-have, new lens and accessories. But my New Year's Resolution this year is to take a daily picture (usually several, and then choose the one I like the best) with my CAMERA PHONE, print it on my Epson 3800, and put them all together in one binder...one for each day of the year.

I'm continually amazed at the quality of my Apple Iphone 4 pictures and the 9x6 or 8x8 or whatever I choose to print on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of photo paper (usually Red River UltraPro Satin). And yes, I'm frequently frustrated by the lack of control over the photographic process with my Iphone as compared to my 7D (though some of the apps are really helpful). But the thing is, I ALWAYS have it with me!

Not only that, but by making this daily effort to "get a picture", I'm pushing myself to think and act like a "photographer" for at least a few minutes every day....and I think there is a lot of value in that. I find myself looking forward to those times when I can escape into the "creative process" for a few minutes at least, every day, even if it is with my phone's built-in camera and not my Canon 7D. Now if I can just get my dog to stop yanking on his leash while I'm trying to take my daily pics....lol.

"But first you have the increasingly ubiquitous cross-contamination of video and still-picture functionality"

That's a very common, but utterly perplexing attitude. My 5D Mark II has zero additional buttons for controlling video. It has three menus with video options (going from memory). There is nothing--and I do mean NOTHING--about the addition of video capabilities that hinders, compromises, or even changes the still-taking process.

Even the newer, more video-oriented, DSLRs have at most, one new switch position and one new button for video use. DSLR's may be ergonomically poor video cameras, but that's precisely because their still ergonomics are the same as they've always been.

You can debate the value of video in still cameras, but to say it's "contamination" is a little ridiculous, especially given that video has been in still digicams for years.

I think the photographers will always need photography equipment and I don't know that dismissing convergence cameras is necessarily warranted. Its still a camera, albeit one with some other fripperies attached. I got what I think was my best shot of the weekend with a Nokia N8 (http://photography.ramkarran.com/p133499286/e41ac4e5).

Of course, I'll only be able to assess the accuracy of that statement once I see the processed film from the old Pentax K1000 (which I now also have thanks to TOP :). Speaking of which: good grief, why didn't someone tell me about the viewfinders in old film cameras?!?

I hereby apologise to all you old fogies who I never really took seriously when you talked viewfinders in this and other, larger format cameras :)

The point is, all the cameras may not be found in the right place anymore, but they are there somewhere (as will be the photographers).

I feel much more in Geoff Wittig's 'camp' on this one. I think there will always be a big niche market for people that like to look at the world, one still image at a time. The tech advances being made in sensors, optical and electronic viewfinders, and camera size (smaller!) still seem pointed at the utopian camera I've been waiting for. A simple, small picture-making machine but now with the amazing ability to change ISO and white balance on the fly!

Things sure have changed a lot. Most images are no longer viewed on paper. The distinction between a still camera and a video camera is nearly gone. Sales of e-books are set to overtake sales of printed books. Et cetera.

But one thing hasn't changed: photography has very little to do with cameras. We didn't stop building houses when nail guns replaced hammers. And photography won't end when mobile phones replace cameras. The masses will get what they want: a camera that's always there, that allows them to instantly share their photos. The rest of us will make do with whatever imaging devices the pros are using.

Frankly, none of us need a new camera anyway. There are enough decent used cameras available to keep the current generation of enthusiast photographers supplied for decades.

If I were Kodak or Canon, the trend towards cell phone cameras would be disconcerting. But as a photographer, I couldn't care less.

What about the Olympus XZ-1? Yes, it's a digicam, but it's got a fast lens and what looks like nice image quality. I'm glad to see a competitor to the Canon S95, if only because it's one more signal that camera manufacturers are trying to improve image quality and not just marketing stats throughout their ranges.

Wow, your local camera store still has a darkroom supply area? cool!

Still, couldn't care less about what kind of gear people are taking their pictures with really. Apparently everyone is having fun taking pictures with phones and whatever, sharing them, putting it out there.

The really good stuff is still very good though, getting better (m9) and more interesting (x100) even, just not any cheaper. Luckily, the good stuff lasts, unlike digicams...

Mike, it was you who wrote, a while back, that picking a digicam is easy because they all suck (or something like that). And the situation today, where every digicam (except for a couple standouts) has a lens with a pinhole aperture (f/5.9 & 6.3 becoming typical "wide open" f-stops at the tele end) on a 1/2.3" sensor makes them the digital equivalents of those ubiquitous p&s zoom cameras of yesteryear with their f/8-12 lenses that were usually filled with Kodak Gold Max film.

It's almost as if manufacturers aren't even putting up a fight against cell phones. Except for the standouts I mentioned. The Canon S95/G12, the Samsung, the LX5 and now the new Oly. All 10MP models with slightly bigger than average sensors and faster-than-average lenses. The good thing is that they're getting real press and are known outside of photo enthusiast circles. My wife, who has as much interest in cameras as I do in KitchenAid mixers, asked me about the Canon S95 that she'd just read about.

I do think that a lot of potential; a lot of promise goes down the drain from here. A few years back, we might have dreamed about all kinds of cameras that could have been but will never be. But I also think that solid, capable (beyond anything I need) products are going to be available to me for the rest of my life.

Wasn't really impressed with CES either. Seems to be a symptom of the times though - real development slows even as new onslaughts of gimmicks await in the wings!

Look, I'm not gonna gloat about this - I'm really not. I love cameras and gear as much as the next guy. But every time I've had to listen to some smug smart-@ss telling me that film is dying, I've thought about all my friends and colleagues and the other parents at my kid's playground using nothing but a smartphone for their images.
Hell, I just updated to an iPhone4 myself - and apps like Hipstamatic rock! Even the HD video is good enough for candids of my daughter running around like crazy.
Gearheads can fantasize all they like about the great, exclusive cameras this is going to mean for the 'truly dedicated' - but when you take away the economies of scale, those plastic DSLRs are going to cost more than an M9 (and an M9 will cost more than your car).
Incidentally, my local camera store said they're stocking-up on even more pro film - they can't believe the demand for it recently.

Jeff and Geoff, you're on the right track but don't go far enough. Mike seems to be predicting the death of 35mm because of a slew of spiffy new 110's. He's comparing apples and oranges.

Personally, I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about professional level gear from a display of consumer level gear. It will be quite a while before future consumer level gear is equivalent to current prosumer and professional level gear - and when it does, said future prosumer and professional gear will still be ahead (but by a lesser amount) of future consumer level gear. It will be sometime in the distant future, if ever, when they fully converge.

I doubt they ever will one hundred percent though - if nothing else, larger sensors and lenses are always going to outperform a smaller even at the edges of what is allowed by physical laws.

@Jeff -- beautiful photo!

I agree that this trend really applies primarily to the casual snapper. It will considerably thin the ranks of consumer-level cameras in the market, I expect.

Inclusion of video is what I think will be the largest impact, though. Ubiquitous video is starting to make a place for itself in the realm holding public officials accountable.

I don't know what the economics of camera manufacturers are. If a sizable portion of their profits comes from the higher unit-sales of consumer cameras, we may well see rising prices in the prosumer / pro range as manufacturers try to remain profitable on smaller unit sales.

Interesting times...

"maybe phones will become the camera of choice for all happy snappers and casual types, leaving cameras to us serious amateurs and the pros"

Be careful what you wish for. Smaller more specialized markets mean higher prices for us semi-serious types. Not to mention smaller product engineering staffs.

I liked shooting with the E-PL1 and I'm sure the E-PL2 will be somewhat better. The one thing I was hoping to hear was that the E-PL2 sensor had better dynamic range and higher ISO capabilities. Maybe I missed that announcement.

These big tradeshows never carry any big news anymore, rather, they show what the trends are.

The devil is in the details, though. I particularly liked the new Olympus macro light that is a) current technology used to solve an old problem and b) a big manufacturer introducing an innovative product for a niche market.

I also like the higher end compacts like the micro 4/3 and those with fixed lenses which offer better image quality. A lot of people want good image quality without having to carry around a DSLR, like, you know, in the film days...

A tablet based digital view camera could be a cool thing.

I guess I don't see this as an "either/or" proposition. I would really love it if my iPhone's camera got to be as good as your average pocket digicam because I have it with me all the time. I would use it for those grab shots that come up when I am least expecting it. That would be quite useful. If smartphones replace pocket digicams I don't view that as a problem. One less thing to carry.

I bring a "real" camera with me when I am setting out to do purposeful photography, and I don't think that "real" cameras will go away for that purpose.

"I'm zeroing in on something else that would cheer me up, namely a pair of fingerless gloves for snapping during a cold snap. But before I consume: do you have any suggestions along those lines?"

Sure, fingerless Buffalo Gloves from our former advertiser Yellowstone Traders.


I'm fascinated by the idea of a view camera based on two tablet computers.

Ther's another point here too; as basic cameras are absorbed into other devices, and real cameras are mostly bought by enthusiasts (and pros), camera makers will again have to compete on the issues that enthusiasts (and pros) care about. We could see a renaissance of the truly good viewfinder, for example.
(Yes, yes, I admit I periodically look at my old ME Super and wish it had a digital back.)

I wouldn't expect much at CES which is only a few months after the big guns were announced at Photokina. The camera makers seem to be much more interested in aiming their announcements at events focussed on photography rather than a general show which will result in their news being lost in the noise.

I'm not so sure about the assessment. Here in the Philippines, a seemingly gadget-mad country with pretty high smart-phone uptake, cameras are still the preferred device for stills. Have you seem how long it takes to get a phone ready for pictures? Not good for instant moments. Video, however, is a whole other deal: phones are killing video cameras as far as I can see.
But maybe we'll go another way. With the idea of connected everywhere devices and ubiquitous WiFi, single-use devices look more attractive. And if people are willing to carry a tablet, therefore a bag, they'll carry multiple devices.
A phone only takes over if, like me, you don't carry a bag and all your kit is in your pockets.

what about the WVIL? that's some next level s$&% right there.


the e-pl2 is a good example of how industrial design can affect a person's opinion of a product. i looked at the e-pl1 and didn't give it a second thought. the e-pl2 is internally the same camera, save for a couple tweaks, but it looks nice enough that i'm thinking about buying one.

Ken Tanaka wrote: "Geez. Still no answer from my pretty-but-dumb-as-a-rock Rolleiflex."

Thanks, Ken. That turn of phrase brought a grin to my face.


Dear Dave and others,

"This aspect of photography - let's call it the lowest common denominator, shall we? - is being absorbed into other devices, and to be honest, I won't miss it that much."

Ummm, you do realize that you've just dismissed 99% of what photography (and the photographic market) has been (and been about) since George Eatsman was alive.

It may not be what interests you. It doesn't much interest me. Possibly the majority of TOP readers are of our ilk.

But to imagine that we are the center of the photogaphic universe isn't even hubris, it's just folly. We're way off on a nearly insignificant island, volume and dollar-wise. And we always have been.

It would be good to not forget this.

As for the dismissal of low-end digicams as being incapable of making good photographs, I can only explain such erroneous beliefs by assuming the people making such statement have never used such cameras. For they are in most egregious error.

pax / Ctein

Dear JLK,

Scanning and digitally printing film is the slowest, most costly imaginable way to do photography. I cannot envision doing it by choice. I have to do this for my "legacy" work and for clients. But to do it by choice? For all the extra money and time you'll dump into that over five years, one can buy a REALLY good digital camera.

If film floats your boat, then you use film. That's an artistic, personal choice. It is not an objectively justifiable one.

Fortunately, we don't have to be objective [s] if we don't want to.

That's all I really feel like saying on the subject.

pax / Ctein

Just go to a trainng course talking about the case of SWATCH, ROLEX and OMEGA.

In a sense Thom has agreed it right that the camera has to go up and part of the game. The reason why people take a SLR (not DSLR) in the past is that there is some advantage over point-and-shoot. There is no reason why a DSLR with network capabaility as Thom has agreed that they shoot and they would not be carry around. In terms of volume, SLR and now DSLR would never match or even close to the number of point-and-shoot and phone-camera things this day. It has to find a way to exist (like SWATCH and unlike OMEGA).

The problem is unlike ROLEX, you cannot just have a good mechancial camera. You need another process. Hence, M9 and Fuji 100 comes along (and still like the Epson RD1 for that matter), try to get the mechancial and lens part fixed with the new process.

If one has to keep to the really old process, I do not know. I swap my "smaller format" 6x6 Hasselblad and the other "small format" 6x7 Pentax 67. Until I took a photo in my 8x10, not even a 4x5 is enough. Still thinking about subscribe to the course in UK as mentioned here on the liquid process. But that is niche.

I carry my iPhone 4 everyday and my D300 in the storage cabinet for years now. Only in some cases I go the place again with my large format to take photos. It is not for everyone. Hence, if I have to wish for, a Sinar would not be but a better iPhone!

P.S. Follow that story and feel sad even thousands of miles away, make me think about John Lennon all the time. You may not like his music (which I do) but ... Being a D in R district and struggle all the way even with a Corner ... God bless her and America!

Nikhil mentioned the Nokia N8, but didn't mention it's one standout feature as regards camera phones: It uses a P/S sized sensor, not a typical camera phone sensor, so it is competing on even terms (sensor-wise) with shirt-pocket point and shoot cameras. And of course, it has a Carl Zeiss lens! (somehow I think the lenses bearing the CZ name, whether on Nokia or Sony products (except 35mm FF) are badge engineered generic lenses and not really up to the CZ standards of design or manufacture. Same as with the Schneider lenses on Samsung products.)

One interesting (to our ilk) item announced at CES was the PENPAL accessory for the Olympus E-PL2 (I'm not sure if it works with any others). Essentially, it links your camera to your phone so you can send off pics as you take them, as with a camera phone (but with a better camera).

Sharing photos easily is a non-trivial feature that makes camera phones wonderful things to have around. The PENPAL will bring that to more serious photography. I think a similar thing can be accomplished with a wifi enabled SD card from Eye-Fi (apparently iPhone only at this time).

I recently sold my DSLR because I realized I hadn't shot with it in over a year. I have shot with my little Sony DSC-HX5V because I bring it with me. The Sweep Panorama feature is something that may keep me using Sonys for a long time.

What I think traditional camera makers are missing in the message cameraphones are telling them is the following: People want to easily share their photos. People want to be able to process their photos in camera (e.g. popularity of apps like Hipstamatic).

In fact, Hipstamatic, and it's ilk improve the crappy sensors in cameraphones by playing to the sensors weaknesses. They mutate the captured image into something that mimics an established aesthetic. Photos look like they were shot on limited color range film using cameras with poor optics. They change the medium, in a sense, and can be used selectively (try that with an actual Holga).

Personally, I think of camera phones as being equivalent to Disc cameras from the 80s. The picture quality is about the same as a result of tiny capture area, cheap optics, and media not up to the challenge of truly replacing the format they were trying to encroach on. Maybe 110 is a better comparison, but in either case, those formats were ones designed for convenience, not picture quality. I'd put our beloved serious point and shoots (e.g LX5, G12 etc) as being APS equivalents in terms of technical quality. Still limited by the small format, but to a much lesser extent. I think the premium compacts are about like APS in that 400 ISO is pushing things. And enlarging bigger than 8x10 takes exceptional quality files.

Me, I like the future of cameras. We're finally getting ones that do more than film cameras were limited to. Judging by what Ctein wrote awhile back, we'll be seeing new sensor/optic tech in the coming years that will open new doors for creative photographers.

So camera makers, please keep adding more software 'features' into our cameras. But please pay better attention to how we're supposed to operate the darn things!


I have to admit I'm a little mystified about people who feel they have to force themselves to take pictures. I have to force myself to take fewer photos, and still end up with at least a dozen or so after just walking down the street.

It is, of course, all about the CAMERA. And without a SERIOUS camera, one cannot take SERIOUS images. Of course equipment defines the photographer, how else would one know who's a real photographer and who's not? And it's apparent that if you want convenience, bells, whistles, automation and/or frippery, then you are by definition un-serious, a snapshoot taker. Why just the other day I saw someone claiming to be a photographer who was using some... gadget, that had a light meter and a timer built in. He had his little gadget helping him set the exposure and even focusing the lens, and he actually claimed to be "taking pictures". More 'like holding a computer and pressing a button' I'd say. Strange days. In any case, I must dash down to the post office to send a letter to my brother. He keeps bugging me about a cellular phone, but I can't imagine how carrying around something where people can talk directly (and at the same time!) makes communication any better, unless you're some sort of loose with words bohemian.

Dear psu,

"A tablet based digital view camera could be a cool thing."

Thanks for the inspiration -- I just figured out three, maybe four ways to build that.

I'll make it the topic of next week's column.

Stay tuned.

pax / ingenious Ctein

I am very flattered. I was so happy with the idea I accidentally posted it twice, apparently. Oops.

Inspired musings (by that I mean I was inspired by your comments, not necessarily that this will be inspiring...):
Last Saturday night, waiting for the doors to open at the Royal Theatre on Santa Monica Blvd. to see The Illusionist, we wandered into the Blick art store next door looking for some framing hardware. In the counter, they had a big selection of Lomo cameras and film for sale. MOPA - the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego sells those and Holgas, as do many other museums. But I've never seen a museum store selling digital cameras!
Our younger son who is a computer graphics programmer (you've probably seen his work) and serious techie was saying recently that his generation (late 20 somethings) don't call friends anymore, they text and send photos. He travelled for much of last year and his "correspondence" was posting almost daily on Picasa from Internet cafes. He also had a blog but updated it intermittently. Blogging is, he informs us, old hat; photography is the new communications/publishing medium.
My brother recently found a box of photos from our Uncle Ed who spent WW2 in the Aleutian Is. off Alaska and then in Calcutta. He had an important military job, running the PX. But he always carried a Box Brownie and came home with some incredible photos - I hope they are in the box - including a grizzly they shot that when stretched out was almost as tall as their 2-story PX building and a guy in Calcutta who fell asleep using a train rail as a pillow as was decapitated.
Photography is about memories as well as art. In fact, mostly about memories. That's probably been the driving force behind photography since it's inception. Those of us who can't draw or paint fast enough can take a snapshot and share our memories. The digital world - cameras, computers, the internet, Facebook, etc. has simply expanded what us older types remember fondly from sifting through boxes of snapshots.
All of which reminds me that photography is not the same thing to everyone - or even to anyone all the time. Sometimes, to me I look upon it as art, sometimes to document our travel or farm projects, sometimes to communicate and teach as part of my work, sometimes, I admit, it's to satisfy my "gadget urge" as a unabashed techie. It's all very satisfying!
And Ctien, while driving home from Santa Monica to the farm yesterday, I was playing with the idea of a miniature view camera fabricated from parts from a small digital camera!

I don't know what the CES show means either. But I do know that trying to decide what "serious" digital camera to buy is the single hardest thing I've attempted in 40+ years of being a photographer.

All I want is a basic "35mm" type camera with a sensor in the film plane. I can't justify the cost of the M9, and I don't really prefer rangefinder anyway. Why isn't there a digital sensor in a Nikon F, Minolta SRT or a Pentax Spotmatic?

I have 3 digital cameras, the nicest being a Sony Alpha A300 with 7 lenses. But I find myself using my iPhone more and more often. The reasons? 1. I always have it with me no matter what, so it's available. 2. It's small and fits in my back pocket so I don't feel like I have to carry something heavy. 3. It's easy to just grab and snap. And 4, the most fun reason? You can add apps that do different things, such as True HDR, 360 panorama, etc. You can't do that with cameras, you are pretty much stuck with what the manufacturer built in. Now there's an idea for a new camera. One where you can add the features that are important to you.

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