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Friday, 07 October 2011


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Your point about the lineage of Canikon cameras is true, but your example is wrong. The Canon 60D is a break from the 50D--it's a cheap consumer body with the same terrible ergonomics as the Digital Rebel line (but with an articulating LCD).

The 7D is the successor to the ##D line.

These series are always fun. I'm wondering if you might follow up with similar on Lenses?

In defense of Canon and Nikon, when the decade-old predictable/conservative upgrade path is followed by Leica, it becomes "age-old tradition" and receives high praise. After all, such a perfectly refined tool only needs minor adjustments.
And while the A77 looks like a terrific camera, it still reeks of oldthink in one compartment : the SLR-wannabe finder location. The bulge above the lens in SLRs is the result of a constraint. If you get rid of that constraint, you get to put the viewfinder anywhere you like. In the corner, please?

Technical specs aside — which you already discounted in the deeply worn upgrade paths of Canicon — this one, too, is very much another specimen of the same species you deride. Replace the Sony logo with Canon or Nikon and very few people would bat an eyelash.

I have two questions re the translucent mirror SLRs - loss of light and detail resolution/sharp focus. Any system that splits the light results in less light on the sensor. Much of the time this isn't a problem, but it can be. And any interposed optical surface between lens and sensor must have critical optical correction to minimize (but can't totally remove) effects of dispersion and difraction (e.g. MTF) So far I haven't seen any good data on how well these cameras handle these problems, have you?

Observations right on target, as usual. Canon & Nikon have the dilemma shared by all large, successful, dominant endeavors. How do you stay on top? How do you keep current and fresh, and ward off nimbler competitors with less to lose, without obsoleting a huge catalog of products that are still earning money? How do you satisfy the millions of customers you already have, without ceding the market for something new and different?
I like turning to historical or military analogies. If you're the U.S. Air Force, you have an enormous problem. Sure, you dominate the world's airspace like no force in history. But you've got thousands of expensive jets to maintain, all of them relentlessly aging, and it's awfully expensive staying on top. What if some new, agile, unexpected opponent shows up with a force of dirt-cheap drones that turn all those $100 million fighters into dinosaurs overnight? You want to stay cutting edge, but developing a brand new approach may just show the competition a better way to beat you.
That's Canikon's dilemma in a nutshell. How do they keep moving forward without leaving millions of customers angry that their outfits are suddenly obsolete?

Right there with you with respect to the R1. A redo of that camera (with that lens) would be a hit for sure. I still use my R1 on a regular basis...

"*Why? Because I was waiting for the A700 successor, that's why. I can make it rain by leaving my umbrella at home."

Well, see, if you had the courage of your convictions, you should have gone ahead and bought whatever Canikon was offering at the time. This would have caused the A700 successor to appear the next day.

This works for me every time.

neither radical nor desirable

"Sony should revive a modernized R1 with a square sensor; it'd sell."

If it would work equally well for both waist level and "hip" shooting, sign me up.


Please immediately announce that you are definitely NOT waiting for a DSLR manufacturer to announce a true B&W sensor. Nope. No, Sir. Mr. Johnston is definitely NOT interested in that, no sirree bob...

"All indisputably excellent, just predictable."

When you're spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on lenses that you intend to use for many years, predictable can be a very good thing. Predictable is (part of) what has me half-convinced to buy a Nikon D7000 instead of upgrading to an A77.

I definitely would buy a renewed R1. My own R1 is still my favourite, take anywhere and street camera, and that 24-120 (equiv) lens is superb.

So please Sony please.

"Please immediately announce that you are definitely NOT waiting for a DSLR manufacturer to announce a true B&W sensor."

Oh, no way. Who me? Could not care less. Who would want that? Nope, not waiting for that.


(The photo/umbrella gods can't read your mind, can they??)

Are they going to complete the system with lens that you want/need?.. doubt it

The A77's real 'innovation' is that it may point to the future of photography, a dividing line between people who shoot wildlife/sports (and need the high-framerate and AF of the A77) and the rest of us (portraits/people, street photographers, still lives, etc. - who can live with lower fps and contrast-detection AF). Mirrorless is getting so good it takes away the need for a SLR for most people (and the bulk that comes with it, and all the hassles about AF accuracy, etc.).

You can now have a killer u4/3 body/lens system with a fast wide-angle, a normal and a telephoto all for the price of a single high-end dSLR. Another generation, with better high ISO quality, maybe a built-in EVF ala the NEX-7? The possibilities are endless.

For now I've sold my D700 and I'm shooting with a X100 and a Zeiss Ikon. Occasionally contemplating what organ I could sell to buy a M9.

I can't wait to see what the most desirable camera on Planet # 8 is. By the way, what # planet is Earth?

Sorry, just kidding. That's just how my brain has been processing the titles for some reason.


Richard Newman, you asked:
I have two questions re the translucent mirror SLRs - loss of light and detail resolution/sharp focus.

The shortest possible answer is that it is good enough for professional use. It's a trade off - more accurate focus in exchange for possibly, maybe, perchance, some reduced efficiency (a little less than 1/3 stop) and a little extra flare under specific circumstances.* For most practical uses - and I mean, using it to make money in the studio or on the newsbeat, or to photograph your kids playing soccer, or a candle-lit birthday party, or the occasional vacation - the SLT cameras are superior to the bog-standard DSLR. Why? Because screwing up the focus is much more of a problem than luffing the exposure. Only a total failure to compose beats focus errors, and there's no camera yet that points at things for you.** Why am I harping on focus errors? You'll see much more degradation in fine detail due to putting the focus point in the wrong spot than any other factor. After that usually comes camera or subject motion, something that IS, tripods, flash sync, and good holding technique were designed for.

If you are worried about light loss, then are you using fast lenses wide open, handheld? Then you'd better be using contrast detect AF (mirrorless), or phase detect on the chip (Nikon 1) or phase detect via SLT. If you're not using those technologies, you're missing out on "ultimate sharpness" due to mirror alignment and focus shift.

If you are that worried about the translucent mirror affecting resolution, I hope you don't use protective filters on your lenses, and I hope you've tested your lens hoods to make sure they are big enough.

If the question is "is this the ultimate most bestest implementation of technology money can buy" the answer is always no. It never is.

I apologize for the crabby tone. I could probably have worded that a bit better.

*I did it with an A55 and a backlit white dog in a dark room. Supposedly they've mostly fixed that by using better coatings and a thinner pellicle.
**you know, except for all the exceptions.

This seems to have come up repeatedly so perhaps someone can shed some light on this: can someone explain the appeal of using a black-and-white sensor? I don't really see the advantage from a practical standpoint. I understand that you would get extra per-pixel resolution and increased sensitivity by removing the Bayer filter, but at the cost of having to use colour filters to control the density of various colours since you would be getting only luminance data. Seems like this would be the same as using monochrome film. Given the filter factor of coloured filters, it seems likely that the sensitivity gains would be gone the moment you slapped a colour filter on the front, and it's not clear the resolution gains would really be worth it.

With digital colour, you can control the density of various colours in a black-and-white conversion with incredible precision by manipulating the channels. In fact, it's possible to do manipulations in digital that would be impossible with colour filters only, like selectively lightening or darkening colours in some parts of an image but not others.

Am I missing something critical?

Sorry it takes more than a camera body. Where are the desirable lens'?
I mostly use tilt shift lens' for my work. Can't work with a Sony. Until Sony address this issue they will not rival Canikon. I don't care for the camera gimicks, the lens is king.

That's odd because I look at the Sony a77 and I see the same camera that Nikon, Pentax, and Canon make. Aside from the lack of mirror, it really looks the same as the others. And when I compare the output to my 7D, I don't really see any more detail....but I do see more noise.

> Sony should revive a modernized R1 with a square sensor; it'd sell. Anyone? Anyone?

Me! Me!

8 years ago, buying my first camera I wanted Sony F717 but bought the cheaper Canon G5. Never owned a Sony camera but always liked the 717/828/R1 line, those were beautifully engineered machines!

As for a square sensor, Samsung may be the first one to make it (and I already have the lenses!) but I am not holding my breath...

An R1 update is on my most wanted list , especially if it were square format.

The NEX sucks for vertical, I was thinking of replacing my NEX 3 with a NEX 7 , but now I think I might keep the 3 for using old manual focus lenses and add an A65.

I don't think anything is going to be as good as the R1's lens though.

Sony/Minolta is still chasing the holy grail of making an SLR without that expensive "reflex" bit. Remember the Dimage?

It's a NEX wrapped in a big wad of black duct tape to make it look "Pro."

What photographer desires this camera?

SLR types won't want the viewfinder lag and lack of verisimilitude. Mirrorless types won't want the bulk and lack of flexibility (the viewfinder doesn't even flip up!).

It really is the worst of both worlds.

"I can make it rain by leaving my umbrella at home."

Not bad. But take that: I can make the telephone ring. By going to the toilet!

Yes please, updated R1 now, just leave the lens alone, it's as close to perfect as you can get.

@Geoff Wittig, "How do they keep moving forward without leaving millions of customers angry that their outfits are suddenly obsolete?" The answer is simple, but possibly out of bounds for many users. Their current cameras are still capable of taking fantastic photographs, and having the newer, better, lusted-after rig means nothing. There are photographers, and there are gearheads. And sometimes they overlap, but often they don't. (Which is not to put down gearlust, a perfectly acceptable itch to scratch, but not actually a problem.)

Well I really liked the Revox A77 does that count?

You mean a large sensor, fixed lens camera with a zeiss lens on the front and a flip out screen? Through a sensor the quality of the A77 or the NEX7 in there & It'd almost be the only camera I ever use.

I like the idea of thinking outside the box and I believe (like it or not) that electronic viewfinders are the wave of the future.

But two things concern me about this camera: 1) Quality high ISO capability (or lack thereof), 2) Responsiveness, as in how much time users will need to wait before the EVF kicks in.

From earlier announcements, I expected the new models from Sony to be somewhat more innovative. Looks to me that all the pieces to redefine a camera that would take the place of a reflex are there:
- Sensors with built-in phase-detection for AF. No need anymore for a mirror, semi-transparent or not, so extremely fast.
- Good quality EVF (built in, on the corner please).
- In body image stabilization.
- Fully articulated view panel.
It does not need to be particularly compact, I'm thinking to a reflex replacement, not a poket camera. Well, enough dreaming for today.

I will be disappointed if the iPhone is the most desirable camera on the planet: No 1.

I will be disappointed if the iPhone is not the most desirable camera on the planet: No 1.

The a77 is without a doubt an intriguing camera, but each time I read an article about the latest and greatest camera, I return to the same thought - photographers don't buy cameras, they buy systems. Nikon and Canon have the types of lenses(tilt/shift, long macro, big telephoto) and accessories I require for the kind of shooting I do. Sony does not. No matter how intrigued I might be by the a77, they'll never get me to bite until they offer a complete system. I imagine more than a few photographers feel the same.

I disagree with you. Mike, and that's a rare enough event to provoke a written response. Somewhat prompted by your endorsement, I bought a KM 7D and loved it. Then I bought an A700 and loved it almost as much. Early this year, I got an A850 and said, "This is it." But the A77? Sorry, I'm not interested.

This new camera appears to unite the worst aspects of a traditional SLR and a digital camera. Why preserve the SLR's laterally symmetrical form factor if you're not using a large mirror to direct light from lens to viewfinder? Placing the VF, optical or otherwise, in the center of a camera body is an insult to the human anatomy. Where does your nose go? A sidesaddle arrangement with VF in the upper left corner, a la Leica or Oly E-300, is much easier to hold close to the face. By taking the traditional SLR form, Sony threw away the flexibility an EVF provides.

Beware of praising new Sony SLRs before you actually handle them. I know you value good ergonomics, and Sony is headed in the other direction. I owned an A500 briefly, and it didn't have a single button or dial that I wouldn't have placed somewhere else. The human factor engineers who made masterpieces like the KM 7D and the A900 obviously aren't on board anymore.

For my money, the more desirable Sony is the NEX-7. According to the Luminous Landscape review I just read, it has the same sensor, and the same viewing options plus ample controls and fine perceived build quality, all in a much smaller size. That's something I'm interested in! I can use those qualities, but I wasn't awaiting an ill-designed SLR with an EVF wedged in so I can shoot a dozen frames a second.

A side issue has arisen in these comments about the placement of the EVF, where posters (presumably Leica owners?) insist top LH corner is the v-spot. That's fine for a minicam like the Leica, but you put some of the larger handholdable lenses on a DSLR and I don't think my left hand, that carries the weight, would appreciate being pushed further to the right while holding an appreciable weight.

The better solution for proboscally blessed photographers is for the eyepiece to be extended an extra 20mm back. But is this MAAN (much ado about nothing)? It is a simple matter and not at all unpleasant to tilt one's head down a bit or slightly to one side until one is comfortable. Insisting on a camera proportined for an uncompromised straight-ahead, chin-out head posture is like insisting a car should be proportioned so we can walk straight in without even ducking one's head. We are just not that inflexible.

Arg just put down what i was thinking

and to add to the convo: eye cups do a great job of bridging awkward eye positions

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