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Monday, 10 August 2015

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...which is why there has never been a better time to weigh in on camera choices when your less-informed friends/family members ask you to do so. Like you, I used to spend time putting serious thought into those recommendations (which could end up being two pages long), but now I say with confidence "Just buy the one that looks cool/feels best."

Mike,
Most cameras give us fairly acceptable results when used with care. Some cameras stand out with their ease of use. Unfortunately none of the present day cameras with reasonable price tags gives me that ease of use. The last film camera I had was a low end Nikon SLR that I bought in used condition in 1986. I have never thought of changing that camera and I will not part with that even now, though I do not use that now. I do not think the present day cameras can make me attached to them that way. I like that old camera not for the brand value or the picture quality or high shutter speed or build of the machine or the 10X zoom lens. Actually it has only a manual focus 50mm lens. The design was simple and it did not ask for a through study of the user manual to start with the camera. And it was so with any camera of the times. It is not a question of film Vs digital. It is good design Vs money saving sloppy design. Almost all cameras of yesteryears had visible, touchable controls. How many modern day cameras have single touch and single use exposure compensation dials? Very few. Such small conveniences do matter. A dozen digital filters or scene settings are not important. In fact they look silly. Bar the high end super expensive DSLRs, none of the cameras can be manually focused. Most mirrorless cameras do not even have focus scales, leave alone depth of field scales. Technology might change, but the way we humans use camera does not change. The manufacturers seem to have forgotten that. How can some one love an instrument that cannot be used with ease? After all cameras are nothing but instruments for practical use and not collectable jewellery. Certainly not trophies. Ranjit Grover.

Golden Age, indeed. I'm always surprised by how much whining I see online about this camera or that camera. The lowliest DSLR from the past year equals or exceeds the top cameras from just a few years ago--in dynamic range, dark light capability, and resolution.

I recently purchased the EOS 6D, and I love everything about it. Fearlessly shooting at ISO 1600 and higher is incredible, as is being able to get the best possible images from my lenses. I'm taking photos that simply were impossible three years ago.

I do not need the latest and greatest tech. While the Sony line is amazing and produces drool-worthy images, I am invested in Canon L glass. I just don't have the money, or learning-curve time, to change body styles or manufacturers. Plus, I have gorilla hands (size extra large; most "extra large" gloves are too small for me, but I digress) and I need a camera of some substance to feel comfortable. The new, mirrorless bodies don't work for me.

The photographers I respect the most buy cameras to suit their present needs and use those cameras until they fall apart. Only then do these photographers upgrade. Sounds sensible to me . . .

Well stated ! With the EM1 and a really good sensor, the f/1.8 primes and eventually, the f/2.8 zooms, Oly "arrived" a couple years ago. Panasonic is right behind. Fuji has an enticing system and Sony is pouring technology into cameras (even if the ecosystem around them is less enticing, depending on your needs). And there are deals to be had on this amazing stuff. My A6000 was under $600 back in December (I recently bought the FE 28/2 for it). And after digicams went through the doldrums, Sony and Panasonic have great (if expensive) digicam lineups. We bought my daughter an FZ200 recently, a three year old camera, and I'm amazed at what she gets handholding a camera with a 1/2.3" sensor shooting backyard wildlife, after having dabbled in it myself with a 400mm lens on a tripod years ago.

It's not just the Goden Age of the compact mirrorless cameras. DSLRs are having a golden age as well - perhaps a swan song, but an awesome song regardless.

Along the same lines, I recently decided that I was going to shoot with my 2 GX7s paired with 12mm Zuiko and 20mm and 42.5mm Lumix lenses for at least two years without any additional gear acquisitions. Wishing you much happiness as you begin your new chapter.

The results you can get today with almost any digital camera are truly remarkable, although I'm still not sold on EVF's. After experiencing the most touted on the XT-1, it reminds me of a '60s era color TV. And while they're adequate in the shade, in bright light you just have to trust you're going to get detail in the shadows you can can hardly make out (fortunately, the aforementioned does have great latitude). In changing light, particularly covering fast moving action, the view can be maddening. I'm sure there's a simple technical reason why EVF's are not on par with the view on an LCD- when they are, I'll be happy to give it another whirl in 2020 or thereabouts.

Proof that this is not the Golden Age of cameras is the fact that so many manufacturers turned to the kind of design that was popular in the 70's.

Although my fountain photo is roughly similar (except that it was taken after a storm, not during one)...

...I like A.H.C. McDonald's better! Good luck to him in the contest. 8^)

As for the A7RII, it would appear the honeymoon is already over for many users / internet pundits, as there's a lot of criticism already populating various fora. Personally, I'm mostly ambivalent about it, because many of its improvements versus the original A7R have zero relevance to me and the type of photography I'd do with it. That it's larger and heavier are both strikes against it as well ... IMO, anyway.

In reply to Gordon Lewis you wrote:
"The smaller, vaguely retro mirrorless cameras are the ones that tend to give me the warm fuzzies"

I've been referring to my A6000 with 28/2 as my "digital HiMatic". I used, and still own, a Minolta HiMatic 7sII, with its 40/1.8 lens. I've been looking for a digital version of that for years. There have been other solutions that come close in one way or another, and this option still falls short in some ways, but it gives me a similar enough experience.

Nail on the head: "gearheads like me are surfeited with choices and already have too many fine cameras and a lot of people, not just me, just can't justify another purchase even though we'd love to."

Mike,
There have been many a golden age. Pretty sure the year was around 1888 when Kodak had the saying "you take the picture we do the rest" now that was revolutionary and a golden age. There were many more to follow.
cheers,
Joe
ps, enjoy your new digs.

"Vaporware Honeymoon Period" - that is hilariously right on the dot, Mike. It would also be an excellent name for an indie rock band...

The vintage cameras are like old wine, one finer than the other.


I agree, it's certainly a golden age for me. When I look at the selection available just in my camera drawer, I'm amazed at the range of choice (and a bit GAS embarrassed.)

My far wider focal length interests limit me to one format. Dabbling with one or two lenses won't work for me. Replicating that range in three systems would be ridiculous and far too expensive. But the range of choices of body size and features and of lenses within µ4/3 is still huge.

Almost all modern cameras are indeed amazing, which is why I find all the ongoing gear angst more absurd than ever.

The D800 was the first camera I owned with more than 16 megapixels (D7000 and D700 prior to that). I have never downgraded a camera system before, but since getting an XE2 and some of Fuji's best glass, I realised I had moved beyond the point of adequacy and was just carrying extra baggage for the sake of it.

I bought it as a backup/street camera, but it turns out it does just about everything I need and makes exceptional prints up to 24"X16" (or A2 in Euro size).

But my reaction to this revelation is rather the opposite to yours. I have not so much as glanced in the camera store window since I bought it, though I don't doubt I will be giving the Xpro2 a hard look when it surfaces.

Yes, but...............those wonders of modern technology need balancing with something more down-to-earth like the wonderful mechanical precision of a Rolleiflex 3.5F or Hasselblad. True, you need to work a bit harder (perhaps), but there's no gain without pain!

Ray (from the UK)

Well....I guess.....if you say so.
But I sure don't feel it. My fingers still thrill when I pick up a Pen F. I've just not been able to feel anything picking up any digital camera.
But, if you remember, from my response to your post about who is a photographer, I'm a 'tinkerer' and there is just nothing to tinker with in modern cameras. I'm not afraid to rip into some old mechanical camera to see if I can fix it but a digital? It goes into the same landfill as all other modern electronic devices when they die.

I think cameras with a lens in front of a flat Beyer matrix sensor are just about as well-developed as they are going to get, bar some bells and whistles. It's pretty much like photography was in the 1970s where all the advances were to make cameras smaller, cheaper, and easier to use. Quality was pretty much as good as anyone wanted or could use.

On the other hand there's a lot of stuff that is technically possible that remains to be explored with curved sensors, multiple lenses, multiple exposures, and computational photography to take advantage of it.
In other words, the future is software driven because the hardware is as good as it needs to be.

I am surprised you would speak well of the Sony and 35mm 1.4. It's not a combination I have tried, and not likely to be since the chances of me putting a lens that big and heavy on such a "willowy camera" to quote Kirk Tuck are about zero.

I am tempted by the 2.8, but for the present I am OK with my 35 and 40 Summicrons.

Yes, I have to say that Fuji (X-T10), Panasonic (LX100) and Olympus (E-M5 and E-M10) top my personal preference and ownership list these days, although I also appreciate Sony. But I hesitate with the last brand because I still never know if they are truly going to follow through with lenses for any given mount.

My legacy sympathy goes to Pentax. I still have a K-5, a K-5IIs and lots of lenses including all of the DA Limited primes. All work just fine but I'm using the Pentax gear less and less often. I figure sooner or later it'll be time to say good-bye, which will free up a lot of money for more Fuji lenses.

Truly, a golden age for cameras.

My Sony A7R II was delivered last Friday, and after spending the weekend with it, I can tell you that it does not disappoint for stills or video.

It is an amazing camera!

Me too, Mike. During the past ten years I've had the delightful opportunity to use many of the digital age's early landmark camera systems. And by "use" I really mean USE for real work, not like a web site camera reviewer taking pictures of his kid's toys or brick walls. I can only think of one or two cameras that were stinkers. Most were truly remarkable gadgets. Many still are.

Will these years be remembered as "golden" for camera development? Probably. I can't think of any period in which so much capital and technological ingenuity have ever been applied to perfecting photographic recording. Photographic equipment's merger with consumer electronics miffed many old-timers but it created a stampede of new demand from an ideal and enormous group: computer technicians. They had no background in visual arts or visual documentary but they embraced anything "digital" and they had plenty of spare pocket money to propel the new technologies of photography into permanent orbit. They bought each new generation of camera while whining for something better on the internet. It's been a hell of a whirlwind!

Today I believe that the frantic development of digital photo technology is cooling down. The confluence of factors that propelled it are diffusing and marketable genuine advancements are harder to achieve. Many of its early consumers have grown bored with photography, taken new avocational paths in later life, and decided that their phone's camera is cool enough. Sony has, during the past few years, probably taken sensor technology near its technical limits. I don't think we'll see a resurgence of the whirlwind again.

A "golden age"? I sure think so. And what wonderful artifacts it's left behind!

Ranjit Grover wrote:

Bar the high end super expensive DSLRs, none of the cameras can be manually focused. Most mirrorless cameras do not even have focus scales, leave alone depth of field scales.

I really don't think that is true. Many people are using mirrorless cameras with adapted manual-era SLR lenses, and my XT-1 has several ways to ease manual focussing. Not as easy as my Canon 1Ds or my film-era Minolta SLRs with microprism screens, but perfectly doable.

And the XT-1 has an optional in-viewfinder focussing scale with DoF indication (even for a zoom lens) and many of its primes have focussing scales and DoF markings on the lens. (They are very conservative, but one can adjust for that.)

Modern cameras have gotten very complicated (even those with dials) and I wonder how few users know about the features they need (even those who have read the manual).

All I want is for my X-E2 to shoot and focus like a D750 with a pancake 15-400 1.4 lens. Why is that so hard? I have realized that I simply love the Sigma 35 1.4, and Nikkor 300 2.0 AF-I, far too much to part with my Nikon gear. But the x100s, and X-E2(okay, i'd rather have a X-T1, but money) are so much more portable, and darn good, that they'r better on vacation, and most times...

And I also ended up with a Coolpix A so I can have a camera in a pocket that I can live with. Sadly, went to Disney with a Canon G11 and was so disappointed with the results - loved shooting with the camera, but dark ain't it's friend.

In other words, there are too MANY good cameras, now!

Yes, just like modern cars; incredibly reliable, very easy to drive, controlled by technology, getting harder and harder to make a mistake. Why are 'classic' cars becoming more and more popular.

I agree with Hugh Crawford. It's the reason why the future of photography will be with the electronics giants, not, no matter how sentimental and nostalgic we might be, the traditional photographic companies. I wrote along similar lines recently in DPR. Stand by for the impact of curved sensors and multi exposures rebuilt within the camera by computer power. Dof will become a dial in function not a factor of a fast lens Check how photostacking is changing macro photography. Check the new Google development that will use multi exposures to remove unwanted items from the shot. Curved sensors should result in smaller, cheaper lenses. And so on.

Excellent use of 'gobsmacked', Mike. You're definitely learning...

It may well be a golden age for cameras but is it a golden age for photography? Sorry to strike a grumpy note.

[Actually I don't think it is. --Mike]

So, you've bought a Sony or an Olympus, and now need repair service. Well, guess what, you can send it to Precision Camera of Enfield, CT or you can take a walk with Virgil through the nine circles. I'd rather the latter.
When did service become a quaint idea from the past?

They are good cameras indeed. I still love traditional viewfinders, but not enough to switch back. My EM1 is very satisfying. Surprisingly it keeps getting better (like the Fuji cameras). With the latest firmware update the C-AF using my old 4/3 lenses is better than with my old E5 DSLR.

Viewfinder tech is one thing that will keep me on the upgrade bandwagon, more than sensor performance, (unless there's a solid leap). In that way mirrorless cameras are very much like cell phones now. Every two or three years you have a strong desire to trade in. Is it the golden age of cell phones too? Certainly it is for the manufacturers and service providers. I'm just glad I don't have to pay for a monthly plan to use my Olympus.

Golden age? Maybe just silver? Who knows what will be the next big upgrade? Infinite depth of field or just millimeter dof at your wish? 2oo megapixel sensors which permit taking pix of a black cat in a coal bin at midnite at 1/1000 sec at f32? (Darn, I overexposed by two stops!) Or something we can't even guess? Technological change is constant, if not at a steady rate. The ability of cameras to permit a greater range of images over a greater range of environments, of greater quality, with greater ease, over the last 50 years is obvious. And that doesn't even include the high tech specialist cameras not sold to the general public. Maybe we'll have to call the next phase the 'platinum age'.

We can buy brand new Canham, Deardorff, Sinar, Linhof, Ebony, Ritter and so many other beautifully made Large Format cameras today that the loss of all the old lines is a bit easier to take.

All those new as well as old and vintage lenses work on these new beauties. We can still use 50 year old film holders and the ubiquitous Pentax Spot Meters are used by so many. Home darkrooms, tray processing and even Custom photo papers like Lodima by Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee make large format film photography better than ever.

So much new and beautiful gear - while many of us are still using our 50 year old plus View Cameras - for many of us the "Golden Age" is an era, not a few years.

An interesting topic with some very thoughtful replies.

I was late to the digital world and continued shooting film with my Nikon until ca. 2010 when I replaced it with a Nikon D700. It is my only DSLR and gets plenty of use in situations where its features and strengths are warranted. I've thought about the D600/610, D800/810, and now the D750, but the D700 still gets the job done.

On the other hand, I have had several "superzoom" or "bridge" cameras during that period. These cameras have seen substantial improvement in image quality and are now my go-to camera that I take along when hiking or mountain biking. The DSLR is simply too large. I don't even want m43 with interchangeable lenses for these situations. Instead, I'm content with the built-in zoom lens.

Very recently, I updated my superzoom again with a camera having a smaller zoom range and larger sensor (Sony RX-10). I'm pretty happy with the result.

Hi Mike, I really like using my Sony RX100 and A7r. Last week, I turned my A7r on but it didn't power up - tried with 2 fully charged batteries. I started questioning the reliability? Was this an exception? Not sure what the problem is - last time it worked was when I successfully loaded the latest firmware. I was excited about the A7r II but after what happened to my A7r I am not sure if I would consider buying it. My first digital camera the Nikon D300 bought when it was announced is still working perfectly. I love the versatility of the A7r since I could use my Leica R lenses along with its Sony Lenses or any other lenses with the right adapter. Anyway, I am sad since my warranty expired in Feb. However, my fav mirrorless camera M9 is getting a sensor replacement in NJ. I hope they are more reliable. Thanks.

"I'd like to name some stronger addictive substance."

I'm gobsmacked Mike that you couldn't have used opium, eg 'fuji's are the opium of the people' to coin and bend a phrase.

Simon (UK)

Great minds think alike - Derrick Story just discussed this blog post on his latest "Digital Story" podcast: http://thedigitalstory.com/2015/08/golden-age-of-cameras-podcast-492.html

Ranjit Grover wrote:

Bar the high end super expensive DSLRs, none of the cameras can be manually focused. Most mirrorless cameras do not even have focus scales, leave alone depth of field scales.

And the now-rather-cheap Panny GX7 has excellent manual focus implementation, despite its less than perfect EVF.
(Apparently the GX8 is even better in this respect.)

The Oly EM-1 and the EM-5 II are by far my favorite cameras of all time. The Zuiko f/1.8 primes and the Pro f/2.8 zooms are class acts. The EM-5 II, 5-axis, IBIS is a game changer. I took 1-second long exposures with the UWA zoom @ 7mm the other day and the files are tack sharp.

believe that the frantic development of digital photo technology is cooling down

I think that's untrue.
While it might be correct that the evolution of 'cameras' is slowing, fundamental research into digital imaging technologies is, if anything, accelerating.
I confidently expect replacement eyeballs to be available before I succumb to retinitis pigmentosa...

There are cases, especially on movie sets, where one wants to focus to a precise distance based on a measurement, using the lens markings.

But most of my actual use of pre-focus involves my guessing a spot on the ground and focusing on that spot, either manually or automatically. Given the electronic nature of the cameras there certainly should be an electronic scale on the LCD for manual focal distance, but in practice I don't really miss the distance scales.

(Actually, in the old days I used the distance scale the opposite way, as a rangefinder for figuring flash exposures.)

I'm right there with you on the lust for the A7R II and Zeiss ZA 35mm f/1.4... somehow, oddly, in all my years of "serious" shooting, I've never had a 35mm (or 35mm equivalent) prime lens. This Zeiss 35/1.4, though, has really caught my attention... and, after finding a good deal on one somewhere, it'll be arriving at my office tomorrow! I'll be using it with the A7R initially, but I'll eventually manage to turn that into an A7R II, which is just slightly out of my budget right now, unfortunately. I think that'll be my next "decade" camera, though, much like how the has Canon 5D served me quite well for nearly a decade now. It pretty much checks all of the boxes for me- and the ability to use it with Canon lenses and have nearly full functionality with them, means it'll be an easier transition- I don't have to dump all of my glass right away, I can take my time selling and replacing as I want. Pretty amazing stuff.

Part of me is even contemplating doing somewhat of a "one camera, one lens" project like you've talked about on here with the A7R/II and the 35/1.4... I think it'll be a versatile enough lens to serve as a great option for that kind of project. Fast enough to shoot indoors and out, wide enough to not be restrictive in most situations, short enough minimum focus distance to serve as an usable macro option. Can't wait to start experimenting with it tomorrow!

Agree.

http://mutable-states.com/the-golden-age-of-cameras-part-1.html

http://mutable-states.com/the-golden-age-of-cameras-part-2.html

As a side note, I was in the Monterey Aquarium today. Aquariums are dark high contrast places where it used to be almost impossible to take good pictures if you were just a slob with simple camera.

Today everyone in the place was getting decent stuff with their phones, mostly.

Except the one guy who walked up to the jelleyfish and pointed his EOS-something-something at them and got a face full of auto-flash.

They should take the flash off all cameras. It can only make them better.

It's a dark age for fondlers.

My first camera was a Agfa that you had to buy a prism for. I couldn't afford the prism so I shot it at waist level. That was back in 1959 while serving in the Army, stationed in Munich. I shot Nikon for over 45 years, shooting for two weekly newspapers on the weekends. I also shot weddings and carried two bodies and 5 Nikon lens. Weight. I had to find something that was easier for me, and I fell in love with the Panasonic GF1. Later I owned the G3 and now the GX7. I shoot street and that means you don't have a lot of keepers, but boy does the GX7 nail the photograph. I plan on shooting until at least I am 95, but not sure what I will be shooting with in 20 years. This indeed the golden age I live in.

Mike,

I'm surprised in this whole conversation that no one has mentioned the absolutely standout handling, usability and quality of the Ricoh GR, which I love using with the optical viewfinder, though I'm sure others will take issue with the lack of EVF.

Nothing I have ever come across - Leica included - have nailed ergonomics and firmware as well as Ricoh. It is truly a camera designed by photographers par excellence.

If you have never tried it, it will be eye opening.

Best Regards,

ACG

I went on a spree a while back and moved from a D90 to a D7100, from an EPL2 to an OMD EM5 and from a Canon S95 to a Sony RX100ii. Large, Medium and Small. I have picked up a couple more lenses for the Oly (17.5 and 12-40). Other than that, I haven't been in a camera store since. I am really not feeling constrained by equipment in any way that I can notice.

Now what I need are vision and skill.

C.R.

I have kicked out an OM-D EM-5 system, for a Canon 550D with a single lens (the 18-55 kit lens). The logic behind all this....Magic Lantern. Having possibilities like trap focus, autocalculationg HDR takes, follow focus, extended video modes in RAW video, you name it. That sure makes a camera rock and roll. That coupled with a dead reakoning simple UI in the first place is an all thumbs up for the old goat! And it left me with about a 1000 euro in my kitty (as Mike from Wheeler Dealers would say)....nice all round.

Greets, Ed.

Downsize the system upsize the skill!

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