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Monday, 20 March 2017


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No, "flash in the pan" is not of photographic origin. It is from musketry when the flint only ignites the powder in the pan and fails to set off the main powder charge which propels the projectile.

The Hasselblad and Fujifilm mirrorless medium format digital cameras are certainly beautiful and lust-worthy for us dedicated hobbyists, and no doubt for some professionals in various niches.
But reality quickly intrudes; they require extremely expensive lenses to do justice to the big sensors, and you'd have to build a completely new system of (extremely expensive) lenses, at least a couple of them, to justify the body.
Meanwhile, many of us have a significant (okay, huge) investment in good quality glass in an existing D-SLR format. Starting from scratch is a painful prospect. This alone would seem to sharply limit the market for these lovely cameras.

"Flash in the pan" does actually predate the use of it regarding flash powder. In a flintlock (like the muzzle loading rifle I have) occasionally the flint will spark off the priming powder in pan without igniting the main charge. Usually this is due to the touch hole being clogged by residue from previous shots. Hence you get the flash but no bang. The flintlock faded at about the time that photography started so when flash powder came along, it was a natural phrase to adapt to the camera.

Regarding the large sensor mirrorless, I'm fascinated by them, especially the Hassy, but I was rereading a bit here by Ctein about how the m4/3 sensor was already as good as film in many/most cases. I think I'm quite satisfied with that for my needs...


I think they are going to reach market saturation and come down faster than a GoPro on a drone with engine failure.

For what it's worth, "flash in the pan" is not photographic in origin. It's from flintlock musketry. A flash in the pan meant that the powder in the priming pan ignited but failed to set off the main charge. See, for example, Merriam Webster's discussion of the term.

Is everything destined to last only 15 minutes?

Are these ‘digital medium format’ cameras really meant to be medium format systems, or are Fuji and Hasselblad just running scared of what truly high-definition full-frame will do to them?

These sensors are, what, 127-sized really? And there’s no room to grow; it’s not like we’re looking at an early crop sensor in a full-frame-capable mount like Sony E/FE.

They look to me more like a way to retain business in the light of the D810 and 5DS.

They obviously both mean it, and mirrorless provides them a chance to enter a market they never played in (or in Fuji’s case haven’t played in without help). But are they really ‘medium format’ cameras? The results don’t look so much like it.

Mike -

"flash in the pan (an expression I like, since it's photographic in origin)"

My understanding of the term "flash in the pan" is that its origin antedates photography, and derives from the occasional tendency of older firearms, e.g., flintlock muskets, to fail to properly fire, when the ignition of the powder in the flash pan, which was intended to travel to and ignite the propulsive charge for the ball, did not successfully do so.

There is a weaker competing theory, that it derived from Gold Rush usage concerning false glints in the panning apparatus, but there are known references to the much earlier origin.


From OED:

c.III.5.c to flash in the pan: lit. said of a gun, when the priming powder is kindled without igniting the charge; fig. to fail after a showy effort, to fail to ‘go off’.

   1687 Settle Refl. Dryden 20 If Cannons were so well bred in his Metaphor as only to flash in the Pan, I dare lay an even wager that Mr. Dryden durst venture to Sea.    1741 Compl. Fam. Piece ii. i. 320 It will occasion it oft-times to flash in the Pan a great while before it goeth off.    1792 Gouv. Morris in Sparks Life & Writ. (1832) I. 377 Their majesties flashed in the pan yesterday.    1830 Galt Lawrie T. iii. ix. (1849) 114 Flashing in the pan scares ducks.    1852 W. Jerdan Autobiog. IV. xiii. 237 Cannon attempted a joke which flashed in the pan.

From Merriam-Webster:


Definition of flash in the pan
: a sudden spasmodic effort that accomplishes nothing
: one that appears promising but turns out to be disappointing or worthless

Origin and Etymology of flash in the pan
from the firing of the priming in the pan of a flintlock musket without discharging the piece

First Known Use: 1706

Best regards,

Burton Randol

Action cams have become passé. Once the large and conservative camera companies have jumped on the bandwagon, you know the fad is over.

It's beginning to look a tad like all of digital photography—as we know it, anyway—might itself be a sort of extended flash in the pan ...

More than a tad! The public has voted with their wallet, and ILC's are the losers—BIG-time.

Large drones for news and movie-making, ain't going away. For hobbyists, not so much. The law-makers and the insurance companies will make the hobby too expensive.

I feel a little like most of us are t̶e̶e̶n̶a̶g̶e̶r̶s̶ really-old-men debating whether Lamborghini or Ferrari is better 8-)

Because the Hasselblad X1D doesn't look like a DSLR, the nouveau riche will buy them as an ostentatious display. If I were a high-end wedding photographer (Bite your tongue!) I'd have X1Ds to help justify my high prices.

I'm not sure that it makes sense to relate "just a flash in the pan" to photographic flash powder since the flash is the successful end result. I think it refers to firearms where a flash in the pan may fail to ignite the charge.

I think GoPro had a booboo of some kind, and simultaneously got a bunch of competition from "people" like Sony.

On the more interesting topic of mirrorless DMF, I think it is here to stay. Both of the current products look to be "rushed to market"---there are now some bad reports floating around about haptics, blackout, build quality, and more. All can be fixed. Certainly Fuji will survive, probably Hassy has turned the corner, too.

Tech advances favor mirrorless---SLR tech is extremely mature (and that is not bad!). What has not been discussed much is how fantastic the DMF OVF is in the Pentax (and others, maybe). While my A7R's EVF low light capability was astonishing, and focus peaking with it a joy, in DMF that advantage is lessened because the OVF is so huge and bright. So, then it's more about overlays, histograms, etc. I think that could all be tweaked into an SLR OVF. Sadly, I think, the Pentax DMF system has become the Rodney Dangerfield here, and not deservedly, because it's fantastic.

Some of the other advantages, like size/weight, of mirrorless also diminish as you move up to DMF due to the lenses. I continue to wait for someone to do an update of the http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Fujifilm_GA645Zi Killer app, imo.

Sorry, Mike. "Flash in the pan" has nothing to do with photography. It is from the days of muzzle-loading, flintlock firearms. After the powder had been poured into the barrel of the weapon and tamped down by a lead ball pushed in on top of it by a ramrod, a small amount of powder was poured into a small cup under the flintlock mechanism, with a short passageway leading to the powder in the barrel.

The flintlock mechanism consisted of a hammer which had a piece of flint clamped into it. To fire the weapon, the hammer was cocked and the trigger was pulled. The descending flint struck an upright piece of steel called a "frizzen," which did two things: it created sparks, and it moved the frizzen, which covered the pan, so that the sparks could fall on and ignite the powder in the pan. The fire traveled through the passageway and ignited the powder in the barrel, pushing the ball on its way.

This was generally a very reliable system. Sometimes, however, the powder in the pan ignited without igniting the powder in the barrel. That was "a flash in the pan."

I think we are reaching the far end of the bell curve on sensor quality, and of course the folks who will pay $7k for a camera are few and far even compared to those who pay $3k.
As it has always been the case, most of us cannot achieve the limits of our gear, never mind the more powerful gear.

Sorry to disappoint you, but the phrase "flash in the pan" is generally believed to date back to the era of flintlock weapons. It was when the flint properly set off the priming charge in the flintlock's pan, but the flash failed to ignite the main charge in the barrel.

The pedant in me felt very skeptical about "flash in the pan" being of photographic origin, since he seemed to recall it having to do with archaic firearms and the mechanics (and pyrotechnics?) of firing them.

The first link a web search turned up supports the pedant, but then a more pedantic pedant might point out that confirming your preconception by just reading, and linking to, the first source you find isn't very impressive :)


Flash Powder! Is there anybody out there still doing that?

Drones aren't the hot new things, it's loss-making instant messaging services whose product self-destructs after 12 seconds (faster than those orders Mr. Phelps got at the start of each episode of "Mission Impossible"). For some reason, they're valued in the tens of billions, which says something about credulity and wealth.

What's your take on mirrorless cameras with oversized sensors?

Mike, as long as you asked, I think it makes sense for Fuji as you previously commented it is a compliment to their other size choices. And no legacy lens issues. Hasselblad can use legacy lenses but they will be longer than necessary. A few Leica S users are jealous, but not enough to justify a new lens line. I think Leica saw this coming eight years ago when they introduced the S. But they chose to do a DSLR as the EVF was hardly developed enough then. The Leica SL now gives the Leica user a full frame EVF option, and if they want an optical viewfinder other than the rangefinder, there is the S.

However, I recall Ctein suggesting the smart leap frog in technology will be to multiple sensors not merely big ones. Why have one big sensor when one can have 32 small ones? Here Leica's tie up with Huawei with two lenses and two sensors on a smart phone forecasts the future. You want a light and thin camera, skip past this large sensor mirrorless phase. Of course that allows for truly sealed systems that avoid my annoyance with sensor dust.

Mike, I too find it fascinating that so many people, at least on internet fora, are discussing these two cameras. The analogy to teens who'll never own either a Ferrari or Maserati is apt. They look me like a solution looking for a problem, at least for "active" amateurs, people like me. Facebook, in particular, has an active Fuji GFX group that endlessly publishes small jpegs "demonstrating" this or that superiority. Most of these images look like they could just as easily have been made with an iPhone.
Many of us gave up the big DSLR, e.g. my hopefully just sold D800E, for smaller cameras, and lenses (one can debate whether the Sony's with their petite bodies but just as big as ever lenses fit that group). I'm pretty happy with my Fuji. I'm one of those seemingly rare photographers who actually print their images too, and I'm happy with my prints. I've read that the US economy is doing well but how many people are really buying $8-10k camera outfits? One of the strengths of my current Fuji system (and the M43 and Sony as well) is the decent variety of relatively affordable prime and zoom lenses. This will take a while and cost a LOT for these 50MP mirrorless wonders. I have no idea where photography is headed. I'm not at all sure it's in this direction. I've been wrong a lot in my many years on this planet; I may be wrong again but at least for now, I've reached a point where I'm investing less in "hardware" and more in "software," e.g. fuel to travel and paper and ink to print.

My GoPro mostly it sits in a bag, a very capable one trick pony with a terrible UI. For certain situations they work wonderfully but they are a niche within a niche. Most folks who need one have one or more.
Once you buy a goPro you immediately need cases and mounting hardware so they end up being expensive, though limited cameras.
I think the Hasselblad is the more significant because while Both the Fuji & Hassy disrupt the MF, Hasselblad was willing to disrupt themselves. You hardly ever see that with camera companies.
Quality wise I don't know which is better, but I am certain both are very good. They are more FF+ (as I think you called them) than MF, but it is a first step to disrupting the MF Business.
Right now, if you need the best quality for a cosmetics shoot or automotive studio work , nothing matches the 100MP PhaseOne.
But for a lot of work, these new cameras represent a solid 'step up' and will gain a foothold.
How many people really need that advantage is debatable, because the best FF sensor cameras are very good and more versatile, with blazing fast AF and high frame rates as well as huge lens selections.
There will be some who just Want the new cameras, more than need them, and they will help create an initial sales bump, and I think that's a good thing.
Longer term, they are bigger, heavier, a kit will cost $20k and won't focus well in bad light. That will limit them to some degree.

Both have to contend with the facts that for the vast majority of photographers choices from m4/3 through APS-C offer astonishing quality by any historical reference, and most photographs are only viewed on screens.
But if they suit the kind of work you do most, (especially if you make large prints) either will make you very happy.
I think both companies will sell more than their expectations so that means it should be profitable for them. That's good for everyone,

I have no idea whether large-sensor mirrorless cameras will be a flash in the pan or not, but I can see why they would be more attractive to manufacturers (and users) than standard DSLR designs: there's no need to design an absorption mechanism for mirror-shock and no need for a large, heavy, and expensive glass pentaprism. The lenses will still be relatively large, heavy, and expensive though.

Here in India, a very cost and durability sensitive market, mirrorless cameras had a market presence that can best be described with your phrase, as "flash in the pan". About two years ago I noticed that wedding photographers (the only ones who seem to have the sort of money) shifting over from Canikons to Sony mirrorless FF cameras. But now they are all back to Nikanons full frame cameras. I have not come across any one using a Fujifilm mirrorless camera so far. I asked one of the wedding photographers why he had gone back to Canikons. Apparently there is no reliable after sales service for any of those mirrorless cameras. The mirrorless ones are not cost competitive if you compare the durability, features and conveniences. Their glasses too come at hefty prices.
Weddings here in India are big, fat, money splashing affairs. There would always be half a dozen photographers in any wedding party. The strangest thing I have noticed is that many of the photographers seem to use the DSLRs as mirrorless cameras, using the live view mode.
My experience with the micro 4/3 system gives support to what the professional guys think. When micro 4/3 system cameras came into market here, a few of my friends and I bought low end mirrorless cameras made by a prominent company, at a price comparable to that of a good DSLR. Within a year all of them went belly up with no possibility of getting fixed. And we all ended up buying our own choices of DSLRs. We never had to regret doing so. For us, here in India, mirrorless is dead. Ranjit Grover

I wouldn't say the new Fuji and Hasselblad sensors are oversized, which implies there's an ideal size. Rather they are just another tool for us to use, with some advantages and trade offs compared to larger and smaller sensors. I suspect they will carve out a sustainable niche, but not dominate the market even compared to FF sensors.

For my way of working I'd like one of the new MF mirrorless cameras, but it wouldn't be my only camera. I'll hold off on purchasing until reviews are in on the Mark II iterations (and my kids are through college).

From my perspective the Fujifilm and Hasselblad offerings serve primarily to make the Sony A7R II seem relatively modest and attainable. When my wife recently offered me a birthday gift to replace the Nikon kit that I bought when my much-loved Mamiya 7 gear was stolen, I slyly mentioned the price of the Fujifilm kit--and so, with that marker down, the Sony looks like a real bargain that would still allow my kid to go to college.

Well-heeled fashion photographers will love the Fuji. Like all MF cameras, nothing else give that magic combination of razor-sharp details against a bouquet of bokeh. (Should I copyright that phrase?)

Ironic that you need a better camera to make a fuzzier picture.

There's no other use case I can imagine for the big Fuji. Sharpness just isn't a problem anymore. I can't imagine a use for greater sharpness than my Pentax K-1 yields, but I'm not a muralist.

Just got back from The Photography Show at the NEC, a reasonably big industry show here in Britain. There were a LOT of drones on display, plenty about 360-degree cameras and VR, and also video.
Don't know about medium format but I'm totally sold on mirrorless generally because of the various fantastic advantages of EVFs vs. OVFs - live view histograms, focus peaking, etc.

The question with all the large and over-sized sensors is, "What for?" Most display is now on video screens, and even with the largest commonly bought high-def screens (85" at Best Buy) you can do about as well with a m4/3 because, well, high-def is high def, and no matter how big your sensor, the screen is the limitation on resolution, not the sensor.

So the large sensors are essentially made for photos to be *printed* as opposed to displayed on a video screen -- and that market, I think, is fairly small and actually, fairly traditional -- the same people who needed medium or large format back in the film days.

The other thing about the large sensor cameras is that while the cost of the sensor may eventually come down, the stuff around it -- lenses and body -- will remain large, heavy and expensive. And inconvenient to carry. So you're back to the top end of the pro market or the top end of the enthusiast market, where you're dealing with multiple camera cases, large tripods or camera stands, and so on.

I'm fairly confident that 44x33mm is not enough of a size gain from 24x36mm to produce the geometric 'look' of the medium format of years gone past. I'm hoping--with no actual technical justification, unfortunately--that someday an economical way will be found to create a truly large sensor: 6x7cm, 4x5 inches, etc.
If I were oozing money, I'd snap up a Fuji GFX just for fun, but not because I'd expect a noticeably different look.

Mike, you are clearly out of my league. In my much younger days the debate was between Alumacraft and Grumman aluminum canoes, and whether flush rivets made a canoe any faster than regular rivets.

It's a really interesting time in camera development. As a product person, I wish I had time to look more closely at it.

Firstly, making still pictures is well and truly leaving the domain of "preserving memory" (especially for the in-coming generation) and entering the realm of "conversation". Smart phones and social media give us a ready way to express ourselves visually, with much less regard for the permanent record than every before.

For a very large group of photographic laypeople, the "poor quality" pictures that come out of phones are just fine for keeping the family record, the holiday snaps etc. My wife's cell phone pictures, poor though they might be on the photographer's scale, are still way better than the family snaps either of our families used to get out of common point and shoot cameras when we were kids.

So if dedicated cameras aren't for conversation and they're not for mainstream memory-saving, they're left for people who like using cameras or who like making pictures.

It looks to me like those groups are now breaking into more defined segments, with more specialised cameras doing well (niche differentiation) and more generic "good value jack of all trades" doing worse. General purpose cameras are in a price war with smart-phones, where price is both a cash outlay, and the hassle of carrying the camera and getting the files into some sharable format.

I'll admit to being a Leica fan ahead of this statement, but I think Leica's recent product moves have been textbook differentiation: very defined segments, very differentiated products, very high prices — and the company is growing against the trend as a result.

Fuji seem to be after clearer differences between their products too, but at a different price band.

Another thing to keep in mind is that people "hire" cameras to do more than make pictures. Camera choice (among people who own cameras), reflects taste, satisfies technical cravings, satisfies self-identification, provides joy of handling, carrying and using, and the joys of just working with the output regardless of where they end up. Cars are a great analogy.

Mike, I remember your comment that photo books aren't just about the enjoyment you get from reading them, but the enjoyment you get from _looking forward_ to reading them!

The people who buy a camera based on what is actually "good enough" to produce "good enough" pictures for any purpose (real or aspired to) is really a tiny subset of the camera-purchasing market. Leica and Fuji (and some others I'm sure) know this and are exploiting it.

Either with a lens that matches the 35/2 on my Eos 5 body would be very nice to play with. In a funny way the Hassy seems a bit of a Digital version of the Plaubel Makina used by the likes of Martin Parr in the 80s.

Drones of all shape and sizes are not going away. Drones are much more similar to the Smart Phone. They completely change pretty much everything across many businesses.

From infrastructure mapping reviews to farm management to power line and pipe line review, to police work, environmental studies and on. The list is just continuing to grow as more people understand the power of having a moving camera with a real time view and advanced analysis.

The idea that Drones are a flash in the pan is similar to Steve Balmer's, past Microsoft CEO, that the iPhone was a joke.

Drones of all types, like self driving cars/trucks, submarines, land based and of course flying will be taking over and changing our life for basically forever now.

GoPro suffers because it missed the GoPro 5 launch date by six months; offering only minor improvements over it's previous model; and their drone wasn't exceptional either. From a company that created the market and then introduced four cycles of "must have" new models this had to disappoint investors, who had inflated the stock price out of irrational exuberance.

We're just used to that kind of slack R&D performance out CaNikon ;-p

I think once the dust settles in 5-10 years and CaNikon are bankrupt or nearly so, most of us will have APS-sensored Fuji X-series and the more resolute of us will also have a 44mm-sensored big box "view" camera. We'll have a healthy range of lenses from expensive Zeiss near-perfection to cheap but good Chinese glass to kickstarter-funded Petzvels. Sure the first OEM medium format lenses are expensive but if people are willing to put up with the hassles of a manual lens then all we need are adapter mounts.

I imagine multi-lens stitchers will be on the market by then and in 10-15 years they'll be mature and we'll all have something new and made in Finland. Or Boise.

As for drones, we've only just begun. Perhaps the toy-like novelty will wear off but the commercial applications for them is huge and not yet imagined.

Speaking of GoPro reminded me of a talk by Bob Mankoff, the long-time cartoon editor of The New Yorker, given at Google. I was in the audience, and remember vividly the GoPro strapped to his head during the entire talk. The video recording is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kogikw3InpY

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