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Sunday, 29 October 2017


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I don't read your blog for technical reviews. I read for your commentary, wide-ranging viewpoints, subtle references to other work (and thanks for the footnotes, for when I don't get it). Re Desiderata, perhaps you had encountered the National Lampoon version, Deteriorata? A sample:
"Go placidly amid the noise and waste,
And remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep.
Rotate your tires."

"Or, for that matter, from your iPhone, as long as you attach a DxO One to it."

Not just iphone, now Android too:


I bought a Sony RX100, the first model that came out, I think, in 2012. 1" sensor. I bought it used from B&H for $300. It had a "9" rating. The camera is amazing. At the same time I was shooting Pentax K5 with FA primes. The 13x19 prints I got off the Sony RX100 were very close to the print quality I got from the Pentax. Which surprised really surprised me. But this Sony RX100 is a jewel. Fit in your pocket I think why it so good could be the match between the 1" sensor and the Zeiss lens. The first time really took camera out to test I was astonished by this image. It would easily make a nice 24x36 inch print.
This is from the earliest model RX100. I can't imagine what a model V would be like, but this, for a very small pocket camera is hard to beat.

"But at some point, I just assumed, things would settle down and we'd go back to just...well, making, and looking at, pictures. You know, without caring how the pictures were made. Are we there yet?"

I would say yes, for the most part. Many [most?] people are happily shooting away with their phones, and looking at and sharing their photos and videos.

Video gets the attention because it's a new thing, but it's a very slow way to interact with content. I think maybe young people watch them while doing something else though; multitasking in a way I can't stand. But hey, if the other task is trivial enough it could help. But I work to bypass videos and find actual text, for two reasons—I read much faster than people speak, and the low data-rate of vlog-type stuff has a hard time holding my attention. I think lots of people see it that way, and more will with more exposure as the novelty wears off.

My first digital was inadequate; an Epson Photo PC 850Z as I remember it. 2MP, ISO up to 400 (but boy was that noisy). Still useful and educational, though.

However, my second, a Fuji S2, was mostly better than film in my use (not better than slow film used on a tripod in resolution, but that's not how I used either film or digital). That was back in 2002 (just barely). It would make cleaner-looking 8x10 prints than I got from film, consistently, but most especially in color.

I was very concerned with tools back in film days, too. Starting in 1968 I went from a Bolsey 35 to a Miranda Sensorex to a Pentax Spotmatic and a Leica M3 to a Nikon FM2 -- by 1981. Of course some of that was initial learning curve. And I worked with D76 and HC110 and Rodinal and Autofine and Acu-1 (one-shot version of Acufine) and Diafine and Edwal FG-7 film developers. And Agfa papers, and Kodak papers, and Ilford papers, and polycontrast as well as graded. (No, I never liked Microdol.)

Partly I'm just a gadget geek of course. But partly my driving interest in photography is documenting things, and that runs into technical limitations a lot, and I look for technical means to overcome the limitations. Somebody whose primary drive is more artistic could also have this problem, and somebody bent on documenting things that always have lots of light on them wouldn't, but it's the technical constraints of what I wanted to document that drove a lot of my experimenting with means.

And hey, my Android phone natively has almost 20 megapixels (more than I need anyway) and an f/1.8 lens and shoots RAW. I do suspect the DxO One is better, though. Luckily, my Android phone doesn't have USB-C, so I can't be tempted quite yet.

Deteriorata may almost justify the existence of Desiderata. Maybe.

In the 70s of my youth, many a toilet-facing wall was adorned with a Desiderata poster. There was even a popular musical version that was played on the radio. In fact, when I re-read the "you are a child of the universe" passage just now, the tune immediately popped back into my brain from the depths of my dodgy memory. I have to admit, there is very little else of the 70s that I remember.

Yes, 1" sensors are getting pretty good. But if they challenge MF, then the area of (Micro) Four Thirds - almost double - is large format ;-)

Not true tho - just look at the photo of Ehrmann. No fancy (and already a bit outdated) lighting done by Andreas Jordan, and just like his photo of the woman the point of focus isn't on the eye. But still, you cannot replace a large film negative (or positive) with tiny sensors. Still waiting for true MF sensors in 6x6 or 6x7cm, in black & white of course...

But most probably we don't need them. What Steve Gosling has and uses seems to be good enough. See this video for some nice landscape work.

And thanks for the reminder on Desiderata. Still beautiful.

If that's your good enough you don't even need a 1" sensor, you could settle for the phone itself.

On cameras and sensors: I personally don't really care that much about image quality now; my gear (m4/3 with a trifecta of zooms) nearly does everything I need and want, save for a long zoom, which only really leaves me with the 100-400, a lens I consider to be somewhat overpriced. If someone really "needs" that extra image quality for whatever reason I just rent.

Other than that, any improvements come from other aspects, mainly usability and workflow. It's 2017, why doesn't my camera have an easy way to sync and manage my photos to my computing devices?

On writing: It's a bit distressing to see the written word in general fall by the wayside; it seems people would rather listen to podcasts and watch vlogs, no matter how inane they are. Personally I also find them a waste of time, as I can read far faster than any podcast or vlog can disseminate the information within, especially with the latter since very few vlogs are made to take advantage of the audio/visual advantages of the medium. One last thing is that there is certain artistry that they lack, unlike a well-written blog, for example, this distinguished blog.

In a few years the human eye can’t probably notice the difference in resolution between a 1-inch sensor and medium format digital anymore. The strange thing is that at this moment there seems a tendency towards going larger and larger.
Of course it is great to have an almost identical quality available in all sensor sizes, but at the same time things also can become pretty boring. To keep things interesting we need variety in our imaging. Which for example explains the popularity of Instagram. In the end it all comes down to the skills and taste of the photographers and designers. As an illustration here some fresh examples of anti-more-of-the-same-boredom imaging:



My first digital camera was a Sony Mavica. The look on people's faces when I inserted a floppy disc into it, still makes me laugh. Of course, I knew the floppy disk would go the way of the abacus, so I wisely backed up all my Mavica shots on to CDs. Somewhere

My god, that video review is so intensely annoying in so many ways.

I've got an RX100m3 and a RX10m1, so I'm very familiar with the IQ. They do a great job in good light, so an attractive model under studio lighting is definitely in their sweet spot.

I've even used both cameras to shoot two weddings (as an amateur). But would I prefer to shoot events with a 1"-type sensor camera? Nope.

My "serious" camera is now the Sony A7R2. If the R3 works as advertised, I'll happily upgrade, as Sony are adding features to make it a better general-purpose camera.

Hi Mike,
I looked at the sample photo, and my first reaction was "nice lighting, fantastic sharpening". That felt a little uncharitable, so I downloaded the original image. I'm glad I did, because I learned something new about lighting - using a subtle hair light that's warmer than the rest to make blonde hair look really golden.

I agree with your premise, this is as good as or better than the way medium format film was used in the 1990's. Certainly much more flexible and cheaper to operate. But wasn't most of the medium format look due to lighting, hair, and makeup? I dunno, I feel like it's the comparison misses something important, but I can't explain what.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one if these 1" cameras to any of my friends who are going on a trip, or taking pictures of their kids doing sports. And I know I could do good work with one - great work if I could control the light. They seem to do as well as the 12mp generation m43 cameras, and I still use one of those as a backup, though I do need a fast lens to knock the noise down enough, which isn't really an option with these.

So we now have a wide array of digital cameras that can do pretty much anything we need, at almost any price point, with so much more flexibility than film ever gave us, even granted the weird tradeoffs of adapting manual focus lenses, or accepting big camera bodies, in order to shave off a few bucks here and there.

I think the only thing we are really lacking is a better way to selectively control contrast* in camera, and we never had much flexibility with that in the film era anyway. I agree, I'm hoping we can focus on making the photographs now.

*acutance at certain frequencies, but also global contrast at certain depths behind/before the subject.

Mr. K Tuck: https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-gallery-of-one-inch-sensor.html

"At what point are we going to learn to stop worrying and love da bomb?**** At what point are we just going to start making pictures again?"

Well, I'm pretty much there. And along the way I've made so many pictures that I now have a filing and storage "problem", one that I have to revisit. But the gear and setup I have now is so good that I don't have to change it. I've added here and there, and there is one more thing I'd like to get (something like a Sony RX1RII for my pocket...), but what I have now serves excellently.

It has also allowed me to turn the photography part of my artwork into something I wanted it to be decades ago but couldn't achieve. And allowed me to begin actual pro commercial work on a modest scale in the niche I want to be in for that.

For the kids who don't get your Dr Strangelove reference.


Oh good grief! If "that" female (lady does not apply IMO) is an example of the post year 2000-born children, we are all in trouble. Is the world now out there so self-centred that this poorly scripted posting is considered normal or adequate?

Oh and Mike you is cool, not old, not by a long stretch. Knowledgable yes, however old, not.

And my photography was similar to the aforementioned
Jim Sherwood, although I went from Pentax to a Nikon F.

Strange stuff now, yet count the years and in terms of same a blink of an eye and yet in terms of technical changes in photography, ancient history.

Thanks, Mike,
For the side note on "Desiderata". That missive has traveled a bit and I thought too, that it was found in a church long ago. I didn't know it was a poem... and your subsequent research and knowledge of it's associations really bring the facts to life. And, also, the whole point being that you often go the extra mile in offering backgrounds and anecdotes on photography-related (and some not) stories and issues. We'll use your links!

-Bob G.

If Like me you were a bit slap dash in your practicres film can be hard work, if you were a perfectionist film could be amazing.
The argument will rage for years and ther is no better, just taste and what really is importnat is the content of the image not how it is captured.
Wedding and portrait photographers bought blads with Zeiss glass and put stockings or vaseline coated filters on the front of the lens to soften the image killing all thetechnology put into making the lenses sharp.
We shoot with unbelievable superb optics at great megapixels only to post on social media or apply an uprated Tri x grainy look.
In the words of an old friend ' whatever lights your candle'
Just a thought about a great British photographer...
James Ravilious died from an illnes caught from darkroom chemicals.

I think this obsession with technical perfection applies to many fields. All my "hobbies" involve something similar. Motorcyclists talk endlessly about gear, often less about riding. RVers about gear as much as traveling. Skiers about the latest tech that will finally make them the skier they want to be. Bicyclists the same. And there is some validity to that thinking because all that stuff has gotten rapidly better and makes its users better in the process.

But you're right. At some point enough is enough. I find that realizing when I'm there has become easier as I've become older, a lesson from past disappointments I suppose.

As to cameras I'm sort of where you are, enjoying my phone more and more, even though I already have my other camera that I'm perfectly happy with, my OMD EM-5II, whose technical capabilities are way beyond my creative capabilities. It won't be long before we're saying our phone is as good as our old RX100. My phone is already better than the Canon Powershot cameras I was happily using six years ago.

I really prefer reading to videos. I can read an article many times faster than anyone can read it to me, or perform it for me. I don't have the patience for videos, despite the fact that they often feature pretty young ladies.

I also hate, hate, hate autoplay videos. I'm with you there, Mike.

Please keep of the good work. I'll be reading here for as long as you're writing.

No. Just, like, no.

I too detest the new trend of enforced noise when opening a website, and therefore close any that I arrive at immediately.

But, to get to the main thrust of your comment, I think the weakness of your point about the little Sony camera being as 'good' as an MF film camera is revealed in the image you choose to show to demonstrate it. Yes, it is very sharp, yes colour is great, etc. but, you choose an image with no background, and yet for many photographers and the images they choose to take, background is an essential component, even for portrait photographers - we are not all budding Avedons. Once you include background - more in the manner of Cartier Bresson's portraits - then comes the decision of how much of that background do I want to be in focus, a clear aesthetic decision. I've shot quite a few (more environmental) portraits with a Rolleiflex 80mm f2.8, many at wide open or near wide open apertures, which can give a very controlled selective focus depending on intention (or experimentation). This comes easily to MF users. It won't be a choice that is readily available to users of these small sensor cameras, at least at the moment. There is the significant difference.

@ David A

"James Ravilious died from an illnes caught from darkroom chemicals."

Could you say more about this? Do you have a reference?

I'm still not exactly sure what the point of this post is about, but one has to separate the progress of technology and tech product reviews geeking out over product specs from the process of making and viewing compelling and engaging photographs (I'm intentionally not using the term "images").

It reminds me a lot of high-end audio, where a lot of the guys are simply churning gear for the sake of churning gear; they are evaluating cables, DACs and speakers on a technical basis (is 256 DSD really better than 128 DSD?), rather than being engaged in listening to music.

With respect to cameras, I've historically tended to use one camera and system for a very long time, instead focusing on making photographs. I used my OM-1 for 22 years before getting into the Canon digital system, where I shot with a 1-D series camera for 13 years. Granted my "churn" with mirrorless has been more rapid, but I attribute this to a disruptive innovation that was very rapidly scaling in format, photographic quality and functionality and I was trying to figuring out where I wanted to land (1", M4/3 or APS-C) in mirrorless-land. Now that I have figured that out, I plan to keep my X-T2 and X100F for quite some time.

That being said, the large prints I made just last week that will form the basis for the third and final part of my GFX review have convinced me that I've yet to see anything that can match medium format when it comes to print quality and number of other attributes important for photographs. Everyone has different needs and standards for photographs. For me personally, that standard is medium format. More on that in Part III (which I will send along this week, Mike.)

Those who are busical
about the metaphysical,
see all creation
in reincarnation.

Those who are doubters
about the psychic touters,
see all damnation
in transmigration.

Those who are inbetween
about this raging arguemien,
see all salvation
in copulati

Since one of my main goals is to show things that would otherwise not be seen, remembered, or understood, "all the information your actual human eyes could, at a distance where you'd be seeing" is utterly irrelevent.

My most favorite (and liked) photos of the last few years are Very Large prints of very small spiders. What your eyes would see live of the subject is nearly nothing (see all of my misses and botches) - ALL THAT IS INTERESTING IS WHAT THE CAMERA SAW THAT EYES COULD NOT.

I keep wondering how many decades it will be before the 1960s are finally left behind.

Remember "Goodbye, Cameras" by Craig Mod? Ever read the followup, "Photography, hello"? He was right.

No, we're not going back to the Vue-Master. We're not going back to passing photo albums around, from lap to lap at Christmas. We'll not be seeing the invention of photogravure and the dawn of big-budget photo-essays powered by Smith and Bresson.

Post after post, year after year, it's yet another variation on "At what point are we just going to start making pictures again?"

Never. Not in that sense.

Not as effortful art objects. Produced by effortful art, via precious mechanical instruments. Following years of tedious apprenticeship.

It's only conversation now, here this instant and forgotten the next as the wildfire of attention burns its way over the event horizon.

Want to make money from it? Grow a pair, don't be afraid to use them, and do like SnapChick. Then maybe. But she's getting old. Must be around 30 by now, so "at your own risk", everyone.

Or as Mr Money Mustache says, "Don't Start a Blog, Start a Cult," so maybe SnapChick does have it down tight. Anyhow, it'll be something entirely else before too long.

But not the 1960s. That's still over forever.

* Goodbye, Cameras: https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/goodbye-cameras
* Photography, hello: https://craigmod.com/journal/photography_hello/
* SnapChick: http://www.snapchick.com/, http://snapchick.tumblr.com/

What does “probitious” mean?

[See Bill Tyler's Featured Comment.... --Mike]

There was a time I used to hang out around marinas to admire other people’s boats. Of course the largest and fanciest were the first to attract attention, but in time I came to realize they spent most of their time tied up at the docks. It was the smallest boats that got used the most, and I would wager were enjoyed the most. One can get tangle up in generalizations, but I have to wonder if people who use smaller cameras don’t use them more often and enjoy them the more for it.

I too have a Sony RX100, sold my Fuji X100S to buy it because I honestly found the Fuji to be too large to carry everywhere even though the X100S images were technically and artistically superior. But I find that the photos I make with the Sony are quite mediocre. I do not print large, never more than 13x20" but still feel that I want more... larger sensor, more megapixels and I can't quite figure out why. The detail rendered by my Fuji X T-2 clearly surpasses my "needs." The problem is my "wants." So what I want is either a Nikon D850 or a Sony A7RIII. Why, because it's there!

the bizarro desiderata https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq4uCWtQE24

Fun fact: The Amazon page for the RX100V you link to does not even give details on the lens like f-stop, focal length (even when you scroll down to "technical details").
Assume that supports your argument.

Love the reactions to this one - 'Good Enough' is a real thing, and there's no reason that it's going to be the same for anyone, much less everyone.

My little TG-5 camera I bought for waterparks and such with my kids has an amazing macro mode. So what the sensor is teeny , it makes teensy things big, so it's good enough.

I shot a pic of my kids outside last night, lit only by their recently carved jack-o-lantern and the red bulbs wrapping a skeletal dog, and ya know what? My X-T1 and 16 1.4 did better than my previous high bar of D600/35 1.4, even tho it's a 'worse' combo. Because I had it, duh, but being able to hold the wider lens lower and use the flip up screen made composition easy and picking the right shot simpler.

I tried a bunch of 1" cameras and ended up hating them all, but mostly because they were rather good until they weren't, and I could never get a feel where that point was. So i use fixed-lens compacts with bigger sensors, and never shoot far away. Good Enough.

"I've read enough in the old literature to suspect that distracting disputations about image quality have been going on at least since the Daguerreotype went away. Maybe it's essentially social—part of how we keep each other's company—given that the creative side of photography is so solitary?"
And given that the creative side is so difficult to talk about?

Hi Mike

Some years back Michael Reichmann published a post highlighting the quality possible with smaller sensor - even in a print. This is still a recommended, thought-provoking read:


Saying sensor a (here recent 1in sensors) is as good as sensor b (MF film) is half of what's wrong with photography: we're all obsessing over technical details which don't actually matter.

Would it seem reasonable to say that Henri Cartier-Bresson was not as good as Ansel Adams, because he used cameras with lower-resolution sensors? That Bach's harpsichord music was worse than Wagner's Ring because he only used one instrument, and one with no real touch sensitivity at that? Or that Dürer's woodcuts are worse than Constable's paintings because they are only monochrome?

No: it would be absurd, in all these cases. The artists concerned practiced different, if related, forms of art, and one is not better than another.

The gear-fetishism that afflicts photography needs to end. Digital has won the 'technical image-quality' race: we get that. But that race is boring, and it's always been boring. When I take pictures on 35mm Tri-X with a lens which people sneer at (the old 40mm Pentax pancake), and print them on an East European paper which probably hasn't changed much in 50 years I don't do it because I think the images will be technical perfection, because there was never a time when 35mm was competitive in that restrictive sense -- it was always worse than anything larger. I do it because of how it looks -- not how it looks technically, how it looks. Because it looks like 35mm Tri-X orinted by someone who cared a bit and had some understanding of what the photograph was meant to be like and sometimes that can be terribly beautiful, and that is all that actually is important.

(Now I will go away and obsess over this iphone camera attachment gadget you mentioned: I am very far from being free of the obsession with technology which is why I am so militant about it.)

(Additionally with regards to another comment: there's no evidence I know of that Ravilious died from anything associated with darkroom chemistry, I think that's a slightly questionable claim and might be upsetting to his widow.)

"You'll note that our vlogger astutely says at one point that the smaller the camera, the more she'll use it. Struck me as both true and also honest." - Isn't this just another way of saying that the best camera you have is the one that you have with you? We debated the meaning of this phrase in a recent post, but I have always interpreted it as meaning what our vlogger is saying - the camera you use the most is the one you carry the most, and by implication, find a camera that you're prepared to carry all the time that gives acceptable quality. Frankly, I think we've been at the point where we could just love da bomb for a very long time. We're just buying improved ease of use and other useful features, including portability. Didn't watch the video - too painful.

probity |ˈprōbədē|
noun formal
the quality of having strong moral principles; honesty and decency: financial probity.
late Middle English: from Latin probitas, from probus ‘good.’


I’m probably just old fashioned, but photography is something I do for pleasure and taking pictures with my iPhone gives me no pleasure at all. Hence, it doesn’t count as a camera.

I tell ya what. If you want to replace medium format film with a one inch sensor, then just build a nice little chimney finder with a lens to focus the 6x6 cm image onto the one inch sensor. Install an ideal focusing screen for this use, and I'll likely be fine with that. I don't necessarily need a zillion megapixels. What I do need is to faithfully record the view of the world as seen through my medium format lenses.

I rarely watch a video. My camera collection is, Canon. I have a G12,S90 and an A3300. I stopped taking a lot of photos when Adobe dropped me and the support for my owner PS6 program and went to the pay as you go cloud.

I do enjoy still reading this Blog. I come by every day early in the morning. I have six sites that I visit on a daily routine. Thanks for running this blog.

The thing that I am most amazed by, related to Mike's post?

The example photo of "good enough," a simple portrait of a woman just standing there, is now up to 8,000 views on Flickr.


It's a boring photograph. It's barely worthy of being a generic frame filler at Target.

But, it was taken with THE hot new camera, right?


How about "integrous"?

"Additionally with regards to another comment: there's no evidence I know of that Ravilious died from anything associated with darkroom chemistry"

According to An English Eye, Ravilious had lymphoma. Slightly more on topic, it's interesting to note that this wonderful photographer moved to a larger format, from 35mm to 120, as his career progressed. He stopped using 35mm and worked with Edwin Smith's cameras, lent to him by Smith's widow.

[But what does lymphoma have to do with darkroom chemicals? There are no suspected carcinogens in common B&W darkroom chemicals that I know of, and even if there were the connection would still be tenuous.

Early Daguerreotypists were exposed to mercury vapor and some of them died from it, but I'm not aware of *common* illnesses resulting from photography other than that. Unless you count GAS. Many darkroom workers lived to ripe old ages. --Mike]

"But what does lymphoma have to do with darkroom chemicals? There are no suspected carcinogens in common B&W darkroom chemicals that I know of, and even if there were the connection would still be tenuous."

Nothing that I know of. There was an earlier comment that the poor guy had contracted something in the darkroom and died from it and I was merely stating what it said about him in An English Eye.

As a point of interest, the Deteriorata was written for the National Lampoon. A recording of it was included on a National Lampoon album in the 70s and was also released as a single. That much was stored in some dark part of my memory, but I just learned that the music was by Christopher Guest of Spinal Tap fame. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deteriorata

I remember having a heated argument with Vermeer about the size of the hole in his camera obscura! (Of course I don't, but it does remind me to implore you to watch a film called 'Tim's Vermeer - in which 'Tim' attempts to recreate a Vermeer with as much accuracy as is possible; fascinating viewing).

"1" Sensors as Good as Medium-Format Film"

This happens as Fuji jumps into medium format digital where Hasselblad has long had medium format digital cameras worth more than both of my used cars new prices put together!

I had a Nikon D750 + lenses for two years, sold all that, bought a Fuji XT-20 this year with a couple of lenses; both were/are 24Mp cameras. I can heavily crop those 24Mp images and still print big lovely prints to take to our local camera club for our monthly competitions.

I couldn't have fantasized about the abilities of today's digital cameras in 1979 when I used saved-up lawn mowing proceeds to buy my Canon AE-1 (black body) and 50mm lens so I could be on the yearbook staff my senior year in high school.

I still like learning about new camera technologies, once an engineer, always an engineer, but for the past few years I have stopped lusting after the latest tech and just plain enjoy taking photos like a did as a teen.

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