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Sunday, 29 December 2019


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I’m not sure about the digital cameras example, Mike. Yes, if by ‘new digital camera’ you mean a different make of camera - e.g., moving from Canon to Sony. But in many other cases the changes are incremental. For example, someone who bought a Canon 300D - the Digital Rebel - and then upgraded within the Digital Rebel line at three-yearly intervals might find the upgrades simply incremental and quick to assimilate, rather than three years’ work.

Then theres the argument that not all photographers need to understand everything about a new digital camera to master it, in the context of their own work. For example, a wildlife photographer, a landscape photographer and a portrait photographer will use different features of the same camera and may not need to know about the features used by the others. Again, they could quickly assimilate the appropriate upgrades that a new model brought while continuing to use the features they had with the previous model.

12:28PM - What have you done? There's only one left... how many did you sell?

Good satire is truth!

But what does the equation look like when switching within a model line or jumping lines within a brand? Something in between the two equations in the post, I'd imagine. Could this actually be a legitimate, rational reason for a certain camera maker sticking with a terribly flawed menu system for years? Were they being cruel to be kind? (Of course, that saying could also apply to an overhaul of said menu system. Is this why they say photography is only for masochists?)

I've never used a published aftermarket manual, but I can't imagine any of them being less helpful than the typical official user manual. The best of the latter seem to realize that they are at best technical references and are well-indexed. On the other hand, I have used the free web often for help figuring out a camera and get tipped on its quirks. In the era of smartphones, the web is somewhat portable, but that method can turn into a hobby of its own.

After market books? Oh, yeah. These days I seldom even open the manufacturer's owner's manual. It seems they delight in arranging the manuals in such a way that confusion ensues. All of the after market books I've used have been better prepared and more useful. And I always buy them in ebook format. Kindle app in the iPhone means the book is always with me.

I think one of the reasons many photographers stick with the same brand cameras for years has to do with the adjustment necessary. When I used Canons, every Canon I bought seemed basically familiar. Same with Nikon and Fuji. The only camera I had difficulty adjusting to was the Olympus OMD-EM1 despite previously owning several Olympus digitals. Great little camera, excellent image quality, useful IBIS, etc., but I never could remember the controls or what some of the menu items meant.

Because of this, I'd say you should only change your digital camera if there is something you fundamentally dislike which absolutely cannot be fixed or which you cannot become accustomed to with significant use. This is why poring over loads of camera reviews isn't going to help you choose a camera to buy. Pick one based on what you instinctively like, and you'll learn all its quirks, even if others would call these quirks shortcomings.

A personal example is my Panasonic DMC-GF1. I love it, and know it inside-out, but after years of use I still don't get on with the single click-y wheel on the back, and long for some big chunky twin-control dials. This tempts me into having to relearn a whole new camera; more megapixels or features are never a good enough reason.

DPReview used to be a great help: I found their incredible 34-page review of the GF1 indispensable for learning it. The review of the more recent GX9, presumably a far more complicated and feature-laden camera, has only 11 pages.

You ask, "Do you use aftermarket books like the one linked to learn your cameras?"

I bought the Tony Phillips book for the X-pro2 and found it very useful when getting started with the camera, if less than elegantly written. (But, I come here for that!)


Needing to fully understand the simpler camera is more reasonable than thinking you need to fully understand the modern digital camera, too. For example I simply never go into the "art" or "scene" modes, and I don't think I'm losing anything by skipping them. That's a chunk of the learning curve hacked off. Etc.

So I have a Fuji X-E1, and it is fine. Then I needed a backup body and some more lenses. (Had a kid.) It turned out it was cheaper to go to used m4/3 cameras and lenses than continue with Fuji. So I did that.

$1000 in m4/3 gets you two very nice used bodies plus a few used primes.

Way back in 1993 the newspaper I worked for was persuaded that the company, not the photogs, should provide the camera gear. I had been shooting with Canon new F1s, motor drives that took a dozen AA batteries, and a bag o' lenses.
I walked in one day and there was a brand new Domke bag with a pair of Nikon F4s bodies, and 5 prime lenses, from 24mm to 300mm. The photo editor suggested that I might want to take a few weeks to practice with the new gear before actually using it on assignment. "(expletive) THAT" I replied. I grabbed the day's assignments, headed out the door with the new gear, and never looked back. At least that's how I remember it. ; )

I bought a couple XH-1 books, read them and then forgot about them. Still learning the camera, but what I like about it is I can change many things easily with dials, with little need for menu diving. What I don't like is that some of the buttons are too easy to hit and interrupt what I'm doing, so I have to disable them (the q button and FN2). Youtube helped me figure out how to disable the Q button.

Thinking of complaints about grip size, I own and use a Rollei 35 SE. Picture in your mind's eye a bar of soap with two dials and a lens. Love it, the lens is wonderful, and you can have any focal length you want as long as it's 40mm. (I know, I know, the discussion is about digital gear,not film, but I just couldn't resist.)

With best regards,

Stephen S. Mack

How long did it take to become fully familiar with a new type of film?

If you just want to use the regular settings normal, practical photographers tend to use you can master any camera (except Olympus) in a matter of days. Where people get into the weeds is in trying to master every setting, every digital filter and every function button variation a camera will offer. If the latter then yes, it will take a decade or more to master.

Mastering bluetooth and wi-fi is binary...some of us never make it work.

At least as of May 2019, Fujifilm indicated that they were still planning two distinct XH and XT lines. See interview posted at https://www.fujirumors.com/fujifilm-manager-70-of-gfx-users-came-from-full-frame-x-h-and-x-t-line-will-both-evolve-in-future-hope-for-fujifilm-x-h2/
However, this may have changed since then.

One thing that concerns me more than differences in handling across camera models is that digital cameras have a certain style of how they render the pictures built into them. These differences in regards to rendering are noticable even among different camera models of the same brand. They are hard to fix even if you use raw format. This is a big problem if you have to change the camera model during a project, much like in former times where you wouldn't change film types and brands without a good reason.

Re camera books: I don't buy those, and I only use the manual to look certain things up. The act of making a picture should be straightforward, and everything which is difficult to figure out is mostly a waste of time.

Best, Thomas

I've noticed and been tempted by your enthusiasm for the X-H1 and its price. It's even better in Australia. With free delivery and GST included, it comes to USD689! If I bought from Amazon USA at $999, with delivery and GST added, it comes to AUD1724!

So I was tempted, as I said, but the cost of the lenses is prohibitive to me. Almost every lens is over A$1,000. Your favourite 23mm f1.4 is A$1,060.

And no independent makes lenses in Fuji mount that I know of.

I am itching to buy something new and the Nikon Z50 is interesting at A$1586 (USD1,094) body only. But no IBIS.

The fact is, there are so many s/h lenses for sale in Canon and Nikon mounts, and the independents cater for Sony, Canon and Nikon almost exclusively. I'm waiting to see if Sigma will produce a new Foveon camera with SL mount. That would interest me.

But I took stock a few nights ago. I still have my lovely Pentax K-5 with Pentax 16-50 and 50-200mm, plus Sigma 10-20mm and Sigma 120-400mm. I only need to add a couple of small Pentax primes and I've got all I could want. Except full time live view and decent video. Stay my hand.

As I don't use the most advanced features of the new digital cameras, I learn to use them quite rapidly. Nevertheless, 'mastering' a new camera now includes the different behaviour of its sensor, combined with the lenses one uses. That is what takes really a lot of time! Nowadays different cameras have very different looks, and the tools we have to change that look are nearly infinite. It's something fun to investigate, but makes truly 'mastering' your gear a moving target, impossible to reach.

Ned Bunnell writes more about lenses, and from the point of priorities he is right I think. But anyway: Shooting in A-Mode as I do is easy staying with one brand at least. All those new features digital cameras can do is another story. A year? Three? Depends how often one uses it 😉 and what one really needs.
Manuals are another story - I use them after the deed, but very seldom. They are rather long, small type and often not structured for my brains. I even bought those from Thom. Gee! Nearly thousand pages! I would not call that a manual, more an encyclopedia. To work it through thoroughly would take me at least five years.
Btw your way of „constructing“ a „charf“ is sweet. Reminds me of one of my teachers of mathematics. She started the same way but went further and in the end constructed a real scientific equation everybody in the classroom understood (and forgot very soon).

So, a few more years before you tell us what the X-H1 is not good for?...

[I already told you! In the footnote.

It is good for everything else. :-)


Anybody has both Charles Harbutt's Travelog and his Departures and Arrivals? Any overlap?

The principal reason the X-H1 did not meet its (projected) sales goals for Fujifilm has nothing to do with what is a fine, and IMHO, one of the very best cameras Fujifilm has ever made, along with the X100F and GFX-series.

The problem stems from the fact is that it was poorly marketed, simple as that. Fujifilm did no, to at best, a poor job of effectively at communicating for whom, and specifically what, use-cases this camera was designed and intended. Ironically, when I attended the Fujifilm Festival in Venice, CA in October, 2018 I got a real sense from Fujifilm executive management that they held a great deal of pride in the X-H1.

That, and the fact that a completely new generation AF and sensor system debuted only 8 months after the release of the X-H1 in the form of X-T3, put the kibosh on the X-H1's sales over the longer term, and was in my professional opinion, poor product portfolio management.

So, personally, I am really, really hoping that the X-H line will continue. All the working pros that I know that use it for real pro work absolutely love it. Just look at John Kemp, he bought THREE of them.

Pros need a well-designed, well-executed, robust, reliable and durable camera they can count on to work, day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out, and not break, and the X-H1 is that camera. And specifically, I need a camera that can take a hit when jumping over K-wall at the racetrack and not get cracked through the frame (and I've seen DSLRs destroyed in just this manner).

It also produces, in my view, the finest image quality and color accuracy under a wide variety of shooting conditions I've seen from any camera this side of a GFX. The files have a real medium-format quality and look to them.

So...here's hoping the X-H line continues. Working pros need it...its the "Canon 1D-series" of the Fujifilm X-Sytem. And coming from the perspective of a guy who shot Canon 1Ds for professional work for over 13 years, I know what that's all about.

Neil Swanson wrote, "What do these guys shoot, Minox?" I wonder how many of your readers even know what a Minox is, without resorting to Google.

The Fuji cameras a beautiful. But way out of my price range.

I have been using m4/3 but even that is too much for me to get a newer body or higher level primes.

So I stretched my budget to just shy of breaking for a used Nikon D3200 DX kit with a 35/1.8 fast normal and a slow but optically well reviewed 18-55 VR II kit zoom. Battery, sd card and etc and I'm into a dslr kit for less than $300. Nice to have an optical view finder again.

Averages are dangerous. Leica M4 had only one. Shutter speed. The lens had the other two, aperture and focus distance. M6 added an exposure meter. It was essentially the same camera as a 1950s M3. Hardly takes a year to learn, if you have used an earlier one. Modern cameras are like computers. They can do a lot of things. The basics are the same in every camera. Apart from that, you should at least skim the manual to aee if there is anything else that is useful for you, for the kind of photography that you do. Nobody should even try to learn everything. Just like you don't use computer for everything it can possibly do. People have different needs. It is just a tool.

Hi Mike,
I think your price comparison chart completely misses the point about the Sony RX100. This is not a "point and shoot" camera, but actually offers all the functions and much of the image quality of a larger camera in a carefully engineered pocket-sized package. I regularly use mine as an alternative to the Panasonic G9 and bag of lenses. I'm just processing my images from a visit to the (amazing and very photo-friendly) Tutankhamun exhibition in London, and the quality even from my Mk4 (now 5 years old) is excellent.

You might want to take a look at http://www.andrewj.com/photoblog/2020/slides/191231_RX100M4_01313.html - ISO 1600, "pushed" to retrieve the shadow detail, and no correction other than the defaults in Capture One.

It's a "small" camera, and like other small high-quality things not necessarily a cheap one.

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