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Wednesday, 22 September 2021


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Wait, I resemble that. Here is another reader who listens to vinyl records, shifts his own gears in the car, cooks food the slow way on a stove with heat, and even takes photographs with film. And I also do not update my mobile phone until the old one is barely working. I must be a socialist or a communist or something because I don't support the consumerist society.

[does anyone know what "CIS pixel size" means? I don't. —Ed.]

CMOS Image Sensor

[Thanks Ned. Fixed now. --Mike]

I still have two of those Xa's --one with at the equally elegant flash (X11?) Amazing what you consider its size and that it was "Full Frame"
and had a great 35mm lens. There were two an F/2.8 , and a 3.5, both of mine are the 3.5. A beautiful little camera.

I don't carry a cell phone. It's not very long ago that I got a cordless phone for my landline. However, I gave up on my film camera for a simple digital one.

From my website address, you can tell that it dates from the unix based system of the 1990s.

Hm, I kept my last Android smartphone for 10 years. Recently (3 years ago) I got my wife‘s iPhone. As a camera it is only usable in bright sunlight. A face in shadow is only one noisy mess.
Being reasonably healthy and stubborn I carry a Nikon Z7 now as „go everywhere“. MF if on a shooting trip. I hope I can manage maybe further five years.
What I use my iPhone for though is Internet and Emailings on the road. The screen has become rather small for my aging eyes, so the new iPad has woken my interest. I have lots of rucksacks…

"I mean really...how would you feel if you knew a tech writer who still listened to vinyl records, drove a car with a manual transmission, wore a wristwatch, and amused himself by playing a physical game popular in the 19th century rather than video games like everyone born in this century?"

Don't forget the old-fashioned whole food diet, too. Goodness, it may be time to change the name of your blog to The Online Hipster. Obsolete? You were cutting edge for some time, but now I'm afraid you're slipping toward merely fashionable.

Re the phone/camera question: After responding to your previous post, it struck me that an underlying question is whether or not you wish to treat phone photography as a serious interest, eschew it altogether, or treat it as a convenience for occasional non-serious use. It sounds like you're pretty committed to the first option, though I trust that that will proceed according to the customary measured, insightful, Online Hipster method.

I'm not sure if we live in a world where systemic solutions will work because we can't even agree on the problems we face. I mean, anyone with any sort of scientific or (especially) medical/epidemiological background knew how the Covid pandemic could/would end by March 2020: masking and isolation where possible to reduce spread until development of vaccine followed by widespread vaccination to achieve herd immunity. How has that worked out for us?

Climate change, habitat destruction and widespread extinctions, overconsumption of resources, overpopulation... we know the problems and generally know the solutions, but a large proportion of the population (at least in the US) has been conditioned, most commonly through misinformation (i.e., lies) spread by those concerned only with their own profits, to believe that any "expert" discussing either problems or solutions is part of some nefarious conspiracy involving antifa, space lasers, 5G, nano-particles, blah, blah, blah.

We're each only one person, but the only way we're going to fix any of our big problems (unless you want to sign up for a global government led by a benevolent dictator) is one person at a time.

I didn't know either, but according to this: https://www.coventor.com/blog/cmos-image-sensors-cis-past-present-future/
....it stands for CMOS Image Sensor CIS, which seems really dumb because I think they use CCD for CCD's but I'm not sure. But if they followed the same logic they used to arrive at CIS for CMOS Image Sensor, The Acronym for CCD would Be ......CIS

Pretty soon Acronyms, abbreviations and made up words are going to outnumber 'Real Words". What happens then? I wonder if it is like Matter and Anti-Matter.........Boom

Regarding excess wealth, my tax preparer once said to me: "No one needs more than three times the salary of a teacher to be happy." Sounds good to me.

[Similar to that is research that shows that most people do most of their indoor living in 640 square feet of space, regardless of the size of their houses. My house is 1,600 sq. ft., but I have two whole rooms I hardly ever use. I wonder how many rooms there are in Buckingham Palace into which Her Majesty has never set foot even once? My own grandfather lived in his mansion from shortly after his marriage (the house was a wedding present) to his death at 91, and only went into his basement three times in his whole life.

There's considerable research that indicates that the closer to equal a society is, the happier *everyone* is, even the richest--because when people are too rich compared to the average, they feel less involved in the society as a whole and more threatened by the have-nots. And of course limiting personal wealth to $38 million, although it would elicit frantic screaming about "socialism" from the right, isn't anywhere near actual socialism, much less to literal equality. If every citizen were guaranteed a minimum income of, say, $24,000 in today's money, and personal wealth were capped at $38m, that still leaves a huge amount of room for incentivization, reward for accomplishment, class distinction, and things like status display. --Mike]

The most interesting comments on the iPhone 13 post were those that discussed Focal Length and Field of View of the various iPhone cameras.

It's not all-or-none. I drive a six-speed manual-transmission car because I enjoy it. And I carry a late-model digital camera (that doubles as a phone) because I enjoy that as well.

Maybe you could change your iPhone region to France to see if you get a free speed bump? Apparently, due to regulation here, if you use an iPhone 7 in France, Apple can't slow it down on purpose.

p.s. I haven't tried this, but I am curious!


I loved my Olympus XA. I was in the Air Force in Alaska in the early '80s and had to fly back seat in jets to alert sites where we had scramble jets ready to intercept probing aircraft from our neighbor across the strait. I couldn't carry my SLR in the tight cockpit so based on some articles in various photo magazines I bought the XA. This made me realize how true that old chestnut of the best camera was the one that you have with you was. I have hundreds of beautiful Kodachrome slide from that camera from a dozen countries... because I had it with me.


I read that Apple promises a fix.

Hard to imagine a photographer passing up this upgrade. I can because I don't use it that much and I've got an X which does pretty well.

I just upgrade from an iphone 4 to a 12 mini. Ten years with the same cell phone. It still worked as a phone. Send text messages. Play podcasts and take record shots. The battery would still hold for more than a day. I didn’t use it for anything that would require security. Infact one of the very few web sites it could load was this one. The only reason for the update is that I dropped it. Shattered the back glass and it started acting up on me. Anyway, guess it just depends what one uses a cell phone for. As a simple communication device (which is what I did) or as a hand held computer.

As a XPan lover and user for 15+ years, I am almost tempted to get a One Plus 9/Pro for its new XPan mode....

If your strategy is to wait for iPhone 14, then I would do one of three things. First, consider a battery replacement for the iPhone 7; Apple charges just $49 and this will give you the ability to wait without battery worries. Second option would be to replace your current phone at lowest reasonable cost, saving dollars for the iPhone 14. Consider a refurb iPhone X or 11. From an environmental perspective, you are simply life extending an existing phone. Third, if you would only consider a new phone, opt for the iPhone SE and use the savings toward the ultimate camera iPhone of the future.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on a "right to repair." As you might expect, I find the current phrase "planned lifecycle" mildly repugnant given the state of our planet and the current climate cul-de-sac we face. For my money, the "planned lifecycle" of a sealed glass box with no moving parts should be on the order of 100 years. Fat chance, of course, unless you price in some of the externalities of an endless stream of consumer pre-garbage. /rant off

I’m glad you mentioned population, IMO the root of a lot of issues.
We turn our back to climate change (the elephant in the corner) while the room is on fire (population).

*... I'd say that bloke was a rather interesting person. Wonder if he writes a blog anywhere? Er, wait, never mind.

It is easy to solve nearly any problem. You just need to be annointed KING. I will allow myself to be crowned but you cannot question my decisions.

I used a Minox 35 as my travel camera when I was traveling all over the world in the late 70s through most of the 90s on business and did not want to drag around my Nikon FM.
I finally replaced it with a tiny 2MP Casio EX-S2 (https://www.digitaltrends.com/digital-camera-reviews/casio-exilim-ex-s2-review/)
which I carried until cell phone cameras bettered it.
Interestingly, while I had the travel cameras, I also carried a small voice recorder, a Palm Pilot for notes and calendar, and, of course, a big bulky cell phone.
All that went away with the advent of the smartphone, which as Shira Ovide at the NYTimes points out may be the ultimate personal gadget, since other choices have fizzled out. (https://messaging-custom-newsletters.nytimes.com/template/oakv2?campaign_id=158&emc=edit_ot_20210915&instance_id=40456&nl=on-tech-with-shira-ovide&productCode=OT&regi_id=44924968&segment_id=68980&te=1&uri=nyt%3A%2F%2Fnewsletter%2Fbbd60a37-cf66-5855-bf7e-0472e0629bb6&user_id=fad2d5aebc4d367c69e282d2be4fcd18)
At first I had mixed feelings about the smartphone camera, since so much processing was done automatically, but let's face it, phone manufacturers have done an amazing job of creating an almost foolproof snapshot camera, and one with many artistic possibilities.
I believe in having a modern digital camera (I have a new Nikon Z fc) as well, but with the iPhone, I never have the excuse that I didn't have a camera with me....

What is funny is that for the last few weeks I've been walking around with an Olympus XA in my pocket to "sketch" with in BW. Still an amazing little camera. Maitani was truly a genius.

Is it possible that you are way overthinking this? Just buy an iPhone 12 Pro or 13 Pro, and get on with your life.

Either one will take much better photos than what you have, and work better overall in ways that will surprise you.

Yes, I knew that Saint Maitani designed the XA. It was the only pocket camera that worked for me. Still have two.

"As I was saying: we use phones as our point-and-shoots and pocket cameras."

Who, other than yourself, is this We to whom you refer?

"The handy, pocketable, carry-everywhere, easy-to-operate camera has been one of the longtime themes in the history of cameras, traceable back many decades."

And it hasn't gone away, at least for some of Us.

Panasonic ZS200, esentially the same size as the XA

Unless you want flash.

Hardly fatter, either. Yes it's deeper @35 mm, but only when in use, not in your pocket/bag/pouch.

But the difference if photographic Results count is stupendous! I've scanned film from mine, with a good, 4000 dpi scanner. The lens is decent, but not great. Film is limited in so many ways. Not only does the ZS200 make way better image files, it adds a really wide range of FLs.

That ". . . handy, pocketable, carry-everywhere, easy-to-operate camera" exists, in several guises.

Fun thing about the XA is that it has a wide angle telephoto lens. IE the lens has a wider than normal field of view but it’s focal length is longer than it’s physical length. I remember at the time it was the widest angle telephoto lens ever. It sounds like being the world’s tallest short person but isn’t really.

I tried one when it first came out and found there was something off-putting about the image quality in the corners that was sort of distracting.

It's good to remember why I never seriously considered an XA. For a snapshot camera a 35mm lens is okay, but f/2.8 is slow for me (especially then; 2 stops slower than the normal lenses I was used to using), and then on top of that the meter only supports up to ISO 800—and I exposed at 1000-1600 a lot and at 4000 some.

It probably would have turned out to be useful if I had had one.

I get your point Mike, and it's good to know what's out there and how it changes things — but I don't think of TOP as a technology blog or you as a technology writer. All the best posts are about photography — and often about the ways that photography isn't technology. I'm thinking especially about you reminding people that sharpness is just one quality pictures can have (and that more isn't necessarily better).

I'm on another forum (90% design/technology people), and interestingly noted a thread about the new iPhone where a number of people agreed that while the cameras in the 13 were better, they just weren't much fun to shoot with. Two people mentioned the new Ricoh GR as an alternative (i.e. an addition).

The people who were excited are the people who work in video. The idea of a tiny, pocketable camera that works with a prores workflow was exciting to them.

It seems to me like the still photography space is pretty mature now, technologically speaking. As the world moves on to video, my hope is that photography will become more interesting by virtue of being left to photographers (meaning, people interested in stills).

My Mac Mini’s from 2011, my MacBook Pro’s from 2013, and I’m typing this on only my second ever iPhone, a 7. A canon 1Ds mk lll remains my only camera since buying it in 2008 and I haven't bought a lens since 2006. I turn 50 tomorrow, and just thinking about owning a big and shiny iPhone 13 Pro Max has me excited as a 5-year-old. But then I think of how it’ll be even older news than I’ll be when I’m 55...

Do not believe the 'battery is dead I need a new phone' myth. Take your phone to Apple and they will put a new battery in it. In the EU this costs a few tens of euros, and the battery is then new.

Is possible I suppose that in the US this service is not available: it might only exist because the EU forces it to. Well, if so I am sorry for you.

A very useful shop application on my wife's phone started to update and... stopped. That phone is no longer supported.
I hate to change phones (moving a phone book, all applications, all data) but we started to look for something new.
The old phone weighted about 130 g. and 150 is the absolute acceptable value.
And we found out, that there is NO phone younger than 2019, which would be so light.
They simply hate us.
One of candidates is... iPhone 7, which still holds the price of $500

It may be time to retire the “don’t own a TV” idea since you can (and probably do) stream anything - broadcast or otherwise - to your iMac, iPad, or iPhone.

I increasingly use my phone instead of a dedicated camera. I use it for events where I need to post to social media quickly. I use it as an image-note tool. And I use it in a variety of circumstances when I just didn't bring the larger camera. But I never say, I'm going to just bring my phone because I like shooting it so much. That's what the real camera is for.

I've been away for a week (no internet!) and missed all the input in terms of the upgrade decision. I too own an iPhone 7 Plus. Ask yourself how you'll feel with your iPhone 13 when something significantly better comes out next year. My advice is to wait. I know that I'm going to.

your clamshell olympus made me recall a german photographer i met in the grand canyon

she did not carry extra film, she carried extra cameras at least a dozen of these olympus cameras on straps or in pockets, in addition to her two SLRs

I think you're right about the sustainable human population of the earth being a fraction of the current number. I think humanity will get down to that level eventually, but I'm glad I won't be around to see the transition. All of the past horrors of history combined will pale by comparison.

[It depends, I think. One idea is simply to pay women to put off having children until they are older, on a purely voluntary basis. The data shows that older women have fewer children. So if you could, say, prevent 70% of females from having children before age 24, it would lower average fertility by such-and-such a rate. The details are complicated and the math too formidable for me, but it's not above human capability, obviously. The research indicates that this might be a painless and fair way to manipulate the average number of births per woman--because you wouldn't be forcing anyone to participate, and you wouldn't even be asking women not to have children or to limit the number of children they have. Their decision to have fewer children would be a natural consequence of their age and stage in life. I read one claim that if you could stop all women everywhere from having children before age 20 or 21 or something like that, it would bring overall global population increases to a screeching halt, even in the face of increasing life expectancies.

Even if you don't like this idea, where there's a will there's a way--humans could figure out a way to engineer a net decline in population growth if we put a high enough priority on it. And it needn't involve anything immoral or radical like forced sterilization. Incentivization on a voluntary basis would be enough. The occasional woman who chose to have four children before age 20 or 14 children all told would simply be worked into the averages. --Mike]

Great post and I think it may contain the best sentence of 2021:

“As you know the psychic convention was cancelled due to unforeseen events.”


[I can't take credit for it. A friend sent me a video of clever road signs and that was one of them. The other one I liked: "Frog parking only. All others will be toad." Har! --Mike]

There are problems when mammals have offspring at young or oldish ages.

Rather than legislating for childbirth the solution is to make everyone richer as then women tend to have fewer (and later) children, which can be observed currently in many countries.

I remember reading that free school meals in developing countries cuts child labour rates and I suspect it would cut the number of women in “labour” too.

Population growth is already slowing, turning negative in some countries. This is a product (I believe) of an industrialized society. Look up population trends in Japan, Italy, Germany.

I mentioned that I’d sold on my Ricoh GR Digital II, and the phone is the reason why.

The old Ricoh had a fairly fast, fixed, wide angle lens and a middlin’ high resolution…I think it was 10 or 12MP …sensor, albeit a dinky little 1/1.7” or 1/2.3” one.

Thing is, so does my phone. And it has a bigger display and Lightroom Mobile installed. If I’m going to carry a separate camera, it needs to do things my phone can’t, which is why I have an RX100 now.

Regarding sustainable human population levels levels.
What happens if a virus with the lethality of ebola learns covids trick of asymptomatic transmission?
I hope I am missing something here but this possibility has me up at night

The proven way to reduce population growth in a positive way is to raise the standard of living and education, and especially that of women and girls.

After all those years - and the advent of digital - that little ol' XA still looks great!

But then I would say that.

Two other things that lower the birth rate are education for girls and access to birth control. Also things that greatly improve social equity, community, creativity and per-capita productivity!

Birds, stones, etc.

I bought an Olympus XA when it first came out about 40 years ago. What it lacked in image sharpness was made up for in small size and portability. It was a true pocket camera in its day. I still have mine, but haven't used it in over 20 years.

Think of the problems a wealth cap would cause the small jet manufacturers. You cannot run a private jet on less than $38million.
Believe me, I know this from personal experience. I have less than $38million and I cannot afford a private jet. ;-)

I have two XAs and one XA2. The latter was a gift from a dear friend, and I have not made a single exposure with it. Yet. The XAs disagree by one stop - exactly, so I use the one that I know is right because of results. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of any of them.

I have a Twitter friend who is making cyanotypes from XA2 negatives. Yes, they’re small but they are gorgeous. The XA series was a Maitani triumph.

I really can't help wondering - capping at $38m?? Seriously? And that still doesn't smack of 'more than anyone needs'? Do you know someone you'd be worried for or something? It seems a curious figure to just pluck out of the air - and I don't think you have much to fear about accusations of socialism at that rate. If you'd picked $3.8m you still wouldn't have had to worry about that.

[I didn't pick it out of the air--I got it from the Piketty book I mentioned and linked. I agree no one needs that much, but considering there are citizens now with wealth in multiple tens of billions, it's still a pretty extreme reform. --Mike]

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