#701. Monday Post (5 March 2018) – New camera?

#701. Monday Post (5 March 2018) – New camera?

Can you remember a conversation like this over coffee, a few beers, or a casual lunch with a photo buddy?


“I think I’m going to buy a new camera. It’ll help me get some better images and grow my skills.”


It might, but chances are, it’ll spend as much time on the shelf as the current model does and you still won’t have any more great pictures.



The step change between the XXX and the XXX mk2 or XXXX, is minimal and more of a marketing-imposed differentiation than a real increase in functionality. The viewfinder might have a higher resolution, or something useful like on-board HDR. Whatever it is, the additional functionality is unlikely to convert you into the next Sam Haskins.


The conversation made perfect sense to me, but then I’ve been doing this for a while. My companion wanted to spend money and clearly needed to assuage the early onset of GAS.


And we all know where that leads…


A parting shot on the subject; “Maybe spend a bit longer with your existing camera, understand what and how it does stuff and later in the year look for a second hand model much closer to the top of the range. There are plenty around and you’ll be ready to maximise it’s abilities.”


“Naaaah. I think the XXX mk2 is a good move.”


Of course, our favourite camera manufacturers do tend to make the situation worse; segmenting the market into $50 or $75 increments and filling each step with a slightly differentiated camera, attempting to catch as much market share as possible. I can’t blame them, but it does put me in mind of IBM’s mainframe antics in the old days – selling you a fully capable computer, but only switching on the prime features on payment of massive add-on costs.


But even then, no-one ever got shit-canned for buying IBM.



Where’s this going?


Well, when the Fuji X-H1 rumours started, I saw little to interest me as an existing X-Pro user and decided I’d look again when the X-T3 was announced, or perhaps even wait for the X-H2. It was around then that I bought a Fuji 100-400 zoom, OIS and all.


I’d stopped using zooms a while back, preferring the discipline I learned using manual focus lenses and more recently, Fuji’s primes. The purchase of the 100-400 was driven by two projects; a plan to spend more time in the African bush and secondly, to use it for offshore wave photography – more of that later.


For a first time user, image stabilisation is eerie. I’ve never had the steadiest of hands and yet hand holding at very low light levels suddenly became a possibility, the image in the viewfinder stable and entirely usable at 1/30th second or longer exposures. I was sold.


The X-H1 has on board OIS, a feature Fuji had previously claimed wasn’t possible. For me this alone could be a compelling development (read; a good excuse to buy one).


Deliveries started on 1 March and DS-regular Bob Hamilton has one on order. I shall be more than usually interested in his comments at this, Fuji’s first foray into the absolute top end of APS-C photography. No doubt there’ll be more on this topic soon.



Meantimes, Philippe makes a case in point; Sony releases its A7III. Will it get you great(er) pictures ?


The A7 series is the workhorse of the Sony lineup, the one that gets the most sales, even if it isn’t the sexiest. So what does the 3rd iteration bring? Will it answer the quest for “better pics” that generates GAS?


Point: Sony have pretty much thrown everything there is at the A7III to make it anything but an entry-level camera. Actually, it is almost a textbook on everything a new camera must offer in order to be fully competitive. 24Mp is pretty much standard today, be it in APS/C or FF sensor format. IBIS (in body stabilisation) has now become standard, with even holdouts Fuji joining the band (see above). Fast AF with multi-hundred AF points covering a majority of the image. Twin card slots. Large battery. Joystick which, with multiple adressable buttonss makes camera operation highly customizeable. 10 FPS (frames per second), which is speedy indeed (you need to spend 5K$+ for a DSLR to be that fast). New BSI sensor offering speed, dynamic range etc., for which Sony are justly praised. In effect, there are only 2 aspects where Sony have not specified the best there is; the EVF and the LCD, where the spec lags behind high-end A7RIII and A9.



Conclusion: Sony are on a tear. They continue to be super-aggressive in their bid to gain market share away from others (mainly CaNikon). The A7 III is a great new camera and it will be hard for Canon and Nikon’s forthcoming FF mirrorless to offer what the Sony doesn’t. Plus, the price at a shade below US$2K (list), is right. Plus, earlier models can still be bought new at far reduced prices. Buying a A7 (original) for less than 1K$ can make a whole lot of sense for some. The body isn’t great, but the sensor is still competitive, as is the IQ.


Counterpoint: If you have a A7 II, is it worth upgrading? Well resolution is the same. IQ should be very close if not identical, with the exception of improved high-ISO and a smidgeon more dynamic range. Most of the improvements are in the shooting experience, the speed, the AF, not in the images.


Conclusion: Excellent though it is, the A7 III is resistible. Actually, the price drop on the A7 II and A7 may point the way for many to get great images at ever-lower prices.


Conclusion of conclusions: the Sony A7 III testifies that the digital camera is a mature product. Weaknesses have been overcome and progress is now incremental. That means upgrades will not be for all owners of previous generation cameras. OTOH, Sony and mirrorless should continue to eat DSLR manufacturer’s breakfast. With a nice new product like the A7 III, bon appétit!



  1. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron March 05, 2018

    Oh dear – it’s on again, is it? Where to start.

    Well – it’s an axiom of photography that it is not the camera that takes the photo – it’s you. Bad photographers couldn’t take a good photograph, no matter WHAT they spend on gear. Maybe spending more money is some kind of penance that idiots have to stump u & pay?

    One ‘tog I heard of got so mad at this stuff, he went out & took a shot & brought it back to the GAS inflicted members of a photo club. They were thrilled – it was a superb photo – so they demanded to know what he took it with. A Kodak Box Brownie! The other people in the room nearly fell over, from shock.

    Sony? Canon? Nikon? Fuji? Sigh – same answer.

    I’ve read various notes & articles about Sony owners having problems, because Sony gets stuff made in China and they’ve had “quality control” issues. I had one a couple of years ago, with a Sigma ART w/angle, and it wasted over $500, so I know how they must have felt.

    But so what? – that’s life, these days – deal with it – it’s not just Sony & Sigma – I read a story about one poor guy who’d just taken delivery of one of the first Nikon D850’s, and THAT had problems. More haste, less speed, Mr Nikon? – trying just a bit TOO hard, to get it out into the market place? And there are some dreadful comments on the net about some models of Canon – not on quality control, this time – just uninteresting specs & design.

    I spent the first half century of my photography, mostly using a highly expensive Zeiss SLR with Zeiss lenses and interchangeable magazine backs (the only way of adjusting ISO on the run, in those days 🙂 ). But I was almost ALWAYS fooling around with a whole range of other cams – and NOT because they cost more – just for fun, to find out what I could do with them. Two were second hand Zeiss Super Ikontas, another two were Voigtlander Bessa II’s – all folding cams, 120 (6×9) format, from the 1940s – in their day, great cameras – by the time I had them, superseded – but such great fun to shoot with. Then there was the monster – for over a year I fooled around with a Linhof 5×4 studio cam – tell me Canikon’s tilt-shift lenses aren’t just a joke! Oh – a 6cm square format Bronica (couldn’t afford a ‘blad!), a Pentax, and several others. Why? Again – because it was fun. Did I ever think I could outgun Ansel Adams? Well – this is embarassing – at the time, I’d never heard of him – my only excuse is that he’s probably never heard of me, either! 🙂

    So when I am confronted by people with GAS, I cringe and try to escape. 🙂 Paul, you are absolutely right. There should be an exam, to see if they’ve mastered their present cam, before they are allowed to buy another one! Studying the manual for the present cam should be made compulsory. Anyone caught not complying should have their memory cards put on a restricted basis and carefully rationed, till they make their amends. And under no circumstances should people living off the old age pension be allowed to purchase MF cams or 200-500 zooms or anything else so expensive. People my age can’t do the physical side of bird photography anyway – although I suppose I could use a beast like that to take better shots of the moon. But 20 or 30 astronomical shots would scarcely justify someone my age buying one, would it?

    Enough already – time to trim the dog’s toe nails and give the rest of you a shot at this one. 🙂

    • Avatar
      Adrian March 06, 2018

      Very few Sony bodies and lenses are made in China. Most are made in Thailand, or Japan. Generally, Thailand had a good reputation for quality. Nikon make cameras there, and said the liked it because the labour quality, infrastructure and raw materials availability was good. Sony and Toshiba make sensors and hard drives there too. It’s certainly true some Sony lenses have had some QC issues, but I dont think it’s because of where they are made.

      Nikon had many own goal quality problems with several of their recent DSLR models.

      • Avatar
        jean pierre (pete) guaron March 06, 2018

        It was the baby of the family that was copping flack for being made in China. I wouldn’t know – the only Sony’s I’ve ever owned were both movie cams. But chat groups etc gave the R100 a bit of a pasting, and the comments extended to all 5 models. One guy had bought all of them – and had troubles with all 5.

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    nmc March 05, 2018

    “Conclusion of conclusions: the Sony A7 III testifies that the digital camera is a mature product.”
    I will respectfully disagree a bit here because the lens system development makes no sense to me. Sony started making a more compact system, get spooked by boke warriors, so start building big lenses, then some really expensive uber-lenses. They have the usual zooms to compete directly with DSLR, but are inconsistent/ incomplete for those wanting to realise the initial promise of a more compact system. At the same time they neglected their A mount customers whilst producing a system of similar size for many lens combinations, and leaving their APSC users for both mounts in system purgatory. Canikon are just as guilty for their respective APSC users, whom make up the majority of existing interchangeable lens camera owners. I think it is only micro 4/3 and Fuji producing mature digital systems and combined they make up a minority of the market.
    Hopefully now the digital camera has ‘’matured’’, the market will flex its muscle and push for system clarity and some real system differentiation.

    Regards Noel

  3. Avatar
    Kristian Wannebo March 05, 2018

    First coffee …
    Then wine … Several classes .. …
    No wonder camera specs look rosy – but fuzzzzy…
    In the end (luckily) landing on the hard floor of reality!
    Waking up to abstract cool thinking…
    – – –

    I like the photos, especially
    the First, the Fuzzy and the Last.
    – – –

    ( My GAS? Temporized with replacing my used Canon M with a used M5, waiting for the new 20(+)Mpx sensors and IBIS to trickle down to the lesser M4/3 – and now Fuji – models.)

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    Adrian March 05, 2018


    In your conclusion of conclusions, mirrorless digital cameras have matured, and therefore are reaching development lifecycles and incremental improvements seen for years with SLRs.

    Without checking, I am assuming the new A9 uses a similar sensor to last years A9, possibly the same. The other enhancements are as expected – more PDAF on sensor and all the latest focus improvements, combined with a very decent frame rate. Looking at the development of the products since the “mark 2” cameras, it’s just as might have been expected really.

    I actually think the improved AF and frame rate is quite compelling – a cut down A9 at a much lower cost. The A7 never gets much attention compared to the higher resolution of the A7R or even the A7s, but having owned the mark 1 and 2, they are solid cameras. Some early reports suggest REALLY low noise, but it wasn’t clear if this was for video or stills. A BSI 24mp FF sensor could be a sweet spot.

    To be honest, if low light ability is really good, I might consider an upgrade from the A7RII – better focusing, better frame rate, sensible file sizes. I’ve never particularly liked the A7RII files at high ISO, I still think my original A7S gives better quality.

    For those of us with multiple bodies and therefore batteries, the new battery is a turn off.

    I’m not sure how a m43rds OMD, APS-C Fuji and FF Sony all cost about the same.

  5. Avatar
    Cliff Whittaker March 06, 2018

    Thank goodness when I decided to put aside my MF and 4×5 film cameras and get into the digital cameras I elected to bypass the off-brands and go with the good stuff. Now I don’t have to be a party to all the angst listed above about A7, RII, RIII, Fuji sensors, 4/3 formats, EVF, etc, etc, etc.
    I saved, scrimped and got the good stuff from the start. Still, I never buy a new piece of equipment until I have a specific job for it. If the old one will do the job there is no reason to replace it.
    Nevertheless, I did succumb to the latest, greatest FF, high Mpx, model to replace/augment my still excellent FF camera of the same brand, having skipped a intermediate “upgrade” model, as I usually do. To my gratification I can say that this new leading edge FF, high Mpx machine meets and exceeds the marketing hype and my expectations.
    Oh, and BTW, I’ll be 76 years old in a few days and I love taking this camera and my 8.6-pound 500mm lens out for a day of shooting birds. And, I don’t have to go through the angst you guys have expressed above. 🙂

    • Avatar
      jean pierre (pete) guaron March 06, 2018

      ROTFLMHAO – what else can I say, Cliff? You’ve outdone EVERYONE!

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    Steffen Kamprath March 06, 2018

    As with every consumer goods, from cars to smartphones to cameras, you can skip one or two generations without a doubt. It actually depends on what your pain-points are: If you’re desperately missing a joystick navigation or much longer battery life, an upgrade from the A7m2 to the new one makes sense. If you need much improved AF on your A6000, I don’t think a A6300 will cut it.

    However, there’re several instances where a new camera will improve your photography. Most likely to from mark 1 to mark 2 but by switching camera concepts. When I switched from my old DSLR to my A6000, it was a complete new experience to shoot travel and daily life because of it’s small, unobtrusive form factor. With the small body come prime lenses that made me focus on composition and analyzing the scene upfront. Auto-WB wasn’t good, so I’m carrying a grey card with me, also on my DSLR today. Lens selection wasn’t good, so I went into adapting vintage lenses and learned about lens rendering and character, also for my new and existing lenses. And with it comes paying attention on light, colors, and contrast. Not to forget that I’m using this combo much more then my big DSLR and hence practice more. And in the end, my photos improved.

    This is also true (at least for the last part) for a bunch of people in my circle that also switched from their rarely used DSLR to a small mirrorless which is now always with them. A couple of years ago, I gave a RX100m3 to my father. He never created more and better images with more enthusiasm then ever before. Owners of the wonderful Ricoh GR will feel the same.

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    jean pierre (pete) guaron March 08, 2018

    The sad thing is the breaking news – camera sales around the world dropped badly, in January. There are always reasons for such shifts – but in the end, it boils down to one simple economic rule. Markets are in balance when supply equals demand – AND VICE VERSA. Since supply is scarcely likely to be the issue, demand must have dropped. The question is why.

    Cellphones have been around for ages. That’s not likely to have had a SUDDEN impact.

    So all I can think is that potential buyers have taken a look at what’s out there, and shrugged their shoulders. Which suggests that camera makers are pushing what THEY want, and not what customers are after.

    Which could end in catastrophe.

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    jean pierre (pete) guaron March 08, 2018

    Hang on to yer hair shirts – there’s now rumour circulating about the pending introduction of a replacement for the Sony A7III – called (surprisingly) the A7IV. I didn’t bother keeping the page – you all know what rumours are worth – just thought I’d pass it on, next time I drifted through DS.

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    Cliff Whittaker March 09, 2018

    Mr. Guaron (Pete), I agree with part of what you said but think the problem goes beyond camera manufacturers not satisfying the demands of the consumer. I agree that photographers are taking a look at what is out there and deciding not to buy. But, I think that the problem is not so much with the quality of the cameras and their built-in gadgets. Nor is it with the quality of the magnificent, huge images that can be produced with them.
    In my opinion the problem is the lack of a market for the images produced by these incredibly efficient new machines. Why would consumers make a decision to buy one expensive print and live with it in their home for years when they can go on the internet and look at thousands of beautiful images for free all day long, or until they reach a point of saturation?
    And, what is the point in paying thousands of dollars for a new camera capable of producing images of incredible quality if the only market you have for these images is posting them on social media and the internet?
    After all, most of the time the images produced by cellphones are more than good enough for posting on FB or on a website (and everyone has a website these days). There are hundreds of thousands of images posted every day. And, they are all calling for your attention and asking you to “like” them. Attention has a burn out point, too.
    So, unless one is in the business of making and selling high quality prints that can be held in one’s hands and are of a quality sufficient to take on a value beyond the actual image, there is very little “need” to have a new megabucks camera.
    The sad news is that the market for photographic prints is D E A D for most of us. And the cellphone is responsible for killing it.
    Even well known professional photographers who put unbelievable prices on their prints are making most of their income from teaching and conducting workshops. There are very few photographers, if any, who have enough demand for their work to make their living strictly from selling prints to the general public. Certainly not enough of them to create sufficient demand to support the R&D and marketing programs for new, better and more exciting professional camera models every three or four years.
    The bread and butter of the camera industry was aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents, etc. who made pictures of the kids and pretty places they visited on vacation. And now they have found out that they can do this with a cell phone and they don’t even have to own a camera or make prints to show off when they get home. They just push the share button.
    Boys and girls, can you say, “Thank you, Cellphone Development, for killing photographers and the camera industry”?

    • Avatar
      jean pierre (pete) guaron March 10, 2018

      Mr Whittaker (Cliff) 🙂 I know we haven’t been introduced, but I believe we’re much the same age.

      Perhaps that is why the inventor of the modern digital sensor doesn’t believe it will ever be possible to incorporate his latest invention will every be manufactured and incorporated in cameras. It is a sensor which dismisses pixel chasing forever, because it can capture individual photons – but since there’s no means of matching such performance on a cellphone or on Facebook or any website or any computer screen, there’s no value in it for a manufacturer to take photography to that level.

      If indeed this is all killing the camera industry, I hope I can stock up on camera bodies to last me the last years of my life. First it was all the film processing businesses, which disappeared with digital swamping the market, along with Kodak and various other major players. And next it’s going to be smartphones or NO photography?

      You are quite right about the aunts & uncles and the grandparents. And when I told a friend I was now printing all my photos and putting them in albums, she asked why? – who’d be interested in them after you die? – who would ever want to look at them all, except you? Apparently it’s still socially acceptable to send your photos to one of those companies that sends you back a book, in which they’ve printed them all – but then you have no control over process. But it’s no longer acceptable to create albums of your photos.

      The professionals are certainly finding it tougher, now that practically everyone on the planet has a camera built into their phone. At the high end, there’s still demand – but not as strong as it once was.

      • Avatar
        jean pierre (pete) guaron March 10, 2018

        Sorry about the mess I made at the start of the second para – but you’ll get the general meaning.

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    Cliff Whittaker March 11, 2018

    Pete, in the long run it won’t matter to you and me what happens to photography as we know it now. It won’t have an effect on us (at least it won’t on me because I’m sure I won’t be here to see it), or on the coming generations because they won’t miss what they have never known: the excitement of seeing their images coming up in the developing tray; or the joy of holding a large fine art photograph that has just come off the digital printer and is now truly a work of art (whether anyone else realizes it or not).
    But they will have something. Probably something that we can’t even imagine at this point because it would seem so miraculous to us. But, they will have to have something to satisfy their innate desire to create art or they will no longer be human.
    In the meantime I’ve come to realize that the only thing that never changes is that everything always changes. It took me a long time to figure that out. Then I stepped back and surrendered my position at the gallery to the new, younger generation coming in. I no longer had the energy for it and I was looking forward to the evolution. I wanted to see what new ideas the young folks would would bring with them and what effect it would have on the gallery. As I suspected, it is different and they are doing well with it. The membership is growing.
    By the end of this year I plan to terminate my photography business license. Even now, I’m only printing for myself. Bye bye depreciation deduction on equipment.
    But its OK. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I take my camera and go out to the woods and fields and lose myself in the peace and quiet while I’m photographing birds. I can’t carry all of that equipment now so I use a little red canvas wagon to haul it and I have a folding camp stool to sit on when I get where I’m going. I think I’ve bought my last camera but, hopefully, not my last lens. The pressure is off and I’m standing on the sidewalk watching the parade of concern and angst go by and I don’t regret that. — Cliff

    • Avatar
      jean pierre (pete) guaron March 11, 2018

      I really only do it for my own personal amusement these days, anyway, Cliff. If someone has a personal interest in the subject matter of my photos, I generally get showered with praise – but that might be more because it’s their dog in the frame, than because of my creative genius. I would like to see what a camera with a sensor that captures individual photons can do, though.

      And I can’t guarantee that I’ll never buy another camera. The only feature of the D850 that I miss is the tilt screen, and I’ve already said I’m very annoyed with Nikon for not including that on the D810. I am intrigued by the Sigma Quattro with its foveon sensor, and would love to give that a try. And if I can ever afford it, I’d like to have a much more powerful tele, and several macro lenses.

      My next acquisition was supposed to have been last week. Photo albums. I know what I want – where it is for sale – but I can’t get any sense out of them. Their website lets me get as far as the checkout, and then I am blocked. It only provides for completion using an address within the UE, and I live on the other side of the planet. At present, there seems to be no way forward. I can scarcely believe anyone dependent on sales over the internet could be so crass. It’s been like asking an Amish person for a lift in his automobile.

  11. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron March 15, 2018

    Pascal, you should gag me when I’ve said more than enough on a particular post.

    I’ve been thinking about other things – and flinging my cams around as I move about (I have sworn that I will NEVER go out without a camera again – even if I’m just taking the dog for a walk, in the middle of the night). And my thoughts on this posting have clarified.

    Firstly – I realise that my Canon PowerShot is not the camera that the D810 is, nor is its lens a patch on the Otus lenses I normally use on the D810. But I persist with the PowerShot – for two reasons. One, which I often see when Sony owners gloat over the lighter weight of their A7RII (or III ? – or IV ? ), that a D810 with an Otus in its snout weighs a sight more than the PowerShot, but that of course is bleedingly obvious. And the other – ever since I bought the PowerShot, I’ve had a confusing love/hate relationship with it.

    The manual started it – it’s NOT available as a printed book, it’s ONLY available online, you have to download it yourself and print whatever sort of copy you want, if you print it “as is” the reproduction is too awful and the typeface too small, so everything blurs and you cannot decipher what the hell it’s saying, so you print it one page per sheet and end up using half a ream of paper, creating a monster that you cannot carry around with you.

    And the controls defy logic. They’re like no other camera I’ve ever owned. In the end, like most things, I have worked out most of the functions simply by trial and error. I’ve always been hopeless at “blackboard learning”, I have a mindset which only learns by “touch and feel”, “trial and error”, seeing for myself how things work. Which is probably more useful in cabinet making than photography, but my father flatly refused to allow me to be a cabinet maker.

    And secondly? Now that I feel OK with all the controls I ever use, I am persisting with it for a very simple reason. BECAUSE it’s not the camera that my main cam is. And I am using it as a teaching aid, to improve my digital photography. Each time I press the shutter button, I am trying to take a photo at least as good as I’d get with the D810 [hollow laughter, off-stage L]. Because the better I become with the “inferior” cam, the better I can do with the “superior” cam.

    Without doing this, it’s quite pointless reading stories about an experienced professional photographer tiring of his students having GAS and wishing they had a better cam, so that would enable them to take better photos – and going off to take some with an ancient Kodak Brownie, coming back and showing the shots to the students, and all of them in a state of shock when he revealed they were NOT done on a “better” camera.

    (And it buys me breathing space, so I can save up for my next camera! ROTFLMHAO 🙂 )

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