#806. Monday Post (7 Jan 2019) – Nah! (Nutella, Apple and Hasselblad)

#806. Monday Post (7 Jan 2019) – Nah! (Nutella, Apple and Hasselblad)

Last year, French citizens fought over discounted pots of Nutella. And my MacBook Pro screen started to lose its antireflection coating in patches. So I’m hoping for a cheaper Hasselblad X1D. Umair Haque explains.

 
 

How to become super rich. It’s actually easy.

 

Bill Gates became the world’s richest man not by inventing an operating system but by turning as many people as possible into millionaires. Even secretaries. Initially, Microsoft was a tide that lifted all boats.

 

Amazon, Facebook and others do the almost exact opposite. Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg seem to thrive by collecting the lifeblood from millions and concentrating it into the pockets of a few. Their business model hinges around 2 things :

(1) Finding a primal weakness in the human brain (a lust for cheap prices at all costs, the reluctance to wait, the desire to brag, pry or binge, any other lowest common denominator of our kind)

(2) Exploiting and accelerating feedback loops between users of the system.

 

Do that and work as hard at it as they did and you’ll get very rich as well. As rich? Probably not, that level of “success” is 100% down to pure luck.

 
 

It’s a lot easier to appeal to our basest instincts than to our noblest ones because they are hard wired into our survival brain, our lizard brain, which has a direct line to our will and behaviour. Noble attitudes are trained over years in a part of the brain that’s much slower and less powerful when it comes to directing our actions.

 

That’s why the luxury sector uses scarcity (fear of loss) and price (animal pack ranking) as the two main levers of its success. And that’s why many people, even on the breadline, would much rather spend a grand on a handbag made of peeled crocodile and toxic pigments, or fight over kilos of a brown substance that can create lifelong addiction for their kids and reduce their life expectancy by a decade, rather than help a charity. Basic instincts, animal instincts.

 

Think of it as psychological gravity. It’s much easier to push down than to lift up. It’s why the popular kids at high school are often bullies, why porn is more successful than Wim Wenders, why educational blogs get 1% the traffic of brand war forums …

 
 

Mini review of my MacBook Pro for Photography

 

The Mac is back! Long live the Mac.

I’m not an Apple fanboy. My phone’s a Samsung, my tablet doesn’t exist, I don’t have an active iTunes account or chewed apple stickers on my fridge. But when the time came to replace my 30 month old Windows based gaming laptop that had – very literally – started falling apart, the best all rounder for my needs turned out to be a 2016 MacBook Pro (I don’t play but needed the power for Photoshop and Capture One). And I’ll ever be grateful to co-author Paul for twisting my arm so convincingly on that subject.

 

The MBP’s been an 85/15 blend of bliss and fury.

On the plus side, in spite of written specification, it is sooo much more powerful in real life (for my needs, probably not for gamers) than my then very-top-of-the-range XMG that, at first, I couldn’t believe it.

It looks stunning. With its new screen, it actually looks brand new, in spite of 12+ hours of daily use for 2+ years, lots of traveling and handling. And the screen itself is exceptional: well enough calibrated for my needs and super bright, even in direct sunlight.

 
 

On the negative flip side, the keyboard, while super fast and pleasant, is easily thrown off by dust settling under the keys. Way too easily. And the Siri key is located in a stupid position: the Delete key is tiny and the Siri key sits right next to it, so it’s really easy to launch numbnuts Siri by mistake (although, thanks to Paul, I now know this is configurable). If you’re worried AI will soon take your job, just launch Siri and feel that warm feeling of reassurance flow through you.

 

Oh, and the screen, however brilliant, started to look grubby around the edges after just a few months and got increasingly worse over time as the anti-reflection coating started peeling off in ugly patches. Thankfully, Apple replaced it free of charge (651 €) and cleaned the computer completely, even though my warranty period had expired. Service was efficient, communication excellent, really a great experience throughout.

 
 

Apple represent a very different type of conquering business than Facemazon. Their growth has been based on selling dreams, simplicity and excellence, not just cheap and convenient or sleazy. Apple, while far from perfect themselves, do push higher order values, compared to most competitors, behave in a more ethical manner (yes, yes, yes, I know about the copyright wars, the planned obsolescence …), treat their employees better, source cleaner components, innovate more, design beautifully, build incredibly well, market to creative tunes, not to meaningless numbers …

 

Notice I didn’t mention the price in my list of negatives? For a $3k+ machine, that might seem odd. But it’s not. Yes, it was over 50% more expensive than a direct replacement for its predecessor, but after 25 months, a period that saw my XMG about to give up the fight against the daily grind and turn into a high-entropy pile of components, my MBP is as good as new. Internally, obviously, I have no idea. But if all goes well, I’ll keep on using it with pleasure in 10 years time. Not only is that a heck of a lot cheaper than my previous laptops, it’s also a tremendously nicer feeling.

 
 

So what about the market’s discombobulation vis a vis APL, you might ask? Well, yes, there’s that profit warning. There’s the fact that Donald Trump and his war against everything that isn’t American and Republican is costing Apple billions in Chinese retaliation. But those are just triggers. They reveal a latent image of darker gloom. They play a catalytic role in an implosion that I feel is linked to something far deeper and more troublesome.

 

Co-author Philippe once told me a Russian joke about the systematic alternation between a hairy tsar and a bold tsar, that ends with an eternal Putin / Medvedev / Putin / Medvedev … cycle. Large companies often behave similarly. They get propelled by a visionary CEO (Jobs) then turned into cash cows by financial CEOs. Then, the lack of innovation takes its toll until a new visionary launches the company into a higher orbit and so on.

 

To me, the market deflation of the world’s first ever trillion dollar corporation is indicative of how far Apple has strayed from its true DNA of simplicity and excellence. The OS is ridiculously complex. iPad Pros have the best spec in the history of mankind but an OS that doesn’t allow multi-tasking to exploit them. The product range is too rich and complex. It’s not all bad because Cook & Ive are brilliant blokes, but the tyrannic hand of a true visionary seems to be sorely missing at the helm nonetheless.

 

Planned obsolescence at Apple was cheap tactic that revealed they could no longer make product desirable enough to fuel organic growth. (A bit like a camera that gets replaced by a new models with minor changes but gets in such a bad state after a couple of years that you are left with little choice. Just sayin’) I really hope that visionnary cleansing phase returns soon to Apple. Because a world ruled by politicians, Facebook and Amazon desperately needs companies like Apple that push upwards, not down.

 
 

Hasselblad X2D rumoured, long live the X1D

 

Let me end my ramble with this. My camera is now roughly where my laptop was 2 years and a bit ago. Alive, but struggling a little. Having cost 3 grand and with a residual value of maybe 20% that, it makes no sense for me to sell it and I’ll keep it until it dies. And it’s unlikely the successor will be a Sony. As much as I try to believe that Sony’s technology-before-all approach to market domination can yield benefits for all users and not just those interested in 8K filming of fast-moving dark objects at night with zooms, I simply can’t afford to sink 3 grand every 3 years into a camera. Particularly not into one I’ve never been 100% happy with and never really provided me with a sense of pride of ownership.

 

Fuji have released an interesting MF camera that looks like it could be a very interesting alternative. But since every reviewer I’ve read insists on adding tons of filters on images, it’s really hard to get a feel of what the camera’s actually look like unplugged. Rather conveniently, though, rumours of a Hasselblad X2D bubbled up very recently (thanks for the link, Dallas!). This is seriously exciting. The X2D could be the camera I’ve been waiting for so long. Not because of its unnecessary 100Mpx, but because it would mechanically bring the price of the X1D down significantly.

 
 

Three reasons have prevented me from buying the X1D. (1) The thought of changing my PP workflow, particularly in B&W. (2) I’m more interested in investing time and money in printing. (3) It’s not worth 10 grand to me. It may be worth every penny in terms of value, but the slice of my budget it represents is simply too high for what it offers. At half the price, though … now we’d be talking.

 

I really like Hasselblad. Like Apple, they are far from perfect. The reliability issues some readers have warned me about chilled my bones, for instance. And fun seems absent from the USP. But, like Apple, and unlike most of the photo world, they push upwards not down. And the X1D brings me lasting pleasure.

 

Technical specifications are lizard-brain marketing. They talk to our fear of not getting the shot and our need to impress. My ISO is bigger than yours. For most users, they are absolutely meaningless, obscure the essentials of creativity, and represent the lowest element of value. The tech spec to quality to usability blend of most cameras today is so far out of whack it would make Steve Jobs go insane. Hasselblad don’t talk specs. They produce a wonderfully simple, elegant and high-performance camera in a robust and elegant design that’s a joy to use day in day out. Remember when photography was about joy?

 

I’m hoping the X1D will be to my photography what the Macbook Pro has been to my work. A companion that’s (85% of) always a total joy to be working with, a super high performance tool and a durable machine that will finally get me out of that ruinous 2-3 year replacement cycle. The camera that ends the search and make my gear concerns go tits up.

 
 

Here’s to hoping.

 

A world in which what is agruably the most democratic creative hobby has been successfully transformed into a technological rat race, and where electronic specifications matter more than talent honing practise, desperately needs companies like Hasselblad that push upwards, not down (not that they are the only ones).

 

Some reading, while you’re here

 

If I haven’t bored you enough, here’s more reading worth your time πŸ™‚

   
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29 Comments

  1. Avatar
    David Wilson January 07, 2019

    Facemazon, reddit, insta, tesla et al are progeny of globalist intel agencies the aim of which is control of you and me, hence the downward base direction of development. Trump/Putin/Ping are engaged in war with these freaks (the great awakening- Voat) (Qanon) from whom our entropic direction has been designed for a century if not more.
    Unfortunately Apple seems to be controlled by the dark side along with all these other intel fools that have sold the sole they never had to the Chinese alphabet agencies. Given that all roads lead back to the Payseur Trust (custodians of the Vatican) you can expect in the fullness of a second Trump term to see most if not all (and hopefully not Apple) dissolve into state run institutions devoid of bias and splendidly grey in tone.
    Apple might have a saviour but he/she will need to be whiter than white and wealthy enough to buy outright from the black heart which controls her.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 07, 2019

      Hi David, your view of where those people are leading us is just as bleak as mine, it seems πŸ˜‰ Wouldn’t it be ironic for an ultra-liberal president to dissolve private companies into state run institutions … Whatever their label, all these guys want is control. It’s terrible.

      Or maybe not. It’s my deep-down belief that we are witnessing a slow but radical shift of power from institutions to communities. From central to decentralised. From grey and top down to bottom up and colourful. Of course the giants will fight that with all their might, and probably cause wars in the process. But I’m betting on collaborating communities, long term.

      All the more reason for us guys to discuss, exchange and get along, accross artificially drawn frontiers. Cheers πŸ™‚

  2. Avatar
    Peter January 07, 2019

    Hi Pascal
    What an inspiring read on an ordinary monday. Thank you! So good that dearsusan exists.
    Peter

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 07, 2019

      Thank you very much, Peter! Much appreciated πŸ™‚

  3. Avatar
    Chris Stump January 07, 2019

    This was one of the more enjoyable posts I’ve read anywhere lately.

    Don’t know why exactly…maybe it’s just a post-holiday, Monday morning mood…but the subjects and their treatment were perfect.

    Like Pascal I was dragged into modern Macs late, and love the older MacBook Pro Retina I was cajoled into adopting, that just keeps chugging along.

    And, I’ve long lamented and struggled to ignore the pull of ‘equipment-centricity’ [tm] [jk] so prevalent in the industry, whilst at the very same time quietly, constantly, looking for the exact solution so calmly discussed here…one kit to end all thoughts of other cameras.

    Hear hear to simple, elegant solutions in 2019.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 07, 2019

      Thanks, Chris. To elegant solutions and sustainable hobbies!

  4. Avatar
    Kristian Wannebo January 07, 2019

    Pascal,
    I believe your summing-up hits a lot of nails!

    And thanks a lot for the
    Seth Godin & Umair Haque
    links!
    – – –

    Btw.
    > “..not by inventing an operating system..”
    Exactly! πŸ™‚
    Bill Gates / Microsoft didn’t invent their first OS (MS-DOS), they bought and modified it. And then released updates that circumvented bad structures before – far into Windows – in the end finally eliminating them…
    And others – Apple and Acorn – had good windowing OSs before Windows 3 caught up.
    πŸ™‚

    P.S.
    I prefer the edible kind of apples.
    ( Not because I doubt the superiority Macs have for certain workflows, but because I feel they limit me. On the other hand I hate Windows’ vulnerability. Of two evils… There is Linux, of course, but I haven’t got around to it.)

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 08, 2019

      Thanks Kristian. Before falling for the MBP, I looked hard at Ubuntu. It looks like a great system but would have forced me to use a lot of apps I know very little about, for work and for photography. It’s an open-source world, with its blessings and its curses. Apple was the safe bet and didn’t disapoint. The free apps included in the Os are fantastic and I can buy commercial ones for almost anything else not covered. It’s a more reassuring platform for me. But it’s become bloated and needs a serious shaking.

      Aah, Acorn. My first love. I learned programing on a BBC computer, then an Archimedes πŸ™‚
      Cheers

  5. Avatar
    Steve Bennett January 08, 2019

    Well I don’t know about the X2D, but whatever you’re using now, the images are simply stunning! Great work, as always.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 08, 2019

      Thanks very much, Steve πŸ™‚ For all its shortcomings in colour, the A7r2 is absolutely superb in B&W. The lens here was my faithful 35/1.4 ZM, aka Audrey. A wonderful lens.
      Post processing is done with CaptureOne. Not the most fun to use but really very good with Sony files. One of my reasons for sticking with Sony is that I really don’t want to start looking for another piece of software. Phocus (Hassy) is great in colour but very limited in B&W … ugh πŸ˜‰ Cheers

  6. Avatar
    NMc January 08, 2019

    Um… you do see the contradiction of you needing a form of obsolescence (new upgraded model) to get what you want?
    The problem for you is if the existing model is really worthwhile then existing users will be reluctant to upgrade, or if they do upgrade then they will be less likely to trade or will want to keep as a second/backup body because it is worth more than the trade in price you want. Supply and demand only works in your favour when there is a surplus of what you want, that, and the fact that you will have to pay going rates for the current model lenses, so it is still going to hurt pricewise.

    I hope for the sake of existing owners that second-hand prices remain strong following an upgraded model release because it gives confidence for future system development and support. Sorry for not supporting your dreams, however I hope that this system succeeds for the very reasons you discuss about quality and goodness. Hopefully inspiring the mainstream companies to do something other than me-to, jack of all trades, approach to system camera developments (at much lower price points where the market is largest).
    Regards Noel

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 08, 2019

      Hi Noel,

      that’s a very good point. I’m not suggesting products shouldn’t evolve. Only that if you chose to stick to one product, regardless of improvements in the new ones, you can. One sentence in Paul’s diatribe to convince me struck me particularly. He said something to the effect of “I don’t know what to do with those bloody Macs. I have them lying aournd the house, some are 20 years old and refuse to die”. And many Mac users report using machines that are 8 years old. That’s largely unheard of in the PC world (althoug it does happen, I’m sure).

      As for the X2D, doubling the resolution and frame rate and modernising the EVF would probably be sufficient motivation for many to consider the X2D, whereas the X1D felt a bit antiquated, spec-wise, from the start. I don’t see how the price for a new X1D could remain high, after such a leap in specs. And, yes, that would hurt resale value for used models. But why sell it ? But for those keeping the X1D, they’d still have one of the best cameras ever created and, hopefully, one that would stay around with them for a long time.

      I buy my cars 2.5(ish) years old, from a dealer. That means the car looks absolutely new, and all its teething problems have been dealt with. But the first owner took the first 35% price drop. I essentially buy a car that looks and feels brand new at that age. Ditto my Mac. Why is it that my camera feels like it’s about to die of exhaustion at the same age, and has lost almost 80% of its value? It’s ridiculous.

      Regards, Pascal

  7. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron January 08, 2019

    What fires my brain is perfectly simple.
    It seems to me that most – not all – of these companies imagine they have a sacred right & power to dictate to us what we OUGHT to want to buy. And get their knackers in a knot when we aren’t interested in what they have to offer.
    While I am quite sure there ARE people who – example – want to buy a new iPhone each year, don’t mind the fact the battery runs flat each day before they can find a way to recharge it, couldn’t care less that Apple refuse to allow them to buy a spare battery they can charge and carry with them, and don’t even mind paying enough to cover their kids’ school fees for the year, I am equally sure that’s not for everyone. And as it turns out, this item has been the mainstay of Apple’s profits for years, and sales have just dropped, so they are facing a downturn in profits this year. They are in shock – or similar.
    Meanwhile, Nokia (the new one) released a phone nearly 12 months ago, that I want to buy, and I simply can’t find anyone here who’s selling it.
    All of which makes as much sense as Dumbo Tramp does.
    Granted my example is rather extreme – but there are parallels with photographic gear. WHY? What’s the point?
    About the only thing left, that I want to buy right now, is a memory card case – and I can’t even find that (except from weirdos selling on eBay, which freaked me out – there’s no proper description of what they are trying to sell, and I don’t believe their sales pitch anyway – I think they are confused between different models from the same manufacturer, so they’ve scared me off).
    And if & when I sort that out, the sale’s worth less than $20 to the photographic industry. I hope they appreciate the fact I am still TRYING to help them achieve their sales figures for the year! πŸ™‚
    As I’ve mentioned to Pascal during the week, the biggest laugh was discovering that the algorithms and other techo crap that fires Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop is nearly 2 decades – maybe longer – old, and simply CANNOT do what I was trying to. So I had to spend the princely sum of USD$49.99 buying the latest release of Affinity Photo, which did what Adobe cannot, in a matter of minutes. Why the hell would anyone want to blow their bank balance on Adobe stuff, under those conditions?

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy January 08, 2019

      If Apple products (particularly phones, which I feel are subpar for the money, and have been for years) were extraordinally desirable, they’d sell, in spite of the testosterone wars between Trump and Xi. It just gets really hard to be the best at everything you do when your product range gets larger. Jobs had few products and each was a revolution. Now Apple have tens and each is good but not a cut above the competition.

      How did you like Affinity?

      • Avatar
        jean pierre (pete) guaron January 08, 2019

        My first shot at Affinity was Affinity Publisher Beta – which was interesting, but I haven’t devoted enough time to it, to see how it can benefit my photography. I was impressed – still am – and must get back to it.
        Affinity Photo came out of left field at a critical moment, when both of Adobe’s main photography processing systems simply collapsed on me. Trying to do a panorama/knit, as you know. Attempting to push them across the finishing line was just a complete waste of time – as the additional shots comprising the panorama were included, all I got was a distorted image.
        Affinity was there, claiming as one of its functions to do panoramas – and on offer at a VERY substantial, soon to be discontinued, discount. The opportunist in me pushed various buttons on my computer and suddenly Affinity Photo was on my desktop.
        Day one – HAD to have instructions, because it was so different. Found what I needed, far more easily than tracing tutorials on Lightroom or Photoshop. Later found that the “help” button takes you straight to an amazingly comprehensive and well laid out training manual, which I have immediately bookmarked for future use.
        With a little bit of adjustment to my way of thinking, I found the panorama function FAR easier to use than Lightroom’s or Photoshop’s. Just bang, bang, bang, and the system does the rest. An occasional pause for the user’s further instructions, and off down the home straight.
        A a grab sample, it does NOT test the whole Affinity system. But it has already convinced me that Adobe’s is both out of date and over priced. Whether I still need to use my remaining Adobe software is a matter of conjecture – I have to work through some individual shots, and subject them to the full post processing pattern I apply to my photos, to see how it handles them. But I AM confident it’s going to be a revelation, after my experiences with the panorama function.
        You should be aware that I already do a lot of my post processing before the question of Adobe or whatever comes up – using DxO PhotoLab, Capture One Pro, DxO ViewPoint – and sometimes, one or two others. For a long while, now, Lightroom and PhotoShop have had a relatively minor – albeit still important – role, mainly in finishing off photos that have already been through most of the post processing system.
        And as far as I’m concerned, Adobe had done this to itself. I’m far from the only person who feels this way. Some have already dumped Adobe’s two main programs, completely – I’m still using mine for finishing touches, after the hard slog.
        But I won’t be the least bit surprised if I jump ship, after giving Affinity a real workout.

        • Avatar
          pascaljappy January 08, 2019

          Ah well, I’m interested in your findings. My attempts at integrating photo stitching seamlessly into my workflow have been miserable at best. Good luck with that !

          • Avatar
            Kristian Wannebo January 20, 2019

            A review of Affinity Photo:
            lifeafterphotoshop.com/serif-affinity-photo-1-5-review/

        • Avatar
          Kristian Wannebo January 08, 2019

          Thanks !

  8. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron January 08, 2019

    PS – I like the switch from bicycles to naked models of women – I’m too old to ride bicycles! πŸ™‚

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