#1210. News from Pixii

By pascaljappy | News

Jun 16

And why I can no longer review their cameras …

Design matters
 

So here’s a project close to my heart. This is not the first post about the Pixii camera on this blog and it won’t be the last.

The young company has decided that modernity can mean different things to different people. And, while most of the market has hopped onto a purely quantitative race to more more more (pixels, frames per second, ISO, you name it) that has already claimed the lives of very loveable companies, the team at Pixii feel modernity should also rhyme with joy of use, quality, sustainability and personal expression.

Rather than build yet another powerhouse camera to which you delegate all decisions, letting it do the work for you, they decided to design one that puts the user in the driver’s seat and provides the most help to stimulate flow, creates wonferful colours and superb tonality, and make the shooting experience as rewarding as possible. They understand the distinction between results and reward : we think we want the former, when in fact we need the latter!

Peace
 

Given that their body won the prestigious Red Dot Award for design, and that purist photographers all over the world have gone gaga about the image quality proposed by this little beast, it’s fair to say they are succeeding.

The Pixii was inspired by film cameras, and I feel that shows up in its use and in the look of the images produced.

The design team goes for beautiful over neutral. For tactile over gimmicky. And for deliberate over hasty. They want us to become better at what we do, not simply achieve great results through technology’s undeniable boosting of our shooting envelope. I wholeheartedly agree, being in this hobby for the pure joy of creating beautiful visual objects, rather than for collecting snaps. And, judging by the huge resurgence of film photography, many, many others think alike.

All this to explain why I like this camera so much, but also why I can no longer talk about that πŸ˜‰ From this point on, no subjective assessments from me, it will only be news and facts. Here’s why.

Out on the tonal range
 
Ze big disclaimer, oui, oui.

Pixii has asked me to help with its communications, for the launches of new features that will happen during the second half of this year, starting towards the end of June. I’ll be working alongside a cool youtuber (who will soon announce this himself on his channel).

The collaboration makes sense, given that marketing and photography make up so much of my passion and expertise. But, still, thanks for the vote of confidence, guys.

Anyway, now, I’m involed in the project, so it wouldn’t be ethical for me to rave about the camera or the team, and I will only state facts and inform you of news and features in future posts.

Objectively, that is real dynamic range (deepest shadow to brutal summer sun highlights, easy). And those colours …
 

It bugs me not to be able to say more, right now. As I hinted to before, the projects and timeline are refreshingly different. But it won’t be long before fun news this way comes, by the clicking of their thumb index.

So, for now, let’s stick to an exposition of Pixii’s founding principles and positioning. This can also serve as a refresher for those who do not yet know what the Pixii camera is.

Ancient meets …

Think software inside a traditional rangefinder camera, and that’s a good start. And, by traditional, I mean film. So, yeah, no rear screen, for example. That might might seem like heresy, today, and Leica was poked with cruel intensity for daring to do something similar, a few years ago. But go and take a stroll on Fleabay avenue, to look at the price of used (and often unrepairable in case of failure) film rangefinder cameras. Shock, right? 4 grand for a (brilliant, brilliant, brilliant) Mamiya 7 and lens, for example. You’ll see that style of shooting is well alive (and for a reason).

Even single-lens film cameras will set you back three large, these days. Such is the desire for creative self-expression, to reclaim the decision process and understand the fundamentals of photography. Their owners want to win some and to lose some, rather than sift through hundred of automated candidates in search of … of what? They want to feel pride of camera ownership and pride of image crasftmanship. It’s one thing to bring back great photos from a great camera, but it’s a whole other degree of satisfaction to know you did it on purpose and can do it at will. Such is the reason for owning a niche camera like the Pixii. It brings image-crafting back to the fore, keeps you in the right state of mind, and rewards you with fantastic tone and colours.

So, that‘s what a cloud is supposed to look like? πŸ˜‰
 

That trad body uses M-mount. So, it is designed for Leica-M lenses, and the wealth of droolworthy alternatives from Voigtlander, Jupiter and more. Really designed: its filter stack is less than 1mm thick, meaning those lenses will actually work well, even in the corners. Below that stack is a Sony APS-C 26Mp sensor, that natively feels at home between 160 and 12800 ISO, and can be pushed outside this comfort zone if you have very veeeeeery special needs (in the film world, ISO 800 is the usual max. 3200 if you’re nuts). In the Pixii, this sensor scored 90 on DxO, if such things matter to you. Apparently, that’s the most any APS-C camera has ever scored, and it puts it quite close to the top of all cameras tested, medium format included. This, to say all this qualitative love doesn’t come at the expense of shooting envelope or mastery of modern stats (DR, ISO …), should you actually need those one day.

… modern

The modernity part of the Pixii promise comes in many ways.

Foremost among them is upgradability. In 2020, Philippe and I tested an early version with 11 mp, and very slow electronics. Since then, the sensor – on that same camera – is a state of the art Sony, and the electronics and software have received a heathy speed and capacity boost. So, in essence, you buy a body today, and it will get upgraded in the future. New sensors, new processors, new firmware … No more selling your expensive body at 35% its original cost after 2 years to finance the new one. Also, no more piles of hard to recycle litter, either. In this age, this matters.

Processed for a film look, because I’m a bit obssessed, these days πŸ˜‰
 

Another form of modernity is coupling with a supercomputer. I mean something 1000 times more powerful than Cray-2 supercomputers: your smartphone.

The camera can be coupled to your phone via BlueTooth (slow, good for jpegs), WiFi (much faster, where possible) or via a tethering cable (fastest, good for full-size RAWs). The dedicated app lets you visualise your shots on a much nicer screen than any camera offers today, at any price, and can send your photos to editing tools of your preference. It can also be used to set all parameters on your cameras, to keep it’s body free from the horrific button/menu systems we’ve been inflicted by the usual suspects πŸ˜‰

There’s more: the rangefinder displays information overlays, in a sort of heads-up windscreen display, images are stored in an internal flash memory (over 3000 pics of memory in their heaviest format) … It’s just different and fresh. It’s for you, or it isn’t (battery life isn’t incredible, for instance, nor is internal processing speed, yet, though both are ample for the target audience), but it delights the people it was created for. So, I’ll leave it at this and will simply report on future news, as they come along. In the mean time, you can check all of this out here.

Be seeing you …
 

Just a few days ago, marketing guru in chief Seth Godin wrote this on his daily blog : “Marketing is … a chance to create products and services that lead to change.” Well, that’s our joint mission with Pixii. And judging by the incredible photography already on show on their user groups on Facebook and Instagram, it’s well on its way!

Stay tuned πŸ™‚

 

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  • Dallas says:

    Pascal, looks to be very interesting for someone who wants a camera a little out of the ordinary. Lovely pics BTW.

  • Mer says:

    Congratulations on what will be a most enjoyable gig. They understand that for many photographers, a great part of the enjoyment is the experience of taking the photos.

    An optical viewfinder and access to some wonderful lenses, coupled with a great body shape. Given how much I’ve loved using my fuji x100 and contax(when it still worked), it’s pretty much a given that I’d enjoy one of these. Convincing the other half that’s it’s a reasonable purchase is another matter . . .

    Very much looking forward to seeing your posts on this.

    Cheers

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks, Mer. Very enjoyable indeed πŸ™‚ How often do you get to “meet your heroes” and work in the field that’s also your passion.

      Ah, I shall not place myself between anyone and their better half πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ The Pixii makes a lot of sense in the long term, because of the upgrade path. But I understand that the first step needs some consideration πŸ˜‰

      Cheers

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Well your photos for this “plug” are certainly impressive – tantalising.

    And I have to admit to a number of failings.

    First up – pixel counting seems to ignore the fact that many professional photographers are perfectly happy with 22-24MP sensors, shoot with them year round – and nobody complains about image quality. If someone has a genuine need for something larger – like making 4M x 6M enlargements of their photos – fine; they might need more. And the mega pixel claims for cellphones are just nuts – they only take you up to about A4.

    Second – I only use the back screen to review shots or to take photos from weird angles. Most of the time it’s useless.

    Third – modern cameras have a ridiculous number of functions and controls. I seriously doubt if anyone is capable of learning – let alone using! – all of them. Taking charge of aperture, shutter and ISO yields far better results than auto everything. No wonder there’s a resurgence of interest in film!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks, Pete.

      Pixel quality matters as much as pixel count, when it comes to printing. My estimate is that good 24mp will give you solid A1 prints. Bigger than 99% of people will ever print. And for more, there’s stitching πŸ™‚ We’ve all seen the huge enlargements from phones. They’re great … from a distance πŸ˜‰

      I think some people enjoy comlpex camera. There’s a pleasure in the learning curve and ownership of a complicated device. But others would rather focus on the photographic act. It’s cool that we have a choice!

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Well it intrigues me. I quite understand that it might not suit all of my photography. But then I have that issue already, with the four cameras I use at present.

        What it does appear to offer is those detailed highlights and shadow areas that we’ve come to expect from Hassy. I take your point in pixel quality vs pixel quantity – I’ve seen stunning examples from SIGMA’s Foveon sensors. And if seen it again in the 45-55MP range – Nikon have proved it to my satisfaction several times over, in fact.

        And from what I’ve been able to glean so far, there’s a vast range of lenses to choose from. All of the L-mount lenses, perhaps?

        I had problems reading & trying to digest the manual – but I have that problem with manuals for a range of other products, including 5 other cameras. They could all be clearer, if written from a different viewpoint. Instead of “This is what I know about my product”, a sounder approach would be to ask “what would a person picking up this camera need to do, to set A/S/iso – what are the various focus settings, and how to set them or adjust them – how to choose manual vs auto over a range of functions – battery charging.

        I don’t even get what sort of “card” we’re talking about. Is it one, hardwired into the cam, that takes 128Gb and after that you’re done for, unless you download some of it onto a cellphone (for convenience now) or a tablet or computer (for convenience later)

        OK so I’m dense. But it’s a new product, a different one – it thrives on that difference – and it needs to be explained on a more user friendly basis.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Hi Pete, yes, all of the M-mount lenses. I don’t think all work to the same level of quality. The camera uses a 1mm filter stack, and some very old lenses don’t behave the same as the more recent ones. But, in my limited experience, there have been no issues with any of the lenses. Plus, the camera only uses the center portion of those lenses, so they tend to work well even if they dip in the corners. I’ve seen a couple of forum members note that one of their lenses was so so on the Pixii and my guess is that those are lenses with weak S curves in their MTFs. If their dip is very low at what corresponds to the Pixii’s edges, those lenses would probably be better suited to a full-frame sensor.

          Yes, the photos are stored on an internal flash memory similar to what you can find in some cards. It is good for 3000+ photos at max res/quality setting. There’s another compressed raw forward that multiplies this by a significant factor (10x ?) The camera is designed to work with as few accessories as possible. No cards, no chargers … It’s really a walkabout camera.

          We’re working on a *big* FAQ πŸ™‚

          Cheers

  • PaulB says:

    Pascal

    Congratulations on the new endeavor. This could bring a lot of fun building something new. Though, do be careful to keep the marketing separate from the photography. Almost everyone I know that has combined their work and their hobby has quit the hobby, since it became a job. You need to continue doing things that make the hobby fun for you.

    Concerning the rush of features and tech in new cameras, this is just classic Japanese marketing in action. β€œLook at all the things this can do.” Remember back to the feature growth in Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs)? They had thousands of features that nobody wanted or needed. All we wanted was play, record, programmed record, and good audio and video quality.

    Does a Pixii become your walk around camera, or is something else waiting in the wings. Regardless, keep sending us your photographic musing’s. We do enjoy it.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you so much, Paul.

      It’s so surprising that the Japanese love stak simplicity so much in their traditions, design, food … and then create products that are the polar opposite. Still, a lot of people love them, and that’s all that matters. I’m just happy that there are options πŸ˜‰

      No, the job won’t push the hobby away, as I won’t be doing any photography for Pixii. Maybe a few photos for samples, but the bulk of the work is marketing / content strategy over the coming months.

      My walking camera remains the X1D, for now πŸ™‚ But there could be change by the end of the year, I’m not sure yet.

      Thank you for the kind words πŸ™‚

  • Allan Dew says:

    As always a very enjoyable and informative post.
    I’m interested to know how you rate the image quality compared to your xd1? and is the Pixii comfortable in the hand while shooting.I have arthritis in my hands and my Leica CL with its buttons and wheels can be frustrating to use. I’ve gone through M8,M9,M240 and presently own the Q and Cl. Ideally I would like to settle on a camera that can be upgraded and take advantage of my M lenses. The Pixii sounds promising.
    I always enjoy the Dear Susan posts and will be looking forward to reading of your adventures with the Pixii
    All the best
    Allan

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Allan, that’s very kind of you to say.

      The fact is, I don’t particularly like cameras without grips or rangefinders. And yet, I had a blast with it because it is light weight.

      Image quality is different. For one thing, the Hasselblad lenses have a specific look, without much character and a very uniform rendering from center to corner and across the range. Whereas M-mount lenses tend to be full of personality.

      Also, the sensor size results in a different look. The X1D looks a bit flatter.

      Objectively, the X1D has higher dynamic range, but the Pixii’s rolloff in the highlights is better. The X1D has more neutral colours but the Pixii looks prettier in a lot of circumstance.

      Pixel sharpness of the X1D is astounding. Better than anything I’ve seen. Files viewed at 200% look sharper than my old Sony (a7R2 model) files at 100%. It’s “only” 50Mp, but some users regularly print at 60″ with spectacular results. The Pixii is somewhere in the middle. My guess is an A1 print would look very good. And I plan to test that soon.

      Yes, the upgradability is probably what sold me on the concept. The difference between the two cameras I have reviewed (actually, the same camera with different components) was very surprising.

      All the best!

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