#1234. Seeking Growth in New Directions

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Oct 05

If numerology has any intuitive value, surely #1234 has to be about growth, right? πŸ˜‰

 

3-4 years ago, I purchased my X1D, thinking it would be the camera to end all camera-hunting.

Yeah, right. How deluded can you be? πŸ˜† πŸ˜† πŸ˜†

There’s good news about this subject. And there’s bad news.

 

The good news is that I still think the X1D is the best camera on the market. The bad news is that I think the X1D is still the best camera on the market for me. Grab the mkII for faster boot times, if you want.

But boys will be boys, and GAS will be GAS, right? πŸ˜‰

3 forces can stop me from hunting for new cameras: health, bankruptcy, and wisdom. Here’s hoping for the 3rd option πŸ˜‰

 

A tiny bit of wisdom has already come my way. The X1D is still the best digital photography camera on the market (for my needs).

So, without an actual solution to any potential need for gear betterment, my hunt has to turn to alternative solutions.

Of which I see only 3: phones, cine cameras, and film cameras.

 

#1. Smartphone cameras.

Before you click out, to illustrate the possibility of this, all the photographs on this page are made with a phone.

Specifically my Samsung Galaxy S9. Almost 5 years old, it will soon get replaced anyway, and photographic capabilities will weigh in on the replacement’s choice (though probably not as much as privacy and global feel and quality).

Why a phone? Mainly because the best camera is the camera you have with you, and because phone manufacturers are the only ones to take convenience seriously. Geo-tagging, backup, album facilitation, memories, sharing … all those features are built-in and superbly executed, even with older models. With “real” cameras, well, that’s still remote science-fiction, even almost into 2023.

 

Post-processing capabilities will be a determining factor.

Currently, all my images are processed in Google Photos, which takes up to 20 seconds to display a photograph and the tools panel (and this is for a paying customer, not on a free service), and offers nothing to deal with sharpening. All those photos are so oversharpened someone swiping one on their phone might slice fingers off. Bad Google.

So, we’re not there yet. Far from it. But the opportunities are interesting enough to start looking for a more favourable mobile environment. Suggestions welcome πŸ™‚

 

#2. The Cine Camera

Let me give you the highlights.

The highlights are the highlights. See what I did, there? πŸ˜‰

We all have our personal biases for what makes a photograph look pleasant. For me, realism of light is a major factor. And highlight management – including the rolloff to pure white – in even the most expensive digital cameras, is typically not good. To put it mildly.

The Hassy X1D version of this is in the last post
 

To me, anything cliping to white with a noticeable step is unacceptable in an expensive camera.

And yet, to preserve highlights I systematically under-expose by about 1 stop with the X1D, and that’s not always enough. And other photographers I know go further to -2 or -3EV with other cameras. It’s nuts! I do wish manufacturers were less busy adding unnecessary pixels and ISO steps and instead finally gave us images that look like what our eyes perceive. But, of course, that’s a lot harder than just churning out sensors with ever smaller pixel pitches.

Compared to this, RED cameras offer greater true dynamic range plus with 5 rolloff options for highlight compression and quality. Other high-end brands are less known to me, but probably offer something similar. The fact is that, in order to maintain interest and suspension of disbelief for 2 or 3 hours in a movie, every precaution is taken to ensure the image looks natural (which is a whole other topic than neutral). That is where cine cameras beat photo cameras hands down, and that is what I’m after.

 

Sadly, there’s no free lunch. And cine cameras come at a price that makes Hasselblad look like a proletarian bonanza, and with an operational complexity that may not be compatible with my shooting habits and preferences.

Plus RED is natively compatible with Canon, and most of my non-Hassy lenses are Nikon mount. But an M-mount adapter may well be a solution.

RED is kindly giving me a demo in December. We’ll take it from there.

 

#3. Film cameras.

Let’s make this quick. Living in a rural area of Provence, far from any processing labs, makes film cameras non-runners.

But, for a secondary camera … why not?

The fact is that (medium or large format) film delivers what appeals to me, in spades. Well thought-out non-neutral looks, huuuuge dynamic range, and elegant highlight rolloff. Plus, typically a proper build quality and lovely handling (if you have big biceps πŸ˜‰ ) They are the soothing equivalent of old 4×4 cars that you can bash back into shape in your garage, will take you anywhere, and will essentially last forever, in a sea of boring and soulless electronic cars. I love both for the freeing nature of their use. Not convenient for a fast-paced hectic life, but grounding and loveable to a much greater degree.

 

#4. The mystery medium-format sensor

In honour of the #1234 post number, let me add a bonus option that turned up just a few days ago.

The company Large Sense, provider of large format digital backs (including a 9×11 inch monochrome sensor !!) recently polled its subscribers about a 6×7 digital back for Mamiya RB67, 219Mp and an unannounced price point, and would I be interested?

Would I, indeed?!!!

 

In fact, I struggle to find anything more exciting a company could offer me, although my reply specified a strong preference for pixel-binning back resolution to a less delirious 54Mp, or less.

So, there you are. Those are the 3+1 options currently at the top of the leaderboard for pursuing a healthy GAS midlife crisis while not giving in to the perpetual hammering of the “more pixels” fixation of the market. Sorry, I mean 4 options for growth!

Maybe a #1 + #3 combo? Maybe a #1 + #2? A solo #4, maybe? πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

 

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  • Dallas says:

    Pascal, great article I like your thought process. Like you, my nearly 4 year old Z7 does everything I need and I can’t see a reason to upgrade. As I get older my bag of Zeiss Lens seems to get heavier and these may need to be changed to something not as heavy. Film is not for me and phones are phones IMHO. Yes I know they take great images but….. Take care Dallas

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you, Dallas. You sure seem to get along well with that Z7!! Phones aren’t the most pleasant to shoot with. I just wish cameras offered some of the features that have been standard in phones for a decade. Oh well πŸ˜‰ Take care.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “3 forces can stop me from hunting for new cameras”? Really? I have a fourth one to deal with, much more compelling than any of those – my wife!

    Let’s be serious, Pete. You know you can, if you try!

    OK

    Well I can’t help with “cine”. Way beyond me financially, so I’ll never be able to experience what you’re suggesting there. Not altogether sure I like the end result. While I do see their point with 9:3:1 in terms of directing your gaze where they want you to look, I also find it all a bit blurry and commonly infused with an unworldly blue, offset by an equally unworldly yellow cast. I wouldn’t want to create images like that, although I do enjoy watching their films (most of the time).

    But then – Γ  chacun son goΓ»t. Because we’re all trying to create the images that WE want. And clearly, you’re aching for something else.

    As you know, I am too – for the Nikon Z8II, and I have to wait till they produce (and tire of) the Z8, first. Just as they did with the D7100 (which I replaced with the D7200), and the D800 (which I ignored) & D810 (which Dallas & I both replaced with the D850). And of course the FF Foveon sensor that SIGMA keeps promising us.

    I’m afraid I’ve always fooled around on the side, trying other things. We all do. There isn’t a LEGO player alive, who wouldn’t buy any more LEGO blocks. And ‘togs are just as bad. Nobody buys an iPhone for over 2 grand, just to make phone calls! All those “next gen” ‘togs out there who are telling us they want to try something different, they want to try their hand at film – just as my generation completes its transition in the opposite direction! We have another restaurant nearby and one of the waiters introduced himself when he saw me waving my Zfc around – told me he loves photography, but he’s more into film than digi. His dream camera is Zeiss’s Contarex! When I said it was a shame he hadn’t met me earlier, I could have given him mine, with all its accessories, he nearly keeled over!

    And you of course are doing the same. “Your thing”, as always. Different – not always mainstream – but in all honesty, who among the lot of us wants to be “the same”? Extroverts have more of a “herd instinct” – to some degree, they seem happier being (or doing) the same than I ever have, maybe they can answer that one.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Imagine a lego camera, Pete πŸ™‚ We could just remove this bit and add this other. For example, a good grip with more batteries for hiking. Or no grip for a discreet night out πŸ™‚

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        ROTFL – I love this website. Interesting subject matter – sprayed with gifted images – and spiced with intelligent discussion or great humour.

        It doesn’t any better than that, on the internet!

  • PaulB says:

    Pascal

    Lovely images once again. As I have said a few times, you and the X1D make images that I am envious of. So I will be interested in seeing the experiments you come up with, and the results.

    Congratulations on the promise of a RED camera to try out. If you look around, there are adapters that will let you mount Nikon F mount lenses on Canon EF bodies.

    Concerning processing your phone images, take a look at Snapspeed. This is an App for phone photography that claims to get you access to your phone’s raw files. I have tried an earlier version and it does give decent results. It does give you more control over image processing on your phone than Apple iPhoto does. Though, the phone’s screen is a bit of a limiting factor; having an iPad with the iPhone 14 cameras in it might be a real game changer. Unfortunately, I did not put a lot of effort into working with the software so I really can’t give you much insight to it.

    The Large Sense camera looks interesting. The last time I looked at their website the cameras seemed to be more concept than a product. At least now, if you have the means, they do have a product. A medium format back would be interesting, though I might like a traditional back for a large format camera rather than one specifically for a Mamiya RB body. Though, for your personal torture . . . OOPS! . . . I mean experiment, an RB67 might be a fun way to retry film until they have a back for you to try.

    Have fun
    PaulB

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you, Paul.

      In London, you just have to book an appointment for a one hour demo. How cool is that? πŸ™‚

      Yes, snapspeed is good. I’ll check whether they have an equivalent for laptop. Editing on the phone is OK indoors, but can be difficult otherwise.

      I quite fancy the idea of a camera that’s both film and digital πŸ™‚ Price might be a factor, though. Large Sense’s 4×5 sensor costs $26000. Ouch.

      Cheers,
      Pascal

  • John Wilson says:

    Ah!!! The tyranny of choices. Fortunately my dreams, lust and budget are more “modest” … a Fuji X-H2 would do just nicely … with a side order of lenses. And yes, it would be a big step forward if DSLR manufacturers got with the program and put computational photography algorithms in their high end cameras … like the X-H2; they’re going to have to eventually.

  • Jeffrey D. Mathias says:

    For cinema I would suggest a camera by Blackmagic Design. They range in price from about $1,300 to $6300 and any of them I would take over a Red. Also all the extras needed will cost alot, alot more with a Red system. Now you could get the new ARRI, that is king… but for the same price you could get 12 URSA12K from Blackmagic (and some change.) The 12K has a new sensor design RGBW (not Bayer) which attains amazing color.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you, Jeffrey. I will certainly look at Blackmagic. My reluctance was due to the m43 sensors, which are probably fine for video, but don’t appeal to me so much for photography. This may have changed, though.

      Why would you prefer the BM to the RED Komodo, for example?

      Cheers

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Not sure whether to post this here, or in #1235 – here seemed more appropriate, so here it is.

    Rare Canon FD 24mm F1.4 S.S.C. Aspherical lens poised to fetch more than $15,000 at auction
    Published on Thursday, October 6, 2022 at 6:14:00 PM
    The Canon FD 24mm F1.4 S.S.C. Aspherical was the fastest 24mm lens when it launched in 1975. Despite being mass-produced, the lens is quite rare today and remains highly sought-after due to its image quality and utility for cinema.

  • I thought the X1D (II) would be my “last camera”. Maybe it will, but I’m endlessly conflicted by it. I expected it to be great for landscapes, but actually it is better for urban work. The lack of depth of field is a really issue. I expected, or hoped, that it would play the role that 6×7 film played for me, but on reflection, I almost never used 6×7 film for landscape, and had big problems with 6×12 due to DoF. Sure, one can focus stack, but that really doesn’t appeal to me. It’s just not fun. So I fall back on my long, long-standing standard Micro43, only to (re)discover the weaknesses that led to adopt the X1D :-). It’s an endless circle. Actually, the cameras that really never fail too amaze me are the Ricoh GRIII / IIIx pair, and maybe they, finally, together, will be my “last camera”.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi David. Yes, every strength seems to come with a compropise. I enjoy the ergonomics of the X1D and the aesthetics of its images very much. But, as you mention, DoF is a limitation for some used. You can close the lens quite a bit before diffraction becomes a problem, given the large pixels but, in low light, you soon hit the problem of longer exposures.

      I’d love to shout Long live Ricoh, but … Isn’t it a terrible shame when the most interesting market players are also the most fragile? I hpe you find the solution to your conundrum πŸ™‚

      Cheers

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