#1266. Rethinking our perfect cameras

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Feb 03

Two very different views about photographic gear πŸ™‚

As simple as analog πŸ˜‰
 

In post #518, over 6 years ago, I proposed that camera manufacturers wisen up to the fact that most of us walk around with supercomputers donning superb screens, in our pockects. And lamented that, instead of fulfilling its promise of simplifying life, digital had made photography unduly complicated.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Clay Shirky had a thing or two to say about our favourite industry, hellbent as it has been to provide technological solutions to problems it created ex nihilo, for no reason. And, in doing so, it singlehandedly managed to scare away 80% of its buyers, who fled to phones and film, for fun and finplifity.

My other gripe was that an obsessive focus on stretching the shooting envelope came at the expense of the qualitative progress that is evident in close branches of the phylogenetic tree, such as cinema. The first casualty was the demise of the CCD camera, which was vastly superior to CMOS until very recently. And who knows how good/efficient CDD could be today with an extra decade of development under its belt. We’ll never know, will we?

Raising the bar
 

I couldn’t help feel that the strategic goals of a few companies had damaged the playing field for all those who think differently. And driven the industry into a self-destructive spiral of quantitative talk, dominated by the particularly dangerous tendency to reduce a complex field to a minimum set of metrics, ideally one (hint hint, resolution, CO2 emissions, 2-party democracies …)

None of this has changed, but it’s impossible to deny that the increase in shooting envelope has empowered photographers to try new ideas, far beyond what a mere improvement in CCD quality would have made possible.

And it’s also impossible to deny the fact that cameras who serve the needs of multiple types of photographers make more economic sense than the ultra-niche product that would make this grumpy old sod happy. So this post is not about defining a camera that suits me, to the exclusion of others, and built around a 4×5 inch CCD sensor πŸ˜‰ It’s about proposing solutions that make sense both for the industry and the user, albeit from a personal point of view. Two of us will share their opinion, Philippe joining in after the continuation of my proposal.

Raising Battersea
 

Pascal

In 2023, I maintain that sidekick phones have been greatly underused, at best as afterthoughts to tick a marketing checkbox. And even more so today, with the variety of apps available to us. Here’s what coupling a phone to a camera could do for us:

  • A huge screen with up to 2000 nits of luminosity.
  • A screen that’s not even attached to the camera. We all ooh and ahh at articulating screens, imagine what a phone can do.
  • The ability to post-process soon after the shoot.
  • The use of high-quality apps for set up and PP.
  • A vast simplification of the camera’s ergonomics, often made clunky by the small screen real estate and a excruciating lack of UI expertise (which app designers do not share)
  • The possibility of opening up the camera to many different use cases, helped by yet more apps dedicated to each style of photography.
  • The *essential* ability to plan a shoot, set up the camera for it, shoot in total flow, then review.

This last point, to me, could be groundbreaking. Both for the efficiency of the photographic process (you could memorise whole complex configutations in the app and call one up in a press of abutton) and for the fun of the experience.

Great impact
 

It’s hard for me to convey how important that last aspect would be. Try to picture a real-life situation. You’re in the tube, heading to your shoot. You doodle on your app to set up the camera (ISO range, WB, AF type, exposure type and compensation, colour profile tweaks, IBIS settings, flash settings … you name it). You arrive on location, proceed with the shoot. Then head to a cafe to review / PP your shots with your pals and beers, not on a camera’s flimsy, peeling, rear screen, but on a glorious display, with auto rotate and other fancy features such as swiping a photo from one phone to another to share with one another, on the spot, annotating, rating, editing …

And it’s not like it would cost more. We already have the phone with us. It would actually cost less.

This set-shoot-review process, which is both fun and provides the rapid feedback so essential to efficient learning, is one of the things that draw me to Pixii (even though my eyesight makes a rangefinder an absolute no-no).

Mean machine
 

Having established that a camera with no rear screen but great phone tethering would be my way ahead, what would I leave on the camera?

A proper ETTR system would be top of mind. The Hassy X2D, for all its lovelyness, doesn’t provide a live histogram, for example. Why?? Not that it matters, because the live histograms in most (all??) cameras are off by a solid stop and not that useful. Let me point the deluded photo industry to its professional cousin in the cine world. RED cameras (among others) implement a beautifully simple system of warning lights that tell you when you are clipping (R,G or B) in the highlights or shadows. 1%, 2% 5% of pixels. Of the RAW file. That’s all you need to decide how to expose, no fancy modes, no nothing. It’s fast, efficient and 100% reliable.

Internal memory. Here again, I will tip my hat to Pixii (with its 3500 RAW image capacity) and to Hassy (4000+) and Zeiss (can’t remember the capacity). The reliability of (good) SSD drives or industrial grade flash memory compared to that of external cards is like that of a modern Airbus compared to a 1970s British made car. Simple, reliable, brilliant.

Catapult?
 

A proper grip. That one baffles me. If any anthropologists read DS, please correct me if I’m wrong. But my understanding of the human hand is that it hasn’t changed in the last 1000 years. Why, why, why, why …. how can you possibly justify building a camera with a shitty grip today ???? It honestly baffles me, and smacks of pure arrogance towards the customer.

ISO invariance. My venerable X1D has it. Basically put, you can use ISO 3200 the same you would use ISO200 (I get into more detail in the coming course on exposure). So, you are essentially freeing up a variable in the exposure triangle. Meaning you can chose aperture purely for aesthetics reasons (DoF), speed purely for aesthetic reasons (motion blur), and let ISO adjust itself to get the proper exposure (within reason).

Obviously, excellent phone tethering. That means trouble-free connection to the phone via cable or WiFi (at least for two of the major operating systems), open specs for app developers (no damaging walled-garden mindset here), and solid mounting options for brackets fitting a wide variety of phones.

IBIS. A camera with a good grip, solid weight and very little vibrating, such as the X1D, forms a very stable platform to work with. With deliberate attention to technique 4/f speeds are easy to handhold (ie 1/8s with a 30mm lens). Compare that to the usual 1/2f recommendation, and you are ahead by 3 stops, just because the camera doesn’t begin by ruining stability, as many do. But adding a another 3 or 4 stops of real-life goodness would be wonderful. 3 stops turns ISO 25600 into ISO 3200!

Oh hum focusing πŸ˜‰
 

Upgradability. At the risk of sounding like a Pixii fan-boy (I am, and was also a paid ambassador, but I’m actually giving you the reasons why I am, not pushing those features because I am), this is big. It’s cost-efficient, since upgrades cost a tiny fraction of a camera change, it’s fun and forward thinking, and it’s better for the environment. Japan, Sweden, how about it?

Reliable focusing. 30fps is brilliant for bird photographers. Me, I’m happy with something that never misses, even if slow. Which is what the X1D gives me. Most of the time πŸ˜‰ (see above) With manual third-party lenses, most cameras do a great job of magnifying the image in the EVF or rear-screen phone.

Pixel binning / HDR pixel-shift. Maybe it would be easier to describe the goal rather than the how πŸ˜‰ A smooth highlight shoulder is the goal. Not brutal clipping in the highlights, but a smooth fade to white. You know, like film 50 years ago, and cine cameras today. Since most cameras today offer too much resolutions for our real needs, maybe a 2×2 binning could provide greater well-dept, more DR and greater bit depth? If not, since pixel-shift is becoming de rigueur on IBIS-ready cameras, why not give us a version that doesn’t alter resolution but (1) does away with Bayer (a la Sony) and (2) combines slightly different exposure for a mild-HDR effect in the top end of the tone curve?

Decent weather sealing. Put differently, I’d like the camera to be as well weather sealed as myself. Gale conditions will find me indoors, and the camera with me. But when slight rain switches the camera off, as it has on several of mine in the past, that is no good.

I have spoken.
 

OK, enough from me.

I see the modern camera as a nice-to-handle and well-connected middle layer in a tasty phone – camera – lens sandwitch. Not necessarily without a rear screen, but with one dedicated to shooting information rather than image visualisation (a la Fuji X-Pro3). And, more important that a feature list, the camera’s function should be thought out to favour the “think before, think after, not during photography” principle enunciated by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Now, here’s Philippe’s take on the same question of defining the perfect camera.

Philippe

Pascal’s post is a hard act indeed to follow. He writes of the glory of screens with 2000 nits, whereas, to me, a nit is only the preamble to a form of intellect I thrive on, and both together add up to a not-entirely-worthy form of human life.

 

So, when it comes to my perfect camera, I can only designate very few priorities indeed, and will accept whatever else comes with it with the blissful indifference of the ignoramus. And what I look for first and foremost is what lenses can be used on this camera, because I feel that the lens defines the look of an image to a much greater degree than the camera.

 

To wit (no, not to nit :-), I experienced an epiphany when I saw images made with a Fuji GFX with a Contax MF lens of yore. Gone were all the reasons the GFX never resonated with me, as the images were full of agreeable character and charm, no trace of which I had ever felt with the GFX cum standard Fuji lenses.

 

Now that I have my preferred lens(es) mounted on a suitable camera body, my next priority is to be able to get as many shots from it as I can, in my own way. And this way begins with shooting mostly from the hip, or the waist, or the chest. But, in all these cases, previewing my shot from the LCD rather than the viewfinder. So, no articulated EVF = no deal. Even if that takes numerous otherwise highly desirable cameras out of contention. Conversely, a screen that articulates in every which possible way, rather than only vertically, like that of the new Sony A7R V, makes me drool. In the same vein, a great EVF and a great LCD are also required to help me focus manually.

 

There is a form of logic to this madness of mine about my ideal camera. Choosing the one that will enable my favorite lenses affects 100% of my shots. Selecting a body with a tiltable EVF enables roughly 80% of them. Why worry about criteria that might affect one of two only before these matters are addressed ? The next one is more than likely to land me in deep trouble with DS-Master Pascal. Because I would, at this time in my photo path, gladly trade 100 very fine images for one true masterpiece. One for the ages. So it needs to be absolutely as good as possible. Which means lots of resolution. DR, noise, colours, can all be tweaked somewhat in post, but resolution cannot. Hence, only bodies with high-resolution sensors need apply.

 

And the lure of hand-held pixel-shift, dangled in front of me by the Sony A7R V, appeals if confirmed (a big “if”, considering their previous effort at pixel shift, even on a stable tripod, yielded only paltry results). OM Systems, the new name for Olympus make the same claim BTW, but with a Micro 4/3 sensor, so it “only” delivers 50Mp images as opposed to Sony’s 200Mp. Sorry for the interruption, I had to wipe the drool from the keyboard.

 

Number four priority, once all the above have been satisfied, lovely colours (Hassy, Leica, Pixii) would be appreciated. As well, high DR and low noise. But how many shots would be impacted by lower noise? Some, but not many. Same with DR? Nicer colours would help make a shot better, but certainly not turn a dud into a Wow! image. Hence the rating as number four priority.

 

Then we come to priority number five. Where is it? Wait… Ah, yes, I remember now. There is no priority number five. Having too many so-called priorities is tantamount to having none, and leads to paralysis by analysis. What is the point of pining for a camera so outstanding, so perfect that it just doesn’t exist ? So, just to be clear, here are some of the factors that I won’t let have any impact on my choice: form factor, grip, menus, battery life, custom buttons, buffer size and speed, video, AF, weather sealing, overheating, gestalt, and a few hundred other meaningful features.


Okay, so the two of us have opened up to reveal our photographic dreams. A phone-tethering Zen machine on the one side and an ultra-high-resolution monster with superb lenses on the other. What about you? Go wild. Nobody is going to listen to us anyway, so this is just to start a discussion and see what the monst interesting, funniest, quirkiest … ideas are. Give it a go. What’s your dream camera or dream feature? We really want to know.

 

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  • jean pierre guaron says:

    Funnily enough, in some respects I think the industry has overshot the target. My most recent camera body comes with a “user manual” that barely identifies where to look for all the controls, and a note telling you that there’s a better one you can download online. When I went to look at the online one, I found it had 640 pages, and you’d need to take a laptop with you in the field if you want to refer to anything in it when you are actually using the camera!

    Leaving me pining for my old Zeiss Contarex. You want different ISO? – swap the magazine back for one with film with a different ASA rating. Focus? – do it yourself – with all the tens of thousands of photos I shot with that camera, I don’t recall ever having focus issues. What else? – shutter speed or aperture. You want to know what settings to use? – haul out your Sekonic exposure meter – which, BTW, I still do – I like it a lot better than the built in metering systems on any of my cameras.

    I never thought to take it swimming, so waterproofing was never an issue.

    And it delivered!

    Of course it would never have suited a modern day “birder”, or a modern day “sports shooter”. But the prime 50mm standard lens was the one Zeiss scaled up to put on a Hasselblad, which became the first lens EVER to take photos on the moon! None of our modern cameras can beat that!

    Kids laugh at us “old people” and our inadequate grasp of technology. But I really think any junk that requires a 640 page user manual that you can only use on a laptop is kind of overkill.

    Of course you don’t have to use all this extra stuff. But it would be nice to know where & how to find and use the things you DO want to use!

    If we have to have all this techo stuff, one grouch I have is why the hell it’s impossible for them to allow you to rotate the image, when you’re reviewing it in field. Some cameras do it automatically, when you turn the camera body on its side – others simply won’t do it at all, so if your shot was vertical your review image is a postage stamp size – all the more useless because it’s smothered in meta data. And yes I know, I can magnify it instead – and slide the image around to look at it bit by bit. But that’s not practical, out in the field, chasing animals or pets or “street” or sports or weddings or [fill in the blank], it takes you off the job and takes too long.

    You look at the car industry – millions of different models, but the standouts are what? Poster child would have to be the Citroen 2CV or the VW “Beetle”. Made for half a century, hardly ever changed anything, went till after the original owner passed away, thrived on simplicity & reliability. People who bought them simply fell in love with them.

    Over the years I’ve had heaps of different cars, but perhaps the only ones that ever came close to those two were the Morgan 2-seater and the MGBs – and a 2-seater sports car really isn’t suitable for everyday driving, so including them on the list is merely a distraction – a flush of nostalgia, perhaps.

    • pascaljappy says:

      I guess a secret noone has cracked is how to keep the authentic joy of simplicity and efficiency of ancient gear/cars while bringing it up to date technologically. You’d think you could have that Contarex with a digital sensor and no other added complexity, but that seems to elude the bright minds designing cameras. And then they wonder why everyone’s buying phones instead …

      • jean pierre guaron says:

        What is even stranger is the future of books. I adore books. I love to hold them – to feel the pages as I turn them – and to smell that faint aroma of the paper, lifting up to greet me.

        Sadly, the number of book shops is slowly dwindling – hardback has largely been replaced by paperback – both, now, it seems are being replaced by digital, like everything else “they” can synthesise & sell. Libraries are becoming smaller – less of them, as a number related to populations and urban areas

        Yet this article includes a brilliant photo by Philippe of a grand public library, taken on a digital camera!

        And if you think that’s “irony”, when this morning’s paper arrived on my breakfast table, the leading article in the “books” section was the sad tale of the dwindling interest in “books”, in younger generations. Of course it can’t happen to me – I wouldn’t recognise an iBook, if I tripped over one on the sidewalk. In fact I don’t even know if there IS such a thing, to trip over in the first place. I know my wife has something like that – she sneaks off to bed early, and I often catch her listening to a talking book, under the blankets, the way we used to sneak things into our bedrooms as kids, over half a century ago. I can see the glow from the doorway, I can hear the sound – but if I tick her off for it, she instantly goes into denial. Never mind the fact that doesn’t explain how she heard me say something, in the first place – no better at lying now, than she presumably must have been when lying to her parents about similar “breaches” when she was just a kid.

  • Imants says:

    To me it is easy just an updated Contax T, my versions are a bit fickle with metering and shutters. A bonus would be cheaper monochrome film. Yes I know bulk film works out cheaper but that means no variety. Other than that I am squirrelling away some monies for a Pixii as I am not in a position to burn my credit card right now. I guess this means that someone is making my ideal camera

    • pascaljappy says:

      I get that. My dream camera would be a Mamiya 7 with a 6×7 sensor. In a way, Hasselblad has created something similar in that digital back that can go on old 500 series 6×6 cameras. And, yes, Pixii does come very close, particularly with the efforts put into creating a film-like monochrome mode. Look out for deals, they sometimes have second-hand bodies at cheaper prices, if that’s what you would like.

      In the meantime, that Contax T is a gem, but the price of film cameras has gone up so much lately that I wouldn’t want to buy one anymore. Can you not have yours serviced, at a cheaper price than buying a new camera?

      It would be nice to be in a club or group of people that also shoot film. You could each cut up bulk of one filmstock into rolls and swap, for affordable variety.

      Good luck.

      • Imants says:

        l integrated a digital workflows into textbooks for students back in 1997, and then teaching photoshop in secondary and primary schools, it was a different world then, what used to take a few lessons is done in the press of button these days That’s probably why I’m interested in the Pixxii because it allows two ways of thinking one view finder in the camera, the other using a smart phone and if there is a need swapping from one to the other. And eventually playing around with imagery on the smart phone or tablet etc ….All good fun
        Personally I make art based books https://previews.onlineprogallery.com.au/gallery?cpid=2802633&auth=5aa0ce1637b448.84033524
        ps I live in rural Tasmania

      • jean pierre guaron says:

        A Rollei 6×6 with a 400MB sensor?

        To think I simply gave my Contarex away, in the end, while I drowned myself in Nikons & digi!

        • pascaljappy says:

          A 50Mp 6×6 would be fine. I’ll leave 200Mp to those with supercomputers in their bedrooms and 30 foot wide printers πŸ˜‰

          • jean pierre guaron says:

            What I don’t “get” is why we’re expected to believe that the 48MP 1/1.28″ sensor on an iPhone is somehow “better”. All that seems to be “better” is the processing done in those “cameras”, without your informed knowledge & consent!

            • pascaljappy says:

              Yeah. I’m surprised that most “hybrid” solutions such as the one described in the post are the exact opposite to what is described here. They are mostly optical add-ons to phones, from legacy brands, rather than adding the computational power and high-quality screens of phones to conventional cameras. The extra complexity of bolt-on lenses defeats the point of a phone, particularly as those things were never designed to receive add-ons in the first place. Weird …

              • Jens says:

                Maybe I’m a bit ignorant here – but a camera where the connection to the phone is an integral part sounds horrible to me. I’d like my camera body to potentially last for 10+ years or so. I’m not missing anything in my current phone, but I expect to change it much earlier even if simply due to lack of software updates. Such phone to camera connection would need to be a really open standard or I’d expect camera companies to drop the support (and not keep it compatible with all the different OS versions of phones).
                However we have already the ability to use the phone as remote control with the ability to load camera settings / use the phone / tablet / notebook as live preview. Or what I’d consider much more usable – tethering to a software such as Capture One. The UI / initial setup could be better, but I don’t think it is that bad. And you could use a personal cloud or service to share all images quickly.
                The appeal of a phone camera and a big reason why so few people care to get a dedicated camera is a different one in my humble opinion. They don’t want to carry any extra device and it’s much more about capturing and sharing moment instead. More capable picture taking devices in small form factors with a fairly sleek user experience exist – take a Ricoh GR or if size and price isn’t that much a concern a Leica Q2, yet they are really niche products.
                When speaking to friends who don’t care much about dedicated cameras, yet really enjoy their phone cameras – the part they tend to miss on their phones is the ability to really zoom-in (e.g. 200+ mm focal length). But I don’t see how such a thing could ever be put in a convenient form factor.
                Carefully composing a picture is often quite the opposite from convenience – once you use a remote device to aid you, you need a second person to help you or something such as a tripod. If we want the tactile connection to the capturing device a very small form factor is almost out of question (I don’t think it could get much smaller than a Q2). Than there is the whole matter of light – if you work with natural light you might need to scout the location and even have to revisit multiple times, if the weather isn’t on your side. And if you actively set the lights you add in a whole bunch of gear even if you only use something simple such as a reflector or diffusor. But even if you take all these physical things out of the equation you still need to take your time to compose everything, potentially take on an awkward position etc. Editing is an additional effort and making these on the spot is likely not the best option if you want to do it properly.
                In short if I’m prepared to spent some time and effort to get the picture I want – a few seconds extra to transfer the file doesn’t seem such a big issue to me. And I hope if I share it with friends they’ll take more than a few second on their phone to appreciate it.
                And with regards to computational photography part of smartphones. Even if we choose the ‘raw’ image of the phone – it has very little to do with the ‘raw’ sensor data. For now the readout speed of larger sensors prohibit much of the software marvels smart phones do behind the scenes. Even worse we’d need to get the data from the camera device to the phone to process everything, adding another technical barrier at least for now.
                I think in my ramblings I might have steered off a bit. For me the connection to the phones is already plenty and the more interesting processing of sensor data isn’t possible on a remote device currently. But I just ordered a physical remote for my camera – e.g. I might not be the best advocate here.

              • pascaljappy says:

                Hi Jens, the connection to the phone would simply be a usb cable (or WiFi connexion) and a suitable app. So you can change your phone as you want to over time.

                I agree with you. Phones are simple, and their simplicity shouldn’t be tampered with. To me, adding lenses to a phone makes no sense. I’m only interested in using phones as screens for cameras, because they are larger and brighter than camera screens, and attachement brackets could very easily be made to rotate in every possible direction, something camera screens rarely do.

                In the filmmaking arena, it is common practise to buy a body which
                (1) holds lenses
                (2) holds batteries
                (3) provides a sensor and “brain” to process its signal into a file of a specific format

                That body then gets rigged into whatever the needs of the shoot are. Get a small grip, a phone for a screen, and a light battery and go hiking. Or get huge gimball, a huge battery pack a huge focus-pulling rack if you need that in the studio.

                I really like the idea of building up a system for the occasion. It means you do not get stuck with what the manufacturer has provided, which is the case in photography. If screens get better over time, you do not need to sell your camera to benefit. Just change the screen. I love the idea of modularity.

                Cheers

  • Bruno Chalifour says:

    Interesting pondering. I do not think there is a perfect versatile toll/camera for every sitiuation.
    The CMOs allowed us to get longer battery life which was a plus. I terms of colors I do not see anything wrong with the current CMOSes (Hasselblad or Leica. Still issues with Fuji green although greatly improved since the X-pro 1, and the Nikon Z blues). Obviously saying that “The first casualty was the demise of the CCD camera, which was vastly superior to CMOS until very recently” does not echo in me: we are now and not yesterday and the “acidulΓ©es” (like tart candies) colors of the CCDs (M8 and M9) never convince meβ€”they convinced me of one thing though, wait for the CMOS M240, which I did.
    “the live histograms in most (all??) cameras are off by a solid stop and not that useful” the answer to that is to make it more reliable not to eliminate it, isn’t it?.
    “ISO invariance” ?! As far as I know, except for cell-phones, all cameras have ISO invariance if the operator wants it.
    Now, image-stabilisation and pixel shift for bigger files (only when needed) implemented to all cameras would be my first request. Apparently Hasselblad understood the first part with the X2 D, but Leica has got space issues with the M series (so has Pixii by the way).
    As for using a screen outside the camera (cell-phone, tablet) this is already available but I would definitely keep the screen at the back of the camera. It is a useful tool and does not require an extra hand or extra tools.
    Coming from years of film I must say I am quite happy with our new toys. Now let us see what others think.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Bruno,

      Yes, the answer would be to make histograms more reliable. Alternately, I find the RED light system far easier and faster to use and it doesn’t take up EVF real estate.

      I’m not sure all cameras have ISO invariance over a wide range. But some do, and it’s really useful.

      Does the X2D have pixel-shift? Honestly, starting with 100Mp, I’d much ratehr see pixel binning implemented, for my 99% of shots where 25Mp is just fine. But everyone has different needs, I guess πŸ˜‰

      I’m surprised you found the colours from the M240 colours nicer than those of the M8 and M9. Leica colour science isn’t meant to be neutral, and is an acquired taste, but I really enjoyed the M8 colours (never used an M9). And even nicer was the Hassy CCD. Yum.

      I wouldn’t go back to film either. First because those cameras are old, on their last legs and expensive. But there was no reason to make the user interface of digital cameras so appalling in the digitization process. And, judging by the market’s shift to phones, I think the over complexification didn’t appeal to many others either.

      Cheers

  • Imants says:

    Nobody is really interested in servicing, Contax T cameras because there’s no parts I’ve looked all over the web. Buying another one you’ll probably end up with the same problem so just using when they’re gone they’re gone

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yeah, that’s a problem. I had a great folding fujica and a small pice broke. Noone ever wanted to fix it. Noawdays, you buy three film cameras, one to shoot, and two for spares. And that was OK when they were cheapL But at today’s prices, it’s insane.

  • Guesty Guest says:

    Alice Camera has been working for a while along some related ideas.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Are they still around? I reached out a while ago and got no reply. It was a nice idea.

      • pascaljappy says:

        Just looked at their website again. The camera is interesting but looks more like an add-on to a phone, not a fully specced camera, and appears to be packed with AI. I’d rather add a phone to a camera than a camera to a phone πŸ˜‰ Still a potentially cool product, though.

  • What we need is for the manufacturers to do away with their one assembly line approach and start making cameras for OUR specific needs. Case in point, I’m not much of a sports action photographer, so I rarely use their iris chasing, 30+FPS, image stabilization Ferrari’s like those professionals in the sports/action field, but I do on occasion run across a situation where I could use such a tool, so I took the plunge and bought one.THEY got my money! Kudos to them and I hope they continue down that path, expanding their market, research and development, because the lenses, specific cards and most importantly technological advances will rapidly follow suit. Would I use it for landscapes? Not really…. which brings me to my preferred medium format camera that has 16 bit files, 102MP, with suitable native glass and also works VERY WELL with a lot of my manual focus German lenses through various adapters. It’s slow, totally incapable of continuous focusing but for large prints here in the gallery it’s impeccable! Video, not interested, but many are and I hope (in the future) the major makers will build/offer them 12K,16K heck even 32K capabilities specifically for their needs. To me there is no reason why Sony, Canon and Nikon, can’t produce 16bit,16+stop dynamic range sensors with a minimum pixel count of 75MP for landscape/still/architectural photographers and dispose of any video nonsense within such bodies and give us 4-8TB (in body) storage instead. We don’t need the speed just extra torque. Where are the Monochrome sensors? It’s a shame they refuse to address this issue. I’ve been bugging my Fuji rep for years, and all my pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Exactly David. I’m happy that sports/wildlife shooters have their high speed machines to work with. But why should this be the only approach to photography. As you say, I would far prefer 16 real bits, good colour and good highlight management with manual focus and just 1 fps.

      The algorithmic debayering approach would do me just fine, for monochrome. I wish the big companies got in touch with David from Pixii to cut a deal on that … It would me one body, two cameras.

      Have you ever used the X2D? I’m gradually leaning towards the GFX, but would love to hear how the files from the two compare, from someone who’s actually used both.

      Cheers

      • Pascal, I haven’t used the X2D so really can’t make any comparison. The GFX files to me sometimes have a bit of a magenta cast to them with some of their lenses. I have found that my Otus lenses create much better color images as well as b/w. As far as coverage the 100, 85 and 55mm are all good (at infinity focus) for all of the (in body) offered sizes with the exception being the larger 4:3 ratio. Not a big deal for me as I much prefer the 4:5 aspect in most situations. The 28mm Otus works at 1:1, gets by at 6:7, 65:24 and is ok at 16:9 (sometimes). The 110mm F/2 GFX lens is magic though along with the newest 20-35mm zoom. My 35mm Milvus also works very nice with the system. One simply can’t get the same shots comparing the two lens systems as the Zeiss start at F/1.4 and stopping them down to F/2 the magic starts to happen. Of the two GFX cameras I like the feel of the original but the rear command wheel sucks. Terrible design and worthless in cold weather. The slightest pressure applied to it will instantly put one to 100% viewing. They fixed that in the newer model which costs around $6,500. Give me a jingle sometime and we’ll chat more. All the best.

  • What I’m missing are some Zeiss lenses designed for Nikon Z mount, or for Hasselblad X mount. I still have my ZF.2 which I can use with lens adapters, but I am sad Zeiss has opted to stay out of the market for the time being. I love the character of Zeiss glass.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Me too, Jeffrey. To be honest, I think there is no place left for a “character-oriented company” such as Zeiss in a market where good computer software allows the creation of very sharp AF lenses at a fraction of the cost. The huge extra investment needed to create something that’s as sharp, but with great character, great build quality and consistency probably isn’t a good recipe for making money. Not enough people care for it to be viable, sadly. Here’s to hogging the best ones from the used market πŸ˜‰

  • Jens says:

    A few weeks ago due to some rather unfortunate circumstances (e.g. almost all my photo gear got stolen) I was unexpectedly in the situation to choose a new camera. And that made me as well wonder what the perfect camera would be. The short answer for my needs – they more or less already exist for years. In the end they only connect me to the part that matters most to me: the lens. Everything that helps me in that regard I value dearly, but I don’t feel emotionally connected with the camera body nor is the technology holding me back to get pictures I want.

    To elaborate a bit more: my old camera body had many quirks and I often considered to get a new body, but instead every time I put aside money for my hobby I rather spent it on a lens or other equipment such as a printer, flashes etc. I was content with my setup. Wildlife photography always tempted me, but I know that I wouldn’t enjoy the experience of hiking around with a large tele lens.

    I’d like to say that my next decision was well planned, but after having read way too much about current cameras I put rationale aside and picked the shiniest thing that was in my budget and even got matching lenses with all the bells and whistles. The amount of options and the desire to properly use all the functions were quite an assault on my senses and I spent the better part of the next 3 days just reading tutorials / manuals. Yet after I had everything sufficiently under control I still didn’t feel compelled to go outside and take some pictures and I was close to return everything.
    A few days later a friend visited me and returned a manual lens I borrowed him some time ago. After putting that lens on the camera it was the first time I really enjoyed my new camera and I appreciated the much better new EVF and in-body stabilisation. Half of the custom bottoms I assigned to get most of the new tech became irrelevant and that was a good thing too.
    The next day I returned most of the modern lenses and only kept two (one of these lenses I kept was according to reviews the technically worst).

    My conclusion is – most modern cameras offer features I don’t care for really and it feels strange paying for it when I don’t use these. Yet luckily with customization it’s possible to remove these at least virtually. I’d wish there were even more drastic option to customize the cameras, but as long as I can reassign all the buttons, I’m sufficiently happy. On the other hand, some improvements/ features I didn’t look for positively surprised me. Still, I likely could have gotten almost any other camera and would be happy as long as I have a lens on it I enjoy using. For me technology exceeded the point I care for.

    In case anyone wonders – I got a Sony A7R V after having used the first gen A7R for 9 years. And it was a Zeiss Loxia 50mm made me realize how important a tactile manual lens is, even I couldn’t fault the Sony GM 50mm 1.2 lens optically.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Wow, Jens. First of all, I’m so sorry that happened to you!

      What you describe next is so familiar it hurts. New cameras, totally unexciting. Tactile lenses completely inspiring.

      Configuration of the camera through an app would make the most sense to me. The tens of buttons are only useful for someone whoe needs to change the configuration often in the field. In other words, almost nobody. But defining a few configurations through an app and calling them via a single button would make a lot more sense to me.

      With all we know about UI today, noone should have to sit through tutorials or read manuals to make a new tool work. A new Macbook Pro (I changed mine recently) guides you through a series of simple decisions and does all the setting up. There isn’t even a manual in the bow. Wht can’t cameras do the same?

      Anyway, I’m glad you bought new gear and have lenses that feel good. Enjoy the shooting and the photographs πŸ™‚

  • Jens says:

    I agree – an app that would help you to find a better starting point by asking you a few simple questions would makes a lot of sense and help with the initial experience. It would be a really simple thing – the current remote app even offers to change settings on your phone and load these to the camera or save a setup on your phone to reapply later.

    And of course I enjoy improvements of the tech – but one thing that really changed my relationship to photos and equipment: I started to print the ones I like. At that point you inadvertently change the colour gamut, you add some texture depending on the type of paper and the light under which you look at the prints will change things as well. Now there are so many layers that trying to improve on one single purely technical aspect becomes less relevant for the final product. Even though I enjoy the research on how I could improve things with new gear. After all it’s the only thing I have really control of (unless you take pictures of charts / do product photography) and most analytical part – plus it’s a good excuse to buy something.

    Besides the joy of a print: it’s a way to decouple the picture from its digital nature. On my PC screen with easy access to all the analytical tools it’s a different beast and I get lost in details that don’t matter that much really. And I’d be lying that I don’t enjoy pixel peeping to my hearts content from time to time as well and for years I enjoy looking at pictures on places such as this site.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Couldn’t agree more about the print. It’s a world I’m discovering after a huge lapse (my last prints were made with enlargers πŸ˜‰ ) and am beginning to find as fascinating as taking the pictures.

  • Sean says:

    Hi Pascal,
    My perfect camera is the one I have in my hands at the time I need to use it, whilst being mindful of its strengths and limitations and working within those parameters. Regards Sean

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