the North mountain
Sakurajima, Kagoshima, Japan
This volcano mountain erupted again this morning, and it has erupted 23 times in last week, but we still do not figure out how much damage actually Kagoshima and south Kyushu area of this country got from it. The volcano has been active again, and it makes it really extremely hot all over Kagoshima city area. This one was shot with Canon 6D handheld, actually one handed since I had my dog with me when I shot this scene. Actually unlike the bulky ugly 5D series and D810, my D750 and 6D can easily fit well into my small work bag. They are not much bigger than my A7M2 or A7R2, especially as a system. The 5DMK2 sensor was one of the worst sensors(read noise wise) in digital camera history, and from that crappy banding machine to the Nikon D800E was a huge leap in terms of IQ, but after that? The sad reality we must face if we are at least a bit honest with ourselves and sensor test data is that basically, image quality of so-called fullframe sensor hasn't improved since about 2012. The tech around it has been in stagnation, not any advancing. But according to the DPR,etc the A7R2 is a real game changer, so great that we should even change our own value and standard for system functionality, ergonomics preferences,etc, to get that specific camera. But in reality, as I said, the image quality of the 42.4 mp sensor is basically the same or identical to the old 36 mp sensor first introduced in the D800 in 2012. In fact, if the base ISO image quality is the most important aspect of a camera to you as DPR forced us to believe, then even the venerable D800 would still beat the A7R2. The A6300 is basically a bit more glorified, refined version of the NEX7 from the 2012, nothing more than that, but those so-called reviewers just intentionally dramatize, grandiose the minor difference in the feature set of these 2 APS-C cameras, to call the A6300 a true game changer......before it they did the same to the A6000, which was actually a dumbed-down version of the NEX7. The OM-D EM5MK2 is the same exactly the same as the ancient EM5 IQ wise and so on. No format is actually getting better in terms of sheer image quality and basic functionality. So are those so-called pro reviewers the worst kind of perpetuators in camera world? 1, we have to define what is pro camera for most ? But is there really such a thing as pro camera? I remember Marissa Mayer of Yahoo,who introduced the current style of Flick two years ago once said: "there is no such thing as professional photographer." I don't actually agree with her, but the opinion out there that shared by many influential, powerful people like her and others can be very influential and strongly affect or even change the courses of thinking or opinion making process of many people. In the photography world, the CEO of the company that owns Flickr is a person whose opinions really have that kind of power, whose opinions can influence many many people, as I said that can or may change opinions of many many people. So we like her opinion or not, it is very very strongly influential. There was the always interesting anecdote from one of those few former CEO's of Phase One, I did not know if it was true or not, though : once we asked Phase people who actually were buying their real high-end cameras? Phase answered was shocking to some,"CEO's of small companies and Dentists." Not so-called "professionals" are usual their customers, but more well heeled guys. I found it extremely interesting, but it may be true. When I asked a few of our main pro customers who mostly shoot architectures about their opinions on the above Phase anecdote, they replied to us,"well, it may be true,we sometimes used Phase One Backs but we never bought them but just rented their amazing products when we actually needed that kind of resolution,we do not consider ourselves professionals, though." Very interesting, indeed. I'd be willing to bet serious money that an overwhelming majority of A7R2, D810s and 5Ds camera users are just well heeled guys or girls, not shooting anything their "main" income-generating works. I'd put money somewhere around the 80% to 85% of those high end FF users are amatures or part time pros, or just geeks like us. "Professional" (like "prosumer" or "enthusiast") is a marketing word, anyway. When someone from Nikon or Canon or any major camera company tells you that the new D5XS mark 4 is a true "professional" camera, they aren't saying anything meaningful about the camera itself. They're making an advertising pitch to your ego or pride. Since, right now, most actually "professional" using camera in the Nikon lineup might be the cheap but excellent D5500. Or may even be the refubished D3300? But its AF is primitive! It's plastic! It's not weather sealed! Who cares: the D3300's most "professional" feature is the tiny investment for the amazing IQ it stacks against any profit. Real professionals are stingy people and care about money spent on camera gear much more seriously than well heeled amatures or part time professionals. The D3300 is better than the D300s from 2009 in almost every way,and some even consider it a better camera than the D700 and there are very few clients who wouldn't be thrilled by what comes out of a D700 shot with skill and vision. So in terms of sheer IQ, the D5500 can be considered as a pro camera. I have many PRO customers shooting a EOS70D or a Nikon D5500 or a D7200 and many of them use a D3300 as a back-up. Not all pros or serious amatures need super fast AF or 4k video, and I think if they need serious 4k, they buy a dedicated 4k pro camera that can record much longer than 29 minutes a session anyway. It is actually cheaper than buying a half-baked 4k camera like the A7R2 or the GH4 in the long run. So who needs commercial reviewers brainwashing us what they actually want to sell is the best camera or the actual best selling camera ? 2, some die-hard D-SLR loving reviewers always describe the A7X menu system as "inane" or confusing, but which camera has more organized menu system? I've never understood anyone's criticism of camera menu systems. Because every camera's menu is the same, not exactly the same but identically disorganized. They're categorized lists with nested options. None of them are truly optimized for speed, they all bury (different) critical options, they all require a little practice to build familiarity. That's why they love Canon or Nikon menu system better, and they do get confused just being more familiar to them with better for all. But I personally prefer the A7X menu better since it is more customizable, and actually I am more used to it than anything else now. Controlling a camera with a menu is a stupid concept. It was a lazy, terrible idea in 1993 and it remains quite silly and terrible in 2015. Many many many so-called reviewers are really really confused and forcing us to share the really silly "one menu system is more intuitive than the others" kinda concept. But again, what they actually saying is they are more used to the one system than the other systems' menu lay-out or just they are too obtuse to understand anything a bit different than what they are used to using. I guess most of so-called reviewers do not know cameras they think they are testing enough to test it and publish rushed-out reviews, so they never understand how to set up the Sony A7X or even how to shoot it well. If they do understand it, then they should know it is quite customizable and it is less menu-driven than the Canon 5DS or the Nikon D810. The A7X has 4 dials and you can actually change shutter speed, F number, EV value and ISO without diving into the menu.If they have to dive into the deep menu system all the time, then they do not understand how to set it up or customize the buttons ans the dials of the Sony, and without even understand it properly they rush to pan the menu system hard. So what do you expect from so-called reviews? 3,SONY SONY SONY!!! why are they worshiping for the Sony,especially for the A7R2 and the A7S2 all the time and keep releasing so-called hands-on or reviews every other day ? Well be realistic! Most of die-hard high end Nikon or Canon boys and girls are fanatics and difficult to influence or change; as camera sales swirl down the toilet bowl, so does any review site's readership. Writing about or recommending two-year-old cameras or very old fashioned, 1950th minded big conventional cameras that many of their readers already own doesn't sell anything from their affiliates website. It's that simple. When did you actually read any review of any camera last time? a decade ago? Have you ever expected any so-called review pan or even mildly criticize any camera? Do you actually trust any so-called review? I think all your answer should be no to all the 3 questions above. They never criticize as I said, even completely lazy, behind-the-curve products like the Fuji X-M1(only 16mp dated sensor), the Canon 7D(remember that terrible banding machine?), the Sony A58 (worst ergonomics in camera world)and the Nikon D3200(truly just announced to be already dated kind of junk) all got decent scores. No so-called reviewers actually pan anything they review, and definitely never say "we hated this product X or Y", or anything like that because their affiliate will stop feeding them if they actually do that. Meanwhile, actual users of cameras, hate various cameras and lenses all the time. Well, they can't all be unreasonable,obtuse cranks. Then why the views or opinions of real camera users and so-called reviewers are so dramatically different? Well it is easy all review sites are affiliated with several big online camera sellers, such as Amazon, Adorama, B&H,etc in the USA, Digital Rev, Rakuten, Amazon,etc in Asia. So they cannot do real test such as using cameras in a humid Thailand jungle or testing it in an Icelandic mountain, or anything like that. They do not even test cameras with Capture One since Adobe is a big sponsor of those junk camera review sites, but most of us who tether cameras or shoot studio portrait prefer Capture One pro to the cranky slow unreliable LR for tethering work. Well after all, those commercial reviewers never buy any camera with their own money, so they do not get up-set or irritated even if a camera they are reviewing now is a real crap. We real camera users, on the other hand, actually spend our own money to buy our cameras, so we always complain if they are craps, of course. 4, all so-called reviewers usually love the latest and greatest like the Sony A7R2 or theA7S2 or something very gadgetry like the Panasonic GH4 or the Samsung NX1, but none of them actually like Leica or Phase,why? Well easy, they do not sell well, I mean how many more Leicas will sell if those reviews seriously recommend Leica in their silly so-called reviews? None, since we who like Leica cameras already know why we do love their cameras and we do not need any moron in disguise of a pro(oh well)reviewer to tell us about how good or amazing it is. As for Phase, it is not their area, they do not understand that kind of real high quality products anyway, what kind of high end commercial photographers whose main cameras are some sort of Phase One or even Mamiya will be interested in moronic reviews' opinion on Phase cameras ? No one. Can those so-called reviewers from commercial sites possibly some how change opinion of the actual Phase users? never. Well, so-called reviewers are professionals but not photographic pros, they are marketing pros whose main interest is cheating manipulating naive new camera buyers. All so-called reviews are just poorly designed marketing materials and nothing else, so they just recommend something they can sell with high-margin. Then, why are almost all so-called pro reviewers recommending Sony, pushing Sony A7R2 so hard to any one reading them now? Well it is very simple, because it is what their affiliate want to sell and easier to sell because of the user base of that camera is not very narrow-minded like the core user base of the D810 or the 5DS. The potential high-end Sony owners the only kind of high-end camera users that may be willing to listen to so-called reviewers, thus the reviewers think they may be able to manipulate them into buying more of their affiliate pushing products. So they naturally focus on these Sony high-end, high-margin products. And anyway: why shouldn't a high-end camera from 2015 outperform a high-end camera from 2012 ? It should. But the sad reality is that the latest gear does not outperform the 2012 camera. The actual(in practical sense )performance is the same or almost identical, no dramatic improvement has made in the sensor design since 2012(the D800E). The D810 is better than the D800E only at the very base ISO albeit the slower exposure time due to the ISO64 vs the SIO100 base sensitivity difference . The A7R2 is only better than the D800E in video department and at very high ISO for a lot more money. But commercial review sites cannot say it honestly, how can they? if they say it then they cannot sell anything new any more. I just used the Sony A7R2 and the D810 as typical example cases for the kind of products so-called review sites want to hard push to the naive readers, but I know they are actually quite fantastic products, just not as amazing or dramatic game-changers as those silly commercial camera review sites try to make them out to be. But they are good indeed. Do not just listen to the hype too much that just obviously follows the money. Update : now, Canon has just announced its new sensor development policy. Canon seems to have built a new sensor plant in Mie prefecture of Japan. It seems like Canon is going on new 65nm process rule and all upcoming Canon sensors will be produced at there. I think the 1DX2 and the 80D sensors are processed at the new plant. Sony is still leading the CMOS imaging industry, but giants like Samsung are in close pursuit. Also big players like Panasonic are forming joint ventures with the likes of TowerJazz to offer 12-inch wafer fabrication with state-of-the-art quantum efficiency and dark current performance at 65 nano meters, and additional 45nm digital technology, and added available capacity of approximately 800,000 8-inch wafers per year in three manufacturing plants in Japan, according to TowerJazz. The stakes are huge. The CMOS image sensor market will reached the historic $10 billion milestone in 2015, according to Yale, and with new applications popping up in automotive, medical and surveillance, while smartphones begin adopting high-definition front facing cameras, the industry is likely to hit the $16 billion mark by 2020. So nobody is just sleeping and Sony has to consolidate its position ASAP, or probably Sony will lose it again just like its short-lived TV business. Maybe Sony will be the final loser, not Nikon or Canon? UPDATE 2: today Nikon announced some serious VR related issue with the D5 and the D500. I am not very sure what the real issue is here, their manual is really inanely written and hard for most of people to understand it. Me? I will wait what Thom says on this issue, it is much easier to read his article than annoyingly tedious Nikon manual. But some Nikon technicians at Nikon Fukuoka warn me not use the VR in all lenses at super high ISO settings due to possible horizontal banding caused by the combination of high ISO plus the VR, I read this issue and many many people actually wondering what this issue really is and how serious it is. I think Nikon really has some serious problem(probably internal power games in management) and all the current board members of Nikon corp should be replaced. The current president Kimura is terrible and running down the company to the worst possible, he has wasted about 40 percent of its total revenue money for nothing but silly one inch sensor compact business. UPDATE3: Looks like Sony has actually done something right this year. Sony was the only one of those 3 camera companies to break even this time, and was actually profitable for the year in Imaging, though it’s difficult to say how much of that is contributed by pro video gear. The Imaging Products group at Sony posted slightly lower sales (-1.7%) but a very healthy profit (up 30.4b yen and hitting about 10% of sales). In terms of unit volume, digital cameras at Sony dropped from 8.5m units to 6.1m units year-to-year. That’s mostly compact camera sales that dried up. Sony won’t say exactly how that shift is working other than to say “improvement in the product mix of digital cameras.” In other words, they suggest that by getting rid of compact camera volume and focusing all its effort on high priced ILC units they are getting a better profit margin. The other two camera companies still making some money out of their camera business are Fuji and Canon. We do not know Canon's result in detail yet. I think it is fair to say Fujifilm has a hobby camera business as their Digital cameras are about 2.5% of the company’s overall revenue stream. That they give us any insight into how that business is working is actually a bit surprising. Sales for digital cameras were down 8.2% year-to-year, yet it is still quite profitable.Fujifilm Japan says the imaging business earned 9 percent more profit to them and it was the best of the last 9 years. To me, the most surprising finding is that Casio's camera division is still profitable and they sell only compact cameras. But how do they make any serious money out of that compact camera sells is a big mystery to me.