Jan 062012
 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the fairest camera of them all?”

If the various photography fora and photography pundits are to be believed then it is the mirrorless Sony NEX camera, either the NEX-5 or NEX-7 versions.

But wait, Fujifilm is believed to be about to announce a follow up to its retro-styled X100 with the X1 Pro that features interchangeable lenses to give the 35 mm equivalent of 28mm, 52.5mm and 90mm. Already it is being compared to the Contax G2 film rangefinder but without Zeiss lenses.

One thing is clear even after just a few days into the New Year, 2012 seems likely to be an interesting year in terms of new cameras.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The year 2012 may also mark a sea change. I know of two photography enthusiasts who are contemplating ditching their high-end Nikon and Canon DSLRs for the Sony NEX. I too have been giving serious thought to making the Ricoh GXR with the A12 M-mount my main camera.

The main sticking point for me is the electronic viewfinder (EVF). They may well be the viewfinder of choice in cameras to come but I am an optical viewfinder (OVF) person. To me a camera isn’t really a camera unless it has an OVF. I know I am living in the past and fearful of embracing the brave new world of EVF mirrorless cameras.

If EVFs are the way of the future, why have Canon and Nikon announced new flagship cameras, the 1DX and D4 respectively, featuring OVFs? Do professional photographers have different demands than those of photography enthusiasts?

I tend to regard the equipment used by press photographers as a yardstick for the kind of camera I would want to use. I worked in newspaper journalism for 14 years, including a spell as a sports/news photographer, and that probably influences my judgment with regard to cameras and lenses.

Back in November, Reuters posted its 100 top pictures of 2011. Each picture was accompanied by a statement by the photographer including the camera and lens used for the shot, as well as the exposure.

Earlier this week, I went through all 100 photographs, noting down the camera and lens used. The list I compiled contained quite a surprise.

Back in my journalism days, the press photographer’s camera of choice was always a Nikon – F3, F4 and F5. Imagine my surprise when Nikon cameras accounted for only eight of the Reuters Top 100 photographs.

Canon DSLR cameras accounted for 84 of the photographs, with the Canon 5D Mk II used in 38 of the shots; the Canon 1D Mk IV accounting for another 16 and the Canon 1D Mk III a further nine, the same number as the Canon 5D. So these four Canon cameras accounted for 72 of the photographs.

For all the talk of the advantages of Micro Four-Thirds and Mirrorless cameras, these types of cameras did not feature, save for the one shot taken with a Leica M9.

I think the camera market is likely to divide into three distinct sectors – professionals, enthusiasts and consumers. The former will continue with the high-end DSLRS, as will many of the enthusiasts but the consumer may well give up on DSLRS in favour of the more compact and convenient mirrorless cameras.

The DSLR has a tremendous hold over me and I will likely wait and see what Canon offers in the shape of its replacement for the Canon 5D Mark II. Rumour has it that the Canon 5D Mark III will be announced in March. However, I recall a similar forecast being made this time last year and nothing materialized.

If I am considered a technological dinosaur then so be it. For me photography is all about lining up a shot by gazing through an OVF. It is what I have been used to for more than 30 years and I am reaching the age where I like my comfort zone.

But at the end of the day, the type of camera matters little in the great scheme of photography. It is what lies behind the camera that is the most important factor in creating photographs of merit and impact.

I can never understand why some people get terribly upset when their camera of choice is criticized – Leica users are notorious for going on the defensive in this regard. And the battle of supremacy between Canon and Nikon will rage for eternity among some of their respective users just as long as photographic fora exist on the Internet. What would these people do if Canon and Nikon ever merged as companies or one took over the other? Methinks lots of tears before bedtime.

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Apr 272011
 

Digitial Photography Review, more usually referred to as DPReview, recently had a poll on the question: What should we call mirrorless cameras?

Mirrorless cameras are cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix G models, Olympus Pen Digital models, Sony NEX and Samsung NX series.

DPReview prefaced the poll with this introduction:

Just what should we call mirrorless cameras? Ever since the launch of the Micro Four Thirds System, the photographic world has struggled to find a satisfactory generic term to describe similar systems. The current front-runners appear to be “mirrorless” or “compact system cameras” but there is nothing like consensus yet. We have put some of the more common options and some alternatives we have had suggested to us, in a poll to see how you think of these cameras. It is a chance to have your voice heard, since we have had more than one camera maker ask us which name is most widely recognized. So have a look to the right of this story and register your vote.

If the cameras are called mirrorless cameras, why do they need a new name? It seems the photographic world did not struggle too much to come up with the term mirrorless camera. With this poll, DPReview has simply instigated an exercise in redundancy.

But the geeks and techno-freaks want something to chatter about, anything rather than take photographs – the sole purpose of a camera. No, these people would rather spend hours debating the merits of a CCD sensor versus a CMOS sensor. And of course everyone who posts on DPReview is an “expert”.

The trouble with DPReview is that it takes itself far too seriously. It is essentially an amateur production that cashed in on the Internet explosion and all credit to them for doing that. But where is its authority? It doesn’t really have any since it was never put to the marketplace in the same way that print publications are.

The preface to the poll would be a little more credible if it named the camera manufacturers that see DPReview as the font of all knowledge. Are camera manufacturers facing such hard times that they no longer have marketing departments or cannot afford to hire a marketing consultant to find out the answer?

I guess there is nothing wrong with self-inflating one’s ego. It certainly hasn’t done Donald Trump any harm.

If DPReview is so all-knowing and speaks for the camera industry, why has it never reviewed the Ricoh GR Digital III camera? DPReview does seem to have an inherent bias against Ricoh cameras and likes to play its favourites – another reason to level the charge of amateurism.

The results of the poll are now in.

The winner was Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera with 45.2 percent of the vote, a total of 14,392 votes; second place went to Interchangeable Lens Compact with 18.6 percent, 5,920 votes.

One wag on a DPReview forum noted his disappointment, I would guess tongue-in-cheek, that the poll did not have Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Format as one of the voting options.

I think that comment was the only good thing to emerge from this exercise in futility.

Boys and their toys, huh?