Thursday, July 12, 2018

RIP Nikon 1 series

It seems the Nikon 1 series has been discontinued. This is a real shame. It was a charming little camera with the emphasis on little. I tried one years ago and would have loved to have had one. As it was, it was way too expensive and even the secondhand first editions have been climbing in value. 

Where Nikon dropped a clanger was in aiming at a non-existent market. Devoid of easily accessed manual controls for essential things like focus, shutter speed, ISO and aperture, it was a chunky, bulky phone camera that wasn’t as nice and flat as a phone camera. It didn’t integrate particularly well with anything having no easy way of getting the images off the camera and onto a tablet.

I have my phone with me all the time. The photograph below was one I took earlier this year when I was parked up for an hour between school runs in the school bus I was driving. The light was poor yet the image is clear. It’s good enough for what I need. That’s a very important phrase that I want you to remember - good enough. 
The Nikon 1 was decried for having a small sensor. Nobody has ever complained about phones having small sensors. Except - people on Internet forums. Give them a hot dinner cooked by a top chef and free. They’ll find something to complain about and the “free” meal will be as disgusting as the slop they imagine is served in prisons. The chef will know nothing about cooking etc. So basically there is a bunch of blabbermouths on the internet flapping their lips or rather fingers typing the kind of venom they would never dare say in public for fear of a justifiable clip around the ear or punch into the middle of next week.

The pictures I saw from the Nikon 1 were excellent. As I’ve said, I wanted one. I actually bought an Olympus because it offered better options though have not taken advantage of any of those options. I have idly considered getting a Nikon 1 as well but that would be a little too bougeous.

Nikon and all the other camera manufacturers have badly misjudged the market. I recently saw a photo of a pop star standing by the crowd. Everybody in the crowd was taking a photo using a cellphone. The point is cellphones have reached the point where they all have cameras and as the photo above can take excellent photos. No doubt somebody will produce a photo taken with their speedy camera and proclaim that the cellphone image pales in comparison. That may well be true but the cellphone image is good enough. The speedy camera image is overkill. In fact expensive overkill.

Comparing a cellphone image with a camera image I can look and say better contrast, better definition, better acutance, better low light performance. These things mean nothing though. It’s like comparing a painting by a popular artist with a classical master artist. If you really look you’ll see the differences. Not everybody wants to sit studying an image through a microscope for hours on end looking for the differences. Yes - real cameras are better at photos. They suck at getting them online or onto a tablet or computer. They’re also big, bulky, heavy and ridiculously expensive.

My cellphone was $29 and I bought it without a contract. A typical camera can cost several hundred and then several hundred more for the lens. Nobody is going to sell their images no matter how good they and everybody else think they are. Look at Flickr - all the free images any user could desire. Why in God’s name with all this free stuff would anybody want to pay for images? I’ve never paid for a photo and I never will. Similarly only a few people have paid for my photos. Not enough for me to want to take photography professionally.

The Nikon 1 failed because it was aimed at the cellphone market and cellphone users just don’t want a bulkier cellphone. It was a success because it was the smallest of the amateur cameras. It could have been so much more had there been some easily accessible controls on the first edition. As it is, I am not surprised Nikon is winding up its 1 series. Canon surely won’t be too far behind in curtailing their smaller camera series.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The World had gone on its head!

Perhaps that should read off its head. The world has gone crazy lately in terms of photography. I’m not talking about innocent parents taking bathtime snaps of little Susie then getting hauled up in front of the beak for publishing them online as though they were some sex crazed pedophile. I’m taking about overall developments in photography.

Back in the days of film, photographers used film and stored their negatives or slides in binders or boxes, returning to them when they wanted to locate a particular image. These boxes or binders were usually stored in the hobby room, garage or attic.

After film came digital. The memory cards were costly and small so photographers learned to store all their images on delicate little hard hard disks. Without plugging the disk into a computer it was impossible to know just what was on a disk. With the shift from each photograph having a big upfront cost of around a dollar people were economical with their picture taking. The cost being seemingly removed by the use of hard drives, people took more photos than ever before. I’m going to say a completely insane number of photos. I’ve heard of people taking a thousand and more photos on a family vacation. Then there are the people that document every aspect of their lives and publish it online as though with so many people doing just that, anybody is actually going to admire what they publish or even view it!
That’s the obligatory - oh - that’s me shopping in Walmart photo. Who cares? Spinach is fine - at the dinner table. Shopping is a tedious necessity. We don’t need to know that you’re shopping in Walmart and buying spinach. The world certainly does not need a blow-by-blow account of your shopping expedition in photos any more than it needs a wipe-by-wipe photographic extravaganza of your latest visit to the toilet!

A lot of modern photography is absolute garbage. People have forgotten the things that matter in favor of trying to justify their purchase of expensive camera gear or an expensive phone. My phone cost me $29 and it’s a frustrating piece of junk. I would much rather have a flip phone but for the fact I get GPS on my current phone and can use it as a hotspot. The rest I couldn’t care less about.

The camera on my phone gets used a lot. I use it to document progress on my self-build motorhome project. Other than that it’s just used as a utilitarian tool. The photographs all end up stored on the memory card and seem to zip off to Google’s cloud too. While the cloud is useful for blogging, that’s its only value.

The cloud and cloud storage sounds like an absolute dream. Store your pictures free for life and you have no responsibility for curating them. Google can’t possibly fail... or can they? BCCI was too big to fail but it did. ZTE the smartphone maker was faced with closure in the face of US sanctions. There’s no such thing as too big to fail.

In the event of a Google failure virtually all smartphones with the Android operating system could just cease functioning. All the photos in Google’s cloud could end up being casually deleted as the disks are wiped then sold off to some 3rd world country. For some that would be their entire photo album vanishing overnight with no hope of recovery - births, graduations, marriages, engagements, babies - all gone.

The photographer using film is laughing because he still has all his albums. The photographer that stores all his images on a local hard disk is laughing too because he still has all his images. The world has changed since we all went over to recycling memory cards and using hard drives. I’m going to say that I’m not such a great fan of hard drives any more.

Before that let’s examine the difference between the modern photographer and the photographer of old. The photographer of old would go on holiday and take pictures. Something stunning or unusual would catch his eye and it would merit one photograph. The modern photographer photographs retry much non stop and on their return from vacation, goes through the photos, very often saying “Nice vacation. Pity I missed it”.

Part of the problem is that people look at a scene and hope that by taking loads of photos they’ll end up with something special. Ooh look - big tortoises. Let’s just keep taking pictures in case one does backflips and the other pulls out a small table and a chair and starts to make a pina colada.

Fifteen million images later - it’s still a picture of a damned tortoise. That’s not even worth a single image on Facebook. What do people do? Broadcast live images of tortoises doing absolutely nothing. They’re off their heads!

But back to hard drives.... With the price of memory cards there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to keep using hard drives. So an 8GB card might cost $10. So what? How many hundreds or thousands of images can you store on it? Why would you even want to transfer them to a hard drive when memory cards take up little to no space.

Let’s look at the costs. Using a common 16mp camera though realistically any camera from the last 10 years produces images of higher resolution and quality than 99% of us will ever need. Raw files would be in the region of 2 megabytes. That means in the region of 500 images on a 1GB memory card. If, of course, you used JPEG then you’d likely be using way less memory and would be able to store way more images. If you cannot afford to buy a $10 memory card every 500 images or so then something is very wrong. Either you’re taking way too many images or you’re so broke you can’t afford the gas to go out to take images.

I’d rather my chances of keeping memory cards in a fire safe than letting some megacorp be my only solution. In the case of Apple, you get 5GB of storage online before that charge $50 a year for using their storage. $50 a year will buy a 128GB memory card with $5 left over at today’s prices. That’s 25 times the storage for the same price. I just don’t understand why people just don’t want to save their money!

Look again at the photographs taken. Most are trash. The only photographs future generations will value are those of past family members. They won’t care what they were eating, seeing, doing. They just want good record photos of family members. The rest is totally irrelevant. That wonderful image of a unicorn as it leaps out of the bushes with a leprechaun impaled on its horn? Nobody will give a hoot. It’ll just get tossed out.

Time to reduce the number of stupid photos you take; concentrate on quality and family and of course take responsibility for your own image storage.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

No more walking round like a pregnant camel!

Today the local camera club is having a swap shop where one can sell one’s old camera gear. Sadly the camera gear I possess is not worth as much as I paid. Let’s see what I have and what the KEH price is...

Canon XT - New $800... KEH $69
Canon 30D - New $1200... KEH $139
Canon 17-85IS - New ($500 ish) ...KEH $149
Canon 70-300IS - New ($500 ish)... KEH $248
Manfrotto 3021BN - New $150 ... eBay $89
3D head - new $50... unknown at unknown

That really is a piss poor amount over what was originally paid. Mind, I was scammed by an expert into buying new when my gut instinct told me to buy secondhand.

New I spent in the region of $3250. Secondhand I could get up to $694 (on a very good day). More likely a lot less.

The thing that cracks me up is with this massive depreciation, Camera companies complain their sales are plummeting. Nobody wants to be caught with their pants down like I did.
A while ago, I bought a secondhand Olympus PM1 for $75 and another $75 for the lens. New the camera alone would have been $600is and I have no idea what the lens would have cost. Using pure JPEG for the images, the images are only a little behind what the Canon produces after the CR2 files have been processed. I have not yet got a computer capable of processing Olympus raw files. Thus I shoot raw+JPEG and save the raw files for whenever I get access to a suitable computer.

But look at the difference in camera size. The one on the right takes 20MP images and the one on the left, 8MP. The one on the right is 90% automated but the one on the left is hard to get into manual mode. In terms of image quality it’s pretty much a tie.
That image was taken in CR2 and processed in Aperture on my elderly MacBook. It’s pretty darned good! It was taken on the Canon XT.
That image was taken in JPEG. Sure I could tweak it a bit but that was straight out of the camera with no tweaking. It was taken on the Olympus PM1.

So, it looks like a very close contest imagewise. The Olympus wins sizewise. Manual is possible on the Olympus but it’s a real pain in the rear to engage as is the exposure compensation. Instead of flip flap done on a manual film SLR it’s all fiddle fiddle pokey pokey on digital cameras. Neither is the exception.

The only question is how much I can actually sell and how much I can carry given my bad back. I know when I do sell, I’ll want to get the eyepiece viewfinder and a longer lens for my Olympus.