Points in Focus Photography

Thoughts on the Canon 6D mark II Announcement ledeImage: Canon USA

The last time I wrote about a new camera I wasn’t planning on getting was when Nikon announced the D5 and D500 back in Mach of 2016: more than a year ago now. Since then, mum’s been the word, mostly because I just don’t find cameras to be all that interesting to talk about anymore.

In fact, I generally find the commentary that comes with a new camera to be obnoxious to the extreme. Still photographers are shouted over by people whining about 4K video and frame rates in cameras that are still principally, if by ergonomics alone, still cameras. Moreover, there’s generally so much noise about stats, often being represented incompletely or inaccurately, as if the performance of the camera’s sensor was the primary thing that made a picture good.

Or maybe I’m just getting prematurely old about all of this.

One point that’s been repeatedly driven home to me over the last 3-4 years is that the sensor doesn’t matter nearly as much as the person behind the camera. A great sensor will never make a mediocre picture better, and a comparatively poor quality sensor will never made a emotionally resonant picture fail. The difference between the widest dynamic range in the best medium format camera and the poorest APS-C sensor pales in comparison to what the person using it puts it to.

Instead of caring so much about the sensor itself, I’m increasingly becoming convinced it’s the ancillary and supporting features that make the most difference. Things like GPS, autofocus, metering, frame rate, and most importantly the user interface—the things that make it easier to convert your vision into an image—that matter the most.

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In my previous article on the US full frame cameras market size, I mentioned that it might be interesting to see if the strong fall signal was a product of the US commercialization of Christmas and how strong of a market signal it was. Since I had some of the data already cooking, I went back to the CIPA shipment statistics to see what the other regions looked like.

The short of it, is that I’m also entirely certain that the big uptick in shipments in the Americas in October, was driven by the United States’ Christmas retail behavior. The same with the big down turn in shipments in December, January, and February; post holiday cool-off.

Interestingly, the “other” region had a similar signal, though I don’t know what countries “other” covers.

One final note, as alluded to in the title, these charts are based only on interchangeable lens camera (ILC) shipments, from the Japanese camera makers that report shipments to the CIPA. Fixed lens cameras, so point and shoots, are not included.

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Back in the beginning of April (2017) Sony USA put out a press release[1] announcing that for the months of January and February they had taken the number 2 spot for full frame camera sales in the US. Needless to say, the photography press (and photo blog-o-sphere) ran with this, with many seemingly citing it as evidence to support a narrative that Canon and Nikon are clueless and Sony isn’t.

On a related note, I also recently wrote about the lack of data and problems that causes when it comes to talking about camera gear, sales, and features. One of the biggest of those problems is that without clear data and context, it becomes hard if not impossible to identify outlying events, and, more broadly, outliers can be made to fit pretty much any narrative an author chooses.

This article is the result of well, lets be honest, Sony’s press release raised some questions for me and I started digging into whatever information I could find as best and accurately as I could; which raised even more. None of which I think I really answer completely, but then that really wasn’t the point of this kind of exercise for me anyway.

I don’t have any vested interest in any particularly result, though many certainly do. However, as I said in my previous post on bias, without any kind of data and contextualization it’s hard to make sound judgments. While I don’t have tons of hard data, I do want to look what data I can find, and other market factors that may have been at play.

Moreover, the media and blog-o-sphere’s response to this struck a cord me with me. Sites like DP Review (though I’m certainly not singling them out) have far more in the way of resources to talk about and add context to a press release this, at least compared to someone like me. I don’t have a budget for review gear, sophisticated test benches, and most certainly I don’t have the readership and pull to be able to go to a camera manufacture and ask for clarification on press releases that aren’t clear to me. But this kind of research doesn’t get done, because it’s not as shiny and profitable as posting a fluffed up article about the newest camera that’s been announced; so it doesn’t really get done.

So let met preface this article with this. There is a lot of speculation in this article. Most of this speculation is based on hard data, but not always the data I’d like it to be. I do talk about my assumptions and where I get things from. All told I’m probably going to raise more questions than I can answer, but ultimately this is intended to be food for thought, perspective if you will, not a rebuttal or refutation of something.

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You’ll have to forgive me, I have a bit of a rant here with on the level of discussion on the Internet around cameras. Don’t get me wrong, I like talking about cameras and other camera gear, and even to some extent the apparent strategies of various manufactures. Heck, I’ve even written a series of posts advancing ideas that I’d like to see implemented by camera makers. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that a good percentage of us photographers like engaging in these kinds of discussions.

At the same time, I find myself continually annoyed by the level of discourse on these kinds of topics. A large part of that,I believe, stems from the near complete lack of good data and information to work in these kinds of discussions. As a result, it’s very easy to make claims that are both unsupported and subject to significant levels of bias.

It’s not just commenters on various discussion forum who are “guilty”, if you can even call it that, of not being able to discuss things effectively. Many authors of articles published by the photography press have fallen in to the same traps of not having enough data to properly contextualize things they’re talking about — or worse just going for outright sensationalism like so much of the rest of the media.

Certainly there is data out there on things like the demand for features and actual market share rates at a segment level. However, it’s almost always not publicly available, and in many cases almost certainly proprietary and so will never become publicly available.

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I’ve never been one for doing posts about the gear I use. In many ways, I don’t see the point. You’re not me. Your eye, your objectives, your interests, and so on, aren’t the same as mine. The natural consequence of that is that your gear isn’t going to, and probably shouldn’t, be the same as mine either.

However, I was thinking about this the other day, and I realized that what I’ve used over time would prove to be an interesting look into my evolution as a photograpehr. When I realized that, I also realized that I was a little sorry that I haven’t regularly been writing up something about what I use and why. If only so I could go back and look at how my own preferences have changed over time.

So I’m starting here. I’m not going to list every piece of gear I own or go through my camera bag and pull everything out and talk about it. I don’t have a fixed bag of gear; what I’ll have on me at any point changes based on what I’m doing and where I’m doing it. Instead I’ll be talking about what I find I gravitate towards most regularly, and why. That’s where I think the interesting things come from over time anyway.

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Travel, Traveling, and Road Trips – Southwest Adventure 2016 lede

In late October of 2016, my family and I went on a 2 week road trip around the American Southwest. Over 14 days we drove nearly 1,400 miles visiting almost a dozen major points of interest. This is the first post in a serious of posts detailing my experiences in visiting and photographing those locations.

Before I start talking about specific places, I want to talk a bit about my overall objectives with this series and the broader points around travel as it related to this trip.

When I came back from Alaska in 2015, I wrote up a series of posts detailing my experiences — with an eye towards trying to maximize photographic opportunities — on that trip. In many ways, I like that idea if only because it leaves me a record of what I did right and what I thought I could do better given another shot.

I’ve been struggling with trying to do the same for this trip, and I really mean struggling. In 2015, I managed to get my first article up within 2 months of coming back. This time I’ve been banging my head agains the wall trying to write about the experiences for almost 5 months now.

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I was recently reading the comments — I know, I know, I shouldn’t read comments — on Canon Rumors post about Lens Rentals Tear down of Canon’s new EF 70–300 f/4.5–5.6 IS USM II and a poster was lamenting about how Canon is redefining full time manual to mean something other than the focus ring being mechanically connected to the focusing mechanism.

I see arguments like this come up over with some regularity when people talk about focus by wire, or electronic focus, lenses. Presumably, based on the tone of most if not all of these kinds of posts, it’s meant to be a complaint or criticism of electronic focusing lenses. And I just don’t see the point, I guess you could call it, that they’re making.

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Over the last weeks of 2016, I’ve been working on a lot of behind the scenes upgrades to my site here. About half of those change have been behind the scenes tweaks and improvements that make things more efficient. The other half has been a bit of an overhaul of the theme, layout, and front end.

While I could go on to great lengths about the ins and outs of the design change and the code behind the scenes, that’s not really the purpose here. Instead, I want to talk about one specific area, displaying images on a computer, or rather how I’m increasingly finding computers a poor way to display images.

For a while now, my gallery has been somewhat unloved, and I’ve not been especially happy with it’s presentation either. One of my objectives, though I didn’t know it when I started, with this update cycle was to do something about the gallery to make it more appealing to me.

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Problems with More Pixels lede

When the megapixel wars were in full swing, it wasn’t uncommon to find photographers poo-pooing the race to add more pixels. While there certainly is some truth to that point of view, it’s not entirely representative of the pixels situation.

The counter point to the fewer better pixels argument is that more pixels really do capture more detail. Moreover, even if at the pixel level they are noisier, in the resulting images the noise becomes finer grained and as a result less distracting.

The reality is, that so long as the increase in pixels isn’t causing a problem for other needs — for example, you aren’t limited to 3 FPS when you need 10 FPS to do you job — having more pixels makes better images overall.

However, there are a number of places where this does fall apart to some degree. And ultimately this is where the real balance has to be struck between more pixels, better pixels, and marketing numbers that sell the next generation of cameras.

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I don’t generally make a point of posting updates about the goings and comings of content on this site, and in the past I’ve disappeared for months at a time with nary a word. However, this year I’ve been pretty consistently putting up at least something weekly.

That said, since I started Points in Focus, I haven’t been in the sights of a Category 4 hurricane either.

In fact, South Florida as a whole, hasn’t see a significant hurricane in over a decade.

So here’s the deal as far as content goes for October and November.

I already noted in my podcast a couple of weeks ago, that I would be backing off on normal written articles for a while. So that’s pretty much covered. I already had a lot on my plate for the second half of October and pretty much all of November so I wasn’t planning on getting anything significant out over that time period anyway.

On the other hand, I had intended to keep doing my weekly podcast through most of this time. I’ve already recorded and uploaded the podcast for Thursday Oct, 6, 2016. It will publish at it’s expected usual time.

Going forward, however, things depend entirely on the effects of Matthew on South Florida. Right now, by my estimates, the best case scenario I see is that my next podcast will be published on or after November 3rd, 2016. However, depending on the exact situation with Matthew, resumption of content may be considerable further in the future.

I’ll try to keep this post updated if things change significantly in the coming days.

Update 2016-10-14: The good news, for me and my family at least, was that hurricane Matthew passed far enough northeast of us that we didn’t receive anywhere near the winds and weather that I had anticipated, even in the best case. In fact, while we have notoriously unreliable power when there’s any kind of wind involved, we didn’t even lose power here.

That said, while we weathered the storm much better than I had expected, between the mental and physical stress of preparing for Matthew, and the process of moving all the crap we moved inside back outside to where it normally lives, I’ve decided to stick with my previous schedule of posting my next podcast on the 3rd of November.

See y’all in a couple of weeks.

 

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