Points in Focus Photography

I’ve written before that there’s utility in ubiquity. That is when something is available everywhere, that is worth something.

This is kind of utility is one of my bigger criticisms of Nikon’s Z series mirrorless cameras, or at least their choice of XQD for storage.

It’s also the reason the bulk of my storage is now in SD cards and not compact flash. This is even though I vastly prefer the physical size of CF cards, and they’re up to 50% faster in my cameras. Ubiquity means that I can read an SD card in my laptop, or buy a cheap reader pretty much anywhere. Never mind it means that I pay about half as much per GB for SD cards as I do for compact flash.

However, today I want to talk about image formats, specifically WebP.

My interest in WebP, and to a lesser extent other more modern lossy compression formats (such as the HEIF format that Apple’s is using on new iPhones) mainly lies in their use in reducing bandwidth and page load times on my website here. As a photographer, image quality is important to me. However, at the same time, smaller images improve page load speeds and cut down on the amount of bandwidth used by the page (a double plus in my book).

The problem is, as usual, support, or as I put it earlier ubiquity.

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I recently got back from a trip to Yosemite National Park to do some photography. Like most trips, I ran into some problems and learned a few things on this outing and I wanted to talk about these lessons.

First, a quick bit of back story. I’m increasingly shooting more panos and HDRs, as part of my work, and these images require post processing. Having been burned by messing up constituent images in the past, when I’m on a long enough trip (i.e., more than a day) I like to have my laptop so I can check and stitch images and potentially go back and reshoot something when possible.

To do this, however, I need to have a card reader, and with that I need the requisite cables to connect it to my computer. In this instance, due to a last minute change in gear I pulled the wrong cable, my USB cable, out of my bag of cables and left it home. Rendering the computer dead weight, and making it impossible to evaluate the images effectively in the field when there was a possibly to reshoot things.

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A Rant: USB Type-C is Such a Mess lede

Okay, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic. The USB-C connector itself is not a bad idea, in fact, I really like the connector. A reversible, highly reliable connector is a great thing not just for mobile devices but for pretty much everything.

However, that’s about the end of where I find the situation tolerable. I understand the USB working groups desire to make it the connector to end all connectors.

The problem with USB-C is that it breaks a fundamental part of good design: discoverability. That is, it should be immediately obvious to users what is supported without having to either guess, or plug something in and find out if it works, doesn’t work, or works at some reduced level of functionality.

I was worried when they announced all of the potential alt modes (TB3, HDMI, DisplayPort, etc.) that it would become confusing for consumers. I thought, at the time, that I would be able to keep things straight.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen at all. Most consumers, in my experience at least, have no clue about what’s going on with their USB-C ports, and even less of a clue why stuff does or doesn’t work when they plug it in. Never mind that thanks to its use on laptops in lieu of dedicated (and in some cases better, such as MagSafe) connectors it’s basically becoming a glorified charging cable in many respects.

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A Ramble on Engineering, Canon Cameras, and 4K Video Formats lede

I just finished writing an article looking at MJPEG and H.264 and how they compared to each other in at least one test scene. In that article, I found myself wanting to write a section about why Canon may have chosen the codecs they did when they did, only it didn’t really fit and as I wrote it it got really long.

Canon has definitely received a lot of flack across the internet for the way their cameras, at least 5D mark IV, 1DX mark II, and to a lesser extent the EOS 1DC, record 4K video. Broadly, the complains seem to come down to two things.

  1. The files are huge
  2. They shouldn’t have used MJPEG for “reasons”

Unfortunately, when it gets to those reasons, well that’s when things get problematic. The biggest implication seems to be that if Canon had used H.264 instead of MJPEG the files would have been both better and substantially smaller.

The problem is, I’ve had a very hard time finding meaningful comparative tests of the two codecs on equal footing. There’s a lot of “but H.264 is better,” but I couldn’t actually find much in the way of head to head comparisons done against the same reference files to show by how much and under what conditions.

With that said, this is something that’s been bugging me for a while. On one hand, I’m very much in the group that would have liked to have had smaller 4K files on my 5D mark IV. On the other hand, my background in computer engineering tells me that it may not have been possible with the time and processing equipment at hand.

Oh yea, this article is a bit of a ramble on cameras and engineering in general. I’d apologize, but the reality is you can’t really condense complex discussions in to a 500 words and not lose all of the complexity.

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More Mirrorless Stuff: The Canon EOS R ledeImage: Canon USA

So Canon has finally announced their full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS R.

Personally, I think Canon is dammed if they do and damned if they don’t here. No matter what Canon releases people are going to be disappointed, upset, and more than likely the media is going to come down on them as if they’re the most incompetent dunderheads in the world. This is already the case if you keep up with the rumor mill.

As for me, I’ve said this the past two rudderless mirrorless rambles that I’ve become less of a fan of mirrorless cameras than I was in the past. A year ago, this wasn’t the case, but in getting back to my roots with wildlife photography, I’ve very found that the necessary power consumption of them is a big negative for me.

Moreover, while I understand the benefits for using the sensor for everything, I don’t see it being nearly as much of an amazing point of awesome that I want to toss my antiquated junk DSLRs in the garbage and buy amazing new slightly different mirrorless cameras to replace them. Consequently, while I’m pretty sure I’m going to pick up a mirrorless camera sooner or later, I don’t see it as a replacement but as a complement for my existing DSLRs.

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Since I wrote my last article rambling about mirrorless cameras, Nikon released their first two full frame mirrorless cameras (the Z6 and Z7) and the rumor mill has leaked images and specs for Canon’s full frame mirrorless camera. And while Canon won’t be announcing their mirrorless camera properly until closer to the end of September September 5th, there’s some things to talk about now anyway.

As I noted in the last article, I’m still very much not a mirrorless fan. For my uses there are too many compromises, especially when it comes to power consumption, for me to really get behind them. I’m also decidedly not an average enthusiast level consumer, so my take on features and specs is not likely to match theirs.

I really worry about Nikon these days. They seem confused and somewhat rudderless to me at this point. Actually I started worrying about them when they released the D5 and D500 with maximum ISOs that are flat out unusable.

Admittedly, I thought with the D850, that they had realized that it’s not how big the number is on box is that makes a great camera. They went back to sold specs that insure that the photographer is going to get solid images out of their camera.

Then they went and released the Z6 and Z7.

At first glance, they look like reasonable full frame mirrorless cameras. And to a certain extent they are. However, when you start digging into the details they the picture just starts getting confusing. Who’s the target market?

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It looks like 2018 may just end up being the year of the mirrorless camera. Not that everybody didn’t already have a mirrorless solution of some sort. However, now both Canon and Nikon are expected to announce full frame, serious, pro-grade, mirrorless platforms before the end of the year.

It would stand to reason, presumably, that this should be an exciting new stage in photography, right?

Well, I’m not convinced, or rather I’m no longer convinced.

If I was writing this a year ago, in late 2017, I would have been singing a completely different song. Back then, if Canon were to release a mirrorless version of the 5D mark IV, I would have jumped pretty much instantly. After having spent a week shooting wildlife in Yellowstone, I’m definitely not on that train anymore.

Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not like I don’t recognize the pros of a mirrorless camera. Nor am I just a luddite that’s afraid of change. The problem I have is that, when push comes to shove, a mirrorless camera isn’t always better than an DSLR for my uses.

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I occasionally venture off into reading discussions on various camera forums and rumor sites. Lately the rumor mill has been awash in rumors about a new full frame mirrorless system coming from Canon that isn’t going to use the EF-M mount, or as some rumors indicate the EF mount for that matter.

Reading through the discussions on these articles there’s a lot of hand-wringing and anxiety about how this change my happen. One of the biggest concerns that I see is the mount, it’s compatibility with existing EF lenses, and how “non-native” EF lenses will have performance issues.

In my assessment, the whole situation is silly, and this article will try and detail why.

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There was a post the other day on Canon Rumors asking what people would like to see in the next generation of Canon’s 5D. I’ve been thinking about this off and on for a while now, mostly since I’m very happy with my 5D mark IV — to the point I’ve found myself thinking that I might even skip the Mark V completely when it comes out.

In any event, since I’ve been thinking about this, I thought I might take a stab at putting up my wish list for the 5D mark V, and why I’d like the features.

Mirror, Mirror in a Camera, but with more display options

I admit, I see value in a mirrorless camera. With way fewer moving parts, and no sensors that have to be kept in alignment, there’s a lot going in it’s favor. Up until my Yellowstone trip, my feeling was pretty simple; if Canon released a 5D mark IV as a mirrorless camera and no other changes, I’d be all over it. Now I’m back on the fence.

Why back on the fence?

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A while back I got a second 5d mark IV to use as a second body, and with that had to go through the process of setting it up to match my other mark IV. For some reason, I had though the 5D mark IV had the same feature as the 1D series does where you can write out camera configs to a flash card and then load them in another camera or back into your camera at a later date.

Alas, it doesn’t have that feature, and I spent 20 minutes going through each menu and sub-menu meticulously transferring the settings over to my camera.

In the process of doing this I started thinking, I really shouldn’t have to do this manually. The 1D’s save settings feature should be on more bodies — Nikon does this; good going Nikon.

By why stop there?

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