Category Archives: Cameras

Olympus says it has no plans to sell its camera business

“For Imaging, however, we currently have no plans to sell the business. The task is therefore to stabilize and strengthen its market position. To achieve that, we are actively running marketing activities, and have already established a clear and exciting product roadmap for the coming months and years. We are actively pursuing future technology developments that will enhance photography and video for creators. Furthermore, Imaging is and will continue to be an important technology and innovation driver for our other businesses.

Source: Olympus addresses rumors of sale | Photofocus

A few days ago, a Russian blogger posted rumors that Olympus Imaging staff were looking for new jobs and that the camera division would be sold or shut down in January.

Then Bloomberg ran a report that implied the Olympus CEO was not opposed to selling the division, but did so in a unusual way without direct quotes. This only furthered the rumor. (Bloomberg ran a fake news story last year claiming a secret chip was installed on servers at Amazon, Apple and other U.S. companies during manufacturing by agents of the Chinese government, for the purpose of spying. All of the companies and Homeland Security denied any such chip existed.)

Olympus has replied with a statement that it has no plans to sell the business.

The weirdest is that the micro four thirds community that posts to online forums, is the most negative group of people ever met. Those that post frequently focus on gloom and doom and seize upon every poorly source rumor to further their victimization mentality. I do not get this attitude at all.

Olympus is still recovering from their mega accounting scandal in 2011 and like all camera makers, is in the midst of a shrinking market that impacts all camera makers. They have, however, continued to introduce new cameras and lenses and have moved manufacturing to a new factory in Vietnam.

Worth reading: “The Smartphone vs The Camera Industry”

  • Cameras are large and unwieldy
  • Cameras are generally complex and hard to use, relative to a smart phone’s camera
  • Posting photos taken on a camera is complex relative to posting from a smart phone
  • Post processing camera photos on a computers means a decently powerful computer and learning specialized software
  • Most photos are posted online, and end up viewed at about a 1.2 megapixel resolution. Meanwhile, camera makers are pushing 50 to 100 megapixel cameras … which is a disconnect from how most photos are being used.
  • Smart phones sell in far larger volumes than cameras creating economies of scale, plus R&D budgets much larger than camera R&D budgets.
  • Some camera users are now former camera users and only take photos with their smart phones.

The author’s conclusion is that smart phones will consume most of the market for cameras.

Source: The Smartphone vs The Camera Industry

2018 Camera Market at 1985 Levels – Thomas Stirr Photography

Thomas Stirr observes the tremendous changes in unit sales that have hit the camera gear market.

This lengthy article discusses the fact that the 2018 camera market has fallen to 1985 levels and provides thoughts on the impact of this shift.

Source: 2018 Camera Market at 1985 Levels – Thomas Stirr Photography

Thomas ends his post with suggestions for what you might want to do with your existing camera gear: sell, adapt, extend?

  • Push yourself to use your gear more fully. Many of us do not fully utilize all of the capabilities of the gear we currently own. Using it more fully will extend its useful life.

  • Experiment more in post. Every piece of camera gear comes with some kind of trade-off. Spend some time in post to experiment with your current software to learn how you can squeeze more quality out of your current images.

This is spot on. Since last fall I gave much thought and investigation to whether I should move up to “full frame”, due to indirect peer pressure and marketing hype.  I realized I continue to learn how to use my existing 1″ and micro four thirds cameras nearly every time I put them to use – and for what I typically shoot there is little to no advantage to full frame – and actual drawbacks (bigger and heavier). Instead, I’m learning new tricks that make my existing gear deliver expanded capabilities.

Second, I downloaded the DxO PhotoLab 2 trial version and quickly discovered its noise reduction is so good that it was like increasing my camera’s useful ISO range by several stops. I no longer needed a larger sensor to achieve the results I wanted at higher ISOs. This was a far less expensive alternative than buying a new camera and lenses!

Third, I began using various well known techniques such as averaging multiple exposures to reduce noise, and shooting multiple-image panoramas to achieve enormous resolution (typically 80 to 200 megapixels).

Software post processing completely changes how we look at photography – and for us hobbyists, is a practical way to expand our gears’ capabilities.

ON1 Photo RAW supported camera and file types

ON1 Photo RAW is photograph editor and organizer, combining features of RAW image processing and photo editing (including layers and masking typically found in photo specific editing packages).

I like the user interface of the product (a lot) but have noticed the RAW image processing of some of my photos is not up to par – seriously not up to par – with some other RAW image processors. I found this item on their web site:

Tier 2 Compatible Cameras

The Tier 2 list below lists camera models that are also compatible with ON1 Photo RAW. You will be able to view, open and edit raw files from these camera models in ON1 Photo RAW, however, cameras listed in Tier 2 will not be opened and processed with the raw engine that is built into the ON1 Photo RAW. These files will be opened and processed using the raw engine that is built into your operating system.

I am not sure what this means. For example, from my recollection, Windows 10 did not directly support RAW images – you would not be able to see a thumb nail view in the File Explorer, for example. To address that, I installed a 3rd party RAW image module for Windows 10 that enables Windows open and display RAW files. Which leads me to wonder, is this the code that is then being called by ON1 Photo to open up my older image files?

As my post below notes, I usually shoot with older cameras and the ON1 RAW image quality issue may be due to my older cameras being on their “Tier 2” list.

Other RAW image processing software works fine with these older cameras.

Simple Photography-do we all need the latest camera gear?

The photography industry – let’s call it the photography industrial complex! – consists of camera manufacturers, distributors, retailers and a host of ancillary functions such as camera review sites and Youtube channels explaining how to use your camera.

All are oriented towards getting you to upgrade to the latest camera gear.

Most web site and Youtube reviewers earn sales commissions through affiliate links to “where to buy” retailers. This is how most web sites and Youtube channels make their living. In effect, everyone is a sales person on behalf of the camera makers and retailers. Some reviewers receive loaned or free gear in hopes there will be a positive review produced.

Everyone in the photo world has become a gear pusher – even the user community! Online forums are filled with posts from users commenting on the intricacies of sensor noise, dynamic range, lens corner sharpness, bokeh – and a host of items that make a difference in specific usage scenarios and typically for those who make money from their photography (which is a smaller subset).

Everyone piles on – believing they need the latest camera gear – right now! The gear they buy today will be obsolete, by their own definition, when next year’s model comes out. Most of us have little use for the new features – and often do not use the full capabilities of the gear we already own. Instead, we suffer from “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” or GAS.

We live in a “consumer society” where we are flooded with incentives and encouragement to constantly buy more stuff! Even when we are overflowing with stuff in our lives!

As I jog around my neighborhood on the weekends I see a lot of garage doors open and the garages half or entirely filled with “stuff” that people are storing. People have so much stuff they no longer have room to store all of it, let alone use it!

Many of us succumb to the 24 x 7 wall to wall marketing propaganda that surrounds us. The marketing noise is so intense that we often no longer recognize it – its just there, all the time.

We suffer from a fear of being left behind, or being less attractive, or less well thought of if we are using last year’s model. This fear drives people to upgrade their $1,000 smart phones every year, to buy (or lease) new cars every other year, and to spend money on newer stuff. (Such people frequently complain they do not have enough money – gee, wonder why?)

Do we really need to live our lives this way?

When it comes to cameras, do we really need to upgrade that camera body or lens because there’s a new toy on the market?

Great photos are taken by photographers – they are not made by camera bodies (with few exceptions such as landscape and architecture photography which really do depend on very high resolution sensors for some of their work, or certain low light usage scenarios.) I have seen a few professional photographers write that their greatest earning photos were taken users ago with far lesser cameras than we have today.

Another peculiarity is the amount of money consumers are willing to spend on photography. By consumer I mean someone who is not a professional, and is not earning any serious money from their photography. It’s basically a hobby, albeit, a serious hobby with practitioners striving for excellence.

But a $3,500 camera body attached to an assortment of lenses that may run $2,000 to $20,000 is wild. The camera body alone has the value of perhaps 7 notebook computers. With lenses, people are walking around with high value density goods – literally, in a bag they’ve got the equivalent of the value of a car!

The camera makers are moving further up scale as new cameras – even those formerly targeted at consumers with under $1,000 price points – are gradually rising to $2,000 and up.

All of this depends on this broad ecosystem of marketing propaganda to persuade everyone they really do need to move upscale and spend more money.

But do they?

I know I’m a weirdo who is years behind on acquiring stuff. For the most part, this lets me do what I want to do at a fraction of the cost. Recently I noticed the cost of a single camera that would do roughly the features I wanted, starts at $2,000 and goes up from there. Instead, I have a combination of older cameras, each bought typically for $200 to $300, used – that together gives me more features and capabilities for far less than buying a single new camera. (One has better low light capability, another is water proof but not so great at low light-for me, low light is an indoor thing and rain is an outdoor, decent lighting thing so separate used cameras!)

Perhaps this is related to voluntary simplicity – seems like it would be of interest to others. Literally, no one reviews older cameras – yet many older cameras stand the march of time and on many measures continue to compare favorably against the latest and greatest gear. A year ago I met a top ranked, award winning professional photographer from Canada – she shoots with her 16 megapixel Nikon D4 because it delivers the results her clients want. She also had a ton of business sense, in multiple ways, and one is her recognition that the gear is not the #1 way she adds value to her clients. Another Canadian photographer sold his high end “pro” Nikon gear and does all of his work now with “low end” Nikon 1 cameras – finding the small size, and less depth of field, was advantageous to the work he does.

Of course, camera makers and retailers depend on new gear sales – the incentives are to push consumers to buy, buy, buy. This discourages most anyone from reviewing older gear and being heretical by suggesting an older or “lesser” camera might actually be a good deal 🙂

Update from today’s Business News

28 percent of shoppers are entering this holiday season still paying off debt from last year’s [Christmas] festivities, according to NerdWallet.

Wow. 28% are still carrying credit card from Christmas 12 months ago. We presently have a strong economy with very low unemployment. What happens when the next recession or depression hits and all these people are carrying excess debt?

Perhaps people need to live within their means and not succumb to marketing propaganda pressure to buy things they probably do not need.

Rant: Is the photo industry dropping casual photographers and hobbyists?

Many of us have watched as the price of cameras have gone astronomical. I see people with $3,000 camera bodies attached to $8,000 lenses hanging around their necks. This is insane.  You can buy used cars – even two of them – for what some people carry around their necks!

Micro four thirds, the lower tier of the interchangeable lens market (and what I shoot) has pushed cameras up to the $1,000 to $2,000 price range with hints that even higher priced offerings may emerge in 2019.

Online camera reviews breathlessly tout the latest camera offerings with more megapixels, better focusing or what have you, but which rarely make much difference to anyone except professionals and some high end amateurs. All those online review sites have become “latest tech you gotta have” pushers. And why not? They make their money with affiliate links, earning a commission each time someone clicks through to Amazon or B&H and makes a purchase. They are the camera gear equivalent of drug pushers!

The pressure to upgrade is everywhere – and few people recognize how they are played to spend more money.

If you are a pro, who earns money with your photography, you are in a different league than most people out taking photos. You can likely cost justify your purchase of the latest high priced gear.

Today, Flickr announced they will delete photos from free accounts with over 1,000 photos as of February 5, 2019. If you want to keep your photos, you’ll have to upgrade to “pro” – and oh, they doubled the price on that too! Again, for a pro that’s making money on their photography, that’s not a big obstacle. For all others, Flickr has decided the customer hostile approach to their business is the right one for Flickr, but may be not so much for users.

The message from Flickr is clear – they are no longer interested in the casual hobbyist market. They are after the “pro” market and some high end amateurs who can cost justify the new prices.

Meanwhile, as we already know, camera phones have obliterated the point-n-shoot market so all camera makers have been moving up scale. The reality is that beyond certain megapixel limits, most of us will not see personal benefits from buying new cameras and lens priced in multiples of $10,000 🙂 The camera makers are steering their business towards high end photographers willing to shell out the big bucks.

The photo industry seems to be bifurcating into smart phone shooters who share on Instagram, and high end “pros” (or pro wannabes) on Flickr and other platforms.

What will happen to the middle ground segment? There are still APS-C cameras and micro four thirds but even they seem to be moving upscale.

The casual/hobby market is moving up scale very rapidly – and may leave many photographers behind as photography becomes an activity limited to the high heeled elite of the future. Or just using smartphones …

A related issue is that the old idea of buying a product has gone away – today we merely rent them. Adobe did this with their photo editing tools. Flickr is doing this with photo sharing. Microsoft has done this with Office. Before long, we will be paying considerable amounts of money – forever – as we get locked in to tools used to create and access our own content. How long before we are charged an annual fee to use certain features of our cameras, such as say, SLOG or VLOG video color grading? This seems to be the holy grail of the industry now – lots and lots of user fees!

Lumix GX8/GX-8 IBIS In Body Image Stabilization did not meet my (high) expectations

I bought a used Lumix GX8 camera a month ago. Factors in my decision to buy the GX8 included the 20 megapixel image sensor and the in body image stabilization (IBIS) feature and there are great prices on the now used or refurbished models available; albeit, it is a 3 year old camera at this point. Plus I am familiar with the Lumix user interface.

I also have a used Olympus E-M10 I bought for cheap and I love this camera for still photography. It has an excellent IBIS which set my expectations high for the GX8’s IBIS.

Unfortunately, the IBIS in my GX8 does not appear to be in the same league as the E-M10. To be fair, the E-M10 mk ii is a newer camera than the GX-8. The following comments are primarily about the IBIS feature of the GX8.

GX8 IBIS  works for me on the following lenses:

  • Lumix 14 mm (I can hear the IBIS internal “clicks” so its doing something)
  • Olympus 9-18mm wide angle lens (sort of works)
  • Olympus 45mm (maybe works)
  • and in conjunction with Panasonic lenses that have optical image stabilization (OIS)

(Update) GX8 Ibis apparently does work on the following:

  • Lumix 20mm f/1.7 (no “clicks” nor evidence it was doing anything)
  • Lumix 25mm f/1.8

I did not hear internal IBIS noise with these lenses, plus the GX8 does not show the stabilization in real-time on the electronic viewfinder as is done on Olympus and other vendors’ cameras with IBIS. Not seeing the stabilized image means we do not have an easy way to know if IBIS is operating for the shot. But apparently IBIS is applied when the shutter is operated.

Some say IBIS operation is restricted to operating above certain shutter speeds such as faster than 1/15th of a second. I took a number of photos at an indoor event using both an E-M10 and the GX8 and the GX8 photos, when enlarged, showed minor pixel blur that was not present on the photos shot with the E-M10. The IBIS may have worked but not as well as the Olympus equivalent, which is said to provide up to 4 stops improvement. Some forums suggest that GX8 IBIS works best if you continue to follow the 1/focal length rule. That is, shoot at a minimum of 1/25th of a second with a 25mm lens. Shoot a 200mm focal length at 1/200s and the IBIS should work very well to improve that shot. Others suggest (and my own experiments seem to confirm) that the GX8’s IBIS combined with Lumix optical stabilized lenses (OIS) is better than OIS alone and is very effective when used on Lumix long zoom lenses.

IBIS does not work with 4k30 video although Panasonic lenses with OIS work great for this. Update: Have since read or watched some Youtube reviews and they confirm IBIS does not work on video.

Discovering this, I looked at online forums and found others with similar issues, although some suggested IBIS worked okay for them, including on one of the lens I tried (above).

I was spoiled with the Olympus IBIS which is excellent. I can mount my 135 mm f/2.8 full frame lens with a focal reducer (effectively about 100mm) on the E-M10 and get rock solid image stabilization in the viewfinder. Can’t do that with the GX8.  Test GX8 shots, outdoors in good light, did produce very sharp images with this lens indicating that IBIS was working for those shots.

On the plus side, the GX8’s 20 megapixel images are very nice when using a tripod or fast shutter speed . The camera shoots real 4K video and includes 4K Photo, including 4K pre-shot mode (takes continuous frames so you can grab images from before you press the shutter) and 4K Post focus modes, which have interesting applications. 4K photo mode is actually a very neat feature.

The GX8 uses the same battery as the Lumix GH-2 and I had a stash of those batteries already on hand.

Used or refurbished GX8s are available for half the price of a new GX9. The GX8 has an anti-alias filter while the GX9 does not. Some prefer AA filters while others prefer the sharper image when AA filters are not used. The E-M10 mk ii does not have an AA filter and produces noticeably sharper images than a similar 16 MP sensor with AA filtering. The E-M10 mk ii, without AA filtering, appears to produce images on par with the sharpness of GX8’s 20 megapixel images – I intend to do some testing on this.

In pixel peeping (which may or may not matter to many), the GX8’s low light performance seems about 1-stop worse than the GH-4. In other words, an ISO 800 image on the GH-4 seem to have about the same noise/grain as an ISO 400 on the GX8. I suspect this is due to the higher pixel density of the 20 megapixel sensor. If the 20 MP image was resized to 16 MP for a direct comparison, they are probably comparable, however.  If you are mostly shooting outdoors this is not a problem, but if you shoot dimly lit scenes, it may be a problem.

The GX8 is a decent camera and it should be noted, is about 3 years old at the time I bought mine, used. The GH5 and the GX9 have both come out since then and are said to have outstanding IBIS. At current market prices, the GX8 is a very good value.

Canon EOS R reviewer is loaded with nonsense opinions

Canon introduces its new mirrorless camera, two weeks after Nikon introduced 2 mirrorless cameras, and ten years after competitors launched the mirrorless revolution in photography:

it’s official: mirrorless cameras are no longer the preserve of second-rate companies who couldn’t compete against Canon and Nikon’s DSLR duopoly, but a crucial part of the future of high-end photography. Canon and Nikon are late to the game, to be sure, but no-one can doubt that both companies’ new products are serious, wholehearted efforts to develop credible and wholly modern camera systems.

Source: Canon EOS R hands-on preview: proof that mirrorless is the future – The Verge

And the EOS R is still missing many features that have been available from those second-rate companies for years. And whose products cost a fraction of those from Canon and Nikon. That said, the Canon and Nikon products are fine, albeit, late. Their new products mark a foundation on which they will build into the future. The problem is the Canon fan boy reviewer that wrote this nonsensical first look.

The Verge writer has defined “credible” cameras, not in terms of features, but in terms of brand name. A balanced view, by comparison, may be found here.