Category Archives: Cameras

I agree with all he wrote: “Buying Criteria Changes – Small Sensor Photography by Thomas Stirr”

Good insights in to the changing patterns of camera buyers, and why. I agree with every observation he made (I think I usually agree with everything Thomas posts!)

This article discusses camera industry factors and consumer behaviours that may be affecting buying criteria of cameras and lenses.

Source: Buying Criteria Changes – Small Sensor Photography by Thomas Stirr

#FAA #NPRM #REMOTEID: Conclusions and recommendations

This is a draft of my concluding comments in what will be my filing with the FAA’s Remote ID proposal. My final comments will not be done, however, until later in February.

My focus is to attack the Internet logging requirement head on. Because of their proposed mandate for Internet-based real time tracking, there are serious scenarios where the FAA runs afoul of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the 4th Amendment, and State laws on privacy.

The FAA envisions that only compliant craft will be sold. If true, this means that most indoor flight is eliminated because the FAA requires a functioning GPS to fly. Obviously, this is not only unacceptable but implies the FAA is regulating indoor airspace. Not only that but Federal law prohibits the FAA from regulating small UAS used inside mines.

The FAA’s requirement that only compliant small UAS be sold is not only infeasible, but they admit it on Page 8 when they write that this refers only to craft “for use in the airspace of the United States”. This means there will be small UAS for sale labeled “For indoor use only”, which is a major loophole over which they can do nothing. People will buy these and fly wherever they want.

The FAA has little understanding of Internet availability and has managed to word its NPRM in such a way that if your T-Mobile service has no coverage but Verizon does have coverage, then you are required to subscribe to Verizon service to fly. In an extreme interpretation, the FAA’s wording could require you to purchase satellite-based Internet access.

Worse, the NPRM defines a proposed use of Wi-Fi for Remote ID USS data logging that is technically infeasible. The FAA has no understanding of what it is doing here.

My comment filing is now about 45 pages in length with extensive reference material and cited references. This is a draft of my Conclusions and Recommendations section.

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Congress directed FAA to develop standards for “remote identification” but did not specify what features that requires. Congress wrote:

SEC. 2202.  IDENTIFICATION STANDARDS.
(a) In General.–The Administrator of the Federal Aviation
Administration, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, the President of RTCA, Inc., and the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, shall convene industry stakeholders to facilitate the development of consensus standards for remotely identifying operators and owners of unmanned aircraft systems and associated unmanned aircraft.

The FAA has gone beyond the intent of Congress to require mandatory Internet-based logging of all flights, in real-time.

  • The FAA ignored its advisory committee of stakeholders. The UAS-ID Aviation Rulemaking Committee recommended that model aircraft (“limited recreational operations”) be excluded from any remote identification requirement. Instead, the FAA developed rules limited existing model aircraft to FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIAs), which will, over time, be shut down and lead to the eventual prohibition of the flight of homebuilt model aircraft. These steps go well beyond the intention of Congress which directed the FAA to develop Remote ID standards only.

    The only Congressional requirement is the development of Remote ID.
  • The FAA actively sought to reduce the public’s opportunities to influence this proceeding. The FAA established an Advisory Committee that was, per a report from DJI, “stacked” almost entirely with those who stand to benefit professionally and financially from a substantial increase in regulations. The Committee, per DJI, had almost no representation from the public that would bear the greatest burdens of the regulation. According to DJI:

“Less than 7% of the members of the ARC were stakeholders who would primarily face burdens and/or costs from a future Remote ID requirement, while 75% of the members stood primarily to gain from a future Remote ID requirement, either because of their interest in law enforcement tools or in the furtherance of their business objectives or prospective sale of Remote ID technologies or services.”[1]

  • The FAA ignored key recommendations from its Advisory Committee of stakeholders.
  • The FAA released this NPRM on December 26, 2019, the day after Christmas, at time when media coverage is on vacation, and when resources at organizations are out of the office on vacation.
  • The NPRM went in a direction substantially different than that which the public was led to believe was coming, based on the Advisory Committee. Thus, the public was caught off guard and ill prepared to respond.
  • The NPRM is a complex rule making proposal, 319 pages in length, with thousands of pages of supporting documents. Yet the FAA provided only 60 days for the public to review, analyze and comment on this proposal. Members of the general public do not have staff available to assign the task of conducting this review – we can only do what we can, in our spare time. The AMA and the EAA both requested extensions to the public comment period, which the FAA sternly denied using harsh wording suggesting it did not have time for public input.

    At every opportunity, the FAA has attempted to minimize public input in this proceeding.
  • There is no requirement in PL 114-190 that Congress requires real time location tracking or that the FAA should eventually ban homebuilt model aircraft.
  • The Advisory Committee even suggested having bolt on remote ID transponder upgrades for existing aircraft. There is no technical reason this cannot be done. The FAA (or Homeland Security) mistakenly believes it can limit future small UAS sales to “compliant” only craft and eliminate home built aircraft. However, due to the “indoor use only” problem, the requirements of COPPA to permit deletion of collected data and suspension of data collection, and that many non-compliant craft will be widely available, the FAA is engaged in an illusion of security and compliance that will never happen. Thus, there is no reason at all to not permit adding remote ID to existing small UAS.
  • The FAA has, in its illusion of security, said that only compliant aircraft with functioning GPS and Remote ID may be sold. The NPRM further says that if GPS is not working, then Remote ID is not working, and therefore, the craft may not take flight. This effectively eliminates indoor flight of small UAS – and the FAA is de facto regulating indoor airspace over which it not only has no authority, but in the case of mines, violates Federal law.
  • Alternatively, per the description on Page 8 of the NPRM, vendors may place a “for indoor use” only sticker on the side and sell anything they want as the FAA has no authority to restrict sales, nor regulated indoor airspace. This is a necessary loophole that means the FAA’s attempt to lock down all aircraft fails.
  • In the event that a GPS signal is received indoors, say inside a home, the NPRM generally requires that this flight transmit, in real time, once per second, operator information and lat/long to an FAA subcontracted Internet database. This means the FAA is mandating surveillance inside one’s private home, in violation of the 4th Amendment. It may also be in conflict with the 5th Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Act and State laws.
  • In the event that a child is at the controls (which there is no way to prevent), this results in collection of personally identifiable information including geolocation in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act.
  • If a parent discovers the child has flown the craft (indoors or outdoors, with or without permission, in the backyard), the parent has a legal right under COPPA to notify the collector of the data, to request to review that data, and to request to delete that data. COPPA adds significant complexity to the implementation of the Remote ID USS database. Effectively, anyone could request review, deletion and suspension of collected data by asserting their rights under COPPA. This too becomes a major loophole that means the FAA’s attempt to lock down all aircraft fails.
  • The Remote ID USS requires the use of an Internet connection which the FAA mistakenly believes is readily available. As our comments have shown, this is not true.
  • The FAA defines “Internet is available”in a way that if your cell service does not have coverage, but another service does, then you are required to purchase that additional service if you wish to fly in that location. This is completely unacceptable. Taken to an extreme, this could require purchasing satellite-based Internet access.
  • The FAA further defines Internet is available to include Wi-Fi. This however is technically infeasible. When a small UAS control app running on phone connects to the craft using Wi-Fi, the craft is configured as a Wi-Fi Access Point – which has no Internet access. The phone has no feasible way of connecting to a separate Wi-Fi AP to gain Internet access; the phone is technically capable of connecting to one AP at a time. The FAA’s suggestion to use Wi-Fi is technically infeasible.
  • The FAA is badly misinformed on Internet access availability, has written its NPRM to potentially mandate higher cost (if not extremely high cost) Internet access, and has specified a technically infeasible use of Wi-Fi for Remote ID USS operation. In addition, the Internet data logging will, in certain situations, violate COPPA and the 4th Amendment (and possibly additional Federal and State laws and other amendments), and establishes a nationwide, aerial-based real-time surveillance system of Americans. Page 97 describes using the Remote ID USS data logging feature to collect other data “such as a camera feed or telemetry data” from small UAS. This can and will be used to create a nationwide surveillance system, photographing our homes and our children, in high resolution, from 100′ to 200′ overhead.
  • There are so many problems with mandated Internet data logging that it is infeasible both legally and technically. The FAA – and other Federal laws and regulations – have established a contradictory set of constraints such that it is not possible to implement this NPRM as defined.
  • This leaves a limited set of alternatives to satisfy the Congressional directive to implement Remote ID.
  • The only viable solution is to implement a broadcast beacon-based Remote ID system.
  • As described in my comments, this broadcast beacon ID could be used in conjunction with automated drone fleets relaying such received beacon broadcasts into the Internet, or the use of ground-located beacon ID receivers. This can be constructed in a way to greatly reduce the likelihood of COPPA and 4th Amendment violations.
  • The fact the FAA itself defines Standard Remote ID to operate in a broadcast beacon mode only illustrates that even the FAA recognizes that broadcast beacon ID is sufficient.

[1] A DJI Technology Discussion Paper: Understanding the U. S. Federal Aviation Administration UAS Identification & Tracking ARC Report, DJI Policy & Legal Affairs Office December 19, 2017

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!