Category Archives: Gear

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.

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.

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.

How to stream 3D movies from your PC to your Gear VR 

Source: How to stream 3D movies from your PC to your Gear VR | Android Central

Samsung’s Gear VR is designed to work with Samsung smart phones. However, with the right viewing apps, it can sometimes be used to view VR and 3D videos with non-Samsung smart phones.

At the time I bought a Gear VR headset, it was apparently the only type of “Google Cardboard” Viewer headsets that included a diopter adjustment to correct for near or far sightedness. Basically, going back a year or two, VR viewers were unusable by most people over age 45 due to presbyopia (and the need to wear reading glasses as we get older).

I use the Gear VR to view some VR content using an old Nexus 4 phone and an app that supports either a Bluetooth mouse button for clicking. The Gear VR otherwise only supports clicking with Samsung phones but you can pair a Bluetooth mouse to your smart phone and use the mouse button (or the mouse pointer!)

Common photography aspect ratios and print sizes are arbitrary

Still photography and motion pictures have, over history, used aspect ratios such as 4:3, 3:2, or for printing 4×5, 8×10 and what not.

These choices were arbitrary – based on practical design and implementation considerations of the time.

The popular 8×10 paper size came from how fine paper was originally manufactured and sliced down to size by hand, in Dutch paper mills and corresponded to the equipment size readily handled by the length of the arms of the mill workers. These cut 8×10 sheets were later cut to create 8×5 sheets, which in turn were sliced to 4×5 sheets. (I could not verify these claims independently but could not dispute them either. Of interest, the 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper we take for granted also seems to have come out of similar issues and stuck with us because of practical issues regarding manual typewriters, issues that no longer exist today.)

The 35mm standard came from early still photo film which happened to be 70mm wide, but was split down the middle by Thomas Edison to save money for making a movie film. After adding holes along side the film for pulling the film through their movie camera, the image area became 24mm wide measured across the film. Each image was limited to 18mm in the length direction – becoming a 24 x 18mm or 4:3 aspect ratio image.

This film was then adopted for new still cameras (Leica) which chose to double the 18mm to 36mm, hence 24mm by 36mm (the well known 35mm format) in a 2:3 (or 3:2) aspect ratio. The 1:1 ratio photo came from waist-level viewfinder cameras – since it was not easy to turn the camera sideways, they chose a 1:1 ratio.

The result is that today’s modern digital camera and print aspect ratios are arbitrary and based on design choices that occurred out of practical considerations in the 19th century and the early 20th century.

Source: history – What historic reasons are there for common aspect ratios? – Photography Stack Exchange

And then there is the 16:9 aspect ratio of HD, which is the compromise that came out of a committee that wanted to create a new TV standard to deal well with older 4:3 content and wide screen content which is wider than 16:9. Basically, an arbitrary compromise value.

There is also similar information on how did we end up with audio reel-to-reel tape recording at 7 1/2 inches per second? I was told it was because this was the speed at which 16mm film, with an optical soundtrack on the film, operated. I could not quickly verify if this was true though and could only work out that 16mm film seemed to go through at 7.1″ inches per second at 24 fps.

“Hybrid Virtual Environment 3D”

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A researcher compared the virtual reality experience with two different systems: the one with VR headsets versus one with an immersive projection system using a concave-spherical screen, developed by his research team and called Hybrid Virtual Environment 3D (Hyve-3D). He immersed 20 subjects whom preferred the virtual reality without headsets, because they could interact with other viewers and share their impressions in real time.

Source: Virtual reality: Hybrid Virtual Environment 3D comes to the cinema — ScienceDaily

#ELSEWHERE introduces #3D viewing system based on iPhone and viewing lenses

It’s a $50 setup that says it dynamically converts any image or video screen into 3D, doing a 2D to 3D conversion. It works in conjunction with an iOS app. Looks like it uses the iPhone camera to collect images, the app to do a 2D to 3D conversion into side-by-side viewing, and then uses the “3D viewer” to enable parallel view on the Phone screen’s side by side image. I think.

Parallel viewing glasses is not new. But using an iPhone camera to record 2D and then converting in real time to 3D is a neat trick. Provided you want to watch it on your iPhone. Photo, below, form the Elsewhere web site:

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This post is a bit more info on our previous post which did not have any details.

Source: ELSEWHERE

Using the Minolta 58mm f/1.4 lens on a Nikon 1 J1 camera

I like experimenting and using “non-standard” camera configurations. In a world of full frame DSLRs, I tend to use little sensors because its more challenging. Or something!

Here, I shot a couple of test shots (JPEG mode, not RAW) using a Minolta f/1.4 58mm prime lens. Both photos were taken using an MD mount to Nikon 1 mount adapter on the Nikon 1 J1 (10 megapixel) camera with a 1″ sensor. Both photos are shot with the aperture set to f/2.0; at f/1.4 the lens is very soft, typical of most older lenses when used wide open. For a portrait shot where soft focus may be desired, f/1.4 is okay, but for other shots the softness is distracting. At f/2.0 and smaller apertures (f2.8, f4 especially) the lens gets really sharp.

Each of these photos was resized to 1/2 the original for uploading to my blog site.

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