Sunday, October 17, 2010

The cost of 'consumer' features.

A topic that surfaces reasonably often in fora across the net whenever new features emerge is "why do I have to pay for this when I dont want it?". In Sony land the latest cause of this cry seems to be the in-camera GPS included in the A55.

This one really caught my interest because in a strange twist, in camera GPS is actually one of the first of these 'new' features I'm really keen for. So I figured I'd like to run through some of the 'features' in my A700 I would happily do without. So here goes:

DOF preview. With instant review utterly unnecessary and compounds this by being inaccurate.

JPG engine. I only shoot raw.

DRO. Since it only works with JPG dont use it.

WB Button. Since I only shoot RAW I have never used anything but auto WB.

Exposure Comp Button. With two dials one is alway on exposure comp already or I'm shooting manual and its unnecessary.

Drive button. Some shoots are single shot, others use drive, others use the timer or remote. I have never, in five years of shooting with a DSLR moved quickly between drive modes shot to shot. Using a menu would make zero difference to my shooting.

PASM dial. Like the drive button, its not like I move from P to A to S to M modes between shots. Actually there would be months where I never move this dial despite taking 1000's of images. Complete waste.

SSS switch. I dont think I've ever used it in five years (combining A100 and A700 usage).

Video out. If I'm linking to a TV (which I do every now and then) I only use the HDMI - the video is pretty much wasted.

DC in. Really, whats that about?

I would probably say a lot of the flash functions too except I think I should probably use them more and that one day when I get of my arse and learn to employ them I'd regret ditching them.

Now my camera is nothing more than my camera and I suspect it would be an absolute flop in the marketplace. So despite the fact that I never use any of these redundant features I understand why they should be there and arent going to be asking for them to be dropped any time soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I cant (or wont) see you!

I cant (or wont) see you!, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

The question of photographing homeless people is a vexed one. Many see it as lazy, insensitive, exploitative and unimaginative. I agree, often all those things are true. And yet I think photos of (or including) the homeless can be more. I think you can take photo's of the homeless that don't exploit them and do ask questions that deserve to be answered.

This image goes to the heart of the issue for me. When does not giving to or photographing or helping the homeless stop being a principled stand to not take advantage of their victim hood and instead become a shameful attempt to deny their existence.

Personally, exploiting the homeless might be bad, but refusing to acknowledge their existence or their humanity is worse.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Breaking the buying strike.

Yesterday I stated my decision to stay with Sony and in that I also listed a couple of things I was going to discuss later; they were what my 'final' lens line-up plan was and how I had chosen to mark my decision to remain in the A mount when I broke my buying strike.

So, first things first, my 'final' lens line-up. Ok, even before that, whay do I insist on qualifying the word "final". Well thats pretty simple, because final only ever is final until a new lens is announced that makes me want to change my list. Also, occasioanlly opportunities will crop up to add something extra at little cost that I might choose to take. Now with that out of the way what is my 'final' list. Well I'll start with overall design of the list, basically its long slow high quality zooms with generally fast, high quality primes. So the list is:



The Sigma 20 1.8 might look out of place in this list but really there is nothing in the a-mount better than this lens anyway.

There are a few things interesting in this list when comparing it to other brands. The first is that its a line-up that has no apologies to make. This line-up of lenses is as good as any you can get from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, or (dare I say it) Leica. At this point I should acknowledge that I know I can get a much cheaper line-up with not a huge drop in quality so why am I aiming at all these CZ's and G's? Basically because I want to give myself no excuses, no reason to think that the equipment is holding me back. In short,if I cant make great images with this line-up I should just give up any pretensions to being a photographer. And, lets be really honest, I can afford it - not all at once, it may take years to build the full line-up, but if I'm careful I can do this without taking from my family.

Secondly, what is also really interesting is that the costs are very, very similar no matter which brand I choose to go with. This line-up with Sony, Canon or Nikon all fall within a few hundred dollars of each other. So much for the myth of Sony being an expensive brand I suppose.

Now whilst this is my final wish list (until I change it) these wont be the only lenses I buy or own. I have a couple of other pieces of the glass I'm either going to just keep or buy in addition to this list. The most obvious addition will be E mount lenses. These form a completely different range and so aren't discussed any more here. The second is the Sony Easy Choice range, that is the 30 2.8 Macro, 85 2.8 SAM, and 35 1.8 DT SAM. I love that these lenses are so small, so portable and so so cheap. Given the very small investment I will almost certainly be picking up some of these.

So, how did I break my buying strike?

Today I picked up the 70-400 G, 30 2.8 DT SAM Macro and 85 2.8 DT SAM. I am so stoked.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sony, I'm coming back!

I've been unsure of whether I was going to stay with Sony, no seriously I was. I had all my gear for sale and built my ideal "final" lens list, done the sums and figured out the price of building it with either a Sony, Nikon or Canon line-up. (a topic for my next blog).

So why stay with Sony?

Well, in January this year I was virtually on a buying strike for all camera gear. My frustrations with Sony are briefly described in this blog entry but to recap I was frustrated that a company with more technical tricks up its sleeve than any other of the big players out there seemed to be doing nothing. At the time the A500 and A550 were the best Sony could you with real innovation and I was concerned that Sony was gone, extracting itself from the market as gracefully as possible at the lowest possible cost. The constant recycling of the A2/3XX series models only heightened my fears.

But recently Sony has shown its hand and the reason for the apparent inaction is clearer now. Better, I actually like the direction Sony is taking. First the NEX, then the SLT cameras reveal that Sony has been reserving its development for entirely new lines of cameras which take the traditions of the old film cameras but truly harness what digital can do. These cameras arent the last word in photography, I'm not even certain they are best in their class but the direction they point to is really exciting. Suddenly, in camera GPS, fast AF in video, 7 to 10 FPS, in camera HDR and pannos, EVFs arent things that SLRs can have, instead, they are core parts of a mainstream product.

But it doesnt stop there. Noise performance and AF, two traditional weak areas of a Sony DSLR, are greatly improved. Again, the new Sony's arent the necessarily the class leaders but they are now far more competitive, Sony is very definitely in the game.

So, what it came to was where did I see the future of my photography? Canon and Nikon are no where with a mirrorless compact camera while the NEX is a really exciting product that is changing the way I do my business (in a good way). The Nikon D7000 and Canon 60D (and Pentax K5) are really impressive cameras but they are really just incremental improvements on what has gone before and still dont bring any excitement to the field while the A33 and A55 from Sony are game changers, a huge step forward in what a camera can be.

So I see the trajectory of Sony following a path I want to join. So with that I'm back in. So how did I break by DSLR buying strike? Well I think I've written enough for now. That can be tomorrow.