Friday, February 28, 2014

Sigma Continues Its Trend of Upending The Camera Market

The very first test images from Sigma's new 50mm f/1.4 Art lens have hit the pipes. It is amazing. It's only competition is the Zeiss Otus that wowed the world two months ago.

 These shots are all wide open, so we don't know how it does stopped down yet, but it doesn't matter. To my eye, it's not quite up to the Otus, but the differences are so small as to make no real difference, especially considering that the Otus costs $4,000 while the Sigma only costs $1,500 and the Sigma has autofocus.

The important thing is that the Sigma blows the Sony/Zeiss and the Nikon out of the water and back into more water. It is amazing. Bravo Sigma for again showing other companies how it's done.

This is a great time to point out the review of the Nikon 58mm lens at Lenstip. You can always spot a good review website when they really let harsh words fly when they are called for. Most websites are terrified of pissing off the companies that buy advertising space, meaning that bad products rarely get the reviews they deserve.

The Nikon 58mm is an overpriced piece of crap, and their review says it all.
Perhaps I am naive but I admit when Zeiss announced their Otus 1.4/55 and Nikon – the Nikkor AF-S 58 mm f/1.4G I though we were going to deal with two lenses which were a match for each other. It seems, though, that only Zeiss was serious about it and Nikon was joking all along, trying to sell you a rough piece of trash for a lot of money under a cover of a storied Nikon legacy. I really don’t intend to torture the tested Nikkor any longer because it is not worth the time and trouble.
This is why Oly and Panasonic piss me off so much. This is their fantasty! This is their goal! They want to be able to have such control over their closed system that they can charge comically huge prices for garbage and pad their profits on the backs of those who bought their cameras. It's bad enough that we have two companies doing this (Canon's included). The last thing we need is two more.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Voigtländer Does It Right; Gives 25mm Lens New Stepless Aperture Dial

As I have said before, Micro 4/3 is an exciting system to be in because of all of the companies that aren't Olympus and Panasonic. Voigtländer and their fantastic f/0.95 lenses are at the top of that list of companies.

It may seem odd to hail such a seemingly small change, but it speaks to the focus of Consina; they understand the enthusiasts and pros. They understand the small things that we want.

This also makes the 25mm lens even more of a must have for videographers. You can now smoothly and dynamically control depth of field during your shot.

The stepless aperture dial had previously been available on their other f/0.95 lenses, the 17.5mm and 42.5mm lens. Even without autofocus, all three of them are must-have lenses for the Micro 4/3 system.

In case you are unfamiliar with these lenses, they are so special because they are the only lenses in the Micro 4/3 system, aside from lenses attached to the Metabones Speed Booster, that will give your photos a full-frame look. And by full-frame look I mean that shallow depth of field and the smooth gradation between out-of-focus and in-focus areas of the image. On a small crop sensor, you need extreme aperture to achieve this.

And yeah, an aperture of below one does that.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sigma's New DP Quattro Impresses Impressively

Sigma is a company that has made one major mistake: the initial pricing of the SD1. Aside from that, they have been doing nothing but great things. Their Art lines of lenses is superior and cheaper to alternatives from other companies. Their 18-35mm is the only must-have lens for APS-C SLR cameras. And their Foveon sensors are beloved by those who don't mind how cripplingly slow they are. I like Sigma.

While I made fun of their SD1, I wanted it. I couldn't bring myself to buy it, even at its not-entirely-unreasonable $2,000 price, but I did want it.  The color and detail of low-ISO Foveon shots is amazing. Unparalleled. Eye-popping. And other such words as well.

Likewise, I wanted their DP1, DP2, and DP3 Merrill cameras, which I actually consider steals at their prices of $899. They are Medium Format-quality landscape cameras that fit in your pocket. Just amazing.

As with the SD1, though, they were special-purpose cameras with many concessions in design. I have limited funds and have to make decisions based on how often and widely I will use my purchase. A camera that is slow as a snail and essentially useless over ISO-600 isn't high on my priority list... although how I wanted it to be.

The new DP Quattro apparently goes some way toward alleviating the issues. Well, color me excited.

In case you don't know, Foveon sensors don't work with the standard array of red, green, and blue sensor sites as in most cameras. Instead, there is a red layer, a blue layer, and a green layer of sensors all stacked on top of one another. As such, each pixel that is recorded in the final picture contains red, green, and blue data.

Previously, the Foveon sensor used a full array of red, green, and blue on each layer. According to Sigma, this was one of the reasons for the slow speed of the cameras; there was a butt-ton of data to be processed. To me, the solution to this is a better processor, but I digress. Sigma's solution involves redesigning the sensor and making only the topmost blue layer a full array.
According to Sigma, this results in no loss of image quality. I have to admit, I'm not sure how that's possible, since data is being chucked away, but I will await judgment. I tend to believe them since a lie like that would kick them in the ass.

They have also put it in one of the coolest-looking cameras that I've seen in a long time. Not since the Fuji X100 has a camera been so eye-catching and different. I cannot wait to wrap my hands around one. That's because this camera is different. It looks like the future of imaging. Unlike so many others... apparently... I do not get a thrill out of holding a digital camera that looks like an old camera. I don't need some nebulous romance based on the past to be attached to my cameras. I want a tool that produces images. I get a thrill out of holding the newest, best, most advanced image-producing tool that the industry has. I want something that dares to be different so I can see what I can do with it. I know what I can do with an SLR or yet-another-mirrorless camera! I want to discover what I can do with something new. I get that thrill from this.

Good show, Sigma. Good show.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Canon's G1X Is... Better

Canon has a habit of producing overpriced crap. And remember, when I say crap, I use the word in a relative sense. There are no bad products, only bad prices, and Canon has some god-awful prices.

So it was with the stupid G1X. The lens was slow, soft, and slow to focus. The camera operations were slow and cludgy. And the price was way beyond what was warranted.

Irritatingly, it was still a decent hit. Not as big a hit as the inexplicably popular EOS M (I think it was because the camera dropped below $400 less than a month after launching), but it was still a solid success for Canon. It's amazing what a large network of resellers can do for your product.

Canon has released the inevitable follow-up, and it is... an upgrade. Based on the numbers alone, I still don't think that it will prove worthy of its price, but it's... No. I can't bring myself to do it. I want to like something Canon produces. Anything. But this camera ain't it. It's an acceptable product for a price that should only be attached to something innovative and market-leading.

The two most notable differences are the body and lens. The body ditches the bloody-stupid "viewfinder" of the old G1X, which is good, but it also ditches some of the physical controls, which is bad. Again, who the hell is this camera for? Anyone willing to plunk down the cash for this will want pro features. Why take them away?

The second big change, the lens, is the only major upgrade and one worth recognizing. It has a wider range than the old lens while also being faster by a full stop at the wide end, and over a full stop faster at the far end. That is impressive. The lens is almost enough to make me say "Hunh... yep, that's a camera," but it's still not a complete enough package, especially in a market where a similar price will buy you an E-M5.

This is Canon responding to the increasing erosion of their compact camera business. The original G1X was supposed to be that response, but, well... yeah. This is a legitimate response. It's too little, too late, and for too much, but if Canon had released this for $499 or $599, they could have stood a real chance of regaining some market share. But since this is Canon, they're releasing it for $799.

Obviously, if you're looking at this camera with a desirous eye, wait. Wait for the camera shows later in the year. Other companies are not standing still, and both Sony and Fuji are producing amazing things.

Perhaps, if Canon's market share collapses in the same way that it has been collapsing in Japan, they will finally get off their asses and produce the amazing products that they are damn well capable of producing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blackmagic 4K Cinema Camera Drops $1,000!

As I said, Blackmagic has been doing a damn fine job of competing with itself. The Cinema Camera, the Pocket CC, and the 4K CC are amazing products with amazing abilities at amazing prices. Have I mentioned how amazing they are?

But true competition is always good. It keeps markets active and alive. So it goes with the GH4. If everything holds up, the GH4 will be Panasonic's best camera since the GF1, released those many moons ago. It is competitive. And boy howdy, has Blackmagic responded. They have officially launched and priced the 4K Cinema Camera and it comes in a full $1,000 lower than it was originally set, at a drool-worthy $3,000.

I doubt that this is because of efficiencies in manufacturing. I think that is because the GH4 is a good product. Indeed, we can take this as an endorsement from Panasonic's direct competition that the GH4 is a good product and one worthy of our attention.

The videography market just got real exciting, real quick.