Posts Tagged ‘dSLR’

Camera Lessons

15 February 2009

Dear J-

My weekend workflow is unnecessarily complicated by wanting to lug around my big, heavy dSLR everywhere I go; it was the final piece in my 5-MP upgrade plan of a few years ago (started off with the DSC-V1, moved on to the DMC-LC1, and settled on the E-1 — if you’re going to lug around something as big and heavy as a dSLR (LC1), you might as well go with a dSLR), but I still haven’t forgotten the siren call of a good-performing small-sensor camera.

The LC1 is (was) darned close, but far too bulky:  I loved the zoom range and lens speed, but the camera itself didn’t fall to hand quite like I thought it should, and the ISO range pretty much limited it to daytime shots; there’s a lot of atmosphere to twilight, and all I kept getting was banding and noise — it made for interesting, textured photographs, but not the reality I saw.  The V1 is a good carry-around camera, and comes with an excellent lens; its sole weakness is the battery life (I always forget to keep it charged).  So the E-1 goes everywhere, even though it can’t be considered a pocket camera by any means.


I have learned a few things from the E-1 experience, though.  I can’t stand waiting for the camera — when it falls asleep and I have to force it awake, it can’t happen fast enough; I’m finding that I live right around the 35mm-equivalent focal length, and that not having a built-in flash is liberating, although there’s been more than a few fill-flash opportunities I’ve missed.  The nice thing about having lots of options means that you’re able to pick out the ones that work best for you, so it makes you (theoretically, at least) a more educated consumer; on the other hand, if you’re cursed with a long memory, there’s always a ton of interesting cameras that were prohibitively expensive new but reasonable used — and I’ve got to try them, right?  This is how I ended up with two titanic shelf-queen Kodak DCS 600-series bodies at one point, after all.



Leica’s Bid

23 September 2008

Dear J-

Leica’s Project AFRika has borne fruit, the S2 and S-System, which are an interesting break from tradition — the full-frame 24mm by 36mm format was dictated by the Barnack camera using surplus movie film; rather than stick with that, Leica have picked a new 30mm by 45mm sensor and built a system around it.  At a projected €15-20 000, it’s clearly priced out of even well-heeled medium format afficionados, but for those who make a living with their cameras, it presents an interesting proposition:  the portability of a 135 camera with the quality of medium format (37.5 million pixels spread out on the larger sensor mean that noise should be lower, and the proven Kodak design eschewing an anti-aliasing filter should lend it startling visual acuity).

But let’s first go over what it is not.  It is not a replacement for the R-System (the rumored R10 may have some trickle-down technology).  It is not, in all probability, going to cannibalize much sales from the high end full-frame 35mm dSLRs, as Sony, Nikon, and Canon have established a beach-head at $3 000 with visual quality that’s more than good enough.  It’s clear to me that Canon have been fairly complacent with their products; now the 1.3x crop sensor 1D line face competition from nearly-as-fast (Nikon D700) 1x crop cameras from the lower end, and the high-end full-frame contingent have a migration path, albeit expensive, to a larger-sensor system with no penalty in handling.

Everything that they said about the benefits of a larger sensor and the attendant shallow depth of field control pays off in spades for the 0.8x-scale Leica S2 (that is, multiply the focal length of the Leica lens by 0.8 to get the equivalent 135-format focal length).  But it’s priced high enough that again, it’s unlikely to rob many sales from that 1Ds line.  I can only guess at the rejection rate for the huge sensor.  One thing that does intrigue me is the deployment of autofocus in a Leica-designed body.  There have been numerous reasons given for not forcing AF into the R-Series, chief among them being that the tolerances in Leica lens manufacture preclude building in sufficient play to allow for low-powered AF motors.  Aperture rings have disappeared.  What sort of continuous speed can we expect?  And will the sour grapes ever end?  (Leica, finally building a camera that professionals can justify with their heads, not just their hearts, have now caused untold consternation amongst gearheads, who declaim the new S2 as another boutique camera aimed at wealthy collectors; believe me, the advantages are palpable — part of the reason I bought into medium format once, long ago, was the series of photographs reproduced from the early SLR-on-steroids Pentax 6×7 in Yoshikazu Shirakawa’s Eternal America.)