Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hot Crossed Pixels!

I had intended to release this post a long time ago but I got distracted, oooh shiney... Yep there I go again.

Canon 5DS/SR - They pulled a 'Nikon' on us!

There has been a rumored "medium" format Canon on the various camera rumor sites, even before these sites existed dating back to as early as 2009 or so. Reports of Canon shopping around some early prototypes of a high resolution DSLR to a very select group of photographers, enter 2015; Canon releases a 50 megapixel 35 mm format sensor.
This is 5DS & 5DR is exactly the same iterational nonsense as the D800; rather than just making one camera without the layers of filter that deliver not so sharp pictures, they made their camera line-up and the resulting logistics chain more complicated than it needed to be.
This may make sense to marketing wonks at Canon but this seems like complete horse dung to me.
The D800 was introduced with a counterpart named with the E moniker, this version had the bayer AA filter canceled but not removed. What this means is they added another layer on top of the existing layers to cancel it out, whenever you add more layers of filtering you lose picture fidelity. 

Adding additional layers on top of non working layers is just dumb!
It uses the same sensor with a canceled layer on it,  if there's a flaw in one product line that means there's a flaw in both product lines potentially requiring a global recall of both products.
This is something that Canon and Nikon are very hesitant to ever follow through on when serious product flaws are discovered by the consumer, these recalls are often the result of a massive class action lawsuit against the manufacturer when they do happen.

Some complained of Moire exhibiting itself in the non AA version but I bought it anyway, I have not seen any serious issue with Moire to this day. Even cameras that have the AA filter enabled since their inception still suffer from some Moire issues, the D800E is no different in that aspect. If you have a digital camera, its bound to happen sooner or later, it is unique to the digital format.

All that aside, it is a big improvement in many ways over the previous 5D line-up, the higher pixel count offers up additional not so obvious bonuses. The AF system in this looks to be the best yet, it uses the Digic 6 sensor. This Canon's own response to the recent push for better camera performance, whether or not it's the what the market really wanted, who knows. Is it what I was hoping for? Not really, the TTL Sync is too slow.

Nikon D810A - Nikon claims its designed for Astrophotography

  I have reservations about anything making claims of being a specialized camera that is not really that specialized. It's exciting to see a camera company come out with a product that is geared towards a very fascinating and highly specialized field, the very unique aspects of real astrophotography also means that the necessary changes needed to make this camera useful for it, also means this camera would not be suitable for terrestrial applications.

  This camera is a D810 that was customized by Nikon specifically for this use, given their track record for camera iterations it's likely that if this camera launch is successful they will make a second one that will be designed from the ground up for this application rather than a last minute jury rigging of an existing camera.

  This is a definite first for Nikon to specifically design or modify a their cameras for this activity.

  I'm hopeful it's going to be a good change and a sign of more of these to come. The wavelengths often used in Astro photos are infrared and ultraviolet, these are invisible to the human eye. Camera manufacturers integrate filter layers on the CMOS chip to automatically filter this out. I doubt Nikon will do that. Nikon has questionable reputation in this field, most prefer to shoot with Canon cameras for this activity.

   Some of the unique features on this camera are exposure times of up to 900 seconds, most hard-core landscape nuts own their own shutter controller and that may mitigate any supposed gain from adding it, nice to see it's available but probably won't matter much if you use a dedicated external shutter controller (you definitely should!). It also features an electronic global shutter, meaning one of the two shutters in the camera is not a mechanical shutter, theoretically improving shutter reaction times and reducing shutter vibration. Electronic shutters are not exactly new to Nikon. The few that have the fully electronic versions, i've heard are coveted because of their nearly limitless TTL sync ability.

Leica S2 (Version 007) ETA 2nd or 3rd quarter 2015

In the camera realm there are a few brand names that are uttered in tones of reverence to this day by most camera fanatics and pro's alike, one of them is Leica. The S2 is their top tier medium format camera, curiously enough it's the only medium format camera Leica produces.

  The S2 offers everything you could want in a medium format camera with all the conveniences found in most mid to high end consumer DSLR's like 4k video, integrated Wifi and more.
What sets this apart from other less expensive DSLR's is the shutter system, it offers up to 1/4000th of a second Native TTL sync speeds. You will most likely get about 1/1200th of a second since this is dual shutter camera and it varies from lense to lense, some lenses have their own shutter.

 These as far as I know, are the cheapest medium format cameras available (hold on to your wallets, the sticker shock is coming) at a starting price of 16000 dollars. Contrast this with digital back systems that start at 35k and go up from there, now you see why I say Leica is the cheapest medium format available. Do you really need one? Not at all, but most would like one!

Leica also produces many other non medium format cameras, some that are met with reactions of amusement and disdain.

  Most of this I think is due to their price and the fact that Leica has traded so much on it's name that it's now almost as cliche as Gucci and other household brand names in the fashion world. 

  Leica pocket cameras are considered a status symbol with a hefty price tag but they don't really offer you anything you couldn't have found in a much less expensive camera, the harsh truth is these cameras are sometimes just rebranded knock-off consumer cameras that have a Leica tag on it with a huge price increase. Hasselblad has gained notoriety for doing this too, Leica and Hasselblad are making some good money doing this i'm sure but they are also making a mockery of their reputation as high end professional camera companies too.

Leica has not made any significant innovations or changes to it's line-up in a very long time, with the S2 being it's only actual medium format camera.

Whats missing still?? What would push D-SLR's over the line that separates medium format cameras from their D-SLR Pro-sumer counterparts?

    Shutter sync speeds are stagnant, the fastest 'native' TTL shutter speed so far is 1/320 and it's actually achieved through a Nikon software hack, the same way that trigger systems that allow you to sync the shutter with your off-camera flash.

   This whole notion of pushing the pixel boundaries and crowing to the world "WE ARE MEDIUM FORMAT" holds little meaning when real medium format cameras are worlds beyond what the typical D-SLR carrying pice tags as high as 10,000 dollars offer. The starting price for a digital medium format camera is 16,000 dollars.

   Right now the biggest feature gap between a Pro-sumer (a title given to professional consumer grade cameras) and a true blue medium format camera is the shutter, not the resolution of the sensor.

  The sensor seems to be comparatively simpler problem for them to fix compared to the shutter or they would have done something about it by now. Third party wireless TTL trigger packs offer very convincing emulations of higher native sync rates through software hacks, so if software can fake it that makes it seem plausible to me that real hardware implementation of faster sync rates is just a matter of the camera companies willingness to do it. Millions of dollars every year are poured into sensor research but almost none goes towards shutter improvement, they do a lot to improve it's durability I know this much.

   Medium format cameras offer native TTL shutter sync ratings up to 1/4000th of a second using their own implementations of leaf shutters or focal plane shutters.

 - Why is (faster) TTL Sync speed so important?

    The ability to shoot at very high speeds gives you huge control over the amount of light that enters    the camera when you are using on or off camera flash systems, wedding and sports photographers can attest to this. Most TTL systems restrict speeds to under 1/250th of a second. The slower the shutter the more light enters the camera. Higher sync speeds also allow use of combinations of flash and fast moving objects without any detectable motion blur entering the frame.

   The latest in high end circuitry enable off camera flash systems to strobe quickly enough and bright enough to freeze motion at much slower speeds. That's really helpful but doesn't compensate for other situations where you need full control over the light, in areas where the light is very difficult to control through brute force methods such as using high powered lights.

- Sensor Wizardry - 
- 16 bit color?
   Nope! At best D-SLR color spectrums are pushing 14, sony's own raw format (technically fake format) is not even 14 bit. It may be minor nitpicking but it has relevance for some, some of that spectrum is not visible to the eye but there's enough of extra bits that can be made visible for it noticeable under some circumstances.

Camera makers at Phase One have not been idle, they have significantly ramped up their feature sets in their ultra high end, ultra exclusive Medium format line-up.
Recently Phase-one completed an acquisition of controlling shares in Mamiya, not necessarily owning them outright but they do own a significant interest in the company. It has major investments in most of the medium format names out there except for Leica. Hasselblad may or may not have received a cash infusion from them, not that they need it, they make a good business out of selling re-branded up-sold off the shelf gear.
I think Capture One has proven to be a successful vehicle for (Phase One) generating revenue aside from being an excellent raw processing engine.
I am surprised to see the Dalsa CCD censor still dominates the landscape of high end cameras, for no other reason than CMOS seems to have taken over every other semi-conductor niche in the digital imaging market. The CCD still has a few tricks up it's sleeve that the CMOS based sensors haven't mastered, it's not for lack of time or money either. If anything I'd say it's a lack of interest on the part of the CMOS companies.
The 16 bit color engine in that chip interests me a lot, despite naysayers claiming you can't see all the colors this spectrum encompasses.

The reasons CCD hasn't claimed dominion, well from what i've seen it has to do with the banding exhibited in some of the images that these sensors produce. CMOS is a one size fits all chip package that does a lot of things extremely well, not perfect but close enough in most instances.
The death of imaging giant Kodak definitely changed the landscape of photography from the consumer side as well as from the R&D side of things. Kodak is not entirely dead, it may make a come back under different management. The IP's Kodak owned, is now owned by another company.