Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gear Contemplation - Coolest Gear to lust after in 2016


Sony a7R IISony a7RSony a7 IISony a7S II
Sensor 42MP full-frame36MP full-frame24MP full-frame12MP full-frame
Image StabilizationIn-bodyIn-lens onlyIn-bodyIn-body
Electronic First Curtain ShutterYesNoYesYes
Silent (full electronic) ShutterYesNoNoYes
ISO Range (Stills)
Standard / Expanded
100 - 25,600
50 - 102,400
100 - 25,600
50 - 25,600
100 - 25,600
50 - 25,600
Continuous Shooting (with AF)5 fps1.5 fps5 fps2.5 fps
AF system Hybrid (399 phase detect and 25 contrast detect points)Contrast AF with 25 pointsHybrid with 117 phase detect and 25 contrast detect pointsContrast AF with 169 points
4K from Super 35 crop?YesNoNoNo
4K Movie specsUHD 30/24p
XAVC S (100/60Mbps)
N/AN/AUHD 30/24p
XAVC S (100/60Mbps)
HD Movie specs1080 60/30/24p
1080 60p
60i/24p (24/17Mbps)
1080 60/30/24p
1080 120p (100/60Mbps) 60/30/24p
Picture Profile
(inc S-Log2)
+ S-Log3
Front panel constructionMagnesium alloyMagnesium alloyComposite Magnesium alloy
Optical low pass filter NoNoYesYes
Battery life (CIPA)
340/290 shots per charge340/270 shots per charge350/270 shots per charge370/310 shots per charge
Weight w/ battery625 g 465 g599 g627 g
MSRP $3,199 body only $2,299 body only$1,699 body only $2,999 body only

Most of what the A7RII can offer has been summed up by scads of blogs and can be discovered by some hands on time at various shops, due to it's price point you are likely to find this in a lot of shops.
It is very popular for it's combination of features and price, the fact you can use a huge variety of glass with little or no compatibility problems from non native sony lenses is also a major boon.
It's features are also listed on the feature chart above.

A beautiful example of an image shot with A7RII.

Canon & Nikon:
Having listened to the very long list of wants and desires, both parties seem to have relented to the inevitable, adding 4k video to their cameras.
Permitting user customizable menu formats is no-where to be seen in the thoughts of the camera gods it seems, the reason for allowing it would be eliminating pointless menu diving for features that the USER (not the camera maker) deems a frequently requested feature.
For those of you who don't spend much hands on time with a camera, you probably have at least spent time in a word processor; No doubt you've found yourself constantly having to dive through menu after menu to find what you wanted. Cameras have become just like that, so many features that navigating the bloated menu system becomes a lot more like a "Where's Waldo?" puzzle book.

Cross Type sensors, the newest craze first featured prominently in sony mirrorless (promptly put on a steroid diet after it's debut), can now be found in Nikon and Canon flavors. Sony is the clear winner in the tech market, but all the camera vendors are reporting financial losses. The growth of the technology sector in the camera market is entirely dependant on excessive spending and binge purchasing by camera fanatics.
You might be wondering why Sony is the winner in the tech market, simply put, they own lots of the patents for different imaging technologies. Canon and Nikon are frequent customers of Sony because of that, sony also has a very diverse portfolio of technology that it is constantly improving upon.

AF Focus performance is an area of contention for cameras, so far very few of them can place them anywhere on the image or control their distribution. I discovered a lot of AF flubs on my D800E when shooting models in a beach or pseudo jungle setting. Until they find a solution to this almost all cameras with a digital focus will always focus most accurately in the center of the image, this affects the fidelity of the exposure as well since the camera is using this zone to meter for exposure.

So far there is no relief in sight for those who are seeking native shutter sync speeds above 1/320th of a second. Emulation through software offers the illusion of it with the use of a third party flash controller, but at the end of the day fake is still fake when it matters.

Nikon D5:

It's finally here!! The camera they (Nikon) said they weren't developing and weren't planning on releasing..

The community wasn't at all surprised, there was significant speculation on its impending features long before anyone had any sort of unofficial confirmation of its production. Early confirmation of it's existence was scooped by some keen eyed observers who spotted one in the wild overseas, and later on suspicions of it being in full production were confirmed by an unknown source who leaked that Nikon's Asian division had its factories filled to the rafters so to speak, with production demands for the D5.

The nikon firmware program, intended for adding new feature sets to recently released cameras is still suspected to be filed under the status of We Are  Eating Crow since no proof of its existence in the last 2+ years has surfaced since they had the nerve to announce it without bothering to put it into practice. I might be a little bitter about it since I am a Nikon owner but oh well.

The prices on D4, and D4s are not reduced by much despite the release of the D5. Nikon is not really known for giving price breaks on it's products, let alone any legitimate sales. Their idea of a sale is to bundle it with some lenses or other items, mark it as on sale but in reality you're paying as much if not more than buying it separate. If you don't own any glass or other gear then the bundle deal is for you, for the rest of us, we'd just like a legitimate price break on a damn camera body.

I hope to get my paws on one of these for a brief test at a camera shop, when or if they do emerge.
Let's face it, a 6k dollar camera doesn't exactly fly off the shelves, most shops are unlikely to be in a hurry to stock them on store shelves.
The few shops that have the moxie to stock cameras worth 16000 dollars or more that i've visited, I noticed those sit on the shelves for a very long time.

I am  Challenge(d) Already
There are many slogans currently being rolled out by Nikon in their corporate colors, such as the slogan I mocked above (features a slight edit of my own).
Whomever thought that one up didn't fully think it through. The presence of a padded helmet has been confirmed, the mouth guard will you cost extra.
I decided to have a little fun at the expense of Nikon.

Prominent Features:

  • New 20.8MP FX-format CMOS image sensor and EXPEED 5 image processing
  • Widest native ISO range ever in a Nikon full-frame DSLR: ISO 100 to 102,400 (expandable to Hi-5, ISO 3,280,000)
  • Redesigned AF system with a 153 focus points, 99 cross-type sensors and a dedicated processor
  • 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video recording and pro-grade video features
  • 12 fps continuous shooting with full AF and AE performance; up to 200 shots in a single burst

The frame rates quoted are dependant on the media used, if I recall maximum burst rate is only achievable on the XDQ format, which is not currently used by any other camera on the market.
CFast is a competing standard with broader compatibility and appeal, Nikon shows no interest in adopting it.

Canon 1DX V2

There is some debate (or whining) over the lack of integrated WiFi in these high end cameras, packing a radio into such a complex piece of gear like one of these cameras presents a whole new set of challenges. The presence of RF inside the cramped space of the camera body is potentially a source of unwanted noise (interference) that both companies would most likely prefer to avoid having to engineer a custom solution around it.
There's a decent review of this camera here.
There were other unintended consequences discovered recently with WiFi interactions in cameras that had this feature enabled, such as malicious users remotely hijacking the camera or stealing images sent wirelessly.

Canon's 1dx V2 features the ability to shoot rapidly with live view active, this is a pleasant twist for those of us who use that feature. Currently most cameras that have a live view option, feature a significant delay after shutter activation before the camera is usable (like my D800E from Nikon). I suspect the write speed suffers while live view is on, when used in other cameras too. It's unlikely that anyone would ever need the 12-14FPS quoted while live view mode is active, having to wait 5-10 seconds after shutter release before you can use the camera again is not an ideal compromise.

Canon is happy to kick Nikon where it counts by undercutting their flagship camera by as much as 1,000 dollars. Canon's lenses frequently sell for very attractive prices also, contrasting with Nikon's routinely boutique prices and nearly non-existent discounts.

PhaseOne & Mamiya:

PhaseOne XF Camera Body:

The most exciting thing to happen to cameras in a while from this guy's perspective (at the risk of being called a "fanboy") is the XF camera body for phase one's digital backs.

The XF with 80mm lense (LS) has a starting price of 6400$ lowest i've seen.
This camera body allows for the incorporation of a whole new feature set, including options enabled in the digital backs that are only recently being adopted by the major DSLR companies in their mid to high end cameras. Integrated wifi & bluetooth  connectivity with phones and tablets.
Whether you are a working pro with deep pockets or just a batshit crazy enthusiast with deep pockets, this tablet connectivity feature alone is very cool! Your art director or client can view and give their opinion on the shots as they happen in real time.
The photographer can use this to free themselves from having to hold the camera and use the tablet to remote control the camera while they interact with the model or fix setup issues with the shot.

Dalsa Semi developed a 100mp CCD imaging circuit in 2006.
Dalsa has made numerous devices for NASA missions in addition to
adorning the bling cameras from Mamiya, HassleBlad and Phase One.

60 MP

IQ2 Digital backs: Start at prices of 20,000 used, they are being phased out by PhaseOne, in preparation of the rollout of the IQ3. This is good news for those who are looking for a deal. Used medium format equipment is a hot commodity, it retains its value and useful life, typically outlasting multiple owners.

IQ3 Digital back: Price starts around 34000. It is the new hotness so expect to pay a heavy price for it.
The 60MP digital back is based on a 16 bit Opti-Color chip with the Dalsa CCD imaging system, long considered the king of all optical imaging sensors by techno-geeks and hipsters alike. The Dalsa sensor was and probably still is, king of the hill before the CMOS came into its own and changed the landscape of cameras forever. It's only very recently the CMOS packaging for optical sensors has made its presence felt in the medium format arena.

80 MP & 100MP

The most explosive development in camera technology since I started writing this (late 2015), happened in early 2016 with the unexpected announcement of 100 megapixel digital backs from PhaseOne.
I was able to obtain a raw image capture of a cityscape made by it but unfortunately it was so damn dull to look at, it didn't really show me much of it's potential or wow me in the slightest. What I did see was such extreme pixel zooming that I could clearly make out the faces of people walking down a crowded street shot with a non telephoto lense from the other side of town.

I am sure some of this is in response to the uptick in pixel counts from their low cost DSLR competitors, currently canon offers cameras with 52MP sensors.
The other reason I could think of for an image of this size, would be giving the user more options for cropping images to suit their taste without negatively impacting their chances of cropping it so severely a publisher would reject it.
Publishers have pixel count requirements (specified in dimensions) for images to be accepted.

Since it is the newest toy available and it is a digital back, expect to have sell your internal organs on the black market or sell your future kids into slavery in order to afford it. I suggest a lotto ticket for your solution. Some of the older (and probably unsupported) digital backs are now falling back down to new-ish DSLR prices of 8,000 dollars or less.

The Phantom Flasher, a Phottix update:

Phottix has decided to make the presence of it's Odin II known, there are units available on the market but they seem to have a lot of growing pains. Missing features and limited functionality are prominent in this, but the main things that made it attractive like the intelligent controls for multiple groups are there.
Lets hope that for the sake of Phottix they fix these issues, there was such a pregnant pause between the announcement of it and it's actual release I figured it was going to be yet another imaginary product released to market with no expectation of delivery.