Wednesday, September 26, 2018

135 Format Seems to Have Returned

In the late 1970s, I sold cameras at a department store.  Mostly, we sold Nikon, Minolta, and Olympus SLRs but also Fujica/FujiFilm, Pentax, and Canon.  That order also shows the relative quantities sold.  The Canon AE-1 was possibly the worst seller, and I really had to explain Shutter Priority auto exposure--and why the controls seemed to be the opposite of everything else we sold.  (We also sold Medium Format, 110 Format film cameras and the odd, leftover 126 Format cameras.  Polaroid and Kodak had instant cameras.)

Now, we're getting back to a time like that, when many camera makers have an entry in 135 Format.  Nikon and Canon have been in 135 Format for a while now, and Pentax returned recently with the K-1, now at K-1 Mk II.  Sony was the first with a 135 Format mirrorless line and they're on the third generation now.

In the last few weeks, Nikon and Canon introduced mirrorless 135 Format models.  In my opinion, Nikon is closer to getting it right from the start.  They're going to need a lot of firmware updates and they don't like to do that.  Canon didn't stray far from home and they're going to need to re-do their system much more quickly than Nikon will simply because of the lens mount.

This week, Panasonic, Sigma, and Leica got together on the L-mount, already in use by Leica (SL, TL) in a 135 Format camera body.

This is news because Panasonic has been a small appliance and electronics company for years.  They have come so far since those days, possibly due to their feud with Sony.

In any case, two 135 Format bodies, one high resolution (S1R), one low (S1), similar to Nikon's path.  Having an SD Card slot along with an XQD slot is brilliant.  The thing is--these are months off, probably available around spring.  Specifications are subject to change without notice is the appropriate statement, isn't it?

The other part of their announcement is that Sigma is moving to 135 Format with their Foveon technology.  I'm trying to keep an open mind, but they haven't been making much progress.  When someone complains about their low light capabilities, someone has to yell "Hey, look, over there!"

The better part of this is that Sigma will finally have a worthy mount and can share a market, instead of cornering a market that few want.  (There probably aren't that many Leica users, though.)

My only question is: where is Olympus?  I don't have to ask about FujiFilm.  They're not competing head-to-head.  They have introduced another 50MP Medium Format model and documented that they are working on the rumored 100MP model.  I'm not sure whether Pentax is a factor since they haven't had much luck with mirrorless, going the quirky path, but there is a new Irix 150mm f/2.8 macro lens with their mount that will be available.  The K-1 Mk II and the update to the original seem to be decent, but better auto focus would make people want to buy them.

Olympus has rumored that they are working on a higher high-end camera body, which considering the price of the E-M1 Mk II, they need some much better technology for micro Four-Thirds.  If they're heading to 135 Format, I'm thinking things will heat up.

Update 2019.01.12: Panasonic supposedly will launch their S1 and S1R bodies in March 2019.  That's not particularly far away, and yet, we still don't have many details.  It should be interesting to see what lenses Sigma has re-mounted by launch time.  The latest Sigma lenses seem to be quite good and would help make the launch a success.

Nikon seems to be getting good press, even though they have some shortcomings, as with any first generation equipment.  I can imagine that Panasonic will have odd troubles, but the bodies should be as good as can be made--the line starting with the GH3 should be proof of that.  However, dust reduction and sensor-based image stabilization will be their biggest engineering feats, plus re-working their video routines.

Update 2019.03.31: Panasonic have opened up and their big mirrorless bodies and a few lenses are about to be sold.  They look good, even though they are rather large and rather heavy.  To me, having fully-functional camera bodies is a necessity to make the work flow more easily.  The Panasonic GH4 never got in my way, just like the Olympus E-1 or E-5.  The designers considered how it should work for quick and easy use.  I also have the Panasonic GM5, which uses the same lenses and it's hardly the most ergonomic camera body but it does the job, especially since I can strap it to my wrist, work with the GH4, and grab the GM5 for other photos or video.

It will be interesting to see how Panasonic changes 135 Format and how Sony will respond, since they have had the mirrorless 135 Format market to themselves for a while.

Canon and Nikon are making a splash, but too many of their users have been told for too long that mirrorless bodies aren't professional bodies and can't do what the dSLR can do.  IMO, Nikon still have the upper hand with a forward-thinking lens mount, compared to Sony or Canon.  On the other hand, having third parties try to decode the lens mount is really incredibly stupid, no matter how many of your own brand lenses you sell, especially when native format lenses are few.

Sigma's Art line lenses will be available as 2019 continues.  I suppose that this is a good thing but I suggest that they should have made some zoom lenses available, especially those from their Sports line.  Shouldn't the 60-600mm lens be available?  135 Format needs longer lenses.

Update 2020.02.17: There is nothing really amazing happening at the moment, but Panasonic has three models in their S line, Canon has two, and Nikon has two.

Sigma created a very tiny L-mount model but they're having trouble creating a Foveon-technology-based sensor for 135 Format.

What I've seen is that no one has great technology but they all have something to contribute.  Leica is the most expensive.  Canon is the least expensive.  Sony has been in the space for a few years and is suddenly needing to fix their user interface and generally sloppiness in their software.  Panasonic has incredible hardware, as well as incredibly large hardware, but they need phase detection auto focus, no matter what they think.

Having worked with the GH4 so much, Panasonic's S1H looks a treat.  However, I have so many video clips where the AF just goes away while the image processor is busy.  Still, I would probably go with Panasonic, just knowing that I can depend on the software, and make sure that the AF problems are minimal.

Friday, September 21, 2018

iOS 12 on my iPhone 8 now

I am generally the voice of caution.  I have had too many experiences when incompatibilities hurt my productivity when doing operating system upgrades/updates.

Why would I jump to iOS 12 so soon?  It seemed that it was truly past the beta test stage, unlike previous releases.  Also, Apple plays a guessing game with device security.  You can never tell how dangerous your situation is.  I have upgraded to the latest major release in the past because there were so many security fixes.

I felt that way today and certain articles I've read recently suggest that iOS 12 is more likely to protect me, broken or not.

1.35 GB seems a crazy load for a handheld device but it has become more common to exceed 1 GB with updates and upgrades.  Games are especially heavy on storage.  2018's operating systems are hardly the machine language monitors that needed to fit into 8 KB of RAM in the late 1970s.  What could fit into a well-ventilated room now fits into your hand, except for the keyboard and keypunch.

First off, shutting down and starting are very, very quick to happen.

Usually, there is the wheel, barely visible, churning until the system shuts down.  I didn't even see it--the system was just finished.  I held the power button and it was ready for my PIN very soon after that.

Backing up the updated phone is taking quite a long time.

Everything seems a bit more responsive and some things are extremely responsive.  I'm not sure if they changed the game interfaces' performance but games feel more fluid now.  Text scrolling seems smoother than warm butter.

Obviously, an iPhone 8 shouldn't have any issues because it was new only 1 year ago.  Still, the operating system's latency made the experience seem to lag.  I hope that this is not a temporary speed-up that will be crushed by bug fixes.  Mac OS X was really awful from Public Beta and got better with each release.  At 10.4.11, it seemed the best it could be, and Leopard was uncomfortably buggy and slow.  Things never seemed to improve, which may be why I'm on Windows 10 now.

iOS 12 gives me hope, as does WatchOS 5.

Update 2018.09.26: Certain apps seem unresponsive at times and have to be ended and re-launched.  Overall performance is good but occasionally choppy.  There have been around 5-10 app updates each day.  I suspect many more will come as they actually test their development efforts (or lack of same) with actual users on iOS 12.

Update 2018.10.07: Nothing more interesting has happened, thankfully.  Hopefully, the next update will improve stability.  I'm happy for those on older phones who are getting a big performance boost.

Update 2018.11.04: Woke up and the time was not reset to Pacific Standard Time today, even though Daylight Saving Time had ended for this year.  Version 12.1 doesn't seem to be completely better, but 12.1.1 is in the beta test period now.  There were some nasty security issues squashed with 12.1 though, so it was well worth the risk.  I hope that Apple are looking at security 24/7/365.

Update 2018.12.08: I've been on 12.1.1 for a couple of days.  It corrected a few bugs, including the time zone issue.  I'm not sure how stable it is but it seems to be okay at the moment.  There are loads of app updates, as companies realize the problems their apps contain.

It's likely that there will not be any update until February, unless they find something significantly broken.

Update 2019.01.27: 12.1.3 is on my phone now.  There were several bug fixes, but I'm not seeing any useful performance change.  It's certainly less slow than iOS 11, but it's more laggy than expected.  Since 12.2 is in beta test now, we might see positive changes through April.

It's interesting to see that Apple are having trouble selling phones, and with Qualcomm being dorks and digging it for the double-dipping harvest (they want licensing fees from Apple as well as those supplying products where licensing fees are already being paid), some phones are not available in various locations.

Apple currently make phones that I don't want.  They can't offer me an iPhone 8 replacement because they don't have one.  They also don't have an iPhone SE replacement.  Considering how easy it is for someone to look at the phone, FaceID is not a true security measure, in my opinion.  They have said that TouchID is less secure but show me how someone can force me to use the correct finger first time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Photographed the wedding, explained the process

As weird as it may seem, I was pushed into photographing a wedding.  Sports photographers rarely would do something this because it doesn't fit into their thinking.  Besides that, people at weddings yell.

I went to the wedding, photographing everything from the bride and her group handling make up and hair to the ceremony, the crappy cake (not the fancy cake) for shoving/shoveling, and photos with each and every person at the wedding.  The reception was conveniently held at the same spot as the wedding and the onlookers didn't even have to change seats.

Monday arrived and the mother of the bride asked me for something and the card.  I brought the something and the invitation card that she gave me.  She said "No, no--where is the card with the photos?"  I said "It doesn't work like that."  They probably thought that they were going to Walmart to print everything.  They had money to hire two people to make tacos with crappy meat, but not a wedding photographer?  My poor relatives served mixed nuts and mints at the reception.  We went to a restaurant to eat.

At some point during our discussion (or was it a disgustion?), she understood how film photographers made a set of proofs to show the couple what was available.  I told her that I would attempt to find important photos and send them in Instagram-sized files for their viewing but with quick-and-dirty editing.  She said that the couple of things I sent were wonderful, so I guess I don't have to be a perfectionist to please them.

I'm guessing that they won't be patient enough for me to finish.  They probably won't think it's worth much after it's done.  They probably won't like any restrictions or want to pay anything more than the US$40 that the mother has already paid me.

Update 2018.09.24: Gave the mother a USB thumb drive with 395 photos at 25% size--enough for Instagram.  I told her (and had a message in .PDF format on the drive) that they could select a few photos and I would provide full-sized files for printing.  She seemed pleased, and gave me $90, so I'm only a bit shy of the money I spent to be able to make the wedding shots go smoothly.

Update 2018.12.06: The couple still hasn't chosen any photos to be printed at full size.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

iPhone Xs, Xs Max, Xr: glad for my iPhone 8

I've seen bits and pieces of the presentation today and, for me, the worst has happened.  Apple no longer has any small(ish) phones.  With a 6.1 inch display, the smallest iPhone is huge.  That might satisfy a number of people, especially if it's inexpensive.

I'm glad to have my iPhone 8, although I could have held onto my iPhone 7 much longer, had I not broken it (and Apple kept me from having it repaired).

At a little over $27 per month for the 256 GB model, it's just fine.  I have loads of apps and several movies and I'm only using about half the space.  My iPhone 7 had 128 GB, so it would be full at this point.  What I don't have is all of my music, since iTunes does not create a backup of music.

While the new devices are impressive and the new processor has just about everything you could want, they have excluded people with smaller pockets, both literally and figuratively.  A 4.7 inch model would be useful to many of us.  I'm glad to have the iPhone 8, since it is recent and it is powerful enough to keep going for a while.

Update 2018.10.15: With all of the law enforcement-related activity in the news, it makes me happier to have a phone that can't be opened with my face.

Update 2018.11.28: Apparently, the iPhone XR not selling so well.  Could the threat of law enforcement have something to do with this?  It's a bad time of year for regular people to buy a phone and the cheaper, but huge phone isn't likely to appeal to rich people.

Can it be used without Face ID?  This would be important for me, because I want my little bit of privacy to remain my own.  Touch ID works just fine for me.

Does Apple realize that the lack of a smaller phone and/or a fingerprint reader may have alienated a lot of customers?  When I was considering a new phone months ago, I considered another 4 inch phone, like the iPhone SE, hoping for a more powerful version.

Update 2019.01.27: Apparently, the iPhone XR is the best selling iPhone of the moment but it's still not selling so well.  You'd think that they'd be willing to create an iPhone 8 replacement in the same 4.7 inch enclosure.  I don't need or want a re-design, and I don't want a huge phone.  Am I returning to Android when the iPhone 8 dies?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Amazon delivers on Sunday

Due to my anticipated photographing a wedding, I've needed various supplies to make things go more smoothly.

The other day, one of my Panasonic GH4 batteries (DMW-BLF19) was unresponsive.  It seemed to be okay after a couple of minutes on the charger, and didn't seem to need a charge but needed a swift kick in the pants to become operational.  I got one extra battery when I bought the GH3 in 2012, so maybe this was the same battery.  At 1860 mAh, they have a lot of capacity and the GH4 is good about using as little as possible.  In contrast, the GM5 batteries have around 600 mAh capacity and are empty rather quickly.

In any case, I decided to order a battery on Friday.  Unfortunately, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) is a holiday that affects Adorama and B&H Photo, being that they're both in New York City with Jewish staff.  Buying a battery that would arrive after the wedding didn't seem intelligent, so I looked at, even though they have trouble with fakes.

I found what looked like the original equipment Panasonic battery and at $59.99, I ordered it.  The only shipping that made sense was Free Shipping.  The item would arrive Thursday or Friday, just prior to the wedding.  Since it didn't cost anything extra, I would only pay state tax and the price of the item.

I didn't see any updates until Saturday evening and they mentioned that it would arrive Sunday before 9pm.  They deliver on Sunday?

I started receiving notifications earlier in the morning before I was awake.  Later, I was able to find the location of the driver through the Amazon app on my phone.

It's quite surprising that they've put so much thought into making certain you know what they know.