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Eamon Hickey
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Cameras, schmameras. Ned, if you read this, say hi to Tony Rose for me! Eons ago, when he made a short sojourn to wine country (Sonoma), he and I worked in the same camera store for awhile. I still use a phrase he taught me, a synonym for manufacturer's suggested retail price: "Full pop boogie", as in "I wanted that thing so bad I paid full pop boogie."
I was just thinking a lot about this. I'm in the early stages of a review of the Fuji X-Pro2 and I've already shot 2600 pictures with it. I've marked about 22 of them as maybe -- not definitely, just maybe -- decent enough to publish with the review. Only one of them is really good. (This dubious percentage is not the camera's fault!) I went out walking with it the other day and in 2.5 hours, I shot 400 pictures. That's more than two pictures a minute. Now doing a review is a bit of a production effort -- I'm slower and choosier when I shoot purely for myself. But not all that much choosier. I've been generally a fan of the way that digital lets you shoot freely with essentially no cost. I hardly pay any attention to exposure anymore, for example. I just shoot a 3-shot bracketed sequence of nearly everything. Almost any modern camera can rip that sequence off in less than half a second. But when I got home with my 400 pictures the other day, and only one of them was really good, it gave me pause. Of course, I'll never show the 399 bad ones -- shoot more and show less, as your pro acquaintance said. But still, I'm wondering what would have happened if I'd slowed the pace down to, say, a glacial one picture per minute. Maybe I would have got home with two good ones.
In the past year or so, I've turned sharply (ahem) away from sharpness as a value in my pictures. I don't mean that I've learned that sharpness doesn't have much influence on whether a picture is good (I learned that long ago), but rather I'm explicitly preferring a not-that-sharp look. So I'm very relaxed about lenses now; I'm not sharpening very much if at all in Lightroom/Photoshop; and I'm often finding myself adding grain effects to muddy things up a bit. As a digital-era, internet-fueled meme, "pop" is the sidekick to sharpness. It seems to mean highly saturated colors and gonzo contrast. Those things, too, are not pleasing my eye lately. The saturation slider also moves to the left, I discovered. Of course, I have no beef with photographers who want their pictures sharp as a tack with pop galore. But I'm having fun making mine soft and pale.
Toggle Commented Feb 12, 2016 on Does Sharpness Matter? at The Online Photographer
[Begging forgiveness for the solipsistic comment:] In the years when I wrote feature stories for Rob Galbraith's web site, one of my favorite pieces to report and write was a story I did on the NC2000 and some of the photojournalists who began using it in 1994. I've done a few pieces on news photographers, and I always enjoy their salty take on the world and their work. As a bonus, this story also pleased my inner historian. I've probably mentioned it in earlier comments, but for anyone interested, it's still available here:
@"Did you know that a company is properly referred to as "it" in standard copyediting?" While this is certainly true in American English, I have a notion it's not necessarily true in that strange variant of English that the English speak. I can't swear to it, but I believe the plural "they" might be the proper pronoun for a company when speaking/writing British English. Someone will know the answer ... [And yet the British often use the singular when talking about companies or teams, whereas we use plural. --Mike]
Sven, thank you for the link to Austin Granger's work -- he has many beautiful pictures of that magical place. Pt. Reyes/Tomales Bay is one of the touchstones of my photographic life, such as it is. I spent many, many days photographing there in the early 1990s. I could justify it as work -- I was a recently hired Nikon technical rep then, fairly bristling with every Nikon gadget imaginable and responsible for creating educational slide shows -- but I was really going there for the lonesome, quiet beauty, which Granger's work really captures. (Like Mike's lovely picture of the leaning tree and hut, as well.) I was in a wildlife phase then. A couple of examples, taken in 1991 at Heart's Desire Beach on Tomales Bay. (Almost certainly with that stone age tool known as Fuji Velvia.) It was possible then, on a weekday, to spend a whole day by yourself in the fields and on the beaches of Pt. Reyes. I hope it still is.
Ah, home. I was born in San Francisco and lived the first 37 years of my life in the Bay Area -- a book I'm slowly writing is partly about being raised in the 1960s and 70s by a hippie mom in the hazy golden dream of that enchanted land. For reasons no sane person can explain, I moved to New York a dozen years ago, but a few winters back I "made a film", using a rudimentary smartphone, about arriving in San Francisco on a plane from the east, for anyone with 1 minute to waste:
Toggle Commented Jun 11, 2015 on Travel Break at The Online Photographer
re: the problem of AF systems wasting your time by focusing on the wrong thing Echoing others on this thread, I'll get back on the "back-button autofocus" hobby horse for the umpteenth time. It's a simple idea (invented by Canon more than 20 years ago) that makes autofocus work for you, instead of agin' you. When implemented well -- only Canon and Nikon, on selected cameras, do it exactly right -- it's a ludicrously happy marriage of the strengths of autofocus and manual focus. It will make you sing with the joy of living, maybe. Even when implemented with dumb limitations -- everyone else's cameras, including my Sony NEX-7 -- it's still a big boon, IMHO. It takes a little practice to get used to it, but I wouldn't think of using autofocus any other way.
@ Geoff Wittig I don't want to get into a debate about the CC model in Mike's wonderful house, but just a couple of small thoughts. How much it costs any specific person to have a CC subscription vs. the previous perpetual licenses depends a lot on the angle from which you're viewing it. For example, if you do not own a perpetual app that you can upgrade, and must invest the full perpetual license price up front ($700 for many of the CS6 apps), the math changes dramatically from your example, which was for a person who already qualifies for upgrade pricing (and already paid $700 at some point in the past). On the much more important question of monopolies: It doesn't seem to me that photographers have much to worry about re: monopoly behavior at the moment. There's plenty of active competition in software for photographers, especially amateurs. I know Photoshop well and like it a lot, so I continue to rely on it, but I'm not required to. I don't have to deliver and collaborate on files in PSD format (and I even make a portion of my living shooting and publishing pictures). Professional graphic designers are in a different boat with Photoshop and especially with InDesign, both of which are pretty much required for them to make any money at their craft.
Toggle Commented Apr 2, 2015 on What Photoshop CC Costs at The Online Photographer
I may be misunderstanding you, Mike, but ... Your CS6 license allows you to activate Photoshop on two computers, so you can use it on both your home desktop and your travel laptop. But perhaps you're saying that you did not deactivate it from a previous computer? If you still have the previous computer, just turn it on and deactivate CS6 on that computer, then activate it on your newer laptop. If you don't have the old computer anymore, call Adobe customer service -- they should be able to sort you out. Also, you can subscribe to Photoshop CC and Lightroom together for $10/month -- it's called the Creative Cloud Photography Plan.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2015 on Photoshop Breaks at The Online Photographer
Late to this thread, but: I'd say that these days if you don't have a way of watching TV (Internet streaming is fine), you're not so much missing out on culture as you are on storytelling art. A lot of the best storytelling around is on TV now (vastly more than in studio movies), and many of the novelists I know, including some bestselling ones, are feverishly trying to figure out how to get into TV. The 4th season of The Wire is one of the top 5 most moving works of art I've ever experienced.
I'm in wholehearted agreement with your take on Mr. Jones's goofy anti-photography screed(s). But for different reasons, I share his dyspepsia at the news of this sale and the taste of the buyer. I saw my first slot canyon picture 25 years ago, and I've seen about 10 billion since then (as with cockroaches, you can't ever really get rid of them) and every one looks the same. It gets my vote as the most stultifying cliche in photography. I'd rather see your cell phone snapshots of yesterday's sunset and Mister Muffins the Cat any day.
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2014 on He's Baaa-aaack at The Online Photographer
I developed a similar affection for the Olympus 17/1.8 when I used it for a month. I could see its very modest technical shortcomings in some pictures, but I really liked its look in ways I couldn't define exactly. I also really like the snap-focus clutch mechanism that Olympus builds into a few of their m4/3 primes. It's a nice example of creative modern engineering applied to old, but very real, photographers' needs. (I just spent 2 hours trying to figure out Wi-Fi and Apps on a hot new mirrorless camera, and it was soooo not an example of such engineering.)
Toggle Commented Jun 11, 2014 on A Little Lens Tale at The Online Photographer
"Fantastic Charm: Cheating Damage" Ah, if only.
Toggle Commented May 9, 2014 on My Next Show at The Online Photographer
@ Derek Fuji hit it out of the ballpark with the "A" on the aperture and shutter setting dials. When I first saw pictures of the X100 I thought to myself, why hasn't this been done before? Why has no one thought of this before? Kudos to Fuji for using a good idea, but they weren't the first to do it. The Leica Digilux 2 that I reviewed for CNET in 2005 used this system, and I'm sure it wasn't the first time I'd seen it, although I can no longer remember where I'd encountered it before. And remarkably, Mike, in that review I made a guess about the august thinker who first dreamed of it. Gauchely quoting myself: 'A simple spin of the aperture ring to its "A" position puts you in shutter-priority autoexposure mode; move the shutter speed dial to "A" and you're in aperture-priority; set both for "A" and you're in program mode. This method was first conceived by Aristotle, we'd guess, and it's still the best.' I'm chagrined to have given Aristotle credit for your idea. That's just sloppy reporting. In my defense, it's hard to keep all the great thinkers straight. Aristotle, Kant, Johnston. Which idea is whose?
@ Roger Overall re: plastic/rubber caps ... how many hours of fun did we have trying to figure out where and how we had lost them? Roger, you are indeed bringing back memories. "Terminal covers" was the official Nikon term for those thingamajigs. In my disreputable days as a Nikon Rep, I made a habit of buying them in bulk from Nikon Parts. Yes, I had to buy them retail -- for $1.95 ea. (But I put them on my expense account, usually disguised as an expensive lunch with a dealer, so Nikon ended up paying anyway.) I carried a supply of all different types when I traveled my territory visiting Nikon dealers. When photographers like you would catch me in their favorite camera store and tell me, "man, I keep losing those little things", I'd reach into my briefcase for whatever thingamajig they needed, give a slight bow, and say, "a small gift from Nikon". Made a lot of friends that way. The small moments of a salesman's life.
Toggle Commented Apr 9, 2014 on Fuji X-T1: Size at The Online Photographer
@ psu "Image quality", to me, is not necessarily a property of the camera. I think we have similar definitions of that phrase. It was a big step forward for my photography, not to mention my enjoyment of photography, when I realized that, for me, about 98% of the quality of an image comes from what you point the lens at. (I realize I'm playing a bit of a semantic game here -- I know people mean something specifically technical when they say "image quality".) Anyway, with my preferred definition in mind, for me the overwhelmingly most important quality in a camera is usability, so give me the 8 out of 10-er. I reviewed a Merrill camera once upon a time, and had pretty much the same experience as most people: loved some of the low ISO images I got, and didn't think the camera's controls were terrible, but lamented the passing of my youth as I waited for it to focus or write images. And then the battery died. I happen to be reviewing a Nikon D4S right now. It's different.
@ William: While the sample is certainly difficult to define, I would think Nikon's and Canon's Sr. Management would become physically ill when they realize what Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm have done to their market share. Well, not to be a noodge (oh well, too late to worry about that now), but of course Nikon and Canon's senior management know exactly what anyone has done to their market share and exactly what they've done to the market share of others. They spend a fortune on professional market research. They could tell us market share details over time, by segment, by region, by gender, by demographic, by retail channel, and by dozens of other criteria. They have 1000X more real information than you or me. What these fun results show is information about TOP's esteemed readers, not about the overall camera business. [Very true. Our poll is not only a tiny data point, it's a crude one. Which is why I keep labeling it an "informal" poll. --Mike]
Addendum: to be perfectly precise, I guess I should say shipments are down about 20%, which isn't exactly the same thing as the market, per se, but over the time period in question (CIPA has figures for 8 months of this year) is a very good proxy for it.
Just a quick note for those expressing dissatisfaction (perhaps completely justified) with Canon's product decisions: This is not specific to Canon -- the market for interchangeable-lens cameras of all types is down about 20% so far this year compared to last year. In unit terms, DSLR cameras are down about 18% and mirrorless CSCs are down about 19%. Nikon already lowered its ILC forecast for this year. Every other ILC maker is likely doing the same. There really is a downturn, and I don't think we can blame Canon's stupidity for it.
@ Dave in NM That's the old Nikon; the Nikon that inspired confidence; the Nikon that gained a satisfied customer for 37 years. For the record, I think Nikon does a consistently terrible job of handling public relations and customer service problems. But some food for thought: That old Nikon you remember fondly could afford such great customer service because it enjoyed really fat gross profit margins. Without going too deep into it, the combination of the decade-long Japanese recession and, more importantly, the huge rise in the value of the yen since 1975, has narrowed those margins considerably (for nearly all Japanese exporters). So, yes, the Nikon of 1975 often treated customers like kings -- but you were paying them a much bigger profit when you bought their products initially. Tradeoffs, as they say ... p.s. When I was a Nikon rep, my sales sample 35mm f/2.0 had the oil-on-diaphragm problem. A tad embarrassing. I got it fixed long after I quit Nikon (and long after it was out of official warranty -- it was covered by a so-called "silent warranty", a semi-shady practice but one that many companies employ. I'm guessing the D600 is, too. Speaking way out of school here. Shutting up now. Internet? What's that. Mike, is it too late to use a fake name?
At the risk of beating a thrice-dead horse (sorry, Mike -- if you'd rather not, please feel free to trash this post): Bruno, I have to say, your take on Olympus management's actions is one of the more heroically positive spins I've ever seen. I guess my take is more mundane: does it not seem consonant with human nature that they initiated (and their successors continued) a gigantic fraud (which, by the way, they made no attempt to unwind for more than a decade), not out of fiduciary concern for their shareholders, but in order to avoid being irreparably disgraced and then dismissed from the prestigious, well-paid jobs that they continued enjoying for many years after they lost all that money? And I also wonder what corporate fraud and misdeeds wouldn't qualify for your explanation? Who couldn't cop that plea?: "I did it because I was worried about the welfare of shareholders."
@ Andre Hmmm, the Petroski book sounds interesting but gets seriously mixed reviews on Amazon. Interesting. Reading your comment made me realize I didn't even think to look at the reviews before buying it. I didn't look because Mike had praised the author, and the recommendation of somebody who I know (a little) and whose judgment I respect is worth more to me than 10,000 anonymous Internet reviews. I just clicked straight through and paid without thinking twice. Not a criticism of anyone who is guided, to whatever extent, by those reviews; just an observation about my own weighting criteria.
Toggle Commented Jul 13, 2012 on Cheap Nikon Good at The Online Photographer
@ Earl I read somewhere, recounted by a photographer encountering an Olympus camera rep, that the camera division was in good financial shape and insulated from the troubles. Sorry to be a downer, Earl, and I don't want to pile on (I like Olympus a lot and hope it thrives), but if an Olympus rep said this, he/she was completely mistaken. Olympus's camera division is losing money (a lot last year and even more the year before) and has been "troubled", as they say, for the past decade. Among Wall Street types, it's been the accepted wisdom for years that Olympus should close the division down. Olympus has been subsidizing the camera division's poor performance with the enormous profits it makes in its medical equipment division (endoscopes, primarily), which accounts for more than 70% of the company's gross revenues. And the division is not "insulated" in any way from Olympus's troubles -- there has been at least some outside pressure on Olympus (from shareholders and the banks that hold its debt) to close the camera division for years, and the recent accounting scandal, which has put Olympus in a difficult financial position, is only intensifying that pressure. Against that depressing reality, Olympus clearly wants to continue making cameras. I really hope they do, but they will have to start making money at it. And pretty soon.
For those interested in how Kodak's original technology has been extended, there's a "behind the scenes" article on Nikon's Japanese web site that discusses the development of the 14-24mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses, both of which use very large diameter, radically aspherical PGM lens elements. The article has more than its share of the cringe-worthy "with joyful hearts, my colleagues and I strove for the glory of the company" sorts of commentary (forgive them; they know not what they do), but it has some interesting tidbits on the interplay between the design and manufacturing engineers over what could and could not be manufactured. And it's got some interesting pictures of the elements themselves, which are quite visibly large and weirdly shaped. It's here: