Cameras and Photography Explained

Photographer and Writer Thom Hogan's Web site, with pointers to articles that appear on his other sites (e.g. dslrbodies.com and sansmirror.com). On the Web supporting photography for over 25 years. 

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Forecast: still cloudy, but is that a hint of the world we used to know beyond the clouds?

This Week's Articles

Sunday — May 24, 2020

There's been some confusion about Capture One for Nikon. As with the Fujifilm and Sony versions, there are actually two choices: Capture One Express for <brand>, and Capture One Pro for <brand>. The Pro version is exactly the same as the full Capture One Pro (currently numbered 20, but really version 13.1.0 [sic] if you look at Get Info for the application). The only difference between the "for <brand>" and the unlimited version is that the "for <brand>" version only opens raw files and supports cameras from the camera brand you licensed it for. The full Pro version will open any raw file and tether with any camera that Capture One supports. 

Meanwhile, the free Express for <brand> versions differ in the following ways: they omit any tethered capabilities (including camera control and Live View); they can't synchronize folders; don't support sessions; no loupe and focus tools; no hierarchical keywords; no annotations; no direct color editor and all its relatives; can't add film grain; don't have keystone correction;  can't use multiple monitors; have a fixed interface; don't allow macOS scripting; and finally a few big ones: don't support linear gradient masks, spot removal, and luminosity masking. 

So: Capture One Pro > Capture One Pro for Brand > Capture One Express for Brand. Currently that's US$300 > US$130 > US$0. However, if you go to Capture One's Web site, the free Capture One Express version is hard to find. Click here to see Capture One Express for Nikon. If you're looking for the free Fujifilm or Sony Express versions, click here.


Last Week's Articles

Friday —  May 22. 2020

Fujifilm reported their full fiscal year financials (April 2019 through March 2020). Yearly sales declined 14% and operating income 51% for the Imaging Solutions group. The Imaging group was pushed to a loss in the January through March 2020 period. Slightly worrying is that the digital camera group appears to have lost 20% of sales in the year-to-year comparison. Some will read that wrong, but it does appear that Fujifilm's continued growth in digital camera sales didn't really continue in the past year. 

Wednesday —  May 20. 2020

Tuesday —  May 19. 2020

Yesterday's Capture One for Nikon announcement has triggered the perpetual license versus subscription question all over again. The problem with tech is that it keeps moving, and things eventually break if you don't move with it. 

If you buy a perpetual license, most of them these days are one-year or one-major update licenses. When the next year rolls around or the next major version comes out, you'll have to pay an update fee. If you don't, you risk having a new camera no longer operate or an OS change break something. 

The Capture One current pricing is US$100 subscription, US$129 perpetual for the for-one-camera option. I'm not aware of what the upgrades are running, but the major upgrade ones  for the full product have run from 50-80% of the full cost. Thus, to "stay current" in perpetuity, my guess is that your costs are going to average about the same amount each year as a subscription. 

The problem with Adobe's Photography Plan subscription-only choice, which runs about US$120 year, is really only one thing: if you stop paying, some parts of both products stop working. I still believe that's the real problem with the Creative Cloud, and one that Adobe really should fix. 

You want software developers to stay active and keep updating their products. One and done buying doesn't foster that. Products that are managed that way tend to die early deaths.  

Monday —  May 18. 2020

Hey, a new article!

Hmm. An old trend continues. Both Lightroom and Capture One now seem to have squads of ambassadors. 

From early in the film era there's always been an active marketing method that uses "name" practitioners to endorse and promote photography products. Over time the camera and lens brands developed ambassador-type programs that officially codified the relationship between company and advocate. Meanwhile, in this century the whole "influencer" thing on the Internet (Instagram, YouTube, et. al.) added yet another layer, where people found a way to become unofficial ambassadors in ways that still paid them, sometimes from the companies themselves.

The problem is that we now have a huge web of voices where it isn't always obvious where the sponsored relationships lay. For instance, at the moment, none of the Web sites of the Lightroom ambassadors actually identifies themselves as a Lightroom ambassador (and two of those Web sites seem to just be landing pages with no content). 

So, in the interest of clarity (and to go beyond the official FTC guidelines), here's my full disclosure: the only "paid" relationship I currently have is that B&H pays me an advertising fee each month for exposure on my sites. This relationship is exclusive; B&H is the only advertiser you'll see. There are still a few Amazon affiliate links on old pages on my sites (all should be clearly disclosed). I am a member of Nikon Professional Services (NPS), mostly so that I can get priority access to new gear; there's no requirement of NPS members to promote Nikon products. I'm also a member of NPPA (National Press Photographers Association), something I'd recommend every photographer shooting for editorial or sports also do. 

For over twenty years I've tried to make my opinions solely my opinions, and to avoid real conflicts of interest. I always try to base my opinions on real, extended, practical use of products. If I recommend something, it's because I've used it and found it to warrant my personal recommendation. There's no "paid" endorsement on this site. That includes when I single out a product B&H might have on sale. I only do that when I have experience with that product, and find the promotion to be a good deal.

Meanwhile...Capture One 20 is now out (labeled 13.1.0 [sic]),  and with it, a Nikon-only version is now available for US$129, similar to the Sony-only and Fujifilm-only versions that they've made available. This is compared to the US$299 price for the all-cameras version. (There are also subscription versions of the products.)

In general, Capture One is a mature, well-thought out converter and editor. The latest version adds in a few of the things that Adobe users were still not comparable, including dedicated healing and cloning brushes. The latest version has an improved Lightroom catalog import function, as well. For Nikon users, Capture One is now providing profiles that can match Picture Controls (for D500, D610, D750/780, D8xx, D5500+, D3300+, D7500 plus the Z cameras), and tethered shooting support.



Previous Weeks' Articles

Friday —  May 15. 2020

Earlier this week, Nikon began producing a Z50 Creator's Kit. Nice try, Nikon, but you scored an own goal. There's nothing wrong with what they included in the kit, it's what they didn't include that is telling: an EN-EL25 battery dummy to be able to use the camera with continuous power. I think the Z50 is a great little camera for streaming, right up until just after an hour, when it shuts down because the Z50 exhausted its battery. The tricky part? You'll exhaust another 1.5 batteries before the first one is recharged. Thus, to do semi-continuous streaming with the kit, you'd need three EN-EL25's (hint: go to eBay and buy one of the third-party dual battery chargers, as you're going to need it).

Camera makers are still thinking inside the box (sometimes literally). Nikon, in particular, seems to have gone from a company in the film era that supplied virtually everything you could think of as an accessory for a camera to one that is abandoning accessories right and left, not supplying them in a quantity that meets demand, and missing critical accessory needs necessary for a true system camera.

This is bonkers. The only camera business that will continue in the future is one that is catering to all the needs of its remaining customers. I'd rate Product Management at most camera companies as a complete failure these days. A failure big enough to threaten the industry's long-term survival if the trend continues as is. 

One thing I learned from my many decades in tech is this: managing the fast growth stage of products is easy, but managing the mature and declining product stages takes exceptional ability. Who's going to step up and show us they have that ability? 

Thursday —  May 14. 2020

So how bad was it, really? Bad. 

Sony reported their fiscal year financial results yesterday. The thing we want to look at most closely is the 4th quarter, which was January thru March, when the pandemic began to be clear. From the Christmas quarter, camera sales were down 49%. From last year's same quarter, down 25%. The unit volume for still cameras dropped to 400,000 units, down from 900,000 over the holidays (and 600,000 last year). While Sony didn't call out specifics, as Nikon just did Sony also took a hefty restructuring charge in the group cameras are in, but it might not have been related to cameras (mobile phones and TVs are in the same group).

If you're curious, here basically is Sony's current prediction: the spread of the virus peaks in June, and restrictions on people and retailers will begin to be eased in the July to September quarter. Thus, Sony expects that business operations will return to something near normal come the 2020 holiday season. 

We're going to see replays of this from the other Japanese companies over the next two weeks, with only minor variations on the themes: the first quarter of this calendar year was bad, things will remain bad for an indefinite period, things will eventually return to normal. In other news, Sony PRO Support has been extended an additional six months for all current members.

Hang in there. We'll all be photographing and buying new gear again in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday —  May 13. 2020

The NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters) went online this year due to the virus. 100,000+ folk crowded around in Vegas is not something we should be doing right now, after all. There are still exhibits and sessions this year, they're just all virtual. To see what's going on, use the main NAB Show portal. As always, this site's exclusive advertiser, B&H, has put together a page that has direct access to the new gear "at" the show, as well as video-oriented deals and promotions [advertiser link].

Tuesday —  May 12. 2020

As I predicted, Nikon has chosen to take an additional write down of assets in the Imaging group for the fiscal year just ended (of 7.5b yen, or about US$70m). While COVID-19 is partially to blame, the words "future utilization" are the giveaway that Nikon was already anticipating lower sales in Imaging, and adjusting its physical assets accordingly. Nikon still expects to report a profit for the fiscal year just ended, only now a smaller one. Full results won't be available until May 28th. 

Nikon today also announced the Z50 Creator's Kit, which is basically the Z50 and kit lens with a SmallRig Vlogging mounting plate, a Joby Gorillapad 3K, and a RODE videoMicro microphone (plus a bag and some training materials). Price for the kit is US$1150 and it will be available on May 21st. This isn't a surprising launch, as you may have seen this setup in Nikon's "How to Live Stream with Nikon Cameras.

Meanwhile, according to DC.Watch, SanDisk has updated its CFe cards. You identify the old ones by a product number that ends in IN, while the new ones use NN. It appears that Nikon is now saying that the Z6/Z7 support SanDisk cards with the product number in the format SDCFE-xxxG-JN4NN. See this page for currently supported cards, which was updated on May 8th.

Monday —  May 11. 2020

Yes, you've observed correctly: updates in and around the site have slowed. That's not because of the virus (directly), it's because I'm dealing with a family emergency. That said, the D780 book and review should get finished soon as I complete editing them in my free time, and the In Isolation series will resume soon, too, I hope. 

Wednesday —  May 6. 2020

Tomorrow (Thursday) at 3pm EST my sports shooting friend and long-time Sports Illustrated photography Peter Read Miller will be doing a streaming discussion on Peter's YouTube channel about the state of the art in sports photography. Guest is Haim Ariav of Glossy Finish, a very interesting sports event photography company.  

B&H has the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art on sale (in seven different mounts) for US$599 today only [advertiser link]. This is a really good price and a 33% discount for a fast, sharp lens. I suspect this item will sell out before the day is over. 

Tuesday —  May 5. 2020

The camera retail business is hurting badly. Obviously, in most states camera stores simply aren't open for retail business, though many are still eeking out a bit of business by selling on the Internet. Now it's obvious that the bigger stores aren't exactly riding the virus storm out so easily, either.

The New York Post reports that B&H has furloughed 20% of their staff. That's despite an uptick in sales of products that enable work-at-home. Meanwhile, up in Canada, the 29-store camera store chain Henry's took a serious step towards trying to avoid bankruptcy, announcing plans to close seven of the stores permanently and filing a "notice of intent" regarding the CA$29 million in debt they have outstanding. If debtors don't approve their restructuring plan, it's likely that Henry's would then have to formally file for bankruptcy. 

These are not unexpected problems, given the worldwide pandemic that has shut down large swathes of the economy. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, camera sales are down 64% here in the US. People simply aren't acquiring cameras when they can't really use them the way they'd want to. But I also see that overall interest in "things photographic" is down pretty much everywhere right now. Even popular sites are seeing less traffic for the moment. 

The problem is simple: cameras capture memories for most people. Even pros capture memories for others to use, enjoy, and sometimes share. With everyone isolated at home with their family, the types of events that people want memories of—proms, graduation, weddings, stage events, sports, vacation, etc.—simply aren't happening. 

I'm struck by one thing that bodes ill for the camera business: American Idol. Let me explain. The American Idol TV talent show had just gotten to the stage where it had picked its final 20 contestants when the virus hit the US and shut things down. That effectively ruled out doing what American Idol usually does, which is to stage events in LA each week where the contestants perform live until the last (best?) one is standing. 

What American Idol did is eye-opening (though it's not quite live, it's close). And it involves zillions of iPhones. The competition is still going on, but now it's coming from every contestant's home, each of which is littered with iPhones and other goodies sent the contestants from the production company. The program is juggling dozens of locations—more than the 25 they claimed—with multiple iPhones and some as-yet-undisclosed audio syncing method, and that has now produced two pretty darned good looking shows. Indeed, you would be hard pressed to tell they weren't using high-end professional video gear and crew like they usually do. Since Apple is listed for their support in the credits, I'd guess that there's been a lot of help from Apple for the American Idol crew in order to pull off what they have. 

The cable news networks would do well to emulate what Idol has done. But frankly, so would all of us. Those darned iPhones have turned into excellent video cameras, and darned good still cameras. And they are connected. As I've written for over a decade, the camera companies have ignored the Internetification of things at their risk. It's an indictment of Tokyo that we couldn't have done the same thing with work-at-home as American Idol just did for broadcast; and as easily, but with zillions of lower end Canons or Nikons or Sonys instead of iPhones. 

I've been looking at finalizing a new "streaming studio" for awhile now. Yes, I can use my existing Nikons (or Canons or Sonys; fill in your camera brand here) as the cameras, but not without a lot of other products or without grief (uh, Nikon, how do I power my Z50 continuously?). And even then there are glitches I'm still trying to figure out how to eradicate. 

If I were Apple (or Google or Samsung), I'd be spending lots of time creating the "How do I best share my Fill_in_Event_Here?" tutorials during this virus downtime. If I were a wedding photographer, I'd be trying to figure out how to do what American Idol just did, and make a lot of iPhones (coupled with a dedicated camera or two) into a "wedding event" that can be shared live and enjoyed in all its parts forever. But don't expect the kind of help from the camera companies that American Idol got from Apple.

Sony Kando 4.0 has been postponed until summer 2021. An online event for 2020 is being explored.

Monday —  May 4. 2020

Most of the camera companies have postponed their fiscal year financial reports (Sony May 13, Fujifilm May 22, Nikon May 28, Olympus May 29). This has to do with the logistics of finalizing audited results for the year when so many of their offices are closed. I'm also hearing that product launches are getting pushed back, and product deliveries are still an issue for some recently announced products. 

Meanwhile, Apple today quietly launched the latest iteration of the MacBook Pro 13". The big news there: latest Intel processors with better graphics, ability to add more RAM and SSD space, and the Magic Keyboard with the scissor-type keys is back. I really like the previous version of this computer—it's the laptop I use when photographing sporting events—and everything that's changed should simply make the new version better.

Friday —  May 1. 2020

Canon's announcement this week of a beta version of software to use your EOS camera as a Webcam has everyone asking me "why doesn't Nikon do this?"

Frankly I don't want or need them to. First, if you have software already for streaming that can use your Mac's built-in camera, try CamTwist. This is a little geeky to get set right, but works well in practice with my Nikons. 

If you're beginning to stream on a Mac, consider Ecamm Live, which has direct support for most Nikon and Canon cameras (it even sees my Nikon cameras connected to my Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme). (Windows users will find similar solutions if they look closely enough.)

Realistically, we don't want camera companies now trying to write mediocre streaming software from home any more than we want them writing Lightroom equivalents or raw converters or any other add-on. Maybe, just maybe, we want camera companies to make camera cloud solutions that integrate with existing software products. 

What we really want is for the camera companies to cooperate with the existing software companies that have good solutions already. Remember, our DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are supposedly "system" cameras. An open and expansive system is better than a closed and proprietary one.

Now maybe it would help if Nikon, or a subsidiary such as NikonUSA, had one of their ambassadors document how to best use a Nikon system in a streaming situation (updateit's been done: see How to Live Stream with Nikon Cameras). But write new software from scratch? Nope. Been there, failed that. 

Thursday —  April 30. 2020

One thing I'm noticing is that people are expecting consistency in an inconsistent time. That's not the way it works. Businesses love knowing what the playing field will be like ahead of time. When they have good knowledge of that and stability, they can plan and they can use their assets wisely (though we all know examples of ones that don't ;~). 

The pandemic we're all fighting is a minefield of unknowns and instability. Thus, business management is dealing more with contingency plans than it usually does. And there are more contingencies to plan for, too.

Best case scenario: COVID-19 will indeed fade over the summer months like flu does, due to both the nature of the virus and the self-isolation that is limiting its spread to something a bit less than an uncontrolled wildfire. And best case is also that some form of vaccine, in limited numbers, will be available when the virus re-emerges in the Northern Hemisphere in the fall. But that's both a best case scenario and it doesn't return us to "normal." 

Technically, we probably need 5b vaccine deployments to get to the level of herd immunity globally that would let us act normally. The Oxford vaccine that is already being ramped up into production before it's even undergone human testing projects can only make 400m units in a year. So "normal" is going to be further downstream than even the optimists project, methinks.

Camera companies are going to struggle with this. Photography won't seem all that relevant again until we're more back to normal, given that travel is one of the key sales factors for higher-end gear, and big events are another (particularly for pros). Moreover, the virus is more virulently attacking the long-term core that buys cameras (e.g. older folk). 

Meantime, the camera companies are working a bit like nothing has changed. For instance, NikonUSA just announced their May lens rebates [see advertiser link, below] and Mother's Day deals. We're pretty sure that this is just going through the motions still, while Tokyo huddles in video conferences and tries to figure out what the future actually looks like. 

Back in November I outlined a more concentrated Nikon lineup: two "last stand" DSLRs and six mirrorless cameras (two of which technically are transitions from the DLSRs). Interestingly, I still think that's the right approach for Nikon, as the pandemic really is only speeding up the bigger market contraction I was already anticipating. But none of us know what will really happen because this is an inconsistent time with lots of unknowns and instability exploding around us. We're going to see the camera companies carefully testing the waters moving forward. And not being terribly consistent as they do so. 

Tuesday —  April 28. 2020

If you don't have a good color/white target you carry with you for critical work, the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo is on sale for 33% off (US$59.99) today only at B&H [advertiser link]. There are other solutions out there, but I like the X-Rite models that fold up in a clamshell like this, as it's easier to keep the patches clean and unscratched. If you're not carrying some form of color/white target, then I assume that you just absolutely adore the automatic features of your camera and they are turned into perfect color by your photo editor. Here's just one example of why it's necessary: shooting through the windows of small planes. Cessna's, in particular, have a green/blue tint to their windows. Getting perfectly dialed in color shooting from the air in one is tough without first getting a reference (e.g. have someone stand outside the plane with the color chart and take a photo of it from within the plane before you take off). This is just one example. I don't use my color targets everywhere, all the time, but I use them pretty regularly. With indoor sports, for example, I almost always shoot the target at least once in every new venue, so that I can understand how the lighting skews the color.

Nikon updated the D850 firmware to version 1.11 to fix "an issue that disabled firmware updates for certain lenses and accessories." Hmm. Would have been nice to know which updates were being disabled, wouldn't it? 

Reminder: Nikon is streaming its Online School for free, as well as interviews with a number of the Nikon Ambassadors.

Friday —  April 24. 2020

CIPA numbers for March: interchangeable lens camera shipments down 60% year to year. Canon Imaging's first quarter: camera sales down 27% and profit down 80%. Slackline's US retail camera sales in March, down 64%. Yep, you're not buying cameras when you can't go outside or travel. Lenses do a bit better, with CIPA's lens numbers down 45% year to year. I don't see these trends changing for the second quarter of 2020. Maybe come mid-summer things will stop looking so grim.

Darktable 3.0.2 is a free Lightroom-like application, which adds new camera support, and continues to clean up bugs and UI from the recent really big 3.0 update.  

RAW Power 3.0 (macOS only) is a program from a former Apple Aperture manager that provides both a plug-in for Apple Photos as well a standalone application. In many ways, it's an improved Aperture, but without the cataloging. A companion iOS application does the same thing. This latest version has better integration with Apple Photos on macOS Catalina, including iCloud Photos, plus adds rating, flagging, and filtering of images. 

Thursday —  April 23. 2020

A number of small Adobe updates this week: DNG Converter 12.2.1Camera RAW 12.2.1Photoshop 21.1.2, Bridge 10.0.4, and Lightroom Classic 9.2.1. Besides support for new cameras and lenses, these were all bug fixes and security improvements.

The Omnicharge 20 portable battery system that I, my teaching assistant, and lead guide use in Botswana is on sale for US$50 off (US$150) today only at B&H [advertiser link]. Note that this is the USB Type C version (there are other versions that include an AC outlet, but those aren't on sale). This is a 72Wh large battery that is still TSA compliant. This version about doubles my older 15" MacBook Pro running times, and we recharge it via our vehicles during the day while on safari.  

Tuesday —  April 21. 2020

The Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens for the Nikon Z-mount is on sale at B&H for US$350 (limited supply) [advertiser link].

Monday —  April 20. 2020

Last Monday I wrote about the threat to camera stores. A day later, we saw the first way that threat will materialize: GoPro announced that they are mostly discontinuing sales through retail distribution, and will instead sell primarily Direct to Consumer in the future. A select few retailers will still be able to sell the camera, but GoPro expects most of their future sales to be direct. This is the Apple model: primary product distribution is direct—and in Apple's case, that includes Apple Stores—but a handful of large volume retailers still sell the product. 

I think I first mentioned this business model back when Ricoh bought Pentax. I suggested that the rollback of the Pentax dealer network was severe enough and Pentax's sales volume was low enough that they should just go Direct to Consumer. In the Amazon-dominated world, the customer preference for local versus online had shifted enough to make this possible.

Thing is, the virus pandemic has every business closely examining their sales model and business assumptions, looking for ways to get more leverage with fewer assets and to adapt to what is likely to be a lower sales volume coming out of the crisis. In GoPro's case, not only do they now get to keep the dealer margin on those new direct sales, but they also found they could cut as much as 20% of their workforce they no longer need to support full retail distribution.  

I won't be surprised if we see others follow GoPro's approach. No, it probably won't be a Canon, Nikon, or Sony that does this—though Sony did put their toes in the water with Sony Stores at one point—but I'd have to think Olympus is a candidate for such a transition. Some accessory companies (e.g. Think Tank, RRS, Peak Design) mostly started as Direct to Consumer, then discovered they could leverage that by going retail. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of them pull back to a more direct approach again. 

The thing we're starting to learn from the COVID-19 crisis is this: expect change. As I hinted at last week, if you want something to survive—such as your local camera store—you're going to have to support it rather than just give it lip service. 

Those of you who are looking to up your game with audio that matches your video quality should take a look at the Zoom F4 multi-track field recorder that B&H is selling for 27% off today (US$400)[advertiser link]. This unit, coupled with the right mics and technique can net you professional level audio for your videos (that you sync in your RLE). 

Scott Kelby has a free "Lightroom: From Flat to Fabulous" hands-on Webinar (he supplies you the files to work with) tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11-12am (EST).

Thursday —  April 16. 2020

The Nikon 24-200mm f/4-6.3 lens for the Z system has had its release delayed, apparently due to production issues.

A lot of you have asked about macro lenses now that you're stuck at home, particularly for the Z cameras. The easiest way to do macro on the Z6, Z7, and Z50 is with an extension tube, such as the Meike AF1 [advertiser link, also available on Amazon and eBay]. A tube set is a low cost way of getting real macro ratios with existing Z mount lenses when you're shooting in controlled circumstances, such as your garden or tabletop. If you are shooting a different mount, pretty much all mounts have extension tube sets available [advertiser link].

Nikon issued a firmware update for the 70-200mm f/2.8E F-mount lens. This update is done via the camera (it can only currently be done on a D5, D6, D500, D780, D850, D3400, D3500, and D7500, though). Download the installer, run that to extract the .bin file, copy that file to the top level of a card that was formatted in the camera, go to the SETUP menu and select Firmware Version. Follow the in-camera instructions at that point.

Nikon issued firmware 1.11 for the Z50, which adds support for the Fn2 button found on some Z-mount lenses. 

Monday —  April 13. 2020

The retail numbers were grim for March. In Japan, mirrorless camera sales were down 50% year-to-year (BCN). In the US, camera sales were down 64% (NYT). April is also likely to be grim. Even smartphones are impacted: China's smartphone shipments are likely down 40% for first quarter 2020 (CNN). Not every camera business was down, though: Logitech Web cams are sold out everywhere and the company says it might be a month or more before they can catch up to demand (disclosure: I helped design and produce the original QuickCam, which Logitech bought and eventually renamed.)

Now, a lot of this is that the world economy was basically placed in a coma due to shelter-in-place restrictions. The hope is for an artificially-induced, V-shaped economic plummet with a sharp recovery. (The choices economists talk about are V, U, and L; I'd guess that we're going to see a sharp V that doesn't come all the way back up, which is closer to the L definition.) 

While people keep asking me if the camera companies will survive this downturn, I tell them this is the wrong question. There's a bit of the "too big to fail" aspect to companies that size; the Japanese government and banking industry will do what they can to prop the CES companies up, because it's in their best interest to do so. Some camera companies might have to get smaller or further restrict or postpone offerings, but I don't expect to see outright failures. 

The right question is this: what companies really get hurt by prolonged shelter-in-place orders? Hint: it's always the smaller parties that are impacted most (one reason why we need the biggest actors in the system, governments, to act decisively and convincingly, and to re-lubricate the system). The businesses I worry about most are the local camera dealers. They don't have much margin to work with (typically 15% on cameras/lenses), and here in the US, the camera companies basically forced dealers to make more frequent inventory turns just to stay alive, let alone make a profit. The camera makers currently have a lot of inventory stuffed into dealers, often on terms, but many of those dealers currently can't sell them, and will get in a serious cash crunch very quickly now.

Meanwhile, let me illustrate the other problem. Everyone I know that was going to order a Nikon D6 has placed that on hold (including me). The reason? No sports, no idea when sports will return, and no idea whether the clients we were shooting for will have the budget to afford us moving forward. While sports pros are an obvious casualty, pretty much all those contemplating buying new cameras now have some sort of friction they have to consider before plunging more money into their gear.

What this all starts to resemble is "clogged pipes." The camera makers will eventually be trying to restart their subsidiaries and move product from supply chain to manufacturing to distribution to customer. But the pipes beyond the camera maker's control are all clogged up. Nothing's moving. It's impossible to tell when the blockages will be freed, and you might have to repair or replace a lot of broken pipes for things to get even close to the previous normal. 

So, when things become a little more normal and you decide to part with some of your dollars, don't forget your local camera dealer. They'll need every bit of our help to survive. But I think more importantly: don't let all the bad news you're hearing destroy your joy of photography (or anything else you're interested in). Because it's from that joy that the camera industry exists in the first place. They'll need us to rekindle our joy in order to survive. 

Topaz Labs updated Gigapixel AI to version 4.5.0 and DeNoise AI to version 2.1.3. ON1 pulled a Skylum and announced ON1 HDR 2020. 

Nikon, as Canon announced last week, has introduced a work-at-home policy for its headquarters and five of its manufacturing subsidiaries in Japan, effective through May 1st.

Everyone should have a LensPen (or equivalent). For mild field cleaning, a LensPen, used properly, is about all you need to keep that front element clean. B&H has a one-day 40% deal on a three-pen set [advertiser link].

Wednesday —  April 8. 2020

With Japan now declaring a state of emergency action (but not lockdown), Canon is the first to announce a shutdown for one month (of their corporate headquarters in Tokyo, plus four other offices and two manufacturing plants in Kanagawa). The two plants are listed as "development and manufacturing of next generation devices, and semiconductor devices." The shutdown began yesterday and extends through May 6th.

Meanwhile, the Canon 1DX Mark III is now in stock and available to purchase [advertiser link].

Tuesday —  April 7. 2020

Tamron today officially introduced the 70-180mm f/2.8 lens for the Sony FE mount. Official price is US$1199, and the targeted—but not guaranteed—ship date is mid-May.

Monday —  April 6. 2020

B&H has the very good Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art on sale today only for US$999 for the Canon EF and Nikon F mounts, US$1199 for the Sony FE and Leica L mounts [advertiser link]. Definitely a lens that plays above its price point optically (the excellent Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is currently US$600 more).

Time for some more Photography in Isolation:

  • Workflow — Yes, a very big subject, which we'll tackle piece by piece

Friday —  April 3. 2020

Nikon's April discounts on gear are now in effect. Basically all the DX bodies (including the Z50 two lens kit) have significant but not deep discounts on them this month. The D610 body+lens kit is still out there at US$899. The D750 is at US$1499. The Z6 is US$1799, while the Z7 is a thousand dollars more. The f/2.8 F-mount lens trio all still retain a nice discount. These aren't aggressive prices trying to move gear, they're more like prices trying to keep some volume of product moving through the system without completely destroying margins or inducing supply issues.

A lot of you have asked me about pricing and whether bigger sales will return. We're in a period worldwide where it's difficult to conduct business as usual. I don't think we'll see big breaks on cameras and lenses until such time as the camera companies can determine that things have returned to some sort of normalcy, even if that's in a temporary recession. The big issue that's unresolved is what the Japanese companies do about product that was planned for launch this spring. Not only do they have supply problems to fight through, but there's little demand, too. I wouldn't be surprised to see late this summer be the new launch timing for a lot of expected new products. And, assuming the virus has been tamped down, I expect a highly competitive holiday period this year with a lot of discounting on established gear, as everyone tries to catch their numbers back up.

Software companies have a bit of an advantage at the moment. Because most use downloads and don't incur much in the way of additional cost for each sale due to their virtual nature (other than all those affiliate fees they're piling up), I expect to continue to see everyone try to pile on new users for their software products (I'm surprised Nikon hasn't figured this out and offering Camera Control Pro at a discount, for instance, or to make a bigger play with Nikon Image Space). Moreover, software companies have an easier time with work-at-home practices, including for on-going support. 

Which brings me to business failures. No, we're not going to see the Japanese camera companies fail. They either are part of a much larger company that will shield them, or they have good enough basic financial fundamentals that they're just going to hunker down. Moreover, the Japanese government isn't likely to let significant exporters fail. The software companies, if they're managing their finances right, should all come through just fine. What's worrying is the brick and mortar shops, the companies that make accessories, and even some of the photographers themselves. For instance, those of us who shoot sports have all had talks with our clients where the gist we hear is "we don't know what budget we'll have for that in the near future."

Thing is, where there's crisis, there's also always opportunity. You have to be nimble, creative, and willing to part with the easy known path, because it may not exist in the future. The photography industry may change some from what we've known, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Hang in there. Stay focused ;~).

Thursday —  April 2. 2020

NikonUSA has made all their video classes free for the month of April. NikonUSA also has an active YouTube channel with literally hundreds of short to moderate length videos. All of these have a marketing/sales slant to them, but there's plenty of useful information in there, too. 

Wednesday —  April 1. 2020

Tuesday — March 31. 2020

Stand by. All of your article suggestions have been good ones, and it's got me scrambling creating lots of new and updated material in response. I'm trying not to post things in haste, but work through the details the right way. Some of my reviews are also stuck due to lack of shooting opportunities (the weather isn't cooperating here at the moment, either). Don't worry, there's been a lot of unseen progress, and it'll eventually hit the sites.

Meanwhile, many of you are asking about backup. Turns out, B&H is having a one-day sale [advertiser link] on WD, Glyph, Seagate, Promise, and other hard drive and backup solutions. So a couple of thoughts here. First, I prefer Toshiba hard drives to Western Digital, Western Digital to Seagate. Backblaze publishes regular failure rate information on the 120,000+ drives they use, and their data seems to align with my perceptions. It's not that any hard drive is problematic, it's that some do indeed have lower failure rates over time than others, and I prefer lower to low, since my main storage and backup is running 24/7/365. One of my favorite basic useful drives, the slow but portable bus-powered WD 5TB MyPassport, is on sale for US$99. For many of you, two of those is all you need: use #1 for daily backup of your main drive, use #2 to make a backup once a month and store that offsite. Swap #1 and #2 every month and you have a very simple three-storage routine at a very low price. If you're looking for NAS, the Synology DiskStation DS220j 2-bay works just fine, and is US$150 (without drives). I've had good luck with the G-DRIVEs as well. An assortment of those is what stores and backs up my video work. I'll have more to say about storage and backup soon.

Monday — March 30. 2020

Tamron announced instant savings. Fast aperture G2 primes: US$100; the 150-600mm, the 70-200mm f/4, the 35mm f/1.4, and 45mm f/1.8: US$200; the Sony primes and a few other lenses: US$50. These discounts start today and run through May 3rd.

I'm seeing more "I'll do more live stuff for money" offers from the various photography instructors out there. While I understand the problems inherent in the current crisis, I'm not sure that's the right approach. Do you folk want me to point you to those "for money" instructional things, too? 

Pixelmator Pro 1.6 Magenta (macOS) adds new color choosing methods, a better way to select multiple objects, missing font replacement, and a very long list of minor feature improvements, fixes, and performance enhancements.

Thursday — March 26. 2020

B&H has the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 on sale today only for US$999 (US$500 off), both Canon EF and Nikon F mount [advertiser link]. That's a good price for a very good lens (not up to the remarkable level of the current Nikkor E, but still quite good). 

Which brings me to a small point. A majority of us in the US are now under stay-at-home orders. There's an ethical/moral issue about ordering online you have to come to grips with. On the one hand, you help keep companies in business if you have the money to be able to continue to buy things other than food and health products. On the other hand, packing and delivery personnel are getting more exposure to the virus than you when you do order a physical product. It's a subtle but important balance point you have to come to grips with. 

Of course, downloads only are a different story. I've picked up a few additional software products that were offered to me at good discount in the past week. 

Wednesday — March 25. 2020

Nikon is running 11 hours of their instruction and inspirational content on Nikon Live. Starts Wednesday (today) at 10am to 8:30pm EST, and picks up tomorrow at 10am  to 8:30pm EST.

CanonUSA has shut down servicing in California, Illinois, and New Jersey. The repair center in Newport News, Virginia is still open at this time (but not for walk-in repairs). Use Canon's online system if you need a repair.

Tuesday — March 24. 2020

Add another to the free instruction available:

  • f.64 Elite. Now available for 15 days for free. Offer expires end of Thursday. Note that this is a 15-day free trial, with automatic conversion to payment at the end of the trial if you don't cancel before the 15 days end. Blake is also doing a free live event on Photoshop on Thursday March 26, 2pm CST.

B&H has the MacBook Pro 16" (late 2019) models on sale this week, typically US$200 to US$300 off. I've pointed to the model I think is the best entry point. Don't opt for less RAM or SSD than this. If you opt for more, that's fine, but 2.3Ghz i9, 32GB, 1TB, AMD 5500M 8GB is what I'd consider the minimum you should consider.

Monday — March 23. 2020

Sunday — March 22, 2020

A number of photography teachers are going on-line with free seminars/webinars, which should help pass some of your COVID-19 avoidance isolation hours away:

Saturday — March 21, 2020

"Nikon prioritizes the health and safety of our employees and customers. Due to the impact of COVID-19 and in accordance with mandates issued by the federal government and various state governments, we have temporarily suspended equipment repairs at our service facilities and are not currently accepting equipment. Please contact Nikon customer support at nikonusa.com/support for more information. We apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your understanding." This is the official word from NikonUSA as of end of day Friday. 

Most registered users also received an email from Nikon Inc. President Bo Kajiwara that read: "We are all experiencing unprecedented circumstances around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the virus. Nikon’s top priority is the health and safety of our customers, employees and the communities we serve. I am proud of the dedication of our Nikon team who are working remotely, and remain focused on providing the highest level of support possible at this difficult time. We are closely monitoring the situation and following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and federal/state/local health authorities. Nikon Inc. has taken steps to ensure the safety of its employees by instituting office closings and remote work strategies in line with state and federal government mandates. These include the temporary closure of our repair service centers to prioritize the safety of our workforce and help limit the spread of the virus."

Friday — March 20, 2020

ProGrade today announced two new CFexpress readers: one the US$80 SD+CFe dual slot USB 3.2 Gen 2, the other the US$130 CFe+XQD Thunderbolt 3 reader. Note that the former doesn't read XQD, and the latter requires a driver from Sony to read XQD.

Affinity Photo now is offering a 90-day trial, while offering the Mac/PC version for only US$25 and the iPad version for only US$10. This is a darned good Photoshop alternative, and at a now incredible price.

Thursday — March 19, 2020

Well, the software companies apparently aren't yet disrupted. Skylum is pushing Luminar 4.2 even though their landing page hasn't caught up (still on 4.1), DxO has PhotoLab 3.2, ON1 has released Photo RAW 2020.1. So if looking at alternative software is on your self-isolation to-do list, you have some new, improved choices to check out (that's low priority on the things I'll be presenting shortly).

Deal of the day: If you're doing video and you aren't using a backup audio solution beyond what your camera is recording, may I suggest the Zoom H4n? [advertiser link, daily special] This little device is excellent, and usually easy to hide in a podium or other small place. It'll provide you a high quality audio track you can match up against your video should you find the camera's audio recording has issues.

Monday — March 16, 2020

All stop. Reset. Restart. 

Last week was quiet because for the last two weeks I have been in the midst of dealing with a ton of rescheduling and event cancellations due to the COVID-19 virus spread. This week will be quiet, too, as I also am going to pivot the Web sites briefly. 

What's that mean? Well, starting as soon as possible, I'm going to begin a series of articles on "What to do photographically while in self-isolation." As I put it to a friend, all of us have a long series of things that we've been punting down the road in our workflow, image libraries, training, gear maintenance, and more. Now's a perfect time to pay attention to those things and get them all back under control. I'll do my best to help you identify those things and figure out what to do about them. Trust me, there's more you probably should have been doing but weren't than you think.

Plus, there's the issue of what to do photographically. You need to keep your skill set up, too. My event, sports, and more exotic wildlife shooting is completely shut down for the time being, but that's just going to have me find some different projects I can do, so we'll tackle that topic, as well. 

So relax, don't stress out, help others around you that need help, and we'll all get through the disruption soon enough. 

Tuesday — March 10, 2020

Correction: Nikon today announced version 1.01 for the N-Log 3D LUT. This update adds support for D780 video shot in N-Log. If you're unsure of how to use a LUT, see the Professional Technical Guide Nikon produced for the Z6/Z7. It applies to the D780 as well; now, you just use the D780 LUT instead.

The Photography Show (and Video Show) scheduled for later this month in the United Kingdom has been postponed until later in the year—probably September—due to concerns about the Covid-19 virus. 

GraphicConverter updated to version 11.1.3, adding some new features and bug fixes.

Just a reminder that the F-mount zoom trio is discounted at the moment: 14-24mm f/2.8G is US$160024-70mm f/2.8E is US$1900, and the 70-200mm f/2.8E is US$2150 [advertiser links]. Those are good prices for a very good, excellent, and superb lens (in that order). All three lenses also get a 4% reward if you buy from this site's exclusive advertiser.

Monday — March 9, 2020

Nikon announced that the D6 will be delayed until May. Parts sourcing due to the Covid-19 virus were mentioned as the reason. We're going to see a lot more of this from other companies (and for other Nikon products).

Friday — March 6, 2020

We're getting a few "well, we were going to announce this at CP+..." press releases. 

Tokina disclosed that 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm equivalent f/1.4 lenses for Fujifilm FX mount (Autumn) and Sony E mount (Summer) are coming. Also, the 35mm and 50mmm f/1.8 lenses to match the already released 85mm f/1.8 for the Sony FE mount will arrive in Autumn. For DSLR users, the 11-20mm f/2.8 will become available in the reworked ATX-I CF form in the summer.

Meanwhile, Leica finally announced the 64mp medium format S3 DSLR (only US$18,999 should you be interested [advertiser link]). It even has a dual CompactFlash and Secure Digital slot setup for those of you with card nostalgia to go along with your disposable income. Not sure I want easily bent card pins in my US$19k camera, but that's the way Leica rolls. 

Thursday — March 5, 2020

Note that I've been slowly posting new material to my D780 blog as I work with that new camera in professional situations. While a lot of folk discount the D780, it really is quite good.

Monday — March 2, 2020

The number one question in the In Box last week was, by a large margin, "how will the Covid-19 virus impact [fill-in-the-blank]? If the WHO and CDC can't answer that question, I'm not going to give you a better response. This past weekend a case of Covid-19 was reported in Sendai, for example, where Nikon's main Japanese plant is located (where Nikon makes the D6, Z6, and Z7). But what that means is anyone's guess at this point. It might impact Nikon dramatically, it might just slow down deliveries a bit as they adjust plant practices, or it might not really impact Nikon beyond things they were already doing. 

Basically, everyone needs to look at new information daily to see if there are any changes that might impact their plans or any products they're counting on receiving. We're almost certainly going to see delays with some products, plus we are going to also see disruptions to some travel and particularly to large gatherings, such as conventions or sporting events. How long those product delays will be, and how big those disruptions turn out are complete unknowns at this point. The best you can do is to continue with your plans, but develop contingencies. Expect that you might have to deploy some of your contingencies.

If you're not reading the CDC's page on Covid-19 daily (note the Latest Updates link), you should be. Don't let yourself be driven by fear on the unknown. Get the best information you can and stay up to date. You do that for weather, after all. Health shouldn't be any different.


Links to all the previous articles for my sites can be found in the Articles Index.

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