Cameras and Photography Explained

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bythom int ca RX100 31127

I was going to post a "holiday photo," but in this year of the pandemic that didn't quite seem like the right emotion to provoke, so I picked something more abstract.

This Week's Articles

  • Olympus Black Friday (starts Nov 27). Lots of dramatic price reductions.
  • NikonUSA (thru end of year). The Nikon School on-line training classes are free of charge.
  • Affinity Photo (thru Dec 6). 30% off on an excellent Photoshop workalike.
  • Glyphtech SSD drives (thru Dec 4). Excellent portable drives for Macs up to US$150 off.

You waited. The list got smaller ;~)

Wednesday — December 3, 2020

Nikon has finally introduced the long-awaited firmware updates for the D500, D850, and D5 cameras that support CFexpress cards (and fix a few bugs). Just a reminder: don't expect speed increases, as the card slot mechanisms in these cameras has a fixed upper limit that dates to early XQD. Some D500 owners need to perform the update twice (pay attention to the instructions on Nikon's download page).

Finally, note that Nikon so far has only said the following cards are compatible: Sony G Series, Lexar CFe Pro, ProGrade Gold, and SanDisk Extreme Pro with ANCNN suffix in part number (in US; different in other regions). The "approved memory card" pages on most subsidiaries has not been updated for these models yet.

Tamron announced the 17-70mm f/2.8 lens for the Sony E mount (APS-C). (data page coming)

Tuesday — December 1, 2020

Sigma announced 24mm f/3.5, 35mm f/2, and 65mm f/2 Contemporary lenses for the Sony FE and Leica L mount. The sansmirror data pages have been updated to include these lenses.

Cyber Monday — November 30, 2020

Many of the above discounts end at midnight today; the list will be shorter tomorrow. Whether we see additional discounts in December is unclear, but I'll report significant ones as I see them.

B&H has one of the better small/short travel tripods available at only US$90 today (MeFoto BackPacker carbon fiber [advertiser link]). If you can keep from extending the centerpost and the bottom two leg sections, it's remarkably stable. Fully extended, be careful.

Meanwhile, some of you are still trying to make up your minds. Here's my advice:

  Wow, six questions in six phrases. I guess I'm in a questioning mood today ;~).

Previously on byThom...

Friday — November 27, 2020

Photokina won't happen in 2022, either. The previously cancelled Photokina 2020 was moved to 2022, and now that, too, has been cancelled (they used the words "suspended until further notice" in their press release). Given the long lead time necessary to get exhibitor as well as site commitments and the fact there is no date in the future, this probably means that Photokina as we know it is no more. 

Germany has almost 5000 trade shows like Photokina a year at their giant trade fair complexes, and as the New York Times has reported, that entire US$137 billion economic engine is in complete disarray right now due to the pandemic. 

I think "buying shows" may make a return in smaller, regional form, but the more industry-centric shows are likely to have met their match. As companies look at the costs they saved by not doing trade shows—in most cases in the millions of dollars—versus whether those shows actually generated sales for them, they'll get around to figuring out what Apple and Silicon Valley did decades ago: the trade show isn't an efficient use of their resources. 

What is a more efficient use of resources is the "customer event." For example, Apple's Developer Conference, or Sony's Kando. Hard to guess that a stodgy old-school company like Nikon will figure that out. Canon might, if it listens to subsidiaries more.

Thursday — November 26, 2020

I've been getting an uptick in "Nikon is doomed, what should I do?" emails this past week, partly because of sensationalized headlines of news scraping Web sites that finally got around to covering some earlier Japanese press articles that articulated some of the stresses on Nikon and what the company is doing about it. These panicked emailers apparently didn't read the article I pointed to on Seeking Alpha

So let me say this: yes, Nikon is under deep stress because both divisions that produce almost all of their sales are undergoing simultaneous cyclical and market issues. Being under stress doesn't mean going out of business or exiting a business. Moreover, I've never seen a company so tight about micromanaging financials as Nikon. They built up cash and and preloaded some debt—they're not highly in debt—because they saw their problems coming long before any Nikkei article appeared or news scraper Web site decided to publish doom and gloom headlines. Unless there's some clear catastrophe that no one has foreseen—and I truly mean catastrophe—Nikon will come out of their current problems smaller and more focused, and yes, profitable. The company itself predicts this will happen in their next fiscal year.

What people forget is that Nikon Imaging has "failed" in the true consumer camera marketplace not this once, not twice, not thrice, but at least four times that I can count in my lifetime. At the end of the film SLR era, their market share had dropped badly and was approaching 20%. By refocusing, and mostly on high enthusiast and pro offerings (D1, D1h, D1x, D100), Nikon increased their market share by 50% over the course of a few years. I wouldn't bet against them doing it again.

What I do worry about, and have pointed out for dozens of years now, is that Nikon has never embraced the customer in the high enthusiast/pro camera market. By embrace, I mean engage in meaningful communication with them, and treat them well. Like customers you want to keep selling to over time. This is a friction against their continued success, and it needs to stop. Nikon is still operating on 1950's IBM-style management advice, and it shows.

Tuesday — November 24, 2020

It's Z Day:

And this: I'm getting more and more emails with outlook_############@outlook.com as the the "sender." Any reply to those emails immediately fails because you've set your email address to private. Thus, I'm no longer replying to any email that comes that comes from such Outlook addresses. If you're using Outlook and you think you're not getting responses from me, please check this Microsoft help site.

Monday — November 23, 2020

It's Thanksgiving week here in the US, which normally means lots of Black Friday deals followed by Cyber Monday deals. As you might have noticed, the pandemic is impacting the traditional holiday shopping in more ways than requiring Santa to wear a mask. What I'm seeing (and hearing about behind the scenes) is a more protracted set of specials that are managed over a longer time period this year than two days. As you can see at the top of This Weeks' Articles, I'm accumulating deals as they're announced. This will push daily news/articles down, but I wanted the deals to be clear.

I again encourage you to use B&H's page where you can find holiday pricing specials by brand [advertiser link]. This is a somewhat hidden page on their site that's very useful in finding out what "today's specials" really are, as these discounts come and go very rapidly at times.

Meanwhile, over on the Mac side of things, a bunch of things are happening you should be aware of. As usual, Nikon is behind the times with their macOS support. Capture NX-D crashes doing a number of things on macOS Big Sur. Don't upgrade to the new OS or an M1 Mac if you rely upon Nikon software. 

The introduction of the M1-based Macs has provoked a sale on 2020 Intel versions of the Air and MacBook Pro 13". These are still very good machines, and now feature discounts from US$100 to US$250. If you want a discount on the M1 models, consider this: KelbyOne PRO membership has a special relationship with Apple that provides discounts to members. The 13" MacBook Pro (16GB, 1TB) model is currently discounted US$114, for example. A full year of KelbyOne PRO is US$199 and includes discounts with B&H (shipping), Apple, Mpix, Photo Mechanic, Tether Tools, Booq Bags, Westcott, SlickPic, and many more. That's on top of 800+ video courses and other materials that form the basis of KelbyOne's training products. So here's a sneaky bit: ask your spouse to gift you a KelbyOne membership, then use that to pick up a discounted Mac on your own ;~).

First warning: I'm going to take the last two weeks of the year off. Well, not really off, as I'll be working behind the scenes on some things that need some intensive work. There won't be any posts from December 21st, 2020 through January 3rd, 2021.  Tuesday — November 17, 2020

B&H has a page where you can find holiday pricing specials by brand [advertiser link]. This is a somewhat hidden page on their site that's very useful in finding out what "today's specials" really are, as these discounts come and go very rapidly at times.

Monday — November 16, 2020

Tamron has two-week specials (expire November 30) going for four lenses for the Sony FE cameras: US$50 off raw 17-28mm f/2.8, US$80 off the 28-75mm f/2.8, US$100 off the 70-

180mm f/2.8, and US$80 off the 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6. For those with other cameras, there are nine additional rebates from US$50-200 on other Tamron lenses, including the the primes, the 70-200mm f/4, and the 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3.

Also a reminder: if you're a student or teacher at an educational institution, B&H EDU Advantage [advertiser link] offers additional savings for you on some products, particularly Sony ones. For instance, the great-for-Zoom-conference ZV-1 is just US$586 via the EDU Advantage program. The nearly equal Panasonic G-100 with kit lens is US$620 under the same program.  

Friday — November 13, 2020

Nikon dropped a version 1.11 firmware update for the Nikon D6 that fixes two egregious bugs that shouldn't have escaped QA. 

Affinity Photo (and the other Affinity apps) is one of the first photo apps to be updated both for macOS Big Sur as well as optimized for the new M1 chips. I'm sure they're just first in a parade. But it will be interesting to run Affinity Photo side by side on an older MacBook Air and a new one. There should be a clear difference.

Thursday — November 12, 2020

Because the steep discount on the Nikon D850 at the moment ends at the end of November and the camera is currently out of stock, I asked this site's exclusive advertiser, B&H, what they would do for backorders if the price increases in December before they get a resupply. Their answer was that they'd honor the price at the time of order. 

As I posted yesterday, I expect a lot of items to not be in stock for the full holiday shopping season, and this is going to cause a lot of buyer consternation, especially if you don't know how your retailer is going to deal with that. My recommendation still stands: if something you want is in stock at your dealer, strongly consider buying it while it is. I have no idea why, but we've seen Nikon discounting things that are mostly back-ordered lately, and that problem could get worse. Meanwhile, the pandemic is still putting stress on product pipelines, so "quick adjustments" of supply are probably not going to happen from any camera maker. This is another way of saying recent and popular stuff might sell out by Christmas and not get restocked in time for you to open a present under the tree (or whatever it is you do for the holiday ;~). 

Here's the bottom line: have a plan for how you're going to manage your holiday shopping, and make that plan today. Waiting to see what Black Friday or other deals pop up (and sell out) might be a game of frustration if you're not sure what you want to do. It's okay if the plan is "If product X drops below Y I'll buy it." But then don't hesitate when that product does drop below your price point. 

Wednesday — November 11, 2020

And what is dpreview smoking? "Best cameras under $2000" turns out to be the US$2500 Canon R6? It's not under US$2000, and it misses the top of their category by 25%. Gee, they get to make up their own categories and they can't even manage to follow that ;~). That tells me that their categorization isn't useful.

Yesterday's big news was Apple's announcement of the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13" (2-port), and Mac Mini. It's going to be awhile before I can properly assess how these fit into the photography use realm, particularly since it's going to take some time for software to settle down to take full advantage of the Apple Silicon. Apple made a lot of claims, which I tend to believe, but the proof will be in the nuances. 

Until I can get to a more thorough assessment, here's the quick-and-dirty version: what Apple just did is take their entry machines and made them much better—possibly exceedingly better—with little or no price change. If an entry Mac was what you were considering, it's far easier to decide to pop for it this week than it was last week. 

But note the limitations: max of 16GB RAM and 2TB SSD, only two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. Those are sort of the minimum levels I tend to recommend for Lightroom/Photoshop type use. Moreover, because there's very little different between the new MacBook Air and the new MacBook Pro 13", it may be wise to just pick the less expensive Air model (unfortunately, we can't be 100% sure there aren't clock differences that might be meaningful, as Apple is still hiding some details of the M1 chipUpdate: they appear to both be clocked at 3.2Ghz; the difference is that the fan in the 13" model will let the CPU sustain maxed out conditions at full clock speed for longer.) The maxed out Air is US$2049. A reasonable choice if you're going to keep images on an external drive is US$1399. The 13" versions are US$200-300 more.

This site's exclusive advertiser, B&H, already has the new models available to preorder [advertiser link]

Tuesday — November 10, 2020

A couple of things (more photography articles tomorrow).

First, the pandemic. While the news of a potentially effective vaccine is highly welcome, most people still don't understand the numbers game that must be played out to end the pandemic. COVID-19 is now endemic in the US, South America, and Europe. Until we reverse that, the virus is just as much a threat to you—maybe more so given the current surge—as ever. It's the number of people with the virus, coupled with how viral it really is (Rt), the number of people you interact with, the length of time you interact with them, the protections in place (mask, distancing, ventilation), and eventually your immunity (once a vaccine is approved and in use) that give us a clear model that tells us when the pandemic is (or isn't) in control and we can resume a more normal life.

To put that in context, here in the US we've only had about three percent of the population actually known to have caught the virus. So you might say that we're 97% effective ;~). That's not the way it works, because transmission is measured over time, not at a point in time. Less travel and interaction (perhaps 80% effective) coupled with mask use and social distancing (perhaps 80% effective) coupled with vaccinations (90% effective if Pfizer is correct) are all needed over a concentrated period of time to slap the pandemic to the ground and stomp it dead. So, encouraging news on the virus front yesterday, but nothing has changed in what we need to be doing today.

Second, my book update. It's clear that several hundred of you didn't get the automated email update (or your email provider simply overreacted and eradicated it). Unfortunately, working person by person in the database resetting links is going to take me time. So be patient. Give me a week or two to work through this problem.

Monday — November 9, 2020

The big news (for me) is that I completed the Third Edition of the Complete Guide to the Nikon Z6 and Z7. This massive update adds information, and thus makes the "complete" portion of the name even truer. If you've previously purchased the guide, check your spam/junk folder, as automated messages were sent to all previous owners.

Thursday — November 5, 2020

As noted yesterday, Nikon posted their latest financial results. In the details are some interesting bits. First, Nikon Imaging expects to return to profit next fiscal year (though I note that this requires that the market for cameras doesn't shrink more in 2021; Nikon's assuming that the pandemic brought the market down below what it would be, probably a correct notion, but not guaranteed).

More interesting is all the comments about pro/hobbyist buyers—and there are a lot of them—with one eye-popping stat being that they expect those folk to account for 90% of their sales two years out (up from 65%; the above chart suggests that the pro/hobbyist sales have remained level for the last six years). That also seems to suggest no Z30 is coming. Or at least they don't expect to sell many ;~). As I noted in articles earlier this week, crop sensor DSLRs are likely goners after this holiday season. (Nikon wasn't consistent in their charts. Some show 75% current pro/hobbyist sales, some 65% next year ;~).

Also of interest was that Nikon specified that the write-down of assets was mostly associated with the main Thailand manufacturing plant. Exactly what was written down isn't clear, but that was a little surprising. 

Wednesday — November 4, 2020

New 50mm f/1.8 and 70-200mm f/4 RF lenses from Canon, and a new L-mount 85mm f/1.8 lens from Panasonic.

Tonight's big news will be Nikon's first half fiscal year financial report. It will be bad news. The whisper numbers in Tokyo show issues for both the Precision and Imaging groups, which is most of Nikon, and Nikon has already announced write downs of 29.6 billion yen (US$283m) for non-performing assets (Imaging) and inventory (Precision). Sales were up slightly from forecast, but obviously profit is well now down from forecast. Total sales were 60% of last year's for the first half of Nikon's fiscal year, despite being above forecast. 

Curiously, Andriy Blokhin updated his article on being bullish about Nikon yesterday on Seeking Alpha. I concur with much of what he writes, particularly about Precision, which still is fighting a China problem due to the restrictions on travel between Japan and China. However, I don't think that the introduction of a high-end Z (Z8/Z9) in 2021 actually solves Nikon Imaging's problems, as Blokhin claims. We're talking about a likely unit volume of 50-100k in 2021 for such a product. 

Nikon's real problem has been and continues to be the low end. DL, KeyMission, Nikon 1, and virtually all Coolpix completely disintegrated, and DX DSLRs are currently doing the same thing. Nikon has virtually nothing to say in the US$500-1300 price range now. The Z50 is a nice camera, but it won't generate the traction Nikon needs in the low end, particularly given that Nikon is once again neglecting DX lenses (buzz, buzz). Nikon is currently not competitive with Canon, Fujifilm, or Sony in APS-C mirrorless. One camera and two lenses don't give you any traction. Nikon needs a Z30, Z70, and more Z DX lenses, stat. Only one of those is coming, as far as I can tell.

Nikon is fighting a two-front battle (FX and DX, or full frame and APS-C). They're slowly getting the troops aligned in FX, but DX apparently is still in training somewhere. 

Monday — November 2, 2020

As usual, I have a lot to say on a Monday (I generally don't post on Friday through Sunday). Let's start with zsystemuser:

There are also new data pages for a handful of new lenses, including the Laowa 15mm shift. 

On sansmirror and dslrbodies:

Likewise, a number of new lens data pages will appear shortly on both sites to catch up with all the recent releases. 

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

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