August 2020

Monday — August 31, 2020

Fujifilm and Panasonic have scheduled product introductions this week. Canon, Nikon, and Sony will also have new product announcements in September or October, though it's unclear as to exact dates at the moment. I continue to expect September and October to be reasonably busy times in terms of new products, more so than in most years. 

This weekend I posted an article on Nikon Z product availability and today I'm adding the DSLR equivalent:

Given how many products are showing up in limited or no supply here in the midst of the pandemic slump, I have to wonder if Nikon is at all ready for any holiday buying spurt. 

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The Creative Photo Academy wants me to do an Online Class for them. I know what many of you would like to see me present (autofocus with Z's), but the problem with subjects that really need to be demonstrated is that I have no ability to do/show the field work necessary at the moment in an online presentation. So sports and wildlife photography best practices are probably out for the time being. Whatever I would do for an online session has to be able to be done in my cramped home office, basically, which rules out a lot of things, as we're talking about all I have room for in that office is desk, chair, and shelves. As it is I have to get creative as to where I might put a camera, even if all I wanted to show was the menu process for something. 

So, the question is this: what presentation would you like to see me do, and why? Photo Mechanic and Photoshop are both tools I know well, obviously. General discussions of Nikon gear and setup are probably easy enough to do, as long as I know which gear I need to bring to the home office to work with. Mac subjects obviously fall well into my comfort zone, as I started working with a Mac back in 1983 and created a lot of products for the system along the way. Drop me a line telling me what you want to know and what you think I might be able to help with.

Thursday — August 27, 2020

Today (and tomorrow) is new product arrival time at dealers for Canon and Nikon mirrorless users. The Canon R6 boxes are showing up, as are Nikon Z5, 70-200mm f/2.8 S, the two Z teleconverters, and even another batch of 24-200mm f/4-6.3. Of course, on the Nikon side pretty much everything but the Z5 will be out of stock by the weekend. 

Meanwhile, Canon took a first pass at addressing the overheating problems (FeverGate) of the R5 with firmware 1.1.0. There were a bunch of firmware updates for various cameras this week, and those won't all propagate to the correct pages on my sites until this weekend, as I need my bandwidth for something else today and tomorrow.

Next week we'll start the next round of new product introductions ;~). I suspect that we're going to see the Japanese companies really trying to get their new gear into the product channels before the quarter ends (September 30).

Wednesday — August 26, 2020

Olympus now has a beta of their Webcam software available for the macOS. 

The manual for the Nikon Z5 is now available.

Monday — August 24, 2020

A few of you wanted me to take Adobe to task for a Lightroom on iOS update that permanently deleted users photos and presets. Okay, that's bad. Someone at Adobe made a big mistake. However, if you actually lost images by updating, you're going to have to claim some of the responsibility, because it means you haven't been backing up your iOS device or syncing images to the cloud. If that's you, I recommend iMazing, though you can do something similar with Apple's own software.

Capture One 20 (13.1.2) has been released, basically bug fixes and new camera support, including Canon R5/R6 and Sony A7S Mark III.

Friday — August 21, 2020

An email triggered a thought I've been having for a bit now: that in all the current bad news there's possible future good news. Let me explain.

ILC shipments in 2019 were 8.2m units. Without the pandemic, I would have expected something along the lines of 6.5m units in 2020. Instead, we're currently on track for about 4m units. That's probably considerably under what would be "normal" demand. Normality unfortunately has been decimated mostly because the things you'd buy a new camera to go photograph just aren't happening in your life at the moment, or you just don't have the disposable income to spend on a new body or lens right now. 

Let's make the assumption that the combination of vaccine availability and increasing herd immunity clearly starts to mitigate the pandemic in early 2021, and employment increases again, which is the educated assumption at the moment. My guess is that in Spring 2021 demand would "rebound" back to above where it likely would have ended up in 2020, with some additional sales occurring due to the pent up demand that the pandemic caused. So let's be a little optimistic: 6m units in 2021, weighted heavily in the summer, fall, and holiday. 

If the camera makers really used the combination of market contraction and pandemic to "right size" themselves, 6m units would look like huge growth to them (50%!), and profitability should easily return. 

Now, life has this way of getting in the way of plans, so the above isn't at all certain. However, it would be the primary scenario I'd be gaming in product management right now if I were running a camera company. I'd want to launch major products in spring 2021, and I'd want to be able to ramp up production, if necessary, of existing models. I'd expect 2021 to be an "up year" compared to 2020, and a much needed respite from market contraction. 

Thursday — August 20, 2020

Adobe has dropped August updates for most of their Creative Cloud Photography Plan products. In the raw conversion arena, they've added support for the Canon R5 and R6, Nikon Z5, Olympus E-M10 Mark IV, Panasonic G100/G110, and Sony A7S Mark III and ZV-1. Some of this is preliminary support, as final profiles haven't been made and tested yet. Lightroom Classic 9.4, ACR 12.4, and Photoshop 21.2.2 also all get bug fixes.  

Sony has added Imaging Edge Webcam (only Windows so far) to allow the Alpha models to be used in live-streaming and as a Web cam.

The ProGrade 256GB CFexpress card is available for US$199 (US$100 off) today only at B&H Deal Zone [advertiser link].

Wednesday — August 19, 2020

Nikon updated all their main software products yesterday to support the Z5 (e.g. Capture NX-D, ViewNX-i, etc.). Nikon's Update Center.

Tuesday — August 18, 2020

Yes, I continue to try to bring the zsystemuser.com site towards some level of "completeness." Don't worry, I'm still tinkering with sansmirror.com and dslrbodies.com and have upcoming articles and reviews for them, too. Plus I am working on some surprises and additions based upon your feedback last week. I even have a code name for that project. No, I won't tell you what the code name is ;~). 

Monday — August 17, 2020

After all these years of being still in development, I'm happy to report that Sony AlphaUniverse thinks I've finally made it to beta:


Meanwhile, we need more grown ups on the Internet. Ones that actually read, and then do fact checking to make sure the source is correct. (Ones that aren't still in development? ;~)

Last week Nikkei got around to "releasing" their 2019 market share reports for all things consumer, which included digital cameras. I'm not sure why it took them over six months to do that, but okay, it's here. The numbers that keep getting mindlessly reposted by others are Canon 45.4%, Sony 20.2%, Nikon 18.6%. These market share numbers are then being used to fuel the flames that Sony is highly successful, Nikon failing. 

The first problem with all those posts is that they believe these are interchangeable lens camera numbers. They're not. They're for all cameras. As far as I can resurrect from the actual Nikon/CIPA numbers, Nikon didn't lose significant market share in ILC in 2019; but they did lose substantive share in Coolpix-type cameras as they trimmed the compact lineup. The second problem with all the posts I'm seeing is that these are unit shipments, not sales to customers. Shipments can and are gamed by manufacturers. That's called channel stuffing.

I'm surprised that no one posting about this has actually done the work to look to see what the 2018 Nikkei numbers were, or to check to see if they match up with public data sources. 

For instance, the Nikkei unit number doesn't actually match CIPA shipment numbers, so it's unclear where they got their shipment numbers from. Also, they leave the non-Japanese 6.3% of the camera market—again, not ILC—unaccounted for, and that's a large number that certainly isn't Leica, Hasselblad, and Phase One (it's probably GoPro, perhaps some others; but who and where the numbers were sourced is not noted that I can tell). 

Worse still, for 2018 Nikkei reported compact and ILC cameras separately, while for 2019 they simply put the two together. However, when I put the Nikkei 2018 numbers together, they don't align with what they reported for 2019:

Canon    51.2%  ->  45.4% (reported as +2.4 increase!)
Nikon     28.7%  ->  18.6% (reported as -1.6 decrease)
Sony      20.0%  ->  20.2% (reported as +0.9 increase)

Something changed in Nikkei's reporting, and it's not revealed in the data I can see.

Now, no doubt Nikon is struggling as they try to survive the contraction of the camera market while making a transition from DSLR to mirrorless (and now with a pandemic tripping them up further). But realistically, so is everyone else. A +0.9 growth rate (for Sony, and it's not clear that this is accurate, as it also doesn't seem to match Sony's financial disclosures) is not a number that tells me anything useful, because I don't know how many of those are older generation cameras Sony is discounting heavily or how many are older compacts still in the lineup. Likewise, the +2.4 growth cited for Canon is what? Discounted Rebels and G's? It wasn't R's and 1D's and 5D's. And how do you have a positive gain on negative growth in market share? 

The Internet is great at spreading information fast. The problem is that disinformation or misleading information spreads as fast as real and useful information. Reader beware.

Wednesday — August 12, 2020

I've updated other accessories pages on zsystemuser.com, as well, as I try to track down the full gamut of gear Z users have available to them.

Meanwhile, those of you considering Sony cameras and lenses are going to want to note B&H's latest offer, good until August 25th (advertiser link). If you purchase selected Sony cameras or lenses and use your PayBoo card to purchase them, you'll not only get the usual sales tax rebate that card offers, but also a 10% credit (of the item's price before taxes). This is one of the better mirrorless camera/lens deals currently running, particularly if you live in a state with high sales tax rates.  

Tuesday — August 11, 2020

Focus Magic hits 5.0, with an improved sharpening algorithm, better noise handling, some UI changes, and on the macOS version it now uses all CPU cores for speed. Update is free to current users.

Hmm. Canon just discounted the 17-40mm f/4L lens (full frame EF mount) to US$500 (advertiser link; and B&H offers a further ~US$20 future discount coupon with purchase). This is a well-regarded lens at a pretty low price.

Monday — August 10, 2020

Friday — August 7, 2020

Thanks for all the great comments on my future site musings yesterday. An idea is beginning to shape itself, now I just have to figure off how to pull it off. The nice thing is that it doesn't change what I've been doing, it only adds to what I'm already doing.

Meanwhile, there's Nikon. Someone asked if I thought they'd fail now given how far the numbers are falling (not just for Nikon, but for the entire camera industry). I still say no, Nikon has plenty of runway left. But if they do fail at some point, it will because they didn't change; it does not seem that they're doing enough soul searching and connection to actual customers, so they're not opening themselves to new ideas, new ways of doing things, or new products. 

Instead, Nikon just keeps micromanaging cost cutting. You can't cut your way to success (you can sometimes cut your way to survival, though, which seems to be Nikon's goal). In particular, the whole "proprietary" thing at Nikon is becoming a big issue: they won't open up the lens mount or the communication for accessories to third parties, so that means Nikon has to do everything. But Nikon is cutting cutting cutting, which means that they don't do it. 

Thursday — August 6, 2020

Nikon today announced their latest quarter financial results, which I'm sure I'll comment on further. The numbers were abysmal. But I was more struck by Nikon's consensus overall market forecast: 4.8m ILC. This is below Canon's recent forecast, and starts to get very near what I thought would be the "bottom" of ILC volume. The question is whether this is mostly pandemic-caused slowdown, or a real drop in demand? I need some time to do more research and reflect on all the data before presenting any hypothesis on that.

What's still coming for Nikon? "Release new products consecutively in mid-range to high-end targeting professionals and hobbyists and continue to fill out the mirrorless lens lineup." So, don't expect new entry or true consumer products.

Oh, and Nikon has posted a beta of their Windows Web cam utility.

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I guess the good news is this: the fact that my product recommendations still produce very strong sales among my site readers, coupled with the fact that my site visitation is actually increasing, means that I'm getting lots of "offers" from vendors wanting me to participate in their affiliate and marketing programs. The bad news is that such programs tend to be aggressive in trying to secure continued mentions and this leads toward what is essentially on-going over-promotion on many sites. 

The numbers are probably not what you think. I've seen pass-through offers that would trigger 10 to 30% commissions on each sale. I'm particularly uncomfortable with such deals. That feels like one heck of an incentive to promote a product, and it's very difficult to say that you're not letting any bias creep when the numbers get that big. Receiving US$30 on a US$100 software sale, for example, seems excessive (and probably unsustainable long-term). I can see how this has warped some sites towards over promotion of products.

I don't recommend products unless I actually have used them and find them to be truly good enough to warrant said recommendation. I value my reputation, so I try not to undermine it. I can't exactly quantify the bar that a product has to get above for me to recommend it, but I think about that bar all the time. 

You'll also note that any time that I might profit from you clicking, I clearly identify the relationship (by putting a clear "Advertiser" or "Affiliate" link notation with it). First of all, the FTC requires that, even though many sites don't seem to understand that or are somewhat lax in the way they mention paid relationships. Second of all, it's just the right thing to do. I ask for transparency from others, I try to practice it myself. 

The problem I'm contemplating at the moment—and the reason for this short post—is this: long term, sustaining the revenue that fuels this site—and which would allow me to expand my offerings and add staff again—is getting harder to do without making some sort of change. Because of the pandemic, early this year I proactively renegotiated a lower advertising rate with B&H. Why? Because I try to do the right thing. Nevertheless, that also put some pressure on the revenue stream that allows me to run my sites.

I'm not going to sign up for any of those affiliate offers I mentioned earlier at the moment. I'd need to figure out how I protect my reputation for giving clear and un-biased-by-financial-considerations advice in order to do so. But I do think that I can—with perhaps some long overdue extra help—provide more and better information to you than I currently do. So I have to consider any and all future revenue sources.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that their revenue from the digital-only side of their operation finally surpassed that from their print side. Obviously, I'm not the only content provider who's trying to figure out the best long-term practices. I was working on this balance of where future revenue comes from back in the 90's at Rodale, too.

Let me get to the point: I'd love to hear from you about what you think I'm not doing that you think I should be. At some point, I might even ask you to answer a short survey on this. 

Don't panic. byThom is doing well enough so that it will continue for as far as I can see. Nor do I need to or am interested in putting Donation buttons on the site. However, I've long held the philosophy that businesses need to constantly soul search and contemplate all their options, and be open to new ideas and new roles. I just started a new site because of this (zsystemuser.com). I just want to make sure I'm doing everything that you readers need from me.

Wednesday — August 5, 2020

Sony reported their April-June quarter results yesterday. Overall, the company did pretty well, considering the pandemic. Revenue increased 2% year-to-year, while operating income declined 1%. Cameras, though, are buried in the huge Electronic Products and Solutions business now, so it's tough to figure out exactly how things fared, particularly as the company doesn't report camera unit volume on a quarterly basis. And because the still and pro video groups report together, the best you can do is see that those produced a little less than half the sales year-to-year. That was the worst performance in the EP&S group (which includes TVs, audio, and smartphones, among other things). Sony did note that the plants in China and Thailand that make their products are "currently operating as usual." 

One comment that I'm sure will be misread by some was "In addition, although sales and profit from digital cameras were significantly impacted by a substantial slowdown in demand around the world, this business is beginning to show signs of recovery..." This is not a statement of health of the camera market, it's a statement that Sony has seen some rebound from the worst of the pandemic-induced drop in sales.

In the Imaging and Sensing Solutions business where image sensors are made, a significant decline in sales to digital camera makers was noted, though not particularly specified.

Olympus reported their April-June quarter results today. While Olympus is predominately a medical business these days, the portion of the health business they provide equipment for was impacted by the pandemic, as things like colonoscopies got postponed or cancelled. Thus, revenue decreased 21.7% and profits 91.9% year-to-year. The camera business had sales decline 40.9% and the loss increase 17%. It's easier to see why Olympus wants to divest the Imaging Group now. Just look at the last five quarters of profit in imaging (in yen): -2.3b, -3.4b, -1.7b, -3b, -2.7b. And that's before "other" expenses. 

To those who are still hopeful about Olympus cameras, R&D hasn't been cut much at all (823m this past quarter versus 850m the year earlier). Yet Olympus only sold 50,000 m4/3 cameras in the quarter, down from 70,000 a year earlier. If that decline holds through the year, that means Olympus will only sell 245k units. That's probably a 3-4% market share.

Finally, we have Tamron also reporting their results this week. "In the digital camera market, the demand has continued to decline and reduced by half compared to the previous year." 

One thing that isn't getting noted by many is that the yen is slowly appreciating against the dollar. Most of the Japanese companies are predicting something around a 107 yen to the dollar exchange rate for the year, but that may be optimistic if the current trend continues. I think we'll see the dollar decline further against the yen, which puts pricing pressure on Japanese products. Europe is currently going the other direction, with forecasts showing the yen declining against the Euro. 

Tuesday — August 4, 2020

Like the geek I am, I was just looking at Google Analytic stats this morning for my sites. Last month dslrbodies impressions were almost exactly 50% the impressions produced by sansmirror. Now much of that is that more mirrorless cameras are being launched and thus I'm writing about them and you're reading about them more, but it's also indicative of a trend that I anticipated way back in 2011 and which has now pretty much come true: mirrorless is where the attention (and buying) is now. 

I don't normally write about hearsay posted on rumor sites, but Nikon Rumors recently reported that Nikon was telling its employees that "DSLR volume sales are higher than mirrorless sales." Many of you asked for my opinion on this, so here goes. Historically, yes, that statement has been true pretty much up to the present, but the detail is revealing. A lot of that volume is the D3500, Nikon's least expensive ILC. If I look at the trendlines of Nikon retail sales, it's clear that F-mount volume (DSLRs) is sliding fast, while Z-mount volume (mirrorless) is clearly rising quickly and will intersect the DSLR line soon, if it hasn't already. If Nikon had a US$500 mirrorless entry camera, I'm pretty sure the DSLR volume would be lower than mirrorless (note that the Z50 kit is US$400 more expensive than the D3500 kit).

A number of years ago I posited that overall mirrorless volume would pass DSLR volume sometime in 2021. It's looking like that will actually happen in 2020, though it's difficult to tell whether the pandemic is influencing that.

Monday — August 3, 2020

Normally, I take the month of August off from the Internet. I may still choose to take some time off this month, but for the moment I'm still connected. Maybe I'll just take a break from updating the photo on top ;~).


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