October 2020

Thursday — October 29, 2020

Best price ever for one of the best all-around cameras you can buy: US$2500 for the Nikon D850 [advertiser link] is now the US price for October. I expect this camera to be replaced with a hybridization (ala what the D780 was to the D750/Z6) in early 2021.

Meanwhile, the 37.4mp Zeiss ZX1 [advertiser link] has finally made its way to official announcement. This US$6000 full frame compact camera (;~) features a 35mm f/2 Distagon lens has long been awaited because of its attempt at adding an in-camera Lightroom CC with Internet connectivity. I've long advocated a different, more modern approach to camera design, and Zeiss has taken a bold step here, but is it the right step? My initial impression when they were showing it around last year was that it looked, felt, and operated on the clunky side, which is the opposite of what we all seek. But perhaps in the final rendering they've managed to address that. We'll see.

Wednesday — October 28, 2020

Nikon released firmware C1.02 for the Nikon Z5 with some minor bug fixes.

Tuesday — October 27, 2020

Canon dropped the RP plus 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS lens [advertiser link]—a very good kit lens, by the way—to US$999. I still think the Nikon Z5 is the better choice as an entry full frame camera as its more modern, has better performance, and is a more mature design. But you can't ignore the US$600 difference in price if you're looking for an entry full frame camera and a competent lens.

Meanwhile:

Comment to 500mm f/5.6E PF seekers: the latest batch of shipments has made it possible to find one on the shelves in a few places (contact me if you're looking). But that won't last long. Moreover, the next batch coming in will fall right into the start of the holiday buying, so it won't stay in stock long, either. Now would be the time to get in line with your local reputable authorized dealer, as you'll probably be first or second in line and get a lens in the next batch that's released. Beyond that, the crystal ball is hazy. 

Monday — October 26, 2020

The log jam on reviews is starting to break. Today is Canon review day, as that's what I've been mostly using for the last six weeks. We'll get to some Nikon reviews either later in the week or early next week. 

Topaz Labs Gigapixel AI version 5.2 has been released. This version adds a crop tool, a new function that better upscales highly compressed images or images with artifacts, faster previews and saves, plus some changes to the user interface. Special pricing, including for upgrades, is available for the next 12 days.

Meanwhile, I'm seeing some misinformation about camera development cycles. Let's count backwards, shall we:

  • Product is available to customer (box in store)
  • Two months earlier: production started
  • Three-to-six months earlier (depends upon changes): production modified and test run
  • Year earlier: image sensor locked and goes to production, probably SoC as well

So, cameras that would be launched in late 2021 probably already have their sensor chosen, which is currently in test fabbing, pending performance verification and lock down. Hardware design is locking down soon, with little room for modification later (changes would have to be to minor things or firmware, not major systems and hardware choices). In terms of things like DIGIC, EXPEED, BIONZ, etc., their designs/improvements have to be running in parallel with sensors, because otherwise you can end up with a SoC (System on Chip) that can't handle the bandwidth that can be dumped to it. Generally, all the camera companies have been trying to keep their SoC moving in front of their actual bandwidth needs, but use fallbacks like dual SoCs to smooth over transitions so they aren't iterating too often.

Cameras that would normally launch in the Jan-March 2021 window are already beginning early production test runs. So the notion that those cameras might still change before coming out is incorrect. There's little design wiggle room at this point for those products, and most of that would be firmware oriented, not hardware parts dependent.

Note: Sony just added some instant rebates [advertiser link] US$500 on the A7R Mark III and IV, US$300 on the A7 Mark III, US$50 on the A7S Mark III, US$50 to US$300 off various lenses, and much more. The holiday discounting is starting early, as the camera makers want to make up for lost volume earlier this year.

Thursday — October 22, 2020

DxO has announced PhotoLab 4, with DeepPRIME (next comes UltraPRIME, then PRIME SQUARED, etc. ;~). The already good PRIME noise reduction is said to be further improved with artificial intelligence and deep learning (which I take to mean, it uses Machine Learning). The UI is now more customizable, batch renaming is offered, and an Advanced History function has been added (which also allows copying settings between images). Finally, a watermark function is added. A 30% discount is offered on purchase and upgrades until November 19th.

Meanwhile, apparently Capture One doesn't want to be left out of the processing upgrade wars, and is offering a 20% discount checkout code (PREODER2020) for the next version, Capture One 21. But the Capture One folks won't even tell you what you might be getting, as no features have been disclosed, nor will they tell you when you'll get it. Frankly, that's starting to be disrespectful of their customers, in my opinion. "Give me money and I'll eventually give you something" is not a reasonable business practice, it's a cash grab.

Wednesday — October 21, 2020

Lightroom Classic has now hit version 10.0. You may also see this described as the October 2020 release. The big news is a new set of color controls that allow grading of shadows, midtowns, and highlights separately, using the now infamous color wheel that everyone seems to be coming up with a version of. This new feature replaces Split Toning, which was a more simplistic approach to controlling colors with different tonal values. 

Everyone likes "faster," so there's some of that in the update, too, mostly in the use of brushes and gradients. Scrolling through Folders and Collections should be faster, too. If you own certain Canon cameras, you can now see the live view of a tethered camera within Lightroom itself. We also get two types of zooming on images, Scrubby and Box. Scrubby is like zooming, Box is like cropping. And, as usual, we get support for new cameras (X-S10, S5, A7C, A7S Mark III).

As usual, Adobe Camera Raw updates, this time to version 13, and receives the Lightroom additions that are appropriate (Color Grading and new camera support). 

Photoshop 22.0 (2021) gets a bunch of new features, some significant. First up is a something Adobe calls Neural Filters. These are non-destructive filters that do things like face adjustment, skin smoothing, removing JPEG artifacts, coloring black and white images, and even a depth-aware filter to simulate haze.

Luminar's Big Feature wasn't unique for long, as Photoshop also adds Sky Replacement. This new feature analyzes an image and allows you to add an Adobe supplied or you own sky, complete with introducing the color effects the sky might have on the foreground. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this new feature is that it applies as non-destructive layers and masks for everything it does, letting you tweak as you see fit.

Edge selection gets some refinements for tricky subjects, like hair. Automatic refining of hair is a nice touch that saves time, too.

Meanwhile, both Photoshop and Lightroom have added new in-app learning experiences through a discover panel, which can be useful when working for a new feature for the first time. There's actually much more as you dig down and look at various bits and pieces of Photoshop 22.0, so this feels like a "big" update, not a single feature addition, as some earlier yearly releases have seemed.

One word of note: Windows 10 is now required for the latest Lightroom and Photoshop applications (but apparently not ACR). 

Photoshop for iPad gets a bunch of updates and additions, too.

I've previously mentioned Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements getting their yearly update (now labeled 2021). These new products should now be available from those that sell Adobe boxed software soon, while the downloads are available now. It's been a long time since I looked at these products, so I asked Adobe for review copies, and when I get a chance, I'll report on what I find.

Tuesday — October 20, 2020

NikonUSA is in a discounting mood:

Not a lot of products on discount at the moment, but some very significant price decreases on some desirable items, so pay attention. Meanwhile, I've gotten feedback from multiple sources close to Nikon on my "What Thom Wants" article of yesterday that I'm still trying to digest. I'll just put it this way in terms of bodies: I won't be perfectly happy, but I'll be happier. But...

Meanwhile, today is the kickoff of Adobe Max, held this year as an online event. Some folk have already jumped the gun a bit on new product announcements. I'll cover all of them tomorrow. 

Monday — October 19, 2020

Now that I've revealed that I can Zoom, some of you are probably asking "so what's your Webcam setup?" Actually, it varies a bit, and will vary some more once my studio is redone. For last week's session I used the Nikon Z5 because, well, I wanted to test Nikon's new macOS Webcam setup, and because the talk was about Nikon gear. But if you watched, you probably noted a change mid-way when I started having issues with my lighting. That's because I'm right in the midst of changing out the home office I'm using, too, and I hadn't yet run an extension cord so my LEDs can run off AC. 

But if you want my recommendation, I'd say get a Sony ZV-1 [advertiser link, currently on sale], and pay attention to details. Sony's manuals (and menus) are a bit of a mess, but in terms of a small camera with lots of capability, the ZV-1's vlogging attributes definitely come into play for Webcam use, particularly that flip out LCD. USB power (though a Micro-B cable is needed), and HDMI out (though a Micro D cable is needed) mean two unique cables to deal with, but the performance is right up there in a very small package. As the home office gets finalized, the ZV-1 is probably my permanent choice (nothing wrong with the Z5 I used last week, it's just a bigger thing to deal with in my very small office; I'll probably use the Z5 in the studio once its ready). 

I also added data pages to zsystemuser and sansmirror for the new 7Artisans 35mm f/0.95 lens.

Thursday — October 15, 2020

Wednesday — October 14, 2020

This week's Apple iPhone 12 launch coupled with all the camera launches (Z II's, M50 II, X-S10, BGH1, RED Komodo, etc.) are a study in contrast. Technically, Apple just keeps iterating the same basic iPhone, only they find things to add to it, give it clearly better performance, and solve new user problems. Now they also make it smaller and larger, just in case you also wanted a different size. The camera makers? They seem to struggle to figure out what they can change to make a model enough different than the last one to even justify iterating a number, and more and more the responses I see in my In Box from potential customers are: no reason to upgrade. 

Meanwhile, Apple always seems to find one big reason why the new iPhone is different/better/more desirable than the last one—this time it would be 5G—plus then they sprinkle in dozens of other refinements. Maybe you don't update from the iPhone 11, but you don't have to go very many models back to see just how far Apple took their smartphone in very rapid order. I'm sure Apple won't be disappointed if you don't update every year, because they know that it won't be more than one or two iterations before you really feel like what you've got needs a refresh. 

The auto makers are starting to figure this out, too. All the safety features, things like Hybrid capability on top of an already good platform, and more, all tend to add up fast enough so that you feel like you're missing out if you don't have a modern vehicle. I know this to be true, because I finally traded in my 15-year old vehicle just in time for the pandemic to set in, but even in the limited driving I've been able to do, it's abytho night and day difference.

So what's the night and day difference that the camera makers are giving you with their new models? Some more pixels when you weren't using all the ones you had? To me, it's amazing how much of recent technology innovations current cameras don't have. I either have to take the battery out of the camera to charge it (so 1990's) or plug the camera into USB (so 2000's). Can I set it on a Qi pad? No. Does it have magnets in the bottom to automatically mate to my charger? No. And don't get me started on losing the ancient headphone jack—if it has one—and discovering Bluetooth audio and wireless headsets.

And with that out of the way ;~)...

Finally, according to Ken Rockwell I apparently have either died or sold out to big business. In his celebration of his 21 years on the Internet (note the tag at the top of this page ;~), Ken claims he's "the last remaining individual photo website run by its founder." Sorry, Ken, but I'm still going...

Tuesday — October 13, 2020

Okay, it's starting two weeks earlier than I expected, but the dramatic holiday sales are starting. Basically, the Japanese camera companies really need to move some inventory, particularly older cameras or cameras that aren't selling in the quantities expected.

The items below in bold are products at aggressive prices that I'd say probably wouldn't disappoint you. As always, if you decide to buy via this site's exclusive advertiser, B&H, starting a shopping trip by clicking on a B&H link [advertiser link] on this site helps my sites continue providing serious and vetted information. That said, today's Amazon Prime Day, and some of these deals are even better today on Amazon.

Sony is offering significant discounts on the A5100, A6000, A6100, A7R Mark II and Mark IIIA7S Mark IIA7R Mark IV, and the A9. At the bottom the discount is only US$100, but at the top the A9 is getting a US$1000 discount. There are lens discounts, too, with US$300 off the 24-105mm f/4G, which I like a lot, as well as US$200 discounts off the f/2.8 zoom trio.

Canon, meanwhile, just dropped the 5Ds and 5Dr to absurdly low prices (US$1299 and US$1499, respectively). This is "everything must go" pricing. 

Olympus was one of the first to act, taking one-third off the E-M1X price (now US$1999) and US$400 off the E-M1 Mark III. But Panasonic quietly added US$700 discounts on the GH5 and GH5s, US$500 off on the G9

This isn't the last of the discounting, by far. But I'd caution you to not wait if something comes on sale that you've been waiting to get. The camera companies will be micromanaging pricing for the next several months as they try to balance their needs in pushing volume versus retaining margin. 

Monday — October 12, 2020

Some emails and many fora discussions prompted me to a "thinking session." So, let's say you're the first and only person to come up to what will be a world-shattering news story, and you're carrying your camera with you. What do you set for your video? 10-bit 4:2:2 4K 60P? Don't think so. You'd fill a card so fast you'll miss important stuff, either by having to constantly change cards at inopportune moments, or by filling the only card you've got. The answer, my friends, is what journalists actually do: you probably set 8-bit 4:2:0 1080P/30 (25 in PAL countries). 

This isn't just a video question. Far too many folk "overshoot" for their actual needs, whether it be stills or video. Likewise, far too many folk buy V8 engines with 300+HP, which is greater than their actual needs. And don't forget to add a turbo! Marketing and ego has led to us buying way more than we need. 

Friday — October 9, 2020

Thursday — October 8, 2020

Photo Mechanic Plus is now available. The "Plus" is digital asset management, a feature that allows you to create and manage catalogs of your images using much of the same performance and feature set that goes into Photo Mechanic itself. Yes, it has searches, filters, and collections, and yes it handles multiple catalogs, even if there are millions of images in them. Camerabits makes some claims about speed that it'll take me some time to evaluate, but Photo Mechanic was already pretty much the fastest way to ingest and browse images. Price is US$229 for the full version (it includes all the features of Photo Mechanic 6), or US$90 for Version 6 users to upgrade to the Plus option.

Adobe announced Photoshop Elements 2021 (and Premiere Elements 2021). You can now add motion and create GIFs, identify and adjust face tilt, and add quote graphics. Five new Guided Edits are in the new version, and catalog backups are now done automatically. The programs will be available sometime in the fourth quarter of 2020 for US$99 individual, or US$149 for the bundle. Upgrades will be US$80 and US$120.

Wednesday — October 7, 2020

Exposure X6 is now available. The big news is GPU optimization, a new advanced color editor, and one-click adjustments. Noise reduction has been reworked, and some additional DNG workflow support has been added. Price is US$129 (US$89 upgrade) for the editor and plug-in, and US$149 (US$99 upgrade) if you want to add the Snap Art and Blow Up plug-ins.

Monday — October 5, 2020

Yes, bythom.com didn't update you on articles that appeared last week on sansmirror.com and zsystemuser.com. I'm in the midst of making a bunch of changes to this site. There may be other "outages" in the near future as I try to fix and improve all the things on my bythom todo list. Remember, you can always go to the front page of dslrbodies, sansmirror, or zsystemuser and see what's new on those sites.

Meanwhile, today's a pretty big day for new articles (and a new book):

Then we have last week's not-promoted-here articles:

Meanwhile, B&H says it will now start taking orders on a US$6000 camera announced in September 2018, the Zeiss ZX1 [advertiser link]. The ZX1 is the camera with no card slot—hey, aren't there supposed to be two now?—and built-in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom—yes, Adobe still has that monstrous marketing name visible on their Web site, despite having split Lightroom into multiple products and confusing everyone in the process. And yes, I'm being a little snide. My guess is that we'll see/hear more about this camera at Adobe Max on October 19th, as it seems a natural to be co-promoted there. 

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