Spring 2007 Camera announcement season, part one

Despite my film-shooting bent, I do like to keep up with the digital scene as well. This is all rampant speculation based on the available facts, given that nobody's dropping any expensive loaner hardware on my doorstop anytime soon.


EOS 1D Mk 3

The first big announcement of 2007, in my opinion, is the Canon EOS 1D Mk III.

The big highlights are:

If you can't quite make sense out of the 1D Mk III, remember the primary market... sports, wildlife, and other photographers who generally are trying to grab shots from a distance and quickly. For most of these folks, a 1.3 crop factor isn't a big problem because they won't be taking wide-angle shots. Weatherproofing is important. An extra stop of ISO is useful, as is faster frame rate.

On the other hand, it's amusing to compare to what people were talking about. There was a real good rumor about Annie Leibovitz having a 22 megapixel 1D body that's half the size of the current 1Ds Mk II. And a less reliable rumor said that the 1D Mk III would have the sensor of the 5D paired with new and better electronics and the 1D body. When the 5D came out, there really was an information leak, and everybody played it down as somebody with a big imagination who spent time in photoshop... but it was real.

Canon makes a big deal about the 1D Mk III being redesigned for a more pleasant user interface and it looks like they've added improvements, but they didn't go nearly far enough. Take, for example the Pentax K10D, which shows better understanding of how to approach exposure with a digital camera with the TAv (You set shutter speed and aperture and the camera picks the right ISO speed) and Sv modes (kinda like program mode, but with the ISO speed easily available).

And I don't feel that they went nearly far enough. Sure, it's handy to have the extra stop of highlight detail, but one imagines that they could have made a counterpart to the EV compensation control instead, to let you dial in more or less highlight detail on a stop-by-stop basis.

This provides some interesting food for thought. Unless some of the features are shown to be useless, you can bet that the 1Ds Mk II's replacement (The 1Ds Mk III?) will have most of these features. That will be an interesting camera.

Strobist stylin': Less frills, less fear, less budget

Speedlite 580EX II

The strobist religion continues to gain. I wouldn't necessarily say that David invented the field when he started Strobist, but he's done much to convince people to buy old Nikon flashes instead of Alien Bees. Thing is, with digital SLRs, unless you are doing weddings or other fast-moving photography, you'll probably be more content with the results if you have more manual control and chimping than with TTL flashes. TTL makes a lot more sense if you either can't recreate the moment or if by the time you see the results, it's too late, like with film.

We found out some weeks ago that Vivitar was going to reintroduce the 285HV flash that's been a workhorse of portable lighting for so long, but now Canon entered the game, adding PC synch connectors and introducing the Speedlite 580EX II.

I started cracking up when I read this. Many of the Nikon flashes still have the non-TTL mode and PC synch connectors.

Again, this is interesting, but not nearly far enough. Given the size of internationally-usable digital radio chips and supporting circuitry (about the size of a quarter) there's no good reason to not make a radio-E-TTL for pro-level cameras. There may be some software improvements to the 580EX II related to the control-from-the-camera-screen functionality, like maybe the ability to manually set exposure values instead of ratios, but we won't know that until people get their greasy hands on the hardware.

I'm sure the new functionality will be handy when you want to shoot strobist most of the time but still want to have one or two real TTL flashes handy for tight situations, but, assuming they don't change the pricing, you can buy at least four Sunpack 383 Supers or Vivitar 285HV flashes for the same amount of money.

Things that make me go "ho hum"

There's a whole new crop of P&S cameras, with between 7 and 10 megapixels, often on a 1/2.8 sensor, with high ISO speeds, from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, and others. I do not feel that any of these are worth upgrading to for anybody. Unless your camera breaks. The closest we come to interesting is the Canon TX-1, solely because it's at least shaped differently, although it brings basicly nothing in terms of actual improvement to the table.

There are a few options for a truly inspired point and shoot camera out there, just nobody's expressed much interest in making one. I'm mostly hoping that the price of dSLRs continue their drop so that when my A95 needs replacement, I won't spend too much on new hardware.


The "dropping the 1.3x crop rumor"

There's been a lot of speculation about how long the 1.3x and 1.6x crop factors were going to be around. Apparently there was an interview a long time ago where a Canon executive was asked about this, and he merely said yes. Most folks took this to mean that he was saying that yes, the 1.3x crop factor was going to go away. It sounds more like he was merely acknowledging the question without giving an answer to those who are versed in Japanese culture.

The 1.5-1.6x crop factor is very handy. It's significantly cheaper to make and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. The 1.3x seems to be sticking around, providing some of the benefits in price and performance of a crop-factor camera but also allowing Canon to reach levels of quality that the 1.6x crop factor competition (The Nikon D2XHs, D2Xs, and D200 most notably) cannot match.

eBay Price manipulations

It should not surprise anybody that the price of older Nikon flashes (SB-24,SB-25,SB-26, and SB-28) has shot way up. They've doubled in price at least since the site's been around because everybody wants one.

One of my former bosses claims to have single handedly bumped up the price of some of the Canon FD camera bodies through a careful posting on photo.net. The used prices really did go up after his post and didn't go down until digital SLRs became huge.

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