Why I am not a fan of Picture life

I have listed already quite a few photo sharing websites, actually from far too many, and it looks clear to me some real breakthrough are very much welcomed. So whereas there are too many players, a start-up could be successful. Picture life is another hype start-up, like so many in 2012 as soon as they are dealing with something “social”. But so far I am not impressed. To be fair, the start-up is really in beta and it looks challenging to get more details about their supposed innovative offer.

Let’s come to what I am aware of and what I don’t like it so far:

1. No freemium, you want to join, you need to pay. Ok Smugmug dit it this way, but for one Smugmug, how many failures?

2. Their innovative offer looks very similar to Dropbox and Picasa. I know skilled people which would demonstrate the opposite, but frankly, whereas Picasa has many drawbacks and limits, its ability to make available pictures everywhere is real. Same for Dropbox. Last and not least, quite a few players will also enter this market. If you are not aware, cloud offers are growing like hell. Like Google+ knows already, to fix something which is not broken is never easy, so good luck to Picture life if this is really what they are looking for.

3. They want to be a “Flickr-killer”. Well, I am afraid, whereas a big fan of Flickr, than Flickr does not need anybody else than itself to kill Flickr… Please, Yahoo!, do me a favour, sell Flickr to some people who like photo sharing and photography.

So, wait and see, as usual, but it seems to me to be just another photo sharing website. If you are a fan of Picture life, please let me know why, I would love to hear from you.

Do you really need a better camera? Episode 4: everyday life

I am comparing a DSLR and a compact, both modern and famous for their excellent quality images (Nikon D7000, Canon S100), in order to evaluate when we really need to get one or the other, or both together. Sometimes, I am also comparing the pictures with those taken by a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy SII).  I am also doing this as I have noticed this kind of comparison is seldom done. Most of the time, people are comparing cameras of the same kind but don’t ask themselves whether they really need this category of camera. Previously, I have noticed that outdoor/landscapes shots during the day may not really require the big and fat DSLR. I mean I have been surprised by the performances of modern tiny sensors as soon as there is enough light. However, I have also noticed that for Macro, the DSLR was still much better.

So now let’s come to a very basic kind of pictures: portraits done inside. Everybody is taking some, of friends, family, … I have chose to shoot at the end of the afternoon, my little baby, either when she was playing, or in the arms of her mother but with back to the light. These two kind of pictures are actually technically quite challenging for the cameras, and this time, again, thanks God, the DSLR is again much better, as expected:

The very compact camera cannot be fast at 120mm equivalent (f/5.9). I had to shoot at 1600 ISO, and the speed was from far too slow (1/8 s). The stabilization does not help so much as a baby is not always standing still.

With a modern DSLR and a fast zoom (70-200 VRII f/2.8), everything works as expected, thanks God. This gear (body + zoom) is 8 times more expensive and 10 times heavier than the compact!

With back light, the light evaluation was not as good with the compact than with the DSLR. Further more, I had to shoot at 3200 ISO and whereas the speed was almost fast enough, the back light underexposed it so much I had to post-process the RAW to get an acceptable picture. But the noise is pretty much unacceptable! Last and not least, you can compare the depth of field (DOF). f/5.9 and a small sensor is making more or less any picture with too often too much  DOF.

With the DSLR, the picture is not perfect. The back light made the picture under exposed too but the post processing of the RAW file is providing a much more acceptable results. The speed (1/125 s) was what I wanted (I respected the rule 1/f equivalent FX) and the DOF is much more adequate too.

Comparing the grain of both cameras, after applying some noise reduction during the post process, the difference is not obvious, which mean that you should more take care of the dynamic of the sensor than just the MP (which is a little bit a surprise to me by the way). That said, difference between the two sensors is not that big (12 MP and 16 MP):

(Canon S100, crop 1:1)

(Nikon D7000, crop 1:1)

Conclusion:

To make a long story short, there is still room to improve compact cameras for what they are supposed to be good at: family pictures. Whereas not liked by many photographers, and whereas I am still waiting for a Nikon mirrorless which I could use, you can understand the “raison d’être” of the Nikon 1 bodies: a fast autofocus and a much better sensor than compact can provide decent family pictures, which a high end compact camera like the S100 still cannot do really so often.

Mirrorless cameras: are Nikon and Canon too greedy?

We, photographers, don’t care about profits and shareholders objectives. We want better cameras. We do understand that is make sense for a company to improve its financial results. But too often, the self-proclaimed leaders can become somewhat arrogant and are forgetting the “golden rule”: make good products for your clients, and they are no cash cows. The objective is not, at least not the prime objective, to make money. It is to be better than the competition, to innovate and to produce over-the-top quality products. Thanks to that, a company will be able not only to make money, but to literally print money! It is simple, but it is not easy. That’s basically Apple’s philosophy, it’s no secret – and I am not an Apple fanboy!

When they released Nikon J1 and V1, I understood Nikon main objective was to prevent any phagocytosis of their entry-level DSLR by their mirrorless new cameras. They obviously broke the golden rule… Not that the cameras are not good – I mean they are great and quite unique point-and-shoot high end cameras – but, because that was not what the Nikon’s fan were waiting for.

Similarly, Canon preferred to release a new high end compact – the G1 X instead of some mirrorless, again, I assume, to protect its entry-level DSLR. And they are charging us much more for a somewhat not so innovating camera.

Now Nikon seem to continue its blindness rationale. I am quoting Nikon’s executive from the (excellent) techradar: “we want pros to be buying our DSLRs“, and don’t seem to be so keen avoiding the competition of high-end mirrorless cameras like the great Fuji X Pro 1. They may release an enthusiast/pro mirrorless in the future, or maybe not… to protect their revenues. Am I dreaming?

I have been a fan of Nikon and Canon, and have owned cameras from both manufacturers for years but come on guys, you can be better than that: come back to the basics, please. We will decide which cameras we want to buy, and so far I just know I will buy a mirrorless camera from your competition. Too bad, but one should never broke the golden rule. Client’s first, not profits.

Do you really need a better camera? Episode 3: macro

So I am continuing my genuine tests between the best pockable compact (Canon S100) and a good DX DSLR (Nikon D7000). Basically, the idea is to understand much better when to use the tiny camera and when the big guy is really demanded:

During the last two episodes, here and here, I have been quite naughty with the great D7000. But as a matter of fact, for still daylight pictures, the small S100 is just a match whatever you are using with the DSLR.

So to go a little bit further, this time I tried to compare macro’s performance of the two beasts. I am using the Nikkor 105mm VR f/2.8 + D7000 versus the small S100.

This time, the clear winner (Yeah, good to spend so much money and carry such an heavy camera) is the DSLR! I took pictures with the S100 at 24 mm equivalent and 120 mm equivalent at the closest range possible.

Apart from a much longer distance to the subject, the macro lens of the DSLR can provide a 1:1 picture, which really makes a difference.

On a side note, the DOF is really bigger with the small sensor of the S100. Both an advantage (Easier to focuse well a picture) and a constraint (some, like me, are enjoying a reduced DOF).

So, to summarize, a compact camera can make some decent close range shots, but cannot compete anywhere with a DSLR… If you know compact cameras which can, please let me know!