Can instagram hysteric acquisition motivate at last Yahoo! ? Will photosharing at last be fixed?

I don’t say it is not cool but I am not a great fan of Instagram (I would prefer from far a social service like Path). I don’t like its photos style – or rather that it obliges you to have Instagram’s style. Apart from the fact is well done and famous, I don’t see any rocket-science here. That said, the acquisition of the photos-stream-for-mobile-with-some-cool-digital-filters would help other obsolete and old fashioned websites (like Flickr) to modernize its UI and experience. We need more real photosharing websites, I hope that’s Yahoo! will understand at last on which treasure they are sitting, or rather sleeping…

More important, whatever photosharing website(s) will ultimately prevail, I have no doubt its integration with other services will be paramount. We are overwhelmed by social websites and experiences, even the best can now barely sustain using  so many services. You cannot just add more and more, and we need some rationalization. Will it be FB, or Google or another one? Will services like Pictarine will become compulsory to survive in a crowded world of social websites and photos sharing services?  I can’t say of course but it looks to be urgent to fix photo sharing…

Sorry, but instagram is no holy grail for photosharing

There is a common belief: smartphones will replace cameras and new photosharing websites are making the others obsolete. Since a few month, thanks to a skyrocketting growth, Instagram is the new kid on the block. I cannot disagree about some new trends and I will not say that photosharing is somewhere broken and must be fixed. But I don’t think things are so black and white. Some basic tests show that they can replace basic point & shoot ones, but certainly not more advanced bodies and lenses. Simultaneously, photosharing appears to be broken, and newbies can be very successfull. It does not mean the war is over. Instagram may be hype right now, and might be replaced by others players. I will more believe in the two following facts:

1. Cameras will be far better connected or, for some artists, you just don’t care

Some manufacturers are already or are going to improve soon dramatically the way you can process and publish your images, which is so far very old fashioned compare with smartphones. So in the (near) future, taking pictures with “real” cameras (DSLR, mirrorless, high end compacts) will mean publishing them the same way than smartphones do. Further more, some pictures need to be post processes, or some photographers want to post process them for their art, so for these people, the way cameras are working is just perfect and require no changes.

2. No holy grail so far for photosharing

There are actually more and more photosharing websites, and whereas some may or will disappear, many will stay alive and will specialize. You don’t need just one, you need many photosharing websites, depending on what you are looking for. And sorry, photography is not only for the masses. Many niches will develop, and that’s very good for art, and for the photography as a living art.

Conclusion

I am always a little bit annoyed by just hype and fashion. Life is rarely so black and white and there are no real “losers” or “winners”, even if some projects are really growing and others in dire straits. Most of the time, for such new trends and emerging technologies, it is more how you will get unique that matters, it is certainly not about raising money from Venture capitalists or being back-up by some famous people, even if it helps to get fame from bloggers or journalists.

As written by Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.

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!

Do you really need a better camera: Episode 2 – Landscapes (again)

In the episode 1, I have been surprised to have excellent pictures from a compact camera (Canon S100) compare with an excellent DSLR (Nikon D7000). Of course, I did not push them to their limits, that was not the point. I just wanted to check how a light and small high-end compact could replace efficiently a DSLR either as a second camera or for shooting which don’t required the performances of a DSLR in low light or fast autofocus. So just to be sure, I did additional tests, first at 24 mm (equivalent full frame) with three cameras: a Galaxy SII, the S100 and the D7000. Then with just the last two of them at 50 mm and 120 mm. The 35mm f/1.8 (equivalent 52 mm) of the D7000 has the reputation to be quite sharp and for the 120 mm, I used a 70-200 VRII f/2.8, not a cheap lens! I would assume much better results with the DSLR + great lenses compare with the high-end compact. But again, the tests are saying something different.

At 24mm:

Two pictures taken with the S100 at f/2.0 and f/2.8:

Obviously, the Nikon D7000 does not really provide better image (you can click on the images to see them at their actual size). And again, the smartphone may be smart, but is nowhere a camera able to challenge the two others!

Crop images:

Galaxy SII

Canon S100 – 24 f/2.0

Canon S100 f/2.8

Nikon D7000+Tokina 11-16 at 16mm f/2.8

At f/2.8, the Canon can show much more details and better contrast but, again, I am finding the Tokina and the D7000 somewhat disappointing compare with their tiny and much cheaper competitor…

At 50 mm:

Crop images:

Canon S100 – 50 mm f/4.0

Nikon D7000 + Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8 at f/4.0

OK the Nikon and the Nikkor will show more details but the difference is nowhere dramatic as we should have expected. We are comparing a fixed lens and a APS-C camera with a compact zoom!

At 120 mm:

Crop images:

Canon S100 at 120 mm f/5.9

Nikon D7000 + Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VRII at 120 mm f/2.8

Nikon D7000 + Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VRII at 120 mm f/5.6

At f/5.6, the difference is now significant, but certainly not at full aperture of the Nikon! I know, the AF of the small S100 and the DOF cannot be compared with an APS-C DSLR and a pro zoom but to make a long story short:

Conclusion
The S100 is a real option as a 2nd camera during a shooting in “normal conditions”, i.e. without low lights and the necessity to have a very fast AF. Of course, the DOF of two cameras are very different and one cannot make same pictures with both. I don’t believe – regarding DXO tests, that the S100 is the only camera able to perform this way. I just think that modern compact cameras can now really be excellent cameras for serious shooters, even if they may not look like pro cameras!

Do you really need a better camera? – Episode 1: landscapes

The cameras’ manufacturers like when we spend money on their new jewels. Of course we can satisfy our desire for consuming and we can just waste our money. It has the reputation to help against being depressive! Fair enough, but I have always been wondering whether technical improvements were so useful and conversely, I am always wondering which camera do I really need for a shooting?

I am genuinely testing very different cameras : a smartphone, a compact camera and a great DSLR with its sharpest ultra-wide zoon :

Samsung Galaxy 2 (cost and weight virtually nothing as embedded into a phone)
Canon S100 (370 €, 200 g)
Nikon D7000 + Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 (1’700 €, 1’300 g)

The idea is to illustrate thanks to different tests which advantage has each camera based on real life pictures. I don’t intend to make any scientific tests there, just to ponder the necessity of bringing with me a heavy camera (The D7000), or even the necessity to buy or not a compact given the improvements of smartphones’ cameras.

The first test will be very trivial : a landscape, on daylight, still subjects. So I could compare sharpness, contrast, colours, … but I decided to just focus at sharpness on this first test.

Similarly, I compare on purpose JPG and not RAW as I would expect the best camera to provide better JPG too. I have worked with A mode (Aperture priority), and wanted to keep the cameras at f/2,8. That’s indeed the fastest possibility of my Tokina 11-16 and again I would expect given the price, weight and size better results at full aperture with the best camera.

So to make a long story short, I was assuming that at this aperture, the Tokina 11-16 and the D7000 altogether – given the reputation they both have, should be much better than the Canon S100 (and of course of the cheap camera of a one-year-old smartphone!).

First the three pictures :




You may not see it on the web, but you can click on each picture to see them as full scale and on my screen (1900×1200), the Galaxy 2 picture has some visible noise, without making any crop. Given the easy shooting condition, I am disappointed. I am sure newest cameras’ smartphones may be better, but I am sticking to my conclusion : you can shoot with smartphone, but the gap is still immense compare with more serious cameras. Looks trivial, but I am now sure !

Then I cropped at 100 % the D7000 and the S100 :

S100 crop at 100%

D7000 crop at 100%

The D7000 and the Tokina are far from showing more details than the tiny S100, that’s more the other way around ! That was a surprise for me. I don’t want to say the D7000 don’t overcome the S100 in many ways but as a matter a fact, for landscapes done at daylight, I may challenge the reason to carry a so heavy camera ! Nowadays, high end compact cameras have really become extremely capable… OK I need more similar tests with landscapes, but again, on these shots, that’s definitively a real surprise.

Conclusion:

I know I cannot come to a conclusion with just one shot, I will do more tests of course, but so far I have to come the following conclusion: a modern compact camera is just great for taking daylight and still subjects, and DSLR are not always so useful then, at least DX DSLR. Last and not least, smartphones don’t seem to be able to challenge high end compact cameras so far.

If you have made similar tests, please let me know.

Hello World!

Welcome to my blog. I am officially opening a list of posts which you may like, or may not like. I will be pleased sharing with you, and you don’t need to agree with me but you need to be polite, tough.

I will do my best, whatever you do, that’s a basic principle. I don’t aim nor expect becoming a rock star, I just hope you will enjoy the “show”.