News/Views

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This page of the site contains the latest 10 articles to appear on bythom, followed by links to the archives.

Hello World

Yesterday was supposedly the birthday of main(){printf("hello, world/n");}

When my site goes silent, even for a day or two, I get the inevitable "are you okay?" emails. Well, if I weren't, I probably wouldn't be able to answer an email ;~).

Yes, this site has been quiet this week. Working on two books, two upcoming online presentations, 16 product reviews, and more means that if something isn't happening requiring news or commentary, I'm going to devote my time to those things. Oh, and I've been shoveling a lot of snow lately, too ;~).

Despite this being a trade show week—CP+ in Japan, typically a big show with lots of product announcements)—the camera industry has been mostly quiet. The pandemic, supply chain issues, lack of travel capability, and more means that all the camera companies are playing things closer to the vest this year. Nikon, in particular, seems to be out of stock of a lot of key products, so personally I'd rather have them addressing that then announcing new ones that I can't obtain. 

I've posted a few new product bits over on sansmirror.com that came out of CP+ if you really need to read something I've written this week. Otherwise, enjoy the silence, shovel your snow, get an appointment for a COVID-19 immunization, or something else useful. 

Solving the Firmware Problem

Nikon's recent Z6 II and Z7 II firmware updates (now available to download) illustrate a problem that all tech companies have, but one that is now plaguing the camera industry.

The Z6 and Z7 are still for sale new on the market. Did they get the appropriate pieces of the new Z6 II and Z7 II firmware in their own firmware update? No. In particular, one small fix that added EXIF information that Final Cut Pro could pick up and display. The remaining things in the update pertain solely to the II models, but that particular issue is one that the original cameras also have. So why didn't we get a firmware update for that? Again, Nikon is still selling those cameras as new; they've not been taken off the market. And frankly, even if they were no longer sold I would argue that this is a fix that should be made.

Nikon isn't the only camera company having this problem. I've seen it with Fujifilm, OM Digital Solutions, and Sony, as well, and I suppose if I looked closely enough, I could find it endemic to all the makers. Even crossing outside of cameras, the problem persists. Samsung just sent a press release on their latest phone that they'd provide security updates for only four years (technically, that's three less years than the company would be committed to repairing said phone). Apple is quick to relegate older OS versions to the "no longer updated" heap, though lately they've tempered that a bit, and you at least still see security updates that go back two or more versions.

I don't want a camera, phone, computer, or car that is abandoned by its maker long before I stop using it. If a tech company wants customer loyalty, they're going to have to step up and make a real commitment to keeping firmware/software secure, bug free, and complete for a known period of time, not the short period of time that some bean counter says has expired. 

Yes, this is difficult. It requires resources that the tech companies would rather use elsewhere, and it has real costs in order to do. As customers, we have to support those companies financially in order for them to do it, and there are only two ways that happens: higher up-front prices, or on-going costs. 

So I'm going to propose a solution. Neither you nor the camera companies are going to 100% like my solution, but the fact that both sides will suffer some pain over it means that it's probably the right solution:

  • COMPANY will provide timely security, bug fix, and feature completion updates for a PRODUCT for a period not less than that for which they must guarantee to provide repair (7 years after last manufacturing of product in the US, which I believe is still the worst case). CUSTOMER may have to pay a fair, annual firmware update fee to have access to those updates after warranty for PRODUCT has expired. 



Weekly Site Update Summary (thru Feb 19)

byThom also publishes gear-specific Web sites. All gear-specific articles are posted on them. Recent such articles (February 15-19) include:

zsystemuser.com — covers Nikon Z System

sansmirror.com  — covers all mirrorless cameras

This list of postings on the gear-specific sites is provided about once a week on bythom.com. If you're a time-sensitive junkie, you need to point your RSS reader to the News/Views page on each of my sites, as that will push to you all the latest articles as they appear.

Older Bodies

I've noted on some of my other sites, mostly notably zsystemuser.com and sansmirror.com, that supply chain issues are limiting availability of a lot of the most recently-introduced cameras at the moment. I did note, however, that there are two older cameras that are still quite viable on deep discount at the moment, and in stock. 

First up, we have the Olympus E-M1 Mark II (nope, not III). With the most recent firmware updates, this camera performs quite well. Maybe not state-of-the-art autofocus, but still very usable for most types of photography. With some learning and care, I've managed to use it for birds in flight with some success (but again, not state-of-the-art compared to the Sonys). This is a really well-built camera that can survive rain and more, and once you've spent the time to figure out how to configure it, you'll find it very much like a DSLR in terms of shooting without taking your eye from the viewfinder. Current price new is US$999, which makes it somewhat of a bargain. You simply can't find a better built camera that's highly capable at that price. Yes, it's m4/3, so it's not going to be a low-light champion, but the m4/3 optics are excellent, and with some of today's raw converters, particularly DxO PhotoLab 4 running on a fast computer, you can manage that noise, too. I don't know how long this camera will last at this price [advertiser link], but I consider it a bargain at that price, and still a camera you should consider. 

Meanwhile, B&H is selling the highly capable Sony A9 at a rock bottom price of US$2998 [advertiser link], and they throw in a flash and some accessories, too. The Mark II model really only rounded off some rough edges for working pros who were using some of the more advanced features, such as FTP. In terms of the basic camera, a firmware updated A9 is still a powerhouse that will let you shoot at up to 20 fps without viewfinder blackout, and with very good focus performance. When the Mark II came out I wondered whether or not I'd use the new features and tweaks, and the answer to that is "not really." For the privilege of getting a Mark II over the original, you'll pay US$1500 more. For most people, it's not worth the extra money. Note that the original A9 is only on sale through February 21st, so you don't have a lot of time to opt for that bargain. 

While I point to B&H pages on this site, I note that most other dealers have the same bargains going at the moment (though perhaps with different kits in the case of the A9). 

Plenty of other older cameras are on sale at the moment, as well. The ubiquitous Sony A6000 with two kit lenses is US$300 off through February 21st, making for a complete kit at less than US$700. Still quite a good camera, though a little fussy in the UX for some.

What I'm trying to point out here is this: there won't be many bargains in the newest, latest, gee whiz toys the camera makers have, and you may find that you can't even find those in stock. But cameras—yes, even mirrorless cameras—have been quite good for some time now, and those older cameras are turning into real bargains as they get closer to their end of life points. If you're in the mood to purchase a camera, it's probably worth it to take some time browsing through your favorite dealer's Web site and see what they've got that might quell you GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). I'm pretty sure there are some real bargains sitting on those shelves. I've only pointed out two of them that stood out to me here, but there are more.

New Nikon Sensor

Curiously, after being mostly quiet on the scholarly conference circuit, Nikon has returned this week with a presentation at the International Conference on Solid State Circuits (ISSCC). Even more curious is the sensor Nikon describes.

bythom nikon sensor


Would you believe an 18mp, 1", BSI-stacked CMOS sensor capable of 1000 frames a second, HDR-type dynamic range extension (to 134dB, or 22+ stops engineering DR), and a pixel size of 2.7 square microns? The experimental chip described was apparently fabbed on a 65nm stepper, which is generally smaller than being used for large sensors at the moment.

Why 1"? Probably for economical reasons. You don't want to start sophisticated sensor development with full frame because to do that requires multiple stitching passes on the stepper, and we have two different layers (image portion, and stacked portion) already being dealt with. In other words, solve one problem at a time. But more importantly, it appears that Nikon might actually have created this sensor specifically for industrial use, which would be a new market for them (they currently don't supply such sensors that I know of). 

The presentation describes new technology that appears to be derived from one of the four Nikon sensor patents I've been following. 

Hopefully this will bring to rest the notion that Nikon doesn't have a sensor design group. They do. It's active, and has been active since 1988. 

What any of this means for dedicated cameras is unclear. However, the fact that Nikon is dabbling in multiple advanced sensor technologies isn't a fluke. They've been doing that for as long as I can remember, they just tend to do it quietly ever since the D2h "fiasco." 

Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 Lens on Sale

B&H is having one its periodic one-day price reductions on this excellent lens. [advertiser link]

If you don't have a wide-angle zoom for your DX or EF-S camera and are looking for one, US$100 off (19% off) is a very nice reduction.

The question that always comes up is this: 11-16mm or 11-20mm? Frankly, I've not found a lot to distinguish between the two, so I tend to recommend that you let price help you decide. Today only, the 11-20mm is the lower priced model, so it would be the one I recommend to you. 

As for the older models versus the newer atx-i models, I've also not found anything different between them optically. The atx-i models have a slightly more modern build, and perhaps a very slight advantage in water repellence (I don't believe the older models had a water-phobic front element coating).

Upcoming byThom Events


You asked for more of me. Be careful what you wish for. 

On March 30th (5pm PST) I'll be giving a Zoom lecture that's a big expansion of my old Chasing Galen story. I'll reflect on the eight years I traveled with Galen Rowell and some of the primary lessons he taught, using examples—both good and bad—from my collection of slides taken on those trips ;~). Yes, you read that right, film slides. 

During this pandemic I re-hooked up my Coolscan 5000 and have been going over many of the images I took during the 1994-2002 period and getting some of them into my digital database. Can't say I've found all the good ones, as there are over 15,000 slides to go through, and I can only manage a handful a day and keep up with all my other self-imposed work, game-playing, and napping ;~).

bythom INT PERU CordilleraBlanca 75

Galen Rowell photographing in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru. What's he photographing? Well, you'll have to attend the event to find out.

The Creative Photo Academy (the teaching arm of Paul's Photos) is hosting this one-time, US$49, Zoom-based event: Chasing Galen, and Learning From Him as I Did. Use that link to sign up. If somehow you end up not being able to attend live, the event will be recorded and available to you to view for a month afterwards.

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Meanwhile, the pandemic has disrupted my workshop schedule for over a year now. That said, the Botswana, Africa workshops are still on my calendar, only they've been rescheduled for April 2022 (originally, they were planned for April 2020). These two workshops are already over half full, and thus there are only a handful of spots left open. If you're at all interested in them, you should download the PDF brochure and contact Lisa at Wilderness Travel to talk about signing up.

bythom INT BOTS Sawani 102

Someone misses you and wants to know when you're coming back...

I've once again added the Workshop page (and sub-pages for the individual workshops) back to the header. At the moment, these two Botswana workshops are the only ones I have planned at the moment. 

Due to all the postponements to travel that have occurred, many of the facilities I use can't tell me about availability further out yet, as they've been pushing previously booked clients into postponed dates. A word to the wise: if you're really interested in International travel in the 2022-2023 time frame, you're going to have to consider taking a risk and booking now. Once the floodgates of travel re-open, all the postponed tours are going to be sitting there eating up much of the availability, and I expect demand will exceed supply in many places. 

As outlined in the brochure, because of the non-refundable deposits now required for these workshops we strongly advise you get Trip Cancellation insurance. When you sign up with Wilderness Travel they can help you find appropriate insurance. 

Elsewhere on byThom Sites (Feb 6-14)

byThom also publishes gear-specific Web sites. All gear-specific articles are posted on them. Recent such articles (January 29-February 5) include:

zsystemuser.com — covers Nikon Z System

sansmirror.com  — covers all mirrorless cameras

This list of postings on the gear-specific sites is provided about once a week on bythom.com. If you're a time-sensitive junkie, you need to point your RSS reader to the News/Views page on each of my sites, as that will push to you all the latest articles as they appear.

One From the Vault

Happy Valentine's Day.

bythom INT EC Galapagos 203


"Often seen as an affectionate platonic greeting, a peck on the cheek can have multiple meanings and is a sign of affection." From What His Kiss is Really Saying. Of course, he/she might interpret things differently ;~).

Deleting Images

My teaching partner and I have this on-going discussion (argument?) about images: do you delete any images or not? If so, when and how? Short answer: everyone will have a slightly different take on this.

This isn't a topic you should approach lightly, though. You really should take some time to think through what you're doing and why. That's what I'm going to try to get you to do today.

The usual argument "for" deleting images has to do with storage. A few make the argument that it also is about time (e.g. amount of time it takes to ingest, handle, backup images). 

My argument is that storage is cheap, and if you're using the right cards, card reader, and drives (Thunderbolt 3 SSD, baby), time isn't typically an issue. That said, I've been going through over 15,000 slides recently to look for images for an upcoming presentation I'm giving, and I'm understanding the time issue a bit differently today as I look at page after page of slides on a small light box trying to find the right images, while ignoring all the images I'll likely never use. (With digital images and products like Lightroom, good categorization and keywords would help you breeze through this task.)

I'm a "keeper." Okay, I throw away the images I accidentally take of my feet or pants legs while running from one end of a stadium to the other, but if there's a subject in the image, I keep it. Including any out of focus ones in a sequence. Why? Two reasons: 

  1. I can go back and look through a shooting session and see my errors. Bad images help me figure out what problem I was having and then I work to solve it. I'll be the first one to admit that I make mistakes. Plenty of them. However, I also look closely at my errors and try to figure out how to improve. It's much tougher to improve when you just vaguely remember you had a problem and think you might know what it is, compared to when you have the evidence right in front of your eyes and can test assumptions against it.
  2. Software has gotten better at correcting errors. Missed exposure and focus can amazingly be "corrected" far better than you thought it might be when you actually took the image. Image stabilization didn't exist back when I took a lot of those slides, and some of them have a bit of motion blur to them. If you've got enough computer horsepower and the right software, it's amazing how much you can recover these days. Had I thrown those marginal images away when I took them, I'd be kicking myself today.
bythom INT CHILE Torres 171

What the heck happened here? Right in the middle of a dozen nicely framed images was this one. Patagonia winds, that's what happened. A nice 60 mph gust (note the water drops in upper left) hit my setup just as I was pressing the remote. The slightly circular blur is because I grabbed one of the legs so the camera didn't hit the ground. But having this image in my files was useful. I kept looking at the effect of the slightly circular blur, and then set off on a long series of attempts to find a subject that worked with that (more on that later).

So let me put a few points out for you to consider in your debate about how aggressively you delete images:

  • If you haven't optimized for speed, you should. Whether you keep all your images or just half of them, using slow cards, slow card readers, and slow drives is just going to frustrate you and keep you wondering if you should be more aggressive about deleting images. Remove the temptation. I've seen people who could have saved more time just by having faster speed gear when compared to all the time they spent deleting images. Oh, and invest in really fast viewing software, such as Photo Mechanic or FastRawViewer. Lightroom is not all that fast for massive image reviews.
  • In camera deletion is still something to avoid when possible. It used to be that deleting in camera caused all kinds of file system errors with digital cameras. Despite every camera maker using some derivative of DOS in their file system, that was all recoded in Japan from scratch and the camera makers had to relearn all the lessons learned stretching way back into the DEC PDP era (from whence much of the FAT idea came from). Today I still find that card errors can occur with deletion, particularly in two scenarios: (1) deleting from a full or nearly full card; and (2) deleting from a card that's been in multiple different cameras without having been reformatted.
  • In camera marking can be your friend. Some cameras allow you to put ratings or protection marks on images. If you take a lot of images at a time (or don't ingest your card for days at a time), having the images you like that you marked while shooting and using software during ingest that will pick up that mark is your time saving friend. I use this method all the time when photographing sports: between plays I'll chimp and mark images to push quickly (sometimes I'll do it immediately via SnapBridge, but more often I just grab the marked images at halftime and push them then). 
  • Can you recreate the image you're deleting? I go exotic places and take photos of ephemeral things. If I miss focus or exposure a bit, if I shake the camera, if something partially obstructs the view, when possible I'll take another image (assuming I noticed my mistake). But if not possible, I still want that image around, due to #2, above: I've learned over 30 years of working with digital images that I can get more out of images I thought completely lost with the latest, greatest hardware and software. Something obscured? Content-aware fill. Something slightly out of focus or camera moved? Piccure+. Underexposed and noisy? Topaz Denoise AI or maybe DxO Prime. Tilting buildings and horizons? LR/ACR Geometry. On the other hand, if I can easily go and get the correct image—often the case with static objects, such as buildings—then maybe that's the better use of my time as opposed to a "fix session" in Photoshop. 

As many of you know, I'm highly analytical and data driven (though I can also be spontaneous, a rare combination). I want to be able to explore my mistakes and look for commonalities, because when I make the same mistake more than once I know I will make it again if I don't correct my problem. 

Today I'm going to ask you to be a little analytical (and perhaps data driven), and figure out what your real approach to deletion is and if it's the right one. Let me start with a few ideas:

  1. Keep everything, use it to study and discover your patterns (both good and bad).
  2. Keep anything that's not a lens cap or a pants leg or the bottom of the bag shot (i.e. remove only images that have no useful data in them).
  3. Keep only those images you know you can correct today (e.g. modestly missed exposure, wrong crop).
  4. Keep only images you know that you'll revisit and post process.
  5. Keep only "winning" images (those images you think will wow an audience).

I'm a #2. My teaching partner is somewhere between a #3 and #4. 

Today, what number are you? How did you determine that? Is that really where you think you should be? Are there images you remember taking, but deleted and now wish you hadn't? Are you truly aware of what software today can recover and what it can't, and can you imagine what AI software might be able to recover in five years?

Answer those questions and then go back to that last numbered list and figure out which type of Deleter you should be, as opposed to the one you are. Maybe you've got it just right. Maybe you should change. But make sure you know what you're doing and why. Once those pixels are gone, they're gone. 

_____

Also posted in Technique, which is what you should bookmark or use for URL links.


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