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Author Topic: The Best and Worst of 2012  (Read 4931 times)
J. Paul
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« on: December 30, 2012, 09:18:18 AM »
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Great article and recap on the state of the industry!  I, as a long term user of Canon (1Ds, 1Ds Mark II and currently 1Ds Mark III) agree that Canon has left us still photographers behind.  Not everybody is shooting video, needs high ISO capability, GPS, etc.  I don't know who Canon is listening to these days but it is not me or many of still photographer friends.  Many of my companions have either added or shifted over totally to Nikon's D800 or D800e.  I will wait a while to see what Canon comes up with to counter the Nikon D800 before making any hasty decisions.
J. Paul
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Rhossydd
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« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2012, 10:50:21 AM »
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I thought the most interesting sentence in the article was this:-
"Also, as Sigma undoubtedly knows, within the next 18 months one of the major sensor and camera makers is going to release an advanced multi-layer sensor which bypasses the Foveon patents..."
I'm guessing this is related to http://www.canonrumors.com/2011/07/canon-3-layer-sensor-foveon-type-patent/
Which could also fit well with the continued rumours of a high mp Canon.

However using a non-Bayer sensor array seems a high risk strategy, for whoever it may be, given the poor track record of third party support for such options.

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BJL
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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2012, 01:40:53 PM »
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I thought the most interesting sentence in the article was this:-
"Also, as Sigma undoubtedly knows, within the next 18 months one of the major sensor and camera makers is going to release an advanced multi-layer sensor which bypasses the Foveon patents..."
I'm guessing this is related to http://www.canonrumors.com/2011/07/canon-3-layer-sensor-foveon-type-patent/
Which could also fit well with the continued rumours of a high mp Canon.
There are apparently multiple sensor makers out there with patents on other approaches to "X3", meaning measuring three colors of light at each location on the sensor. In addition to that Canon patent, there is a report on a Sony patent at http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/new-foveon-style-sensor-patent/ and I recall reading of other such patents from Fujifilm, Panasonic, and maybe Toshiba.


If a big player like Sony or Canon launches an X3 sensor, I expect it to be able to put adequate resources into guanteeing good raw processing support, hopefully in collaboration with companies like Adobe, not just through the camera makers' in-house software.


P.S. I overall agree strongly with Michael's assessment of 2012, but with one exception: the Olympus OMD EM5 belongs on a photographic "best of 2012” list — unless the topic is product naming or "ease of use with gloves on".
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 01:49:32 PM by BJL » Logged
Rhossydd
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« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2012, 02:12:10 PM »
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If a big player... launches an X3 sensor, I expect it to be able to put adequate resources into guanteeing good raw processing support, hopefully in collaboration with companies like Adobe, not just through the camera makers' in-house software.
One would hope so, but let's be honest, so far Adobe (and other 3rd party RAW software) haven't exactly shone at supporting anything other than Bayer sensors.
If the recent Fujis and Sigmas had quickly had as good conversions as their Bayer sensored competition I'd have some confidence, but so far it hasn't suggested that any new radically different sensors will be supported well and quickly.

I'm sure that Nikon's D800 success has been helped by the fact that existing software products supported it quickly and delivered great results as soon as it hit the shelves. Would a Canon high mp camera succeed so quickly if you were stuck having to use DPP to work it's files ? I'm not so sure.
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BJL
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2012, 03:57:12 PM »
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One would hope so, but let's be honest, so far Adobe (and other 3rd party RAW software) haven't exactly shone at supporting anything other than Bayer sensors.
If the recent Fujis and Sigmas ...
That was my point about X3 sensors from "big players" — which Sigma and Fjifilm are not, to their detriment when it comes to persuading the likes of Adobe to support their non-standard sensor designs promptly and well. Adobe could probably not afford to treat a sensor used by Canon or Nikon so poorly.


A question which perhaps Jeff Schewe can answer: to what extent does DNG currently support sensor types like X3 or the new Fujifilm ones?
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 04:17:18 PM by BJL » Logged
Rhossydd
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2012, 05:00:48 PM »
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Adobe could probably not afford to treat a sensor used by Canon or Nikon so poorly.
Not so sure. If the sensor is only in a very expensive high end DSLR would the tiny market justify what might be prove to be some very difficult software engineering ?

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Ray
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2012, 06:59:41 PM »
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P.S. I overall agree strongly with Michael's assessment of 2012, but with one exception: the Olympus OMD EM5 belongs on a photographic "best of 2012” list — unless the topic is product naming or "ease of use with gloves on".

Would I be correct in assuming that you own an OMD E-M5, BJL? I vaguely recall your mentioning this in some other thread, or perhaps I got the model numbers mixed up.

If this is correct, that you do own an  E-M5, then that would explain your extraordinary antagonism towards DXO's methodology for measuring ISO and your blunt assertion that they are wrong.

Having just checked the DXOMark test results for the OMD E-M5, I was amazed to see that all Olympus' nominated ISO settings for this model are out by a whole stop. They are overstating their ISOs by far more than most manufacturers, according to DXO's methodology.

Comparing the other measurements for the E-M5 with a very basic, entry-level DSLR, such as the Nikon D3200 which seems to be about 2/3rds of the price of the Olympus model, I find that the SNR of the Nikon at 18% is almost a whole stop better (at base ISO). The DR of this entry level Nikon is also a whole stop better, and Color Sensitivity is 1.3 bits better (a difference of 1 bit being at the threshold which is noticeable).

In addition, this entry-level Nikon has a full 50% more pixels than the OMD EM5.

However, I don't wish to appear biased. The E-M5 does have a couple of impressive features, in particular its high frame rate of 9fps, and what appears to be an improved in-built image stabilisation system.

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BJL
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« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2012, 08:35:16 PM »
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Ray,
    You are right that I am the happy owner of an EM5. You are wrong about almost everything else.

1. I have never said that the DxO measurement is wrong as far as being one possible measure of a camera's sensitivity, since after all, it is just a slight variation of the ISO saturation-based measure of sensitivity, Ssat. What I have said is that is wrong for anyone to declare that this is the unique ISO sensitivity measurement, and that camera makers are therefore wrong when they report other ISO measures of sensitivity such as ISO Standard Output Sensitivity [SOS] or ISO Recommended Exposure Index [REI]. As you should by now be well aware, camera makers like Olympus who are members of the CIPA are required to use either SOS or REI, not Ssat, in this calibration, so I am fairly sure that neither Olympus nor any other CIPA member (roughly meaning all Japanese camera makers) is mis-stating their sensitivities: these cameras simply have SOS or REI measurements that are different from their Ssat measurements, due to varying decisions about how much highlight headroom to offer in raw files. You might want to consider this statement by DxO at the end of http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/About/In-depth-measurements/Measurements/ISO-sensitivity but reading "measured ISO in RAW" more precisely as "measured ISO saturation based sensitivity":
"As tests show, the ISO settings reported by camera manufacturers can differ significantly from measured ISO in RAW. This difference stems from design choices, in particular the choice to keep some “headroom” to avoid saturation in the higher exposures to make it possible to recover from blown highlights."

One aspect where I do therefore think that DxO somewhat wrong, or at least sloppy in their wording, is the familiar but imprecise usage of "ISO", the name of the standards setting body, as a synonym for "sensitivity", and through this obscuring the fact that there are five different measurements specified by the ISO for quantifying different aspects of a camera's sensitivity, not a unique one.


2. I am aware that the EM5 raw files provide significantly more highlight headroom than some other cameras, by placing the metered midtones a bit more than four stops below the maximum raw level, which means that its ISO Ssat is lower than its ISO SOS or ISO REI, whichever of the latter two Olympus uses to calibrate its sensitivity settings. I overall like this insurance against blown highlights when handling tricky lighting conditions, since blown highlights have ruined many more of my digital images than high noise levels have. I can see however that people who are greatly concerned about maximizing SNR through "ETTR" would be bothered by having to more often dial in some positive exposure compensation.


3. All other things being equal, one would expect the sensor size difference between the EM5 and D3200 to translate into a roughly 2/3 stop difference in DR when measurement are normalized for different pixel counts, and other lab. measurements of technical IQ also tend to improve with sensor size, especially when one allows larger lenses, larger aperture diameters, or longer exposure times to be used with the larger format, as implicitly happens in comparisons at equal exposure index, such as those at minimum exposure index setting. So the numbers you quote are unsurprising.

Do you imagine that I am one of those delusional format zealots who denies that there are trade-offs between factors like a the size, weight and cost of a camera and multiple lens kit vs low light capabilities and dynamic range?


4. I am firmly convinced that the only use _I_ (not you or anyone else) have for more than about 10-12MP is cropping latitude for subjects that are too small or too distant for the focal lengths of the lenses that I care to carry when exploring a city or some natural destination like a hiking trail, and the only thing that helps with those cropping needs is more lp/mm of sensor resolution: the advantage then lies with smaller pixels, not more of them. So the megapixel race is over for me: feel free to keep running it, if that serves your photographic needs.


You are right about one other  thing: the in-body IS of the EM5, which also works wonderfully with my adaptor-mounted non Micro Four Thirds lenses, is a Good Thing.  (I have never explored the high frame rate modes, being purely a "one frame per push of the shutter button" sort of person.)
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 08:38:56 PM by BJL » Logged
BJL
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« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2012, 12:04:58 PM »
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Not so sure. If the sensor is only in a very expensive high end DSLR would the tiny market justify what might be prove to be some very difficult software engineering ?
Maybe, but why should it be only in a very expensive high end DSLR? Sony could instead launch it in a higher volume mid-priced system camera, of that leads to better chances of support and adoption.

Also, a sensor maker like Sony could itself develop and provide the core algorithms for raw conversion and make them available, if this is judged necessary to encourage adoption of a new sensor type.

Aside: In fact, this seems like a good approach for camera makers in general: support each camera by making the core image processing specifications available. One option would be providing "raw to DNG" conversion software for each model, maybe as an API or plug-in.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2013, 07:47:55 AM »
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There was a time when Canon impressed us with leading products available for sales today... now it seems to be more about rumors, technological announcements and paper launches.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Rhossydd
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« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2013, 08:07:35 AM »
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There was a time when Canon impressed us with leading products available for sales today... now it seems to be more about rumors, technological announcements and paper launches.
If you read Canon rumours one things that has regularly cropped up for the last year is that they were hit far more badly by the big earthquake than they've admitted. Not admitting your difficulties seems a national trait, so there may be some truth in it.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2013, 12:15:15 PM »
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If you read Canon rumours one things that has regularly cropped up for the last year is that they were hit far more badly by the big earthquake than they've admitted. Not admitting your difficulties seems a national trait, so there may be some truth in it.

Yes, that could be the case, but there is no way they have been hit nearly as badly as Nikon has:

- The D800/D4 are produced in Sendai, the nearest large city to the epicenter,
- Their large lenses are produced in Northern Tochigi, not that far either,
- The rest of their line up is produced in Thailand where their factory and the Sony factory producing their sensors was hit by the largest flood in recent years.

This hasn't prevented them from delivering outstanding products on time relative to the announcements made.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Ray
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« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2013, 05:20:29 PM »
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1. I have never said that the DxO measurement is wrong as far as being one possible measure of a camera's sensitivity, since after all, it is just a slight variation of the ISO saturation-based measure of sensitivity, Ssat. What I have said is that is wrong for anyone to declare that this is the unique ISO sensitivity measurement, and that camera makers are therefore wrong when they report other ISO measures of sensitivity such as ISO Standard Output Sensitivity [SOS] or ISO Recommended Exposure Index [REI].

BJL, This is what you wrote a while back. "You would then learn that if indeed DxO claims that "most manufacturers exaggerate their ISO sensitivity", then DxO is utterly wrong: instead, most manufacturers are following the current ISO standard, using measurements according to either "Standard Output Sensitivity" or "Recommended Exposure Index", as is in fact required of Japanese camera manufacturers. They are simply not using DxO's preferred choice of equating "more than the standard-specified _minimum_ amount of highlight headroom in raw files" with "overstating the sensitivity".

Now, I have never used the word 'wrong' in relation to any manufacturer's methodology of setting their ISO standard. I've used terms such as exaggerate and overstate, but of course I understand that such overstatement can only be described as an overstatement in relation to a different standard, or different methodology.

The essential requirement for me, and I suspect many others, is that whatever method of measuring and describing ISO sensitivity is used, it should be a consistent method so that meaningful comparisons can be made.

If it is true that DXOMark's methodology is consistent, then it's clear that most other manufacturer's methodology of nominating ISO is not consistent, and therefore not reliable.

For example, one manufacturer overstates their ISOs by 1/3rd of a stop, on average, and another manufacturer, such as Olympus, overstates the ISOs of a particular model, the OM-D E-M5, by a full stop, on average, in relation the consistent ISO standard of DXO.

Each manufacturer will have its own reasons and justification for allowing a particular degree of highlight headroom, and that degree of headroom would seem to vary from brand to brand.

My understanding is that most people who use DSLRs shoot in jpeg mode. This is my experience when chatting with other people using DSLRs, during my frequent travels. It's therefore quite understandable to me that manufacturers, also realising that most of their customers shoot in jpeg mode, will employ all sorts of tricks to help them avoid blowing out highlights.

One such trick that Canon used was termed, "Highlight Tone Priority", and it worked.

The reason why it worked so well is because the real ISO setting the camera used when one took a shot in 'Highlight Tone Priority' mode was automatically set one stop lower than that idicated on the dial. This is why 'Highlight Tone Priority' was not available at base ISO, because there was no lower ISO available for the camera to use.

It seems to me that Olympus have used a similar trick to reduce the risk of blowing highlights. They've simply renamed all their ISO settings one full stop higher. What is actually ISO 100, from the perspective of a RAW shooter who is concerned about ETTR, Olympus describe as ISO 200 on the E-M5, and what is actually ISO 800 (or 782 to be precise), Olympus describe as ISO 1600.

This is just as effective as Canon's Highlight Tone Priority. In fact, in a sense it's even more effective because it can be used at base ISO.

Now let me say, I have no objection to Olympus catering to the needs of its jpeg shooters. In the distant past, on the few occasion I used jpeg because I was running out of memory, in the days when a 1GB Compact Flash card was considered enormous, I recall being annoyed with myself for not underexposing all shots by one full stop, because I realised too late that that's what would have been required to avoid blowing out highlight detail in sky and waterfall in jpeg mode.

I understand perfectly the reason why Olympus would overstate all its ISO settings by one full stop, in relation to the 'sensor saturation' methodology used by DXO which is of course mainly relevant to those who shoot in RAW mode and who attempt to achieve an ETTR exposure.

In fact, if I were in charge of designing cameras for some manufacturer, and the market research had indicated that the vast majority of customers shot mainly in jpeg mode, I would probably recommend such overstatement of ISO sensitivity, realising that only a few of us are able to achieve, as a matter of normal practice, the full DR potential of our cameras without blowing essential highlights.

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BJL
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« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2013, 08:16:10 PM »
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BJL, This is what you wrote a while back. "You would then learn that if indeed DxO claims that "most manufacturers exaggerate their ISO sensitivity", then DxO is utterly wrong: instead, most manufacturers are following the current ISO standard, using measurements according to either "Standard Output Sensitivity" or "Recommended Exposure Index", as is in fact required of Japanese camera manufacturers. They are simply not using DxO's preferred choice of equating "more than the standard-specified _minimum_ amount of highlight headroom in raw files" with "overstating the sensitivity".

Now, I have never used the word 'wrong' in relation to any manufacturer's methodology of setting their ISO standard. I've used terms such as exaggerate and overstate ...

Ray,
    Let me try to make this very simple point one more time.

- The ISO measurements that Camera and Imaging Products Association requires members to report are based on the ISO definitions of Standard Output Sensitivity [SOS] or Recommended Exposure Index [REI], which are different from the ISO definition of Saturation based sensitivity, Ssat.

- since these are different measurements (the former two based on JPEG output levels while the latter is based on raw output levels), there is no reason to expect that the numerical values will agree, and no basis for saying that a camera maker is "exaggerating" or "overstating" its "ISO". So I see little point to respond yet again to your persistent, wrong-headed talk of exaggeration or overstatement. It is almost as you still believe that the triplet of letters "ISO" refer to a single uniquely defined measurement.

On the other hand, you do raise a good point about the need for consistency. Fortunately, CIPA seems to have the same concern, and has dealt with it by:
- requiring that its members report either SOS or REI when describing "sensitivity"
- requiring that its members indicate which of these two methods has been used (with this requirement waived when the two values are the same, as far as I can tell).
- indicating some priority amongst these for SOS over REI.

In other words, the industry organization representing most camera makers has chosen ISO SOS as the primary basis for consistent reporting of digital camera sensitivity and exposure index calibration. For further details, see the following excepts from the relevant CIPA document.


From the CIPA standard DC-004

Part 3: Notation of Sensitivity of digital cameras  

1. Scope

This standard is applicable to product specifications for general consumers, including instruction booklets and catalogues, which document the sensitivity of consumer digital still cameras.  

2. Notation of Sensitivity

2.1 Notational terms  

(1) Characteristics to be specified as ‘Sensitivity' are the assigned values of Standard Output Sensitivity (symbol: SOS), and/or Recommended Exposure Index (symbol: REI). The use of both or either shall be acceptable. When both are listed, Standard Output Sensitivity shall come first, followed by Recommended Exposure Index. It is also acceptable to use the terms ‘Standard Output Sensitivity' and/or ‘Recommended Exposure Index' as notational terms of each value instead of using the word ‘Sensitivity'.

(2) When assigned values are specified as ‘Sensitivity' in catalogues or instruction booklets, either Standard Output Sensitivity or Recommended Exposure Index shall be listed.  
« Last Edit: January 01, 2013, 08:32:16 PM by BJL » Logged
Ray
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« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2013, 06:28:55 AM »
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Ray,
    Let me try to make this very simple point one more time.


No need, BJL. Did you not read the following comment in my previous post, which I repeat here just in case you missed it.

Quote
Now, I have never used the word 'wrong' in relation to any manufacturer's methodology of setting their ISO standard. I've used terms such as exaggerate and overstate, but of course I understand that such overstatement can only be described as an overstatement in relation to a different standard, or different methodology.

Does your computer or browser not show statements in bold text, BJL? Perhaps that's the problem.

I really don't care what standard is used and what it may be called, as long as it's a consistent standard.

For example, my Nikon D700 with similar megapixel count to my Canon 5D, and same size sensor, has a claimed base ISO of 200, as opposed to the claimed base ISO of 100 for the 5D.

What I want to know, for comparaison purposes, is whether or not the sensitivity of the D700 sensor actually is double that of the 5D sensor, or perhaps more specifically, one F/stop more sensitive.

I don't care whether the figure of 200 refers to an ISO standard or an REI standard or an SOS standard, or an FWP standard (read whatever you like for FWP).

What DXOMark results tell me is that the base sensitivity of the D700 sensor is not quite double that of the 5D, but is fairly close to being double, ie, ISO 162 as opposed to ISO 92, or about 3/4ths of a stop more sensitive.

That greater sensitivity of the D700 is real and very noticeable. DXOMark also tells me there is no loss of SNR, Tonal Range or Color Sensitivity as a result of that greater sensitivity, and that the DR of the D700 is a whole stop better, not only at base ISO, but all ISOs up to, and including, ISO 800.

Now, when I come across a camera such as the Olympus OMD E-M5 which claims a base ISO of 200, I immediately think that's a very useful feature for my type of photography where shutter speed is often quite critical for sharp results.

However, when I see DXOMark's claim that the ISO 200 setting on the E-M5 is actually ISO 107, by DXO standards and the same standards I'm using to compare all other cameras that interest me, I immediately realise that that feature on the E-M5 as claimed, is not nearly as attractive as I first thought.

Is that not clear?
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« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2013, 09:18:17 AM »
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I will weigh-in on the peculiar place the OM-D fits in the pantheon of 2012 cameras.  I DO believe that it belongs in a best list, though I think the reasons are a bit more nebulous.  

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have an OM-D and I love it. I came from Canon, which I still own but rarely use, and will not buy any more Canon gear until they catch-up with the rest of the industry.

The OM-D isn't competing with traditional APS-C or full frame cameras purely on image quality.  The qualities that make the OM-D compelling are it's size, good IQ, pro features, and large selection of small and excellent quality lenses.  

I was amused to see the DPReview Best of 2012 voting awarded the OM-D first place.  What was funny were the short descriptions that went with the second and third place cameras (D800 and 5DMKIII) were more laudatory than the OM-D's description.  When a product wins based on its blend of features and attributes instead of outright winning one ore more categories, people struggle to articulate why it is a winner.  

The OM-D transformed the camera market as the first small (mirrorless) camera with professional features and a wide selection of lenses with very little compromise in image quality.

Of course the NEX series and the Fuji X series of cameras really deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with the Olympus, but I think we generally agree that the OM-D camera with its lenses is the most mature system in the mirrorless space right now.  

« Last Edit: January 02, 2013, 10:06:24 AM by fike » Logged

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BJL
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« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2013, 09:29:42 AM »
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To Ray:
I am glad that you have now revised or clarified your position. Whereas previously you seemed to state categorically that any reported ISO setting that differs from the DxO saturation based measure is an exaggeration or overstatement of "ISO", you now seem to acknowledge that these can instead be accurate values of the industry-standard ISO Standard Output Sensitivity, which will differ from DxO values if a camera offers more than one half stop of highlight headroom.

To everyone:
My apologies for contaminating this thread, and a few others, with an off-topic debate. I propose to quarantine further discussion in a thread of its own on "ISO sensitivity measures" over in the equipment forum "Digital Cameras and Shooting Techniques", for the two or three of us who care.


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dreed
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« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2013, 06:46:09 AM »
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That was my point about X3 sensors from "big players" — which Sigma and Fjifilm are not, to their detriment when it comes to persuading the likes of Adobe to support their non-standard sensor designs promptly and well. Adobe could probably not afford to treat a sensor used by Canon or Nikon so poorly.

Support for raw file format depends on vendors documenting and sharing the specification for their file format.

If Sigma/Fuji do not make available to Adobe what the file format is then they cannot support the raw files generated by those cameras. A quick search on the Internet and I find comments that Sigma actually encrypts the entire raw file.

So the problem is right there: Sigma don't want end users to have access to the raw sensor data recorded by the camera.
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BJL
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« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2013, 09:33:56 AM »
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I will weigh-in on the peculiar place the OM-D fits in the pantheon of 2012 cameras.  I DO believe that it belongs in a best list, though I think the reasons are a bit more nebulous.
...
Of course the NEX series and the Fuji X series of cameras really deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with the Olympus, but I think we generally agree that the OM-D camera with its lenses is the most mature system in the mirrorless space right now.
That is a good summary. I like to think of the nebulous balance of virtues you describe in systems like Micro Four Thirds, NEX and Fujifilm X as "agility", akin to what Leica introduced to the photographic world almost a century ago.

As far as that newcomer, the Fuji X series: I have hopes that it will earn a place on lists of "2013 products that added most to the joy of photographic enthusiasts". With a few feasible changes like improved AF and raw converter support, and a few more lenses (in particular a telephoto zoom lens to go with the 18-55/2.8-4) the X system could greatly widen its appeal to enthusiasts of "agile" photographic systems.
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« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2013, 05:40:17 AM »
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Difficult to disagree with any of Michael's selections. Personally, I'd also add the Leica M Monochrom in the 'best' section and that SLR Magic lens in the 'worst' category. The latter provides a salutary lesson to any company that chooses to proactively create an internet buzz around a new product.
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