Skip

EVIL little cameras
January 18, 2010 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Should you ditch your dSLR? Wired thinks so. The recent introduction of EVIL cameras (Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lenses) is a revolution in camera design that has eliminated the original bane of photography, parallax error, without the use of a mirror (greatly reducing camera size). Canon, Nikon, and Sony are expected to introduce EVIL-type cameras within the year.

Quick comparison of EVIL vs. Traditional dSLR cameras

Note: "greatly reducing camera size" link is very slow to load.
posted by lattiboy (143 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wake me up when an actual low-noise sensor shows up in this form factor.
posted by effugas at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


My understanding is that the one downside to "EVIL" cameras is that they tend to add more noise in higher ISO/lower light situations. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by jckll at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2010


They also commit your immortal soul to eternal damnation. But hey, they take pretty pictures!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2010 [14 favorites]


I just got my first dSLR, so up yours, Wired.
posted by jquinby at 1:09 PM on January 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Hey buddy, I was wondering if you could help me find a good camera?"

"Well, 'good' I can't help you with, but check out this little EVIL model I just got in..."
posted by defenestration at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2010


Also, what's Wired gonna do twenty years from now, when everything is wireless?

Oh yeah, not exist. I forgot.
posted by defenestration at 1:13 PM on January 18, 2010


I just got a Panasonic G-F1. Really like it so far. And as an added bonus, my evil quotient just went up!
Yay evil!
posted by bstreep at 1:13 PM on January 18, 2010


The major major drawback is still that using a screen (or electronic viewfinder) the lag makes it very hard to capture that split-second moment which is crucial in sport and nature photography but also important for taking good portrait shots.

(And for landscape you probably want a bigger, lower-noise, sensor.)

So while age of the high-end fixed-lens "prosumer" camera is finally (and thankfully) over, the SLR will be around for at least another few years.
posted by dickasso at 1:19 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


As the proud owner of a Lumix LX-3 (no interchangeable lens, but anyway) and the former owner of innumerable SLRs, I heartily concur.

And the fact that I can take my daughter out to teach her the fundamentals of photography, including the effects of shutter speed and aperture, and she can shoot to her hearts content, and review the results immediately after, is, well, great.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:21 PM on January 18, 2010


SCENE: Deep inside drSLR EVIL's lair...

drSLR EVIL: “SLR, sorry, you're not EVIL enough. You’re quasi-EVIL. You're semi-EVIL. You’re the margarine of EVIL. You’re the Diet Pepsi of EVIL. Just 6.3 megapixels, not EVIL enough.”
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


A great part about shooting with larger sensors and fast lenses is shooting in lower-light conditions without the harsh direct flash of a point-and-shoot. Casual users don't care about not using a flash. Seriously. They don't even get that pictures taken with a flash look totally different that ones without it.

Another great part about with larger sensors and fast lenses is shooting at lower ISO and getting very low image noise. Casual users don't care about image noise. Seriously. They don't even see it, the same way kids these days don't hear MP3 compression artifacts.

When I got my Canon S90 on the basis of its amazing large sensor and f/2.0 lens, my girlfriend's first questions were 1) How many megapixels? 2) How much zoom? 3) Why aren't you getting something with more zoom? 4) No seriously, more zoom! And that's not many pixels! Why does this camera cost so much since it's so bad? If you're educated enough to know about these things, you're probably educated enough to also know that Contrast A/F is terrible and you'd much rather be using something with phase detection A/F unless you're actually just interested in something with a small form factor (in which case interchangeable lenses are too much bulk).

The really big fail here is that casual point-and-shoot users really suck at using their cameras, and larger sensor sizes exacerbate those problems. Smaller sensors = deeper depth of field, so it doesn't matter as much that they 1) don't press the shutter halfway to give the camera time to focus adequately and 2) even if they do, they'll move the camera after doing so and throw the focus out anyway. If I want my next camera to be something that is too hard to use for a casual user and too frustrating to use for an enthusiast, an EVIL camera sounds like a great idea.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:23 PM on January 18, 2010 [24 favorites]


My understanding is that the one downside to "EVIL" cameras is that they are fucking evil.

I mean, it's right there in the name. Hell, they capitalized it!

This is the kind of thing that you are looking at the smoking ruins of your house with just the back end of your car jutting from the second story bedroom and you turn to the camera which says "What? You knew I was evil when you bought me..."
posted by quin at 1:24 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Still, I'm a sucker for camera-tech, so I'll probably check it out, but I am seriously reticent to give up my viewfinder. These things are going to have to be amazing to get me to consider switching from my DSLR.
posted by quin at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2010


Loving the combo of photo-geekery and stoopid word play in this thread.
posted by slogger at 1:29 PM on January 18, 2010


> The major major drawback is still that using a screen (or electronic viewfinder) the lag makes it very hard to capture that split-second moment which is crucial in sport and nature photography but also important for taking good portrait shots.

Another advantage digital has over film is you can fire off a zillion shots and pick out the one you want later. The Cartier-Bresson's decisive moment is no longer a precious, rare thing, and the challenge of the artist is to pick the best shot out of forty nearly-identical pics, each taken a half-second apart.

So you don't have to stay crouched behind the camera when shooting a portrait; you can pick up your head, engage the subject, and only occasionally have to check the monitor to make sure their head's staying in the frame.
posted by ardgedee at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just recently purchased a Panasonic GF-1 for work. The size, about that of a rangerfinder camera, was the deciding factor in the choice for me. I need to be able to clamber into awkward situations and carrying a big camera with all the other gear has always been a big problem. I'm outdoors most of the time, so high ISO performance isn't that much of a big deal. I do need a good macro and Olympus has some very nice glass in the 4/3 range. Pair that with a gorillapod and I'm set. The great, tiny prime, 20mm, equivalent to a 40mm on a dSLR size is also a nice plus. The continuous video at 730p is really nice, and it works with the AF. The camera is quick, on and shooting in less than 2 seconds, a huge advantage over the point and shoots that we used to use.

Overall, this form factor is such a huge improvement for me, I can't even begin to explain, really. It's almost a dSLR, as near as I can tell, but no where near as big or awkward.
posted by bonehead at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


won't the lack of resolution in the electronic viewfinder be an unresolvable limiting factor for serious photography?
posted by paperzach at 1:36 PM on January 18, 2010


Live preview is one massive advantage compact cameras have over dSLRs; I love my Canon SD960 because it's so small, because I never have to hold it up to my face, and because even if the pics aren't as good as the best a dSLR can produce, they're good enough, and the rest is a matter of improving my craft, not replacing the camera.
posted by ardgedee at 1:36 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Casual users don't care about not using a flash. Seriously. They don't even get that pictures taken with a flash look totally different that ones without it.

I used to think this, but I think that the sophistication of casual photographers has risen. I know several people who are absolute dilettantes when it comes to photography but who refuse to use flash because "that defeats the point". They end up taking super-blurry dark photos with their pocket cameras, but they're happier with that than with flash.

I imagine that two factors contribute to this trend: 1) the absolute awfulness of flash on compact cameras, that make every picture taken with it look completely terrible, and 2) Facebook, where your photo isn't going to be any larger than 300x500 so it tolerates an insane amount of blurriness.
posted by breath at 1:38 PM on January 18, 2010


So you're saying I can take one of these, cram it inside a giant aluminum SLR body and charge $3500 for it?
posted by ecurtz at 1:40 PM on January 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


ardgedee, most current DSLRs have a live preview mode
posted by qvantamon at 1:41 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always thought the viewfinder was becuase a display doesn't work in bright sunlight. Has that problem been resolved somehow?
posted by Keith Talent at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2010


ardgedee: To a point. But until video and stills converge (which is happening, but isn't there yet) that moment might be between those shots. Also, picking between 40 shots all the time is really really boring!
(Fashion shoots, weddings, you're right.)
Also, a number of DSLRs have live preview now.

0xFCAF: S90 = large sensor? I got excited and looked it up, but it seems small.
posted by dickasso at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2010


The GF-1 seems to be plenty bright outdoors on sunny days. I haven't missed having a viewfinder with it. What I do wish is that the screen flipped out and pivioted so that I could shoot from the hip as it were (and more importantly, on a boom).
posted by bonehead at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2010


There's nothing to stop one from using a flash, on camera or off with any of the current EVIL offerings. They all have standard hotshoes. They're exactly the same as any d/SLR in that regard.
posted by bonehead at 1:47 PM on January 18, 2010


Casual users don't care about not using a flash

I'm a point-and-shoot guy, because I love being able to carry my camera in my pocket wherever I go. But I'm totally anti-flash, turn that thing off and never turn it back on. Noise doesn't bother me, though, because I'm usually more interested in the composition of a shot than the fine details.

I have a Canon D10 now, which is a very nice camera. It's quicker on the shot than my old Olympus 790SW, but not as good in low light. I'm waiting and waiting for the CDHK, though, because there are a few little tricks I wish I could do, like super-long exposures.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:49 PM on January 18, 2010


Yet another innovation in the camera arms race - each new widget is another excuse to ignore the fundamentals of light. If you can see and shape light, you will take great photos even with a pinhole camera. Anything else is like the guy who drives a Ferrari to impress girls but can't even operate the stickshift.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:58 PM on January 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


This article is OK if the only reason you bought a dSLR was because you buy high-end gadgets... with statements like For most people, that is more than good enough perhaps they should have titled it Five reasons people who don't really use their camera to full potential should ditch their dSLRs.

I'm going to get a dSLR someday... someday. Meanwhile, I've been using a Canon S2-IS for the last 3 1/2 years - it's not quite EVIL (well, maybe - you can get wide angle & telephoto lens addons), but it does have an electronic viewfinder. It's OK most of the time, but I gotta say that unless they have somehow made the viewfinder resolution a whole lot higher, I doubt serious photogs are going to give up that true optical view through the lens any time soon.

Feh. "Top X reasons you should/shouldn't do Y" articles always make me bristle.
posted by usonian at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2010


Personally, I wouldn't trade my DSLR for an EVIL camera. There is, however, a smaller alternative that uses no mirror and is better than a DSLR in almost every way, the Leica M9. Of course, it's $7,000.
posted by snofoam at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2010


Previously, on the green...
The advantage of an SLR was the ability to frame the photo by looking through the lens, which wasn't possible with folders, TLRs, rangefinders, etc. Light had to be hidden from the film, of course, so you couldn't look straight through, hence the mirrors and prisms. With the switch to digital, there was no film to hide, opening to door to radical re-engineering of cameras. The camera companies, however, didn't take the chance to do that, merely stuck a sensor where the film used to be, and pretty much kept the cameras unchanged otherwise. I'm of the mind that the E-P1, and Micro 4/3rds in general, is a much bigger leap in the evolution of camera engineering than most people realize, because it's the first real decoupling of image quality, camera size, and lens interchangeability.
posted by The Michael The at 2:04 PM on January 18, 2010


F-off Wired! F-off EVIL. I'm up to page 12 of my 300-page dSLR manual. I'm not buying another f-ing ANYTHING until I figure out how to make 3 per cent of its functions work. (Actually, I think I can do without using its pregnancy test feature. We're beyond that in our house. So say page 13.)
posted by Mike D at 2:05 PM on January 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


We have evil cameras.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:06 PM on January 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


A great part about shooting with larger sensors and fast lenses is shooting in lower-light conditions without the harsh direct flash of a point-and-shoot. Casual users don't care about not using a flash. Seriously. They don't even get that pictures taken with a flash look totally different that ones without it.

Another great part about with larger sensors and fast lenses is shooting at lower ISO and getting very low image noise. Casual users don't care about image noise. Seriously. They don't even see it, the same way kids these days don't hear MP3 compression artifacts.


I don't think this is true; I'm a casual user, and I care about both of these things. So do most of my friends, and none of them are hugely into photography. Perhaps breath is right about casual users becoming more sophisticated; I don't know that, say, my sixty-year old aunt cares, but most of the people I know who are around my age do seem to care about flash and image quality.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:09 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I waited and waited all summer to buy one of these new gizmos, the Olympus EP-1, until I chickened out and decided I'd rather not be a guinea pig for this new technology. I bought a Lumix LX-3 instead, which I couldn't be happier with; its low-light/nighttime performance is incredible and the lens is wide, perfect for the kind of pictures I tend to take (buildings, melancholy landscapes, crowds, never using a flash). But even when I had an old SLR I'd rarely change the lens anyway, usually sticking with the 50mm prime. You're paying for and hauling all this extra gear, and fiddling around with it in the field; unless you're on assignment for National Geographic who wants the hassle?
posted by Flashman at 2:11 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Finally!

Now I can get over not being part of "we have cameras".
posted by srboisvert at 2:13 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The frogurt is also cursed.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't wait until these things become ubiquitous and start coming down in price. I love my Nikon D40, but even though it's small as dSLRs go, it's still bulky enough, even with just a small prime lens on it, that I end up leaving it at home more than I'd like. I'd rather a photo with a bit more noise in it than no photo at all.

If you can see and shape light, you will take great photos even with a pinhole camera.

Yes, but if your pinhole camera gives you shoulder-ache, then you're not going to use the thing.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 2:20 PM on January 18, 2010


Fucking Wired, did anybody over there hear that it's 2010, and we're two years into a terrible-forever Recession/Depression, and maybe people lucky enough to have a digital SLR camera are going to keep that thing for as long as it shoots, which is probably going to be 10 years unless they drop it?

Ugh, "what to buy next" guides .... (and yeah I know this is just a Wired blog copy of Gizmodo or whatever, but still, Wired is To Blame for this whole awful gadget-consumerism fetish bullshit.)
posted by kenlayne at 2:21 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


They end up taking super-blurry dark photos with their pocket cameras, but they're happier with that than with flash.

That's me. Although I tend to just leave the shutter open longer so extra super blurry but not so much dark.
posted by juv3nal at 2:21 PM on January 18, 2010


Since moving to a dSLR several years ago, I quickly realized how awful, awful, awful electronic viewfinders are. This was confirmed when I upgraded my dSLR to one with "live view", and found it to be a completely useless feature that I've never gone back to. Electronic viewfinders give poor colour and contrast reproduction, you can't see them in bright sunlight, they are low resolution, they drain the battery, they show you a slightly delayed version of what's going on, and in the case of my dSLR's live view mode, they mean the shot is no longer instantly taken when you press the shutter, but instead is delayed up to half a second.

You know what? Mirrors, in their simplicity, actually do a fantastic job, and replacing them with CCD -> Circuitry -> LCD has a long, long way to go.
posted by Jimbob at 2:21 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This whole "flash is evil" thing gets overblown - sometimes a shot, especially when the sun is low to the horizon and you just can't get around the backlighting, needs a fill flash. And sometimes fill flash just makes pictures look, well, better. Camera flash is like any other aspect of a camera - something to be taken into account, not to be discarded or left on autopilot.
posted by squorch at 2:21 PM on January 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


How soon will we see EVIL HDR?
posted by SPrintF at 2:23 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


dickasso: The major major drawback is still that using a screen (or electronic viewfinder) the lag makes it very hard to capture that split-second moment which is crucial in sport and nature photography but also important for taking good portrait shots.
I don't know of any reason to suppose that there's a limit to how short the electronic viewfinder lag can become. So I suppose this will only improve over time.

On the other hand, some amount of shutter lag is required by an SLR design; it takes time for the mirror to flip up and stop bouncing around.
posted by Western Infidels at 2:24 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


First of all, I am all for smaller, lighter, and cheaper cameras getting much better, and I think selling separate lenses makes them a lot more flexible, and also puts the proper incentives in place for the manufacture and sale of good optics.

A small sensor has a few tradeoffs (depth of field/out-of-focus blur, and noise/low-light performance, (this one is constantly improving across the board, but I, for one, still want better than what is available)).

I haven't shot with an electronic viewfinder ever; I'd be curious to see how it feels. I think could become a lot better than an optical one; especially in very dark conditions and when shooting weird stuff like infrared. I am curious how they handle the fact that the camera sensor has a greater dynamic range than most display technologies.

I'm sure we'll all be using something like this eventually, on whatever sensor sizes we favor, but I think it will be a slow transition.
posted by aubilenon at 2:25 PM on January 18, 2010


This seems a bit disingenuous. The people who want inchangable lenses, low noise and the ability to actually see what they're looking at, cannot make do with the current crop of 4/3. They are nice cameras but they lack a few things that are required by many serious photographers. For those who don't need those things the point and shoots have some pretty good options that are much cheaper than the current 4/3s offerings (the GF-1 with the 20mm lens is $899-999).

The reality is that bigger glass and bigger sensors will equal better pictures for the foreseeable future. This isn't saying that more pixels is better but that bigger lenses are generally able to resolve more detail than smaller lenses. This will be true until we can either create lenses that don't require glass or sensors that capture light in a different way.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:26 PM on January 18, 2010


Really? Another prosumer compact-vs-DSLR discussion?

Let's have a look.

They’re Small
With the mirror gone, the body can be a lot smaller, just like a compact digicam.


I have not conducted a poll, but from reading online forums and random discussions with other photographers, I would imagine that 90+% of DSLR shooters prefer looking through the viewfinder rather than holding a camera an arm's length away and squinting at the screen. The difference it makes on the way you look at the world is indescribable but very real. I personally find I get much more interesting photos with a DSLR than a high-quality compact, not to mention more motivation to take photos in the first place.

In addition, if these cameras aim to offer control over shutter speed, aperture, ISO, EV comp, AF mode, etc, either the tiny camera body will be crammed with buttons or the controls will be buried in onscreen menus. Neither of those options are acceptable for a DSLR-style camera. A camera can only become so small before the size starts hindering its usability.

And let's be honest, nobody will carry these cameras around in their pockets, especially at that price.

They Take Great Pictures
For most people, that is more than good enough.


For most people, a cellphone camera is good enough. 0xFCAF said it very well - most users simply don't care about noise, bokeh, good lighting. A $200-300 camera is all that casual shooters need; making a camera with a large sensor and advanced features seems futile unless the price is low enough.

In addition, the "quality" of DSLR photos comes mostly from the lens, not the sensor. Will manufacturers be willing to make $600+ lenses for this emerging market? Doubtful.

You Can Change Lenses
It’s more likely though, given the tiny pocket-sized lenses for these cameras, that you will actually carry them with you. Better still, with an adapter you can use all your current DSLR lenses on the newer, smaller body.


See my previous comment - these lenses will not be as good as current (good) DSLR lenses. So it is a camera that can accept various lenses roughly of the same range and quality as current compact cameras. I can't think of a reason to have this other than salemen being able to say "This camera can do this! Others can't! Buy it!"

Or we can use awkward adapters to use current SLR lenses on smaller bodies?... This argument could only have been made by somebody who has never handled a large lens. Large, heavy, high-quality lenses require large camera bodies for balance. Otherwise, you have a camera that is frustrating to hold in your hands.

And again, who will be walking around with a pocketful of lenses?

They’re Fast
Compacts have lost out to DSLRs by being slow. Slow to power up, slow to zoom and slow to actually respond to your trigger finger.


Compacts have lost out to DSLRs because of slow contrast-based autofocus. DSLRs have ultrasonic motors built into lenses and software that usually trickles down from top-of-the-line models. A compact could get close, but I won't believe it until I see it.

They Don’t Scream “Look at Me”
This combination of size and quality was the reason the Leica M series was the camera of choice for both street shooters and war reporters, from Henri Cartier Bresson to Sebastião Salgado.


Leica was/is popular for reasons other than size; it had an allure of 'the best camera money can buy,' and fanatic support of certain famous photographers; it showed a quality in its photos which could not be quantified; it was a luxury camera. No amount of "smallest" or "fastest" or "quietest" will make a camera anything close to a Leica, not in this day and age.


In the end, it comes down to the kind of photography you want to do. In my opinion, this will not replace the DSLR, nor is this a big improvement over current compacts. An answer without a question. Or perhaps I don't really understand what people are looking for in a camera these days.
posted by Scarf Face at 2:27 PM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a new category, the EVIL is still relatively expensive

Bloody oath they are. Freakishly overpriced is perhaps a more accurate description. And god help you if you want to by some more lenses. Adding a new sensor every time not surprisingly jacks the price sky high.

I don't know, these "next big thing" articles are so driven by the people making the thing in question, I really can't put any stock in them.

Will digital cameras continue to get better, smaller, cheaper, faster? Undoubtedly. Will everyone be taking the same types of pictures of the same reasons, in the same ways? I don't think so.
posted by smoke at 2:27 PM on January 18, 2010


If you really think people know what they're doing with regards to flash, please watch the Superbowl kickoff this year and tell me what the massive array of twinkly lights in the crowd is coming from.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:29 PM on January 18, 2010 [25 favorites]


These little cameras are nice, and their capabilities are improving with each generation. Some of them are ready today for certain kinds of professional shooting, and as low cost rangefinder replacements they're ideal.

However, there are some downsides that are true for the moment:

1.) Good lenses aren't available. Canon and Nikon have a massive inventory of excellent professional lenses for every occasion, but the lens selections for EVIL cameras are much more limited.

2.) Good lenses will be heavy. There's a reason that Canon's 50mm f/1.2 is a giant piece of glass. Nice lenses require a number of large elements, meaning that once you attach a nice lens to an EVIL camera, it may not be that much lighter than a regular dSLR.

3.) No full frame sensors. That will probably come with time, but if you want full frame 35mm then you have to buy a dSLR (or a Leica M9).

4.) Battery life. How much battery power does a dSLR consume when you're looking through the viewfinder? None. How much does it consume if you're changing settings, focusing, etc? Some, but not a lot. Why? Your dSLR doesn't have to power a display to let you use it. That may seem like a small thing, but imagine how much battery power you save when your dSLR is on but you're NOT framing a photo. Now imagine how much an EVIL camera consumes, and you realize that a power saving camera can be a huge deal when traveling or on assignment.
posted by fremen at 2:30 PM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think these cameras are a great concept, but for me they fall in a awkward region of the size spectrum: not small enough to fit in a pocket and not good enough to get clean low-light shots. So the way I see it, with these EVIL cameras, I'll still need to carry around some kind of camera bag, doubly so if i intend to carry around a few lenses. At that point, I may as well bring my dSLR.

If I'm going out with friends and don't want to bring a huge camera bag, I would consider getting an S90, which fits in my pocket. If I need quality, then I'm just going to throw my 50D in my backpack.
posted by reformedjerk at 2:34 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many dSLRs now have live preview, plus you get a top notch viewfinder (plus these lines have access to a broader range of quality lenses etc. but that is coincidental and there is nothing to prevent LUMIX from putting out quality lenses and they likely will). These will overtake dSLRs only when the viewfinder quality approaches that of the ground glass.
posted by caddis at 2:40 PM on January 18, 2010


Jimbob: Since moving to a dSLR several years ago, I quickly realized how awful, awful, awful electronic viewfinders are. This was confirmed when I upgraded my dSLR to one with "live view", and found it to be a completely useless feature that I've never gone back to.

I know what you mean - when I bought my Canon 500D this summer I thought the live preview was kind of neat but was sure I would NEVER use it. At least, until I realized that you could zoom and pan around the live preview, making it incredibly useful for pixel-precise focussing when I'm using a tripod, especially for macro photography. Give it a shot, it can actually be super handy.
posted by oulipian at 2:41 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


smoke: "Bloody oath they are. Freakishly overpriced is perhaps a more accurate description. And god help you if you want to by some more lenses. Adding a new sensor every time not surprisingly jacks the price sky high."

You're thinking of Ricoh's mutant system. µ4/3 and other EVIL systems leave the sensor in the body.

I'm actually pretty excited about Canon getting in this game. The viewfinder in APS-C is so small that it's a cruel joke trying to get anything resembling accurate focus with a fast lens. Let me take my EF lenses to an EVIL body with live preview on a tilt/shift LCD and my 400D will be on eBay within the hour.
posted by mullingitover at 2:42 PM on January 18, 2010


Well, it's encouraging to note that my fellow MeFites are well versed in the suckage that is contrast autofocus (should be called neverfocus??).

I had a very nice Nikon Coolpix 8800, which takes great shots... except for the one time I really needed it... at a wedding.... stupid focus took longer than 2 seconds, which made me miss almost everything, every time.

Contrast that to a a year or so later, with a Nikon D40 set to ISO 3200 and no flash in the same subdued lighting in the same room... I took photos handheld, and even made panoramas out of them, like these.

Bigger sensor, real autofocus, and a view of everything under even the most extreme lighting conditions add up to a camera that really does a much better job.
posted by MikeWarot at 2:42 PM on January 18, 2010


I think all cameras will eventually be video cameras with optimizations for still images.
posted by bz at 2:50 PM on January 18, 2010


If this gets rid of lensflare, it will destroy J.J. Abrams career.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 2:51 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have a Nikon D300 with a lot of lenses (including "The Beast"), and while my newfangled Panasonic GF1 can't quite reach up to that level, it is a camera small enough that I can actually be arsed taking it with me when I go out. It fits into my manbag easily.

As a result, although the IQ (Image Quality) isn't up to that of the Giant Camera, it has usable ISO up to around 1000 (1600 is a push) as well as a 20/1.7 lens (40mm in 35mm film terms).

It's pretty much perfect. The only thing that I can think of to improve it is an issue with the auto ISO shutterspeed, and the fact that it isn't a Nikon. I'll definitely get an EVIL Nikon down the line.

If you go for the mFT (Micro FourThirds) route, you're doing yourself a great disservice by not getting the awesome "Panacake", the 20/1.7.
posted by flippant at 2:52 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


im all for it - i have a sore back from carrying a dslr around and people change when you bring one out - become more defensive, whatever - something small and fast is whats needed.
about 12mp - to make an a4/a3 print - bit of low light - 28mm full frame type lens would be good. I know sony have designed a superhad ii ccd chip which has twice the low light capability of any sensor - so i'd like to see that.

/pepsiblue
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:02 PM on January 18, 2010


Yes let me run out and buy a new camera to put in my Timbuk2 right next to my Android and my iPod and my ePC and my Blackberry and my Moleskine and my Space Pen and my copy of Getting Things Done so that when I am out and about people may look upon me and whisper to one another "There walketh he who hath been marked upon his soul with the sign of Massive Cunt."
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2010 [16 favorites]


I will go ahead and say it: I don't use the optical viewfinder on my 5D Mark II or 7D very often, other than casual shots.

LiveView does three things really well: studio portraits, macro focus on a tripod (I miss my split-prism focus screen) and for setting focus marks while shooting films. The 10x 1:1 zoom allows precise pixel-perfect focus marks to be set on the follow-focus ring so that my focus puller can accurately focus on the talent. (Now if the talent could just hit their marks every time we would be in business.)

I am considering removing the entire mirror box assembly from my 7D to be able to mount PL lenses on it. That is how infrequently it the viewfinder gets used!
posted by autopilot at 3:06 PM on January 18, 2010


Having played extensively with the Panasonic GF1, I have to admit that I was really impressed by it, especially with the 20mm pancake lens. It's small and light, the screen refreshes at 60fps (and can easily keep up with where the camera's pointed), manual focus has an automatic "magnify the view by either 5x or 10x so you can see if it's perfectly in focus" feature, and autofocus speed gives my Canon Kiss X2/EOS 450D/Rebel ROYGBIV a run for its money. It's a surprisingly good camera.

Upside to living in Japan is that cameras are basically the only thing cheaper than in America. I can get a used GF1 kit for ¥55,000 or a brand new one for about ¥60,000.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:07 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


A couple follow ups:

1) I own a Panny GF-1, the ISO difference between it and a Nikon D90 (one of the best APS-C dSLRs) is probably about 1 perhaps 1.5 stops. I regularly use ISO1600 and find it more than acceptable

2) Having a camera that fits into a coat pocket is a much more important to almost everybody than pixel-peeping ISO/dynamic range performance.

3) The Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is almost a reason in itself to get a micro four-thirds camera. One of the best lenses I've ever used (and I've had some tremendous glass in the past).

4) The EVF on the Olympus EP-2 is better than ANY dSLR VF (including full-frame). It is enveloping and actually shows the outcome of the exposure, something no mirrored SLR could ever do.

5) The EVIL cams don't make you look like a tool when you go to the park. Ever seen the guy with a D3x and a 70-200mm f/2.8 taking pictures of a leaf? Yeah, nobody likes him. *


That is all.


* I used to be that guy.......
posted by lattiboy at 3:07 PM on January 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Continued:

6) Please remember most serious/non-event photographers despised the huge SLRs that became ubiquitous since the digital revolution. Chances are, if you see any kind of street/urban/war photography pre-2000 it was taken with a rangefinder-type camera. They're practically silent, unobtrusive, and offer manual focusing far superior to their larger counterparts.
posted by lattiboy at 3:11 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Compacts have lost out to DSLRs because of slow contrast-based autofocus. DSLRs have ultrasonic motors built into lenses and software that usually trickles down from top-of-the-line models. A compact could get close, but I won't believe it until I see it.


The GF-1 proves contrast-based AF can be very close to motor-based AF. The EP-1 and EP-2 are still a league below, but I'd say the GF-1 + 20mm f/1.7 is about 80% the speed of my D90 + 35mm f/1.8 G.
posted by lattiboy at 3:15 PM on January 18, 2010


0xFCAF:
When I got my Canon S90 on the basis of its amazing large sensor and f/2.0 lens,


I have one of those, too. In 20 years of camera ownership I have never enjoyed using a camera so much. I'm not one of those guys who goes out and takes 500+ photos in a weekend, but the fact is since it came in the mail, barely a single day has gone by that I haven't taken at least a shot or two with it.

As for this "EVIL" stuff: before I started reading about recent digital camera developments, I had no idea that this was an emerging trend. I was planning, none the less, that the next camera I bought would probably be a vintage film rangefinder, as the only digital version I was aware of was the Leica M8, and $5000 plus lenses is a bit steep for me. Since that decision, I have come to find out that "micro 4/3" is the newest buzzword in digital photography. I couldn't be happier. I still can't afford a Leica M9, but getting something that I can toss a nice, bright, wide-angle pancake on and shoot around with suddenly seems like it will be a lot easier.
posted by paisley henosis at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2010


Since I'm on some kind of posting rampage, I'll go on:

Another huge advantage of the mirrorless system is the ability to use practically ANY mount lens with a simple adapter. A lot of lens/body combinations are mechanically complicated/impossible because of older lenses not "clearing the mirror" on shallower mounts (most modern SLR mounts). To get lenses to work required learning metal-working skills or paying somebody else a lot of money to do it.

I currently am using old Konica Hexanon glass on my GF-1 with a $60 adapter. This is some of the finest glass in the history of 35mm and it is practically free on ebay:

135mm f/2.5 (!) for $39!

40mm f/1.8 pancake lens (considered one of the sharpest lenses ever produced) for $29!

200mm f/3.5 for $28

50mm f/1.4 for $30


It's pure fucking madness how cheap this stuff is (Olympus OM, Minolta Rokkor, and Canon FD is also incredibly cheap, but not as good IMO)

Please be aware: Because of the smaller sensor, Micro FourThirds cameras have a 2x crop factor, so a 40mm becomes an 80mm an so on.
posted by lattiboy at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2010 [21 favorites]


Contrast AF is orthogonal to in-lens motor drive. Most DSLR cameras use contrast AF in live view mode, but they focus with in-lens motors. The difference is between phase detect autofocus, which requires the mirror to be down (or a half silvered mirror to be used), and contrast AF which analyzes the image resolved by the sensor on the whole.

In the case of the Canon cameras, the phase detect is worlds better than the contrast detect. But I almost always shoot manual focus in liveview anyway.

The short flange focal distance of the 4/3 and Micro systems is a huge advantage, but the small sensors aren't as good for shallow DOF. As I mentioned in other threads, I wonder how long before the fascination with filming movies with mm thin DOF (like the Canon 85mm f/1.2L) wears off and we return to slightly deeper focus scenes. It will certainly make my 1st AC's job easier...
posted by autopilot at 3:28 PM on January 18, 2010


lattiboy: Please be aware: Because of the smaller sensor, Micro FourThirds cameras have a 2x crop factor, so a 40mm becomes an 80mm an so on.

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but in that case, how can you get a wide-angle lens?
posted by paisley henosis at 3:31 PM on January 18, 2010


Sorry if this is a dumb question, but in that case, how can you get a wide-angle lens?

Not dumb at all! It's a weakness of the system (currently).

Panasonic has an AMAZING 7-14mm lens, but it costs $1100.

There aren't really any non-fisheye 35mm lenses that would be "wide" on the M43 system.
posted by lattiboy at 3:36 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I forget where I ran across this combo GF-1 review and Himalaya travelogue, but it's excellent, has lots of pretty pictures, and IMO puts paid to most of the arguments against EVIL cameras (if that's what we're calling them now). That or something very like it is what I want for my next camera: something that can take really good pictures, even in low light, and doesn't get in my way.

The author of the linked article also makes the point that composing a shot on the screen instead of in the viewfinder makes candid photography much more effective--because he's not hiding behind the camera, he's interacting with his subjects and they respond better to him.
posted by adamrice at 3:45 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The good side to digital cameras is that everyone can use them.

The down side to digital cameras is that everyone can use them.
posted by bwg at 3:48 PM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


The best camera I've ever owned is my iPhone 3GS because, always waiting in my pocket and ready to be used at a moment's notice, it has let me capture a huge number of moments that would otherwise be lost.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:48 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


On top of all this is the rise of very serious compact bridge cameras. The Panasonic LX3 was probably the first really popular version. It was thought of as a true "photographers point-and-shoot". It sports a Leica designed 24-60mm f/2 (which would be impossible on even an EVIL camera or cost $25,000), optical stabilization, and image quality somewhere between a point-and-shoot and an entry-level dSLR.

The LX3 was pretty much sold out for almost TWO YEARS. You can now pick one up for around $350 and I recommend it to just about everybody who asks me what camera to buy. It is still (IMO) unbeatable for the price/feature ratio. If you have the extra money to spend ($900), I think the GF-1 + 20mm f/1.7 beats it, but only just.

I actually sold my D90 and purchased the LX3 for my recent trip to Spain and found it to be perfect for travel. I wouldn't have been able to take 1/2 the shots I did with a big SLR and a stable of lenses. (also, back pain)

The S90 is an excellent camera, but I think the faster (but shorter) Leica lens and the HD video capture make the LX3 the better choice. Again, just my opinion.
posted by lattiboy at 3:53 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm fascinated by this discussion. Thanks to it, I have figured out there's an AskMe in my future when I finally replace my early-model digital camera, because I've been able to follow about half of what's been said.
posted by immlass at 4:00 PM on January 18, 2010


I lust after those small Olympus cameras. Don't get the bitching. Love all the snobbery about "prosumers" and whatnot. It's amusing.
posted by raysmj at 4:09 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I lust after those small Olympus cameras. Don't get the bitching. Love all the snobbery about "prosumers" and whatnot. It's amusing.

Agreed. The condescenion about 4/3rds is hilarious to me. We're only in the second generation (if that) of EVIL and people write them off wholesale because they don't shoot ISO126,000 with no noise right this second! I also think it's the confusing numerics of ISO range that spark such responses. Many people don't realize that ISO1600 is only one stop slower than ISO3200.

Also, "not using flash" isn't always the way to go. Here's a lovely little tutorial on creating a tiny softbox for the built-in flash on the GF-1. Check out the sample pictures below the instructions.

There are a whole host of improvements that could be made to the current EVIL cams and I'm sure they will be addressed very soon, but writing off the whole system because of something you heard from somebody else this one time is just nuts! The viewfinder argument is bunk (the Olympus EP-2 EVF is astonishing) and the image quality argument is pretty ridiculous when you actually view comparable cameras side-by-side.

I believe the only valid arguments are ergonomics (which are completely based on individual feel) and lack of autofocus lenses (which is natural considering how young the system is).
posted by lattiboy at 4:29 PM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


My Nikon D60 dSLR doesn't have a live-view screen; you have to look in the viewfinder. Does that mean it's not evil?
posted by zardoz at 4:34 PM on January 18, 2010


I believe the only valid arguments are ergonomics (which are completely based on individual feel) and lack of autofocus lenses (which is natural considering how young the system is).

My argument against 4/3rds and EVIL is that I want either a phase-detecting autofocus system with a quality USM-driven lens and a big fat sensor or a tiny thing with a strictly rectangular cross-section that doesn't have a protruding lens when it's off so I can just shove it in my pocket and go.

A bulky interchangeable lens on a tiny sensor with slow contrast AF and a viewfinder I can't use in bright light is all but worthless to me.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:39 PM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are also compact cameras with full-sized dSLR sensors, giving you the image quality of a dSLR in a compact body, like this Leica X1, which costs $2000. Here's the DPReview review of the GF1. It sells for about $800. There's also the larger G1. Apparently the G1 doesn't do video(!)

The major major drawback is still that using a screen (or electronic viewfinder) the lag makes it very hard to capture that split-second moment which is crucial in sport and nature photography but also important for taking good portrait shots.

That's what continuous mode is for.

---

Also I seriously doubt the EVIL name will stick. It's just stupid.

As far as casual users getting better. I think that's probably true. When you have a digital camera, you can take a lot of pictures. And you get better and better at it just from that feedback.
Fucking Wired, did anybody over there hear that it's 2010, and we're two years into a terrible-forever Recession/Depression, and maybe people lucky enough to have a digital SLR camera are going to keep that thing for as long as it shoots, which is probably going to be 10 years unless they drop it?
Dude in ten years we'll have 100 megapixel pocket cameras for like $200 with enough dynamic range to never blow out a picture and enough low-light sensitivity to make a dark bar seem like a day at the beach.
Leica was/is popular for reasons other than size; it had an allure of 'the best camera money can buy,' and fanatic support of certain famous photographers; it showed a quality in its photos which could not be quantified; it was a luxury camera. No amount of "smallest" or "fastest" or "quietest" will make a camera anything close to a Leica, not in this day and age.
Er, what about the leica compacts with full-sized sensors?

---
If you're wondering I have a Cannon G9, which I got a couple years ago. I like it, and it was a little cheaper then these cameras. I'll probably wait for the price to go down before getting one.
posted by delmoi at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


My argument against 4/3rds and EVIL is that I want either a phase-detecting autofocus system with a quality USM-driven lens and a big fat sensor or a tiny thing with a strictly rectangular cross-section that doesn't have a protruding lens when it's off so I can just shove it in my pocket and go.

I'm sure somebody will release the former very quickly (speculation is that Sony is working on just such a thing).

A bulky interchangeable lens on a tiny sensor with slow contrast AF and a viewfinder I can't use in bright light is all but worthless to me.

Well, I think the "tiny" comment is rather crazy. The sensor in the GF-1 (and EP-2) is so good that there is no real difference when looking side-by-side with my A700 and D90 files.

The EP-2 EVF (along with the G1 and the GF1) is incredible and can be used just as easily as optical VFs in daylight. Not to mention the fact that digital-zoom manual focusing is by far more accurate than the very best and biggest optical VF. In fact, my GF-1 is miles ahead of my 35mm film Konica FS-1 (which has an enormous and bright viewfinder) because of the zoom feature, and that's on an LCD I'm holding at arms length.

If you want the FF sensor in a small body, just give Leica $8000.
posted by lattiboy at 5:02 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Should you ditch your dSLR?

Feel free to do so in my direction. Thanks.
posted by Sailormom at 5:31 PM on January 18, 2010


A great part about shooting with larger sensors and fast lenses is shooting in lower-light conditions without the harsh direct flash of a point-and-shoot. Casual users don't care about not using a flash. Seriously. They don't even get that pictures taken with a flash look totally different that ones without it.

Yep. I hate using the inbuilt flash. When I was photographing my sister's wedding my other sister asked me why I needed all this stuff. I said I needed my fast lens with not too much light around. She asked me why I didn't just use the flash. I turned the flash on, snapped a pic off, turned the flash off, opened the lens wide and took another picture. Showed her both and said "which one of those pictures looks better?"

She was absolutely gobsmacked at how nice a flashless picture with a fast lens can look in moderate amounts of light.
posted by Talez at 5:37 PM on January 18, 2010


The current EVIL cameras use the Four Thirds sensor standard, a standard already present in all Olympus and Panasonic DSLRs. These simply eliminated the mirror. This standard is said to have a 2x "crop factor" (20mm focal length on a 35mm will look like it was 40mm on a 35mm). APS-C, the dominating DSLR sensor size, is ~1.6x.

The difference in image quality is frankly hard to tell these days (and has been for a few years, in my opinion). Most noise seen in Four Thirds Olympus cameras have more to do with Olympus not using a harsher noise reduction algorithm than Canon than the actual ability of the sensor.

These are a few pictures I took using an Olympus E-330. It's a DSLR, but it uses the first-generation NMOS sensor whose descendants now reside in the new EVIL cameras by Olympus and Panasonic.

Anyone truly demanding low light performance will look at a 35mm-size sensor from the get go.

Even high end compacts like the G11 and LX3 with their 1/1.6" sensor (about 1/4 the size of the Four Thirds sensor) produce quality images, and for most, it really is enough. System cameras provide versatility in the choice of lenses.

I actually would prefer a new standard focused around a sensor as small as 1/1.6". That's right. I think Four Thirds sensors are still too large. A smaller sensor makes the possibility of affordable wide angle a reality (the LX3 comes with a 24mm equivalent focal length) and superb portability. Many would argue that at a certain point there just can't be enough light hitting a sensor that small to make low light truly possible at high shutter speeds. I would argue that cameras like the G11 and LX3 are already much better at low light then the film I used to use in my old 35mm SLR, so I'm really not wanting.

Here are a few from the LX3, which I have come to really like. Puny 1/1.6", but the glass is wonderful.
posted by linux at 6:22 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Correction: the Oly and Panny EVIL cams are Micro Four Thirds. Same sensor (size and all) as Four Thirds, but the elimination of the mirror makes MFT have a register half the length of FT and adds a few electronic standards to the spec.
posted by linux at 6:24 PM on January 18, 2010


Several people have made the comment that large sensor = low noise, and this is in fact generally true.

Several other people have made comments to the effect that noise at high ISO in small sensors will be fixed by further technological development, for example:

The condescenion about 4/3rds is hilarious to me. We're only in the second generation (if that) of EVIL and people write them off wholesale because they don't shoot ISO126,000 with no noise right this second!

Unfortunately, this is not true, and I think it's based on the misconception that the primary source of noise in today's sensors is thermal or Johnson noise - and if this were the case, then further development may indeed reduce noise of this kind. However, this has already happened, and in most sensors today, the primary source of sensor noise is shot noise, or, if you prefer, statistical errors in photon counting. The only way to reduce this kind of noise is to take larger samples, which means larger pixels, which, for a given pixel count, means a larger sensor.

The only way to get ISO 128,000 with very low noise at high resolution is with huge pixels on a correspondingly huge sensor - like medium format or larger. It is and will always be physically impossible to make a high-resolution 4/3 sensor with ISO 128,000 sensitivity and very low noise.

Post-processing with software like Noise Ninja may help give you acceptable pictures in some cases, but Noise Ninja and its ilk do their thing by trading off detail - they cannot add information that was not captured in the first place.
posted by kcds at 6:29 PM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


5) The EVIL cams don't make you look like a tool when you go to the park. Ever seen the guy with a D3x and a 70-200mm f/2.8 taking pictures of a leaf? Yeah, nobody likes him. *

how can you even see leaves with a 70-200? I use that to shoot football!
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:31 PM on January 18, 2010


linux, can you describe how a smaller sensor makes wide angles more affordable? My experience is the opposite -- the 5D can shoot incredibly wide rectilinear with an expensive 14mm or cheap 20mm, while there is no comparable lens for the EF-S bodies with their smaller sensors (the moderately expensive 10-22mm EF-S has the field of view of the 16mm lens). The crazy Sigma 8mm fisheye spills over the edges on the smaller sensors so you don't get the full 180 degree field of view in all directions.

Also, despite my complaints about over-use of DOF for artistic shots, I do like the ability to have a very shallow depth of field when required. The smaller sensors just don't deliver on that front at all.
posted by autopilot at 6:40 PM on January 18, 2010


how can you even see leaves with a 70-200? I use that to shoot football!

Have you used the Tamron or Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses? They actually have very good close-focus.
posted by lattiboy at 6:44 PM on January 18, 2010


My rangefinder has parallax corrected framelines, so my framing is as accurate as I need it to be. If anything, make sure I'm a little on the wide side and crop in post.

That being said, I sold my 5D and lenses for a GF1 and I'm thrilled with it. Much smaller, I can use my M-mount manual lenses on my GF1 if I want or I can use a tiny pancake lens if I want something tiny or I can use my 14-140 (28-280 35mm equiv AoV) if I'm really lazy and want to cover every possible focal length or do video that's to it's really nifty AF.

I can carry my Bessa in one pocket with a lens and my GF1 in another with a lens and it's plenty light for me. Glad I don't drag around the 5D and 24-105 any more.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:02 PM on January 18, 2010


Man, I can hardly wait for Lexicon to stuff one of these little bad boys into a rugged body!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:07 PM on January 18, 2010


autopilot: it's generally true that the smaller the sensor the more complex the geometry, but this is due to the long flange distance an SLR requires due to the mirror box. An EVIL camera can have a cheaper wide angle lens because the register is so short. This is why wide angle in even smaller sensors will be cheaper as the comparison between such a small sensor and the current MFT sensor in Oly and Panny cams is a matter of scale.

I therefore made two inferences in my above assumption: 1) mirrorless systems require less complex, cheaper lens design; and 2) the smaller lens is cheaper in material.
posted by linux at 7:21 PM on January 18, 2010


I think all cameras will eventually be video cameras with optimizations for still images.

If by "eventually" you mean "five years ago"
posted by delmoi at 7:22 PM on January 18, 2010


The people whining about presbyopia in the Wired article comments section are especially hilarious. One person has to capitalize NIKON and CANON when asserting that serious photographers only use these brands. Another person (maybe the same one, I'll have to check) capitalizes READING GLASSES in asserting that these would be needed to use an LCD. Well, I would think that any SERIOUS PHOTOGRAPHER would look into getting PROGRESSIVE LENSES or BIFOCALS, but apparently these EVIL cameras have alternatives to the LCD screen anyway.

I used not to use the LCD screen as much, by the way, but I'm increasingly used to it. I have an Olympus camera (E-410) and, honestly, when I use that screen my photos come out better. (And I still like shooting on film, like playing around with medium format and whatnot, am even thinking of taking a large format camera class soon. Just to let you know where I stand! Which is flexible ground.) It's been particularly useful when experimenting with a gorillapod as of late. I took this one via the LCD screen, in extremely low light, via a Gorillapod set atop a concrete bridge rail, moved down far enough to the point that the camera was turned at a 45 degree angle and nearly abutting the concrete. I had to squint to even see the LCD screen! Looking through the viewfinder would have ended with me being sent to the ER, probably.
posted by raysmj at 7:25 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know it's cool to complain about stuff you've never tried (see: GameFAQs boards) but seriously, when I said that the Panasonic GF1's contrast-based autofocus is roughly as fast as my Canon DSLR's, I actually meant it. Olympus's is slower, but Panasonic's is fast enough that you can easily forget it's actually contrast-based. It's downright incredible, and anyone saying "this would be great except the autofocus is slow ah bloo bloo bloo bloo" should find a decent camera shop nearby, try one out, and be stunned.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:47 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi: As far as casual users getting better. I think that's probably true. When you have a digital camera, you can take a lot of pictures. And you get better and better at it just from that feedback.

The most amazing, and useful, thing with the 'prosumer' cameras for me has been the ability to see how changing the aperture, or the shutter speed, or adjusting the white balance or exposure affects the end photo, all in real time all without having to even press the shutter all the way down.

I think it is phenomenal, and I'm sure I'm not the only person to learn more from playing around in the park with a 'prosumer' than in photography classes or from a book.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:55 PM on January 18, 2010


(Oh, should have added: I wear progressive lenses, have for about four months. I'm still taking photos! And I'm not a baby boomer, damn it.)
posted by raysmj at 8:06 PM on January 18, 2010


Why do I get the feeling that when I see a "gadget to watch column" that it is a probably a paid for space?

Seems like the plasma TV of cameras for now. If a market evolves we will see advancement in this area.
posted by captainsohler at 8:25 PM on January 18, 2010


0xFCAF: S90 = large sensor? I got excited and looked it up, but it seems small.

It's more about large sensor for the body size, which is tiny. It's bigger than any of the other pocketable cameras, and it's the same sensor as the G11. They also kept the megapixels down, relatively.
posted by smackfu at 8:25 PM on January 18, 2010


Seems like the plasma TV of cameras for now. If a market evolves we will see advancement in this area.

???

I don't quite understand what you're saying.
posted by lattiboy at 8:37 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


HEY! You all should listen to those dSRL folks and pay no attention at all to those small nice cameras. Those little things have nothing to offer you, no sir. For one thing, they are small! And you may use one of those options only dSRL offers! One page 426 of the manual.

ahem. I'm a happy customer with my little Pana guy - its great!
posted by zenon at 8:45 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


But does it come with a kitty?
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:46 PM on January 18, 2010


autopilot wrote: "linux, can you describe how a smaller sensor makes wide angles more affordable? My experience is the opposite -- the 5D can shoot incredibly wide rectilinear with an expensive 14mm or cheap 20mm, while there is no comparable lens for the EF-S bodies with their smaller sensors (the moderately expensive 10-22mm EF-S has the field of view of the 16mm lens). The crazy Sigma 8mm fisheye spills over the edges on the smaller sensors so you don't get the full 180 degree field of view in all directions.

Also, despite my complaints about over-use of DOF for artistic shots, I do like the ability to have a very shallow depth of field when required. The smaller sensors just don't deliver on that front at all.
"

The smaller sensor makes telephoto cheaper, as you've figured out on your own. :)

And as kcds mentioned, there's just not enough photons hitting a sensor with tiny bins to take noiseless photos in lowish light. Thankfully, even as the dSLR makers have needlessly increased pixel count, the sensors have gotten better, so low light performance has improved despite the physics being against them. That can only continue so much longer.

Me, I want to see a 6MP dSLR like my D70s with a sensor made with the better noise handling of the newer sensors. Maybe if I ever blew things up bigger than 8x10 I would care for the extra megapixels crammed into the same size sensor.

That said, whoever said the best camera is the one you'll carry with you won the thread.
posted by wierdo at 8:50 PM on January 18, 2010


paisley henosis wrote: "The most amazing, and useful, thing with the 'prosumer' cameras for me has been the ability to see how changing the aperture, or the shutter speed, or adjusting the white balance or exposure affects the end photo, all in real time all without having to even press the shutter all the way down."

On not preview, I just wanted to mention that many dSLRs have depth of field preview buttons which give you the same experience, only through the viewfinder. And of course most of them are designed such that you can fire off a photo and examine it for a while without running the risk of missing a subsequent shot due to camera slowness. They take pictures as fast as you can react. Any camera that doesn't do that isn't worth much to me. (It's my biggest beef with my cellphone's camera for daytime shooting)
posted by wierdo at 8:55 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Experiments have shown that the human eye can reliably detect individual photons. I don't know how sensitive these sensors are but presumably they can continue to be improved for a while.
posted by delmoi at 10:16 PM on January 18, 2010


My argument against 4/3rds and EVIL is that I want either a phase-detecting autofocus system with a quality USM-driven lens and a big fat sensor or a tiny thing with a strictly rectangular cross-section that doesn't have a protruding lens when it's off so I can just shove it in my pocket and go.


Exactly, the problem with these EVIL cameras is that they are too big. I don't see what they offer above smaller high end point and shots.

Just look at what Alex Majoli has been able to do over the past decade with small cameras. The interchangeable lenses only get in the way of the convenience.
posted by afu at 11:24 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The GF-1 seems to be plenty bright outdoors on sunny days. I haven't missed having a viewfinder with it. What I do wish is that the screen flipped out and pivioted so that I could shoot from the hip as it were (and more importantly, on a boom)

Wait, a DSLR is too big, but you can carry around a boom with you?
posted by afu at 11:26 PM on January 18, 2010


Smackfu: It's more about large sensor for the body size, which is tiny. It's bigger than any of the other pocketable cameras, and it's the same sensor as the G11. They also kept the megapixels down, relatively.

The Panasonic LX3 has a larger sensor and is also 10 megapixels, and HD video. That said, I've always liked the look and colors of Powershots.
posted by Poagao at 12:11 AM on January 19, 2010


If you're wondering I have a Cannon G9

Makes great images, and can take out a galleon when fired broadside.

Couldn't help myself.
posted by bwg at 12:23 AM on January 19, 2010


afu said: Exactly, the problem with these EVIL cameras is that they are too big. I don't see what they offer above smaller high end point and shots.

Well, a considerable improvement in image quality (there is no fair comparison between an LX3 and a GF-1, I've done side-by-sides), control of DoF, and considerably better ISO handling.

I understand your sentiment, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a high-end point-and-shoot, but the difference in IQ is ENORMOUS.

Take a look at this chart (I posted it in a comment earlier), the LX3 sensor is 1/3 the size of the GF-1 sensor.
posted by lattiboy at 12:34 AM on January 19, 2010


Oh, I also wrote a long-ish comparison of the LX3 vs. GF1 on flickr.
posted by lattiboy at 12:44 AM on January 19, 2010


Lattiboy, that last Flickr link doesn't work for me. I think you have to be a member of the group in order to see the post.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 12:51 AM on January 19, 2010


You are correct! I'll just paste it here:


The big things the LX3 has going for it are:

1) OIS (cannot overstate how much this helps!)
2) Leica 24-60mm f/2 (practically impossible to replicate for ANY amount of money)
3) More compact size

GF1 has:

1) Vastly improved image quality and fine detail (not much of an issue for small prints/web display)
2) Depth of field control impossible on the LX3
3) ISO performance much, much better (almost a wash because of no OIS)
4) Better handling (larger) body
5) Endless lens possibilities through adapters
6) Video quality is TREMENDOUS compared to the LX3. It easily replaces any mid-level camcorder out there. Combined with the excellent 20mm f/1.7 and ISO performance it really is quite something to view on a large screen.

I loved my LX3 dearly, but DoF control and image quality were very important for me. Also, buying a 1970s Olympus lens and mounting it on a 2009 camera is a real thrill!

If the GF1 had OIS in-body I think it would be the perfect camera. As it stands, the EP-2 is a real contender for best M43 cam on the market, but it's quite a bit more expensive.

PS The Panny 20mm f/1.7 is such an amazing lens! I've used the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 and the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, both are good, but the Panny is sharper, faster focusing, and more pleasing bokeh.

PPS I think people tend to understate the importance of OIS. For example, I was able to get shots off at 1/5 sec with the LX3 (or my Sony dSLRs) while I need to be at a minimum of 1/25 second with the GF1 and 20mm f/1.7 (40mm equiv). Yes, the GF1 makes up for this in ISO performance and image quality, but it certainly makes the low-light advantage somewhat diminished.

Olympus proved you could do OIS in a similar sized M43 body, there's just no reason Panasonic went the in-lens route. I don't think many folks will be using this system for long-tele wildlife (which is where in-lens IS tends to be better than in-body).

posted by lattiboy at 12:57 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


weirdo, The smaller sensor makes telephoto cheaper, as you've figured out on your own. :)

While true, the topic was cheaper wide angle lenses with smaller sensors (when combined with shorter flange focal distances as linux pointed out). Many 1.6x crop owners are frustrated by the difficulty in finding wide angle lenses that are really wide enough. On the few occasions that I do use my 7D for still photos it is with my 70-200 to take advantage of the ~320mm FOV. That makes those leaves look even closer!

Thankfully, even as the dSLR makers have needlessly increased pixel count, the sensors have gotten better, so low light performance has improved despite the physics being against them. That can only continue so much longer.

I'm firmly in the "lower res" camp for another reason in addition to those two: it removes the nasty aliasing in video modes. Since the 20 MP sensor can't be sampled at a full 24 - 60 Hz, the current crop of cameras (Canon's 1D, 5D and 7D for sure, and I believe the Nikons as well) just decimate the vertical resolution by line skipping. If the camera "only" at 2 MP after de-Bayering it would produce much better 1080p as well as have gigantic photosites.

I am working on allowing the Canon cameras to use a windowed sensor read in video mode to reduce aliasing and allow the full-frame cameras to get a little bit of extra "reach" by pretending to be a cropped sensors. No success yet, but plenty of corrupted Quicktime files...
posted by autopilot at 4:38 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's so much misinformation in this thread, I don't know where to start. It seems that a little bit of information is a dangerous thing.

I just have to correct this:

6) Please remember most serious/non-event photographers despised the huge SLRs that became ubiquitous since the digital revolution. Chances are, if you see any kind of street/urban/war photography pre-2000 it was taken with a rangefinder-type camera. They're practically silent, unobtrusive, and offer manual focusing far superior to their larger counterparts.

What? On earth? This wasn't true since the 60s and the Nikon F turned up. You were composing through the lens. Light, solid, affordable, great quality, useful features - that camera made Nikon. It's no wonder only Leica and Cosina make rangefinders nowadays. Don't get me wrong, they're fun and great hobbiest cameras, but they're beyond uncompetitive for practical photojournalism. And this is discounting the rise of autofocus in the early 90s. Canon stole the market and have only recently been sort of letting it go.
posted by Magnakai at 6:24 AM on January 19, 2010


Wait, a DSLR is too big, but you can carry around a boom with you?

Pretty much, yeah. Only it's not a boom, as such, but a sampling pole with a tripod adaptor on it. It's essentially a paint pole I can use to either scoop a sample or attach a sensor to, like the camera. I use this for taking pictures of places I can't get to, like around vessel hulls or shoreline features. Not something that's necessary a lot, but very useful when there's no other solution.
posted by bonehead at 6:51 AM on January 19, 2010


OH JUST GR8. I finally, finally get an SLR (ok, over a year ago, but that's still pretty new to me) and now it's going to be obsolete? Let me guess, EVIL is going to be EVIL-Y expensive.

EFF YOU TECHNOLOGY.

I keed because I covet.

Casual users don't care about not using a flash

I'm hardly a casual user, but flash is the last thing I care about because well... I can't use one anyway! It's actually an interesting artistic conundrum. I would love to be able to utilize flash to improve my portraits, but I have medical issues (epilepsy) which prohibit me from ever touching a flash. I try to view this as a constraint like only using four colors of paint, but it is a pain.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:07 AM on January 19, 2010


Who cares. The first camera maker to introduce a full-frame sensor camera body with interchangeable "throwback" mounts is gonna make a mint. Contax MM and Leica R primes, Canon FD and Pentax-K super-teles and zooms, as part of the same system? Yus, plz.

EVIL is probably going to make this more feasible than trying to engineer a swinging mirror into the works on top of the requisite swappable bayonet and screw mounts that can engage the stop-down lever, and maybe even communicate with lenses that allow electronic aperture control.

Hell, without a mirror, why not let it work with vintage rangefinder glass, too?
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:16 AM on January 19, 2010


Also, while I'm about it, interchangeable sensors. You want high resolution? You got it. You want low-light performance? Push-pull-click-click, you got it. You want lots of exposure lattitude? A broad contrast range? Ultra-accurate color reproduction? Whatever you need, just swap in the sensor for it. Bonus points for an industry standard that works interchangeably across all manufacturer's lines.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:20 AM on January 19, 2010


For many uses (and nearly all the uses I need), slow flash on my Panasonic Lumix solves the low-light and nighttime issues satisfactorily. Flash fires, illuminating background; shutter opens; flash fires again, illuminating foreground; shutter closes. Of course the resulting photo looks like it was taken with flash, but it does not look like an albino cutout wheatpasted onto black construction paper.

I do notice high noise in dark photographs. Some of them are quite usable on Flickr anyway, and once in a while it creates an artistic effect.

Pocketable size remains a significant buying criterion for a lot of us. These new cameras are just marginally too big to sit in the keitai pocket of one’s Carhartts.
posted by joeclark at 11:09 AM on January 19, 2010


Parallax?!

I just picked up the digital camera I've used daily for 4 years now, and looked at it more closely. Oh holy shit, it DOES have a little peep hole viewfinder! I had never even noticed, and I have taken 7,323* pictures with this camera.

I always use the screen on the back to line up the shot.

* True number, I just checked.
posted by ErikaB at 12:00 PM on January 19, 2010


The only way to reduce this kind of noise is to take larger samples, which means larger pixels, which, for a given pixel count, means a larger sensor.

kcds, at a first glance, and even a second, that statement appears to be true. However, I'm aware of some (IP-agreement-covered) technology in a non-imaging system that overcomes this problem by judging the photon count throughout the collection interval (=exposure time). Some very clever, simple decisions are made as to when the exposure is no longer noise-dominated.

I'm being too vague, probably, but I can't discuss specifics. Imagine, however, a processor that sampled each pixel's charge count several times during a single exposure. If one of the count samples was eggregiously out-of-order with the other samples, it could be replaced with the average of the other samples, thus reducing single-pixel shot-noise effects.

This is not the same at all as pixel averaging, which leads to blur. This would not affect picture sharpness.

The processing could be implemented on the chip itself, so it wouldn't affect overall processing overhead nor time.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:40 PM on January 19, 2010


I would love to be able to utilize flash to improve my portraits, but I have medical issues (epilepsy) which prohibit me from ever touching a flash.

grapefruitmoon, do you carry a battery-powered LED spotlight in your kit? At close ranges, it will work.

They are available with folding tripod stands.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:43 PM on January 19, 2010


Interchangeable sensors seem like a good idea, but how are you going to keep them clean?
posted by spitefulcrow at 3:36 PM on January 19, 2010


Interchangeable sensors seem WAAAAY too fragile, IMO. It's far safer, cheaper, and easier to buy the maximum-quality sensor you can afford (via camera choice), and merely "degrade" the resolution of photos as appropriate to the instant need.

Which is what we do.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:57 PM on January 19, 2010


The way you keep them clean/unbroken is to mount them in a sturdy cartridge system inserted from the sides or bottom, like batteries, and perhaps with integral "dark slide" style cover for the raw sensor. The Ricoh GXR already has interchangeable sensors - albeit, you have the change the lens at the same time. Independently interchangeable sensors and optics is the inevitable next step.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:09 PM on January 19, 2010


IAMBroom: That tech sounds a lot like "black frame reduction" gone wild. I take it the basic principle is the same?
posted by lattiboy at 5:18 PM on January 19, 2010


The first camera maker to introduce a full-frame sensor camera body with interchangeable "throwback" mounts is gonna make a mint.

You think there's a big market for a camera that only takes manual focus lenses?
posted by smackfu at 6:03 PM on January 19, 2010


I own sonny camara for over 3 years Very pleas from the quality.Yes the market is big but don't forget one camera will lost for ong time that is one time a bay.
posted by johnkatz at 7:47 PM on January 19, 2010


A VERY good article about hybrids and the challenge to traditional dSLRs.
posted by lattiboy at 11:24 PM on January 19, 2010


If all you ever wanted was the silly zoom lens that came with your dSLR, no prime lenses, no really wide angle lens, no really long lens, no very wide aperture lens, then by all means go with a good hybrid. It will be cheaper and lighter and there is no reason one could not be made with a good sensor. For a lot of us with SLRs the zoom lens, at least the all purpose variety, doesn't spend much time on the camera. Have kids? Get low and put on a wide angle. Portraits? Put on a longish lens with a wide aperture to get in close and throw the background out of focus. Flash? Begone. Use your wide aperture in low light. Hybrids are great, and I have had several, but you have more creative options when you can pick and choose your glass.
posted by caddis at 7:02 AM on January 20, 2010


caddis: I have a 20mm f/1.7 (40mm equiv) on my GF-1 that's sharper and has better bokeh than anything I used on my Nikon or Sony dSLRs. Panasonic also makes one the best super-wides on the market, a 7-14mm (14-28mm equiv) that has incredible distortion control and excellent sharpness.

Also, the "silly" zoom lens that comes with your dSLR is pretty damn good now. The Nikon 18-55mm VR and the Panasonic 14-45mm OIS are prime sharp in the middle slightly stopped down. So, I don't think something that's as sharp as a prime with stabilization built-in, that allows wide to mid-tele shooting is "silly". It's awesome.
posted by lattiboy at 7:44 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The aperture is pretty unimpressive on those pack-in zooms though. 18-55mm and it's only f/3.5-5.6?
posted by smackfu at 8:28 AM on January 20, 2010


smackfu: I understand, but again, a f/2.8 zoom costs a minimum of $400 and is usually twice the size and weight. These are essentially FREE with the purchase of a camera and very compact and light. With stabilization and ISO up to 800 almost noise free (most recent dSLRs are just about perfect at ISO800 now), a slightly smaller aperture is a pretty minimal concern. Yeah, you're not going to get razor-thin DoF, but you're going to get a very, very sharp picture.

Also, a 50mm prime is about $100 used across all systems.
posted by lattiboy at 9:59 AM on January 20, 2010


Also, as has been mentioned before, flash is quite often a good thing in most lighting situations. More than freezing action, it helps properly even exposure. The best interior shots I ever got were with a Nikon 18-135mm zoom and a SB-600 using a diffuser. Yeah, I could've gotten out the 35mm f/1.8, but bouncing the flash or using the diffuser gave dramatic lighting to an otherwise dull room.
posted by lattiboy at 10:04 AM on January 20, 2010


The new mirrorless Samsung NX10 (mentioned in lattiboy's link) has a APS-sized sensor and is more or less pocket-sized with the 30mm f/2 Samsung pancake lens. Seems like the perfect combination to me, although I'll probably wait for a couple of years before switching systems.
posted by ikalliom at 12:53 PM on January 20, 2010


lattiboy wrote: "Also, as has been mentioned before, flash is quite often a good thing in most lighting situations. More than freezing action, it helps properly even exposure. The best interior shots I ever got were with a Nikon 18-135mm zoom and a SB-600 using a diffuser. Yeah, I could've gotten out the 35mm f/1.8, but bouncing the flash or using the diffuser gave dramatic lighting to an otherwise dull room."

Yes, flash is often a good thing if it's used to indirectly light the scene (bouncing off a ceiling or wall being one of the best ways). It's direct flash that looks like ass.

If all you have is the chintzy built-in flash on the low-mid range dSLRs (high end ones don't have built in flashes) or a p&s it's not going to come out well, hence people saying "flash is bad." On most cameras, it's just not possible to make flash look good.

I guess that's why we both bought SB-600s ;)
posted by wierdo at 2:18 PM on January 20, 2010


lattiboy: not the same, in as far as I understand "black frame reduction" (new to me). BFR seems to address characteristic pixel noise; that is, the characteristic noise level of each pixel, regardless of light. This technology addresses the variances due to randomness in the quanta of light received. In a way, they're complementary (perhaps).
posted by IAmBroom at 1:03 AM on January 21, 2010


The new mirrorless Samsung NX10 (mentioned in lattiboy's link) has a APS-sized sensor and is more or less pocket-sized with the 30mm f/2 Samsung pancake lens.

The NX10 is way bigger than pocket size.
posted by afu at 2:40 AM on January 21, 2010


IAmBroom: Ah, I see. Black frame reduction basically closes the shutter after a long exposure for the same amount of time as the exposure itself (it doubles shot to shot time), it then subtracts that "black frame" from your first exposure. This dramatically reduces noise in longer (15 seconds plus) night shots. This is designed to eliminate noise produced by the sensor being "hot" for an extended period.

It's mind boggling to think they figured out "random" noise. I literally cannot understand how one would even go about that........
posted by lattiboy at 9:56 AM on January 21, 2010


afu, you're correct. Coat-pocket-sized, I should have perhaps said. Anyway a lot smaller than my Nikon with Sigma 30mm f/1.4, which is just too big to carry around without a bag. Unfortunately, Nikon doesn't make AF pancake lenses (Canon neither, as far as I know). Pentax has even three, 21mm f/3.2, 40mm/2.8 and 70mm/2.4, but a 30mm f/2 makes a lot more sense to me in APS format. The Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake looks very good too.
posted by ikalliom at 10:32 AM on January 21, 2010


The new mirrorless Samsung NX10 (mentioned in lattiboy's link) has a APS-sized sensor

APS-C and 4/3 are pretty much the same class in sensor size (1.6 vs. 2.0, but APS-C is 3:2 and 4/3 is 4:3, making the difference not as large as you would think), so I fail to see how Samsung's upcoming model is a game changer.
posted by linux at 12:11 PM on January 22, 2010


Metafilter: You can pick up your head, engage the subject, and only occasionally have to check the monitor.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:39 AM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Evil hasn't been this good since Knievel.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:00 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Perceptual Segregation   |   The giant bear flies a fighter... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post