[BUTTERFLY AFTERNOON]

THE BUTTERFLIES come to this flowering tree to bask in the afternoon sun and to be photographed with the Olympus OMD EM-1 fitted with the 40–150 Zuiko Pro.

ISO640
1/800 sec
f9
150mm

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[THE BUSKER]

This gallery contains 2 photos.

A MELBOURNE BUSKER finds his special acoustic sweet spot in a SouthBank alcove.

Olympus OMD EM-1 with 7–14mm Zuiko Pro lens. 1/250 sec: f5: ISO800

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[THANK YOU]

THANK YOU to all the readers and visitors who have taken the trouble to write letters of appreciation. It means a lot to me to know that I have been able to provide useful information over the years.

Just so that there is no misunderstanding I should make it clear that my retirement from IMAGING was entirely of my own choosing. My relationship with the several editors with whom I have worked over the years has always been congenial.

I will miss the excitement of opening the new boxes as they arrive but I will not miss the hours/days spent sitting around waiting for couriers to deliver and then collect. And the pressure of deadlines can become a bit stressful when the ideas or new cameras don’t come on time.

When I started IMAGING the common pixel count was 2 million. When 5 megapixel sensors started to appear there was talk of “pixel wars” with Canon declaring that they were not going to be in it. Hah!

Over the years I made a number of predictions and prophecies that all turned out to be wrong, except for one.

I confidently predicted that 5 megapixels would be the limit, beyond which no company would go. How wrong can a chap be?

I reckoned that electronic viewfinders were the work of the devil and would be abandoned as ridiculous gimmicks. Today I have two cameras with EVFs and wouldn’t live without them.

When the first hybrid still/video cameras turned up I scoffed! If you want a video camera buy a video camera. Now look — TV shows and feature films are being shot with still cameras and even phones do excellent 4K video. I was wrong again.

The only time I have been right was a few years ago when I told a sceptical crowd of computer nerds that the time was coming when most people would be completely content with the camera in their phones. Score one for me, but even then I didn’t imagine just how good these amazing little devices would be.

Having a box seat at the development of digital imaging has been a great privilege. We take the technology for granted these days without giving a thought to the associated technological developments. Portable storage — 16Mb on my first big CF memory card, 64GB on my current small SD cad. And best not mention 128GB Micro SD.

Computer displays have evolved from very low def 768 lines to 5K ultra high definition on my current iMac. Internet speeds went from snail speed dial up to fastish cable broadband. Inkjet printers improved from crude low resolution affairs to my Canon Pro1000 A2 printer producing better prints than I ever achieved in the darkroom.

Mind you, the credit card has taken many a serious hit over the years, but the amazing thing is that every improvement has been accompanied by a relative reduction in price. My first 256Mb memory card cost $110 twelve years ago. My latest 16GB SD card cost about $16. Hard drives, so essential for storing all those pictures taken in burst mode, have gone from 64Mb to 1Tb for more or less the same price.

Software has undergone the same steady improvement. Photoshop is a miracle of application design and programming.

I salute the creative genius of the Americans and the Japanese who have given us this amazing technology and I am grateful to the Fates/Gods/Juju-in-the-Sky who have allowd me to live in this age of technological marvels. Of course it is all toys, but what Toys! I wouldn’t have missed it for quids and having seen it all unfold before my astonished eyes I wouldn’t have missed it for quids.

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[2016 IN A SNAP]

[The Best and Cutest — Fujifilm X-T2 and Olympus Pen F]

The big news for camera buyers in 2016 was the bad news. Everything costs fifty per cent more than it did twelve months ago. When our dollar drops from parity to 75 cents US and we don’t get any compensating extra bucks in the bank we have to reassess our discretionary buying plans.

American customers have squawked loudly about the $2000 that Olympus is charging for the OMD E-M1 MkII in the US, so we can expect slow trade here where the camera sells for $2800 body only. We would guess that many potential customers will look carefully at the superseded, but still on sale, models from last year.

The new, highly desirable Fujifilm X-T2 costs about $2300 for the body, while the X-T1 can be had for $1400. You do get more pixels, a clever multi-plane swivelling LCD, super-fast focus and brilliant 4K video with the X-T2, and we do hereby declare it to be the “Camera of the Year”, but it won’t make you a better photographer.

Sometime “best” is a tricky concept. Best for what? No doubt the top, most expensive Nikon and Canon DSLRs are the best cameras for photojournalists – they are built like tanks, have lightning fast focus and image processing and will have you taken seriously in the right company. But are they the best for enthusiastic human beings snapping children, small animals, parties and the occasional holiday vista? Or even for those with pretensions to photographic art?

Three new DSLRs from Pentax (K1), Nikon (D500) and Canon (5D MkIV) represent the conservative camera form at its most evolved. They are beautifully made, fit-for-purpose cameras, but hopelessly old fashioned compared with the Fujifilm X-T2 and the Sony a7R MkII. The DSLRs are too heavy, too bulky and short of features that we expect these days, even something as basic as constant live view on the LCD. In 2016 flicking a switch to take the viewfinder out of the image stream in order to shoot video with slow focussing lenses simply doesn’t cut it.

Camera design underwent an important but unnoticed change this year. 2016 was the year of the 1 inch sensor.

In the past compact cameras have used very small sensors of varying areas, always with light receptors (pixels) so tiny that signal to noise and dynamic range (capturing detail in shadows and highlights) are inevitably compromised. But with the much larger 1 inch sensor compromises are fewer and image quality is better. Why the change? In a word – smartphones.

Compact cameras can out-perform smartphones in two areas – the sensor can be bigger and the lenses can be true optical zooms. Panasonic’s Lumix TZ110 is an outstanding example of the new thinking. No phone can match the 25—250mm image stabilised lens or the high resolution eye level viewfinder. We could happily travel with this camera and leave all the other gear at home. All this for about $850.

Other manufacturers are also building new compacts of various configurations around the 1 inch sensor and they are all worth a look.

Finally, the award for Cutest Camera of 2016 goes to the Olympus Pen F. This is the camera that was hardest to send back. It doesn’t do anything special, in fact it is a bit under-nourished in the features department and the price ($1800) is steep for a micro four thirds camera. Never mind all that, just look at it! To see it in all its retro glory is to love it and to want to keep it forever, not just for Christmas.

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This is my last Imaging column. For the past fourteen years I have been privileged to observe, week by week, the development of digital imaging technology. From crude and expensive beginnings the cameras and related devices have evolved to near perfection. To readers who have come on the journey with me – thank you. And may all your exposures be perfect and your focus sharp. Terry Lane

Posted in Reviews, Stories, Trends | 12 Comments