A new film camera system introduced in 2001

Digging through some old content I found this article on the Contax N1 system, a film SLR system to compete with Canon EOS and Nikon. It was introduced in 2001! (The Kodak (/Nikon) DCS digital SLR came out in 1991. The Canon D30 came out in May 2000; the professional EOS 1D in 2001)

There were a lot of bright people at Kyocera and Zeiss behind this. Let’s forgive ourselves next time we miss a trend that seems obvious in retrospect!

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Experiments with a new camera mount system for aircraft

One of the best things that I saw at Oshkosh was Flight Flix, a vibration-isolation system for mounting an action camera on an airplane or helicopter. I purchased mounts for the Cirrus SR20’s tie-down ring and the tow ball underneath the R44 and have begun testing these with the Drift action camera that the company favors due to its long battery life and easily rotated lens for proper “horizon up” orientation. I’m wondering if readers can help with critiques on a couple of tests from the SR20 under-wing mount:

Which one seems better? (“better” = “more stable”) Thanks in advance!

(It was a slightly challenging day for a “stable video” test, with winds gusting up to 18 knots and bumpy air through about 3,000′.)

Dream #1 is to get footage from a $199/hour airplane that looks as good as footage from a $199 drone. Dream #2 will be to get footage from a $369/hour helicopter that looks as good as footage from a $369 drone!

[So far I am not loving the Drift camera. The connection between the camera and the Drift app on an iPhone X is tenuous and I have found it tough to make the settings stick or even start and stop the camera reliably. By contrast, the integration between a phone and the DJI Osmo camera is so tight that feels like using a regular camera’s electronic viewfinder. Support from Flight Flix has been excellent, on the other hand, and they seem to have thought of almost everything. Flight Flix has produced some inspiring sample videos with the Drift, so I know that it can be done even if not by me! And the four-hour battery life (Wi-Fi off; bigger battery option) seems realistic.]

One thing that strikes me as odd is that airframe manufacturers haven’t added mounts for action cameras, both inside and outside, on their latest versions. Wouldn’t most people who spend $800,000+ on a new Cirrus want the option of making a recording without hanging something off a tie-down ring?

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Sony continues to crush Canon and Nikon

This press release from Sony says that they are now #1 in sales of full-frame digital cameras in the U.S. The Alpha mirrorless system was launched only in 2010 (photography history timeline). The first Nikon-brand camera was produced in 1948. The first Canons go back to the mid-1930s (dpreview).

Sony is not all that gracious when it comes to their competition:

As DSLRs fade into the history books of photography,

but maybe that’s because the competition was not sufficiently diverse to survive?

The “Be Alpha” campaign will also feature programs that are designed to foster growth in both the current and next generations of imaging professionals, the most notable of which being the flagship “Alpha Female” program. This multi-tiered, female exclusive program is Sony’s thoughtful response to the imaging industry’s well-documented diversity challenges. It will include a variety of grants and mentorship opportunities for female photographers and videographers, as well as the production of several large-scale industry events.

[If the program is “female exclusive” and the opportunities are limited to “female photographers and videographers”, does it exclude the gender non-conforming? (see UC Berkeley list of terms)]

How did Canon and Nikon let this market get away from them? Ford and GM were eventually able to bounce back and meet the new competition (okay, it took $70 billion in taxpayer funds to prop up GM, but Ford didn’t get a bailout).

Can it be that these companies were locked into obsolete technology? The Nikon F lens mount (1959?) has some well-known deficiencies (so they scrapped it for their own late-to-the-market mirrorless effort), but Canon’s EOS mount was new in 1987. What does it lack compared to the Sony E-mount other than the short flange focal distance? What would have stopped Canon from making a mirrorless mount (they already did a half-assed APS-C one, EF-M) and throwing in a bunch of adapters for legacy lenses?

It can’t be that these companies lacked the ability to engineer a “mirrorless” digital system. They were making “mirrorless” rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lenses back in the 1950s. The compact digital cameras that they’ve been making for nearly 20 years are essentially the same as a Sony mirrorless body plus lens, but without mount/unmount capability.

It can’t be that making high quality sensors is impossible for anyone but Sony. Toshiba makes some excellent high-dynamic range sensors. Nikon was able to buy sensors from both Sony and Toshiba. I think that Samsung makes its own sensors for cameras such as the NX500 and DxOMark testing shows that these have excellent dynamic range. Presumably Canon could have partnered with Samsung if they couldn’t figure out how to tune up their own sensor design.

Readers: What’s the answer? How does Sony walk away with it all?

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Leica finally produces a digital camera better than a $700 Canon Digital Rebel

Leica produced some great film cameras over the years, but the digital revolution left them breathing Nikon and Canon’s dust.  A Leica customer would spend $5000 to obtain the same quality images as a kid with a $700 Canon Digital Rebel.  Want to get the same image quality as a $2000 Canon EOS 5D?  Leica didn’t offer anything competitive.

Leica finally has something to show for itself, a $50,000 camera system that competes with the Hasselblad H3.  The sensor is 30x45mm (compare to the standard 24x36mm frame in the professional Canon bodies) and made by Kodak, another company that has had trouble adapting to the digital world.  Output is 37 megapixels, less than Hasselblad’s 50 MP, but more than Canon’s 21 MP (latest version of the 5D).

Will an 8×10″ print look better than what you could take with a Canon 5D (old version or new) and $100 Canon 50/1.8 lens?  Probably not, but the Leica or Hasselblad would be nice to have for making museum exhibits with 30×45″ and larger prints.

More: http://crave.cnet.co.uk/digitalcameras/0,39029429,49299037,00.htm

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