Pentax 17

I previously mentioned the Pentax film renaissance. Today Pentax announced the Pentax 17 (via DPReview).

This gives the details we didn’t previously have.

It’s a vertical half frame (17 mm wide, 24 mm tall) 35mm millimeter compact camera, with a manual focus fixed prime lens. It has program exposure with a few modes, and built-in flash with sync at 1/125. It will be priced at USD$499.95, to be available in late (aren’t we already in the second half?) June 2024.

The manual focusing is zone based, reminiscent of non auto-focus compact cameras, and the viewfinder is parallax corrected, and centered on the lens in the middle of the camera. This is neither a reflex (through the lens) nor a rangefinder.

The body construction has metal, i.e. it’s not a cheap plastic blob. The leaf shutter goes from 4 sec to 1/350 sec, with also a bulb mode. The lens is a fixed 25mm (37mm equivalent) with f/3.5 aperture closed down to a max of f/16. Film advance is mechanic with a lever, so is ISO setting (no DX). The camera uses a CR2 battery for the metering and the flash.

The half frame allow 48 and 72 shots on 24 and 36 exp rolls respectively. If you want to shoot in landscape mode, just flip the camera.

This camera could totally be from the late 1970s, minus a couple of things. According to Ricoh-Pentax, the lens is based on the 1994 Pentax Espio Mini, but using the same attribute as was used on the 1962 RICOH Auto Half

At USD$500 I am not sure whether this is right-priced or not.

Rangefinder

The Leica M is the de facto digital rangefinder camera.

Rangefinder

What’s a rangefinder? It’s a viewfinder where a moving part is coupled with the lens focusing to triangulate the parallax. That moving part is projecting the image taken offset the viewfinder, and move when the lens focusing moves. If the two images coincide, the triangulation is focused on the subject, indicating the lens is now in focus. Still not following? You can read about rangefinder cameras on wikipedia.

The rangefinder is a great device to be able to focus precisely without having a through the lens viewfinder like on a reflex camera. It allowed a more compact camera design than a reflex camera, are there is no need for a mirror box, while still allowing precise focus. This was long before auto focus systems. Which is at the heart of the Leica M, mostly unchanged from the 50s design, at least in principle.

Some quite unique cameras like the ultra wide Fujifilm TX-1 or Hasselblad X-Pan were rangefinder cameras. This was a good solution that a reflex design couldn’t allow easily. There were also some medium format rangefinder like the Mamiya 7 that allowed much more compact design.

On of the design constraint of a rangefinder is that the field of view of the viewfinder is fixed, and while some camera can change the frame lines depending of the focal length of the lens, it can’t got wider than it is, and the longer the lens, the smaller the frame is. In general lens shorter than 28mm were less accurate to frame do to the frame line being outside the field of view.

So now that we have mirrorless, through the lens (auto) focusing, what’s the point of a rangefinder camera? The rangefinder is a precision device much more fragile of complex to manufacture, that may need readjustment over time. Part of the design of the rangefinder is that the viewfinder is offset from the lens, and usually also offers a wider field of view. This leads to a style of shooting that is particular to it.

I once shot a couple of rolls on a Leica M7 in 2011 and I loved it. The feeling, the results, I can’t really describe it though. You can still buy a Leica M6 new for little under CAD$8000 (body only).

Digital rangefinder camera

In 2004, Epson did make the R-D1. It was a digital rangefinder camera, the first one. While still being able to use Leica M lenses, it sold for a fraction of the price of Leica flagship M7 rangefinder film camera, as it was based on the much cheaper Cosina R bodies. This camera wasn’t perfect, but filed a niche. I think one of the biggest limitations was that it was an APS-C sensor, thus had a 1.5x crop factor. The 35mm lens you were fond of on a Leica suddenly became like a 50mm. If you loved wide angle, then it became a bigger issue, wider angle lenses, even non-Leica, where much more expensive. Full frame sensors weren’t a thing at the time. When Leica released the M8, it had the same issue, at a much higher price. With the discontinuation of the Epson R-D1, Leica M became the only game in town.

Fujifilm X

In 2010 Fujifilm introduced the Fujifilm X100 and a year later the Fujifilm X-Pro1. The former introduced Fujifilm hybrid viewfinder, which led to a lot of people wrongly calling it a rangefinder camera, which is inaccurate. Rangefinder style is probably a better moniker.

What did the X100 offer? The optical viewfinder allow shooting more like with a rangefinder camera, with overlaid frame lines (parallax corrected as bonus) in a wider view than the lens offered ; as well as other indicator that a digital display can offer. The focusing was done using an auto focus system like on most digital camera, through the lens. The hybrid part allowed to switch, as needed, to a completely electronic viewfinder. Best of both world.

The X-Pro1 brought this viewfinder to an interchangeable lens system, based on an APS-C sensor, that the whole Fujifilm X is now based on, with more traditional body designs. I bought one sight unseen. I love it and is saddened by the fact that the X-Pro3 is no longer available, and that the X-100 VI (the 6th generation) isn’t available yet.

Pixii

In 2018 we started hearing about the Pixii. A French made rangefinder digital camera. I noticed it again recently in my meanderings, I then realised I had never followed up on it ; I actually had forgotten about it, maybe because I thought it was a vapor ware, or something. The camera is real. At about USD$3000, it is priced less than half of the Leica M that goes for USD$8000.

It is definitely a rangefinder camera, with a digital overlay. That’s awesome. The image quality seems to be good according to reviewers. Pixii even offer the DCP profile for colour, and how to use them in Rawtherapee which it to be outlined as not other camera vendor care outside of the Adobe monopoly or their sub-optimal application.

What else?

It seems that in the 2023 model (A2572) some of the controls require a companion proprietary phone app, a bit like the Leica M-10D. This raises a lot of red flags as it mean the camera will be much less usable without it, which mean that if Pixii ever discontinue the app, or the phone gatekeeper do, you are SOL. It’s a bad industry trend.

The other point is the fixed storage, where you buy your camera like a phone with a fixed memory capacity. This is nuts. Not only you pay an unnecessary premium (USD$270 for going from 16G to 64GB, while a 128GB SDXC goes for USD$20, or a higher speed for USD$120), but what happens to having separate cards? If you need more storage, connect the camera to your computer they say. What happens if your flash storage die? Like a MacBook, you throw it away? For example the Leica T has some internal storage that is apparently a microSD that you can upgrade if you open the camera, and it is in addition to an external slot. I clearly remember the outrage when a major brand camera didn’t come with dual card slot. So I don’t get how not having one would even get considered… It feels like they designed it like a smartphone.

The last point, and it’s even more fundamental. It’s the sensor size. There is nothing wrong with an APS-C sensors, they can deliver quality even in low light, and Fujifilm proved it. It’s great with a dedicated lens lineup, but the M-mount lenses come from film, and are designed for a full frame system that is the Leica M since the Leica M9. If you have a set of prime lenses for your shooting style, the Pixii will need a different set to compensate for the 1.5x crop factor.

Macfilos has a review of the camera. They say:

The Pixii is, in some ways, the most modern rangefinder camera imaginable. There was no legacy to consider when designing the body.

Ahem, M-mount lenses are a significant legacy. Even more that they are designed for a full frame sensor (or a 24×36 frame on 35 mm film).

About the app:

*It is technically possible to use the Pixii almost completely without the app (see the comments section), but it is the opinion of the reviewer that this makes little sense as the whole concept of the camera is based on connectivity.

I’m still of the belief this is a planned obsolescence item. Software does suddenly stop working. Software from trillion dollar corporation do. Software from smaller outlet do. Mobile app store do remove apps for many reasons. If that ties important feature, this turn your camera into a brick. The Panasonic Lumix S9 might also suffer from this.

Now I’d love to take it for a spin, being able to say how it feels as a camera. The shortcomings on paper that I mention are not fatal as an image capturing device.

Link: why i love hong kong

Winnie Lim: why i love hong kong

I have only seen Hong Kong through the lens of other, a lot because of the Kai and Lok era of Digital Rev TV. It feel like a very photogenic place, probably because of its contrast of style and urbanism.

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Categorized as Links Tagged

Where to buy in Canada

I have put up a curated list of Canada camera stores and film processing labs. This came from the need to know where I could get film processed, or get supplies for it.

There is a lot of reasons why you’d want to buy from a Canadian store (when living in Canada), including that some of the supplies, like chemicals for film processing, are not easy to import. Also the prices are mostly MSRP which mean that patronising a local business won’t cost you more.

I hope this is useful.

Link: Pentax film renaissance

DPReview has an interview with the team behind Pentax upcoming film camera:

Everything analog is suddenly cool again, and photography is no exception: There’s an incredible renaissance happening in film photography, led by a generation who grew up never knowing anything other than digital cameras.

Yes. There is room for a few new film cameras that produce quality images (that’s a stab a Lomography). While things are moving in the world of film supplies, not always to the taste of aficionados, the stock of used film camera is just getting older. And older mean breakage, difficult to repair.

The first announcement came in December 2022, but in April 2024, the publication date of the interview, we have a bit more detail. It will be a half frame 35mm camera, vertical, in a compact format. But every other details remain elusive, including exposure modes.

To be continued…

News: Panasonic Lumix S9

The internet camera reviewers dumped their reviews of the new Panasonic Lumix S9 after an expense paid trip to Osaka, Japan.

It’s a full-frame L-Mount camera of a small form factor. It features IBIS, 6K video, 24MP sensor, on par with S5II.

Photography-wise, no breakthrough. One exception is the possibility to add multiple LUT to apply to the image processing for SOOC JPEG. It’s like film emulation but customizable. A purely software feature. LUTs can be loaded from the card or using the companion LumixLab app, which also include the editing feature for the profiles that aren’t anywhere. The reliance on a “mobile app” remain a bad trend. The LUT feature is actually expanded from the Lunix S5II where it was limited in numbers (maximum of 10 vs 39 on the S9) and to V-log.

Panasonic also released an L-Mount pancake 26mm f/8 fixed aperture manual focus lens to make a compact setup. Beside, they announced a 18-40mm f/4.5-6.3 a compact zoom lens that would help keeping the camera compact.

Missing are a viewfinder, possibly a hot shoe (it’s cold, ie no connector, not even flash sync — to be fair this only prevent using a flash strobe) and the headphone jack. Compactness has a price.

For video, it targets “social media” and support many formats and aspect-ratios, including vertical (yikes!), and while the built in mic doesn’t seem to reach the levels of Sony’s, it has a mic input jack (but no headphones). Also it has a tilt screen (hi Fujifilm!), and you can apply the LUT mentioned above to your video footage. It uses the whole sensor in a 3:2 aspect ratio for video, that can be cropped and reframed to your preferred aspect-ratio. However it has recording time limits of 10 minutes if you use 6K mode, 15 minutes in 4k, and 20 minutes in 1080 that the S5II doesn’t have.

MSRP:

  • 26mm f/8: USD$199
  • Lumix S9: USD$1499
  • 18-40mm: unknown

DPReview initial Panasonic S9 review

DPReview: Panasonic announces 26mm F8 body-cap manual lens and trails 18-40mm

On a personal matter, the lack of viewfinder remain for me a huge drawback as a photography camera. Otherwise if feels like a perfectly capable camera, and probably excel in video like most of the Panasonic lineup including in m4/3. And if you already have L-mount lenses, this could represent a great choice as a supplementary camera body, being a little less expensive than the Lumix S5II almost matching its capabilities. None of this opinion is based on hands-on use.

Fujifilm upgrades

Pondering an upgrade, even though I haven’t shot much lately, actually since the pandemic started in 2020. I must actually be suffering from GAS at that point. So let’s keep it at nerding over camera.

First, rumor has that the Fujifilm X-Pro4 will not be for this year ­— it’s just a rumor. I wanted to upgrade on that front as I still enjoy using my X-Pro1. This is why somewhat I am looking at the X100 VI as a compacter solution in that form factor. The catch is that it only is available for pre-orders, and my local camera store doesn’t have any to demo. Not sure what to do. Let’s keep at lusting.

Also, the XT-50 was just announced, which isn’t a path I’m gonna take anyway.

I could be considering the X-S20 as an addition mostly because it has the tilt-screen which mean that it has a bit what I’m looking for video, ever since my G7X MkII decided to stop working. Not that the X-T3 is not capable, but the tilt-screen remains a game changer and I like to keep a photography camera at the ready.

Link: Two-Thirds of the Limited Edition X100VI Sales in the U.S. Were Fraudulent

Petapixel reports Two-Thirds of the Limited Edition X100VI Sales in the U.S. Were Fraudulent.

Scalpers are enabled by ebay and Amazon. But then I see no purpose of “limited edition” items either. Such a camera is meant to be used.

To be fair, I’d like a Fujifilm X100VI, but the regular one, as it will take the same images than the limited edition but definitely cost less.