RIP my Canon G7X Mark II

It was already a bit finicky last summer. But this time it really is: my Canon G7X Mark II is dead.

This is a camera I bought mostly for video vlogging and others. It was my work horse for the few videos I uploaded on YouTube, but I didn’t use it much for photography, even though it’s very capable as I always preferred my Fuji X or the phone as convenience.

The symptoms. I have a freshly charged battery.

– Press the power on button
– The lens extends as the Canon logo appear on the screen. So there is power and the screen works.
– At that point after the green activity led blinks, the screen shuts off, while the lens stay extended.
– The zoom control do nothing, nor do the shutter. The mode dial don’t seem to change anything.
– The power switch doesn’t do anything either so I can’t turn off and retract the lens.
– The only button that does anything is the playback button. Pressing it, retracts the lens and enables playback, showing the pictures on the card. I even got the clock setup as the battery was drained for long enough. Another confirmation the screen works. Including touch, as was as the control wheel.
– Pressing the video record button or the shutter triggers the lens extension. But then the screen turns black, like if nothing came from the camera sensor, and switches off.
– The only way to switch the camera off is to press playback and then the power button act normally to retract the lens.

Has anyone any idea?

Some samples I took with it (pardon Penny’s cuteness):

KVB Piusstraße U-Bahn station, Cologne, Germany
Penny posing.
Passenger reading a magazine, on a flight somewhere between Montréal and London.
Penny, as usual.

And one of the first pictures I took with it:

Penny is comfy as I try my new camera.

I might as well just replace it. Shall I get the G7X MkIII ? I’d like to avoid Sony.

I’m not excluding taking a crack at fixing it as it could be a benign problem. I don’t think it’s worth getting it serviced otherwise given the cost.

Hasselblad X-Pan

Beau Photo tells us Hasselblad “The Holy Grail” XPan – Is it worth it?:

I’ve shot with the XPan numerous times, and each time I would put my clown mask on and tell myself that this camera will be mine someday. After a year of using this camera, I believe the XPan is worth it.

I remember more than 20 years ago hearing about the Hasselblad XPan, or its Japanese original, the Fujifilm TX-1 (the Hasselblad is actually just a rebadged Fujifilm). It was expensive, its lenses were expensive.

But what is it? It is a rangefinder film camera that could shoot in panoramic format, 24x65mm on a 35mm film (135) as well as the standard 24x36mm. It was pretty much the only option for panoramic photography without using a rotating lens like the Horizon or Widelux cameras, or without getting an expensive Mamiya 7 with the adapter to use 135 film instead of the 6×7 120 film frames.

I remember reading an article where the photographer used the XPan to cover a bicycle race. And vertically framed pictures showed us how unique this camera could be.

Too bad it is even more expensive now.

The future is mirrorless

There, I said it. The future of interchangeable lens cameras is mirrorless.

Olympus E-P1 camera

Let’s see why.

The SLR design date back from the film days. A design that allow precise framing using through the lens viewfinder, but that has a somewhat complex mechanical design, increasing cost and size. Today, the film being replaced by an electronic sensor, an instant image can be obtained through the lens. An electronic viewfinder will also be through the lens, with all the advantage of the SLR design, and more. Without the need for that complex and bulky mirror box, the camera can be designed to be more compact.

There are a few reasons why DLSR exists and are still somewhat the de-facto design: trade offs.

The first trade off is that you have to change the lens mount to benefit from a more compact design. This made moving from the older film camera to the digital one is not as easy unless you threw away your investments in glass. This was a perfectly valid point in the last decade, and since the move has happened, the problem persists, even for those that started with a DSLR.

The second trade off is the performance of the autofocus system. DSLR use a phase detection system with sensor located in the mirror box. Something that appear to be problematic on a mirrorless camera, and phase detection AF is more performant than the contrast detection system commonly used by mirrorless cameras. Manufacturers have worked out technology to improve the situation a lot. A small category of users that needs it really needs it still, but we are getting there.

But it is time to make the jump.

The market

Currently only 4 vendors still offer DSLR. Canon, Nikon, Ricoh-Pentax and Leica. Sony hasn’t released a DSLR in a while and given their α lineup (mirrorless), I don’t think they will, Olympus has made the switch to M4/3 a while ago already, Panasonic has been mirrorless only as well also with the M4/3 system, Leica is mostly betting on mirrorless and Fujifilm has been kicking it with the X- series, improving at each generation and the GFX medium format.

In August Canon announced the EOS R, their full frame mirrorless system, while they have a EOS M series that feature an APS-C sensor. They just announced new lenses for that system, so it might stay for a little while. And it is much more affordable as well.

Weeks prior to that, Nikon had just announced the Nikon Z, their full frame mirrorless system, after discontinuing the Nikon 1 which wasn’t really a sensible proposal with its miniature sensor.

As for Ricoh-Pentax life is tough. The Pentax K 01 wasn’t really a success, nor was the Pentax Q that disappeared as quickly as it appeared. And now that it is Photokina, it doesn’t seem that Ricoh had anything to announce in that product line.

If anything, the growth on the market for Sony as proven that mirrorless full frame can be a viable option. Sony is clearly the market leader for full frame and Canon, Nikon and Panasonic wants to try to catch up.

Is full frame the future? I don’t think it will be the only but it will be dominant. Panasonic just announced a full frame mirrorless, sharing the lens mount with the Leica SL, while still continuing with the M4/3, and Sigma who barely has presence in the camera body market has announced they were developing a body for the L-mount. I’m confident that Fujifilm can continue with the X-series without moving away from APS-C, with a more compact system that nails the image quality including in low light, at a price lower than the current full frame lineup. Sony will probably keep some of their APS-C mirrorless until they can bring down the price of the α series down enough.

The medium format has a future too for demanding users, but the price is steep. For example, the Fujifilm GFX 50, a “medium” format sensor mirrorless starts at about US$5,000.

The future

I predict that within 5 years, neither Canon nor Nikon will be pushing DSLR, except maybe in a few niche segments like top of the line sports. The Leica S might survive as Leica just announced the S3 just 10 years after the previous iteration but this camera is already in a very niche segment given it’s price. And some of the manufacturers won’t be left unscathed.

SLR mount for a mirrorless, does it make sense?

There is a lot of chatter lately about Canon and Nikon tardiness in the mirrorless world. On one side, Canon seeked feedback from their user about what they want in a pro mirrorless camera. On the other side, Nikon is announcing a full frame mirrorless camera with a new lens mount dubbed “Z-mount”. In both sides there is one topic that seems to come back into the discussion: the camera should be directly compatible with the SLR mount (EF for Canon, F for Nikon). While it is clearly understandable why users would want that, let’s explain on why it is not a good idea, and why the mount adapter is the best compromise — compromise that Canon made for the EOS-M.

A lens mount is defined by a certain number of attributes ; flange distance is the one that matters here.

The flange distance or register distance is the distance between the lens mount ring on the camera body and the focal plane (the surface of the sensor or the film). It is a fixed dimension for the lens mount.

On an SLR camera, you have the mirror box between the lens and the sensor, defining a minimum flange distance, while a mirrorless doesn’t have the mirror box. This is why in general a mirrorless camera has a much shorter flange distance even with a similar sensor size.

Flange Focal Length (2 types camera)
Flange on a SLR camera (top) and mirrorless camera (bottom). By Shigeru23 (Own work) licensed under GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

For example, Sony E-Mount is 18mm while Sony A-Mount (former Minolta SLR) is 44.5mm, as Canon EF-M is 18mm while Canon EF and EF-S are 44mm. In both cases the flange on SLR mount is more than twice as large as on the mirrorless.

What would a DSLR mount do on a mirrorless system? It would increase the thickness of the body in way that the camera wouldn’t be that much more compact. The real example is Pentax mirrorless Pentax K-01. With a flange distance of 45.46mm for the K-Mount, the camera is bulkier than it should with a thickness (depth) of 59mm. In comparison, the Canon EOS-M100 is 35mm thick (deep) as it uses the EF-M mount, designed for mirrorless.

That’s why using a DSLR mount for a mirrorless system, meant to be more compact, isn’t a good design choice. Offering an adapter that support all the features of their DSLR mount is, on the other hand, the best compromise that a camera maker can do, almost equivalent to the practicality of using native mount, but the advantage of the size: the extra bulk only comes if you need it.

Dear Canon

Dear Canon,

You just announced the 6D MkII to update the aging 6D. Nice. Flip screen, dual pixel AF (which mean fast auto-focus in live view mode including video), you got in with the programme. No 4K video, WHAT?

When you released the 5D MkII in 2009, you put the video mode and led the industry and it was so good that it was used to film major TV features. You improved it and spread it through the whole range of EOS DSLR including the entry level Rebels. The 80D is one of YouTube content producers favourite, with a great auto-focus, the flip screen, while still only 1080p.

I know the 6D MkII is a camera for photographers and is definitely not targeted at those that make a living out if it, no doubt about that. But not differently than the 80D. So why not offering 4K for video? I’m sure you are eager to sell one of these EOS Cinema, or more 5D MkIV or 1D that are so much more expensive, but people might actually go with the similarly priced Sony, that has adapters for EF lenses and do 4K. You should disrupt yourself, otherwise you will be disrupted. You could have a very attractive camera for video creators that can’t really or don’t really need an EOS Cinema.

Also let’s talk about the EOS-M or the G series (the G7X MkII in particular), I really hope you next iteration will have 4K. Even Nikon has a 4K compact camera in the same range of the G7X MkII, for less money. Sony has the RX100M5. Even the M4 and its problem did 4K.

And I’ll be honest, had you put 4K on the 6D MkII, you’d have my pre-order right here. Instead maybe I’ll stick to Fuji X series.

Ode to the iPhone

“The best camera is the one you have with you” — Chase Jarvis

For a long time I disliked point and shoot cameras in the era of film. Often clunky to use, poor performance or quality, this dislike trumped the reason to have them: not missing a shot. I probably missed a lot. Still, I bought an Olympus mju-2 (aka Stylus Epic) to have something in my pocket. This is a film camera, one that was the best compromise, one I could shoot slide film with, and that had a fast prime sharp 35mm f2.8 lens. This was before cell-phone had cameras.

Cell-phone cameras where horrible for a while. My Motorola clamshell phone camera was awful. This was before the original iPhone, which was the first to actually gather interest as being, at the time, decent. I didn’t get one.

In 2010, I got a Nexus One, liked the phone as a communication device, had a camera with nothing to rave about. I started using Instagram which had been released for Android. Then in 2012, I got a Samsung Galaxy Note (long story short, I won it): better camera, hated the phablet and the software. Still using Instagram. Later, in late 2013, I upgraded to the Nexus 4. Better camera, using it more, still posting Instagram. But it didn’t come close to the older 2012 iPhone 4S that my partner used. Each time I used it I fell it was so much nicer.

Taken with the Nexus 4, processed in Instagram:
Last Sunday. Habitat 67.

Later on, I got a Sony Xperia Z3c. I had a nice camera, but due to the reason I had this device I didn’t have the proper software than made the camera better. Distortion, lesser ISO performance, this made it unsatisfying, even if as is it was better than the Nexus 4.

As you can see the Sony Xperia Z3c camera has a visible pincushion:
In Montreal you have wine cellars in the subway.

Looking for a proper replacement communication device, and not considering an Android that wasn’t Google, I got an iPhone SE. It was cheaper than the Google flagship Pixel.

Why do I love it?

Like any other phone, I always have it on me. It is in my pocket, on my desk, etc. This camera, has great software: it is pleasant to use and generate good quality pictures. Better than any previous phones I have had. Quality and user experience is what make it shine ; it is a camera that is more reactive.

In 2016 I spend most of the year, commuting to work, not carrying a camera but my phone. I took few pictures with it, despite plenty of opportunities.

In April 2017, I went for two weeks to Cologne in Germany. I did lug my photo back pack with the Fuji X-Pro1 and three lenses. I ended up using the iPhone mostly to take snaps, when previously I would have used the bigger camera, I even used it to take some moves and timelapses. I used the Fuji on a few walkabout and even then I used the iPhone as a second camera, more often than before. And I felt that my yield of keepers is higher with this phone than ever. And I end up using Instagram more.

Head down

This iPhone beats hand down lots of compact cameras: quality, reactivity, lens.

Same subject, day, night. iPhone SE processed in Instagram:
To the platforms
To platform 4

Making movies

Today every camera can do movies. 1080p is the “standard”, 4k is one that few reach. Canon needs expensive DSLR for that. But the iPhone, it can do it. I’ll be honest, I don’t feel the need for 4k, but two things: 4k is where things are at right now, and 4k allow zooming for a 1080p output, which is what most people will target anyway.

The iPhone has incredible quality for a small camera. It can do slo-mo, time lapse, shoot 1080p at either 30 or 60fps, 4k at 30fps, slo-mo 1080p at 120fps, 240fps if you go down to 720p. In short, you have choice. Even with the front facing camera, which makes it practical for vlogging.

Last but not least, it comes with iMovie. “Shot, edited and upoaded on iPhone”. That’s right you have all the workflow in one device.

This is not to say an Android phone could be as good. Just that so far the one I had weren’t and, and as a communication device they get
obsoleted too quickly. Even the Pixel, that dollar for dollar, cost as much as an iPhone 7.

Smartphone have clearly evolved as a photographic and movie making tool. They are capable of doing things no one expected a few years ago. And they are clearly eating into the compact camera market.

Needle in the sky

And now the conclusion

The iPhone SE really made me tilt over using the smartphone as a photographic tool more often. I felt successfully creative with it. Not that it is a big innovation, it is just that as a whole it works better. Gear doesn’t make the photographer, but gear that you are not comfortable with (that frustrate your) is ultimately hindering your process. Ultimately I will not abandon my other cameras, but I’ll be more inclined to leave it home for circumstances where I believe the iPhone will work.

Losing the X-Pro1 viewfinder eyepiece

After over 5 years I finally lost the X-Pro1 viewfinder eyepiece that has often been loose (pun intended). I have dropped it a few times in the previous years, including in the first weeks of use. Not sure when this happened but I found out when I was in Cologne, Germany in February. While this doesn’t prevent from using the camera, I think I do need to replace it.

X-Pro1 viewfinder
X-Pro1 viewfinder missing the eyepiece.

It seems to be a recurring problem amongst X-Pro1 shooters: link, link,

I’m trying to locate a proper Fujifilm replacement, which is part # FZ09210-100. Digging up the forum I get various stories, with a common point: contact Fujifilm. Some say “you have to send the camera in”, some say they got a replacement in the mail (no mention of cost though, but I’m not expecting it to be free since the camera is no longer covered by the warranty).

Apparently a 19mm eye piece for a Nikon F3 works fine and these go for a reasonable price. I’m ok with that.

On a side note, I lost the flash PC sync cover eons ago and back then it was CAD$7 + shipping for a replacement from Fujifilm. You can find replacements on ebay quite inexpensively.

I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, with the missing eyepiece, here is the status of the camera:

Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera
My X-Pro1 setup in February 2017 – Flickr

My X-Pro1 is back

As I mentioned back last April, my X-Pro1 failed badly.

It cost me over CAD$600 but I got it back from Fujifilm a week or so after. Kudos to Fujifilm service. At the same time they cleaned up the camera and replaced the back screen glass that had a scratch as well as some of the body.

But 2016 hasn’t been very photographic for me as I haven’t really taken a lot of pictures. I used to carry my camera bag to work, and this year I didn’t. Nor did I post here.

Bye bye X-Pro1

Last Saturday as I was wandering around in a park in Laval, QC (northern suburb of Montréal) my X-Pro1 decided to stop working, shutter stuck closed — the camera turn on but doesn’t respond to anything ; it will respond to the firmware flash mode triggered by [DISP] + power on. A quick search lead to other people with the same problem and with a a claim of a $500~$800 (USD?) servicing cost. When a X-Pro2 cost CAD$2000, it might be a no-brainer.

The camera is now in the shop, in the hands of Fujifilm Canada technicians, and I should know soon.

In the mean time, back to shooting with the Canon 5DMkII. It is even more sad that my 2005 Canon 20D still work.

Sony Alpha 7

The Sony Alpha 7 and A7R have just been announced and feature a full frame interchangeable lens mirror-less camera for around $2000. This niche was held so far by the Leica M at a much higher price point. Unlike the Leica, this is not a range finder.

Brian Smith has a field test that show what we can expect: an IQ Sony style (pun intended), ie good.

I believe that for a modern design system, “full frame” is possibly overkill, and Fuji has shown us that you can get top notch IQ with an APS-C sized sensor. Most DSLR systems, like Canon EOS, Nikon, Sony or even Pentax were designed for 135 film, as well as their lens, hence the “full frame” bias. This is also why I considered the RX-1 overpriced and overspeced, even though some people have found it worth it ; and with a top image quality as well. At $2000 body only the A7 can even be cheaper than the RX-1.

But this Sony is an E-mount (like on the Nex), with a short flange distance, that allow an easy adaptation of older lenses via easily available mount adpaters, including M-mount. This is probably why this camera has a lead off the m4/3 or even the Fuji. You get the real deal, the same field of view on your older lenses as they were designed. The only other alternative today is the Leica M type 240, which is both much more expensive (several time the price), hard to come by, and for which adapted lenses require either the use or the rear LCD or the external EVF.

I do believe that the A7 and A7R will find their way in the hands of people that have a large collection of lenses to adapt, and we can be largely confident that the image quality will continue to meet the expectations. Sony has really shown leadership on a market that was dominated by Olympus and Panasonic, and show that Nikon and Canon have to worry given their disappointing incursion into mirror-less land.