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real estate photo

Real estate photo, Battle Ground, WA EOS 5D Mk II Sigma Fisheye 8mm @f8 and 400 ISO

Sales in the SLR segment are beginning to slow down. Manufacturers will always be concerned about keeping SLR sales up. The reason is not due to the price, Sony offers pro-grade mirrorless bodies such as the A7 series. No, it is actually due to the statistical fact that SLR shooters buy more lenses and accessories. Canon and Nikon will always be concerned about keeping that SLR train moving as those two brands have a huge vested interest in professional grade accessories, like flash units, serious pro grade lenses and expensive widgets.

But if sales are slowing down, does that indicate the users are no longer shooting DSLRs or is it part of a bigger issue that the new technologies used in the DSLRs isn’t sufficient to lure people away from earlier models? Let’s be very clear here, the new tech going into these cameras is amazing. The difference between the 5D mk III and the mk II may not seem that significant, but it is. The pixel count is near identical 21.1 mp vs. 22.3 mp. But the upgraded digic 5+ processor some 17x faster than the Digic 4 in the mk II. The mk III shoots faster 6 fps vs 3.9 fps, has significantly improved low light shooting and much larger ISO range. I shoot the mk II. So why have I not switched? Heck, Canon already has a successor to the mk III, the 5Ds with 50.1 mp and dual digic 6 processors!.

real estate photo

Real estate photo, Ridgefield, WA EOS 5D Mk II Canon 16-35 IS L at 16mm f 8.0 and 400 ISO Cropped to 4:3

For me, it’s the fact that my DSLR has a simple use 99% of the time. I use it to shoot real estate photos with the Canon 16-35mm USM IS L. In that endeavor the 5D mk II has been brilliant. That said, the mk III has superior noise reduction and I may just pick one up at the May 21st PhotoFair, in Newark, CA.

Canon has been slow to release new models compared to runner-up Nikon. Since Nikon uses the vaunted Sony Sensors and offers more frequent “new” models, they sometimes have a tech advantage over Canon. But Canon is enjoying something that Nikon once had over Canon. They have the overwhelming advantage in established professional shooter base. It was the EOS era that vaulted Canon ahead of Nikon back in the early 90s. But even the mighty Canon has succumbed to the idea that mirrorless bodies are for real. The EOS-M3 is a testament to their commitment in the market segment. But neither Nikon or Canon has engaged that market segment with any genuine enthusiasm. Both top makers have clearly shown that they intend to compete, but the lack of a developed lens and accessory line is not encouraging.

I believe that the mirrorless bodies are taking over the serious amateur market. I think DSLRs will continue to be relevant as they still have much to offer pros and serious amateurs. I think the days of the Rebel series cameras and other entry-level SLRs are numbered. Even Canon went from ignorance to ‘in the game’ on mirrorless with its efforts on the EOS M series cameras. I would not be surprised to see a full frame mirrorless body from Nikon or Canon in the near future. For now, amateurs will still buy the Canon Rebel and Nikon D3200, etc as these cameras “look” professional. The EOS M3 will kick the Rebel 6Ti in the face as a travel and events camera. The T6i holds an advantage in sports and wildlife with those fast focusing USM tele lenses from Canon. Likewise the same for Nikon with its 1- J5 mirrorless vs. the D3200. But how many Rebel and D3200 are sold because they look the part rather than the actual functionality they offer? Eventually our savvy consumers will figure it all out.

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Pensacola Beach, FL at Sunrise, EOS M3 w/ EF 80-200 f4.5 at 80mm 3200 ISO 1/4000 sec. (oops forgot to change ISO)

The new mirrorless systems are just too damn good and too convenient to ignore. These cameras are tiny and can be used with amazing vintage rangefinder lenses along with their system lenses from the manufacturer. I travel with my EOS M3 and a bag of six lenses, 3 batteries and some accessories that is smaller than 3 soda can cooler bag. My 5D mk II body only barely fits in that bag. My travel photos are vastly improved as I now can comfortably carry a complete system of gear and so I am always at the ready with the right lens. The 5D mk II makes better pictures but only slightly so and the compact system is just better in every other measurable way for travel.

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Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA M3 with 22/2 ‘pancake’ 250th @ f2.0 and ISO 400

My wife and I recently visited my son who is stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana. We decided to extend the trip and visited New Orleans, LA; Biloxi, MS; and Pensacola Beach, FL. I took my tiny little Tenba Bag that measures 12W x 9T x 3D. In that bag was my EOS M3 body, EF-80-200 USM with EF adapter mounted, Leica Summicron 35/2, Olympus Pen F 40/1.4, Canon EF-M 11-22mm, EF-M 18-55mm, EF-M 22mm 2.0, and three batteries.

Unbelievable it all fit in a bag my wife could actually store in her purse! There is no way I schlep my 5D system around on that trip. It simply won’t happen. So the compact system camera allowed me to make memorable, quality images that crush into dust any cell phone camera without the hassle of a bulky and heavy bag.

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M3 with 22/2 ‘pancake’ 1/25th @ f2.0 and ISO 400

Let it be known that the M3 is comparable in performance to a Canon 7d, this is no cheapo camera system. Oh and by the way, I do still use my cell phone camera. I took the panoramic below with my Samsung S6. Those cell phones have avoided stitching problems as they use the 4k video mode to make the image rather than a series of stills. The results are respectable and offer a great perspective of an interesting environment. You can see why some people just use their phone. But you wont get a shot of a person like the shot of my lovely wife with your phone. It just doesn’t work that way 😉

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The original Pierre Masperos in New Orleans, LA. Samsung S6 panoramic mode

I take that M3 with the Summicron 35/2 or the Pancake EF-M 22/2 everywhere. As such I am making images with a high quality camera in places most people are using their cell phone camera. That’s a win for me. It is also a win for the APS/c and Micro 4/3 mirrorless bodies.

This is the perilous journey manufacturers must undergo. The demand for high-end DSLRs will likely remain but consumer SLRs are on shaky ground. The DSLR however will remain relevant. There is still a huge system advantage and the serious action shooters will always benefit from the crazy speeds and outrageous lenses offered for DSLRs. It is also notable that as good as modern electronic viewfinders are, the optical prism of a DSLR is still better. It is brighter and easier to see the sharpness of the image. features such as focus peaking and magnified focus help the electronic viewfinder, but the optical is still superior, for now. But Canon and Nikon must embrace this new trend towards compact system cameras. Sony’s A7 is not as compact as my M3 but it is by all accounts a serious pro grade camera with a full frame sensor and excellent build quality. Sony is not messing around here, that series of camera is amazing.

cipa-dataOverall digital cameras sales are in decline. Cell phone cameras have become so good that many people forego a digital camera entirely. The ‘point and shoot’ compact cameras are already dead, they just don’t know it yet. But for the foreseeable future the tiny image sensors in cell phones will continue to suck in low light and optical zooms on our phones are highly unlikely as well. This means that the market for a step up camera like the EOS M3 or Panasonic Lumix, Olympus Pen, and others will continue to attract serious amateurs. The chart at right shows camera sales volume since the 1930s. It has film cameras lumped together but separates digital into three broad categories, compact, compact system, and SLR. You can see that the loss of sales volume has come at the near exclusive expense of the compact digital cameras. There is an interesting article from which this chart was acquired that talks about the camera market here.

My perspective is that people should shoot with a high quality camera system. Whether is takes the form of a compact system camera or DSLR matters not. Once you start making images and utilize the benefit of a larger high quality image sensor, spectacular lenses and amazing image processing, there is simply no going back. A few more pics from my New Orleans and Gulf Coast trip. Most of my pictures when i travel are snapshots. My wife’s patience grows thin when I spend too much time trying to set up my shots 😉

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Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA M3 with Canon EF-M 11-22mm @ 11mm 1/80th @ f4 and ISO 400

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The French Quarter and Downtown, New Orleans, LA M3 with EF 80-200mm @ 121mm 1/1250th @ f8 ISO 400 30% crop

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My wife wanted a picture of these flowers. Good thing I packed that Pen F 40/1.4 it focuses close. M3 Pen F 40mm @ 2.8 and ISO 100

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The French Quarter, New Orleans, LA M3 EF-M 11-22mm @ 11mm 1/500th @f8 and 400 ISO 20% crop

 

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Adobe created the Lightroom software package not as a replacement for Photoshop. It is not necessarily an alternative either as both should be owned by serious pros. It is an alternative for 90% of amateur photographers however. Photoshop has become synonymous with image editing. It is the Cadillac of image processing software and it is extremely powerful. Photoshop is also very complex. You can rest assured that if it can be done, it is doable in Adobe Photoshop.

So why Lightroom? Lightroom is a dual tool. First and foremost it allows for excellent image processing that will accommodate 90% of what you’ll ever need to do to an image. It doesn’t just do it, it does it very well. But where it differs from its big brother, is in the organization of images. Lightroom requires that you import your images into the software and it then catalogs and organizes them using the image metadata. I have thousands and thousands of images stored across multiple drives. Lightroom finds them quickly based on a variety of search mechanisms. Lightroom has a simple and easy batch processing system that allows the photographer to perform similar tasks across multiple images instantly. Although savvy Photoshop users can create batch systems, it is not something everyone is able to figure out.

I haven’t bought Photoshop since Photoshop 5 and I can’t use that ancient version on my modern pc. Oddly, I have an equally old version of the Corel suite and it still works fine on my modern pc. Photoshop and my ancient Corel 7 suite allows for masking and multiple image layers. This can be a useful tool especially when using a green screen to remove the background. Lightroom does not offer that level of image processing. It is designed for organization and typical processing tools. What it does do, it does so with brilliant precision and excellent results. The ability to control and manipulate highlights and shadows is amazing. No simple editing software will even come close to Lightroom.

I am likely going to purchase the Adobe suite subscription just because the masking tools have gotten so much better over the years. But it will be Lightroom that gets the bulk of use as that software is fast and simple to use.

Using cheap editors will not allow effective control of highlights and shadows. A simple brightness and contrast modification just doesn’t work as well as the Adobe Lightroom at controlling difficult lighting. Often photography is a trade-off in camera. You have to decide how to balance harsh lighting in the exposure. Modern DSLR metering is damn good at getting it right.

housetest-2The top photo here is unaltered and was taken and plus one stop over the Canon 5D Mk II meter’s recommendation. The sun was literally just behind the peak of the roof. This is the nightmare lighting scenario and yet the camera’s meter did a solid job of producing near perfect exposure with my housetest-1“photographers” input being just one stop over the meter’s suggestion. That said the foreground is a touch dark and flat. There is detail in the foreground but the eye wants to wander towards the light behind the house. The subject is clearly the house so that is not an ideal situation. The best solution here is not to shoot this subject in these conditions. But let’s face it, we don’t always have Ansel Adams’ time. Sometimes we have to take what life gives us.

Cheap or free editors typically allow the user to utilize a brightness and contrast system to alter the image. The problem there lies in too much contrast. The more brightness added the flatter the contrast and the more contrast added the less detail in the extremes. Thus it results in über dark shadows lacking detail and blown out highlights with the same problem.

Using shadow and highlight control and the individual color tuners in Lightroom, can result in proper exposure balance and excellent detail through the range of extremes in the harsh lighting. The edited image has just a minute or two of tweaking and with a little more effort could be rendered near perfect. But the idea here is the ease and speed at which mediocrity can be elevated to excellence. This image had the highlights reduced all the way down and the shadows brought up about 60 points of 100. The color tuner brought the luminance of Green up 10 points and blue down 10 points. Overall color saturation was increased 5 points.

Lightroom also has “presence” control. This is a sort of blend of sharpness and softening tools. Increased presence will add an edge to the image and make it have a gritty look as you hit to extreme. Decreasing it will give a softer effect and towards the extreme a soft glow. These combo tools allow for fewer editing controls and faster post processing. Lightroom will allow for individual sharpness and softening control as well for the fine tweaking. Lightroom utilizes Adobe’s excellent lens profiles which can automatically correct for known imperfections in the lens. The images here were taken with Canon’s amazing 16-35mm IS F4.0 L lens but even that lens has some barrel distortion and pincushion near the extremes and Lightroom automatically makes those corrections when loading the profile for that lens. Furthermore the software has exception noise filters.

I have become quite the fan of Lightroom. One thing to note is that you cannot just open a new photo in Lightroom. The images must be imported into the program. Unlike Photoshop which allows you to simply double-click the image to open into directly. Again the theory is that Lightroom is as much an image organizational tool as it is an editor.

If you can live without multiple layer control, custom cloning, and custom masking, Lightroom may just meet all your needs. Lightroom is ideal for the photographer that will do most of the image making in the camera rather than most of the image making on the computer. You will not be dropping people into a fake background or putting the President’s head on a Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body. Without a custom cloning tool it is difficult to remove unwanted elements. Lightroom does have an excellent spot remover tool and that can sometimes be used to say take out a kids toy that was laying on the lawn in these photos, but not for anything complex. So if quick, efficient and excellent photo processing is the desired result, Lightroom will deliver the goods as well as anything on the market. If you need more than processing then look at the Big Kahuna, Photoshop.

 

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