Continuing in a theatrical and retro vein...While Christmas.

I was shooting in the temporary Zachary Scott photo studio a few days ago and we needed to create a photograph for the musical, White Christmas. This was one of the shots I created and I wanted the lighting and the general feel of the image to harken back to the 1940's when so many images were lit with big, pan reflectors and lots of fill light. Our one formalist constraint was the white background, which became a leitmotif throughout the two days of shooting. To light the actors I used a large dish reflector just to the left of center and a large umbrella fill (one and a half stops down) just to the right of the camera. But, of course, the expressions make the shot for me.  It's always a collaboration.

Later, back in the studio, I was playing around with the image in SnapSeed and ended up with the image below. In retrospect, this is one occasion on which I should have considered a little bit of hair light.  I'll try it next year.

Camera: Sony a77, ISO 160
Lens: Minolta 24-85mm 3.5-4.5
Lighting: Four Elinchrom monolights

White Christmas will open on the stage of the new Theater later this Fall.

Getting ready for the emotional roller coaster that will be Photokina.

Mr. Martin Burke in Harvey. Coming soon to Zach Scott Theatre.
©2012 Kirk Tuck

Photographed with a nice big beauty dish to camera left, a nice, 
big 72 inch white umbrella just to the right of the camera for fill, 
and two lights on the background.

Camera: Sony a77 at ISO 64. Taking lens: 
Minolta 24-85mm
Post processed in SnapSeed.

From Sept. 18-23 we will all willingly or unwillingly participate in the fallout of one of the world's biggest trade shows dedicated to introducing new cameras that we just have to have. I've proved to have a shaky record on specific camera predictions but a good one on trends and I'm going to weigh in here in both areas so remember that these are my predictions and not facts or rumors...

I can feel it coming. This is the year of the full frame sensor for cropped the frame budget. Seems like Nikon will be the first ones over the wall with the nearly officially released D600 which many seem to think will come to market at around $1,500. Given the pent up demand for a big sensor at a lower price I think they'd safely sell as many as they can make even at $1700. The sensor is probably a Nikon tweaked version of the same one rumored to be stuffed inside the upcoming Sony a99. Thousands will rush to buy them. Lenses will be upgraded. Bragging rights will ensue.

If the rumors are true I'll be amazed not to see Canon stumble all over themselves to get a similar product into the pipeline by the holiday buying season. It might not be ready by Christmas but you can bet Canon will want to get the word out quickly to lock their customers and keep them from scurrying across the road into the Nikon camp.  After the two big players open the flood gates it's game on for everyone else.  If you can get a full frame camera with great IQ performance why would the average consumer look at anything else? (I know, you shoot wildlife, sports, etc and you like the crop....right).  Maybe full frame becomes the new exclusive domain of all traditional DSLR cameras while all the new innovation happens in other areas. Like the mirrorless space.

What will the introduction of the full frame sensor mean to all the people who've been thronging to the mirrorless cameras in both the Sony/Samsung APS-C space and the folks who are now happily nesting with their OMD's? Short term there will be a "disturbance in the force" but long term it won't really matter because Nikon and Canon don't get two underlying truths of the current world wide camera technology acceptance migration: 1. The EVF/constant live view is a driver all out of proportion to other considerations and it will continue to drive the sale of smaller, easier to use and easier to understand photography cameras.  Once people use a camera with a good EVF they will never want to change back. And mover-uppers from cellphones are more comfortable with the live view screen than the "clearer" but more (operationally) opaque OVF.  And 2. For most people the improvements in IQ between a cropped frame camera and a full frame camera will be immaterial for their use. Why pay for the difference? Another consideration is that people like the smaller size and lower weight of the mirrorless cameras.

That being said I'm pretty sure that the Nikon D600 and whatever Canon tosses into the ring will be the best sellers in the traditional full frame category from here on out. The real issue is whether or not a smaller, cheaper but no less capable (in terms of sheer image quality) camera like the D600 will nicely fill the needs of a huge swath of current D800 and 5Dmk3 potential buyers thus radically cannibalizing everything in the product lines above them.  The Olympics are over, who really needs to pony up for 12 frames per second and herculean weather proofing now? (Yes, I know you probably live in someplace where it rains all the time or you can't stay out of swamps because that's your chosen genre....but you already know you are special, right?).

I'm feeling the first rumblings of a trend that may not fully surface for a year or two and certainly not at this year's Photokina.  I think of it as the remedy for a pendulum that's swung too far. The relentless downsizing will end when people realize that dinky cameras aren't as comfortable to hold. Judging from the growing number of people (many of whom are camera veterans...) who are having a real dissonance to the Olympus OMD offering, camera have crossed the line and become too small to comfortably use without attaching prosthetics to aid in gripping and operating said camera. We are about to re-enter the Goldilocks period of camera design.  Not too big, not too small-----just right. I am reminded of Nikon's introduction of the FM film camera. Originally marketed as the camera for people who wanted the flagship F2as cameras but were on a budget it became the de facto pro camera from Nikon for several generations precisely because it traded off no imaging performance, only weight and price. And most of the top pros who used them raved about how well it fit their hands. How perfectly sized it was.

I think Olympus has carried the downsizing too far. It started with the skinny and hard to hold ZX-1 and the OMD seems to be the latest haptical blunder. Nice to try and downsize products to a certain point but only if you keep in mind that human hands are not infinitely (down)scalable. I'm hoping Olympus announces a new Pen style offering (along the lines of the EP3...) that incorporates the same new sensor. And I won't be upset if they make the body a bit bigger to ease congestion on the button spacing....

Continuing on. If Sony produces the camera that the rumor sites are predicting and the a99 really comes into existence, watch out Canon and Nikon! Sony is the one major company that really gets how revolutionary the EVF experience is and how it will drive the professional camera market going forward. All they need to do is stick the new camera in as many hands (reviewers and pros) as they possibly can and they will shift the hegemony in a new direction. Real time Live View, either on a back screen (for amateurs and studio dwellers) or on a state of the art EVF, with competitive phase detection AF and faster response times for shutter actuation.  The ability to dump the Zacuto and Hoodman vestigial loupes and monitor video in a professional manner, all built in.

My upgrade suggestion for Sony's current DSLT line is to introduce an a57mk2 which only upgrades one single feature: the EVF.  Give this camera the LED EVF of the Sony Nex 7 and a77 and it will dominate the sub $800 category. It's already a great camera.

If Sony continues to flesh out their DSLT lens line and continues to introduce user features that make photography more intuitive the only thing that can stop them from dominating Canon and Nikon will be their own hapless marketing...

The Sony Nex 7 is a great camera. I'm hoping the 6 carries on the same tradition instead of returning to the too small body configuration of the 5. What I'd really like to see is a new and improved (pancake NOT necessary) 16mm lens with kickass performance, and also a 70mm 1.4 lens for all us portrait nuts.  It could be an f2 or even an f2.8, as long as it's sharp and wonderful I'll buy it. If the Nex 6 carries on with the same EVF as the 7 it should sell well.

Along these lines are rumors that Fuji about to start rebating prices on the X Pro 1 because they are about to launch a less pricey body that foregoes the hybrid finder for a full on EVF and the new camera will come in under $1,000. They will certainly find a sweet spot for that offering if the sensor remains the same....

This is more of a plea than a prediction but would some manufacturer please have the balls to introduce a high resolution, interchangeable camera with a square sensor? Now that we have the EVF technologies quickly coming to the market place a camera maker can stick in a big, square chip and electronically give users any aspect ratio they want. Slavishly lashed to the 3:2 image? There'd be a setting for that.  Ready to experience the unleashed power and glory of the big square? There'd be a setting for that as well.  And everything in between. I'm hoping this is what Canon has in mind for the rumored 40 megapixel imager that's being rumored but Canon seems to be the one maker that needs to be pulled, kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

What will Panasonic bring to the table? I waited and waited to hear about a new GH3 this summer. Rumors abounded. One user and pusher of Panasonic whispered "insider" info to me that never came to fruition. Now I'm out of the system but I'm still curious because Panasonic could be a very powerful player in the hybrid, still/video space.  And the GH2 had a lot of promise in its time as a still camera.  I think they'll be the first ones to realize that relentless downsizing is for chumps and you'll see their GH3 increase in size over its predecessor.  And I'm betting they roll out a sensor that is at least as good as the one Olympus is using in the OMD. But I'm betting the real story will be improvements in the EVF and also in the interfaces for movie making. Rationalizing sound input and bumping up throughput and frame rates would make the GH3 a natural for a new generation of multimedia producers.

Will someone please make an HDMI interface for an iPad Retina? I'd love to dump all the proprietary tethering software for all the cameras and just take video out from the ubiquitous mini HDMI plug on my Nikon or Sony and get it into a nice, bright, PC-killing iPad. Wouldn't that be a great way to do a studio or controlled location shoot?  Your raw images would write to your camera's internal card while your monitor images would feed to your Retina screen. Amazingly simple.

Why don't we have this right now? Do we? Have I just missed it?  If you know how to make this work please tell us all!

What's in store for manufacturers like Pentax? Right now they have no pathway to full frame and their execution in the mirrorless space is----------interesting. I like the look and feel of the Kr-5 and it's predecessor but that's becoming a pretty small market niche in the whole scheme of things. An interesting bit of market sabotage would be to drop the price of their medium format camera to $6,999 and chomp up a ton of low end, medium format marketshare while also stealing share from the high end Canon and Nikon "pro" cameras.  They'd need to scale up production on the 645 styled MF body but they'll know within weeks of announcing the price drop if they have a sustainable market... I'd bet that driving sales of a halo product like a MF camera would also help drive sales of their DSLRs.

Where will the medium format industry go? I think we've seen some writing on the wall.  There's basically two markets and they're pretty separate. On one hand we have the very high end advertising studio (NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas, London, Paris, Berlin, etc.) who demand and will pay for the best possible imaging resources they can get. Mostly from rental houses. The cost of the cameras is a drop in the bucket compared to ad placement costs, production, etc.  The middle of the market for things like products and even model shoots is about to be eviscerated by CGI and photographic tools like the Nikon D800 and whatever Canon answers with.

The low end of the MF market is about smaller studios in second tier markets, well known portrait photographers and a legion of well heeled hobbyist who who want the differentiation and bragging rights of owning something bigger than what the masses can access. That means there's a market in the $9999 to $19,999 space that will probably keep its head above water. Users in this space typically want to take their cameras into the field, go on a workshop with Michael Reichmann and generally have the same working methodologies they developed using 35mm style cameras. Look for small improvements here coupled with falling prices.  Bigger, brighter rear screens, the addition of live view for focusing and perhaps even more economical lines of lenses.

I predict that Mamiya and Pentax will both work to increase their shares of the market by reducing prices on 40 megapixel models and the market will reward them. There will always be advantages to larger overall geometries and the character of imaging that the longer focal length (for the same angle of view vis a vis smaller formats) lenses provide.  That's why most of us crave MF in this age of already amble megapixels.

Finally, I predict a switch in the marketing mantras from all the major companies. Dynamic Range and "rich color" will replace the megapixel race and the high ISO fascination of the IT crowds. We'll see marketing that reminds us of why we used to use slower films= quality, quality, quality.

I'm sure there will be contenders to the current pocketable throne recently grabbed by the Sony RX100 but I think we all have our eyes on the good stuff.  The bigger stuff.

Can we please  see something new from Sigma with the Foveon sensors? I've seen some cool images, I just wish they'd focus on the product a bit more. More specialized lenses for the smaller sensor inside. More compatibility with industry leading raw conversion software, etc. 

That's enough for now.

A modern black and white image of an actor.

The "actor" is Jaston Williams, the writer and one of the stars of Greater Tuna. This season he'll be revising a great role, playing the novelist, Truman Capote, in the play, Tru.

We did this photograph in a makeshift studio at Zachary Scott Theatre. Two lights on a white muslin background, a 28 inch bare matte silver beauty dish from the left and a 72 inch white umbrella directly behind camera for a little bit ( just a touch...) of fill light.