Camera technology… what’s next?

In recent years, traditional camera technology has not changed much. You get better sensor performance with better noise control, you get higher speed performance that allows blackout-free shooting through EVF, you get better auto focus performance in the form of eye and animal eye AF… other than that, there seems to be not much going on.

Whereas for smartphone camera technology, computational photography has evolved and allows user to capture HDR image and video with live view, night mode that allows handheld low light photography to be possible, blurring background without the need of large aperture lens, creating lighting effect without the need of studio light and so on.

It’s an obvious threat for sure to the traditional photography industry, smartphones have been eating their piece of pie ever since they were introduced. To photography geek like us, we jolly know the difference between the two in terms of what each can achieve and their limitations. However, for the vast majority of average consumers, it simply doesn’t make sense to buy a camera anymore.

So, can traditional photography platform catch up and make a come back? Or it will slowly fall into a niche? I wonder. Maybe they can add computational photography into traditional cameras, but that would require a crazy amount of processing power that current technology simply couldn’t deliver. Maybe they can innovate by adding internet connectivity and adding apps on their camera to ease content sharing, but that would probably eats in their battery life and annoy some purist along the way.

We are already seeing camera sales dropping year over year, it would be interesting to see how one would react to stay relevant in the business. What do you think is necessary for traditional camera brands to survive the storm?

Innovation?


What is innovation? This word has been used so loosely that every single thing that appears in front of us nowadays need to tie themselves to it.

“This is an innovative solution!”
“This is an innovative design!”

For example, people hyped about curve edge on phone screen, but is that innovation? How about foldable screen? More megapixels on your camera? A camera with no LCD screen or one that folds inward? My personal point of view is that innovation can only be “innovation” when it brings value to users and solves problem.

Take the very first iPhone as an example, it was an engineering marvel back then, and I think all of us would agree that it is innovative. It solved the problem of clunky user interface, putting a computer and browsers on your palm, allowing you to be always connected to the internet and ultimately blurs the line between a smartphone and computer.

As Xiaomi unveiled the Mi Mix Alpha (the all screen phone from front all the way to the back) and calling it innovation, I can’t help but to wonder what innovation is there. Maybe from engineering point of view there’s a breakthrough in developing such screen. But from a user point of view, such design will only generates more problems than what it could potentially solves. Foldable screen on the other hand, is something I felt is legit innovation. However, the current implementation by both Huawei and Samsung are just lack lustre, as both device companies are just trying to be “the first” and didn’t spend time to refine and wait for the technology to mature.


In the case of camera, mirrorless system was innovative when it first launched. It brings in features which were not available on DSLR during that era, great live view experience, electronic viewfinder that enables “what you see is what you get” and so on. It solves the weakness of videography on DSLR, and had now blurred the line between still and video camera. However, there seems to be little innovation breakthrough (at least meaningful innovation) thereafter. There was in-body image stabilization, some improvement on sensor technology (stacked sensors, backside illuminated sensors etc.) and that’s about it. In fact, most of the innovation in photography came from the smartphone space, namely “computational photography”. I wonder if traditional camera manufacturers are able to adopt some of those technologies into their camera?

The world is flooded with yearly refreshed gadgets, where most of them didn’t have much of a leap in innovation to begin with. I do know that companies need to survive by selling us stuffs, and sometimes stuffs that we don’t need. But I can’t help but to think that such frequent and minor refresh had killed our sense towards “innovation” and diluted the excitement of some real innovations. Anyway, I do hope companies can bring in true innovations that enrich our life, solve our pain points, and allow us to truly enjoy technologies in the days to come.

Style vs Spec

Day after day, more and more products are gearing towards “lifestyle” products that are essentially blend into your life, making it apart of your routine, something that you can’t live without, something that resembles you, something in style that fits your personality, look and character. It’s not hard to see these products are getting more attention and sales as compared to “traditional” products that compete with specifications and reliability.

An easy example that can be drawn will be Apple. Apple had never produced any products that are superior in terms of specification. However, people used to say “it just work” on Apple products, and that their design aesthetics adhered to what they are looking for: simple and minimalist. Apple has a huge crowd of followers, and I’m one of those who purchase their product, though I don’t classified myself as their cult follower as I don’t appreciate every single thing they produced.

In the world of photography, it has always been a race of superiority in terms of specifications. With every product launch, you will only hear about how many stops of dynamic range, how many frames per second, how large is the buffer, how fast the camera auto focuses and so on. There was once a megapixel war, followed by mirrorless versus DSLR war and so on. Much of it still revolves around the technical aspect of the product. Well, it’s hard to deny that as we are actually talking about a rather technically engineered product here.

However, there were those who seek to breakthrough and go the other way. Leica was one of them. Their camera has never been “the best” in any class of specification that you can think of, unless you are saying highest price is one of the attribute you are looking at. But still, Leica managed to develop a cult of followers that believes in their philosophy and approach in photography, hence they are able to continue to survive until today. Moderate specification that command premium price tag and yet still able to sell. They are selling “feeling” and “lifestyle” more than anything else.

Another company that kind of follow this approach was none other than Fujifilm. Their camera has long been accused of copying Leica’s rangefinder design. Seriously, looking at the X100 series and the X-Pro series, it’s hard for people to say they are not. Fujifilm has never been the “best” in any of their specification. They were late in the digital camera business, they were late in the mirrorless craze, but yet, they managed to develop a group of cult followers that believed in their “passion for photography”.

My point of view is, Fujifilm has been pretty successful is differentiating themselves and building their own group of followers. They started off with retro design on their camera bodies, differentiating their camera with “X-Trans” sensor technology, adding in dials that provide tactile control resembling those from the film cameras and so on. They did gathered quite a lot of interest, but in order to continue to grow further, apparently it’s not enough.

Sony on the other hand has always been a company that focus only on specifications over form and functions. Sony cameras in particular has always been leading the edge in some key development areas, particularly those surrounding the imaging sensor. A7 has revolutionized the mirrorless camera line by bringing full frame sensors with it, followed by the recent launch of A9 which wiped out most of the advantages that DSLR holds against mirrorless. Their camera has never been a looker, but their performance will keep you wanting to go back for more.

It’s been pretty clear that lately Fujifilm has emphasized more on specs lately and started to detour themselves away from their retro-ness. They started to adopt top plate LCD, they talk more about specification than anything else, they started to venture into videography business for their X-series camera line-up and so on. It does make business sense for these decisions. However, the current state of of products from Fujifilm makes me feel that they are not sure where to go. The GFX and X-H1, to some extent are good initiatives from Fujifilm to grow their product lines. But the fact that they tried to innovate but at the same time still kind of afraid to let go of their retro styling, makes the GFX and X-H1 look just weird. I believe they could have just gone all out with both of these camera and ditched all the dials if they were to incorporate the top plate LCD, just make them with futuristic design to differentiate from the existing retro styled offering. I believe they had built a strong enough cult followers for their retro cameras, is time to move on with something more modern that opens up a new market segment for them.

It seems to be that all manufacturer has bowed to specification over style. Even Leica has been busy with a slew of “modernized” camera like the SL, CL, TL and Q. It remains the be seen whether this will be the way moving forward. I would really want to see if any manufacturer can strike the balance of the two (the Hasselblad X1D is pretty close in my opinion, but I have yet to see or try one in person for myself to comment). Anyway, I’m just contemplating on this while I’m thinking about where should I move on next in terms of my photography gear. Style or spec? Let’s wait and see what else 2018 has to offer for us. Till then.

Back to where it begins: Fujifilm X100F

X100FIt may come as a little surprise to some, but yes I’m back owning a Fujifilm camera, and this time it’s the X100F. Those who know me or followed my blog will remember I am a big fan for Fujifilm camera in terms of their controls and JPEG rendering, but I sold off the whole Fujifilm X system two years back for a couple of reasons.

I had also owned the Fujifilm X100S briefly for a few months when I’m using it alongside my X-E2, but sold it because of some issue with the configuration and ergonomics of the camera, which was annoying when use alongside with X-E2 at that point of time.

X100FNow, enters the fourth generation. Is this the ultimate Fujifilm X-series camera that will lure me to switch back to Fujifilm? Well, I guess that’s not the question here. I know when I decided to ditch my Fujifilm system, a lot of people started to label me as “anti-Fujifilm” and seems like I had become the traitors of the local Fujifilm community here in Singapore. It didn’t bother me, it’s my photography journey anyway, and I don’t need anyone else to dictate what should I use.

All I can say is, I know what I want, what I need, and what my camera can deliver. Hence, I choose whichever camera that I want regardless of the brand it is associated with. For those people who choose to remain as a fanboy (doesn’t matter what brand), I wish you all the best and please stay out of my life.

X100FThe reason why I decided to get this camera is because I’m looking for a simple go-to camera for daily use, preferably not too pricey and flashy. In fact I had been looking around for quite some time. I pondered about micro four third system with a pancake lens, I pondered about other mirrorless camera with a pancake lens, I pondered about 1″ compact cameras, I pondered about the “ultimate” compact camera which is the RX1 series… but in the end, after considering the size, weight, ease of use, ergonomics and other factors, I decided to give Fujifilm another chance by trying out on X100F.

I knew that lens, I’m still familiar with their menu, I can grasp the control quickly, the only unknown is how well will the new X-Trans III sensor performs. I won’t be doing a review on this camera as there were already a whole lot of them on the internet, but I will definitely share my unbiased thoughts and feelings about this camera once I clock enough milage on it. Let’s see how everything unfolds. Till then.

The Perfect Camera

Everyone is looking for the perfect camera that can do everything and anything that you ask it to do. It should have blazing fast auto focus, superb high ISO performance, extremely wide dynamic range, somewhere around 36 to 50 megapixel would be great, extra long battery life, well built, weather sealed and comfortable ergonomics will be a plus point too. It doesn’t sounds much… right?

After shooting for couple of years, changing system from Canon to Fujifilm and then to Leica, I can surely say that there is no such thing as “perfect camera” out there in the wild. There simply just isn’t any. Period. As a matter of fact, I can even argue that all cameras available now in the market are the “best camera” money can buy, so just go and grab one that you enjoy using and start shooting.

It always puzzled me when people starts to debate about which gear is the best, or which gear is better than which gear by breaking down all the specs, lab test result and so on. Every camera will have their pros and cons, hence there will be no perfect camera. If a perfect camera was made, there will be no more camera to be released thereafter because there simply isn’t anything that can surpass the “perfect camera”, right?

To be honest, most of the cameras out there now are capable enough to produce image with reasonably good quality. So in the end it really boils down to the user, whether he or she can make the most out of the camera he or she is using. So there’s no need, as example, for Fujifilm X-T2 users to be overly defensive about people who says the Sony A9 is a better camera, or for Nikon user to engage in a debate whether Canon or Nikon is better.

I’m not asking you to totally ignore the technology advancement in camera system, it’s good to keep yourself up to date on what’s being offered out there by various manufacturer. At the end of the day, what’s important is the image you produce, not the gear you used. So, just use anything that you are comfortable with, don’t bother if people look down on your gear, just keep shooting. The camera that you can use to take a shot that you are proud of is the “perfect camera” for you. So don’t worry and keep shooting. Till then.