Friday, February 10, 2006

I Finally Feel Like I Have Been Vindicated

I finally feel like I have been vindicated. My tremendous disappointment over the N80 body limitations of the Fuji S3,and the S3's overall,total slug-like performance was no secret when I was an active member of Fuji SLR Talk on dPreview. In this thread referenced below, one of the S3's BIGGEST Fanboi cheerleaders throughout the camera's early-release phase NOW has reversed his 100 percent positive opinion and now openly states that the S3 has serious,real-world performance issues! Whoa! What a turnabout! With more time behind the eyepiece of the S3,the initial euphoria has worn off. Mr. Bernie Ess, who continually harassed me and flicked me crap about my alleged need for a "machine gun" camera (Bernie's pejorative characterization of the Nikon D2x was always "machine gun" back in his S3 Fanboi days). But now that some time has passed,and many shots have been missed,and many focus opportunities have been blown, even Bernie has begun to admit on the web,OPENLY, that his formerly beloved S3 is, in reality, not a very good camera for many types of shooting. Bernie himself wrote that when shooting action, the S3 cannot come up with many keepers.

And, although Bernie used to flick people shit for needing a machine gun, and he even adopted a signature file that states and I quote in its entirety, " I am an S3 RAW shooter
Yes, it is sl...o....o...o..... ... . . .. ..... ww. ... w w. Made my photography better to slow down. ",

it's clear that Bernie's actual use of the S3 over a long enough period has shown that it is,and was, a sub-par camera body. That despite its fantastic 6 megapixel imaging chip,the S3 Pro is still much like a 1963 VW Beetle struggling mightily to compete against the newest Vipers and Corvettes and Turbo Carreras. A great imager in a $329 beginner's camera body....that's the story of the S2 Pro and the S3 Pro models. The 1999-released S1 Pro was a good imager in a $259 toy-like Nikon body, with only ONE AF point, NO AF-S focusing, No VR lens capability, a minimum ISO of 320,and a number of other simply infuriating cheap-o body 'features' like three types of batteries needed, and only ONE control wheel!

What I find ironic about Bernie's former S3 Glory Days and his continual put-downs of people who wanted a "machine gun" (Bernie's own,ofte-repeated phrase was "machine gun"), is something General George Patton said about why the United States was able to defeat both Germany and Japan in World War II: Patton credited the United States' general issue infantryman's rifle,the M-1 Garand as being THE DIFFERENCE. The Garand was a 30/06 , gas-operated autoloader which used an eight round,detachable magazine. It shot faster, better,and reloaded faster and more-easily than the pre-World War I design of the 1898 Mauser bolt-action rifle the Germans used in BOTH WW I and in WW II, and was also leagues better than the Arisaka bolt-action rifles the Japanese used. A gas-operated autoloader (a semi-automatic rifle in common parlance) like the M1 Garand can fire more shots per minute, can be reloaded faster,and easier, and is basically a "modern,rapid-fire" rifle design.The Garand was the ultimate infantry rifle of WWII, the D2x of its day if you will. The Germans, and Japanese,and the Italians were all saddled with slow-fire,old-technology bolt action rifle designs which were basically at least 30 years out of date by the time WW II occured.

General Patton understood that a better-made,more-modern,faster-handling,faster-reloading tool was a huge advantage. The slow,clunky,1898 Mauser action design is a landmark design among bolt action rifles,and even as recently as the 1980's many fine custom rifles costing many thousands of dollars were built around the venerable '98 Mauser action. The 1898 Mauser is a wonderful bolt action design, but its speed of operation as a RIFLE,not just an action, in actual wartime conditions made every German infantryman equipped with a Mauser basically a sitting duck when opposing troops had a rifle design that was 35 years newer, faster,more powerful, AND had lower recoil due to the gas-operated design. Same for Japanese and Italian troops outfitted with slow,crappy, oldmoded bolt-action rifles.

Apparently, there is a historical prejudice toward slow,deliberate shooting that runs through German military thought and thinking. But it really does come back to what General Patton said: the semi-automatic M-1 Garand rifle was THE DIFFERENCE in winning World War II. Germany lost the war it started. The Japanese lost the war they started; it was up to the United States to help Russia and England defeat the Axis powers. Not too surprisingly, the United States had the fastest-firing and the MOST-modern infantry rifle,and the US was the only country with a general-issue semi-automatic infantry rifle issued to 90% + of its front-line troops. While the Germans had superior machine gun technology, machine gunners were few and far between,and individual infantrymen made up the vast majority of WW II combatants. Better tools shoot better, shoot faster, and win the day. Is it surprising that a German might cling to the idea that slower and more deliberate shooting is better than fast shooting? It's one point to consider, but the other losing sides also used the slow, outmoded technology of prior wars, and got their asses kicked.

Check out what a couple of S3 owners have to say about the S3's inability to handle moving subject matters with any degree of surety and consistent success.

As somebody who began his digital camera experience with the Nikon D1 in 2001, I myself have felt that EVERY Fuji D-SLR has been and is deficient in body performance compared to competing cameras from other makers, in numerous areas. But, it's good to see that now, the same people who basically trashed my reputation and who helped to run me out of the Fuji SLR Talk forum have FINALLY been able to see,and to admit in public, that I was right, all along. There's nothing quite as disappointing as a $2499 digital SLR built around a $329 Nikon N80 body, is there?

Bernie's newfound lust for the Canon EOS 5D is amusing to me, and satisfying as well. While he spent the last year or more suffering through a slow,crippled D-SLR camera, I've been busy enjoying my shooting with the Nikon D2x and the EOS 20D. But, then again, the Fanboi culture is very, very well-developed in Fuji-dom. It's sad and pathetic to see that the landmark S1 Pro and S2 Pro cameras have been Fuji's best and its most successful cameras to date, but as Phil Askey himself says, the D-SLR market has moved on, expectations are higher, and prices have plummeted and the S3 comes up short against the competition. Nobody appears to have told Fuji that time is marching on. Fuji has not responded to user suggestions,and has layed a major sales turd with the S3. Nikon and Canon have 6.1,8.0,8.2,10.2,12.4,and 12.8 and 16.7 megapixel cameras out now, with good focusing systems, good flash systems, and white balance systems that work, metering systems that work in Matrix mode, and state of the art flash technologies. Meanwhile, there is a very small group of S3 owners limping along with a film-based N80 with a cropped down finder, half-stop or whole-stop exposure adjustments, slow flash synch, slow writes, slow reviews, poor AUTO White Balance performance, immature and slow software from FujiFilm, the smallest and slowest buffer in the industry,and an excessively inflated price point.

Like I said, the Fanboi's who used to dominate Fuji SLR Talk are now,finally, admitting openly the S3's deficiencies. The deficiencies I was dismayed by all along. The Fanboi's have finally admitted that I was right,all along. I feel vindicated.
Read what another long-time Fuji S2 owner,who like myself has not yet been convinced of the S3's value proposition, has to say about the S3 Pro camera by clicking through to this post:

The interesting and also the sad thing is how very many former S2 Pro users have skipped the S3 body,and instead decided to switch to the Canon EOS 20D or EOS 1D Mark II, or to the Nikon D70,or to the Nikon D2h or D2Hs models, or even to the Nikon D2x. According to me,and to most people whose photographic experience and opinions I respect, a well-rounded camera is far better choice than a camera which excels at one thing and one thing only. Again,to recap, the opinions of S3 Pro owners who have gone through the honeymoon period and spent some significant time with the S3 Pro have made me feel truly vindicated.

The fact that Fuji totally FAILED sales-wise with the S3 is a sad thing, but it just goes to show that the market has matured, and time does not stand still. Trying to sell an under-spec'd camera to professional photographers and to serious enthusiasts only works when the PRICE of the camera is reflective of the overall and TOTAL performance of the camera. The sad fact is that,except for a few diehards, FujiFilm has almost totally lost the professional and serious amateur niche market that they enjoyed with the S1 Pro and the S2 Pro. Canon makes vastly better cameras than Fuji does, for far less money. Nikon makes vastly better,more-versatile cameras than Fuji does, for less money. I notice that MOST of the early-going S3 Fanbois have moved on to other cameras,s o it looks like they have learned from their own experiences. The fact that the S3 is no longer good enough for its early adopters speaks volumes.

ADDENDUM march 21,2006: Some people have commented that they do not understand the bolt-action rifle versus gas-operated,semi-automatic rifle analogy as it pertains to cameras and photography, so I'll explain it: A rifle "shoots". A rifle is a "tool" for an infantryman. A better "tool" SHOOTS BETTER, easier,and faster,and with fewer problems and limitations than an inferior tool. General Patton stated that the M-1 Garand rifle was the deciding factor in the USA's triumph in World War II because he realized that the abilities of German,Japanese,and Italian soliders were probably about the SAME as for American soldiers. Does anybody think that there was much difference in courage and skill and inelligence between American,German,Japanese,and Italian infantrymen in WW II? The answer is are men are men, all pretty much equal.

But when you have a BETTER TOOL, you triumph more often. Simple. Got it now? Equal men on all sides, but the side which had the most-modern and the BEST TOOLS in the hands of actual shooters was the winner. Simple. The M-1 Garand was STATE-OF-THE-ART in its era, a thoroughly modern design from the ground up....everybody else had equipment designed decades earlier, and by 1942, the entire rifle paradigm had changed and had bypassed the armies using 1890's designs in the 1940's. It's the equivalent of going to a baskeball game with a 1950's Kodak Medalist 120 rollfilm camera, or showing up with a 2003 EOS 1D mark II N camera body. See the analogy now? Better tools, better results, in thousands and thousands and thousands of contests over a wide range of situations over several years. The difference was NOT IN THE MEN or their courage, but in the superior EQUIPMENT of the United States troops.


Anonymous said...

Derrel you are missed on dpreview. For all the arguments about the S3, the public just didn't SELL. People aren't stupid, the market figured out it was a seriously hampered camera and they voted with their going elsewhere.

Impartial said...

The number of Dynamic Rangers who have fled and continue to flee the S3 is unbelievable. Of the originals and militants, Artichoke seems to be the last holdout. It's rather sad that so much emotion was invested in such an unremarkable camera. Also funny is how many have gone to the D2x for its higher resolution, color fidelity and better flash capability.

Considering the camera's gestation period was nearly a year from the original announcement, the extra year wait for a capable DSLR (D200: banding issues quickly becoming a non-issue) will have been worth it for those intelligent enough to overlook the hype of the Dynamic Rangers.

When the S3 was launched, the question was asked: who is the target market? Strangely, that question can still be asked today. In a historical perspective, it's too bad the S3 was so hobbled. Fujifilm had a great opportunity to increase its market share by building on the success of its earlier DSLRs, the S2 in particular that was 'good enough' to sway some hardcore film users to digital. S3: a good camera for some things but not a breakthrough imager except for those whose sunglasses are a certain shade of rose!

Keep up the blogging! Just don't let American war propaganda overshadow photographic fundamental truisms!

Impartial said...

Who's David?