Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fuji's 12 Megapixel Claims: Fact or Fiction?

I simply can NOT believe the people who fall for the idea that a FujiFilm Super CCD sensor is a "real" 12 megapixel sensor! It's hilarious. The claims of a Fuji S2 or a Fuji S3 "approximating" 8,9,or even as many as 10 megapixels in terms of resolution is a mistaken notion that is not supported well by photoraphs made by the 6MP Fujis (S2 or S3) and the 8.2MP Canons (Canon's 20D,30D,1D-II and 1D-IIN with 2.5 inch LCD) and the newer,higher-rez 10.2 MP models by Sony,Nikon,and Canon. The first claims that a Fuji sensor could "approximate the output of a 9- or 10-megapixel camera"were made before there WERE ANY 8.2 MP or 10.2 MP d-slrs on the market,for an actual,real-world comparison. The claims of the 6 MP Fuji cameras "approximating the resolution of 9- or 10-MP sensors" were made by Fujistas as a compliment to the Fuji Super CCD's performance; however,as soon as Canon made the world's FIRST, actual PRODUCTION 8.2 MP d-slr, that old myth was debunked in head-to-head testing which showed that NO, 6+6 is not equal to 8.2 MP, let alone 9 or 10 MP, and that 6+6 MP is still not as good as 10.2 MP in terms of resolution. And yet the old Fujista-created urban legend that 6 =10 lived on!

Now that there are 12.4 and 12.8 MP d-slrs from Nikon and Canon,the newest myth is that 6+6 from Fuji is now somehow equal to 12.4 or 12.8 megapixel's worth of resolution! If the 6+6 sensor of the Fuji S3 is not even up to the resolution abilities of the 8.2 MP Canon models, how is it then able to compete with the 12 and 13 MP d-slr's from Nikon and Canon? Myths have a way of spreading,and in this internet age, there are people who love to prumulgate myths to bolster their favorite things.

Anybody who makes the claim that an S2 or an S3 resolves anywhere NEAR 12 megapixels is obviously not an owner or regular user of a Nikon D2x,Kodak 14n or Kodak SLR/n, or a full-frame Canon 1Ds series model, or a Canon 5D (which is rougly a 13 megapixel camera). Once you own and use a HIGH-megapixel d-slr, you'll see that resolution of all the 6MP models is below that of the 8.2 MP Canons, and that the 10.2 MP Nikon D80 out-resolves the 8.2MP EOS 20D and EOS 30D by a small but easily-seen margin. Just go and look up the resolution figures AND the pictures--and then you can see,literally see with your eyeballs, that the 20D betters the 6MP Fuji's, and that the 10MP Canons and Nikons out-resolve the 8.0 and 8.2MP Canons, and so on and so on. SIX million photosites is not equal to 8.2 million,nor 10 million,nor 12 million + photosites. It just is not.

Sorry to burst bubbles, but more is more. And less is never equal to more. Like the folks in the Memorex ads of yesteryear, keep in mind that when looking at photographs we can sometimes see what we WISH to see;and at times,with the aid of an impartial observer,we can be shown what REALLY is in front of our eyes, like in those nifty psychology department visual perception experiments where we can see how the SAME RGB color value may appear to be vastly,vastly,vastly brighter,or darker, depending on the context in which that RGB color value is presented. Expectations can taint our perceptions.

Just like with music recorded on tape,we don't expect "reality" when we play the tape,but instead we expect a damned fine representation of reality. And Fuji d-slr cameras DO deliver a damned fine impression of reality. But very careful analysis can show where the delivered 'reality' of the camera shows its shortcomings and limitations.

Tonight there is yet again an exploration of the "Is 6+6 actually equal to 12 megapixels?" question in dPreview's FujiFilm SLR Talk forum. Read it, and then see how Fuji users feel. There's NO WAY that the S2 or S3 approach the resolution ability of the Nikon D2x or the EOS 5D, two of the least-expensive 12MP or higher d-slr's currently on the market. But is resolution everything? NO, it's not.

What's sad is that so many loyal dyed-in-the-wool Fujistas seem to think that 6 million regular pixels' worth of information,and then 1,2,or maybe 2.5 million highlight pixels are used and that "somehow" one can upsample 6 million pixels worth of photosites and create 12 million photosites' worth of information content. Since the smaller R-pixels are sensitive ONLY to the very,very brightest tones, the S3 cannot possibly be using all 6 million of its smaller, much less-sensitive R-pixels to record anything except really BRIGHT lighting values. The S-pixels are sensitive to the lower light values, and those work in the normal,expected fashion of pixels everywhere. But Fuji's small, slow-to-respond R-pixels are sensitive only to BRIGHT light values....the BRIGHTEST light values of some scenes....they are not used,nor are they needed in low-key,dull,or low-ratio lighting situations. That is why the S3 Pro has an AUTO-DR feature,in which the camera decides if it NEEDS to use any highlight pixels,or some, or all of them; sometimes, there's no need foreither of the Wide DR settings the S3 ofers.

It's gotten to the point where somehow, the artifacting, the off-kilter and overly-optimistic ISO values, the built-in noise reduction, and the six megapixel resolution abilities of the Super CCD sensor in the S3 Pro are all somehow being elevated to the level of a 12 MP camera in the minds,and in the internet posts, of the diehard Fuji loyalists. Jeeeze....have these people ever really LOOKED, or SEEN, what a D2x file shot with pro glass looks like? How about the EOS 5D's files? Take a look at the infamous " tree crop" in the following dPreview comparison of the EOS 30D against the EOS 5D. You'll see that the smaller 8.2 MP Canon file has a LOT less detail than the 12.8 MP EOS 5D image shows....just go to the following URL, scroll down,and look at the tree crop and you'll see that the 5D is one of the first cameras Phil has ever tested which actually begins to show the true detail in the label

Fuji's 6MP S2 and S3 produce nice prints. But when the prints get larger, or the files need to be cropped, the 6MP SuperCCD files lose out to higher-MP files. Fuji SuperCCD sensors resolve well enough for making prints,especially small prints. But when one really looks _closely_ at Fuji prints, one can see that there is often an _impression_ of detail, a _sense_ of detail, a _feeling_ of vibrancy, and a subjective impression of fairly high resolution. But when one gets down and LOOKS,and I mean really LOOKS closely, an honest viewer will note that underneath the initial feeling or impression of detail being presented to the eye, is that there is an actual LACK of real detail at the very finest levels. The very smallest details in scenes shot at more than a few meters distant are where the 12+ MP cameras show their added,TRUE resolution abilities. The "first glance" resolution seen in a Fuji SuperCCD capture is high, but after close,critical examination the SuperCCD's file's degree of fine,fine detail resolution is simply not as high as say, that from a D2x or a 5D. Instead, the SuperCCD's use a unique pixel orientation concept to accentuate the FEELING of high resolution.

The Fuji SuperCCD system resolves diagonals very,very poorly at times,and many times angled strands of hair, angled building lines, or high-frequency detail like windowscreens or city buildings with many window frames or gridwork,etc all have _noticeable_ stair-stepping on diagonal surfaces,both natural and man-made. Also the SuperCCD imagers, all of them in the S1 and S2 and S3, have been somewhat prone to showing moire effects. Yet still, the _impression_ of high detail resolution in 6MP Fuji SuperCCD images from the S2 and S3 is very,very good; both cameras deliver what some people consider to be "eight megapixels' worth" of resolution. What Fujistas are experiencing is Fuji's rather high acutance. There is high acutance to Fuji images--they SEEM as if they have a lot of resolution of detail in them, but what they actually have is high acutance, or high acuity. A high-acutance Fuji d-slr image is really NOT a high-resolution image, but instead an image that has has high acuity, and wonderful color, and a nice depth and richness of tones. High resolution is not the same as high acutance. Fuji SuperCCD sensors are not really high-resolution sensors any longer; they've fallen far down the resolution path now that Canon has hit 16.7 and 12.8 MP and Nikon has reached 12.4 MP in the D2X series. Color,dynamic range,tone curve,acutance--those things are not what image resolution is about,despite what's said in that thread referenced above. High resolution is not the same thing as high acutance. Still, high acutance gives the IMPRESSION of a lot more resolution,and so,there's something to be said for a high acutance image. Fuji's got a wee bit of experience in imaging...

If one owns an 8.2 MP EOS 20D, one can see that the 6MP sensors from either Nikon or FujiFilm do not resolve even 8.2 MP worth of detail. Or, as Phil Askey points out, the 6MP Fuji SuperCCD sensors resolve more than other SIX MP cameras (like the original Digital Rebel and Nikon D70), but LESS than the EOS 20D, which is 8.2 MP. ISO levels affect resolution ability, and the Fuji SuperCCD sensors do a damned fine job with 6MP images at all ISO settings, but take up the file storage space of a 12MP camera's files (Fuji SLR's need more storage space,unfortunately). The problem is that the _impression_ of detail is good enough for many types of photography,such as portraiture, small-scale landscapes, and close-range shooting covering small physical areas--but when it comes to product photography,large landscapes, and high-fidelity work such as copying artwork or small product illustration, one needs REAL detail....the ACTUAL resolving OF fine,fine detail. That's why Nikon makes a 12.4 MP D2Xs,and why Canon makes two camera which hit the streets with 16.7 million photosites and 12.8 million photosites worth of resolution capability. I guess one could liken the Fuji 6+6 MP idea to MP3 music compression--PLENTY good enough for MOST uses, but still, with some sacrifices made.

But,to get to the title: is it real, or is it Memorex? Of course, photography is not reality,but merely a way to represent reality.

The idea underlying the Memorex ads was that, "Of course it's not 'real',but music recorded on Memorex tape will bring you a damned good representation of reality." FujiFilm's d-slr's have borne the name FinePix because with FujiFilm cameras, the camera is really about the pictures it makes. The pictures. The files. The photographs. The prints. The web images. The "pics".The Pix. The "Fine PIXs". Numerical superiority in terms of sensor resolving power is not as important as camera operation,camera suitability for the task, and of course, the pictures. How do the pictures come out? How easy is the camera to use? Is the camera well-suited to your photographic needs? As far as I am concerned, 6 to 8 megapixels is ample pixel count for MOST things. For most tasks, I've found that the EOS 20D's 8.2 million pixels bring me ample resolution with good lenses, and 8.2 MP offers me a nice compromise between image size (roughly 3,500 pixels on the long axis of each frame),resolving abilities, and write times/buffer flush times/card storage/computer storage/computer processor demands/archiving space requirements.

The D2x at 12.2 (effective) megapixels is a pain in the ass,storage-wise,compared to the 20D's 8.2 megapixel file size. The quality of the 20D's 8.2 MP CMOS sensor captures is quite nice when compared to the D2x's 12.2 MP Sony-made CMOS sensor's captures. I think the resolution of the images a d-slr makes is not nearly as important as how well the camera shoots and how well the PICTURES look for each task. FujiFilm d-slrs have always made nice pictures. Nobody is disputing that. But c'mon, let's get realistic on what resolution means. More is always more. Less is never equal to more. How the PICTURES look,or how the music sounds,will never be just like reality, but we do expect a damned good interpretation of reality. With a FujiFilm d-slr, oftentimes the photos turn out looking better than the reality that was apparent at the scene. And that's why it doesn't matter that FujiFilm's S5 Pro is gonna' be a 6+6 MP camera. It's about the pictures. Resolution? Fuji's 6+6 does not equal Nikon's 12.2 MP in resolution. But how will the S5's pictures look? I'd wager they will stack up well to those made with any competing Canon,Nikon,Pentax,or Sony. I'd bet my left nut that the FujiFilm S5 Pro will make absolutely BEAUTIFUL images. Seriously. The files will be lovely. The prints will be sweet. It will be a fine,fine image-maker. I can just feel it in my bones.

The problem however,as I see it, is that the "sales appeal" of the S5 Pro is going to remain low,unless Fuji can get some TOP-notch marketing people at work on the S5's advertising campaign,and pronto! Based on what's happened in the past, that ain't gonna' happen. FujiFilm is badly executing its d-slr strategy,and is reeling from vast changes in the film and photofinishing sides of the imaging industry. FujiFilm has no discernable direction,no clear message,and the potential buyers of the S5 have,as Seth Godin might say, no "STORY TO TELL THEMSELVES". FujiFilm is not handling the 2006/2007 d-slr marketplace very well,and FujiFilm will take some very bad lumps over the next year or more, yet still Fuji's S5 Pro will be the best-ever d-slr to wear the Fuji nameplate. And that is saying something. People can and will whine about the S5 Pro's 6+6 MP sensor, but the pictures will still be lovely. And the AF module will finally be DECENT. And the viewfinder will look GOOD! It'll be a D200 with Fuji guts! That will be a GOOD THING!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Fuji S5 Pro Fuss is Very Entertaining Reading.

Please see my newest blog essay at

where I explore how groupthink has come to permeate on-line photography forums. Thanks!

The Fuji S5 Pro fuss is very entertaining reading over on the world's largest digital photography site, dPreview. Right now, there are a handful of S3 Pro models being sold for around $1150 with USA warranty and software package. Fuji's September 25,2006 development announcement for the S3 Pro's successor model, the S5 Pro, disappointed many people who were expecting not a D200 body, but maybe an F6 body and a high MP count sensor--something along the lines of 10 Megapixels, or in Super CCD SR lingo, maybe 10MP-R pixels+10MP-S or in Fuji-speak what could be called "20-Megapixel Output" or "20-Megapixel Wide-DR capture",or something like that. But nope, FujiFilm has made its development announcement for the S5 Pro,and have referred to an early 2007 delivery framework; no firm dates have been stated that I know of for the S5, just "early 2007". What makes this entertaining is that the FujiFilm SLR Talk forum has had some whistling in the dark, some disgruntled, "I'm moving to Canon for my next camera" posts,some, "Let's all wait and see" posts, and quite an infusion of cross-brand posters who're merely stopping by to drop a comment or two,to troll,or to denigrate FujiFIlm's engineering or R&D efforts, etc,etc.

Whenever a new camera is released, the various forums are filled with talk,and gossip,and rumors,and misinformation. And,sometimes, I think even a little dis-information is spread. Dis-information in my vocabulary means maliciously-motivated or nefarious misrepresentation of the truth, or lying,or fearmongering,or just the promulgation of fear,uncertainty,and doubt (commonly known as a FUD). Right now it's early October 2006. Fuji says it'll have S5's available in early 2007. If the S5's journey to the marketplace follows in the footsteps of the S3 Pro's development announcement,the Early 2007 ship date could be postponed by months and months and months.Some say the S5 Pro might also,like the S3 pro before it, have its sensor re-designed and the product's ship date pushed back several months--like maybe six months. This is exactly what happened with the S3 Pro,which was announced with a development announcement, and it took FOREVER and a DAY to make it from announcement to actual cameras in stores. Yeah, Fuji made a big splash about the S3's radical new sensor design,complete with schematic drawings and multi-page web materials illustrating the unique design of having DUAL-site photodiodes in the sensor. However, there was a delay during the development phase,and NEW DRAWINGS were distributed thru the photography press, the S3 went on ice for several months longer, and it then finally,finally shipped with a NEW re-designed sensor that was decidedly different from the one that had been touted (and diagrammed out!) on the company's own web pages at the camera's development announcement phase. Based on the S3 experience,there are some people who are spreading the idea that the S5 will be held up by sensor re-design and that when the camera actually ships that it will have an 8+8MP sensor. Other people are speculating or predicting that there will be TWO models of S5; the first,being shipped with the 6+6 sensor,and a second camera costing more and to be announced later, once Fuji can up the pixel count or do 'something' to differentiate itself from the now 10MP entry-level Sony,Nikon,Canon, and Pentax d-slr's ALREADY in stores. Having read carefully some of what Eamon Hickey had written on dPreview forums, it's my interpretation of his comments that that will NOT happen,and that Fuji will go with _ONE_ model of the S5 Pro, with the 6+6 MP sensor exclusively. It's not been a popular or well-received specification,this 6+6 sensor that's basically similar to what's already in the S3 Pro. What I find interesting is how sooooooo many Fuji S2 and S3 users are not very warm to the idea of a good Fuji sensor wrapped in the best Nikon-made body Fuji's used yet, the Nikon D200, and are reaming on the upcoming S5 because of its 6+6MP sensor status.

It's simple,really. Fuji _is_ going to bring a 6MP d-slr to market in 2007. It'll be called the S5. It will have wide dynamic range capabilitiy,with what Fuji is touting as a decent AA filter in front of the sensor. The files will be larger than other 6MP camera files, which is a result of the Super CCD's design and pixel layout. The camera will offer numerous film simulation modes for in-camera JPEG creation. The body will be almost identical to that of a Nikon D200. The frame rate will be slowish--3 fps absolute TOPS, 1.5 fps or so in Wide-DR mode. The camera will meter in M and A modes with Ai and AiS lenses. The autofocus will be decent,for the first time ever in a Fuji d-slr. The camera will carve out a few niches, but it will not sell all that well for a d-slr. Some people will not buy it. Others will buy it. Fuji will slip farther and farther away from the main pack.FujiFilm SLR Talk regulars will love the S5. It will be a cult camera. It will send many away from Fuji and toward Nikon or Canon d-slrs. For the serious F-mount user, the S5 will be a very valuable d-slr for certain uses. But Canon's 2007 camera with expanded dynamic range capability will put a damper on the wide-DR position that FujiFilm has staked out,while Nikon's D80 and its POST-capture in-camera image adjustments and software tricks will bring the hobbyist/casual market to the D80 in droves. It's interesting to watch the S5 fuss because at this time, I am not concerned about the future of my d-slr platform the way I was when my S2 was growing long in the tooth,and then months later the way Nikon was offering the D2x at $5,000 while Fuji offered the S3 at $2,500--I went with the D2x 17 months ago now,not the S3 Pro. if Fuji brings the S5 to market at $2,400 or so in early 2007,it's gonna meet a slew of 10 MP competition beginning at $899. Even if the S5 is priced at $1699,there will be higher-spec'd 10.2 MP d-slr cameras for $899 and $999.

My Predictions: Total Image Quality, comprised of color,tonality,and overall image acutance with the camera shot in JPEG mode will probably be the S5's strong suit. It will also have a pretty decent viewfinder image,a good body control system,and reasonably fast and modern AF and shutter systems,and adequate battery performance. It will be the _BEST_ and the _HIGHEST-GRADE_ camera plaform Fuji has built upon in the S- series. All the fuss before the camera comes out makes for interesting reading. I think Fuji (as a company) is blowing it,again. But then, I said that same thing when they announced an under-spec'd S3. And while the S5 will be under-spec'd for the 2007 d-slr market, if the price is right, I think I might just buy an S5. I think it'll be the best Fuji d-slr ever,by a wide margin. Not many people will care how good it is, but those who own one will like it.

Addendum, 23 December,2007: I spoke with a FujiFilm,USA representative today and he said he expects retail S5 Pro availablity in late February,2007. I told him that,in light of the new strides in image processing that Pentax with the K100D and Nikon with the D40 have made with a 6MP sensor, that I am now more that EVER, HIGHLY optimistic that with the right antialiasing filter array,and with better demosaicing routines,and better sharpening routines, that the S5 Pro's 6 MP sensor will deliver really awesome image qualiy from 6MP + 6MP in an S/R configuration like the S3 Pro pioneered. I bought a D40 Nikon kit for my wife today a few hours after speaking with the FujiFilm rep,and was muchly pleased that a 6MP d-slr with superior image processing and an 18-55 AF-S kit lens was only $599 retail,all boxed up nicely. Oh,and by the way, I'm not "disgruntled" ,despite what Anthony says. And, a shout out to Anthony, for his blogging efforts. Anthony's working on improving his flash lighting skills and model photography,and Anthony is one of the many dedicated dPreview S2 users who never elected to actually buy a Fuji S3 Pro camera, but who instead opted to stick with the S2 Pro,and waited until the D200 came out to pick up a really "good" second body. Anthony's D70 experience was,like many peoples' D70 experience,a mixed bag--after seeing how good OOC JPEG was in the S2 pro, Anthony was not all that thrilled with Nikon's D70. Anthony's passing over of the S3 and going to the Nikon D200,now more than ever, really looks like a good plan. The D200 has been a MAJOR hit,sales-wise and implementation-wise. Neither myself, nor Anthony, actually BOUGHT an S3 Pro for ourselves,since I think like many people, we decided we needed faster cameras, with things like compressed RAW if/when needed,good software options,reasonable file sizes,and good control over flash exposures,etc. The Nikon D200 at $1699 was a steal; the Nikon D80 at $999 is a steal! A fantastic deal! Now the D40 at $599 with 18-55mm zoom? Simply a lot of value for dollar spent!

I think the S5 Pro,scheduled to be priced at $1999 full kit w/software and $1899 in reduced-kit form, represents,at least from the specifications, one hell of a lot of Fuji goodness,in a camera body that's finally got semi-pro Autofocus, metering with the 20-something AiS manual focus Nikkors I own, PLUS finally being brought more up toward parity with the Nikon bodies with their i-TTL or Creative Lighting System through the lens flash metering and flash control systems. I am actually old enough to have shot the Nikon system before TTL flash metering was possible with a Nikon,having been using Nikon 35mm motorized cameras since 1982. When the Nikon FE-2 came out with TTL flash control,I saved up my hard-earned dollars and bought an FE-2 and SB-16 spedlight after about a year's worth of penny-pinching. A camera body that can NOT meter with a manual focusing Nikkor lens is not worth much to a guy like me who wants to leverage the AiS lenses I built up over two decades of buying used lenses as time and money warranted. The S5 Pro's ability to meter with Ai and AiS lenses will be a big boon toward FujiFilm offering a real semi-pro camera body that will compete in many fields,except where AF speed/surety is paramount,like demanding sports situations and some wildlife/nature where the autofocusing advantages of the D2-series is really where even small-time pros are putting their dollar investments.
I seldom buy version 1.0 of anything,especially if it costs $2,499. The S5 pro will be version 2.0 of the SuperCCD S-R type sensor,and I am really,really hoping that Fuji has fine-tuned the AA-filter they're installing in the S5, and I hope that Fuji has worked really,really hard at getting rid of the JPEG artifacts the S3's sensor suffered from. I bought an S1 and S2 Fuji,and I KNOW, first-hand, about the problems the SuprCCD sensor suffers from. If Pentax,and Nikon can both squeeze class-leading image quality out of the K100D and D40, then Fuji can surely work on the AA filter,the demosaicing routines,and the in-camera image sharpening. Fuji has a chance to tweak the S5's sensor to output outstanding files. Here's hoping Fuji does what Pentax and Nikon both did,which is turning the engineering focus on the anti-aliasing filter array, the demosaicing of the sensor data,and the image processing and sharpening of the image before writing it to a JPEG.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Is The F-mount Now For Soccer Moms? Nikon's New Ads

So, I'm watching a college football game on TV yesterday,and I see the occasional athlete going out of bounds shots,where the photographers covering the game have to scurry out of the way as the athletes,often two in number,stumble out of bounds. NCAA rules state that photographers must position themselves NO CLOSER than six feet from the playing surface in football stadiums. As these going out of bounds/photographers scurrying shots are beaming into my TV set, I notice that not too many people covering NCAA college football are still shooting Nikon cameras and lenses. Sports photography has come to be dominated by Canon d-slr's, and I think we all know that. Yet still Nikon has a lot of people using its cameras and lenses. I'm invested enough that I can't justify a full-blown move away from Nikon and toward the Canon body and lens system. I can however, manage a small amount of Canon gear, which currently is one EOS 20D body, and a Canon 50/1.8,a Canon 100/2.8 macro, an 18-125mm Sigma, and a Lensbaby in EF mount. Plus, and this is a big plus, I can use ALMOST all of my Nikkor lenses on my Canon d-slr with a lens adapter I own. So, even though I might be shooting a Canon digital body, I'm still using F-mount lenses.

Canon is the best alternative to Nikon cameras and lenses,I believe. But now Pentax,Sony,Olympus,and Leica are marketing professionally oriented cameras and lenses, or are trying to create a belief that they are companies with professionally oriented aspirations and ideas. Pentax for example, has stepped up to the plate and created a series of three professionally oriented zoom lenses designed SPECIFICALLY to address the problems of using a 1.5x FOV sensored digital SLR. Pentax's creation of a 60-250mm f/4 with ED glass and ultrasonic motor autofocusing pleases me greatly; while not the 50-250mm lens I called for Nikon to make, a constant aperture 60-250mm f/4 with low dispersion glass and_switch-free_ full time manual focusing override is a HUGE,HUGE step toward addressing the real-world concerns of people who shoot with a 1.5x camera. Pentax arrived VERY,very late to the digital slr business, and Pentax digital users are somewhat few in number. I have however seen MORE Pentax d-slr's in actual field use than any of the other "off brands". Pentax's commitment to the development of NEW lens types, such as an ultra-wide fisheye zoom lens (10-17mm fisheye),its prestiege "Limited" series of autofocusing,metal-barreled prime lenses, and its new three-lens line of pro optics,shows a commitment to the new film-free camera paradigm. The Pentax Limited series of prime lenses include the high-speed 31mm f/1.8 wide-angle, the 43mm f/1.9 "true" normal lens, and the 77mm f/1.8 telephoto.

Olympus has some beautifully made lenses in the 4/3 mount. Olympus has some fine engineers and some nice ergonomics,and its 4/3 aspect ratio E-1 has a small following. Old-time Oly 35mm lenses CAN be adapted to the new 4/3 lens mount,and used on Oly d-slr cameras, but not many people are aware of that,and not many people I suspect actually have an adapter. But Olympus digital users are, by my perception,very rare people. I have not seen very many new Olypus d-slrs in field use...two that I can actually recall.

So...who is still using the F-mount? I would say hundreds of thousands of serious amateurs,as well as several million snapshooters with their first d-slr model D50,D70,D80,or D200. There are also tens of thousands of professional photographers across many disciplines of photography,all having their needs met by F-mount d-slrs. Most F-mount users are Nikon users, a small number are Fuji d-slr users,and an even samller number are those using the last few Kodak d-slr models DCS 760,14n,and SLR/n. The F-mount is still VERY,very much alive and kicking. Nikon and FujiFilm continue to make F-mount d-slrs.

Ever since Nippon Kogaku (aka Japan Camera, aka Nikon) made the first non-pro Nikormat and Nikomat models, and especially since Nippon Kogaku dropped the amateur-oriented naming convention of Nikomat or Nikormat for amateur-oriented models and changed ALL its cameras to simply "Nikon"in the late 1970's, the cameras from Nippon Kogaku have become more and more oriented toward amateur users and amateur buyers. The "dumbing down" of the Nikon brand that was embodied in the Nikon EM back in my younger days was the first step toward a Nikon-branded camera which was to be aimed at the newbie buyer. Today we have the Nikon D50,aimed at the beginning d-slr photographer,and we have the D2Xs,aimed at the most serious of d-slr photographers. And in between, Nikon has the D80 and D200 and D2Hs models. Nikon has cameras for every photographer. Including the Nikon F6,which is the latest film 35mm SLR Nikon has made, and the Nikon FM-10,which is manufactured by Cosina for Nikon. Nikon has cameras for every photographer, but how is Nikon doing on LENSES for every photographer?

Interestingly, I noticed yesterday that Nikon bought three pages of advertising beginning on Page 149 of the November 2006 issue of Parents magazine. A cute campaign,its introductory page shows two rows of four self portraits on the top of the page, then in the middle of the page is a very short piece of ad copy that says, "We gave them the new Nikon D80. What they gave back was stunning." Then below that are two more rows of four self-portraits. Sixteen moms and dads,I assume.Moms and dads,each with the Nikon D80 that Nikon says, "we gave them." And guess what? TURN THE PAGE of the magazine and you're greeted with two more pages,facing each other, with Nikon hyping the web site that was created to show off the photography of these allegedly regular,everyday people. Nice-looking people in their late 20's and early to mid-30's for the most part,with a couple of early 40-somethings thrown in. The women,seven in all,are all nice-looking I'd say. The men are a bit less-attractive lot,but look pretty real to me. It's all very slick. Turn the page,and the ad copy gets a lot smaller, but it features web addresses where we can see the work of these newly-minted Nikon D80 shooters. Here are some of the URL's. and as well as and rounding out the four highlighted web addresses is . Well, maybe the ad copy has it right on Page 151 of Parents magazine,where it is written, "They shoot for photo sites like Flickr. They shoot for family photo albums. They shoot because they're passionate about taking pictures. What did they capture with the new 10.2 megapixel Nikon D80? See more of the jaw-dropping highlights at "

But that's not all. Turn the page one more time, and on Page 153 of Parents magazine, November 2006, there's a whole bunch of Nikon ad copy about the new D80 model. Nikon gets in such tidbits as: 10.2 Megapixel, DX format sensor,high-resolution image processing engine, and, "Up to 2,700 images per battery charge." They also get in some additional specs, like 0.18 second startup time, and "a fast 80ms shutter response". They're pitching the D80 in the ad with the new ,"18-135mm 7.5x Zoom AF-Nikkor lens for just $1299.95." This makes me wonder--is Nikon now actively going after the soccer mom and football dad market? Nikon's recent lens development efforts have centered around slowish consumer zoom lenses,as more and more people take the entry-level plunge into d-slr-dom. Let's face it--consumer photography now has got damned little to do with film. 35mm film SLR's are dead at the volume sales level. Dead. Now it's time for the camera companies to really get out there and to start selling NEW cameras. It seems that the most money is at the bottom of the market, and over the last 18 months, Nikon's been focusing the MOST lens atention on lower-end,or maybe I should say "kit" or "travel" lenses, as well as socccer mom lenses like the 55-200 and the new 70-300 with VR. Nikon's been really hitting it hard to try and make some new LOW-cost zooms for low-cost bodies. Now Nikon's pitching d-slr's in Parents magazine? Yup! And the same,exact ad is running in the November issue of Popular Photography & Imaging magazine. Along with the Pop Photo's official production camera D80 review. The big news? Fantastic in-camera editing features (new files are created,so originals are not destoyed),and one can trim imageses in-camera, apply D-lighting in-camera,and one can reduce redeye in-camera too. Fantastic resolution off the new 10.2 MP sensor--over 2200 lines! Over 1700 lines of resolution at ISO 3200! The best ISO 1600 performance of any Nikon d-slr, according to Pop Photo's editors. The D80 marks a big step forward for Nikon's control over sensor noise. Pretty neat stuff,coming from a $999 camera. I'm sure that the Nikon F-mount will have many,many,many entirely new converts before New year's Eve 2007.