Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wrapping Up 2006-Miscellaneous Thoughts

Well, it's December 31,2006,and we're about ready to chalk up another year. I figured I'd write a blog entry and maybe come back and fill in some areas later,after New Year's. Now that 2006 has almost had its day,there are some changes underfoot. Gone are cameras from Minolta,and Konica-Minolta, replaced by the SONY brand name. Weird! Pentax and Samsung are now in cooperation in the d-slr business,and Hoya just bought up Pentax last week. Both Pentax and Nikon have hit the old 6MP d-slr category hard with brand-new six-megapixel d-slr's. The Nikon D40's out-of-camera JPEG flash pictures look pretty good to me after a little bit of shooting with both the built-in flash and the SB 600 accessory flash. FujiFilm's also gonna' hit it hard with a 6 MP d-slr in early 2007,and I eagerly await seeing results from the upcoming D200-based Fuji S5 Pro. Maybe the megapixel race _is_ slowing down a bit,finally. We shall see. Pentax,Samsung,Nikon,and FujiFilm will all have 6 MP d-slr cameras on the market,in a world that's now got no less than FIVE 10-MP models at "entry to mid-level" pricing. We'll soon see how much can be done with 6 MP in FujiFilm's hands.

We'll also see if Canon makes an attempt to address the area of in-camera dynamic range expansion in 2007. I expect Canon will get something on the market in an attempt to try and nullify FujiFilm's position as the Wide DR leader. In-camera processing or post-capture,in-camera image editing might be one way Canon will address this issue, similar to the way Nikon now offers post-capture in-CAMERA edits on files,doing such things as applying Nikon's D-Lighting software correction routines right in the camera to help bring up or "lift" shadow detail after the shot is made (D-lighting in Nikon-speak is very similar to Adobe's Highlight/Shadow tool). Being able to edit a RAW capture and then to use the camera itself to create JPEG image files with different filter effects,or black and white effects,or to down-sized or otherwise edit and adjust images is something I think we'll be seeing in 2007 and beyond. Both the D40 and D80 offer in-camera image editing.

Nikon's D40 marks the first Nikon that's unable to autofocus with the screw-drive protocol of the AF and AF-D Nikkor lenses made since the mid-1980's; this is less and less of a problem for most people,since AF-S focusing is now making its way into even the low-cost 18-55 kit lens that's sold in the D40 Kit. With many new soccer mom Nikkor zooms (the low-cost 55-200 for example) using a stripped-down version of AF-S focusing,as well as the abundance of professional-grade AF-S Nikkors with "old-school or DeLuxe AF-S", there's no shortage of both consumer and top-shelf Nikon glass that focuses perfectly on the D40. The D40 can shoot pictures with screw-drive AF Nikkor lenses, but does not focus automatically with them. Not a big deal. The new 70-300 AF-S G apears to be a pretty good revision of its other two lightweight 70-300 predecessors, but with better image quality than bother prior lenses, albeit in a larger and heavier package, but at a very fair price. The 70-300 VR has nice,round defocused highlight shapes thanks to its rounded, 9-blade iris, and I think its images look pretty good for a 70-300...the prior offerings at 70-300 were nothing to envy...but the new VR lens is well-executed.

Adobe is about ready to get Photoshop CS 3 finalized,and onto the market in 2007,it appears to me. Competition for raw file developer software and file browser software is heating up,and the competition from big players like Apple Computer signals a need for Adobe to rededicate its efforts,lest it fall behind and lose sales.

There's little doubt that this year, the year of the U-Tube generation,has seen the proliferation of photography as a hobby,passtime,and a downright obsession among millions of people world-wide. The ever-widening flood of people using digital devices to capture images has lead to a huge influx of people who've not been around photography for very long, but who are very,very passionate about their cameras and their software,and even their subjects. It's all a really dizzying thing, to see this huge,huge influx of new people brought in to photography by the lure of DIGITAL photography. The last tremendous influx was brought in by the Canon AE-1's and the Nikon FE's and EM's of the late 1970's. The era of the high-tech "Autowinder" was the last great period of new blood into photography that I can recall. The advent of the sophisticated 35mm Point and Shoot era beginning in 1988 or so was also a biggie. 2006 was another watershed year,similar to 1977 and 1988. Believe me, these new $599 and $699 d-slr kit prices are going to bring MILLIONS of people into slr photography.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Does Groupthink Extend to On-line Photo Forums?

Jaron Lanier's essay, "Beware The Online Collective" is the inspiration for this entry. His article is available at the web site at this URL,9171,1570745,00.html.

The sub-headline reads, "Web guru Jaron Lanier worries that,in the world of the Web, individual creativity is being replaced by dangerous groupthink."

Lanier writes in his newest essay that,

"Collectives tend to be mean, to designate official enemies, to be violent, and to discourage creative, rigorous thought. Fascists, communists, religious cults, criminal "families" — there has been no end to the varieties of human collectives, but it seems to me that these examples have quite a lot in common. I wonder if some aspect of human nature evolved in the context of competing packs. We might be genetically wired to be vulnerable to the lure of the mob." end quoted excerpt

This Lanier essay, "Beware The Online Collective" really resonates with me. I see tendencies toward groupthink in a lot of online photography forums. Alarming tendencies. I've blogged before about brand wars and camera wars,and so Lanier's two essays about collective thinking or groupthink have resonated with me. I've been the subject of a pretty fair amount of resentment for my outspoken opinions about cameras and lenses. I've taken a lot of shit from people for my opinions on Nikon's engineering decisions in its prime lens lineup (of which I own most of) and its AF lens lineup (which I own a lot of). I've made a hell of a lot more contributions to on-line discussions than many people have. I'm an independent thinker. And I actually write stuff that points out REAL-WORLD weaknesses and deficiencies in the photo equipment that I have bought. I am not a brand-loyalist kind of guy. I don't follow along with the group on many issues. I pride myself on telling things as I see them,and of bringing up weaknesses and limitations in cameras,lenses,and software. I talk about MY experiences and my needs and how those two things jibe with different brands of cameras,and dozens and dozens of lenses, not just one model or one brand of camera and half a doxen lenses made within the last five years. I've owned two Fuji d-slr's, four Nikon d-slr models, and one Canon dslr. Currently I own about 40 Nikkor lenses (one or two lenses a year over 20+ years,and 40-some lenses is not so hard to understand) and a handful of Canon lenses. I've been shooting all-digital since February 2001. I love photography,and have since 1973. I acquire cameras and lenses and learn to USE them; I don't buy and sell stuff off like today's newbie hobbyist does. I have a 24-year old 105mm f/2.5 AiS,and a 29 year old Nikon FM which is my favorite film camera. I bought the 85mm 1.4 and the 135mm f/2 in 1987 as AiS lenses, and then later replaced them in the 2000's in their AF-D versions. I buy a lens to learn how to use it,and plan to KEEP it as part of my arsenal of equipment. I don't buy lenses that don't appeal to me,and I usually buy used lenses in good condition.

My own,personal involvement with the Internet goes back only to the late 1990's. Lanier,like a few university professors,engineers,and techno-geeks, has been around the "Internet" since it was not the Internet, but the ancestral origins of what is now the Internet. Message boards, lists, Usenet discussion groups,and all those other things that are now "the Internet" were around before the world wide web and easy e-mail came on the scene. Lanier's one of those long-time,pre-world wide web Internet guys who was out there back when there were NOT 100,000 newcomers arriving mothly,with a new computer and no knowledge of netiquette. Ever retrieved your e-mail using an application named simply Pine? I started that way. Do you remember Netscape 1.0? I do. I'm not a truly old-hand like some 1980's college physics professor who occasionally looked at message boards on the university's five computer teminals, but I am far from a "newbie".

Over the last year or so,myself,and other posters on various Internet sites have commented and or written posts or blogs on the increasing problem of rude groupthink behavior,name-calling,poor signal-to-noise ratios,arrogance masquerading as knowledge, clannishness, mob-rule, warring tribal-like behaviors,and just basically RUDE,PERSONAL attacks on people whose views they disagree with,etc,etc. David Pogue addresses the issue of on-line rudeness in his New York Times column this week,eerily echoing Jaron Lanier's Time Magazine essay on rude,anonymous behavior on the Internet.

I've written a couple of blog entries dealing with the ever-increasing number of nasty,confrontational,and otherwise aggressively acting people on the Internet photography forums. Myself,and quite a number of other people have posted threads or written articles exploring the issues behind WHY there's so much "trolling" on the popular photography forums and boards by people with either hidden agendas or zealous ONE-brand agendas. Usually, the trolling involves people who have very deep brand loyalty agendas, such as ultra-loyal Canon or Nikon or Leica or Zeiss fans who will stir up trouble. It's gotten to the point now when almost anybody asks a question or makes a comment about a weakness in a brand or camera model, that some groupthinking Fanboi will pop out of the bushes and club the 'offender' to death while shouting out "Troll,troll!". Brand loyalism and zealotry has turned many forums into groupthink experiments in progress. A good case in point: for about two years now, Canon's sports and news camera, the 1D Mark II has had double the pixel count of the Nikon D2h sports and news camera models. The Canon has 8.2 megapixels, the Nikons 4.1 megapixels. Canon has had full-frame 24x36 sensors for several years, Nikon has nothing even close. Either of these two topics,broached in the wrong way will bring out the groupthinking Nikon Fanbois who will soundly criticise the poster who asks questions which dare expose any weakness about the "Brand". Hell, if the poster who asks a question is not a member in good standing, he'll be publicly tarred and feathered. Often by two or three men at one time. It's groupthink. Mob rule. It's everywhere now.

I've made mention of "Fanbois", which is a Japanese term,the plural of Fanboi. Japan has many,many very devout Nikon Fanbois, who absolutely worship everything Nikon makes,has made, and will ever make. Another term I have used is "brand warrior". I have also used the term I coined, which is One Brand Zealot. I've never heard the term One Brand Zealot before, but I did a blog entry mentioning them not that long ago. I have become very aware that in on-line photography forums, there exists a certain percentage of people who are EXTREMELY sensitive to what they perceive as criticism of their favorite brand, or model, of camera and also their favorite lenses. As well as computer platforms, Mac or Windows. These One Brand Zealots have become MUCH,much more numerous over the last few years,as digital cameras have proliferated. What if Jaron Lanier is correct when he writes, "We might be genetically wired to be vulnerable to the lure of the mob". Huh? Is it possible that we might be vulnerable to the mob mentality at some genetic level? Is that why the degree of brand-bashing,character assasinations,and closed-mindedness and groupthink has escalated so,so rapidly since the introduction of the sub-$1000 d-slr cameras, the EOS Digital Rebel and then a year later, the Nikon D70? The various on-line photo forums do seem to be very vulnerable to a mob mentality, filled with rudeness and closed-minded,fanatical devotion to particular,individual cameras. And lenses. It's weird,the way many people now interpret adult discussion and honest evaluations of engineering decisions, manufacturing problems, and quality control issues as "personal insults" to "their brand". It's become almost ridiculous.

The term "newbie" is an Internet vocabulary term. Many people are not aware of what it really means. The D70 was the SINGLE best-selling Nikon camera in over 60 years of Nikon camera making history. The D70 got a LOT of both internet newbies and photographic newbies onto web photo sites like pBase and Flickr.The Canon Digital Rebel and the Nikon D70 launched the largest two armies of newbies EVER to come into d-slr photography at one time. I remember the Canon AE-1 influx in the 1970's...I've seen huge influxes of people into the hobby before, but the D-Rebel and the D70 were absolutely HOME RUN cameras, sales-wise; they were in a very real manner of speaking positively huge,like the Biblical floods.

I remember and dPreview before the Digital Rebel and D70 days....the on-line photo community was comprised of vastly different people than are there today. Old-time Internet people showed much more appreciation,and tolerance, for people with different experiences and different opinions. Things are a heck of a lot more One Brand Zealot-like these days. There are now more than ever a lot of relatively inexperienced people spouting off on the web about photo topics. One such fellow, Cousin Hank,I'll call him, bought his first interchangeable lens Nikon, a D70, in the summer of 2004. He now regularly defends his favorite camera company,and his favorite lenses, as if he's got a vast array of experience under his belt. As far as I can tell, he has owned a 24-120 VR, the 60 Micro, 70-300 ED,then an 80-200 Nikon 2-ring zoom,a Tamron 28-75/2.8 which was sold off and was then replaced by the 28-70 AF-S,and maybe another lens I missed in my research the other day; wow, five or six lenses over two and a half years, and he posts like an expert,and constantly loves to reinforce the capabilities of individual lenses,while taking potshots at people who point out that the 60 Micro is NOT a good portrait lens,and has focusing issues that hamper it at distance,and that it is NOT all that sharp at portrait distances or longer. Our good Cousin comes off affably to those who also like the annointed lenses,and seems to be a nice,friendly guy; but beware making comments that don't worship the 28-70 AF-S--the Cousin will go off on you,in public forums. And yet, our fair cousin has developed a cult of personality around himself. But remember, he's been shooting an interchangeable lens camera since summer 2004. And he's owned under a dozen lenses;although he comes off like an old hand,he's relatively quite new.

As Mr. Lanier asks in the conclusion of his article,
"What's to stop an online mass of anonymous but connected people from suddenly turning into a mean mob, just like masses of people have time and time again in the history of every human culture? It's amazing that details in the design of online software can bring out such varied potentials in human behavior. It's time to think about that power on a moral basis. From the Dec. 25, 2006 issue of TIME magazine" End of qouted passage. It seems as if even some real egghead types agree with my line of thinking. And no, it's not just MY opinion...the big photography forums and boards of the web have their Peter Phan and their T3's,as well as some other folks who are,really, pretty much One Brand Zealots whose job it is to spread dis-information.

I myself am not a One Brand Zealot. I've owned several Nikon d-slr models,beginning in Feb 2001 of the Nikon D1, then the Fuji S1 Pro, then the Fuji S2 Pro in August of its intro year, then the Nikon D1h a year later, then the Nikon D70 in June of 2004, then after half a year of D70 use, I put the D70 away in favor of a Canon EOS 20D I bought in Feb. 2005. My last d-slr purchase was the Nikon D2x in May,2005. I still use the 20D and D2x for almost all of my shooting,and still have the S2 and D70. I use the D70 as a travel/party camera,since it's the smallest and lightest dslr I own. But for my "serious" use, I use the D2x,and I use the Canon for sepia-tone work and for use with manual-focus specialty lenses using a Nikon lens to EOS-body adapter. I can't seem to sell off any of these bodies. My old S1 Pro and five Nikkor lenses returned recently from a roughly 18-month loan to a forumer Fuji SLR Forum member,whom I've never met personally,a nice fellow who lives in London,England whose equipment had been ripped off by burglars,so now I have a few more lenses floating around.

There is now, more than ever, an increasingly shrill chorus of defenders of the faith on the Internet's photography outlets. There are a TON of people who absolutely believe that the BEST pictures can only be made by a Canon. Or a Nikon. Or a Fuji. In about that order is where the One Brand Zealots are distributed. There are also the cult of personality people who appear to be a bit more moderate, but who actually represent the "party line" or the collective group-think positions quite well. They appear at first glance to be well-reasoned individuals, but there is an increasing tendency that I,and many others have noticed: a sort of group consensus exists about the relative quality of preferred tools in the various forums; those who dare question the group-think position about the tools will be dealt with,either angrily and aggressively, or alternately through much apparently polite writing that basically tells the dissenter that he's not welcome, that only the favored paty line be expressed,and that the 1)camera models 2)lenses and 3)engineering and software decisions are all "perfectly fine". No need for any engineering suggestions,no need for anything but the status quo. No need for ANY NEW IMPROVEMENTS, ever, in what the One Brand Manufacturer has offered for sale. There's a goodly number of people who defend the status quo,and their favorite manufactures against all criticism. They say things like, "Everything is great with my favorite products,so,shut up and go buy a @#$*. There are some "cult lenses", like Nikon's 85 1.4 AF-D and 28-70 AF-S that have cult followers that border on the fanatic in their defense of these two lenses,against and and ALL criticisms,however minor. Some of these lenses have even been given nicknames,like Cream Machine and The Beast. Groupthink is all about drowning out all the voices of dissent and disagreement. Groupthink is about feel-good unity,no challenges to the status quo,and on everybody being in lock-step unanimity.

When the Leica M8 came online recently, with its severe blacks-turn out-as-magenta problem (excessive sensitivity to infrared), there were many aggressive attemps to drum out NON-M8 owners from the forum, including very technologically savvy posters like Joseph S. Wisniewski. Thank God that Joe piped up in a post as wrote something like, 'This is the Leica forum, the place to discuss Leica equipment, and not the Leica M-8 'owner's club forum'. I want people to have all the facts, so I'm posting here.' Those were pretty much Joe's words. What Joe did was to stand up to the bullying and the shit-flicking he was getting because he didn't actually OWN a Leica M-8 camera, but was interested in discussing the M8's actual and severe fault so that people could make a truly informed decision without being shouted down by Fanbois. The Leica Fanbois who had bought M8's ($5,000 cameras most people can not afford) were VERY pissed off that somebody with engineering expertise, and also a very Old School long-time Internet person was attempting to engage in sensible,unemotional,dispassionate equipment talk in the forum. The unstated groupthink reaction was somewhat like, "How dare an educated,experienced person dare speak about the weakness of a very expensive product with real-world PROBLEMS in a forum where we proud,few new M8 owners wish to huddle and talk about how great our new cameras are?" Thank God for a person who stood up to the groupthink,and the mob mentality, to point out that even though he did not own the camera model of the day himself, that he had the right to discuss that camera model. The typical Leica M8 buyer is a devoted Leica M user. Leica has a large number of rabid,devout fans. No wonder--they've had the highest production quality and standards for over 75 years,and have made a couple of the word's very-best cameras ever,and many of the best lenses. People deserve to hear the unvarnished TRUTH about how expensive cameras perform,no matter if the groupthinking Fanbois get their feathers ruffled.

It's kind of interesting how this groupthink has come to characterize so,so many of the on-line photography communities. Some people might take comfort in assuming that the tendency to succumb to mob rule and groupthink is somehow within the DNA of humans,and that we're therefore somehow not responsible for falling into groupthink and mob rule. The tendency I've seen over the past two years has been a pattern of forcing out those people who don't happen to agree with the collectives which have taken over so many of the various online photography forums,or who disagree with the Cult of Personality leaders within the various groups. As Lanier speculates, perphas humankind evolved in the type of environment where tribes warred with one another, and nobody wanted anybody to question the status quo. People who spoke unflatteringly about the group were drummed out of the group. People who showed any disloyalty to the group,say by associating with another group,or questioning the "group wisdom" were viewed as traitors. As Lanier writes, "Collectives tend to be mean, to designate official enemies, to be violent, and to discourage creative, rigorous thought." Something to think about before you make the next mean-spirited,smartass comment about somebody or something in an on-line photography forum, or leave your next asshole-like,rude,ceepy anonymous comment on a blog or website like David Pogue's New York Times technology blog site,etc,etc.

I find Lanier's essays "Digital Maoism" and "Beware The Online Collective" to be particularly relevant to the various on-line photography web sites and web boards that are popular these days.

Please see,9171,1570745,00.html for the full text of Jaron Lanier's essay.
Where you can find Lanier's essay "Digital Maoism",with a short introduction.

the discourse and viewpoints of several intellectuals regarding the essay Digital Maoism--some VERY interesting stuff here!

Additional reading:search out and learn about the internet vocabulary words "newbie" and "sock puppet",as well as "cult of personality".

Friday, December 22, 2006

Better Low-Cost D-SLR's and The Wife's First D-SLR

Phil Askey not that long ago reviewed the Pentax K100D on his web site at He wrote that the Pentax K100D has, "stepped ahead of the D50 with better definition of fine detail," and his review's now-well-known sample comparison images allow the reader to, as he wrote, " your way down the crops and see a real difference in the amount of information delivered." (Better detail delivered by the K100D over the Nikon D50's level of detail.)

I have to agree---the Askey samples in the review show pretty convincingly that the Pentax K100D does deliver a BETTER IMAGE than the Nikon D50 does,in several different categories. The Pentax K100D also acquits itself VERY well at 800 and 1600 sensitvity settings,as shown in the samples on page 22 of the dPreview review at To my eye, the Pentax K100D offers the best Out of Camera 800 and 1600 JPEG image characteristics between the cameras compared there.

Similarly,in his very newest camera review, Askey points out a VERY SIMILAR, almost identical to my eye, improvement in the Nikon D40's out of camera JPEG image quality over the Nikon D50's out of camera JPEG image quality. The dPreview review of the Nikon D40 begins at

and on page 19 of the D40 review, Askey notes "how far in-camera image processing has come." It's worth stopping by.

Funny thing--on page 20 of the D40 review, Askey wrote: " Just over two weeks ago I was quite happy to proclaim the Pentax K100D as having the best image quality of any six megapixel, well looking at this comparison I may have to say that the D40 has just edged the K100D off its throne. In each crop we can see the D40 has a slight edge in detail along with a complete lack of artifacts (there are a few jaggies in the K100D image)."

So, two weeks ago, Phil Askey proclaimed the Pentax K100D had, and this is a direct quote, "the best image quality of any six megapixel." But now that the Nikon D40 has been evaluated, Askey has written that the D50 has edged the K100D off the throne as having the best image quality in the six megapixel category. And keep in mind that during the testing of the D40,Adobe Camera RAW was not able to offer D40 raw file decoding, so the image quality comparisons Askey has made have been based upon the Nikon D40's out-of-camera JPEGs doing the "work" to earn the title of best image quality from a six megapixel camera.

Why is this important? Because the K100D and D40 are very,very inexpensive d-slr cameras, and it has now been demonstrated that image processing in the camera,if it is done using state-of-the-art technology, ELEVATES the resolution of the six megapixel class sensors over what we've had since 2003,and over immediate predecessor models,from both Pentax and from Nikon. The Nikon D40 kit retails for $599 WITH AN 18-55mm Nikkor ZOOM LENS!!!! Also,I think it's refreshing to see how good the high-ISO images from the Pentax K100D look,particularly at ISO 800 and 1600. The Pentax K100D's high-ISO shots look snappier,sharper,and clearer than what Canon is offering in the same class, and a bit better than Nikon is offering at those two high ISO settings. This is all good news,since improved image processing,lower noise,and better pictures are what hobbyists,and professionals,want. At ever-lower prices.

Both the K100D and the Nikon D40 reviews show that it IS POSSIBLE for a six megapixel sensor to make a very good image,particularly when the very latest capabilities in signal processing and demosaicing and image processing and sharpening are all carefully implemented by the manufacturers. Newer is better. That kind of sums up the d-slr image quality paradigm,at least in my experience. Newer cameras with newer sensors usually deliver HIGHER IMAGE QUALITY than their immediate predecessor models,even when the same sensor is used in the old and the newer camera models. It now seems that image processing,at least in the newest Pentax and Nikon models, has been improved quite readily apparently to the human eye,and that the manufacturers are able to wring MORE out of the same old sensors,in part by improving demosaicing routines, and by better sharpening routines, and by improving the in-camera image PROCESSING routines and their overall quality. The lines of resolution both the Pentax and Nikon 6MP models are capable of delivering are still in what I'd term the 6MP class,rez-wise, but there's no doubt that looking at the Askey samples that the NEWER Pentax and the NEWER Nikon d-slr models are doing MORE with the SAME basic sensors used in prior cameras. Pentax went from simply dreadful OOC JPEG quality to class-leading OOC JPEG Image Quality. Then almost immediately, Nikon took the economy D50's OOC JPEG image quality and took it from extremely good to class-leading with the same imager in the D40. In other words, Pentax and Nikon have now figured out how to create and process 6MP JPEG images to levels that are better than what we've seen before in the 6MP class of d-slr.

The D40's boost in Image Quality over the D50's IQ is impressive. It's nice to think that the lowest-cost,most-basic Nikon d-slr offers class-leading image quality. That really makes me happy! The K100D's 1600 ISO out of camera images were impessive to me--sharp,detailed,and with good tonality, and a really nice feeling of information; the Canon Rebel XTi's higher ISO images looked less-sharp,but low-noise and clean, yet with lowered contrast and a flatter look out of camera t han the Pentax images. One could argue that the Canon and Nikon entry-level ($699 and $599 respectively,w/kit zoom) d-slr models offer a less-processed out of camera JPEG than Pentax makes at 1600, but frankly, I think the K100D's higher-ISO look is damned good out of camera, with the Canon and Nikons being merely very good.
This is indeed a great time to be interested in digital photography. I think the big strides in image processing combined with rather weak (non-destructive) anti-aliasing filter arrays Askey refers to is the last remaining,obvious, way to boost IQ while still maintaining 6MP sensor size on crop-field SLR bodies. Make sure the AA filter doesn't soften the images up too terribly much, and work at doing the BEST-possible demosaicing and the best-possible image processing and sharpening,and you've got yourself a damned fine 6MP imager. Simple,huh? But it hasn't been done,until recently.

While a lot of people look ONLY at the resolution figures in the dPreview reviews, it is important to look at the PICTURES as well, to see how cameras with similar chart resolution figures can have different IMAGE quality. Basically, test charts are test charts. What's important to realize is that image artifacts can plague in-camera JPEGs, and also that the way a camera handles resolution ABOVE the extinction limit determines how well textures are rendered. It's possible for two cameras to have very,very similar test chart resolution figures, but for one camera to consistently create a CLEARLY SUPERIOR image on real-world subjects. A good case in point is the Nikon D50 and Nikon D40...the D40's images are now very much free from the JPEG artifacting that was present in the D50's images. Not that the D50 was "bad"; no, the artifacting was slight, but definitely there. Even though both cameras have similar test chart resolution averages, the actual _pictures_ made by the D40 show an improvement in image quality over and above what the D50 produced. As resolution figures go higher and higher, it's important to look at the PICTURES a camera makes, to see how it handles the information above the extinction resolution. Resolution and noise figures are interesting,yes, but the PICTURES are what really counts, and this is one area where FujiFIlm has done a good job--making good-looking pictures with the S1,S2,and S3 Pro models.

I now have even higher hopes for the Fuji S5 Pro than I had even a few weeks ago! The image processing and image quality boosts that Pentax and Nikon have achieved in their newest, economy-priced models gives me a good feeling that FujiFilm engineers have also done their best to improve and optimize the AA filter system of the their patented SuperCCD-SR sensor in the upcoming S5 Pro model.

I happened to speak with a FujiFilm field representative this week,and he said , "end of February" in response to my question, "When do YOU think we'll actually be able to buy an S5 in stores?" Actually, I think that's reasonable, given the time frame of the D200 element, the cessation of S3 Pro's production recently in order to clear the channel of remaining inventory,etc,etc. Anyway, the Askey review of the D40, the sample crop comparisons,and the low price and small physical SIZE and weight (16 oz, w/o battery) made me opt for a Nikon D40 kit and an SB-600 for my wife's special Christmas present. I bought her a 1 gig SD card also,and she owns two 512 MB SD cards from her Minolta Vectis camera. I hope she likes the camera; her shooting has improved a lot over the last couple years,and now low-light AF problems and poor AF performance in general and erratic exposures in tricky lighting are hampering her. Compact bridge-type cameras like her Minolta Vectis are simply not as fast-operating as any SLR,and I think the D40's an excellent,SMALL slr camera, so I hope it works out for her.