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Monday, April 24, 2006

My Changing World


Musical Fidelity's latest Dreadnaught

The world must be changing, all right...recently I find myself lusting after a Pontiac(!), of all things (the Solstice, when the one with the bigger engine comes out, not that I can afford a new car, because I've always been too big to fit into a Miata), and a Sigma(!!) (I just can't wait to get a 30mm ƒ/1.4 for the K-M 7D). I've come a long way from wanting a restored Austin-Healy 3000 and the faster 85mm from Carl Zeiss.

As far as music-reproducing equipment goes—another of my interests—my world is changing there too. Recently a company in Britain called Musical Fidelity introduced an all-in-one Krell/Levinson/Pass-style dreadnaught called the kW250s. I've always liked Musical Fidelity. When they first got started I owned a sweet little thing the company made called "The Preamp"—that was its official designation—and a swell power amp that went with it (called a P70, I think).

Anyway, the kW250s is exactly what I wanted...10 years ago (well, minus the tuner section). Now, however, the world has traveled too many times around the sun. My "stereo" is basically two little speakers on either side of my computer, and my "music library" is on two humongous hard drives (on top of which the speakers, appropriately enough, sit). I do fire up the big stereo from time to time when I want a fuller sound, or something more than a road sign to bass. But not all that often. Certainly not every day, although certainly every week. And it's the Olive Opus that I covet now. Gotta wait for the prices of such devices to come down.

I'm waiting for a high-rez SACD-type music file format, too—that seems inevitable. Or at least I hope it is.

Back to camera-land, there are a couple of things I'm hoping for there too. Not just my pet Decisive Moment Digicam, although I continue to think that it's one of my few harebrained ideas that would actually succeed commercially. Lens connoisseurship is certainly changing: I can mimic the "looks" of various kind of lenses in software now, and I'm waiting for some canny manufacturer to take DxO's lead and figure out that it can build a lens with certain aberrations deliberately uncorrected, correcting them later in software. Well, I guess the Nikkor 10.5mm* already does that. And I'm waiting for a digital camera that's not made of black polycarbonate and manganese alloys. Hasn't the classic old metal-carapaced look been gone long enough now to be sufficiently exotic? How long will it take some enterprising digital manufacturer to go retro? Thom Hogan did a survey a few years ago and was surprised to find that what a large number of Nikon photographers wanted was...a digital FM3A. Staunch.

I still want an Austin Healy 3000, however.


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

*Official name: Nikon Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm ƒ/2.8G ED AF DX Fi PG 13 AD NO PU TX NL MT ZZ**

**Satire Alert

10 Comments:

Anonymous Janne said...

In a perfect (imaginary) world, there'd be an open lens format that any manufacturer could use freely - and did. This format would specify a protocol between camera and lens where the lens could tell the camera exactly what aberrations it has, from CA, distortion at various focal lengths, vignetting, focus behavior and so on.

For consumer lenses this could be just average data for the model, while high-end lenses could be individually calibrated at manufacture and give the exact data for that lens.

The camera could do whatever it wanted with the data, from nothing (for cheapskate consumer models), to extensive, precise correction, utilizing the lens data and its own knowledge of its design parameters. The camera would emit a raw file (OpenRaw please?) that would be the "untouched" data - except that it's the data as it would have been with a perfect lens.

So, cheap body and any lens = what we have today. Better body and cheap lens = better experience (like todays high-end lenses, pretty much). Better body and expensive lens = excellent experience (probably better quality than possible at all without a system like this).

The really neat part is that this frees a manufacturer from having to do excellent optics just to get good (rather than excellent) images. The design envelope widens, and faster, smaller lenses than today can become saleable.

Not that it will ever happen, of course; this would be a net negative for the large camera manufacturers, undercutting their own premium lines.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Combining a couple of your thoughts: When the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 was announced earlier this year I thought they had finally figured out the bit about making cameras that look like real cameras. I think they're getting there slowly but surely.
As for what is needed in the ideal digital cameras, I agree with most of what you say, but let's add these things:
A good solid 3 inch screen at the back, one that flips around (My Olympus C-5050 flips up and is great as a waistfinder viewer). I don't quite agree with interchangeable lenses: I have plenty of those in boxes in cupboards and the only thing that gets any use is my small zoom digital Olympus. This has the f1.8 35/105mm lens and it's almost great. The zoom needs to go from around 20mm to around 135mm all at f1.8. I certainly agree with no flash on these things, they're usually awful. Need to shoot great images at 800 and 1600 ASA like the Canon D models too.
The size of my Olympus is great, at 4.5 x 3.2 x 2.8 inches. It fits well in my hand and fits easily into a coat pocket.
Also, why don't they equip these cameras with 2 or 3 or 10 Gig hard drive instead of these removable cards? They have this technology well sorted out (ipod!) and we can do without removable cards whose only value is to remove them from a camera to insert them into a card reader. Hello?
And last but not least, they need wifi capability to transfer the images down to your computer.
Bests

APH

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Joel Becker said...

All I want, ever, is a digital back for my Nikkormat FTn. It's been in the family since manufacture, and it's the camera I always want to take with me.

Too bad it'll never happen. Wither that digital-sensor-as-film-canister-plus-leader?

11:06 PM  
Blogger Uwe Steinmueller said...

>My "stereo" is basically two little speakers on either side of my computer, and my "music library" is on two humongous hard drives (on top of which the speakers, appropriately enough, sit). I do fire up the big stereo from time to time when I want a fuller sound, or something more than a road sign to bass.

Funny. I have wonderful horn speakers and custom tube amps. But I listne only music in the car or from my hard drive.

Uwe

11:28 PM  
Blogger Fazal Majid said...

Instead of the Opus, you might want to consider a Benchmark DAC-1 and a pair of Sennheiser HD650 or AKG K701 headphones. That's my computer audio setup (along with a Parsound Zamp V.3 and a pair of B&W CM1).

Just like the camera you have takes better photos than the behemoth you left in the hotel room (reason to always carry a Contax T3 or Olympus Stylus Epic, sadly, no digital equivalents yet), the sound system you listen to most often is the one you should focus on improving.

2:55 AM  
Blogger eolake said...

I couldn't agree more. As readers of my own blog will know, I am a fan of steel cameras, a fast/compact digicam, and Musical Fidelity.
And I am sure that both the connoisseur cameras and the lens/software thing will happen pretty soon.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd recommend getting a Grace model 902 Headphone amp/DAC/Pre-Amp to link to your PC. It has USB, so it can function as a DAC even if your PC doesn't do SPDIF, which it also takes, in both fiber optic and co-ax cable formats. I heard it once, and the DAC section works wonders, even with budget CD Players and transport mechanisms.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Fazal Majid said...

One other DAC to consider besides the Benchmark and Grace is the Lavry Black DA10.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Dave New said...

My mistake was hooking my nice stereo up to the DirecTiVo for an 'entertainment system'. Now the wife and kids dominate it all the time (nice movie sound, though), and the only way I get to listen to music is the cheapy computer speakers hooked to my system. I've been ripping all my CD's to Ogg Vorbis (Look Ma! no MP3s 8-) and storing them on the household server. Winamp plays them fine on any PC in the house.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Dave New said...

Heck, with the correct software/sensor combination, you could do that 4D light field thing, and not even have to bother to focus anymore...

3:34 PM  

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