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Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus and other companies interviews
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  • Olympus CEO interview

    In Sasa’s first few years the focus was on addressing the crisis. He forged a partnership with Sony Corp., sold new shares in the market, increased the number of outside directors, and concentrated on growing the medical business. But he says the company is no longer in survival mode and “from now on the real focus will be on the business.”

  • Fujifilm interview

    The sensor at the heart of the GFX 50S looks very familiar. Is it the same sensor that we’ve seen in other medium-format digital cameras?

    First, this is a brand-new mount. Based on our experience with the X-series, we wanted to make the flange-back distance smaller, to allow the lenses to be made more compact. The challenge is how to get the light hit the sensor evenly - in the center and also at the corners. In order to achieve that we customized the microlenses. The microlenses on this sensor are optimized for the short flange-back distance of the new mount, to ensure good corner illumination. Also we optimized the silicon process. We spent a lot of time and resources on this kind of customization.

    Simple version of answer - yet it is exactly the same except telling manufacturer that we have smaller flange distance.

  • Sigma Interview

  • Interviews of Neal Manowitz, VP of Sony Digital Imaging

  • Sigma interview

  • Fujifilm interview

  • Another Fijifilm interview, now about GFX, X100F and video

    In Japan the developers worked very closely with production studios. A lot of their feedback shaped the outcome of the X-T2’s video quality and the way it operates.

    Features like Film Simulation, taking them from stills to video they found really useful but things such as bitrate, file format and compression, that came from us listening to feedback.

    Movie AF is very difficult: it depends on the subject. Sometimes you want it to be quick, other times you want it to be slower and smooth.

  • Sony interview considering optics

    DE: Is part of your thinking that you want to make something where there isn't [competition]?

    YN: Of course, we are always [monitoring] the market. But basically our product strategy is based on our customer feedback, our customers' voices.

    DE: Ah, and so it's what your customers are asking for, that's something you should make. Yes.

    YN: This time, we launched [the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS lens], so that's a very requested [lens]. Actually, the STF demand is very different from region to region. Japan and Asian countries have very high demand...

    DE: Ah, yeah, yeah.

    TK: ...unlike the US or the Europe.

    DE: Well it's interesting, I mean bokeh is a Japanese term, I'm not sure I'm pronouncing it right. How do you say it, is it "Boh-keh"? "Boh-kay"?

    TK: "Boh-keh", yeah, perfect. You sound perfect.

    DE: "Boh-keh", okay. So bokeh is a Japanese term actually, and originally it just wasn't in American photographers' consciousness to be aware of how the background looked. Well Sony also had the 135mm f/2.8 STF.

  • Olympus interview

    Dave Etchells/Imaging Resource: Our impression is that the Olympus E-M1 Mark II is doing very well based on interest from our readers, and it seems like it is backordered a lot in the US market. Is it exceeding expectations, or are we still seeing some of the effects of the Kumamoto earthquakes on sensor supplies?

    Haruo Ogawa/Olympus Corp.: First of all, thank you very much for your very good [review] and attention for our new flagship E-M1 Mark II. We received a bigger [volume of orders] than we expected, is one reason there is some shortage in the market.

    DE: Because the demand has been so high, more so than you expected?

    Toshiyuki Terada/Olympus Corp.: Yes.

    Perfect example on how media must start interview so camera company boss will like them even more.

  • Sigma interview

    You now make a mount adapter for Sony E-mount, but are you planning native support for the Sony E-mount in the future?

    Yes, that’s our plan. Our plan is to develop full-frame lenses for Sony E mount, and in the future we will have more E mount lenses. But it takes time. Normally it takes about two years to develop one lens, sometimes three. So even if I start the process now, the lens might come out in two years time.

  • Interview with Canon

    Where do you see most demand for 4K, and are you beginning to see beginners ask for 4K video?

    Whether you’re a professional or at the entry-level, you likely want high-quality video. And we think there is potential for the entry-level to grow. So we will obviously be looking at introducing our 4K technologies down to the entry-levels at some point.

    But introducing 4K to the entry-level is linked to the 4K TV market. How quickly that takes off and penetrates will tell us how and when we should introduce 4K to more affordable cameras.

  • Another Canon interview

    DE: Moving on to video and 4K: From the very beginning with the 5D Mark II, Canon has had enormous success with video, both with DSLRs and with Cinema EOS products. Interestingly, it seems that premium compacts like the G7X and G7X Mark II have been very popular with video creators, especially with vloggers. Was this an expected response to this product line, and how will it influence your plans for the compact market?

    YM: So for the premium compacts, we call it the G-series. We are aware that the bloggers and the YouTubers love that video function and are using it quite frequently. So regardless of it being the G series or the Rebel SL1 or the mirrorless, having [a] video function in a camera is a critical part of the camera going forward. I don't think a still shot is enough; we need the video function in the cameras.

    And obviously with that there's a growing demand for a higher video quality, so it's about a higher resolution, a better picture, and that will sort of lead us naturally to into the 4K technology. So take the 4K technology: Because of the energy consumption as well as the cost implications, we are only able to introduce this technology at the moment for our high-end models. But having said that, we will continue to improve and advance our technical capabilities so we hope that with the G7X series, that we would like to introduce that, but keeping in mind that we like to complement what [the] G7X will offer as a product rather than harm it. We wanted 4K to be an additional added value to that.

  • Fujifilm

    DE: So that's kind of in line with your existing long-term cine lens business, and that's an area in the market where there's particular demand.

    MO: Yeah, yes. And especially after we launched the X-T2, that has 4K function [and] there has been a lot of videographers [who] really loved our movie image quality, so actually we got a lot of requests from videographers [that] Fuji shooters should have more video-capable functionalities of the cameras...

    WB: Right.

    MO: ...because they know also the Fujinon lens quality. So then we came up with the cine for the Fuji mirrorless cameras [too].

  • Pentax/Ricoh interview

    Despite being strong in many other areas, Pentax cameras are falling farther and farther behind the competition in terms of video performance, which hasn't seen many changes in the past 5 years. Is there any specific video-related area that you'd like to focus on enhancing in the near future (i.e. stabilization, bitrate, focusing, 4K resolution, HDMI output)?

    We recognize the importance of video features. We will study ways to improve video performance in all respects.

    Would it be possible to bring back mechanical stabilization in video?

    So far the sensor shift is disabled in movie mode in order not to record mechanical noise. In response to our users' requests, we are planning to supply a firmware update that enables mechanical SR (shake reduction) while recording video for the K-1 and KP.

  • Interview with Olympus, mostly about stabilization.

    We can assure you that there is no problem in developing sensors at 33 million pixels for filming in 8K. We started the 4/3″ saga with a sensor at 5 Mpx in 2003. Now we have m43 sensors with 20 Mpx with a much higher image quality, especially considering noise performance.

  • Interesting Sony interview that had been pulled off :-)

    Thank you so much for meeting with me, Tanaka-san. We heard in a presentation yesterday about Sony's strategy of innovation. How do you apply that to your own business in a concrete way? Are you allocating more money to R&D than other companies, do you think?

    Kenji Tanaka/Sony: As you know well, our key driver is the image sensor, and we already invested a lot of money for the image sensor development. And the sensor is a custom [design, meaning that] only Sony can use these sensors, and our strength is our in-house technology. So I invested in that and we will keep investing in the in-house technology like image sensors.

    KT: And the sensor is one aspect. Another one is the lens, yeah? And the same as the sensor, we invested a lot of money for the development of our lenses. So the point is that we have a key technology, so we invest in-house. We don't just think to buy something [from another company].

    DE: Do you think we will see growth in FF segment, or is it just a certain percentage of society that is that way?

    KT: I want to increase this segment, but you know, loosely speaking I think that this segment is stable. If the segment increases, [it will do so] very slowly.

    DE: So where do you think the areas are that are ripe for innovation? We have 42-megapixel cameras, and people now think "Oh!", they would like to have 42 megapixel. But do we go to 100 megapixel, and then will people really want that? Or what are the other areas where there's an opportunity to exceed expectations and then create demand?

    KT: Now we are focused on three essential factors. One is of course the resolution, and another is the sensitivity, and third is the speed. [For example] 20 frames per second and 30 frames per burst or 100 frames per second, everybody wants to [have] that kind of functionality, but I can't say yes. Because they don't know how to use this kind of technology, but if we can show the benefit for that, people [will] enjoy the new technology, I think.

    DE: One limitation early on was just to get the data off of the sensor quickly enough to be able to do autofocus cycles. But now with the stacked sensors and local memory and local processing, you can get the data through that quickly, so now you can realize the benefit of having the integration of distance and image information.

    KT: You're right.

    DE: And so another big message we heard yesterday was that you don't see your goal as growing by taking a bigger share of the same pie, but rather by expanding the pie itself by drawing in new ILC photographers. And you showed some very impressive spikes in your market share, like when the A7R Mark II came out it was a big jump. But that's a very high-end model, it's not something that new people coming into the market would be buying. Do you have any stats on how many A7R II users were actually new to ILCs, or you view it more that sub-frame products, A6500, A5100, that kind of product are growing the market?

    KT: In the case of our Alpha 7R Mark II, honestly speaking that spike comes from just a shift from the other ILC area.

    DE: I was surprised to learn that China and the US together account for more than 50% of the full-frame market, and I was astonished that China is actually twice the market size of the US. That's just amazing to me. Has that phenomenon of China accounting for so much of the full-frame market been something that developed recently, or have you seen that from the beginning of your entry into the market?

    KT: I don't know Canon and Nikon's data, but in the case of Sony, these last three years, things changed.

  • Another strange pulled off interview, now about Canon lens factory

    Which lenses in particular are the most difficult to manufacture and why?

    Any large super telephoto lenses because of the size of the glass elements. In terms of skill required for lens assembly: the TV broadcast lenses are most difficult.

    During the tour it was mentioned that Canon lenses now store their quality control test data using on-board memory. Can that data be used to improve autofocus reliability?

    We do store data from final lens testing on each unit. I won’t be able to speak in greater detail other than saying, yes, in theory, that data could be used to achieve higher autofocus performance [better AF precision] with a DSLR.

    How long does it take a lens like the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM to make its way from start to finish in the assembly line?

    From raw material being polished, to the final tested product being boxed: about 24 hours of work, in theory. But the physical production would actually take longer. This is because we are producing parts in batches and there are machines that need to be fitted. These variables aside, if you take the actual time of labor, assembly and packaging, it is about 24 hours.

    You mentioned you were looking to hit an 80% automation rate in this facility. What kind of efficiency gain does that represent?

    It’s difficult to say in terms of time, but I can say it use to take about 70 people to make a lens like that prior to automation, now we need about 6 or 7.

    Now that the process for assembly, element polishing and quality control is so automated, we're curious how many lenses pass QC the first time vs those that have to go back for re-calibration.

    In terms of maintaining a level of quality before going into mass production, we do a lot of checking and scenario building [using a super computer] to make sure everything will go right. Once a lens goes into mass production we can safely say that we have seen no lenses returned for further calibration.

    A lot of your users use EF lenses for video creation. Has that changed the way you design some EF lenses?

    In terms of stills shooter, when it comes to autofocus, the faster the better. On the other hand, videographers tend to require a variance in autofocus speed. Sometimes they want a slow effect. So we had to create a motor that could actually do both fast and slow focus. This is why we introduced Nano-USM. It's in both the 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM and the 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS II USM.

  • More from same tour

    The complexity required to go from the blanks and then through that whole automated process, and just the intricacies of that process were very interesting.

    DE: I had seen normal lens normal lens polishing before, mechanical machines, but never automated like that. And it was very impressive to us that the head optical meister, Saito-san, would manually make the masters. Regular assembly was not as interesting to me personally, because I've been to two other lens factories in the past, but I think for people who have not seen it...

  • Another Sony interview

    What is your general strategy for FE lenses in the future?

    We’re launching products based on customer feedback - especially professionals. When we started the Alpha a7 series we only had three full-frame mirrorless (FE) lenses, but after we launched the a7R II, a lot of professionals started to use it. So their voices [became more important]. For example they wanted a 24-70mm F2.8, which is why we prioritized that model. So basically our strategy is to listen to our customers.

    Speaking about the a7-series lineup, how does your customer base divide up in terms of stills photographers versus videographers?

    We don’t divide our customers in this way. Most of our customers shoot both video and stills, currently. Until a few years ago, video and stills shooters were totally different, but recently, portrait and wedding photographers have started shooting video too.

    We always consider both kinds of users at every stage of development.

  • Sigma interview

    DE: You don't have any full-frame native E-mount lenses available, but you have many lenses including the four that you just announced that are compatible with the MC-11 mount converter. Is that the main strategy that you will continue to take rather than doing native E-mount lenses? And what are the challenges associated with making a lens that you can manufacture for Canon and Nikon, but also make for E-mount?

    KY: Moving forward, we will develop more E-mount native lenses.

    KY: Full-frame lenses for full-frame mirrorless cameras: That's our plan. But we have a different purpose with the MC-11 [adapter]. When we were developing the MC-11, we assumed that some customers use both a Canon DSLR and Sony mirrorless camera.

  • Where are the biggest opportunities for Olympus right now, in the camera market?

    Right now, the biggest opportunity for our mirrorless camera department is to increase the amount of technology [in the segment], to stimulate demand. The market for conventional DSLRs is shrinking, and the ILC market is going down, the CSC [compact system camera] is doing OK, although there’s still some decline.

    Although the OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers a significantly smaller sensor, Olympus sees it as competing against similarly-priced APS-C offerings, and hopes it will attract 'conservative' DSLR users as a potential second body. Current Canon and Nikon users may not switch entirely, because they’ve already got a system, but they might purchase an additional camera for vacations, or for [outdoor recreation], and that could be a good opportunity for us. By continuously developing technology, we hope to stimulate demand and show DSLR users that mirrorless cameras are [equally capable].

    Each time you hear about genius capitalist managers you better open this topic and read interviews. But, please, do not tear your hair in horror.