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Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus and other companies interviews
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  • Well it was time for a change in those dinosaurs.

  • Another Nikon interview

    DE: I have so many more questions, but we're running out of time. Maybe I'll ask about 4K video: There's been a great deal of attention in the market, and an interest in 4K video, but so far Nikon hasn't provided that feature. Do you see that coming in any near term? Or do you take the view that it's hard to use 4K video, there aren't yet other parts of the tool chain, or even people having 4K TVs. So maybe as a result of that, do you see 4K as something in the future? In what time frame do you think 4K becomes essential?

    TY: I think 4K has been applied in TV, but I think in terms of content and infrastructure, 4K is too early; it's not enough. I visited the CES show this January, and I looked at 4K. I saw that, compared to last year, speed has improved. [Ed. Note: Perhaps in reference to screen refresh rates?] So we want to closely monitor the developments, and we want to think about what is the best time to market.

  • Last time we spoke you told us that you were very aware of the need for higher resolution in the X-series lineup. Has anything changed since then?

    We still have the same objective, and our R&D team is working very hard to meet this demand. We will go to a higher megapixel [sensor] at some point. It’s on the way.

  • Sigma interview

    Your Art lenses, optically, perform better than equivalents from - for example - Canon and Nikon, but at a lower asking price. How is that possible?

    There are several reasons why we can do that. First of all we're a small company, comparitively. So we have a much smaller administrative staff than bigger companies. That's my father's philosophy - “small office, big factory”. What that means is that we have a very small, lean team for administration, but a big engineering team.

    I've kept that concept and as a result Sigma has much lower administration cost. That's the first reason. The second reason is that we do most of our manufacturing at out own factory. If we used additional suppliers we'd have costs to pay to them. We try to do everything ourselves as much as possible.

  • Ricoh/Pentax interview

    Which demographic is more important to you right now - beginners or enthusiasts and pros?

    We have two DSLR lines. We call them the 'core' line and 'innovation' line. The core line is represented by the K-3. Good cameras which can be active in the field. These ones target high amateurs. We also have the K-S1 and K-S2, which are categorized as being part of the 'innovation' line.

    They have all the Pentax DNA, like weatherproofing and so on but they have a new user interface. We want to get a wider range of customers with these cameras. We don't say 'beginners' but we want to attract people who are stepping up maybe from smartphones and want to get better pictures.

    What is the main challenge of attracting these new users?

    It's very difficult. One important thing is compactness, also toughness, and we follow trends, like the trends for selfies. On the K-S2 for example with the screen folded out towards you the WiFi button can act a shutter button. Also WiFi with NFC to satisfy smartphone users. So in these ways we're trying to make our target audience broader.

  • DE: That's very interesting. I'm curious -- I didn't have this down as a question in advance, but I'm curious about the strategy to announce the full-frame here because it's a long time before it'll be available. There's things inside, and features you can't talk about yet. What led to announcing it here?

    KS: Here, actually we announced only three points. One is that this is the full-frame format DSLR. Second our [APS-C specific] interchangeable lenses could be used with the new full-frame body, with crop function.

    DE: Crop functions on the camera, yeah.

    KS: This is the second point. The third one is, we are developing this product to be ready in the market at the end of this year. This really is all of what we're saying, right? Then needless to say, we know once we launch our product, that product should be welcomed by our Pentaxians. So far we believe our development, technology side, or marketability, will meet with our Pentaxians expectations.

  • When you look at mirrorless cameras from your competitors, what scares you the most?

    Looking at all of the mirrorless cameras out there, there’s nothing that really frightens us.

    The reason we ask is that mirrorless manufacturers are being forced to innovate a lot in areas like on-sensor phase detection autofocus and subject tracking etc. We wouldn’t be surprised if they catch up to DSLRs at some point.

    We acknowledge and respect the fact that our competitors are innovating in the technology that they’re introducing to the market. But at the same time we are also innovating. Our efforts towards the development of mirrorless cameras are very serious. But to be honest when we’re looking at mirrorless cameras, and entry-level DSLR cameras, and high-end compact cameras, we don’t know which of those will become mainstream.

    So rather than looking at our competitor’s mirrorless cameras and regarding them as a threat, within Canon, our team who’s working on mirrorless should view the DSLR team as a threat. They should view the high-end compact cameras team as a threat. The threats that our mirrorless cameras team face aren’t from other companies, they’re from other divisions within our company.

    A lot of people interpret the small lens lineup for EOS M as meaning that Canon isn’t serious about the system. Is that true?

    Within the mirrorless segment we have every intention of launching more attractive lenses.

  • Fujifilm

    So, I'm sure everyone asks you about 4K. 4K resolution video is becoming so popular with certain segments. We find it particularly interesting, not just for video but for still photos, and we're wondering, do you see Fuji moving in that direction? Is 4K possible with X-Trans?

    MO: Currently, our X-Trans CMOS II [sensor] cannot realize 4K videos because it has a smaller number of pixels, like 16-megapixel. Also, if we [want to] realize 4K video, the sensor itself should have much faster reading speed.

    DE: Yeah, much, much faster readout speed.

    MO: But of course we will challenge [ourselves] to make something with 4K video.

    DE: It's unavoidable, that at some point you'll have to be doing that.

  • Olympus

    Let’s talk about the Air. Right now it’s only going to be available in Japan - are you thinking of expanding into other markets?

    We’re in the test stage now, in terms of sales. So we’ll see how Japanese customers react, and that will help us decide whether or not to expand sales into other markets.

    In terms of development tools for the Air, do you plan to make all of the camera’s functions accessible to developers - for example autofocus control, image processing, etc.?

    We allow access to some functions, but we have not yet decided whether we will allow access to all functions. The first thing we want to know is how this concept will be accepted by developers. Depending on how they react, we’ll decide on how we want to improve.

  • Ricoh pixel shift tech

    While Olympus made big news at the CP+ 2015 trade show with the E-M5 II's pixel-shifting super-resolution mode, Ricoh quietly showcased a number of advanced technologies, including a similar pixel-shifting super-res capability. Other than a rumor tweeted by a Ricoh-associated pro photographer prior to the show, it's received relatively little comment on the 'net so far. Perhaps that's because the display talking about it was all in Japanese, tucked into the back of their booth, and a presentation I happened to see being given was also entirely in Japanese. That's too bad, because we think it's a pretty significant technology.

    Unlike Olympus' approach, which grabs 8 frames and uses a half-pixel shift between two groups of four to interpolate additional pixels, Ricoh's method uses just four shots, to bring the four pixels of each Bayer color filter array cell into alignment with each other. The resulting file has the same number of pixels as conventional shots, but each pixel contains full, uninterpolated RGB data. (Reminiscent in that sense of Sigma's Foveon sensors.)

    When I asked a Ricoh executive whether this pixel-shifting image enhancement tech might come to any of their existing SLRs via firmware updates, he of course said that he couldn't comment on future developments. He did say, though "But Ricoh believes in taking care of their customers" - and encouraged me to quote him on that. :-)

  • Mark Baber, Panasonic UK

    How long do you think it will take for 4K to become the main format for video?

    Well, I can’t speak on the behalf of other manufacturers but if you look at what Sony are doing, it wouldn’t surprise me if their roadmap includes 4K in entry to mid-range cameras. Samsung are also releasing 4K cameras at an affordable price. As for Panasonic, you now have the CM1, X1000, LX100, FZ1000, GH4, WX970, VX870, A500. So we have roughly eight products in the range. I think it’s quite a strong message that we’ve developed technology now that going forward will become the standard for all our cameras. However the TZ70 compact camera came out this year and there’s no 4K element with it and that’s because we don’t want to confuse the customer by including a feature they’re not sure about. That said, I think 4K is the future. It’s brilliant because you get better quality for the money but then you also have to educate people in how you play it back, which hardware to use and so on. We actually announced 8K at Photokina so that’s our aim but next year we’ll focus on our 4K message.

  • Fujifilm

    Some competitors are pushing the hybrid photography concept especially with 4K which allows you to extract decent 8MP JPG still images. What do you think about this? Is it the future of photography in your opinion?

    K.A.: We think that the 4K photo from Panasonic makes sense for certain usages such as the shooting and capturing of a moment. We think it can suit one type of photography but not all kinds of photography. With 4K photo we cannot use long shutter speeds or flash sync shooting. These are just a few examples but it is enough to understand that it is not “all-mighty”. We think it is an improvement but maybe it cannot be the future of photography.

  • Nikon

    The obvious next question is: as resolution increases and mirrorless becomes more practical for AF accuracy reasons, when will Nikon create mirrorless products with an equivalent specification to these entry-level DSLRs?

    As for SLRs, we’ll continue to improve accuracy of AF and Live View AF. For mirrorless, we have the Nikon 1 series. We have D-series SLRs, Nikon 1 mirrorless, and our CoolPix line as well. We’ll ensure the best product mix to meet the wide range of customer needs.

    The 1-system is 4 years old, and it hasn’t gained wide-spread acceptance among enthusiasts, at least not in the US. If you could go back, knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently?

    The benefit of Nikon 1 is that it’s very small. Its also good at capturing moving subjects, and it’s very high speed. This is a new value proposition to the customer. So, no we wouldn’t have taken a different approach. We have two different categories: the D-line and the 1-series, and with these lineups, we believe we’ll meet all the needs of customers.

    Do you think there’s a place for a bigger sensor mirrorless camera in your line-up?

    As for the possibility of larger sensor mirrorless - since competitors have already done this, technically speaking it’s possible. However, we want to highlight the advantage of the Nikon 1 system: it’s very small, including its lenses. For example, last year, we launched the V3, and photographers, especially those specializing in aviation industry and birds, highly appreciated the Nikon 1 series’ benefits: portability and small size. We still believe that Nikon 1 has room for further evolution. This is the area we want to put effort in to, rather than making bigger sensor mirrorless cameras.

  • Another Sony interview

    ML: The A7r II, RX100m4 and RX10m2 are the first Sony cameras to include internal 4K recording. Some competitors have been pushing this technology not only for video but also for photography. What do you think about 4k Photo?

    RN: Basically 4K photo is extracting some photos after shooting a movie from the movie output. But our dual recording function is simply taking a picture while shooting a video. That’s why we have achieved 17MP high resolution for taking a photo. It only produces a JPG, not a Raw file.

  • Sony got really hot :-)

    In the process of creating the a7R II, what did you learn from users of the original a7R?

    KM: A lot. We got a lot of feedback from our customers, around things like durability and shutter shock - too much to explain here. And even from the a7II, when we introduced that product we received a lot of requests and requirements for improvements and we’ve incorporated those things as much as possible [in the a7R II]. For example the recording button should be customizable, and you should be able to switch in-camera from PAL to NTSC etc. Those kind of things.

    When we first started to develop this full-frame back-illuminated sensor, the most important thing was that it had to have high resolution - no less than 36MP. Also we wanted 4K video using the entire area of the sensor, as well as a Super 35 crop. Then we calculated that the best pixel count to accomplish these goals was 42MP.

    What kind of photographers bought the original a7R?

    KM: A lot of landscape photographers, but not only these photographers - anyone that needed high resolution. A lot of people who had been using big DSLRs and wanted something smaller. And we got a lot of feedback from these kind of customers which we added as improvements to the a7R II.

  • Q: The last two sets of announcements we’ve had have been just that: Not only disruptive and groundbreaking, but really met the needs of very specific customers and requirements. Neal, I don’t know if you want to embellish on that?

    Neal Manowitz/Sony Electronics: I think you covered it perfectly. Yeah, I think we’ve been very focused around developing the Alpha system, how do we serve the customer in a unique way, and provide them the reasons to come back to imaging. So we see one of the challenges we have, as we were sharing last night, is that the DSLR market’s declining.

    The reasons for its decline are a couple things. One is that there’s a big segment of customers that are walking away, and then also, secondly, customers are taking more and more time between the cycles of replacing that camera. So with the disruptive technologies, with innovation, by serving the customer in a new way, what we’re able to do is excite them and bring them back in, capture images they couldn’t capture before, improve the quality. The cameras can now capture things that you just can’t see with your eye.

  • Sigma interview (mostly just summary)

    Yamaki-san has probably heard enough of the most common questions asked on the internet, so I will only report in brief what was said and point out that ultimately, a lot of choices are about balancing engineering/design and economic decisions. Many solutions for the Quattro were tried; the best one was a thin but large-area body to dissipate the heat from the processors. At the same time, it was made long and thin to encourage stability: you have to use two hands to hold the camera with most of the weight support by your left underneath the lens barrel. I don’t believe the right side grip was made deliberately uncomfortable to encourage you to take your weight off it, though. The magnifying hood was not so much an afterthought as an admission that the camera should have had an EVF, but by that point it was too late in the design process – I have a sneaky feeling that we will see one in the Quattro’s successor. I raised the obvious question about Adobe: it isn’t Sigma that’s the problem, but some resistance from Adobe. It appears the ACR engine is optimised for Bayer conversions, making anything else require a serious software rewrite. The only way this is likely to happen is if Adobe sees a large enough user base – chicken and egg, given the weakest point of the package now is SPP. Even then, Yamaki-san has increased the number of engineers devoted to software to attempt to close this gap faster.

  • Canon Interview

    DE: One trend that’s obviously been very apparent is the increase in resolution; actually back at Canon Expo 2010, we saw the 50-megapixel sensor, and now we see at this Expo... so the 50-megapixel sensor came to market as the Canon EOS 5D and 5DS. But now we see 120 megapixel and 250 megapixel sensors on display, and we’ve seen you reworking many of your classic lens designs over the past couple of years to improve their performance. How much more work do you think you still need to do in that process, particularly in light of seeing the 120-megapixel SLR that looked fairly close to being a product here?

    MM: Regarding the EF lens series, that is already able to deal with 50 megapixels or with 8K [video capture; 33.2 megapixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio]. However, the performance of lenses is something that is very analog, and therefore there are minute differences in how the color changes or how the actual image is shown, and so I think that based on user needs, we will continue to work to improve them. Now, for example, our recent product, 35MM: F/1.4, we apply the new material to reduce color...

  • No interview, but book

    The book Innovating out of Crisis by Fujifilm Chairman and CEO Shigetaka Komori is quote different from normal.

    We wondered for a while just how it was that Fujifilm managed to survive the death of the film business. So we were interested in reading Mr. Komori's book on that basis, but honestly wasn't expecting much beyond that.

    Instead, we found it packed with very practical advice, and more than its share of "Aha!" moments that will stay with me long after I've closed its pages.

    As you'd expect in an executive autobiography, Mr. Komori comes off pretty well. He's clearly impressed with his own abilities and what he's accomplished, which could be off-putting to some people. Especially in American society, self-aggrandizement is frowned upon, and we tend to devalue such accounts. I have to admit, I reacted to this aspect of his narrative early on, myself.