The Sony Problem

Well, there goes my weekend. I was heading home from work a while ago, expecting to be able to take some rest this weekend and spend time with my family, when all of a sudden three black SUVs appear out of nowhere at high speed and stop right in front of me. Doors fly open and a couple of guys in black suits with red ties and dark sunglasses jump out and run towards me while yelling “WESTFALL?! CHUCK WESTFALL?!” A black helicopter with a red stripe on the sides flew by over us at very low altitude making an incredible noise. I had to cover my eyes with my hands because of all the sand and dust in the air. And I’m thinking oh shit, did we deliver a batch of backfocusing lenses to the government again?  Did the mirror fall out of a 5D again during an important mission in Iran? Perhaps Obama got really pissed this time when Pete Souza showed him the latest out of focus pictures taken with his 5D Mark II? Before I had a chance to say anything I got pushed into one of the SUVs and was told to keep quiet and that everything would get explained shortly.

Turns out we were heading back to my office at Canon USA where there seemed to be some kind of panic situation. I got pushed into a room with other executives where we were told that there would be a direct uplink established with Canon Inc. in Japan shortly for an emergency briefing. While waiting we learned that Maeda got hospitalized some time earlier because of spontaneously developing a serious case of diarrhea in a very short amount of time, and that it was also spreading fast to other executives. What’s more, the toilets at Canon HQ were not designed to be able to handle the incredible load that was developing and arrays of mobile toilets had to be brought in to deal with the capacity problem.

Mobile Toilets standing outside at Canon HQ

Mobile Toilets standing outside at Canon HQ

They’re still struggling to maintain enough capacity as I type this.

The cause of all this became clear during the briefing. It appears Sony has issued a press release announcing three new DSLR cameras. This might sound like a normal thing, but there’s a lot more to it. You may recall that I wrote about Sony a while ago where I mentioned the following:

We’re not very concerned about Olympus here at Canon, but Sony has been scaring the hell out of us for a while now, to be honest. More so than Nikon, and for a lot of reasons. They’ve got their hands on a lot of good technology now, and we’re very concerned about their next wave of DSLRs. If you can recall their DSC-R1 camera from a few years ago, it had a CMOS sensor and really great and reasonably fast contrast-detect autofocus functionality. You could even use the small joystick to move the focus point *anywhere* on the screen and focus *exactly* where you wanted to, even the edges. This was a few years ago. If this makes its way into their DSLRs, with today’s faster processing technology, we’re going to be fucked. We know they have the sensor technology (D3x) with IS, they have the lenses, it’s just a matter of the right software, the pro features and tuning it all to work together. Since they have the financial capabilities, it’s only a matter of time.

One of the important things you’ll find in the press release is the following:

Quick AF Live View System
Both the α380 and α330 cameras offer Sony’s Quick Autofocus (AF) Live View technology, so you can frame photos on the camera’s LCD screen as well as in the optical viewfinder.  Through the use of a dedicated image sensor, Quick AF Live View maintains the rapid response of a DSLR, while avoiding the focus delay common to other live view systems.

This is a huge deal. Our current live view AF system is a piece of shit, quite frankly. Practically useless. And it looks like Sony is the first to offer a fast AF system in live view on a DSLR, just like we feared would happen. I knew it was coming, but the fact that it’s now here is still a bit shocking to us. What we really are afraid of is this technology being introduced in the coming refresh of their professional line of DSLR cameras. Imagine the next A900 being able to focus as fast in live view with the ability to focus where ever you want on the screen with pinpoint accuracy. God, we’re so fucked.

The truth is, we knew this was coming. From the moment Sony acquired Konica/Minolta, we knew shit was going to happen for us. The only thing that surprised me was that it took them a little longer than I expected to start merging their technology with the DSLR technology they got from Konica/Minolta. What we’re seeing right now is just a fraction of their full potential. People mostly seem to think Nikon is our big competitor, but Sony is our real problem right now.


In other news, I’ve made two small changes to the blog. I’ve updated the tagline above from “Canon Camera Guru – Ya better recognize!” to “I’m sorry to hear that the truth insults you.” which I think fits better with my blog at the moment. As you may know, “I’m sorry to hear that the truth insults you.” is actually a quote from an email I sent to some lunatics a while ago who were bugging me about the lack of aperture control on the 5D Mark II in video mode. Here’s the email just in case:

>>Advertising full control over depth of field…<<

Neither the 5D Mark II white paper or any other piece of Canon literature did that. To assert otherwise is misleading, in my opinion.

I’m sorry to hear that the truth insults you.

Best Regards,

Chuck Westfall

You have to appreciate my ability to nag the guy while still appearing to be polite.

I’ve also added back the Canon stylized logo to the header image on my blog. I hope Doggy doesn’t bother me about it again.

Mmmm, coffee…

24 thoughts on “The Sony Problem

  1. Look at it on the bright side, Sony cameras will equal to soccer moms and rich bastards who thinks a dslr is a point and shoot, while less idiotic people will go with canon or nikon. Maybe you can market canon cameras as a “pro” choice and you pay a premium for the (lack of) quality?

  2. Noir, aren’t we doing that already?

    But what concerns me is that now soccer moms are going to be able to take more pictures that are in focus and properly framed with their small cameras compared to the pros at the same event with big, heavy and expensive gear.

    • Not unless you’re shooting Nikon. And you know what Chuck? I think the old saying “Canon does it first. Nikon does it right” will come true for the video and quick AF in live view features. Nikon will do it right.

      Except this time, not even Canon did it first.

      They weren’t first with video, nano coat, 3d AF tracking using metering module, 920k pixel LCD, on demand grid lines, artificial horizon, and I can probably think of more things to add.

      Canon HAS become a dinasore— A real pain. Riding on its old successes like IS. oh and Nikon is first to add articulating screen for SLR. What next? Perfecting In body IS?

      If Canon doesn’t change it will be a 2 class camera maker the likes of Pentax. Its wide angle lenses are a joke and their bodies are an even worse joke. Sony and Nikon will be at the top. Canon will be the loser.

      Now is the time for me to make more money so I can enjoy the best of Nikon and in the next couple of years Sony (cos they will make some decent pro cams).

      And Chuck, how feasible is a 35mm lens system without the mirror box? Something like the micro 4 thirds system? Quick live view AF. And Canon will have no excuse this time to say there’s no space to put in a larger AF module. Cos there wouldn’t be a physical AF module, at least not in its current design. And no mirror box to take up room. (He’s an Idiot for making that comment. An insult to our intelligence).

      Maybe you can answer this in your next tech-tips for next month? Canon needs some creative ideas now. Those morons in Japan are truly idiots. No point in having 21 MPs or 1 even Giga-pixels if they are all blur. I don’t care if I can capture and view space-time with infinite pixels with 1 mega-stops dynamic range like holding the highlighs for the Sun and still have detail in the black holes, if they are infinite pixels of blur.

      • Sorry to burst your bubble, but Olympus added in-body IS and an articulating screen first. Both have been available in the pro-level E-3 since November of 2007, and in-body IS has been available since mid-2007 in the E-510 (and continued on in the E-520, E-620, and E-30). The articulating screen was carried forward from the E-3 to the E-30 (January 2009) and the E-620 (March 2009). And no, Nikon did not do articulating screen “right”. Swiveling from the bottom edge (D-5000) is far less useful than the side (E-3, E-30, E-620).

  3. Calm down Fake Chuck, things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem.

    Yes Sony’s going to have genuinely useful Live View, backed up with positionable LCD screens that will make them attractive to the P&S brigade while being a useful tool for “real” photographers who want to get interesting shooting angles without having to fit angled finders or contort themselves horribly. But look at all the advantages that Canon still has…


    OK, I take it back, you are fucked.

  4. Fake Chuck,

    I spent $25,000 on Canon gear in recent years, and just last year $12,000 on a 1D3 and a 1Ds3. And yet, when I take pictures with my f/1.4 lenses wide open, I get inconsistent focus. 1 or 2 out of every 5 will be randomly out of focus. Your colleagues in tech support say that I should call back if more than half are bad.

    So it seems to me that your Nihonese colleagues need shaking up. Big time. Good, Sony. Thanks.


  5. Jeebus, Not Chuck, but I think the focus disease is spreading to infect innocent victims. My 2n is beginning to fail much more often now. l Yesterday I stumbled across a turkey vulture sitting with wings spread wide, either cooling off or warming up, I dunno which (I’m in Minnesota, hard to tell the seasons apart this time of year). Nice pose, back to me, looking over his shoulder, bright sun making his bald red head really stand out. I shot off about 30 frames out the door of my van, with my 500 and 1.4x on a beanbag. Most were terrible, with nothing in the frame anywhere near accurately focused. The rest were rated as close-enough-for-Canon. Did manage to get one keeper, if we define keeper as suitable for low rez web posting.

    Now, my 2n has never been a world beater, but 1 out of 30 is a new low. Is there a focus flu going around? Can I get my 2n vaccinated?

  6. Pingback: The Sony Problem - Fake Chuck Westfall | Photo News Today

    • I’m sorry to hear that the truth insults you, Michael.

      And thank you for your patronage and support of Canon products.

  7. Yep, Sony only needs to get more good glass out and job done (sorry Canon). A900 looks good enough as it is for everything except low light and sports.

    Did you also notice Pentax K7 released? Video with aperture control, full weathersealing… did I say aperture control?

  8. Chuck, don’t panic just yet! Isn’t this just the same Quick AF system that was in the a300 and a350? It’s simply a second phase-detect AF that’s used for live view, not a near-instant contrast focus like the Panasonic G1 or DSC-R1.

    Just look at the magnification of those tiny viewfinders! They make Olympus’ tunnel vision peep-holes look like a full frame 5D2 finder! It’s a good thing the live view is quick, because you’ll need it to actually be able to see anything!

  9. OK, so Canon is finally releasing the firmware update for the 5DII that prompted you to apologize for the truth insulting some poor Canon sap. What say you to that, Fake Chuck?

  10. Pingback: EOS 5D Mark II Manual Exposure Control in Video, and Stuff « Fake Chuck Westfall

  11. Dear Fake Chuck,
    I have been getting a sinking feeling in my gut for the last couple of years when i look at the offerings from Canon. I keep waiting for the camera that never comes. One like a digital Eos 3. Sigh!, wouldn’t that be nice. I’m so glad to have stumbled onto your site. It sums up how I feel when I look at my latest batch of soft shots. I’m sitting here now trying to think of a good excuse to tell my last client as to why his favorite sequence is not included in my submission. It would be helpful if you could list a few excuses for all your adoring fans that we can give clients.

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