|June 19, 2005|
The "Compact Disc Effect" and the Konica-Minolta Maxxum 7D
Accordingly, I've priced the new book a lot lower. In fact, for a few days at least, it's priced lower than its planned selling price. Although I don't much care for the jargon of salesmanship, call it a "special introductory price." For now, it's $12.99. It will go up to $17.99 sooner or later, maybe by the end of the week, maybe by the end of June. Lenses and the Light-Tight Box is workbook-sized, double-columned, and has a fairly decent number of illustrations. I didn't actually count, but I'd guess between 30 and 40. There are 21 articles. I'm not handling fulfillment, either. You deal entirely with the site that does the POD. (I've learned my lesson. And don't worry, I am working on fulfilling those Empirical)
Why the low price? Just because I'm kind of wondering whether people will want it. It's a collection of previously published articles, mostly from magaznes, mostly from 1987 to 2002. For people who are purely digital photographers, the new book will be almost, well, historical – although of course I hope, amidst 60,000 words penned by me, readers can find at least a few nuggets of (photographic) wisdom, and/or a laugh or three. There are a few articles which actually are historical, of course. "The EOS Revolution," for example, tells the story of Canon's momentous and fateful decision to switch lensmounts, a perilous move that, as we know now, eventually enabled Canon to challenge Nikon for the #1 spot. It was written based on a lot of research and was actually reprinted and distributed by Canon itself for a few years in the early '90s. Might be worth having.
Oh, and I've also added 17 more lenses to the free "Lens Bokeh Ratings" download at the book site, too, bringing the total number of lenses rated to 52. It's version 2.
Whole Lotta Shakin' Going' On
Recently I've been salivating over, and pining for, a Konica-Minolta Maxxum 7D. If you think about it, it's just the kind of camera that would appeal to me. Despite bristling with knobs and buttons, it's actually pretty straightforward, because it attempts to put as many controls as possible behind single unambiguous analog interfaces. And it's ergonomic and quick and has a very large, very clear, almost 35mm-like viewfinder – and if you've been reading these columns for a while, you know how I can go on and on about that. Plus, it has one very big advantage: Anti-Shake for any focal-length lens.
I like lenses that see like I do. All my life I've used lenses between 28mm and 100mm on my 35mm cameras, with 90% falling between 35mm and 90mm. Now, I'm certainly aware of, and appreciative of, the fact that wildlife, sports, and fashion photographers use lenses longer that that – sometimes a lot longer – and that Anti-Shake (or Image Stabilization [Canon] or Vibration Reduction [Nikon]) really comes into its own with long lenses. But it's also very useful for low-light work. And I do a lot of that. Even though Canon has very thoughtfully made one zoom lens (the 17-85mm EF-S) that dips into the range of true wide-angle on the APS-C sensor, most of the lenses I'd use are just never going to be graced with Anti-Shake. Except by the 7D, which blesses thusly every lens you stick on it. Mighty, mighty tempting, is all I can say.
But those prices....
The "CD Effect"
The 7D body is going for as low as $1,050 in the U.S. right now, thanks to a rebate, and I have no doubt that it's well worth that price. Konica-Minolta surely has dumped a pile of yen into R&D, and the camera is built like a Lexus. However, my skinflinty resistance to paying that freight, coupled with a recent comment I read, calling the new Nikon D50 an "ultra-budget" camera, made me stop and think. "Ultra-budget"? Hmm. At $900 to start and a projected $750 street price?
What I'm wondering is whether something might happen with cameras that's similar to what happened with recordings in the 1980s. If you're old enough to remember, you'll recall that vinyl records, which were fairly fussy to make and very fussy to make well, cost between $3 and $8 in the 1960s and '70s. Even the priciest Deutsche Grammophon classical platters, with those big, unionized orchestras to pay, rarely broke the $10 mark in retail stores. Then came the Phillips/Sony Redbook-standard Compact Disc. An exciting technology when it was new, the CD did away with a number of headaches. You didn't have to return every third one to the store. They had no surface noise, and even more importantly, they acquired no surface noise: playing them repeatedly never made them wear out. To average consumers who had lived for years with defective purchases and pops and clicks and ticks and favorite records that might literally have required replacing, they were a revelation.
In the very beginning, CDs were extremely expensive. Only two factories – one of Phillips' and one of Sony's – could make them, and in the beginning it was a delicate manufacturing process. We saw photographs of gowned, capped, and masked technicians in clean rooms. Early prices were on the order of $30 per disc.
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