The mystery camera, revealed

After seeing the slew of positive, curious, speculative, accurate* and sarcastic reactions to the review/preview of the mystery camera from last week, it’s time for the reveal.

*Congratulations: the clues were deliberate.

_RX103_DSC0257 copy

This is it. Not quite what some of you were expecting, I bet. Apologies for the somewhat misleading and confusing (but all true) statements – they were necessary to make the point(s) – and congratulations to everybody who figured it out. I’m very happy to see that there are plenty who saw the post for what it was: a lesson in making images, which has always been my priority and the priority of this site. If you walked away in disgust because you felt cheated that it wasn’t a 50-megapixel monster, then you’ve probably come to the wrong place.

I really only have three things to say; the rest is debunking.

Firstly: Manufacturers should take note: given the reactions and interest (up to 5,000 hits an hour at one point) this is how to arouse genuine interest.  Rumours worked in the past, but do you really want to treat your customers as though they’re desperate and gullible? You make a tool. Put it in the hands of somebody who can get the most out of it for a change. A good tool has emotional appeal because it produces desirable results, and emotion and results sell cameras. I was scraping the bottom of the barrel here – you could also substitute the camera name/model in this review with literally anything, in the right hands it can produce images at least as good as this.

Secondly: Not so good is the obsession and speculation over The Next Best Thing. Images? Not important. This is really not right; buying more gear will never really satisfy you as a photographer because something will always be missing: it’s in the operator-driven intangibles like composition,  not the hardware. Educate yourself and get even more out of whatever advancements might be forthcoming, and probably save a good amount of money, too. Manufacturers, educate your buyers: it’s much easier to sell something of higher value (and higher margin) to somebody who knows why they need it.

Thirdly, and most importantly: The camera makes not the slightest amount of difference whatsoever to the creative process. If anything, restrictions can help if you’re willing to be open-minded. It was probably one of the least pleasant things I’ve ever used, but it really was quite liberating in many ways. I highly recommend the experience for anybody who’s really serious about photography and not just camera-collecting.

The camera which was discussed and used to make all of the images in the review is of course a 2012 extra-economy-budget model, the Nikon Coolpix L25 with a 10MP 1/2.9″ CCD and a zoom that’s yes, 24-140/2.7-6.8(!).  You can check the EXIF data on Flickr. It has no manual controls, is all plastic, runs on two (included) AA batteries, and was the cheapest camera Nikon made at the time. I found it in a drawer and honestly can’t remember where it came from or why I have it. I certainly didn’t buy it, which means it must have been given to me. Nobody ever asked for it back, which means I’ve kept it (since I forgot about it until a recent clear out).

Everything I said in the review is true. It is not available easily because it is no longer made. The capabilities of the lens are matched to the capabilities of the sensor – both are very low. It has an amazing price-performance ratio, even with terrible performance, because the price is so low. I’ve bought lens caps and neck straps that are many times more expensive than the whole camera. It’s frankly a miracle that it produces an image at all, much less a pretty good one. There’s quite an impressive amount of engineering knowhow that had to go into this thing. Even though it probably sold new for more, if you think about it – to be able to make it for that price and still make money on it actually boggles the mind. On top of that, there’s been no changes to current models other than to dump in a slightly different sensor and reprint the name on the front. No wonder the industry is dying at this end of the market.

You can’t improve the files out of camera because there is so much processing going on to make the tiny photosites usable that output is never really sharp at anything approaching the pixel level; detail is destroyed by NR then false detail and artefacts are amplified by overzealous sharpening. There is no way to turn any of this off, and of course no RAW. Any sort of processing only magnifies the artefacts. Frankly, there could really be a tiny monkey with a box of only primary coloured crayons in place of a sensor and we wouldn’t be any the wiser. By ISO 800, the monkey thinks he has become Seurat. Oddly though, it doesn’t seem to matter – at least not if you choose the right display medium and your compositions are the first thing your audience sees. Regardless, some serious Photoshop magic* was required to get the files to this point tonally.

*Covered in Photoshop Workflow II.

But none of this matters too much because the lens is a case study in optical aberrations – lateral CA, longitudinal CA, edge softening, flare, purple fringing, distortion – you name it, it’s got it. The elements suffer from such poor alignment that their asymmetry creates symmetric blurriness at all corners/edges. The zoom toggle is so sensitive (or the electromechanics so bad) I can’t seem to get it to stop at more than four different positions – wide, somewhere around 50, somewhere around 100 and full tele. I suppose it has a step zoom by default, which is just fine for me. The good thing is that the sensor has so much noise of its own and the imaging engine so little sophistication that all of this signal mess is interpreted as noise and simply smeared away, then over sharpened.  The optics really do resolve 300+lp/mm in the centre, but only because the sensor is just 4.96mm wide. I also meant every single word about it being a discriminating device: it has a very small usable shooting envelope in which it returns acceptable images, some postprocessing is required (but not as much as you might think) and you really need to know what you’re doing with this thing. It is, in that sense, the ultimate professional’s camera. MT

Because it’s so old, the Nikon Coolpix L25 is no longer available from B&H. However, one of my readers found the L25 on eBay for $29, and I’m sure there are a few in the back of more than one drawer. If you’re masochistic, the much newer L29 model with even more pixels and cat smile scene modes is only 60% of the price of the older model at $70 on Amazon. The even newer L30 is just $20 more, which has 20MP and by pixel math must be twice as good. If you are exceptionally masochistic, there is also the Nikon S02, which has 7.3GB of onboard storage but no buttons for about $70. And by the way, please use my referral links – not for the fifty cents I’d get on each one sold, but to give industry analysts something to ponder…

If you found this review useful or entertaining and happen to be feeling generous, there’s a donation link in the sidebar. I did, after all, just save you a large amount of money since you no longer need that 200MP Massivlux, and I can guarantee that no manufacturer was involved in this at all.

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Comments

  1. “A good tool has emotional appeal because it produces desirable results, and emotion and results sell cameras.”

    Funny you mention this Ming, I found it interesting that Apple has taken a similar approach with their latest iPhone camera campaign. No specs, no photos of the camera. Just photos that people have taken with the camera showing what people have done with the iPhone 6. If what you say is true then these ads will be very effective.

  2. Peter Boender says:

    I’m so glad you turned this whole preoccupation with gear around and back onto image making. That’s what we are all here for! Many kudos!

  3. Well, I was one of the ones misled… it’s a shame because I honestly thought we were in a for an innovative new product, but I’m happy to see you prove you really don’t need the latest and greatest to take good photos. This just show to me that the camera industry needs to innovate in other ways, rather than thinking purely about resolution and fps.

  4. The S02 is actually a nice camera. My wife wears one around the neck as jewelry when we are travelling. It is like a phone camera but with a real zoom and at 1/4 the size. It even comes with a steel chain.

  5. LOL a lesson learn’t! One thing I notice when I moved “up ” from my Nikon p7100 to aps-c was how much more pleasing I found the colours (at base iso) from the nikon sensor. After going back over some of my old files, I think its time to dust off the old beast!

  6. Liberating indeed……it’s known as reform :))) ……..I like your style Ming. I imagine they think” sell you Lloyd” is an estate agent.

  7. Ming, you have forgotten one truism which relates to nearly every thing
    If you have ever seen a farmer taking delivery of his new $300,000 combine harvestor (Which is only a truly economic decision if he is prepared to spend 3 months away contracting as well as using it on his own farm) you would understand.
    “The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys”
    Been there, done that, gulity!
    Tim

  8. Some people thought it was a Leica! 😛

  9. Jorge Balarin says:

    : )

  10. What a great wheeze !! just proves everything about the obsession with digital cameras. This is possibly the best blog post ever.
    I’ve just come from the “Steve Huff” site, he of the “otherlife phenomena” where there are gross acts of pixel voyeurism, tantamount to an arrestable offence. …”Mr. Smith, you were seen, peeping with great enthusiasm, far be it for me to cast aspersions on your hobby, but frankly Mr smith, I have to send you down, your peeping has gotten habitual and I see no possible therapy that would deter you from this beastly exercise” ………” I sentence you to…… FIVE YEARS OF CELLULOID PHOTOGRAPHY !!!!! ” take him away !!!!

  11. Fun article and good points, but you did touch on an issue that I have recently experienced as I went looking for a small waterproof camera for an upcoming trip involving time at the beach and in the water. Short of buying a dedicated (and often times large) housing, the manufacturers offer up little in this market, save the Nikon 1AW which has a bit of a reputation problem for leaking, other than a bunch of P/S camera with 1/2.3″ sensors, usually with 16MP. These cameras do not allow you to shoot raw, and they have almost no control over things like noise reduction or sharpening. I was greatly disappointed when the one I ordered arrived and I tested it out. This description of yours seems to describe my experience, sans the Photoshop magic, as well as I could:

    “You can’t improve the files out of camera because there is so much processing going on to make the tiny photosites usable that output is never really sharp at anything approaching the pixel level; detail is destroyed by NR then false detail and artefacts are amplified by overzealous sharpening. There is no way to turn any of this off, and of course no RAW. Any sort of processing only magnifies the artefacts. Frankly, there could really be a tiny monkey with a box of only primary coloured crayons in place of a sensor and we wouldn’t be any the wiser. By ISO 800, the monkey thinks he has become Seurat. Oddly though, it doesn’t seem to matter – at least not if you choose the right display medium and your compositions are the first thing your audience sees. Regardless, some serious Photoshop magic* was required to get the files to this point tonally.”

    I realized that the output from these cameras was basically limited to the web and prints up to 5×7, with an occasional 8×10, depending on the subject matter. I realize that designing and manufacturing a good waterproof camera requires a bit of extra thought, but I cannot understand why no manufacturer can come up with a fixed lens (zoom or prime) 1″ sensor camera that outputs raw files. I would happily pay $500USD if I could get good image quality, as the best of the current crop are running around $250-350USD. I suspect that there would be some market for such a camera, if the IQ and build quality were decent.

    –Ken

    • Ken,

      For beach use, and use in rain. The SONY TX30 (and likely newer) does a fair job. You can see this in Ming’s Compact Camera Masterclass.

      For underwater use the Olympus TG3 is tops for a P&S underwater. It does not do so well above water. A considerable step up form that is the SONY RX100 mk1 in a waterproof housing.

      The issue you have is that lighting is a key component and even though the above two solutions work well under water they still need a lighting solution to get best color, etc…

      • Hi Eric,

        Thank you for the reply. You have hit on a few issues that I was warned about from many divers, and that is light. Unfortunately, I will no be able to scuba dive, so surface snorkeling is probably what I am looking at. Or lots of “fish butts” as I was warned. Nonetheless, I wanted some camera in case I do see something worthy of photographing in the water, as I would like to have some “snapshots” (albeit I was desiring higher quality than what this class of camera offers) available so I could make prints or a book as a keepsake gift for my wife. I settled on the TG-3, as I am just not going to have the room, or budget ($1260USD for the package at B&H), for a camera with a housing, especially since it may be some time before we are back vacationing on a tropical beach.

        I was considering confining my photography to land and not bring something like the TG-3, as the odds of that one in a million water shot are probably one in a million. 😉 But, the TG-3 does allow me to use a camera when it is clearly not wise to use the rest of the gear that I am bringing, and I suspect that I will probably eat the cost of it unless I can sell it locally afterwards to recoup some funds. The rest of my gear, which will probably be carried with me throughout the day, will probably be carried in a Watershed bag rather than my normal Domke bag, as they seem to have quite an amazing reputation for protection of equipment in and around water.

        But to circle a bit back to Ming’s post, the photographer does matter more than the equipment, but here is a good case of where the equipment is quite limiting not in the composition, but in the output. A bit of post processing is almost always expected, but the need for “Photoshop Magic” to salvage a file seems to be a bit beyond what one should expect in this day and age. I sometimes wonder what the IQ would look like from these sensors if we kept all of the technology that they are implementing, but reduced the resolution to 3-5MP. I would be much happier with quality pixels over quantity of pixels, assuming the same price point.

        –Ken

        • You will be happy with the TG-3. Requires a read of the manual unfortunately… It has a mode where it shoots on f8. I am not sure which works best underwater but you probably want to get that lined out before hand… For the waterproof bag a desiccant pack can be helpful.

          • Thanks. I am starting to get more comfortable with the T-3 now that I have an idea of what to expect. I will say that it feels like the most solid of the waterproof P/S cameras that I saw.

            –Ken

      • Actually, the TX30 is even worse than the L25 in image quality. It’s sole redeeming factor is size and waterproofing. 😛

    • Well, there’s the RX100 series – all the way from $300 to $800 depending on your budget. 1″ and raw…

      • The RX100 is a great camera, and the 1″ sensor would be a big improvement, but it needs a waterproof housing, and that is both bulky and expensive. If I was doing some serious diving, I could see spending the money, but we are mostly going to be along the shoreline and snorkeling on the surface, so it just does not make sense for me. I am already having to shed some gear that I was considering bringing, so a large housing is out of the question. Having read a large number of posts over the past few months of my search, I know that I am not the only one seeking a camera like I described above. I would be willing to make a number of trade-offs, like a fixed focal length or slightly slower lens as waterproofing a camera does require some design compromises. so, for this trip, the TG-3 it is.

        –Ken

        • There are a number of other waterproof compacts – I think Panasonic and Nikon actually make a couple aside from the AW1.

          • Yes, I did have a look at them, but I was not able to shoot with all of them. By most accounts, the TG-3 is considered the cream of the crop, as all seem to use a 16MP 1/2.3″ sensor. And the files from the TG-3 seemed overly processed between the noise reduction and sharpening. The term I used was smeared, as there was almost no detail in the files when examined at 100%. But, as I said, you can eek out a reasonable 5×7, so all is not completely lost.

            –Ken

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          There was the Fuji Finepix F30-31 series.
          6 Mp , 1/1.7″ , 36-108mm equiv , F2.8-5.0

          Only jpg, but an underwater setting available.
          A rather neat plastic underwater housing.
          Very good (for its time) high ISO performance.
          If you can find a used one…
          Mine got its screen broken.

          • I had the very first generation F10 – for the first time, a compact was usable above base ISO…

          • Appreciate the suggestion. But, my return period has expired, and the TG-3 is now mine, for better or for worse. I just wish that is was a bit less expensive, especially since it offers no raw output. But, there is usually one or two items for a trip that are exepnsive relative to their value, so this may be one of them.

            –Ken

  12. For me CCD was just to much, I immediately was convinced it was an old camera just because of this.

  13. Hi Ming, great article. I read an article a very long time ago by Thom Hogan regarding up dating your camera. He basically said learn to use the camera you have to it’s full extent. When you have then and only then if the camera is holding you back from advancing your photographic skills should you think about getting a better camera. An article I’ve never forgotten and one I stick by. There is one site I peruse sometimes which never ceases to amaze me. Every time the the host reviews a camera and proclaims it to be the next best thing his readers immediately pre-order [which is income for him] even though the cameras they have may only be 12 months old. Maybe it’s an age thing I’m now retired and I grew up in the film era so I guess I see things differently to the younger [technology driven] generation. Always enjoy your thoughts Ming, keep them coming.

  14. Kristian Wannebo says:

    The Mystery solved
    made the original essay
    even better!

  15. Chuck Colht says:

    Loving both cameras and cars, I learned long ago that it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. Limits always improve art.

    • Agreed. That really struck me when I was testing a bare-bones Lotus Elise CR – here I was having the time of my life…and then a Toyota Corolla overtakes me seemingly standing still. I glance down at the speedo to find I’m doing 80km/h…my dad’s Mercedes, on the other hand, feels boring at double that.

    • Tim Auger says:

      Very well put. The 1932 Austin Seven I had at the age of 17 taught me more about controlling a car than anything I have driven in the ensuing 50 years. Similarly a series of pretty dire P&S digital cameras I had from 2002 onwards gave me not only frustration, but technical/PP knowledge that is invaluable even when using a camera bought in 2014/15.

  16. I suppose that Nikon stock prices just went up. Perhaps demand for the new coolpix’s. Maybe another price drop on the Coolpix A. Now on to your review of the new Ricoh GR with the 35mm (FF) fixed lens. Something 3-4% better than the mystery cameral; okay 10-15% better, but new. Something “gotta have.”

  17. Thomas Chua says:

    Thanks Ming, insightful, and creative. Enjoyed this one 🙂

  18. Bryan Gonzalvo says:

    A very well crafted, clever way to make your point! I appreciate it. But just like I could buy a used Honda Civic that gets us from Point A to B, it’s just so much more fun to get where you’re going in a 300hp BMW. As such, people including myself will continue to buy new gear. It’s not always about getting the better image, but it’s sometimes about doing what you enjoy and using new tools to do it.

  19. It was pretty obviously some p&s, although it took the comment flow a little while to get there.

    300lp/mm isn’t right, though. The actual pixel pitch on this thing is something like 1.3-1.5 microns. After Bayer demosaicing the best you’re going to see in terms of resolution is about 230-270 lp/mm, and your remarks above make it clear that you’re seeing nothing like the underlying sensor resolution in the final results anyways, so, well, less than that.

    It’s a nitpick, but you seem to be fond of getting technical details right.

  20. Martin Fritter says:

    Thanks. I too was hoping for a manual digital camera. Have you written on lighting, both available, strobe and continuous? Your ability to _see_ light/shadow is outstanding. A poorly illuminated scene will look bad regardless of the hardware and medium. Also, do you use hand-held metering and, if so, in what contexts? Btw: thanks for your review of Fuji Acros. More film reviews/discussions would be great! Sorry for being off-topic, but I can’t find a way to straight-up email you.

    • Thank you. Yes, there’s a whole series on lighting here.

      Almost never a separate meter except for incident situations where I have to be critically precise, or I want to confirm my eyeball meter for the Hassy (which has no meter of its own).

  21. Yes, but now we’ll all run to the keyboard to buy Workflow II. If it can turn L25 images into gold, imagine what it could do for my D7100 gallery of my cat!

    Seriously, I’ve noticed the same thing with my wife’s pictures. They’re taken with an sx230, but they’re often more interesting than my “real camera” pictures. And I tell her so. She knows she has a good eye, and takes pictures when there’s reason to, not to self I consciously photo document our destinations. All she wants is another P&S with a decent EVF so that she can compose better in bright sunlight. A sensible buyer, she is, and a TZ70 is likely what she’ll get and get good results from. Maybe we should buy two.

    • Well, any PP is going to be limited by input. Garbage, garbage out. You can’t fix broken composition.

      It could well be because ‘unserious’ cameras encourage experimentation in a way that ‘serious’ ones do not? Perhaps it’s the expectation that you’re going to make gold with a MF digital back but if an iPhone or compact shot comes out rubbish, well, it’s somewhat expected…

      • I was just turning GAS into WAS (Workflow Acquisition Syndrome).

        I concur that “unserious” cameras are rather liberating. If you’re using a camera that says to you, “I have all these controls and expect you to expertly use them to take a photo”, you’ve raised the ante for not only the subject matter but what you’ll accept as output. If you don’t, you can stop obsessing and let the scene speak to you. A logical filter that’s placed between you and the subject is wiped away by the more automatic camera and permits you to see the scene better. If you’ve reached a skill level where muscle memory sets all the controls for you, that filter is less obvious. But it’s still there.

        Didn’t you say once that you don’t mind giving over most of the work to George (camera automatics) if George doesn’t get in your way? Same thing here. One has to stop overthinking and work in the moment. If you don’t have the time to learn all of the controls, learn composition and lighting and get a simpler automatic that lets you breathe.

        This is what frys me about Series 1. It should have started out as a fixed-lens compact (and apparently will finally this year, though as a Coolpix), but it got so much technology right in the service of liberating the photographer – AF right at the top of the list. Too bad Nikon didn’t see what it had until just recently.

        • Absolutely. Workflow drives consistency and underpins style. And can make a surprisingly large difference to the output.

          Yes; I don’t mind letting the camera drive so long as it makes intelligent choices. I don’t really need to know what ISO I’m using other than optimal quality, or what the threshold for acceptable quality is. I don’t need to know which of 1,500 focus points I’m using so long as it’s the right one. It’s this UI simplification that the iPhone really gets quite right, and pretty much every other camera misses. I’ve set up my GR and sometimes my D810 to be that way too, and yes, being able to focus on the scenery and not the driving is very liberating indeed.

          The Nikon 1s do some things – like AF – really well indeed, better than just about anything else – then fall flat on their faces by either getting the automation wrong or not giving us enough control. Too bad, because the sensors are just about adequate too, and making small fast primes to cover 1″ should be easy – look at the C-mount lenses of old. Another case of marketing doesn’t speak to engineering and neither one talks to the end user or actually attempts to make pictures with it.

  22. well, you prove it time and again, kudos sifu.
    its not what you have but what you do with what you have that matters most.
    but on the flip side of the coin, this is bad for hardware business 😉
    ken

    • 🙂

      The hardware business can only survive through innovation. Unfortunately, that stopped a couple of years ago. I don’t think the camera companies can exactly blame people for not buying if they’re not offering anything new…

      • sifu, could it be (i) we are reaching the envelope of physical and technological limitations which is hindering further innovation at present and (ii) the need to coexist/compatibility with existing hardware ecosytems?

        • No. Laziness, ignorance and greed are in the way. Since when did any of the manufacturers actually involve photographers – i.e. their end customers – in the development process? It happens for every other serious professional tool. Instead we are simply told what we must want.

          • hi sifu,
            i thought manufacturers do consult their ‘ambassador’ photographers on requirements and issue prototypes or pre-production models to them to trial? (or is that marketing b/s? but as you do not wish to be aligned to any particular one of them, they cannot approach you in this regard. yes?

            • Some do, most don’t. There’s quite a defined line between just selling a product and actively being involved in development; having been on both sides, I can say responsibilities are very different. And you could be involved in development of something without having to publicly acknowledge or sell it (they’d cover you in NDAs anyway).

  23. Hooray…just glad you didn’t keep us guessing to long…
    I always wanted a camera with a tiny monkey inside it. i better check my Sony Rx100m3…there might be several in there!
    Thanks for the lesson Ming!!

  24. From the mystery post:
    “At least raw files are full fat and losslessly compressed – though not much use at the moment because there’s no software to open them.”
    Is that really true? Are there really raw files available if some software should be made to read them? That was what kept me from guessing something in the vicinity of this Nikon. Only more high end-ish p&s cameras usually have raw capabilities. And looking this one up on Nikons web-site, raw is not mentioned.
    Cheers,
    Arne

  25. Aw, I was looking forward to seeing a digital camera that was purposely built to be used manually, not the camera equivalent of a Catherine Wheel.

    • Sadly, it doesn’t exist. The closest thing you’re going to get is a CFV back for a Hasselblad V series. And even that only qualifies because of the underlying camera.

  26. Excellent. The images you got out of this camera were really nice.

    • Thanks!

      • Ming the Merciful, this was awesome. Thanks. Made my day. I think it’s time to come out of the lurking shadows and contribute.

        In another life, I was an animator and storyboard artist. The equivalent to your story, for us, was using a better pencil. Practically, it makes no sense. We would try a few different, and settle on what felt good. For some, that was the Blackwing 602. What a beautiful pencil that was. It didn’t do a damn thing to help my drawing, but it did feel good in the hands. A few others loved the line quality as well. But, in the end it was just a tool…

        • 🙂 thanks! It’s noteworthy we don’t hear architects or builders or others talk about how better pencils and keyboards make for better buildings either…time for photographers to notice!

  27. As I wrote you on that post, this was a good stab to those electing a camera of the year, screaming in awe, also because some Companies “invite” them to do so. (The FACT that many of those reviewers can’t show a single beautiful picture is just a sad add on).

    Well done Ming!

  28. Congratulations Ming.

    You have proved your point and taken the discussions about the gear back to the image.

    I think you actually have taught a lesson to all us readers who’s hit by GAS and at the same time sent a strong signal to the manufacturers, that the photographer matters over their products.
    I find it totally legitimate to be hit by gas so long it can lead to a better bond between photographer and the camera = less possible camera distraction to reach your photographic goals.

    It is no lie I love my Fuji X100 as much as I love my D810. No that’s wrong, I love my X100 over my D810 as long as we talk about the pleasure using a camera. X100 files do not print as nice as D810 files and that’s the only reason why I do have the trouble lugging around with the big DSLR and the heavy lenses that often goes with it.

    But I want to punch through my point here. Spend your hard earned money on education before you throw the gold after the newest Canikonfujisonyolympus Pentax. And to all the industry I would love to see you making the point that the photographic effort matters. It is about the image and not about all your spectacular breaking news each and every month. You are not doing your customers any favors continuing the way you have done so far.

    • Well, so long as people buy, the camera companies do not care. But ultimately they are embarrassing themselves and the entire photographic industry by engaging people who cannot shoot and simply throw their integrity out the window to shill the next best thing. Doesn’t reflect well at all…

      • Jose Viegas says:

        But maybe because they are selling so much more cameras to us people that can not shoot, the prices in general are lower and we can afford buying better cameras today than if they were exclusive for the real photographers.
        Great article Ming, above all you proved again to be a great photographer!

        • They aren’t though, that’s the issue – they’re offering more cameras, but sales overall are declining. So in effect, R&D costs go up but revenues do not. I’m all for selling whatever you can to whoever you can so you can make the halo products – but we’re not seeing those, either. I’m sure there’s going to be a very big change in the industry soon.

  29. The conclusion of this story is, the photographer is still more important, as his tools!

    • As has always been the case. The second conclusion is that the camera companies should really stop engaging people who cannot shoot for their samples and ‘viral web marketing’. It’s an embarrassment to photography.

  30. I half expected something like this although given your standing and contacts wasn’t certain, you have highlighted what I have thought for a very long time Ming.

    As you rightly say it is a very liberating feeling maximising the potential of something so poor to start with but get the image in its zone and with a good eye (most important) you can produce something worthy of a wall albeit at modest proportions. I love to knock the naysayers whe they dismiss small compact cameras and show them images I have taken with lx5/7 grd 2/3 or even more basic pinhole film camera 😃.

    On my last talk at a camera club I remember quoting the story of the monkey shooting his own portrait admittedly after the photographer placing his all singing dancing dogs doodies canon in the right place. The funniest part of which was lawyers saying the monkey owned the copyright…priceless

    • Well…I doubt I’m very much in vogue these days given companies are only looking for people to hawk their wares (and abandon integrity at the door). That said, the point remains: it’s the photographer, not the hardware. Good hardware helps and can be liberating but only so far as the operator is capable. A scalpel can work wonders in the hands of a talented surgeon, but most people will just cut themselves without knowing it.

  31. Dustin Gilbert says:

    So. What’s the next best Ming? …..

    Wonderful. You turned so many heads. Fooled me at first.

    I’d really love to see a Ming thein designed camera. Get you and an engineer in a room. And make a real photographer tool. (As if a camera isn’t. But you know what I mean) I think sales would be huge.

  32. I used to have a mystery camera that was very similar to this one. I dropped it one night in a mystery toilet in Edinburgh during a night of raucous partying.

  33. Mine arrived on Saturday. 🙂 Purchased it on ebay for $35 dollars shipped. It was in mint condition. It is a lot of fun to shoot with. The SD card I am using costs more than the camera… 🙂

  34. Ohmaigawd, jizz in mah pants, gotta have this! Will make my photos $29 times better! =P

  35. Hey, I was kind of close in my original guess – I immediately googled “24-120 f2.7” and got a Nikon point and shoot. Just not this one!

    At the best these two posts make an important point, and if nothing else they provide an entertaining read and a sort of custard pie in the face of the pixel peepers who populate certain other sites…

    If you (and your readers) managed to make these two posts go super-viral, I’d love to think that it could shake up the industry a bit, but that’s making unrealistically optimistic assumptions about the thought processes (or lack of) of the average camera buyer / camera company.

    I’ve actually been planning on doing something like this myself – take out my DP Merrill 3 and my wife’s Nikon point and shoot (Coolpix S230 with 10mp and a 3x zoom, f3.1-5.9) for a day and see what I get. The sneaking suspicion that (assuming I use them both properly) it would be hard to tell the difference on a screen is half liberating and half depressing. Go in at a hundred per cent, of course, and that’s an entirely different matter, but…

    • Close indeed – some people actually nailed it.

      In any case, I doubt things are going to change – people like their gear, manufacturers like to take the easy route. Ah well.

      The DP3 will probably yield some very nice images. The S230 might yield some compositionally nice images, but don’t do anything other than screen viewing 🙂

  36. I have hounded the intertubes for a decade, why have I never found your site prior to the interview with Lloyd Chambers? Dude, you rock. Everything I have read of yours in the couple months since then have been highly informative, and this exercise is just more of the same
    I really like your photography and I’ll be a determined reader of yours going forward.

  37. Michael Hobart says:

    Once again you demonstrate that it is not the hardware in front of the eye, but rather the eye and the mind behind it that matters when it comes to photography 🙂

  38. Love it Ming! It’s like a riddle.

  39. I definitely agree with you that limitations are liberating. I enjoy the challenge (though maybe not the results always) :-0

    • Kristian Wannebo says:

      So do I!

      – – –

      “.. restrictions can help if you’re willing to be open-minded.”
      Bingo!

      I think every (real) artist knows that, or, if not, learns it the hard way.

      Stravinsky expresses this very well in a small book.
      He says (approx.), that the stricter the rules are that he sets himself to compose within, the more freedom he has creating.

      ( I’ve mentioned this before, “Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons.”)

  40. gordon frederick says:

    nice one ming . well done.

Trackbacks

  1. […] a new location, a new subject, a new piece of equipment – or more likely, a new restriction. Restrictions force us to get creative to work around them, and hopefully find something new to add to the visual […]

  2. […] week Ming revealed that the camera was actually a 2012 Nikon Coolpix L25 that he had forgotten he owned or where it […]

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