The Nightmare Before Christmas - Minolta as "The Invisible Man"

Discussion in 'Minolta' started by Lewis Lang, Nov 2, 2003.

  1. Lewis Lang

    Lewis Lang Guest

    "Once Upon A time in The Twilight Zone..."

    I was (virtually, no I was not a hologram, though I was in-line for so long I
    could have sworn I felt the wind pass right through me, but it was only some
    beans I'd eaten the day before ;-)) first in line this year to get in on Friday
    and stood staring at a skeleton display on a park bench with some pumpkins just
    outside the "gates" (actually, entrance with security guards) of the PHOTOPLUS
    EXPO show at the Javitz center in NYC. I thought to myself, "Gee, I thought I
    had it bad waiting and waiting and waiting to get in, that skeleton probably
    hasn't eaten since lunch of what year, he must have been waiting on line when
    he died from waiting/boredom and they decided to use him as a Halloween prop."
    At first I thought the skeleton was just another starving photographer, but
    since I saw no camera gear near him, and the place was well guarded, maybe the
    he was a she... perhaps it was a super model who forget to bring her breakfast
    of one Ritz cracker and an eye dropper of water to wash it down ;-). Anyway, I
    know I've seen that face before, I just can't place where...

    Back in real time...

    When they finally let us in... I went scrambling around, walking and searching
    with my eyes and feet for that certain camera brand which begins with and M and
    ends witi an A (and, no, it wasn't Mamiya). I even asked/bumped into somebody
    who was also looking for their botth but was as curious and clueless as I was
    about where it would be. Checking my jacket for the list of booths (amongst the
    tons of other paper/garbage photography notices about this show I had stuffed
    into my jacket) I finally checked the M section of the booth list but there
    was, as my fears confirmed, yet again (or should I say "yet not again")...

    "Only from the Mind of..." Who???

    I was at the Javitz show this year, again, and guess who was a no show?

    Perhaps they'll be at PMA with their "Zeuss" (or whatever their 6MP DSLR is
    called, but I would have been happy just to see a Minolta booth with film gear.
    Maybe I should have checked for an invisible Konica booth ;-)? - unless Konica
    was merged or bought out by another invisible partner, perhaps CamerasRus? ;-)


    Do they still make film?... ;-) You betchya!!! Even Kodak, who seems to want to
    distance themselves from their film legacy industry gave out free rolls of
    35mm/120 film, fuji gave out nothing.


    Pictures from the Canon 1Ds (11MP) printed 20x30"? or thereabouts of various
    studio fashion models, printed on Canon's W8200 printer, were outstanding in
    sharpness (I talked to the photographer, whose name I forget, he told me he
    used the 28-70/2.8 L). I played with the 1Ds last year w/ some nice L lenses
    and the Digital Rebel was not my speed despite its low price (I hate chrome
    cameras and I was not interested in Canon's digital gear this year - had they
    had a 12 MP camera for $800 I would have shot like a rocket andstayed there
    playing w/ it/lenses, but as it were I was satisfied w/ just picking up a
    Digital Rebel brochure and notplaying w/ any of the Canon film or digital gear
    as I had made apoint to do in previous years. There simply wasn't enough time
    to cover everything much less in any decent depth and I didn't feel that the
    Digital Rebel was ground breaking enough because of its main feature/selling
    point, low price alone, to stick around and play with a camera that has many if
    not most of the same features as the 10D (and D60). So, judgement call, here,
    Sorry, Canonites (or whatever you call yourselves ;-))

    This year Canon had Douglas Kirkland (famous for photographing Maryland Monroe
    amongst other noted celebrities living and dead) giving a lecture/demonstration
    but I couldn't make this because I was at nearby...


    .... where photographer Jay Maisel was giving an interview about his use of
    Nikon digital equipment (he shoots w/ a D1x) and discussing his photography and
    images from more of an aesthetic/business side than a technical one. He had two
    really excellent 16x24" Epson prints on display, one pix of the leaning tower
    of Piza that included an organist/accordianist tilting in the oppositte
    direction ot the tower (can you say "serendipity" ;-) - even he claims such
    things are mainly luck but, possibly, if I remember correctly that the more you
    shoot/look/etc. the luckier you get) and another backlit aerial shot of some
    trees with God beams backlit through them, an aerial shot he took in Maine. I
    was in line for a poster signing of his (different image than the twp he had up
    on easels for display/the interview) so I had to strain to hear Douglas
    Kirkland at the Canon booth not too nearby say anything at all - al I can
    remeber is that he was a young man enjoying himself in photography and got a
    freelance? "job" at Look magazine as a young man (24?).

    At Nikon I got to play with the D2H shortly and their 10mm fisheye shortly (no
    pun there) as well as the FM3a which has a brilliantly bright/clear viewfinder
    but a one stroke wind lever. I find I prefer the F3's wind lever that's capable
    of quick shorter strokes because I am able to advance to the next frame
    faster/more assuredly and less likely to miss the next shot because of an
    incomplete wind. I believe I mentioned the FM4a but I don't remeber the
    response which might have been friendly but lukewarm, but we'll see if such a
    camera ever comes out.


    Pentax's booth was outstanding in design and they had a 16x24"? headshot of an
    Asian female model and a 30x40"? still life of a fork and a pepper blow ups
    from the *istD SLR that were at he very least, excellent. Got to play with the
    *istD camera and its beautiful. Small, well built and very fluid to use - its
    like an MZ-S digital. Also tried the *ist film camera but was unimpressed w/
    its low light AF, I couldn't get the sensor to lock in no matter what and it
    was anything but spontaneous as far as AF w/ shutter lag. The *ist D gave me
    virtually no problems in comparison w/ the low light AF. And the images I got
    from it were very clear, w/ natural color and nearly grainlesss (ie. noiseless)
    at 4x6" Epson print on Photo Quality Glossy paper off of the new Epson 9200? I
    forget the model number even at _I.S.O. 1600!!!! At I.S.O. 3200 their is noise
    but its not obtrusive by any means and its much better than film which tends to
    be over contrasty at such an I.S.O. The 31mm/1.8 Ltd. I tried out has to be the
    sharpest lens I've ever seen (including probably Zeiss/Leica - though I didn't
    do a "side by side"), superb clarity to the point of 3-D but not so much a 3D
    effect because of contrast as in Zeiss lenses but in clarity (like Leica
    lenses) but even more so/clear. Simply superb.

    Meanwhile back at the Leica booth...

    Played with an M7 w/ .58x "high eyeppoint" viewfinder which is nice except for
    the fact that I prefer a 24mm lens and the internal viewfinder only goes out to
    28mm. I liked the glowing"floating" red shutter speed numerals that change at
    the bottom of the field of view in aperture priority. What I did not like about
    the camera is that I felt its shutter button had far too much travel in
    automatic (don't remember response in manual mode) and so... I much preferred
    the MP, both because of its instantaneous shutter button travel and its
    size/weight and feel which is probably the best of any camera that I've ever
    held that's lacked a built-in hand grip.

    I was very inpressed by the Leica R9, though large, fits the hand perfectly and
    feels much lighter than it's "Darth Vaderish" heavy weight looks. Viewfinder is
    crystal clear with a nice high eyepoint, in fact its the F3HP I've always
    wanted but could never afford. Maybe I'll buy a used R8 when I'm rich which has
    most of the same features/viewfinder except high speed flash sync to 1/8000
    sec. and a lock button for the exposure mode dial to prevent it from being
    moved off its position and sans the LCD frame counter on top of the camera. I
    liked viewing through the 50-1.4 (I love 50's) but the 80/1.4 had superb
    bokeh/clarity and separation (in the viewfinder, but I'm pretty darn sure its
    no slouch on film either ;-)) and its overall look/effect blew me away. The
    21-35 f/3.5-4 was also superb in its range and separation of the subject from
    the background even w/ a modest f/3.5-4 aperture. Donations for buying me this
    Leica gear (along w/ the Pentax gear I liked) can be sent care of the address
    on my website?


    I know they were somewhere but I didn't get to them, too much (many booths) to
    cover and I wanted to get some in-depth/hands on experience w/ the gear instead
    of leaping quickly from one to the other in the limited time I had there...
    Would have liked to see the 24-135/2.8-4.5 and a few of their wider/ultra wide
    zooms but it was not to be this year, perhaps next year...


    They've come out with a very handy, light, compact, 17-35/2.8-4 XR lens w/
    minimal barrel distortion at the wide end (excellent for a zoom). They also had
    a very small (almost "Pentax small", and that's small!) new 7/80-2/10mm f/2.8
    zoom that might be coming out end of this month/November? (not sure if I got
    this right) that's about the size and weight of a fixed 200/2.8 lens or less -
    its more like my Minolta 70-210/4 in size if not weight (it may be less weight
    than my Minolta lens, I'm not sure). I've shied away from fast aperture zooms
    because of their huge size, but more so because of their hefty weight (I hate
    being a pack mule!) so this lens, if its as sharp or sharper than their quite
    sharp current 28-70/2.8 XR (which I've seen a Costa Rican model headshot with
    flowers both on a huge bill board at the show and in smaller size (8x12" or
    thereabouts?) in the Tamron photographer's portfolio who was at the booth (he's
    a commercial photographer and a tech rep) then it promises to be one nice lens!


    Loved their 17mm/3.5 (I forget the designation) lens. I had it on an A2(e)
    which at first I thought was an original Elan before I had a chance to pick up
    the camera and turn it round to see it better. This camera (which I used for a
    Shutter bug article almost a decade ago) has a notoriously bad/low eyepoint,
    but... the eyepiece on their demo model was removed, and lo and behold it
    became a high eyepoint model (that will probably scratch my glasses). I haven't
    played/shot w/ this camera in years (when a friend loaned it to me for the
    article) and was impressed by its build and its light weight and feature set,
    not to mention its very bright viwfinder. The Tokina tech rep told me that
    Canon (since the camera is still being sold new at some pstores and they have
    the parts) is still replacing the command (exposure mode) dials (the camera's
    one major not so fatal flaw) when they break, w/ a metal replacement, and I
    told him I almost felt tempted to throw one on the ground (or somesuch) and
    break it just so I could get Canon to replace the command dial w/ the metal
    one, but I'd think I'd contact them first and ask for this "modification" (if
    they'd ever do it w/o it being broken).


    Sorry, had to race out of there as it was closing for the night and was
    starting to get dirty looks from the security guards ;-) I spoke to Mark
    Greenberg (Olympus digital PJ photographer) very quickly and was only able to
    get an E-1 brochure and no hands on experience, so sorry, nothing to report
    there one way or the other...


    Might have seen there booth's top but couldn't get to them as I was too busy
    elsewhere, unfortunately...

    Walking home to the subway I saw a few more butterflies, Witches, Supermen,
    etc. probably heading towards the Halloween Parade in the Village or returning
    from work ;-) - nothing's that strange in New York...

    Suddenly, as I lay down my Kodak bag (which ironically held a less durable Fuji
    bag inside of it), heavy with camera brochures and other Halloween goodies
    (Kodak film inside a Fuji bag inside a Kodak bag, yet another ironic
    conundrum/Chineese box set)), as I was leaving eternity's gate (also known as
    ths show's main exit/entraince), a cold chill ran up and down my spine as I
    realised just where exactly I had seen that skeleton before... But I shrugged
    it off and pulled my whits (what was left of them) and my bag together and
    headed out for the longish walk towards the A train at 8th Avenue and 34th
    street. And, as I left, I could have sworn that that skeleton said as I was
    leaving, "I am the ghost of Christmas future, I am you, Lewis Lang of the
    future and I'm here to tell you you'll never have to go on a diet at the rate
    you sell your fine art photos, and, one day you'll have to eat digital cards
    but you won't be able to afford those either so you'll starve to death" ;-)...
    I said back, "ha!, you think you know me so well, you're not me, I have enough
    unbought fine art prints to feed the Salvation Army's kitchen, you're just a
    figment of my digital imagination, get thee ehnce from me evil spirit, thou art
    not archival till thou hast been selenium toned (preferably in a selenium bath
    w/ Celine Dion (sp) ;-)" ...I knew I'd seen that smiling face and strange
    haircut somewhere before... but it was not me, it was live but it wasn't
    "Me-morex", it was Dr. Evil, a.k.a. Martha Stewart, doing an imitation of me,
    probably caused by a bit of indigestion from the speck of film I had just eaten
    for dinner at my neo-classical mansion I purchased at "Frugal R Us" (right next
    to "Home Repo") and made from glueing 3 billion box tops from Pop Tart together
    w/ the spit of disdainfull Republicrats all in a decor that is both tasteless
    and cheap yet bound to make any mere cardboard refridgerator box look like an
    unfurnished home. What! Wrong holiday? There is no "ghost of Christmas future"
    on Halloween? "Boo, Humbug, baby!"

    Well, I've probably left a lot out that's even stranger (like Voigtlander's
    with pigs noses and monkey tails and wings made from old Leica Visoflex mirror
    assemblies... "these are a few of my favorite things"..) but that's all for
    this year...


    Or as Tiny Aus/Tim the Power(s) Toolman would say "Boo Humbug us, everybody...
    baby" ...Or as Gary Coleman would say "What you talk'n 'bout Greg, Marsha,
    Peter, Jan, Bobby, Cindy?... "and to all a ghoul night."

    And don't forget to vote, we all need a good scare from government every once
    in a while instead of from Kodak's stock shares dropping in price ;-)

    Oops!, sorry about that Kodak, I love your E100VS and all those other Special K
    films you discontinued :-(... but most of all, I love your heavy duty plastic
    film bags you gave away at the show, they put Fuji's to shame. As a matter of
    fact they put Fuji in shame as I had to put the Fuji bag in the Kodak bag to
    prevent all my goodies/brochures from finding away to escape from em. Oh, and
    all kidding aside, thanks for the free film samples, Kodak. You may be leaving
    film behind but as long as you leave some in my direction ;-)...

    No more film, now _that_ would be a scary thought, almost as scary as Michael
    Jackson running against Arnold S. in 2008, for... president of Kodak ;-)
    Lewis Lang, Nov 2, 2003
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  2. Lewis Lang

    Planar1 Guest

    Hi Lewis. I have a virtually new R8 that I would like to sell. Please
    contact me if you are interested. (I tried to contact you off list but was
    Planar1, Nov 2, 2003
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  3. Lewis Lang

    Gordon Moat Guest

    Time for the annual show again, it seems . . . . . .
    Any Mamiya presence at the show? Any medium format? Large format?
    So far, there does not seem to be a good sense of direction at Konica Minolta.
    Their new web site is worse to navigate. The information on the Hexar RF is so
    hard to find, it make me wonder if they will dump this camera line. Shame . . . .
    Fuji has been hitting many of the pro labs in SoCal for the last couple months. I
    managed to get quite a few samples from them, including a couple of their Instant
    Films (Polaroid peel apart types). Perhaps the direct approach is more in line
    with their marketing. Whatever the decision, they have won me over with Velvia
    100F, Astia 100F, and their FP100C.

    Was Kodak showing their digital 645 Pro Back, or any of the digital SLRs? Any
    Definitely, content is king in imagery. As long as the gear does not hinder your
    creative vision, almost anything is now a good choice.
    I find I like the shorter ratchet wind on occasion. Being a left eye shooter, it
    is sometimes easier, and faster. However, I have rarely had the problem of not
    having wound the lever full distance, but that could be down to practice and
    How many new products could be realistically considered when economic uncertainty
    is still prevalent? I think that next year will be better for suggestions. There
    are also some other big photo shows around the world, so perhaps something new for
    one of those.
    Reminds me about this friend of mine that worked optimizing prints for various
    companies. His goal was to get the best sample prints from each type of inkjet.
    While I cannot mention the companies, two began with E, one began with an H, and
    another began with a C, and a few jobs for a company that began with T (though
    those were not inkjet). It was very enlightening to hear him tell how much work
    was required to get really nice outputs off inkjet printers. Of course, once you
    know the limitations, getting repeatable results is much easier.
    Anything about the 645 or 6x7 Pentax? I think the autofocus 645 model is fairly
    Apparently, from what I read, this was more to allow previewing the meter readings
    on slight shutter press. However, get the travel too long, and camera movement
    could result on the shot. None of the local dealers have one of these, so I have
    yet to try an M7 in person.
    Shame that the price is so high. I would have liked more of a lower cost, stripped
    model, which some people had speculated. The other thing is that the MP is too
    much like an early M6, and looses the nice shutter speed dial of the M6 TTL.
    Any sign of the new digital module R, which fits this?
    I really liked the R6.2, though the shutter manufacturer (Seiko) discontinued
    manufacture of that item, prompting the end of R6.2 production. There should be
    plenty spares, but costs are still high. At nearly medium format prices, and
    lacking rental choices, Leica R gear is seriously limited as a professional
    Why an SLR? Why not the M line, and a rangefinder?
    Still not very small, but better. I suppose photojournalist, or travel
    enthusiasts, might like these more.
    Since Tamron owns Bronica, any signs of this medium format gear? Anything new?
    Bummer. There has been a discussion on the large format group about a rumour of
    APX100 being discontinued in sheet film sizes. It would be interesting to hear an
    official explanation, since no word about this on the web site. Also, if they did
    kill off sheet film, it would be interesting to hear how they feel about future
    B/W film production. Hopefully, APX100 will continue, or I hope they allow some
    other company to make it under licence.
    Fuji gained quite a bit of market share over Kodak in the last two years. Perhaps
    they think they have done well enough. Financial papers and analysis seem to
    indicate the next big market share battles are in emerging markets, mostly not in
    the Western world.
    Thanks for the update.
    Amazing that with such seemingly misguided upper management, they can produce some
    nice products.

    Oh . . . . any presence of Polaroid at the show?


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Nov 2, 2003
  4. To follow up on Gordon's questions

    - A call to Konica Minolta (ugh...they really *should* have called it
    "Monica") a few days before the show brought a few explanations: they
    are "in the middle" of merger/reorganization stuff, and it'll be a while
    before the proverbial dust settles (hence, the no-show at PhotoPlus).
    The Hexar RF (my Main Axe for the past two years) is not dead, at least
    in the global sense: no word about what, if anything, will happen with
    it stateside. (Less "The Invisible Man" than "The Man With Two Brains")

    - I didn't see Mamiya, but I think they were there; Medium-format was
    well represented by both Contax *and* Pentax - film gear had equal
    billing with digital in both cases, but the Pentax *ist D was, in fact,
    the star of the show at their booth (biggest drawing point - you can
    apparently mount most any K-mount lens on the thing, with varying levels
    of exposure control). The reason *I* liked it was it's anachronistic
    nature - shooting with their funky 77mm tele - longer on account of the
    D's smaller sensor - and metering manually via the aperture ring. Yeah -
    a lens with an aperture ring on a digital SLR. Even Austin Powers could
    get behind that idea!

    - Film: Oh, film was there, all right - Kodak had to ratchet things down
    to one-roll-per-person by early afternoon. A Kodak rep says they've been
    doing this for a few years, but this was the strongest response they've
    had in a long time. They did have Some DCS-14Ns and 645 digital backs to
    play with as well, of course.

    - Since I recently got a new film scanner (Minolta 5400), the BIG thing
    for me to check out was the forthcoming Epson Stylus Pro 4000. In fact,
    I made the proverbial beeline to the Epson booth before anyplace else,
    and I wasn't disappointed. They designate the 4000 as a "desktop"
    printer, but this bad boy needs a J. Paul Getty-class desk to support
    its near-90lb weight. It's somewhat narrower than a 7600, but actually a
    bit *deeper*. And since it neatly plugs the gap in their product line
    between the 7600 and 2200, I predict brisk advance sales. (Note to my
    fellow serious b/w aficionados: you're still going to have to shell out
    for third-party software and/or get custom profiles made to get true,
    artifact-free prints from the 4000, despite rumors about an updated
    driver from Epson - this comes from both Epson reps and some unfortunate
    b/w prints I saw on display at their showcase gallery)

    - Leica: they had the digital back for the R8/9 on display, but I don't
    think they had a working version to play with. All the usual nice stuff
    from them was there for the fondlng, of course.

    - Canon and Nikon were doing their best to outdo one another (as per
    tradition), but I ignored them because 1) I don't shoot much with SLRs
    anymore, 2) I don't shoot much digital either, and 3) the glare of the
    hype has gotten tiring after two decades-plus of this.

    - The Photography: here's a surprise...this was, visually speaking, the
    least interesting Expo I've ever been to. Yes, the actual photography
    usually takes a back seat to the hardware at shindigs like this, but
    this time around it seemed even more lopsided - the emphasis was on Big
    (prints), which to my eyes was a mistake - a lot of the digital prints
    (including many from Canon) seemed somewhat mediocre from a technical
    standpoint; aesthetically, simply "same old, same old", in spite of
    (because of?) the big names behind the big pictures (except for one from
    Jay Meisel, who usually doesn't impress me much). At the moment, the
    photographic industry looks to digital now they way the music industry
    did (via the CD) two decades before. Maybe they should examine the music
    industry in its present state before getting too puffed up. ;-)

    That said, I really want that Epson 4000...

    - Barrett
    Barrett Benton, Nov 5, 2003
  5. Lewis Lang

    Gordon Moat Guest

    Very poorly marketed camera, so far. I first found out about it through ads
    in some UK publications.
    As to be expected. In PDN, and a couple other more professional oriented
    publications, most of the medium format ads now mention digital backs.
    While the digital backs are still expensive, more lease plans are
    available, and it seems that more rental opportunities are appearing.
    I still see them too much as consumer oriented (at worst), or of
    photojournalist interest. The magnification factor is a shame, though I
    think that will largely disappear within the next two years.

    With medium format Pentax, the difficulties of adapting a digital or
    Polaroid back limit these camera systems for some photographers. I would
    expect that advanced amateurs moving up from 35 mm gear might like the
    integrated design, and the new 645 autofocus.
    There have been many new film introductions recently, so I think that may
    be some of the interest. Whether the newer films can counter the market
    share advances that Fuji has made is yet to be seen. I am mostly a Kodak
    user, though a few of the Fuji products I tried recently are really good.
    New . . . different . . . improved . . . . blah, blah, blah . . . . I know
    what you mean. I am mostly Nikon in 35 mm, since there is more available
    rental gear. However, the ultra modern features are mostly lost on me,
    since I do not like autofocus.
    Too much like music industry, if it is not good enough, play it louder . .
    .. so with the photo industry, not good enough, make it bigger. Shame about
    that, but often large prints can impress. I noticed more large posters at
    the last printing industry show I attended, but the quality imagery was in
    the books, and smaller samples. A few industries should consider a sweep of
    their marketing departments, and a fresher approach.
    Like DJs and lots more vinyl . . . . maybe . . . . . . There is some retro
    resurgence, but there seems to be a pressure for change as well. The
    economic slump has brought out many ideas to try to spur sales, but in the
    end, there is often more confusion. I think when the economy recovers a bit
    more, there will be a better picture of where things are headed.

    Direct digital imagery is now established, though the quality gear is at a
    high price, especially considering that it will be easily surpassed within
    a year. Low end digital could have been a market maker, but I think
    wireless imagery (camera phones) will surpass that within two years.
    Perhaps some of the camera companies more interested in digital markets
    would be wise to combine forces with a few phone companies.
    Hope you get it. I am happy with my dye sub Postscript RIP set-up, though
    it is mostly just for proofing images. The odd thing about printing systems
    is that often the more you spend initially, the lower the operating costs.
    Shame that ink prices are often so high.
    Thanks for the updates.


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Nov 5, 2003
  6. Lewis Lang

    Alan Browne Guest

    Or the mindlessness of Minolta.

    As a Minolta user/fan, their lack of marketing visibility is not a very
    good sign. I'm one of the many hanging onto the Zeus rumor for my
    digital path. They have very good (if not excellent) cams in the 7Hi
    and A1 ...
    Alan Browne, Nov 5, 2003
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