Olympus getting out of cheap compact cameras? Good!

The news that Olympus is ditching their compact camera division this week caused quite a stir, but I can't help but think that the camera manufacturer is on to something. I've long thought that entry-level compact cameras are a Bad Idea. Nikon's line-up is a great example: Their SLRs are phenomenal. The Nikon 1 series are incredibly capable machines. But their $80 entry-level cameras are best avoided. It's not a particularly closely guarded secret that they're contract manufactured in a completely different factory, the design isn't done by the core Nikon team, etc. Basically, the entry-level cameras don't look or feel like Nikons.

The same goes for Olympus, but they also have a couple of other challenges they're facing.

I think Olympus is probably better off without these fellas.

There are two ways to look at this:

1) If your first camera is a cheap Olympus camera, you might be happy that it didn't break, and you'll buy another Olympus further down the line

2) If your first camera is a cheap Olympus camera, you might be appalled by the build quality, and decide to go elsewhere.

It's a hard gamble, because for cameras that are sold for less than a ton, it's pretty obvious that camera manufacturers have to cut corners somewhere. Cheaper enclosures and naff colours mean that they look and feel cheap. Cheaper LCD screens makes it hard to see how good your pictures came out. And cheaper lenses, sensors, and processors means that the camera will be slow, that there's a physical limit to how good the photos can be, etc. On top of that, the cheapest cameras often end up in the hands of people with the least of a clue - the very same people who could benefit the most from having a more 'intelligent' camera.

So, in deciding to pull the plug on their cheapest cameras, Olympus is making a wise move: They probably can't (and shouldn't) compete in a market that's a race to the bottom: Developing a cheap camera that is designed to be as good as it can be means spending a metric arse-tonne of cash on development, then another huge amount on manufacturing an enormous quantity of them, then piling in the marketing dollars to shift 'em. And even then it's a gamble, hoping that Nikon or another bottom-end manufacturer didn't happen to release a slightly better (or slightly cheaper) model a couple of weeks before you did.

Good riddance, I say: Olympus can now continue focusing their attention on the spaces where they are true innovators: The Olympus OM-D, the other mirrorless cameras, and their superzooms.

Wander - an app to let you explore the world through pictures

Did you know that there are 518 photography apps in Apple's App Store? (I checked this evening.) And that there are 222 paid-for photography apps in the Android Marketplace? That's a lot of photography-related technology floating around attempting to sidle its way into our lives. If something is going to take off and make it onto our screens and stay there, it needs to be a bit special, a bit different. Your average photo-sharing or photo-editing app just won't cut it. So I'm holding out a bit more hope than usual for Wander, which does seem to have the requisite degree of different.

I suppose that you could think of Wander as being a more technologically sophisticated version of having a pen-pal. Someone from half a world away will pop up on your screen and if you want, you can connect and then begin to share daily life and where you live through daily photo challenges over the course of a week. Maybe you'll enjoy lunch together or explore how you travel pictorially.

Your pal, or guide, might be from one of 80 countries, and the chances are that you'll begin to want to talk about things in more depth and learn more about their lives. To help that along there's linguistic support for English, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Right now, Wander is only available on the iPhone, but an Android version is on its way. The app is free to download and getting started is simple. You have to answer a few basic questions - after all, you probably don't want to be offered a connection with someone ten miles up the road - and that's it. There's a whole new world waiting to be discovered, all through pictures on your phone.

Making food look yummy


Picture-3.jpgI know we’ve featured Still Life With… once before, but they deserve another mention, for being so damn good. This time, they’ve made a fabulous little guide to how you can make food look good, by using creative lighting techniques.

The great thing is that the tips and lessons learned from this post don’t just apply to food – it works excellently for all sorts of stills photography in a studio setting.  


Trainers, fruit, pens, bottles of ketchup, it all makes no difference: Stills photography is stills photography. Food poses its own challenges, of course, and it’s a good thing they are addressed in this article. Personally, I love food, but that’s beside the point: the tips offered are transferrable skills, and I particularly like to pick up new ideas and hone my skills by being challenged to new forms of photography – so why not food?

By using a “show and tell” approach, Still Life With manages to both show you what looks good, explain why it works, and finally take you through the motions of how you can copy the ideas yourself. It’s worth having a look at their Lighting Positioning: Shooting in the Kitchen either way – you won’t regret it!

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