Tag Archives: marketing

End of life for Denoise Projects, and special offer

18 Jul

The imaging software industry is in motion. While companies like Serif (makers of Affinity-branded software) and Macphun are making a dash from the Mac to the Windows platform, and following Google’s recent abandonment of the Google Nik Collection of plug-in and stand-alone applications for tasks such as black and white conversion, colour adjustment, film simulation, sharpening and denoising, another applicant for this market is now showing signs of slowing down.

Like Google, Macphun and others, German publishing house Franzis also develops a variety of tools in its “Projects” series for the above tasks, each usually sold separately. Among them are tools for HDR and focus stacking, and Franzis also develops and sells other imaging software not branded as “Projects”, and is the German distributor of Silkypix raw processing software.

Franzis has now announced discontinuing Denoise Projects Professional, a specialised program and plug-in for removing digital image noise. It is unclear if other discontinuations will follow.

According to the publisher, Denoise Projects automatically detects and removes “all” seven types of noise. Other Franzis Projects products work with a high floating point bitrate, and the tech specs for Denoise Projects imply that it requires 32 bit GPU acceleration, while the FAQ mentions it can save 32 bit TIFF. It was not explicitly stated whether 32 bit floating point processing is used internally.

Those interested can find a 70% off offer here.


Ricoh’s track record with Pentax

11 Feb

When Ricoh took the Pentax brand, staff and patents from Hoya, who themselves had acquired them only a few years earlier, they took on a brand that was behind in several key areas that were well known to and voiced by customers. One by one, Ricoh has apparently rallied resources to remedy these problems:

  • Finished the long-awaited 1.4x weather-sealed teleconverter (engineering flourish: using only three elements)
  • Delivered a long tele lens (560mm, i.e. 840mm EFL; engineering flourish: telescope design for weight reduction)
  • Introduced a major innovation in the flagship model, the K-3 (anti-aliasing filter simulation) as well as beginning to adapt Ricoh technologies for use in Pentax models – first clear sign of long-term commitment to the brand; too many other key innovations were implemented in the K-3 for me to mention here, but improvements were made in all areas – metering, autofocus, flash, and, importantly, Wi-Fi support and a smartphone app for remote control and preview (aka wireless tethering)
  • Filled further gaps in the line-up such as the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom
  • Launched first model with fully articulated display (engineering flourish: weather-sealed)
  • Launched shortest DSLR zoom lens and smallest weather-sealed DSLR with fully articulated display

Ricoh have clearly capitalised on core Pentax strengths: bright and large 100% view pentaprisms, compactness, and weather-sealing. They’ve also kept to the strategy of offering more than the competition at the same price-point. Having done all this, they dropped the bomb:

K-Mount digital SLR camera with a large, 35mm full-frame image sensor […] under development for market launch by the end of 2015 (source)

Within days, nearly every Pentax user ever active on any forum was online to comment on the matter. While giving hardly any product details, Ricoh has stolen everyone’s attention for CP+ – in spite of major announcements from Olympus and Canon. Ricoh then set up a topic on its own forums to collect feedback. This fits a general pattern of being customer-centric, and within less than three years, Ricoh has wiped nearly everything off Pentaxians’ wishlists. I don’t think any other photography brand has equalled this within the same time-frame. Less than nine months from now, it will be clear whether Ricoh can keep the momentum of this consolidation phase, and start to innovate the heck out of the CaSoNikons, with features that customers really need.

Link to tell Pentax/Ricoh what you want in full frame

8 Feb

Give them your wishlist for their officially confirmed full frame camera for late 2015, at their official site, here.

Model refresh – an appraisal

10 Aug

“It’s not enough of an upgrade” – a phrase frequently heard on gearheads websites when new models are announced for an existing product line. It was one of the responses to the recent Pentax Q-S1 as much as for the Canon EOS 700D or Nikon D3300. The air is getting thin in the digital camera market, and manufacturers need to cut corners – their manufacturing needs to become more modular, the model refreshes more incremental.

Sony did this masterfully from 2008 to 2011 – their Alpha 200 was chased by an A230, then an A290; likewise, the A350 was succeeded by an A380, then A390, almost at 12-month intervals. They repeated this with the A500 and A550 DSLR lineages. then the A33 and A55 SLT lines, the latter of which endures in the shape of the A58. Most of these models were relatively simple upgrades of a previous one, differing by a few megapixels or a small saving on the sale price.

The downside to this strategy is that not every new model will get fully reviewed by photography and tech publications. For instance, many did not review the Pentax K-50 because while the body was completely redesigned, the internals were nearly identical to the K-30, except that a higher maximum ISO had been enabled in the firmware. Similarly, in the Sigma DP line, many publications will review only one model from each generation as the DP1, DP2 and DP3 do not differ in anything other than focal length and the slightly different properties of the lens; however, even the widest aperture is the same among them.

Nonetheless, each new model release creates headlines in technical publications. Pentax has arguably followed a similar concept to advance coverage of its DSLR by announcing new colour choices or special editions at certain points in the product life cycle. Canon’s “Rebel” entry level DSLRs get extra column inches by having three names each – the 700D mentioned above is also known as the Kiss X7i, or Rebel T5i, depending which market you’re in. International coverage always has to try and address readers from all regions, so each name must be mentioned when referring to the camera. (At other times, redundant words are included in the model name, such as EOS, Lumix DMC, Coolpix or Cyber-shot DSC, in the belief that they confer a particularly sought-after brand identity.)

It is clear that some companies follow such schemes to a lesser extent. While Panasonic’s GH4 is in many ways an incremental upgrade of its GH3 model, it does include one big headine feature – 4k video. Other Panasonic interchangeable lens models have generally stood on their own in this reviewer’s impression. Olympus mixes up its models only in the PEN series (where the difference between E-P, E-PM and E-PL models is generally small, and some upgrades have been minimal), whereas each model in the OM-D series has been individually designed for its intended market.

Samsung has only very recently shown inclinations towards incremental upgrades, whereas Fujifilm has only upgraded one X-series ILC so far, with the X-E2, which was widely considered a success.

In some cases, a quick succession of model increments can be an indication of the health of a model line – Sony’s RX1 was followed by an RX1R, and its RX100 is now on its third model iteration. Nikon’s 1 series has similarly exploded in model lines and generations – again, we are counting the third generation of this mirrorless interchangeable lens camera line. Both the RX100 and Nikon 1 series have undergone significant changes during their existence, however.

And while Olympus and Pentax (with their K-500) have succeeded in diversifying their price points in the entry market by adopting a more incremental and modular approach to design, none of these manufacturers can escape the truth that more radical redesigns are necessary from time to time. The ability of manufacturers to correctly judge the best time for such redesigns, and ability to get them right on the first release will be a large factor in their ability to stand their ground in this highly competitive market.

Good products have people complain about everything

8 Aug

There’s a very loud paradox that I noticed recently, and which has been illustrated by most cameras released in the last two years. The simple gist of it is this: If you’re a company selling a reasonably complex product or service, and your customers are complaining about just one thing, then you’ve probably messed up. And it doesn’t matter how loudly people are complaining, but if the complaints are undiversified, you’ve probably gone wrong. Let me illustrate.

Nikon released a retro-looking full-frame stills camera with a significant “something new is coming, but we won’t tell you what it is” marketing campaign. The name tickled people’s imaginations, and there was a brief hiatus, a moment of suspense, before people realised that the camera had one big and, to many, unexplainable flaw. Nikon had decided to deliberately remove video as a feature. Yup, no video of any kind on the Nikon Df. It turns out that people are quite happy to work around the limitations of a camera. Even if video had been given a back-seat, customers would have far preferred that over not ever having the option. People quibbled over some other minor points, but that was more of a murmur in the woods compared to the video complaint. The Nikon Df tanked so hard that just over half a year after its introduction, many retailers no longer list it.

Now, it’s difficult to compare across product categories, but I’ll try anyway. Staying with Nikon, the Nikon 1 V3 had a number of complaints – no hotshoe, no EVF included in the default bundle in some localities, image quality not much better than predecessor, etc. etc. I predict it will do very well.

I don’t know whether this is a basic human psychological phenomenon, but it seems that it’s easier to make a bunch of smaller compromises than one big one. The Nikon D600 essentially became unsellable when it was discovered that the shutter would throw oil onto the sensor, gradually obscuring the image with little black spots as you kept using it. Nikon had to make a big turn-around and run a costly repair-or-replace recall programme. If there were any prior complaints about the D600, they became insignificant when the oil splatter issue was discovered.

So I’m wondering if there are a number of brands that do very well because they don’t listen to all the little complaints. Pentax has resisted calls for an articulated display on the back of its cameras, as well as those for a touchscreen. Every single time in the last two years that a Pentax DSLR has been released, these topics have come up, and the cameras seem to sell happily in spite of it. It’s fairly clear that there is some threshold that determines whether an issue becomes a product-killing complaint or not, and it would be interesting to discover what this threshold is. Fujifilm’s X system lenses and camera bodies were not optically stabilised when the system launched, but this did not stop the success of that system. Sigma’s DP cameras to this day have no stabilisation but have found a dedicated following. (In both cases, it can be argued that not having stabilisation is a good thing. Unstabilised lenses can be calibrated more accurately and will resist decalibration for longer. Tamron for a while carried VC and non-VC versions of its lenses alongside each other, and the non-VC lenses would outcompete their VC brethren in certain sharpness tests.) Some cameras have terrible buffer performance, but it doesn’t kill their sales.


Release sleek, then functional: motto of the 4/3 crowd?

13 Nov

It occurred to me that the more pragmatic design of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 after the more stylish OM-D E-M5 mirrored the same strategy in Panasonic’s succession of the L10 after the L1:

    Image sources: Olympus promotional/Wikimedia Commons

Image sources: Olympus promotional/Wikimedia Commons