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Shitty Products

Don’t read this post if you have an aversion to jesting all in fun, or foul language. Seriously. This piece contains a serious message at its core, but it is expressed in a way that some readers might have difficulty reading (see the reader email at the end). Skip to regular milk and potatoes fare.


Tonight (it’s Friday night), I’m going to discuss two shitty products. Have a few beers first (I can't drink the stuff myself, since a beach party at age two), then read on, and if you have the urge to email to disagree then read my reviews in which I keep myself on a much tighter leash.

Leica M Monochrom

Wonderful sensor. Gorgeous silken grayscale. Demanding penis-shrinking camera when you gotta deliver and the camera fucks it up (again).

Leica found 1000 or so vintage 2009 AD 230K pixel LCDs moldering in a warehouse along with some vintage 1950 rangefinder stuff and WTF, why not put a monochrome sensor in an M body and charge fucking morons $8000 for it?

Really, look, I LOVE what I can get out of the Leica M Monochrom when I can find an old slow SD card that will work in it without “card full” warnings, and when I can focus the god-damned rangefinder accurately and enjoy the images on the computer, since the vintage LCD makes me think I forget to put in my contact lenses. But I’m really, really happy, because I rented the MF instead of spending $8000 on it.

Seriously. Will someone please make a $1000 - $1500 monochrome camera with 2013 technology that isn’t an exercise in self-flagellation to use... Olympus or better yet, Sony?

OMG, I just realized that there is no red dot on the Leica MM. This really hurts my feeling of photographic manliness.

Sigma DP1 Merrill

Sigma DP1 Merrill — Intriguing unusual sensor with tremendous resolution and potential (and a lot of noise and funky color). World’s shittiest slowest “best high school science fair” autofuckus in a crappy plastic body. World’s second shittiest LCD (after the Leica M9/M). Same crap I tried last year, just wrapped around a far better sensor.

Sigma should go hook up with Sony and put that interesting sensor in a body with a high-res LCD and proper focusing. And chill on the discounted plastic bulk purchase.

Oh, and if the software just plain doesn’t work, how can anybody make use of the X3F files?

Nikon D800

OK, a bonus turd. I love the resolution and dynamic range and color, but the Live View feature ought to get the engineers who designed it fucking fired. Sorry, my comments on D800 autofocus are not fucking printable. And that focusing screen for manual focus would be the pride and joy of The Fed, if they made focusing screens.

Canon 5D Mark III

Let’a go for broke, how about a bonus turd. The Canon 5D Mark II put it all together— some years ago. Canon’s half-hearted incremental efforts with the 5D Mark III reek of cowardice and greed ($1500 more?!). A solid camera, but this is why Sony deserves to eat lunch on Canon’s dime. Well, this camera is so BORING I’m bored writing about it.


The above was an equal opportunity post, freely bashing 4 brands. To be read in fun, if that wasn’t clear from the numerous clues. But also containing a serious message about each company’s approach.

Kristian D writes:

I'm writing because I'm disappointed in your post on your blog. The use of such language in the way you used it is very unprofessional and somewhat offensive. I'm not sure of your reason for taking this approach but you come off sounding like a very angry person.

You have some valid points but your delivery makes you sound like an entertainment paparazzi journalist working for TMZ bagging on a celebrity because they ate the wrong food.

I really hope this is not a direction you will continue in because as a paying subscriber, this is not what I paid for.

DIGLLOYD: The above is in fun, there is zero anger involved, quite the contrary. Actually, the title and the very first paragraph should make that eminently clear (and numerous subsequent clues also), as they are completely out of character for my regular fare. Do I have to wait for April Fools’s day?

And yet this piece embeds some valid points in a way not quite possible via other means, but don’t worry, this is not a new style of mine.

Salim M writes:

I had a blast reading your post. I think some people should not be so serious and laugh aloud along. It made my high stress day a lot more fun :)

DIGLLOYD: I had fun writing it— a serious message hiding in language that no photo magazine would dare to use.

Was it effective? Could it have been expressed plainly and been more useful, more effective, equally entertaining? One can only stand the boredom of “professional” writing with nary a deviation only so long— such writing loses its effectiveness by that very unwavering slavish devotion to “correctness”. I wrote it knowing the risks of misunderstanding. Life is full of risks, and some risks must be taken infrequently. But they must be taken.

Joe T writes:

It's refreshing to witness a well respected professional get "real" about gear.

I mean I am into penis shrinking gear as if it isn't hard enough to make a great image already. I'd like to see a D800EM. That would be fun to shoot.

DIGLLOYD: Me too, which is why I need a 90-megapixel Leica S4m with some really huge lens that is manual focus and f/5.6. Then I could bang myself on the head (since there are no walls where I shoot usually), thus satisfying my most primal urges.

A 36MP D800E Monochrome (assuming the name is spelled correctly with the 'e') would make my day. Well, maybe if Live View was fixed.

Kerry P writes:

Anyone who seriously follows your blog should realize in two seconds this is a joke rant, though it contains many valid points. I think the industry needs someone with clout (like yourself) to speak candidly about the issues at hand and address the elephants in the room. To say I've been extremely disappointed by this year's new camera designs is an understatement. The price gouging 5DIII has made me want to leave Canon entirely (it's no upgrade at all over the 5DII for still subjects IMO), the D800 sensor is superb but the crippled live view and inaccurate AF issues are a big turn off for a $3K camera. The D600 looks appealing if the sensor is in the same league as the 24MP D3X though it's already being bashed for being too expensive all because some dumb-ass told the internet it was going to be $1500 a few months ago, like that was ever realistic.. Canon is going to announce essentially a $2000 full frame 60D this week, will people balk at that too?

And seriously.. A Leica M Monochrome for $8K body only. Who seriously buys Leica anyway with their poor usability other than the doctors, dentists, and lawyers that can't make a decent image to begin with? Sorry, but I don't care how good the lenses are if it's a crapshoot to extract anything remotely close to their full performance, much less a focused image. As a working photographer who earns 60% or more of my living using a camera as a tool I couldn't fathom trying to use such a crippled piece of gear daily to create the images that earn my living. It boggles me that three grand can't get you a good working version of live view in a pro grade body, but the $900 Canon 60D has a rather excellent implementation of live view that can be used entirely with your right thumb and comes complete with a screen that articulates so you don't have to bend over.. Go try to sell a carpenter a nailgun that only fires a nail every other try, oh wait that would be ridiculous, but I feel it's exactly what is going on in our industry currently.

Kudos to Sony for making the excellent Exmor sensor, penning a deal with Zeiss to supply their high end lenses, and making a mirrorless full frame compact with a REAL lens complete with a manual aperture ring and focus peaking!! It's too bad their RX1 doesn't have an interchangeable lens mount, it would have been the death of Leica. I'm now looking forward to seeing what Sony has to offer in the months to come, they've earned my respect.

Props to you Lloyd for having the balls to post that, I got a big kick out of it.

DIGLLOYD: Everyone brings their own perspective, and any variance there is not an issue for me. I do my best, I make mistakes sometimes. My best is all I can do.

As for speaking candidly, that has always been my goal, but it’s like whispering into a hurricane as far as the camera companies are concerned. Except perhaps for one company.

The Sony RX1 (and RX100) are harbinger of things to come, so no worries there. It will have a successor, and the successor will shake things up.

As for Leica, perhaps Live View will be announced with an M10 next week.

Emil V writes:

Congratulations! Shitty products and the Sony vs Nikon and Canon are two good, straightforward articles that were great fun to read. These were way off the line of your websites one got accustomed so far.

These articles were also a revelation, because after tons of hairsplitting technical details (oops, sorry) we got accustomed to get from you, we got a blunt general overview. Great stuff if one wants to chose systems or wants to know where things are going.

I’m still not sure whether this went down well with most of the readers on your paid site. But a far as I’m concerned, I give you thumbs up without hesitation.

DIGLLOYD: the vast majority of those who emailed seemed content. A few expressed some concern.

Hakan writes:

I have so much fun reading the "shitty products" and I'm still laughing :-)

I thought I was useless and couldn't use the Monochrom when I couldn;'t focus the bloody thing with the Noctilux on. Now I know why. (My 95MB/s 16GB Delkin Elite SDHC card worked with the MM so it obviously has trouble with high capacity cards).

Anyway, I found this link to the MTF charts of the Sonnar 35mm lens in the RX1 on Sony Asia website. It doesn't show the 40lp per mm curve but still you can get an idea about how high it will be, (unless of course this is bogus).

DIGLLOYD: the Sony MTF charts are pure fantasy and cannot be compared in any ways to Zeiss web charts, and that is a confirmed fact.

Steven K writes:

This was your best blog ever IMHO great job for being the real "truth detector".

The only other I hope I see if the Leica M10 does go EVF, I think this will be a big winner.
Though for some reason I think Leica has a lot more crappy LCD left to be used.
I think the M10 will still have the same OVF they have used for years and offer an EVF like they do on the X2

DIGLLOYD: I expect an M10 will use the manually-activated EVF found on the X2. Which for an M is far better than nothing, but still much inferior to one that simply detects the eye automatically. The real issue after that is whether and how one would go to actual pixels for focusing.

Graham L writes:

The frustrating part is that we know that it would be possible to build decent stuff. In the camera world, all the components exist. It is just that they are in different products.

D800 AF may be poor but it *is* very difficult to get a few micron repeatability from a mass produced product. Expectations have been raised beyond the capability of companies to deliver. Especially so when we have paid many £k. Couple this with an attitude problem within companies, such as Nikon, and we have more frustration. In some cases the short life cycle adds to this. Why bother to fix it when our n+1 model is due next month?

Nurse is bringing my medication now.

Oh, in the UK, the D800 is now available for 2100GBP inc tax and the D600 is on pre-order for 1950GBP inc tax (both official imports). Who will buy the D600?

DIGLLOYD: Good point— as Apple has shown, parts are not a product; putting them together the right way makes the biggest company in the world.

I don’t expect perfection. But poor execution that undermines the raison d^etre of the camera is not excusable (e.g., the D800 Live View and no autofocus mode for max precision).

David C writes:

Heh...but quite a bit of that *isn't* in jest, eh? Leica should be ashamed. Nikon and Canon remind me of Microsoft: Microsoft has huge piles of money, can hire almost anyone they want (not Richard Stallman, but hey...they got Herb Sutter), but then they put out the same old crap with a new confusing face every few years with windowslastversion++ and pay Ballmer to get up and shriek about "INNOVATION!!!" when that is the furthest thing from what they actually do. I really, really detest the deliberate production of half-assed warmed over crap.

Which reminds me of another fantasy...looking at Apple's cash hoard wouldn't it be funny if they bought control of M$? oh...wait...

One thing for sure, that post gave the bluenoses among your readers something to wring their hands over ;-).

DIGLLOYD: The language was in jest, the content was not. Anyone disliking the language is entitled to their opinion, but I did title the piece with “language” to give a heads-up.

James K writes:

You said what I was thinking and just about the way I would have said it. Much too much tip toeing around. Let them have it Lloyd, they need it.

Nikon and Canon are moving much too slowly. Where is a digital medium format rangefinder like the Mamiya 7II? Mamiya might be able use the same lenses to start. How about a killer pro full frame with fantastic glass or an M mount rangefinder from Nikon like the Nikon SP.

At least the MFT camp is getting lots of attention from Schneider, Zeiss and maybe Minolta glass as well. MFT can use all the PL mounted glass.

If you would like to see some really nice cinema use of the Canon 5D MKII, rent "Act of Valor" from Netflix. About 85% of the film was shot with the still camera. It will give you and idea of what is possible with the video from still camera sensors. Side note- the actors are real Navy Seals and the gunfire is all live ammo. The actors and crew must have been wide awake on the sets. No room for errors.

DIGLLOYD: The video and still photography areas are red hot. On the “fantastic glass” front, the Zeiss 55/1.4 and its future siblings might be the ticket, and I expect Sony to make an RX model with interchangeable lenses— the smart move is to design one with a sensor that works well with all existing “M” mount lenses.

Erik B writes:

Very good post... the Leica MM is very attractive and sucks at the same time.

DIGLLOYD: yes, the MM sensor quality is lovely, and yet the MM as a camera is the most demanding one I have ever used (80% failure rate on initial shoot). But perhaps part of the blame lies with adjustment of rangefinder focus (yet my lenses are spot-on with my M9P).

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