FTZ adaptor hates tripods, straps, and harnesses

The FTZ adaptor has a surprising and very frustrating design flaw – it’s impossible to mount it to the camera body when you have almost any kind of mounting plate, strap, or harness (e.g. Cotton Carrier) mount point attached to the camera body.  This is because the FTZ has a big fat foot, as can be seen in the above photo, which sticks down well below the bottom of the camera body.  Furthermore, the camera body’s tripod socket is very close to the front edge of the body – and thus the FTZ’s foot.  Anything you attach to the camera body’s tripod socket tends to stick out from the front of the camera’s body – a lot.  The FTZ’s fat foot collides with that, and makes it impossible to use both at the same time.

I suppose nominally you’re never supposed to use the camera body’s tripod mount when you have the FTZ attached, but that’s naive – if you’re going back and forth between native to adapted lenses, you’re not going to be constantly removing & reattaching things to tripod sockets.  At most you’d want to have the same widget in both the camera body’s and the FTZ’s tripod sockets, so that you always have one available irrespective of what lens you have attached.

I miss companies that gave some thought to having all their products work well together (this is just the latest example I’ve noticed in an increasing trend).

iOS 7 first impressions

I found this post in the ‘Drafts’ folder from 2013 – evidently I started writing, got distracted, and forgot about it.

It’s interesting to me even now because the aesthetics of iOS have been stuck in iOS 7 ever since.  I still don’t like the look, the design language, how many things operate – the interface is ugly, unintuitive, lacks personality, and – as the hosts of ATP might say – is absent the whimsy that defined Apple for decades.

It felt like a betrayal, too – now iOS, as of version 7, looked like a cheap Android rip-off.  Apple had wilfully and pointlessly thrown away their most important positive differentiators.  Insult was further added to injury by the mere existence of Windows Phone Metro, which – while still ugly to me too – at least demonstrated originality and a kind of bravery – it at least had a style, even if it wasn’t the one for me.

And it was dog slow.  It basically killed my love of the iPad, because it made my iPad 3 frustrating to use.  Even when I later got an iPad Air 2 (as a hand-me-down), my iPad love never really rekindled.

Nonetheless, I had been wondering for a few years: were I to go back now to iOS 6, would I be revolted & repulsed by it, and suddenly realise that iOS 7 and its ilk are in fact the current pinnacle of user interface & visual design?

A few months ago I got out my original iPad and turned it on.  It was running iOS 5, the last version of iOS support on it.  I hadn’t intended to go back in time – I’d forgotten entirely that it was pre-iOS 7.  I didn’t realise straight away, either.  My first thought, upon booting to the home screen, was “wow, this looks amazing”.  It genuinely took me a while to figure out why this non-Retina, decade-old, square & heavy iPad felt fantastic.

Then I realised – because it looks good and is easy to use.

Screenshot of iPad 3 home screen running iOS 6
The default iPad 3 home screen under iOS 6.  Admittedly prettier than on the original iPad, thanks to the Retina display, but you get the point nonetheless.
Screenshot courtesy of Dane Wirtzfeld via Flickr.

Without further ado, my until-now unpublished iOS 7 first impressions:

It’s buggy. The task switcher has a terrible time dealing with landscape orientation.

It’s slow. Both in general – perhaps just lacking some optimisations – and by apparent design flaws. e.g. many new animations are unnecessary to begin with, and unnecessarily slow to boot, and you can’t interact with things until the animation is done. It’s quickly frustrating.

The new slide-up gesture (for the little control sheet) steals scrolls periodically, which is exceedingly annoying. Perhaps in time I’ll recalibrate where I need to touch things in order to avoid that, but it’s annoying in the meantime.

Actually installing it was a pain and took multiple attempts, as per usual for any system restore. Le sigh.

Spelling correction is more aggressive now, and will even re-incorrect things after you explicitly fix them. Fucker.

To delete emails you now have to swipe the opposite direction – from right to left. No obvious reason, and certainly no indication on how to do that.

The new icons and dock design look like UI mocks. By someone who’s either not very good at them or just needs a really basic placeholder. They’re probably the most disappointing thing about iOS 7 so far.

The new lock screen is obtuse, as others have noted. The whole slide to unlock debacle is ridiculous and Apple has no excuse for it. But furthermore, it displays your chosen lock screen image arbitrarily cropped, and jitters it about randomly in what must be intended to be this infamous parallax effect, but in reality has no apparent relationship to the orientation of the iPad, and so just looks broken and stupid. Big cock-up all round there.

I love (meaning am tremendously sad) how certain aspects of those first impressions have lasted – some becoming huge memes of their own (e.g. damnyouautocorrect.com).  And how some parts of the iOS upgrade experience – like having to do the install repeatedly to get it to work – persist to this day.

Nikon Z7 very first impressions

This is in the context of coming from a D500 (and a number of DX DSLRs prior to that), and is based only on the first hour or so of using it.

  • No XQD card included in the U.S.A.  This is disappointing, since it appears that every other country on the planet is getting XQD cards included in theirs, to a value of ~$150USD, so it feels a little mean that the U.S.A. is getting screwed.  Especially since by all accounts U.S. shipments of the Z7 were delayed by nearly a week compared to most of the rest of the world.  It also seems like simply a bad idea on Nikon’s behalf – very few people will have an XQD card already (luckily I have one and only one, from my D500), so Nikon’s running a real risk that a lot of people will open their new shiny only to realise that there’s no memory card they can use in it, and acquiring one is going to be hard (local retailers don’t seem to stock them consistently) and very expensive (XQD cards are currently selling at all-time high prices, despite there being more brands selling them than ever, and more demand than ever, and commodity NAND flash being at its lowest price in a long time… grrr).
  • Autofocus really struggles in “low light” (e.g. a well-lit restaurant at night), where the D500 would have no problems at all, using the kit 24-70/4 lens.  In fact at first I thought the camera was faulty, because I could not for the life of me get it to take a photo, of anything.  Eventually I realised it was defaulting, out of the factory, to Focus-priority, and once I switched to Release-priority it started working.  But focus was missed most of the time, usually significantly (e.g. headshots had no part of the head in focus most of the time; at best the ears).  This was true irrespective of focus mode.  In fairness, the D500 is over-confident in its autofocusing abilities – in similar conditions it would also miss focus in many shots, despite claiming it had quickly acquired focus.  Note also that “Low Light AF” makes no apparent difference, neither in autofocus speed, ability, nor accuracy.
  • It’s a very small camera.  It has some density to it, so it doesn’t necessarily feel cheap or plastic, but ergonomically it’s not great.  The D500 is a much better camera ergonomically (as is the D850, being a very similar design).  The Z7 in principle has an interesting advantage which is the ability to do everything through the viewfinder, but the camera is so small and squished that having your face up against it, to look through the viewfinder, makes it very difficult to use any of the buttons or the D-pad.  It’s doable, but it’s awkward and I won’t be making a habit of it.  The D500 / D850 / etc are actually much more usable when your eye is at the viewfinder, control-wise.
  • Button placement is a bit weird.  The D500 / D850 / etc have a superior layout – and more buttons.  My thumb rests over the ‘Disp’ button by default, not the AF-ON where it should, because the camera is so squished that the ‘Disp’ button – relative to the hand grip & other buttons – is basically where AF-ON is on the D500 / D850 / etc.  I hope I’ll get used to it, but it is definitely more awkward to hold the Z7 with your hand on its AF-ON button, because your entire hand and fingers are all relatively far to the right edge of the camera, putting a lot more torque on your grip in order to hold the camera flat.
  • The function buttons on the lens are actually an improvement over the equivalents on Nikon’s DSLRs – they naturally rest under two of my fingers, more or less, making them easier to use.
  • The mount diameter is way bigger than the old F-mount.  Not that it’s intellectually a surprise, but upon first seeing it in person I was irrationally gleeful.
  • Image quality vs the D500 in low light appears mixed… even by the most optimistic objective measures the D850 (and by extension Z7) are only about 2/3rds of a stop better than the D500 at ISOs 100 and above (the ISO 64 base does push the advantage to one full stop in principle, vs the D500 at ISO 100).  However, given the recent, disappointing revelations from DPReview on the nasty banding exhibited by the Z7, my fear is that the D500 will actually turn out to have better image quality in many situations (i.e. anything with significant dynamic range).  This is obviously very disappointing for a very expensive, top-of-the-line, brand new camera with an FX vs DX sensor size advantage.
  • Contrary to some reporting, and some of Nikon’s own misleading product material, 100fps & 120fps 1080p video is only available from a ~DX crop region.
  • Focus peaking is very difficult to actually get to work.  It took me nearly an hour to figure out how – it only appears if (a) you have AF-ON held down, (b) you move the manual focus ring on the lens a significant distance in order to engage MF override, and (c) you have a lot of light and contrast in the scene.  In low light, or scenes with low contrast, it simply doesn’t show any peaking, even on the most sensitive setting, and provides no indication why.  This is all very unfortunate, as competing focus peaking systems in every other mirrorless camera I’ve ever used all perform much more reliably, easily, and consistently than the Z7’s system does.  e.g. the Sony a7R II’s focus peaking was excellent in practice for ensuring correct focus, whereas my tests so far with the Z7, when it bothers to work at all, have shown that it’s not accurate nor clean enough for me to actually get correct focus most of the time.  It’s much faster & more reliable to just engage image zoom and focus without peaking.  Also, peaking doesn’t work when zoomed in.
  • The focus ring on the 24-70/4 is awkwardly placed – it’s way too close to the camera body, which is very thin to begin with, so it feels like you’re picking your nose when you operate it.  Even with a light lens like the 24-70/4, holding the lens by the focus ring makes the entire thing very front-heavy.  The focus ring is also very thin, making it a bit difficult to find and get a good hold on.
  • Being able to zoom in, in the viewfinder, is awesome.  I’ve used this previously on other mirrorless systems and know from that experience that it’ll be immensely valuable in getting focus correct.  It also works pretty intuitively – e.g. it zooms in on the selected focus point, naturally – and can be assigned to most (but bizarrely not all) the configurable buttons for easy toggling.
  • I miss the Nikon rubber eye-cup add-on I applied to my D500.  The Z7’s naked viewfinder, while slightly rubbery, is very hard in comparison, and – being – rectangular & flat – doesn’t fit any human face I’ve ever encountered.  No different from most cameras, of course – I just hope Nikon release an equivalent eye-cup for the Z7 soon (though I worry, from looking at the viewfinder assembly, that there’s no apparent way to pull it apart, attach anything to it, etc).
  • On first use the battery jammed in the battery slot, requiring some shaking and application of fingernails to force it out.  Very weird – I’ve never encountered this in many years & many Nikon cameras.  It hasn’t done it since… yet.
  • The box it comes in is surprisingly large given it’s a small camera & lens.  Much bigger than the equivalent box for the D500, or any of Nikon’s consumer DSLRs.
  • The fully electronic (“silent”) shutter is very nice.  The D500 is a 5 AM garbage truck in comparison – it has always bothered me using the D500 in any even remotely quiet environment.
  • Viewfinder blackout is so-so.  While I’d seen videos on YouTube demonstrating it in various modes etc, in practice I find it’s much more difficult than I expected to track moving subjects when shooting at anything approaching the maximum frame rate (8 FPS).  The D500, despite having significant black-out itself vs the D5, is notably superior than the Z7.
  • SnapBridge is stupidly hard to get to work – mainly in the initial pairing.  It took me multiple tries and about an hour overall to get it to finally pair to my iPhone.  It requires an extremely precise, pedantic, and rather long sequence of steps in order to get it to pair, and some of those steps are not documented by Nikon.  I vaguely recall it being similarly bad with the D500 when I first got it – thankfully it’s a process that only needs doing once per camera body, in principle.