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19 March 2018

Digital Photography Review...

Canon interview: 'increased competition allows us to level-up'
Sun, 18 Mar 2018 13:00:00 Z

Canon executives (L-R) Yoshiyuki Mizoguchi, Group Executive of Imaging Communications Business Group, Go Tokura, Chief Executive Officer of Canon's Image Communications Products Operation, and Naoya Kaneda, Advisory Director and Group Executive of Canon's Optical Business Group.

At this year's CP+ show in Yokohama, we sat down with senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Canon. Topics covered during our conversation with Go Tokura, Yoshiyuki Mizoguchi and Naoya Kaneda included Canon's ambitions for high-end mirrorless cameras, and the importance of responding to changing definitions of image capture from the smartphone generation.

Answers from the three interviewees have been combined, and this interview (which was conducted through an interpreter) has been edited for clarity and flow.

How important is it for Canon to add higher-end mirrorless products to your lineup?

At Canon we have what’s called a ‘full lineup strategy’. This means that we want to satisfy all of the demands in the market, so we have mirrorless and also DSLR, which combined makes an EOS hierarchy. We want to fill the gaps to satisfy customer demands across the board.

The new M50 is an entry-level model, because that’s where the high-volume sales are. We want to establish ourselves in this market, and then move forward [from there]. In accordance with the full lineup strategy, we will be tackling [the mid-range and high-end mirrorless market] going forward.

The EOS M50 offers 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS AF, but not at the same time. Is there a technical reason for this limitation?

With the EOS 5D Mark IV, we do offer 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus, so technically it is feasible. But given the position of the M50 in the lineup, we can’t include all of the features available in a product like the 5D IV. Given the position of the product, we wanted to achieve the optimal balance [of features] in a camera in that range. We’ve optimized the M50 as best we can [for its market position], and within those parameters, the combination of 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus was not possible.

Canon's new EOS M50 offers limited 4K video capability, making it the first of Canon's mirrorless cameras to go beyond HD video capture.

Another manufacturer that we spoke to estimated that Canon would have a full-frame mirrorless camera within a year. Is that realistic?

That would be nice, wouldn't it?

The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 is coming up - when we look at photographers shooting with Canon at Tokyo in two years time, what will we see?

The Tokyo Olympics is a very important opportunity for us. If we look at the professional camera market, we would like to introduce a professional model at that time. Having said that, we take reliability very seriously. So when we talk about [creating] a model for the Olympics, we’re not just talking about performance. We’re also want to make sure that we can achieve the same level of reliability that we’ve always delivered [in our professional DSLRs].

The Tokyo Olympics is a very important opportunity for us

We also want to raise Canon’s presence overall, with camera products and also events and services. We have been instructed [by our senior leadership] to maximize the opportunity!

Canon's gear room at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Major sporting events like this have always been a major focus for Canon, and have often served as showcases for new professional cameras and lenses. The next Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo, in 2020 and is sure to be a major event for Canon.

In your opinion, what is the most important quality for an entry-level camera?

We are always looking for speed, ease of use, and maximum resolution. We’re also thinking about how we can deliver better image quality than a smartphone. So it’s about really focusing on speed, ease of use and image quality. Small size and weight comes into [the calculation] as well, and also the GUI.

Looking beyond the entry-level class towards cameras aimed at high-end amateurs like the 5D class, those customers need even better image quality, and they also want to take more control over operation. They want to expand, and express their creativity. Reliability also comes into play.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV offers both 4K video capture and Dual Pixel autofocus - not a combination available lower down in Canon's ILC lineup (for now).

Do you think that 4K video is a more important feature at the entry-level end of the market, or the enthusiast / professional segment?

We believe that 4K video is important for all market segments, and all users. Given that we have a range of products, we always have to think about how best [to implement 4K] in that class of camera. And you can do more with 4K video in a higher-end camera than in an entry-level model.

Why is that?

The cost required to introduce [features like 4K] into cameras dictates the kind of features that we can introduce [in products of different classes]. 4K is important to offer in all market segments, and in the M50 we’ve achieved 4K at 25 fps, and that’s the best we can do at this time. We can’t introduce all of the features [in an entry-level camera] that we could in a higher-end model. Another point is that consumption of 4K footage in terms of devices to view 4K video – the penetration of those devices in the market, and their adoption, was a little faster than we expected.

In the past, you’ve said that you won’t introduce a high-end mirrorless product until there would be no compromises compared to DSLR technology. Are we getting close?

In the EOS hierarchy we have cameras from entry-level to professional with different features. When it comes to mirrorless cameras, we have entry-level models, and we’ve just about started on the mid-range class. What that tells you is that Canon is confident about mirrorless technology within this range of products.

We still believe there’s work to be done before we can achieve the level of satisfaction that our users are looking for before they could confidently move from DSLR to mirrorless

But if you look at the enthusiast and high-end product class, in terms of both autofocus and viewfinder [experience], we still believe there’s some work to be done before we can achieve the level of satisfaction that our users are looking for before they could confidently move from DSLR to mirrorless. That’s where we are right now. We’re still on the path to development.

So far, the EOS M5 is the nearest thing Canon has made to a high-end mirrorless camera. The M5 is a great product, but a far cry from some of the industry-changing cameras that Canon has been responsible for in the past.

Having said that, it’s not like we don’t have the components required to create a mirrorless model that would be on a par with DSLR models. For example Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus, lenses that can focus quickly, and optical components like the EVF. We have the technology required to create a camera that would be satisfactory. It’s just a matter of combining [those components] together. So you can look forward to our developments in the future.

There’s still a perception among our readers that Canon is a little conservative. Where is Canon innovating right now?

Rather than some of the very novel features that some of our competitors have been introducing, we believe that it’s really important to deliver the basics. Speed, ease of use, and good image quality. Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus is representative of that [philosophy]. It’s not only important for stills photography, but also for video. Only Canon is pursuing this area [of development] right now. We also have Dual Pixel Raw, and we’re looking for new ways of applying [this technology] currently.

Canon's schematic of its Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor structure. The top layer illustrates the light-gathering micro-lenses and conventional Bayer-type color filter array. The lower layer shows how each pixel is split into two photo-diodes, left and right, which are colored blue and red respectively. (Note that this does not indicate different color sensitivity.)

With lenses, we introduced the EF 70-300mm [EF70-300mm F4-5.6 IS II USM] zoom lens, and the EF-S 18-135mm [EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM] which both have Nano USM focus motors. This makes three focus actuators: ring type, stepping motor and Nano USM. This gives us more options when it comes to optical design. For a super wide lens like the 10-24mm L [EF11-24mm F4L USM] for example, we offer ring-type USM, which provides higher torque. Our optical technology is a strength that we’re proud of.

Maybe Canon lenses don’t look that different to our competitors, but in terms of performance, we’re able to create lenses that are superior

We also have a range of [special] optical materials, and methods to process these materials. If you just look at specs, maybe Canon lenses don’t look that different to our competitors, but in terms of performance, we’re able to create lenses that are superior. It’s also about post-purchase support. Durability, reliability, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Our users are able to enjoy this level of performance and they appreciate that.

We also have a new product – our new Speedlite 470EX-AI flash, for automatic bounce photography. So we believe that we can provide innovation across the system of cameras, lenses and accessories. Our customer base is also diversifying, particularly generations ‘Y’ and ‘Z’. They’re looking for new things. We were just at CES in Las Vegas, where we showed some new concept models. We got a lot of feedback, and we want to turn [the concepts] into a marketable product pretty soon.

When we look at trends in mirrorless technology, we’re considering the technical advancements that are possible.

Clearly, the transition to mirrorless will be a big challenge, technically. When you look ahead to further mirrorless development, are you envisaging a new lens system?

It’s been more than 30 years since we launched our EF lens mount, and we’ve sold more than 130 million EF lenses during that time, so we can’t simply ignore that many lenses in the market. At the same time, when we look at trends in mirrorless technology, we’re considering the technical advancements that are possible. It’s a difficult question to answer, but maybe let your imagination suggest some possibilities!

The move from FD to EF in 1987 was bold but also controversial given the legacy of FD lenses and the lack of compatibility between the two platforms. Do you think that situation will happen again?

That’s a difficult question to answer. There was a lot of discussion and debate about that shift, in 1987, and we’re going through the same thing now. We want to nurture and support our [existing] EF customers and we’re in discussion about that at the moment.

Canon's recently-announced EF 85mm F1.4L, showing the electronic contacts which are a defining element of the EF lens system, first introduced more than 30 years ago to replace the all-mechanical FD lens platform.

In 1987, the shift was from a mechanical interface to an electronic interface. That [precluded cross-compatibility]. Despite that shift, the change provided significantly more value for our customers, which is why we went ahead. If it turns out that [the introduction of mirrorless] will create a similar situation, this might be a decision that we would take [again]. But we’re not sure yet.

Because we’re already using an electronic interface, the shift will be more gradual [than it was in 1987] so [we would better able to] maintain compatibility.

Looking ahead, what is Canon’s main priority?

We want to improve our product lineup, including lenses. We just released an entry-level model (the EOS M50), and because young people are really getting into photography more actively, the entry-level segment is one that we always need to make sure to tackle.

The entire concept of capturing images has changed over the past couple of years

When it comes to maintaining market share and ensuring growth, what is the most difficult challenge that Canon is facing?

We’ve been producing cameras for a long time, but the entire concept of capturing images has changed over the past couple of years, and we need to engage with this new style of capturing images. The first stage is our new concept cameras. It’s important for us to relax and expand our concepts of image capture.

This is of the several concept cameras that Canon has been showing this year - an 'intelligent compact camera' designed to automatically capture images, and intelligently learn about the kinds of pictures you want to take.

Now, maybe the camera can be beside you, or maybe even away from you, and still capture the image that you’re looking for. We need to have the technologies to respond to [these new ways of capturing images] in the way that Canon should.

For a very long time, Canon and Nikon dominated the professional market. There’s a lot more competition these days. Is more competition good for Canon?

More players means more activity in the industry, which is a positive thing. Having said that, of course it’s tough.

Does this pressure generate better ideas? More innovation?

Very much so, and it goes both ways. For all players, to be stimulated by increased competition allows us to level-up across the board.

Is it more important for camera manufacturers to design cameras that behave more like smartphones, or that they communicate the benefits of a dedicated camera to smartphone photographers?

I think we have to do both. We have to continue to evolve the traditional benefits that a camera can provide, and at the same time we have to consider the diversification of image capturing tools, including smartphones, and what they have to offer. Our mission is to pursue both approaches.

Editor's note:

This interview was the fourth time I've spoken to Mr. Tokura in recent years, who has become more senior within Canon since we first met back in 2014. Our conversation at CP+ covered some old ground (the perception among some industry-watchers that Canon is a little conservative, increased competition from the likes of Sony, etc.) but this year I really got the sense from talking to him that Mr. Tokura and his team will have some pretty interesting products to show us in the not too distant future.

We know from previous conversations with both Mr. Tokura and his boss Mr. Maeda that increasing the speed of product development has been a priority at Canon in recent years. Since then, we've seen some solid refreshes at the top and middle of Canon's DSLR lineup (along with some truly excellent new lenses), but a lot of the company's energy seems to have been directed towards the lower-end, especially within the EOS M lineup. This focus on the entry-level segment of the camera market ('where the sales are', as Mr. Tokura said in our interview) makes sense, but I've expressed my own disappointment in the past about such a 'slow and steady' approach in the face of increasingly fast-moving competition.

Canon has the technology for high-end mirrorless - it just has to put all the pieces together

It's been a long time coming, but in this interview Mr. Tokura came pretty close to at least hinting that higher-end, perhaps even full-frame mirrorless is imminent – and maybe even within the next 12 months. As he said, Canon has the technology – it just has to put all the pieces together.

Possibly even more exciting is the possibility of a professional model to come by 2020. Back in 2016, Mr. Tokura reminded me that Canon likes to launch flagship models in Olympic years, and the fact that the next Olympiad will be held in Tokyo is likely to present an irresistible opportunity. You heard it here first.

Canon has shaken up the photography market several times in the past, and has the potential to do so again.

Speaking of the future, the Canon executives I spoke to at CP+ were very keen to show me the mockups of a range of concept cameras that were first unveiled at this year's CES show in Las Vegas, in January. While none are finished, marketable products (yet) it's clear that Canon is keen to explore products that respond to what Mr. Tokura calls 'a new style of capturing images'.

Canon is sometimes criticized for taking a conservative approach to product development, and in some cases this is true (although it isn't always a bad thing). It's important to remember though that Canon has shaken up the photography market several times in the past, and there's every chance it could do so again.

Previous interviews with Canon executives:

An interview with the heads of Canon's L lens factory (2017)

CP+ 2017: 'We want to be number one in the overall ILC market'

CP+ 2015: 'Every day I'm saying 'speed up!'

Photokina 2014: Mirrorless 'in the very near future'

CP+ 2014: 'We don't see the smartphone as an enemy'

CP+ 2013: Interview with Canon's Masaya Maeda


Sample Gallery: Documenting a bike build with the Fujifilm X-E3
Sun, 18 Mar 2018 12:00:00 Z

We recently got a chance to follow local frame builder Max Kullaway as he created one of his AirLandSea bikes. To document the process, we used the Fujifilm X-E3, the 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 R OIS and a selection of the company's mid-price F2 prime lenses.

Here are favorites of the photos we got, as the project progressed from bare tubes all the way to rideable bicycle. For the full story, check out our video.

This is sponsored content, created with the support of Amazon and Fujifilm. What does this mean?


Sony a7 III dynamic range and high ISO improve over its predecessor
Sat, 17 Mar 2018 14:00:00 Z

Sony recently announced the a7 III, a comparatively affordable full frame mirrorless camera that incorporates a host of advanced features derived from the a9 and a7R III. The combination of price point and feature set makes it attractive to both enthusiasts and pros, particularly those looking to get into full frame or perhaps even make the switch to mirrorless. While we've already shot quite a bit with it and offered our thoughts on the camera as a whole, we hadn't had a chance to take a deep dive into its image quality performance.

And we know many of you are wondering: what's the dynamic range like? The high ISO performance?

Let's take a look.

Low light (high ISO) performance

a7 III
ISO 25,600
ISO 25,600
a7 II
ISO 25,600

Low light performance has improved markedly over the a7 II, putting it more or less in-line with the a7R III (and therefore a9) when images are viewed at the same size (we've downsized the a7R III shot to 24MP). These are 100% crops here (if you're viewing on a smartphone or Retina / 4K display, see this footnote* below). Roll over the captions, or click on any of the images to view our full studio scene images for each camera.

This is a great result, but also comes as no surprise: noise performance is broadly determined by a combination of sensor size and technology, and we've recently seen some significant improvements to sensor technology made by Sony. In particular, the backside-illuminated (BSI) and dual gain architecture of most recent Sony sensors helps squeeze every last bit of performance out of these already low noise imaging chips. Furthermore, the original a7 and a7 II lagged in high ISO performance, often failing to surpass the best APS-C sensors.

Dynamic range vs. the a7R III

The a7 III more or less matches the base ISO dynamic range of the a7R III, when both are viewed at common size (we've normalized all our graphs to 8MP). That means both cameras will give you similar ability to make use of (brighten) shadows in Raw files if you want to show a wider dynamic range than shown with the default tone curve. And as long as you're shooting uncompressed Raw, performance is no different whether you're shooting Single or Continuous drive.

In numbers, that's 14.6 EV and 14.8 EV for the a7 III and a7R III, respectively, which falls within our margin of error. You might see a difference in extreme pushes or exposure adjustments, but it's not likely to be photographically relevant.

a7 III (orange) vs. a7R III (blue). There's a slight chance you might notice the 0.2 EV advantage of the a7R III at base ISO or the 0.3 EV advantage of the a7 III at higher ISOs, but we doubt it. As our test scene images show, the two cameras look very similar when viewed at the same output size.

Note the jump in dynamic range at ISO 640 for both cameras. That's essentially the camera's second 'base' ISO, where the second stage of the dual-gain architecture kicks in. At ISOs 640 and above, most recent Sony sensors use a higher gain mode that essentially amplifies the signal at the pixel-level to get it above the (already pretty low) noise floor.** In laymen's terms, that just means 'more picture, less noise', particularly in shadows – hence the increase in dynamic range.

Our analysis shows the a7 III to just edge out the a7R III at these higher ISOs, albeit only by about 0.3 EV (which happens to be right around our margin of error). You might see this in the deepest shadows – in fact, if you look very closely at the darkest patch in our ISO 25,600 rollover above, you can kind of see a tad bit less noise in the a7 III, but is that photographically relevant? Up to you.

... but it shows a marked improvement over its predecessor

While base ISO dynamic range remains the same as its predecessor, the dual-gain design brings a marked improvement at high ISO. Shadows at high ISO will be notably cleaner on the a7 III, and that's before you consider the better overall high ISO performance – even in brighter tones – likely due to either a more efficient sensor or lower upstream read noise.

Compared with the a7 II (green), the a7 III (orange) shows much better dynamic range (at least 1.6 EV) at higher ISOs. Also, whereas you can see noise reduction being applied to the a7 II's Raw at 25,600, it doesn't kick in until ISO 64,000 (beyond the graph) on the Mark III.

Compressed continuous drive performance

If you shoot compressed Raw, the camera drops to 12-bit sensor readout in continuous drive modes. This negatively impacts dynamic range, dropping 1.4 EV at base ISO and roughly 1 EV at ISO 640. Dynamic range catches up at higher ISOs, though never quite matches the performance of 14-bit readout. Even at ISO 6400, 12-bit files are roughly 0.4 EV behind - though this is unlikely to significantly impact your photography. The differences at lower ISOs and at ISO 640, on the other hand, you might notice in more extreme pushes.

a7 III Uncompressed (orange) vs. Compressed 12-bit (light orange) performance. We're not sure about the jumps at ISO 160 and 800, but for the most part there's a drop in dynamic range at lower ISOs that more or less evens out at the higher ISOs.

In Single drive mode, compressed Raw continues to use 14-bit sensor readout, so measured roughly the same dynamic range as Uncompressed (it dropped 0.1 EV, but that's within our margin of error).

And if you're confused about when the camera drops to 12-bit – which is the only time you'd see these drops in DR – the only combination that diverges from 14-bit is when you shoot compressed Raw in (any) continuous drive mode. All other combinations of Mechanical or Electronic shutter, drive mode or Raw type are 14-bit.

vs. a7R II

We threw this one in here because the a7 III and a7R II are currently being sold for roughly similar price (the latter is $400 more expensive), so we're aware of some discussion about choosing between the two. You're unlikely to notice our measured 0.2 EV higher base ISO dynamic range of the a7 III, but you might notice the 0.5 EV advantage at ISO 640. At higher ISOs the cameras even out.

Realistically though, there's not much difference between these cameras.

a7 III (orange) vs a7R II (red) dynamic range. You might notice the 0.5 EV advantage of the a7 III at ISO 640, but for the most part performance is similar.


Due to the dual-gain architecture, there are two 'ISO-invariant' ranges: ISO 100-500, and ISO 640-51,200. This means that if your midtone exposure demands ISO 400 but you're worried about clipping highlights, you're better off keeping your exposure settings the same but dialing the camera back to ISO 100 and then selectively brightening the Raw later. This affords you 2 EV extra highlight headroom, with no extra noise in shadows or midtones. If on the other hand your midtone exposure demands ISO 6400, you're better off keeping the same shutter speed and aperture and dialing the ISO down to ISO 640, affording you 3.3 EV extra highlight headroom at no noise cost.

Wait, does this mean I should shoot ISO 640 instead of 320?

No. Not necessarily.

If you have enough light to expose ISOs 200-500 correctly, you should use those ISOs. For example, say you can set a shutter speed and aperture to expose ISO 320 properly. You should not rather choose ISO 640 and shorten your exposure (to preserve highlights that the higher amplification of ISO 640 might clip). That would mean lower overall signal:noise ratio due to increased photon shot noise contribution, and would essentially have the same overall effect of shooting with a smaller (in this example: APS-C) sized sensor.

Recall that dynamic range is not everything, and generally the more light you collect, the better your image. Bill Claff's 'Photographic Dynamic Range' data for the a7R III, which uses a higher threshold for 'acceptable noise in shadows' and therefore considers total light captured more than our measurements, shows that ISO 100-400 outperform ISO 640 and higher. Dual-gain boosts low light performance, and shouldn't affect your exposure decisions any differently, other than perhaps biasing toward ISO 640 rather than 500 in low light.


We've summarized our results in numbers in the table below.

ISO 100 (24MP) ISO 100 (8MP) ISO 640 (24MP) ISO 640 (8MP)
a7 III 13.8 EV 14.6 EV 13.4 EV 14.2 EV
a7 III (compressed 12-bit) 12.4 EV 13.2 EV 12.3 EV 13.2 EV
a7 II 13.9 EV 14.7 EV 11.8 EV 12.6 EV
a7R III 14 EV 14.8 EV 13.1 EV 13.9 EV
a7R II 13.6 EV 14.4 EV 12.9 EV 13.7 EV
a9 12.6 EV 13.4 EV 12.4 EV 13.2 EV

So what's the take-away? The a7 III's image quality more or less matches what we've come to expect from modern, well-performing full-frame sensors. There's really not much difference between the a7 III, the a7R III, the a7R II, or the Nikon D850 for that matter.

But if you're coming from one of the original a7 cameras, you'll notice the dramatic increase in low light performance. The a7 III bests its predecessors both in dynamic range and general noise performance at higher ISOs, thanks to a number of sensor improvements (efficiency, BSI, dual-gain). Interestingly, the a7 III, which we'd imagine shares a similar sensor to the a9 minus the stacked design, offers roughly 1 EV more dynamic range than that camera at ISOs 100 and 640 (the cameras even out at the highest ISOs). General noise performance of the a9 - if you're not pushing your files - is similar though.

The a7 III's image quality more or less matches what we've come to expect from modern, well-performing full-frame sensors

The a7 III offers great image quality performance at an affordable price point. That said, it's not image quality that sets this camera apart from its contemporaries but, rather, its significant other capabilities like autofocus, silent shooting, video and a number of other things we'll be delving into in our full review.

* Retina & smartphone optimized 100% crops:

a7 III
ISO 25,600
ISO 25,600
a7 II
ISO 25,600

** Technically speaking, it's not exactly more amplification. Rather, the sensor switches to a different circuit within the pixel that has different capacitance at the floating diffusion node. This essentially generates a larger voltage swing (signal) per photoelectron captured, which means the signal - your picture - is less affected by the noise floor of the sensor and electronics.


Photo story of the week: Flowing under a solar storm
Sat, 17 Mar 2018 14:00:00 Z

A night of stunning Northern Lights dancing above Haukland Beach, the Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway, on a moonless evening.

The serene stream that flows from the surrounding mountains and pours into the Norwegian Sea curved into a beautiful shape, paralleling the curves of the Auroral display. Haukland is a very good location for shooting Aurora, since it has numerous interesting features (such as the mountain and the stream), and since any water left stationary frequently freezes over and supplies more variety and interest. It's also relatively shielded from artificial lights.

This image was taken in the winter of 2016 during my Lofoten workshop. I used a Sony A7R and a Samyang 14mm F2.8 with a Metabones adapter. The photograph was taken at F2.8, ISO 3200, and 8 sec exposure. The high ISO, wide aperture and long exposure were used to counter the darkness and produce a balanced exposure.

Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel. You can follow Erez's work on Instagram, Facebook and 500px, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates. Erez offers photo workshops worldwide.


AI-powered Google Lens visual search tool is now available on iOS devices
Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:59:00 Z

The AI-powered Google Lens feature uses visual recognition to provide information about whatever your smartphone's camera is pointed at. For example, it can identify landmarks, a type of flower, or provide information about a restaurant or other businesses you're photographing.

Google first showed of this feature at the I/O 2017 event, then integrated it into the company's Pixel phones, and later made available for all Android devices. Now, the final step of the natural Google Lens evolution is complete: the company has announced that Google Lens is coming to Apple's iOS operation system:

iOS users should see a preview of Google Lens appear in the latest version of the Google Photos app over the next week. So, look out for the update and, if you haven't got the Google Photos app already, you can download and install it from the iOS App Store.


Adobe posts record revenue yet again, earning $2.08 billion in Q1 of 2018
Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:34:00 Z

Photo by Kevin

It's starting to feel old hat by now: another quarter, another record-breaking earnings report coming out of Adobe. No matter how much people—present company certainly not excluded—gripe about Adobe's move to the Creative Cloud subscription model, the software company is absolutely raking in the dough as a result.

The last record-breaking revenue report we shared out of Adobe came in Q3 of 2017, when Adobe announced that it had earned $1.84 billion that quarter. Now, in Q1 of 2018, the company is staring at that figure in the rearview mirror.

This quarter, Adobe is posting record quarterly revenue of $2.08 billion, $1.23 billion of which came straight from Creative Cloud in the Digital Media Segment. That $2.08B figure represents a jump of 24 percent year-over-year, and contributes to the 43 percent growth in YoY operating income and 64 percent growth in YoY net income that Adobe also revealed.

You can dive into the nitty gritty details in the release below, and see the full number-by-number breakdown in this PDF.

Press Release

Adobe Achieves Record Revenue

Creative ARR Exceeds $5 Billion in Q1 FY2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018 4:05 pm EDT | San Jose, California – Adobe (Nasdaq:ADBE) today reported strong financial results for its first quarter fiscal year 2018 ended March 2, 2018.

Financial Highlights

  • Adobe achieved record quarterly revenue of $2.08 billion in its first quarter of fiscal year 2018, which represents 24 percent year-over-year revenue growth.
  • Diluted earnings per share was $1.17 on a GAAP-basis, and $1.55 on a non-GAAP basis.
  • Digital Media segment revenue was $1.46 billion, with Creative revenue growing to $1.23 billion and Document Cloud achieving revenue of $231 million.
  • Digital Media Annualized Recurring Revenue (“ARR”) grew to $5.72 billion exiting the quarter, a quarter-over-quarter increase of $336 million. Creative ARR grew to $5.07 billion, and Document Cloud ARR grew to $647 million.
  • Digital Experience segment revenue was $554 million, which represents 16 percent year-over-year growth.
  • Operating income grew 50 percent and net income grew 46 percent year-over-year on a GAAP-basis; operating income grew 43 percent and net income grew 64 percent year-over-year on a non-GAAP basis.
  • Cash flow from operations was $990 million, and deferred revenue grew 25 percent year-over-year to approximately $2.57 billion.
  • Adobe repurchased approximately 1.6 million shares during the quarter, returning $301 million of cash to stockholders.

A reconciliation between GAAP and non-GAAP results is provided at the end of this press release and on Adobe’s website.

Executive Quotes

“Adobe’s outstanding growth is driven by enabling our customers to be more creative, work smarter and transform their businesses through our relentless focus on delivering innovation and intelligence across our solutions,” said Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO, Adobe.

“Our leadership in the large addressable markets we created, combined with Adobe’s leveraged operating model, contributed to another record quarter in Q1," said Mark Garrett, executive vice president and CFO, Adobe.

Adobe to Webcast Earnings Conference Call

Adobe will webcast its first quarter fiscal year 2018 earnings conference call today at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time from its investor relations website: Earnings documents, including Adobe management’s prepared conference call remarks with slides, financial targets and an investor datasheet are posted to Adobe’s investor relations website in advance of the conference call for reference. A reconciliation between GAAP and non-GAAP earnings results and financial targets is also provided on the website.

Forward-Looking Statements Disclosure

This press release contains forward-looking statements, including those related to customer success, product innovation, business momentum, our addressable market, revenue, annualized recurring revenue, non-operating other expense, tax rate on a GAAP and non-GAAP basis, earnings per share on a GAAP and non-GAAP basis, and share count, all of which involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. Factors that might cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to: failure to develop, acquire, market and offer products and services that meet customer requirements, failure to compete effectively, introduction of new technology, complex sales cycles, risks related to the timing of revenue recognition from our subscription offerings, fluctuations in subscription renewal rates, potential interruptions or delays in hosted services provided by us or third parties, risks associated with cyber-attacks, information security and privacy, failure to realize the anticipated benefits of past or future acquisitions, changes in accounting principles and tax regulations, uncertainty in the financial markets and economic conditions in the countries where we operate, and other various risks associated with being a multinational corporation. For a discussion of these and other risks and uncertainties, please refer to Adobe’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for our fiscal year 2017 ended Dec. 1, 2017, and Adobe's Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q issued in fiscal year 2018.

The financial information set forth in this press release reflects estimates based on information available at this time. These amounts could differ from actual reported amounts stated in Adobe’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for our quarter ended March 2, 2018, which Adobe expects to file in March 2018.

Adobe assumes no obligation to, and does not currently intend to, update these forward-looking statements.


The New York Times is looking to hire a Photo Director
Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:09:00 Z

The New York Times Building by wsifrancis | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The New York Times has posted a job opening for the position of Photo Director. If you're looking for a high-profile job in the world of photojournalism, and you live in (or don't mind moving to) New York City, you could do a lot worse than working for The Gray Lady.

The opening was listed seven days ago, and it goes to great lengths to emphasize the importance of photography to the Times' mission. "Photography is a central part of our identity," reads the posting. "It’s how we bear witness to events that matter, and our Photo department is one of the treasures of our newsroom."

As for the job of Photo Director itself, the posting reads:

Now we’re looking for someone to lead this talented and diverse team and to become part of the visual leadership of the organization. We want to continue integrating photography and other forms of visual journalism into the fabric of our report — as closely as our words.

This role is one of the most important and high-profile jobs in visual journalism, and we’re seeking candidates with a rare combination of journalistic experience, organizational expertise and extraordinary visual talent.

Some of the listed qualifications include:

  • Daily leadership of a large staff of photo editors and photographers who work across the globe, covering all subjects.

  • Candidates should be able to maintain high journalistic standards and sustain a level of excellence that makes photography a core component of The Times’s identity.

  • Sophisticated news judgment and a compelling vision for how The Times can produce world-class journalism and innovative storytelling. We’re looking for a strong digital sensibility, including the ability to recognize emerging techniques and platforms and a clear understanding of how to define a modern photo desk.

  • Strong grasp of feature and portrait photography and the ability to improvise visual solutions for news coverage that may not be obviously visual.

  • Sharp eye for talent and ability to recruit a diverse, first-rate team of photo editors and photographers.

If you think you have what it takes to be the new Photo Director at the New York Times, click here to read the full job opening and apply.


Samsung wants to dethrone Sony, reach #1 in the global image sensor market
Fri, 16 Mar 2018 17:34:00 Z

According to a new report out of South Korea, Samsung is increasing production of its ISOCELL image sensors at its Hwasung, South Korea location in a bid to clinch the #1 spot in image sensors worldwide.

However, this feat is definitely easier said than done. Current market leader Sony has a comfortable advantage over its South Korean rival, and certainly won't go down without a fight. In the lucrative smartphone segment alone, Sony currently has a 46 percent market share versus Samsung's much smaller 19 percent.

That said, technologically at least, Samsung is well-placed to take on the challenge. Its latest Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S9/S9 Plus devices all come with innovative imaging technologies and offer excellent camera performance built on Samsung's own sensor technology.

The company rebranded its image sensor range as Isocell in June 2017. Since then, Samsung has not only expanded its high-end sensor offerings, it also designed low-cost image sensor modules that are easy to implement into devices by other manufacturers. Several of those, for example Xiaomi and Meizu, are already using Samsung image sensors.

However, market leadership cannot be achieved with smartphones alone. Samsung is also planning to grow in the automotive space where CMOS sensors are increasingly used in the autonomous vehicle space and for other applications. In this segment, Samsung will face stiff competition from the likes of Bosch and Continental.

Whoever ends up ruling the image sensor market, a large company like Samsung challenging Sony's quasi-monopoly for image sensors can only be good news for consumers.


Moar Megapixels! Pixel peeping a 709MP drum scan of 8x10 slide film
Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:18:00 Z

Large format wilderness photographer Ben Horne recently embarked on a little experiment with some help from his friend, Michael Strickland. Horne shoots large format 8x10 slide film, and Strickland has a drum scanner that can scan that film at insanely high resolution. How high? Using a little bit of trickery, Strickland was able to provide Horne with a 709.6-megapixel file to pixel peep in this video.

Take that, 100MP medium format sensors!

To give you an idea of just how high resolution this file is, printed at 300ppi, the resulting print would measure 79.3 x 99.4 inches. As we mentioned, this took a bit of 'trickery'—namely: Strickland actually had to drum scan the print twice. He first scanned the top half, then the bottom half, and then merged the two scans together in post.

In the video, Horne zooms in to 100% and makes his way around the file. He explains how he shot the image, what sacrifices he had to make regarding sharpness in the closest foreground and furthest background, and shows off just how sharp this thing is in the parts of the image he's most concerned with.

Check out the full explanation for yourself up top, and then head over to Horne's YouTube channel for more videos like this one.


The Android-only LyfieEye200 is 'the world's smallest VR/AR camera'
Fri, 16 Mar 2018 15:04:00 Z

eCapture Technologies has launched a new version of the LyfieEye mobile camera on crowdfunding website Indiegogo. Called LyfieEye200, this model is being dubbed "the world's smallest 360° VR/AR camera," and offers a bunch of neat AR/VR features for Android users who want to get more mileage out of their smartphone photography adventures.

The LyfieEye200 was designed for Android smartphones, and adds 1440p support in addition to the original model's 1080p resolution. The removable camera plugs directly into a smartphone's USB-C port, where a pair of greater-than-180° FOV fisheye lenses work together to enable both 360° image/video capture and 360° livestreaming.

To make the magic happen, the camera works in conjunction with the LyfieView200 Android companion app on devices running Android 5.0 or newer. And if you want even more creative possibilities, eCapture offers both the LyfieStroll and LyfieRoam apps for creating simple VR and AR content, respectively. Finally, the camera is also compatible with PCs running Windows 7 or higher, but it does not support iOS.

The LyfieEye200 is available now on Indiegogo, where backers can 'reserve' theirs by pledging at least $90 USD. Shipments to backers are expected to start in June, assuming the campaign reaches full funding and doesn't pull a KitSentry.


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