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Pictures & Words

Al's Auto Body and Arboretum

Wisconsin is known for some quirky places. Much of this quirkiness involves cheese (take Mars Cheese Castle, for example). I received a tip from friends at church on Sunday about this 'Hosta Fest' going on in Walworth. I'm familiar with the concept: a small nursery who specializes in breeding will open the doors to the place one or two weekends a year for a plant sale. These can be a lot of fun: they're usually not dirt cheap, but you can find great varieties of things that you would never see at the Home Depot or Wal-Mart garden center. So this particular hosta fest was being held at Al's. Al's Auto Body and Arboretum. OK—that's one of the stranger combinations I've heard of, but my friends said it was fabulous. They have 175 varieties of hostas, and behind the auto body shop is a nice hosta arboretum.

How can you pass that up? Jen and I jumped in the car today and drove the back roads to the southern tip of Lake Delavan. Al's is a few miles from the lake on North Walworth road (google it if you want to find it—there's not a whole lot of Al's auto body and arboretums in the US). As promised, it was fabulous. Hostas were beautiful, and I imagine that they were pretty picked over considering the sale had been going on since Saturday morning.

Here's some shots from the arboretum... If someone can tell me what the vine is in the third picture, I'd appreciate it.





The Sigma SD1

A little over a week ago, Sigma announced pricing and availability for the new SD1 dSLR. This was a highly anticipated camera with regards to all those people who had been shooting previous versions of the Sigma dSLR cameras. A brand new next-generation Foveon sensor with 15 MP (x3, so 46 MP or so in marketing parlance) was nearly four times the number of pixels in the previous generation. This chip was slightly larger as well (1.5X crop), and was being put into a brand new body. Info from my sources were saying good things: less noise than the previous generation of chips, nice quiet shutter, great ergonomics, solid body. When the camera was announced last fall, the Sigma leadership was indicating that they were going this camera would go toe-to-toe with the upper end APS-C dSLRs (like the Canon 7D), and would be priced competitively. The image quality should be something else however, far and away above those APS-C cameras and hopefully giving much more expensive full-frame sensor cameras a run for their money.

So, last weeks announcement of availability in June was met with some gratitude: Sigma had not slipped much with regards to a delivery date. But the price? Not the $1700 that the Canon 7D sells at. Or a $2000 opening price. Or even $2500. No. The announced list price??


Hey, the good news is that the street price will only be $6800 or so.

I have no idea how the pricing could have gotten so far out of whack. Even with lousy yields on the sensor (which I would find hard to believe), it's really inconceivable that this camera could cost more than $1500 to manufacture. The sad thing is that probably 99% of the Sigma 'faithful', the folks who have used the SD9s, SD10s, SD14s, and SD15s are completely left out of the equation. This is a group that would have gladly spent $1500 to $2500 for a new Sigma camera. But this pricing is in a different level. Sigma is going after a pro/medium format segment, and it's unclear to me that they are ready or able to compete in that segment.

Assuming this camera delivers the goods with regard to usability and image quality, they would have sold a ton of them at $2000. They would have gained market share, and mind share as well. At this price, most serious photography sites are ridiculing this release as a study in how not to market a product. Perhaps when the camera is released it will actually be that good—but I'm afraid at this price it would have to be even better.

For me this is a huge disappointment. I had the cash stashed away to pick this up—but there's no way that it'll happen with the current pricing strategy. What's more, when it comes time to look for a new camera, I'm afraid that I'll have to reevaluate the entire marketplace. I have no confidence that Sigma will have a product for me to upgrade to. And even if they say they've got something coming—I can't trust them not to inflate the price. They took their 'preannounced' price and multiplied it by 4 in this case. That's a shame, because I really admire a lot of folks at the companies (both Foveon and Sigma), but I'm going to hold off any future purchases for a while.

Instead of whining about this anymore, I took out my new CF tripod (a Benro C-358 picked up off of Amazon a couple weeks ago for $221) and shot frogs out by our pond. Enjoy. I tried kissing one to see if he was either a rich prince or an IMF banker (to get $10K for a camera), but no luck...  :-)








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