Thursday, April 16, 2009

Open Standards

It seems to me that, just like the computer industry, the manufacturers of camera equipment should develop and embrace more open standards. Yes, that would probably have an impact on sales of some peripheral items, as consumers would have choice. But forcing someone to buy an inferior product because nothing better works with the platform is bad for business in the long run.

My Canon camera uses CF cards, and my business partner's Nikon uses the same cards. Neither Canon nor Nikon manufactures memory cards, so there's no threat in adopting that standard. And that's great for us - it means we can swap cards easily. Now, how about that speedlight? Can I use my Canon master flash to fire your Nikon slave unit? Can I borrow that bitchin' fisheye lens? No way. The big manufacturers want to keep consumers in-brand for big ticket items like that. Ok, how about camera batteries? No, although for the life of me I can't fathom why they don't share a battery standard. Cables? Can we just use an IEEE standard port for each connection, so that I have choice? The other day I was going to buy an external battery pack for my Canon speedlight. The salesman had both a Canon and a Quantum unit on the counter. I really liked the Quantum. It was serious gear, and I wanted it. Lucky for me, it was $10 cheaper than the plastic crapfest that Canon sells. But wait, only the Canon battery pack can plug into the proprietary jack on the 580EXII flash unit. To use the Quantum, you have to buy a $40 module that pretends its a 4-pack of AA batteries and slides into the flash. But the battery door won't close. Oh, and Quantum doesn't make a module for that battery pack to fit the 580EXII. So the choice was really just a tease; I bought the Canon and I'm grumpy about it.

Since Canon and Nikon don't work together, we had to go to a third-party radio trigger solution so my partner and I could interchangeably fire our stand-mounted lighting. The mod to add a second non-TTL hot shoe running on the PC port (yay, a standard port!) is shown in the photo of my camera above.

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