MirrorlessRumors: A personal question…how old are you?
Vitaly Kiselev: More than 30 and less than 40. Not a young hacker.
MR: What’s your job?
VK: I am a freelancer, teacher and UX designer. All in one.
MR: Why did you start to hack the GH1/GF1?
VK: In fact the project started as a TZ5 hacking project (I own the TZ5). The main complaint is the 8KHz sound. Saving SD card space, you know. :-) It was not my intention to do hacking myself. Only provide guidance. The problem is that this approach does not work in reality. :-) It appears that people who can do it are very rare, as it requires some knowledge plus a bunch of time.
MR: Why didn’t you stop with the TZ5?
VK: I just made a simple stripper for TZ5 firmware and saw that firmware uses the same format and the same processor (as GH1 and ).
MR: What motivated you to work hard on the GH1 hack? Was it the DVXuser community?
VK: Generally speaking, yes. I would especially like to say a big thanks to Dvxuser admins and Barry Green personally. Next thing that motivated me: the enormous GH1 potential.
MR: What do you mean by “potential”?
VK: I mean that Panasonic amazingly lost the VDSLR battle to Canon, having a much better camera. :-)
MR: How was that possible?
VK: You just need to remember the history: 2009.
VK: Do you remember? You had the GH1 announcement and. oops. from nowhere ML (Magic Lantern) for
the Canon 5D MKII appears Canon 5D MKII appears…and the threads about mud in 1080p24.
MR: Why is the GH1 a better camera…and why did Canon win the battle?
VK: GH1 is just one step ahead. A good viewfinder, screen suitable for video shooting. AVCHD is not limited in length. In reality they had to win all. They just made three main errors. And I am worried that they can do it again with the GH2.
MR: And the errors are?
VK: 1) They sell kit only. With high priced kit lens it is a bad decision. People do not have options.
2) They did not do any tests for its AVCHD encoder. Even 24Mbit setting (and this is within standards) could be much better. This is a software only error, easy to fix.
3) They did not understand who opinion makers are. They spend millions on marketing for average Joe, but average Joe reads specialized forums and opinion makers.
They must make features and have people to deal with opinion makers. Canon did exactly this. Not from the start, but they started moving.
MR: In some countries (like UK) body only option is available. Maybe what we miss here are more “dedicated” video lenses.
VK: As for body only version. UK is a bad example with very high prices :-)
MR: Why do you think Panasonic will repeat the mistake with the GH2 (or GH3)?
VK: From my sources (this is not a high level management), they all think that as soon as they reveal GH2, all problems will be solved. Instantly. No need to ask for things the users need, no need to deal with opinion makers. No. They know better. Normally this is good sign of a disaster.
MR: So you think Panasonic has to work on their marketing more than on their camera features?
VK: Generally they NEED to focus on specific users and their needs. Not average Joe. And I really do not like the word “marketing” in its modern meaning.I think that they need one thing – feedback. And feedback means both product features and direct work with people. This is what marketing has been before all this MBAs.
MR: Did you ever have contact with Panasonic?
VK: I have contact with a few guys, but they all wanted to be anonymous.
MR: Stupid question: Do you not believe that Canon has the edge with the fullframe sensor?
VK: No. In reality I think that Canon will lose this battle. And all this FF stuff. People need to realize that lenses are bigger, and for average Joe this is no-no. So FF will have nich, of course. But you better hire a good focus puller. All this FF fans really need ideas for their films, not shallow DOF. :-)
MR: I do agree :)
VK: I really forget to mention lighting. :-) So, VDSLR does not mean any revolution. It just means that about 10-20% of the equipment is now much better and affordable.
MR: VDSLR, do you plan to “hack” more cameras?
MR: And what about cameras?
VK: We’ll see. If Sony is smart enough they’ll realize that it is very good to have free software marketing :-) Look at GH1. From my calculations these guys sold at least 1000 of GH1 additionally because of all the buzz :-)
MR: I have some people asking me why you don’t hack the Olympus cameras. I guess the answer is you don’t have enough time to hack everything :)
VK: Exactly. If they really want to help, we have one guy trying to hack Olympus camera at our development sub-forum at dvxuser.com
MR: Back to your current GH1/GF1 patching project.
VK: Important thing is that we are opening an IDA database, the AVCHD part is already available. Looking at the results I’ll open more, MJPEG parts, low level stuff, menus, file operations, etc.
MR: Any details about your nearest plans?
VK: You can see all targets and known problems at http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?t=218790
MR: What are your main goals?
VK: The main goal has been to become an official project. Not hacking, but to create SDK to allow you to adopt camera for small niches. Astronomical, HDR lovers, indie filmmakers. Anybody. Big corporations can’t do it on their own. They finish firmware and move almost all developers to the next model.
MR: Do you think it is possible to make the project “official”? Why Panasonic should listen? Do you mean they
must adopt Apple model?
VK: Look slightly behind Apple. Many years ago Palm destroyed all this producers of memory pads (including Apple :-) ) They made good SDK, support. I had some relation to portable development in that time. It always happens with mature products. In phone market it had been Microsoft (before Apple, and may be after :-) )
MR: Do you think mirrorless cameras are more suitable for video than DSLR’s? Or do we still need that “bulky” optical viewfinder?
VK: We’ll see. Sony is the key player here, not Nikon or Canon. And EVF will win, of course. The Sony A55 could be a real hit. But we need to know about encoder, audio and EVF use.
MR: Do you believe contrast autofocus will become fast enough?
VK: Contrast detection will replace phase detection very shortly. It is already fast enough in niche markets. Phase detection requires calibration and tight manufacturing. This is not good. Maybe we’ll see focusing by moving sensor itself.
MR: So, what keeps you motivated to spend a lot of time on hacking cameras?
VK: Just a hobby :-) It is much more interesting than playing games :-)
VK: Best computer game pale in comparison, as in reality you play against other people – developers.
MR: Are you “excited” about the new camera announcements? What do you expect from the camera makers?
VK: This year we’ll see a major camera market shakeup. As for excitement, no. It is just interesting to see smart people making good products. And I see almost no bad products in VDSLR camera market.
MR: Why shakeup? What’s coming?
VK: Sony is coming. It will supply sensors to Pentax and Nikon.Plus its logistic is much better in Japan, Asia, Russia, and maybe Europe. In Russia for each 10 Sony cameras you can find 2 Canon and 1 Nikon, and 1 Samsung. I think they’ll surprise Canon as the leader in VDSLR segment in a year. This is my prediction. 7D and 550D played a bad game with Canon. They made good cameras with very good margin without investing seriously in VDSLR and getting feedback. But lenses it key part here. I think that the next winner will be one that makes real adapters for their EVF cameras. With full autofocus and aperture control. It is not that hard. Not easy, but not that hard. Like a $50 adapter with AF and aperture control for any Canon lens. And, boom. Canon lost many-many body buyers.
MR: I don’t know if that will ever happen.
VK: I am sure that some of the companies are working on this.
MR: Novoflex-…or the big companies?
VK: It’ll happen. Law of capitalism. Give them 200% profit and they all would even sell their mom :-) Do you understand how big the current Canon and Nikon owners base is? Plus all protocols are already available for such companies. All they need is to solve a few construction things. I really hope that Samsung can do this. They are not a Japanese company, and they do not have that good personal relations. And personal relations are the only thing that can prevent this from happening. Japanese mentality :-)
But they need good influence first. And their EVF is really bad. The sensor is struggling to output good video.
MirrorlessRumors: Thanks Vitaly for giving us the interview!
Vitaly Kiselev: It has been a pleasure!
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