In today's episode the hottest stories in the world of photography and videography with Nikon buying RED and Lensrentals buying out Borrowlenses!

You can find the show notes here.

Show Notes

Greetings, you’re listening to the Liam Photography Podcast, I’m your host Liam Douglas and this is Episode 394 for Thursday March 14, 2024. First I want to take a moment and thank you all for joining me every week for the show in your favorite podcast app and also thank you for Subscribing, Rating and Reviewing the show where ever you might be listening. If you are not already a Subscriber, why not, it doesn’t cost you anything and only takes a second to press that Subscribe button so do it now please so you don’t miss any of my new episodes each week and share the show on Social Media and elsewhere and help get the word out about the show!

Nikon Acquires RED Cinema Camera - Jeremy Gray @ PetaPixel - Mar 7, 2024

Nikon’s surprise acquisition of RED Digital Cinema this week represents a seismic shift in the cinema camera space. It also has far-reaching consequences not only for Nikon and RED but also for the rest of the digital camera industry, including Nikon’s biggest competitors.

Before proceeding into that discussion, however, it’s worth emphasizing that Nikon’s purchase of RED has yet to be finalized. While there are no immediate concerns about the viability of the purchase agreement, until all the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed, there remains a chance the deal will fall through. It happens.

Assuming the purchase agreement reaches its desired conclusion and Nikon acquires RED, making the American cinema company a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nikon, how does it change the landscape?

Founded by Jim Jannard in California in 2005, RED Digital Cinema cameras have been used to film many major motion pictures and television series. Some of the more prominent recent productions that were shot using RED cameras include The Flash, The Matrix Resurrections, The Suicide Squad, Army of the Dead, Nobody, and The Irishman, to name just a handful. To see that RED has a strong foothold among the world’s largest production teams would be an understatement.

In one fell swoop, Nikon has transformed its digital imaging business. That’s not to say that Nikon needed a significant improvement, either. Quite the opposite as the company has not only been performing well financially, it has been making excellent cameras and lenses. The company has also made significant strides in the video space, with cameras like the Nikon Z8 and Z9 being very competent cameras for serious video work.

If there’s one knock against Nikon’s Z System regarding video performance, you could point to a lack of cinema-oriented lenses — at least from Nikon itself, as third-party manufacturers can help fill that void.

Once the deal is completed, Nikon will have some of the world’s best and most powerful stills cameras — which are still very good video cameras — and among the most performant cinema cameras on the market. That is an enviable position.

It would have been a great week to be a fly on the wall inside Sony and Canon’s headquarters, as there is no question that some higher-ups at both companies have spent the last couple of days fuming about Nikon’s bold move.

When Nikon, a publicly traded company, releases its latest financials, it will be especially fascinating to see what this shiny new purchase cost. RED has approximately 220 employees and property, including a movie studio in Hollywood.

While there’s plenty of reason for Nikon to be interested in RED just on the basis of the company’s cameras, and perhaps finally putting what was a bitter lawsuit to bed, there must be more to it than that. RED is not publicly traded, so there’s no way to dig into complete financial performance, so we can leave that aside for now.

Profit, or potential lack thereof aside, something RED definitely offers Nikon is industry-defining cameras, proprietary RAW compression technology, image signal processing, and unique color science. These are all things that Nikon could implement into its own cameras.

Not to spend too much time on the lawsuit of it all, but I think it’ll be interesting if the arguments Nikon made about RED not having a strong claim to own its proprietary compression technology will hold less water now that Nikon will own the patent. I’m sure Nikon isn’t keen on a competitor testing its defenses.

RED is also respected for its image sensor technology. However, despite a bit of smoke and mirrors, RED can’t possibly manufacture its sensors. It can certainly design them and engineer specifications, but it is not a foundry company. RED also works with stacked image sensors in its high-end cinema cameras and has done so for a few years now. I’m sure Nikon could think of some interesting ways to put that technology to use in its stills cameras. RED’s image sensor expertise is undoubtedly of great value to Nikon.

Based on Nikon’s relatively short press release about its intention to buy RED, the company also touts different ways it could elevate RED’s digital cinema camera business, including through Nikon’s expertise in product development, engineering, image processing, optical technology, and user experience. Nikon also has a large and powerful network of business connections that could help improve RED’s product offerings from a logistic and marketing perspective.

Nikon has a rich history with developing autofocus technology, and has recently invested heavily in AI-powered autofocus features, so that’s something that RED customers may be hoping for on the horizon.

Optics, or lenses, is an especially interesting component to this deal. For starters, Nikon’s Z system lacks a robust range of cinema-friendly glass, or at least lenses designed for hardcore videography. Further, RED’s cameras famously include a wide range of lens mount options, including compatibility some of Nikon’s biggest rivals.

For example, the Komodo 6K and V-Raptor 8K cameras come with Canon RF-mount. Will Nikon continue to sell RED cameras with the Canon RF mount? Probably. Will Nikon begin to offer RED cameras with Nikon Z-mount? Well, maybe, but to what end exactly?

As for RED’s thoughts, the company’s press release is about as short as Nikon’s. However, RED does say:

“This acquisition marks a significant milestone for Nikon, melding its rich heritage in professional and consumer imaging with RED’s innovative prowess. Together, Nikon and RED are poised to redefine the professional digital cinema camera market, promising an exciting future of product development that will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in film and video production.”

By purchasing RED, Nikon goes from a small, respectable player in the cinema world that has struggled to gain much traction, even as its products have improved significantly, to a significant player. Just like that, Nikon bought its way into a conversation the company has tried to participate in for years.

However, many questions remain concerning Nikon’s plans for RED’s brand, cameras, lenses, and technology.

If Nikon is looking for inspiration on approaching its newfound power and influence, it needs only to look at its rival, Sony, a force in professional photo and video spaces.

Alongside its E-Mount Alpha cameras, Sony has a thriving cinema camera operation. Cameras like the FX3, FX6, and FX9 have been used on major motion pictures and accept the same E-mount lenses as Sony’s interchangeable lens Alpha cameras. However, Sony also has its Venice line, which is a full-frame cinema camera that has the cine industry-standard PL lens mount.

The slight difference here is that Sony, despite its huge library of E-mount cameras and lenses, does also make PL lenses (CineAlta series). In contrast, Nikon doesn’t already have cine-specific lenses in its lineup. And as for RED, well, it made lenses for a bit more than a decade ago. It didn’t go very well.

Canon is also heavily involved in cinema cameras, although arguably not quite in the same way RED or Sony are. It relied heavily on cinematographers using its EF and RF lenses on RED cameras.

We may not need to wait too long to get an idea of Nikon’s potential direction for RED. NAB, one of the biggest video trade shows in the world, starts on April 13 in Las Vegas. RED is a frequent participant; its absence this year would be surprising. Nikon is also there annually and it would be very strange to not see both touting their new partnership.

Regardless of the precise ways Nikon uses its RED purchase and the products that come down the pipeline in the next few years, it is immediately clear that Nikon is now a significant force in the digital cinema camera market. Nikon has gone from second (or, rather, fifth) fiddle to playing a leading role.

Beyond being a perfect example of “When you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em,” Nikon’s purchase is also a masterstroke. The potential here for Nikon is vast, and if the company handles this situation as well as it has its recovery in the mirrorless camera space, the potential will ultimately be realized.

I personally see this as a bold move that will allow Nikon to be even more competitive in the camera world as they have always lagged behind Canon and Sony at the video camera game and even Fujifilm has better video capabilities in their cameras, especially with the new X-Processor 5 which really ramped up Fujifilm’s AF system making it much faster and more sticky. With this acquisition of RED Nikon instantly becomes one of the largest players in the cinema camera world and it will also add a considerable amount of wealth to Nikon’s bottom line going forward.

Lensrentals Buys Out Borrow Lenses - Jaron Schneider - Mar 7, 2024

Lensrentals announced that it had acquired “select assets” of BorrowLenses from Shutterfly, including the branding and assets. The company confirmed to PetaPixel today that it doesn’t include employees or the physical San Carlos, California location.

BorrowLenses shared the announcement on its blog and the language indicated that the company was no longer going to continue its local operations in California.

“While we will be closing our doors here in California, we are excited to join Lensrentals and know they’ll provide the very best equipment and customer support to ensure you continue to get the gear you need, whether you are renting or buying,” the blog post reads, an odd sentiment for reasons that will become clear imminently.

That statement also wasn’t clear if it meant that BorrowLenses as a brand would cease, if the physical location was closing, or a combination of the two, so PetaPixel reached out to Lensrentals for an answer.

“Lensrentals is not acquiring employees or locations as part of the acquisition,” a statement to PetaPixel from Tyler Beckman, Lensrentals CEO, reads.

“We did acquire the BorrowLenses brand and select assets, and will bring the BorrowLenses assets under the Lensrentals brand, expanding our customer base while growing our inventory of pro grade photo, video, and cine gear and accessories. We’ve setup a transition page to help former BorrowLenses customers onboard to Lensrentals.”

Beckman makes it clear that the BorrowLenses brand will disappear as it is folded into the acquiring business, which is in contrast to how Lensrentals handled its LensProToGo merger.

Given that Lensrentals now owns the BorrowLenses brand (even if it doesn’t intend to use it) and camera gear assets, the physical location will close and its employees’ jobs — which are not included in the acquisition — will be terminated.

Until March 10, current BorrowLenses customers can extend their rentals directly through BorrowLenses, after which point they will need to go through Lensrentals. March 10, therefore, sounds like the final day of BorrowLenses’ operation.

BorrowLenses intends to continue to ship rentals out for the next two days, but orders that ship starting next week will be fulfilled by Lensrentals. Any orders that have been recently placed but not yet received will either contain a new UPS return label or one will be shipped separately that will send the equipment back to Lensrentals, not BorrowLenses.

“In the coming days, Lensrentals will have your past order information to enable extensions, adjustments, and new orders all in one place. Look for an email from Lensrentals with more details soon,” BorrowLenses writes.

Going forward, BorrowLenses customers will need to set up an account with LensRentals, however, if the account is set up using the same email used for a BorrowLenses account, previous order history will be imported.

LensRentals has set up a detailed FAQ page to address any questions BorrowLenses customers might have.

In my view this was not as surprising an announcement as the Nikon/RED deal as I knew Lensrentals had been growing and becoming more and more dominate in the camera and lens rental game here in the United States for quite some time and they and Borrow Lenses were two of the only successful companies to stay in business doing this game. Years ago there was a third company that I use to use for my gear rentals and rent to own but they have long since gone out of business and I cannot even remember their name anymore sadly. They were a good group of people and I had bought my DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone from them as well as a number of my Canon bodies and lenses back in the day.

But as I mentioned a moment ago Lensrentals had been growing and offering more and more gear over the last several years and I believe they were becoming larger than Borrow Lenses and now they have acquired them outright and become the only major player left in the U.S for camera and lens rentals. Now I have also bought quite a few pieces of gear over the years from Lensrentals as well both new and gently used and they have always treated me well and sold excellent used gear. Together, these two major announcements from Nikon and Lensrentals this month are going to shake up the photography and videography world quite a bit, but it will also make both companies stronger and allow them to better serve their customers going forward.

On a personal note Tina and I will be traveling up north soon for a month so I can have my late father’s 2005 Chevrolet Colorado restoration completed. All I really have left is some bodywork and fresh paint and the places I went to here in this area wanted way too much money so I am having this work done back home in PA where I can get quality work done at a more reasonable price. Don’t worry, I will not be leaving you without episodes during the trip as I just recently acquired the Zoom PodTrak P4 system and that is what I will be using to podcast from the PA/NY state area. 

I really wanted the RODE Procaster Duo as my second, smaller podcast system but at $500 it’s just too expensive and the Zoom can do much of what the RODE can for only $150. I’ve already added my sound pads to the Zoom and configured my microphone for it and I am actually recording today’s episode on it to give it a full “test run” before we leave. I love the fact that the Zoom is so small I can pack it in the smaller locking metal box that I normally carry my microphone, cables and headphones in and I am also order Zoom’s microphone kit this week for another $80 which will allow me to have an even smaller set up on the road.

Another nice feature of the Zoom PodTrak P4 is that I can run it for up to three hours on just a pair of AA batteries! Although I have a couple of my Eneloop rechargeable batteries in it and will be taking some spares with me I can also power the Zoom off one of the USB-C ports on my MacBook Pro or use one of my three power banks as well! I really love my RODE gear especially here at home but the Zoom PodTrak P4 system is not only way cheaper but also much smaller and lighter than the RODE gear so it makes it better for travel use than the RODE gear.

While we are up north I will be taking my Fujifilm x100v and it’s accessories as well as my new Fujifilm X-T5 and a couple of lenses. I have been wanting to do a review of the Viltrox 75mm F/1.2 PRO lens with portrait images to feature in the video so I will be doing some shoots with my kids and grandkids to fully test out that lens for portraits while we are up home. And of course since I am taking the x100v you know I will be doing some Street Photography as well since I will have a month up there and plenty of weekends to get out and shoot providing the weather is decent in April.

I also have an interesting lens coming from Laowa that is a 10mm F/4 “Cookie” lens for my Fujifilm X Mount that is of course an all manual lens but it is super wide and it’s rectilinear so it keeps your lines straight unlike a fisheye lens and it will be interesting to shoot with that lens as well while I am up north. I think this new lens will be great to test out at places like the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and maybe also around Seneca Lake in New York! Laowa is NOT sending me the lens, I bought it myself and at $319 it’s not too terribly expensive to play around with and it will be arrive by next Monday the 18th.

Aside from really loving the design of my Fujifilm cameras I also love the fact that so many companies make both AutoFocus and Manual lenses for the Fujifilm X/GFX mounts unlike Canon who barred all third-party companies from making AutoFocus lenses for their RF mount. Having so many companies making lenses for your platform gives you way more freedom and flexibility as well as being less of a drain on your wallet. 

I have been loving Viltrox’s Auto Focus lenses so much I have a total of six of them now! I have the 23, 33 and 56mm F/1.4s as well as the 85mm F/1.8 II, and the 27mm and 75mm F/1.2 PRO lenses. I am also contemplating their 13mm F/1.4 since I recently traded in my Zeiss 12mm F/2.8 to help pay for my new GF 45mm F/2.8 for my GFX 50R.

Speaking of the GF 45mm F/2.8 I have really been enjoying shooting with this lens and the fact that it is 35mm in full frame field of view, so as I said before it’s perfect for Street Photography on Steroids! I want to thank Daniel Carpenter at Fujifilm US once again for being nice enough to lend me this lens for three weeks to review and do some test shooting with and now I have one of my own since mine just recently arrived from Used Photo Pro! Again, neither Robert’s Camera nor Used Photo Pros are sponsors of this show, I just do a lot of business with them and they have really treated me well so next time you are in the market for some new or even gently used cameras or lenses, give the folks at Roberts Cameras and Used Photo Pro a try and a special shout out to Scott Morrison at Used Photo Pro for being a Rock Star when it comes to treating customers right!

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