On September 17, when a forum member calling himself Psychic1 wrote his post on the FredMiranda.com Canon forum, he had no idea how wide the information he was sharing would spread. Speaking in hindsight during a call with Photographic Wanderings yesterday, Psychic1 said he thinks 'it's pretty funny.'
This is what Psychic1 posted on FM.com, under the heading 'OMG - 1DsX in NYC...': '...Canon will release a 46MP pro body at the Javits Center in October.'
What happened next tells a couple of tales: photographic gearheads falling over one another to endlessly discuss the ins and outs of non-existent equipment on the one hand and, on the other, a community clamoring for clicks no matter how iffy the basis for its reporting.
It was Winston Churchill who said that 'a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.' We're not talking about a lie here, but it's at least an interesting exercise to delve a bit deeper into the makings of news in this easily over-excited community.
Following Psychic1's short post, Fred Miranda wrote 'I trust Psychic1 more than the rumor site!' followed by a Smiley Face laughing out loud. Some ignored that Smiley Face and argued the Fred Miranda had given his stamp of approval to Psychic1.
Some people asked for additional info and why Canon wasn't announcing the camera at Photokina, which was taking place at the time of Psychic1's first post.
His reply was:
'New York City will garner more press and we are a slightly larger market.
I never troll.
Not mad, seldom angry.
Pro body $8K - $9K
No more info, no photos.'
The thread has now died down on FM.com, but not without garnering 434 posts and getting more than 43,000 hits.
The 'News' Spreads
In the meantime, though, other sites picked up the information, including PetaPixel.com, CanonRumors.com and Phoblographer.com. They all said that it wasn't clear if the information was correct, but apparently they found it worthy enough to dedicate editorial resources to it and tie their reputation to it. Soon, the phrase 'Canon is rumored to announce the 1DsX next month with 45+ MPs' popped up, as if Psychic1's information was now part of general knowledge.
Photographic Wanderings doesn't cover rumors. Still, I was amazed how this rumor was quickly spreading. Then I wrote an introduction to a new feature I'm introducing next week. In that piece, I tried to explain why I won't cover rumors and consider them a waste of time. I also realized of course that rumors mean traffic and that some readers trust the rumor sites more than the news sites, because the rumor sites seem totally independent while the news sites rely on loaner gear and sometimes ads from the very camera makers they cover. Plus they have to sign NDAs if they want to receive news and gear under embargo. In the case of the Canon 1DsX rumor, it had actually spread beyond mere rumor sites.
I got really curious and put on my journalism hat. Most of my information I could get by just going to Psychic1's profile on FM.com and doing further Google searches based on what you find in that profile. You can too. More importantly, without picking up the phone, all those other sites lending their space to this rumor could have done so too. Almost everything I write here was already available on the web the moment Psychic1 started the forum thread.
I'll elaborate in a moment, because I decided to get in touch with Psychic1 and ask him about the tidbits he shared and that spread like wildfire in the photographic community.
The Man Behind It All
Psychic1 is Frank McNamara. He lives on the outskirts of Queens, New York. As a Canon Professional Services Member, he deals with Canon, but doesn't really know anyone there.
He used to run Diamonds & Fly's, a jewelry and fly-fishing accessories shop in New York that advertised its products in the Wall Street Journal, but sold the store in 2000 and since then has made his powers availabe for free to the government. 'I'm a psychic,' McNamara says. Among other things, he says he informed then-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg in August 2003 that a terrorist attack would strike Rome, which McNamara said was the almost nationwide blackout that hit Italy late in September of that year.
Frank McNamara (published with permission)
You can read more about his claims on his website, lettersfromfrank.com, which also serves as the introduction for a book he's writing. It will be published in January and will provide proof for the claims he's making, he says. In short, McNamara calls himself 'George W. Bush's Secret Psychic' and writes 'I directed President George W. Bush for 8 years via certified mail and fax after he confirmed my ability with GE’s CEO Jack Welch, post 9/11.'
The Original Sources
So, where does his information about the Canon 1DsX come from? 'My sources are not on this planet,' McNamara says. He rightly doesn't call this a rumor, but a prediction. "I know nothing at all," he says, "I know to trust what I'm told."
The announcement is what he received in his mind, the rest is just logical deduction, he told me. He says he's not sure about the name of the camera, calling the designation not important. He says it will have a Sony sensor, because he believes Sony holds a patent Canon would infringe on if it wants to produce a high-megapixel sensor. He figures the price will be high, because Canon likes to take money out of our pockets. And he says the camera will be a 'piece of shit,' because the focus points will be black, making tracking at night impossible.
Oh, he says he also correctly predicted the Canon 7D Mark II in another thread.
And he says the original Canon 7D was produced because in 2005 the Canon CEO in Japan got a letter on his desk predicting 'bad karma' because of a lack of an affordable fast Canon DSLR for sports photography. That letter might just have come from him, McNamara says.
Asked why he decided to share his prediction, McNamara said he felt Canon thought it was going to get away with this without a leak, 'so, I leaked it.' Pride also played a role, as you can only prove your psychic powers by predicting something in advance and not by claiming after the fact that you knew it all along.
When he posted it, he didn't think it would go global. But it did.
Now, McNamara seems like a perfectly nice fellow, with a good sense of humor and no ill intentions. Like everyone else, he has every right to post on a forum what he believes will happen. And McNamara never claimed more than he did. He's been truthful to himself.
Oops, Forgot to Check...
From a journalistic perspective, the basis for an upcoming announcement of a 1DsX seems a little shaky, to say the least. Guess what, though? Nobody got in touch with him to ask him the questions I asked him before they picked up the 'rumor.'
Instead, each report seemingly reaffirmed the previous one. CanonRumors.com, a site that at least is clear in its standing, picked up the item, saying: 'I have no idea if this is a troll or not, but it will surely appear other places so I might as well post it.' That article got 119 comments.
CanonWatch.com got this: 'This rumor is less implausible than you may think. Just a few days ago a truly authentic looking image of an 11-24mm f/4L lens showed up. If the lens is real it might point to an announcement to come soon.'
PetaPixel.com then had this to say: 'The rumor’s birth can be traced back to a trusted users on the fredmiranda.com forum, and as Canon Rumors points out, it could very well be a troll. In fact the trusted rumor site gave the rumor a less-than-enthusiastic vote of confidence when they said they were reporting on it because, "it will surely appear other places so I might as well post it.” True rumors have started out on shakier ground though.'
The Phoblographer.com also added its bit: 'Normally we would not even acknowledge such a unsubstantiated rumor from a forum user who could very well be trolling. However, the source also noted the pro body could cost between $8,000 and $9000.'
Just a Prediction, Really
It's all a bit like they didn't really believe it, but found some way to argue that there was a strong enough basis to report the news or rumor. If they had just checked out Frank's website or given him a call, they might have heard from him it wasn't even a rumor. It was a prediction by a psychic, coming from sources not on this planet.
What will McNamara do if it turns out, he - or rather, his psychic sources - were wrong? 'I just go on shooting with my 1Ds III,' he laughs. 'It's only a camera.'
By John van Rosendaal