Stunted progress in photography, the future of cameras, and how we treat digital cameras like film cameras

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by kdghantous, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. The digital revolution - and a revolution it was - enabled photographers to immediately start saving money after new equipment purchases. Sure, the quality sucked initially (and convenience was overstated) but after a few years, the whole thing really started to work properly, for the most part.
    So that’s all good, except that we photographers ripped ourselves off in a few ways over the past 15 years:
    1. Going to digital cameras too early
    1. Upgrading too often
    1. Treating digital cameras like film cameras
    The first one is history, and we can’t do anything about it. Film was overall better than digital until about, say, the Nikon D3/D700 (though it’s outdated, its resolution is ample, even for today). We can learn though: despite the fact that I always recommend a mirrorless system to others, I maintain that DSLRs dominate a niche for a reason, and if you’re shooting fast moving sports you’d be better off with a DSLR for now (although I’ve seen great sports photos with the Leica M, which no doubt will keep some people up past their bedtime trying to argue against).
    The second will always afflict us. We got our kicks by buying more film to feed into cameras which were often older than we were. But now we don’t have anything to buy except… new cameras. And more of them. Where’s the saving?
    And the third still afflicts us. And it’s not just the overweight DSLR bodies, either, with their redundant reflex systems (Leica must be pissed off that they have to support the S system for a while longer). Even mirrorless cameras carry this legacy, although to a lesser degree. While we acknowledge that mirrors are redundant, we haven’t quite acknowledged that, to a large degree, system cameras are also redundant.
    The future of digital photography is seen in two cameras: the Lytro Illum and the Sony RX10 II.
    The Lytro Illum, has not been well-received by many. It makes not only SLRs redundant, it makes AF redundant. AF is, for now, the last feature that DSLRs have which can be said to be superior to other systems.
    The Sony RX10 II has not only improved its image quality over its predecessor, it has gained a significant focal length increase at the same time. The image quality is great, right to the corners. It is this camera which will be the choice of most photographers by 2020, IMO.
    One great thing about digital technology is that it allows more flexibility in sensor sizes. For most uses, the Micro 4/3 sensors are more than merely adequate. They’re excellent. You can’t get that level of detail with the same film size. You can say that film looks better, but you can’t say that it resolves more or that it’s cleaner.
    The RX10 II uses a slightly smaller sensor than the Micro 4/3 standard (which is, if you didn’t know, one quarter the area of 8-perf 35mm). We refer to it as the 1” sensor. But technology has progressed so much that even a sensor this small can deliver excellent image quality.
    When you look at the size, cost and weight of a ‘full frame’ DSLR system, and even a mirrorless one, and you compare that to the RX 10, something is going to click in your mind. Why do you need to have a separate camera, and separate lenses, all of which are rather large?
    Not much will change overnight, but by 2020, I predict that a lot of photographers - even those who shoot sports - will be using the latest incarnation of the RX 10. I’d be very surprised if press photographers aren’t using it at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Then again, some people just like to signal to others that they’re pros, and oversized cameras are a way of signalling that you are more serious about what you do than the average iPhone owner.
    Sony knows that it’s cannibalising its A and F/E systems (and also the equivalents from its competitors). But it doesn’t seem to care, which is good news for us. Think back to when Apple replaced the iPod mini with the iPod nano. Remember that the iPod mini was the best selling MP3 player at the time. Would you have preferred that Apple delayed progress, or are you glad that they accelerated it?
    Today, I am not sure that I would choose the RX10 II over, say, an A6000 or an E-M5. But by 2020, I bet that I will.
  2. I'm waiting for a compact camera with a 21-35mm equivalent. They can do a 28-90 and a 24-75 rx100, so why not a 21-
    35mm Rx100? Or, a 21-35mm LX100? Oly, Panny, Sony or even Samsung...come on! Be the pioneer! There's the
    unique market differentiation...

    Yes, well argued, Karim.
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    To me a rather dystopian vision. I don't "need" a camera -- I enjoy using my full frame dslrs lenses, etc. just as I took / take pleasure in my film Nikons and lenses. I have and use a little Ricoh GXR, with an EVF. Small, light and capable, but used only as opportunity camera when I might want a photo but have no specific plan. DSLRS for any serious work. None of the brands and concepts you mention are of any interest to me and will never draw a dime of my camera budget.
    Speaking of redundant, I suspect there will be totally automated, self actuated drone cameras, that once programmed, render the photographer obsolete.
    All that will be left is Post Processing -- oh, no -- the systems will take perfect photos every time!
  4. Karim: It sounds like you are trying to convince yourself to get a Sony RX10 or equivalent, in which case why not just do it? The reason is because you probably also think that there may be a better trade off in quality vs size, which is where the larger formats come in. It is not really so much a trade off in final quality, although the larger the format the better the high ISO capability, but also the 50 years of photographic practice that leads one to a familiar modus vivendi. If you can throw off these needs then the RX10 is a good choice. But many of us like the idea of being able to change the lens, if we are bored with a 24-200 f2.8, so we can use a fisheye, fast supertele, tilt-shift, or f1.2 standard lens, and to be able to get great shots at ISO 12800. I also, personally am not very fond of the high depth of field of small sensor cameras, although of course occasionally this is an advantage. I think that is very likely that soon there will be 1 inch sensors in phones, so you might as well keep your phone.
  5. Karim, I do not know what kind of photography you do - I presume you are not a pro - and I therefore barely know how to answer you. With regard to your 3 main points, and speaking only for myself:
    Point 1. I first explored digital imaging in the mid-1990s. I concluded at that time that the hardware costs were astronomical and the results very mediocre. I checked back at intervals but bought my first digital camera, a Finepix E550, only 10 years later, and my first serious digital (a Canon 5D Mk II) 5 years later. I have thus (point 2) remained totally immune to any desire for frequent upgrading (if I had been under pressure as a news photographer from the mid-1990s onwards to go digital and then go faster and bigger, the position would have been different). As it stands, I won't be considering upgrading until my present camera breaks.
    Choosing my words with care, I suspect that you spend a lot more time studying camera specs than I do. I am also, to put it mildly, surprised to see the analog versus digital debate rise yet gain from its slab in the morgue. My own view is that digital b+w is not and will never be identical to film, but it has its own attractive properties and is more than worthy of use for serious purposes, while film continues to have its fans and even attract new ones.
    The position with color is rather different, here the decline of film has been exponential, fewer available film types and processing labs mean lower use, which means even fewer films and labs, which means ... Digital color has a shorter tone scale than film, but on the other hand offers undreamt-of advantages such as auto white balance, fine grain even at higher ISOs and of course freedom from highly-toxic chemicals. Parallel to this, technical progress will mean ever-higher technical quality from equipment previously not regarded as serious, such as camera phones, bridge cameras etc.
    Your remarks were interesting, but you make a mistake in assuming that all other photographers think as you do.
  6. Lytro Illum and the Sony RX10 II​
    A 1-megapixel camera and a 1" sensor camera - and their development in the short span of 4 years will obsolete everything that's available nowadays?
    I’d be very surprised if press photographers aren’t using it at the Tokyo Olympic Games.​
    And my guess is that the majority will be using Canon 1DX III and Nikon D6.
    The RX10 II uses a slightly smaller sensor than the Micro 4/3 standard (which is, if you didn’t know, one quarter the area of 8-perf 35mm).​
    By "slightly smaller" you mean about half as much area as m4/3 and hence about 1/8 of full frame. Even if you put an f/1 lens on a 1" sensor camera, you only get the DOF equivalent to using a f/2.8 one on a full frame camera. In terms of noise and dynamic range, the RX10 II is about equivalent to the D300 - a camera that's now 9 years old. And no progress has been made between the RX10 and RX10 II in that regard.

    But maybe you are right - maybe by 2020 we all have lowered our standards and accept the results from a 1" as the ultimate in performance.
    I also, personally am not very fond of the high depth of field of small sensor cameras, although of course occasionally this is an advantage.​
    +1. One of the reasons m4/3 isn't even on my radar screen. And most certainly not 1". A 20MP 1" sensor must already have indications of a loss of resolution due to diffraction at f/5.6, if not already a f/4. Granted, diffraction is something that gradually deteriorates the image - there's enough shots taken at f/16 or even f/22 on full frame cameras that are perfectly acceptable.
  7. Large physical apertures are needed for depth graded blur (shallow depth of field) which allows us to be selective about
    what to show, and give a coded three-dimensionality to two-dimensional images, which to me is wonderful. It also allows
    us to shoot high quality images in low light and freeze subject movement. To me these are essential ingredients which
    make photography enjoyable and useful to me.

    "While we acknowledge..." Who is "we"? Extremely presumptious style of writing, is the intention just to be provocative? I would prefer a more objective perspective that considers different points of view.
  8. Who is "we"?​
    Pluralis Majestatis? Goes along with the presumptuousness.
    although I’ve seen great sports photos with the Leica M, which no doubt will keep some people up past their bedtime trying to argue against​
    You are not by any chance referring to the ones you linked to in this thread: ?
  9. look at the size, cost and weight ... Why do you need to have a separate camera, and separate lenses.​
    I agree completely that when I want small sizes, low costs, and less weight, the choice is not MILC but an "all-in-one" camera like the RX 10 II. However, for the same reasons, my old Canon G1X (Mark I) is a much better choice: I bought it new for only $500, it has a bigger sensor, fully-flexible LCD, and an optical viewfinder. Of course, I am far from completely satisfied with the G1x's OVF, but the only better VF is the combination of a Fast-returning mirror and a pentaprism (as the one in the Pentax Spotmatic)
    AF is, for now, the last feature that DSLRs have which can be said to be superior to other systems.​
    Funny, the main thing that I miss in the Canon G1X's viewfinder (in comparison with a DSLR's viewfinder) is not about AF but about MF. I need a viewfinder just like the one in a Pentax Spotmatic which was not used for AF at all. Except that I cannot use my G1X in MF like the Spotmatic and cannot change the lens, I am happy to use it until 2020, and would not trade it for a Sony R10 II
  10. I have three children. The oldest is 32. None of my children has ever owned a film camera. They don't compare digital to film because they have only known digital. They are the ones who will decide which systems thrive and which whither. It won't be those of us who went through the digital revolution.
  11. SCL


    Very presumptuous post. But point 3 did amuse me. If I treated my digital cameras like my film ones they would be babied to death, as I highly value the film ones, even though they shoot only 10-15% of my total shots these days. The old lenses, however, get a lot of use on my m4/3 gear. And guessing about what will be prevalent in 2020 --- totally absurd. Technology moves rather fast and accommodates consumer demands rather than shaping them. If you truly have a crystal ball, use it to see what the world is like, not which current camera model will prevail in 4 years :).
  12. I buy none of your arguments.
    1. I don't buy a digital camera until they are good. I bought my first one in Dec 2013.
    2. I don't upgrade or intend to until my camera breaks. If it's good enough for me when I bought it then it's good enough for me forever as long as it functions like when it was new.
    3. I do want my digital camera to work as close as my film camera as possible. I don't mind the bulk and love the weight. In fact I still want to use my film camera if I can buy film easily. The market forced me to move on to digital.
  13. I shoot B/W film and enjoy it so much. I love the camera, I love the prints. I have a digital camera that I also love. Mostly I love how it looks in that Domke bag in the closet.
  14. I agree on the value of the RX10. However, it is the RX10 III that improves still image quality substantially, from the RX10 I, especially in the area of dynamic range. I'm attaching a jpeg taken in Portrait Scene Mode with the RX10 I (full auto) a few days ago, when our grand daughter lost a tooth. I think it's quite good in comparison to any 35mm film work I did from 1969-2003. The RX10 series isn't perfect at anything, but is certainly very good at a lot of things.
  15. although I’ve seen great sports photos with the Leica M, which no doubt will keep some people up past their bedtime trying to argue against
    You are not by any chance referring to the ones you linked to in this thread: ?
    I missed this earlier - highly revelatory. Sorry, these pictures could have been produced by an amateur photographer of average skill using any old zoom compact camera - f someone thinks they're great, he should really get out more!
  16. From what I've been reading online it seems like the majority of people are using their cell phones to take pictures and are quite happy with doing so. This has hurt the sales of dslr's and point and shoot cameras. For most of us here however we will still shoo actual dedicated cameras but we may be a minority now. Hell, I'm in a very small minority since I still shoot film for basically all of my "serious" work. My only digital camera is my phone which I use for fun shots and on-the-go shots. However, I think the writing is on the wall with the majority of people using their phones and the majority is where manufactures look to for sales projections.
  17. However, I think the writing is on the wall with the majority of people using their phones and the majority is where manufactures look to for sales projections.​
    That's a very good point. The most popular camera manufacturer on Flickr is... Apple. The fact that Leica is in partnership with Huawei says very much.
  18. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Cell phones -- I have seen people use screwdrivers in place of chisels, sorta works, but rough. Suspect I will be able to use actual cameras for a very long time, certainly for my lifetime. My first Nikon film camera still works quite nicely-- F Photomic Tn from '68 or so. Quality lasts -- I've had 8 or 10 cell phones that were donated or went into the trash, unlamented. Just sayin'
  19. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    A cellphone is just a tool. It's no better or worse, it comes down to actually being able to use the tools and not spend time looking down on other people's tools. Here's some terrific cellphone snaps -
  20. So that’s all good, except that we photographers ripped ourselves off in a few ways over the past 15 years:
    Going to digital cameras too early
    Upgrading too often
    Treating digital cameras like film cameras

    We didn't buy our first digital camera until 2005. Also, we didn't upgrade from our our first 5D for over four years, only after it needed to be sent in for service from so much use. We are still using the 5Dii we bought about six years ago. We're not really sure what "treating digital cameras like film cameras" means, but if it means using them to take lots of photos, then, yes, we do that (though we don't know how we are ripping ourselves off by doing so).
  21. ripping ourselves off
    As I mentioned, the only context in which this remark makes any kind of sense to me is news photography. In the early days of digital, there was a clear but regrettable tendency on the part of picture editors to prefer an instant but relatively poor-quality digital image over a high-quality film image which needed time to be processed, physically transported, scanned etc. This forced expenditure on low-spec but costly digital cameras which were destined to be superseded in technical terms very quickly. The same of course applies to so-called early adopters among amateur photographers, except that in their case the financial pain was voluntary and self-inflicted.
  22. Karim's point is well argued imo,
    but that doesn't mean it applies
    to everyone...tho, seeing most on
    camera forums and threads, I tend
    to agree. But too some, it may
    not be the case at all..
  23. Digital photography is not about cameras. It is about how it liberated our creative vision. Photographs are still made in the mind, not the camera. If there is any stunted progress it is between the ears of the photographer.
  24. It's an interesting concept, that all you needed to stay up to date with a film camera was to buy more/better film. Reflect for a moment that the latest Nikon film camera is an F-6, which implies there were at least five preceding models, not counting the double and triple digit versions. Each version added features which some people found useful. The Nikon F (F1 implied) was introduced in 1959 and became commonplace in about 1961. To load film, you had to remove the entire back and put it somewhere (it was too large to fit in a shirt pocket). There was no internal meter, no auto-focus, and only about five lenses in the catalog.
    By comparison, Nikon digital cameras are only at version 5, albeit in 15 years rather than 50. I got stalled at version D3, which I purchased in 2010, and still use on occasions. As one's needs evolve, different cameras replace older versions. Some people like to have the latest version for its own sake, but most of us don't have that kind of disposable income.
    Along the way I got to like medium format results for landscapes and serious (i.e., stationary) work. I bought a 16 MP digital back in 2007, and an Hasselblad has been my go-to camera for landscapes and travel, among other things. Besides the Hasselblad mystique, and the respect it garners from clients, it is a clear example why "bigger is better" when detail is important. If I could afford (or more accurately, "justify") an Hasselbad X1d, I would jump for it. A Sony A7Rii was the first small-format digital camera which could compete with that aging system, and handle most of the things I used the Nikon for in the same package.
    The Sony RX10 has no appeal for me. While it has a nice lens, it is not an interchangeable lens. Consequently it is not possible to "leap-frog" bodies and lenses as things evolve. A great part of Nikon's success is that many lenses for the Ur-model F can be used on some of the latest bodies. The same is true for Leica, Canon (since the FD) and Hasselblad. The Sony FE mount seems to have developed legs. We'll see what the future brings.
  25. With a lot of respect:
    I think treating the digital side like film is something I appreciate a lot in a camera build. - I used to work with prosumer 1.3 to 3.3MP cameras and the handling felt annoying to me. I did not buy anything digital myself until 6MP DSLRs became available.
    During the 80s I did a few (for me too expensive and way too hard to handle) rolls in grandpa's Minox C with a fixed zone focusable 15mm f3.5 standard lens. - I'd appreciate it a lot to have something similar in the digital point and wait cameras that made their way to me instead of a more or less blind contrast AF, that makes these cameras too unresponsive for my taste.
    I am not understanding what changed between the 1920s / 30s and now. My Voigtländer Brillant or Bergheil had wonderful light constructions shading their ground glass or huge brillant finder against the sun. - Why are similar things not at least optional parts of modern rear screen aimed cameras? I'd be happy as a clam if I could use something like my modern collapsible Mamiya C33O WLF on a EVF-less MILC.
    Upon the future of the professional or serious amateur non-sytem camera: Yes, I see it too! - Juggling a pair of zooms on one SLR always was an amateur thing... Any somewhat established journalist I saw here had a 2nd body for the 2nd zoom. Early digital taught the lesson about sensor dust and makes lens changes even less desirable than they used to be. Not to mention the issues arising from an interface between camera and lens. - No matter what we are transmitting through it which way; we are apparently jumping through surplus mechanical hoops. Be it an RF coupling pretending that whatever we mount is a a 50mm lens, be it mechanics to couple screwdriver AF, be it just a bunch of contacts between lens and body that don't work entirely well and reliably...
    I think we are close to a point in digital development where leapfrogging cameras and lenses might be less important. I can at least imagine that something like Leica Q or the Sigma fixed primes series might become able to attract customers. FTR: The current Sigmas don't look great to me. - Reasonable cameras with decent fixed lenses would be something I'd look at. At a going rate of let's say 300 Euro per APS C camera part and money saved by not making an imagined lens interchangeable at all.
    My personal crystal ball is foggy about the future of smaller sensors. - I don't always appreciate the lack of DOF arising from APS - FF usage. While happy-snapping social events indoors, I wouldn't mind an DOF multiplicator of 3 or 4, especially if it was granted by a pre-zone focused true P&S camera performing as well in low light than my current elderly gear.
    I even dare to believe that a lot of "love" for selective focus / shallow DOF arose from technical limitations like slow film & sensors + blind AF shouting for fast lenses and available darkness demanding their wide open usage.
    I honestly haven't taken a closer look at the Sony mentioned by Karim. A quick glimpse caught it seems outperformed by Nikon 1's AF, so I guess it isn't really "there" yet? - Pondering an AW1 purchase I looked at Nikon 1 samples and wasn't convinced by the IQ. What I downloaded didn't look that great on a 4K screen, but it takes less pixels to make the news...
  26. If you accept similar noise, you can match small sensor DOF using a larger sensor simply by stopping down and
    increasing ISO correspondingly. What the larger sensors give is a choice between deep and shallow DOF.

    Originally many fast lenses were fairly poor quality wide open and the widest apertures were used mostly only as a last
    resort in low light. They did assist in manual focusing. Eventually the optics and autofocus improved to the point where
    wide open shooting can be used without much image quality penalty (on the contrary you can use lower ISO so you get
    nicer tonality and colour). I use the whole range of apertures as needed, but f/1.4 to f/4 is my favorite for photographing
    people in uncontrolled, visually complex locations. I love the way blur encodes the third dimension (depth) in two-
    dimensional picture. And so a lot of the time I shoot wide open. For landscape, macro etc. I stop my lenses down and go
    for the best image quality including near-to-far sharpness. Also in the studio I use f/5.6 to f/11. With a homogeneous
    background, there is little benefit from using a wide aperture.

    The increased sensitivity and reduced noise of modern sensors allows us to shoot in lower available light than before,
    recording indoor events without flash and, for example, rich displays of aurora borealis with fine detail recorded instead of
    the weak, blurry shadows possible with film. But these things still require fast lenses for best results.

    I appreciate having these choices. I also appreciate that other people can make different choices, for example, in favour
    of portability.

Share This Page