More Strange Things Said

"I got more in focus shots [BIF] in the last 30 minutes than I did in the last 10 years of photography" — YouTube video regarding the Nikon Z9.

Hmm. 10 years would include the D4s, D5, D6, D500, and D850, just on the Nikon side. I've used all those cameras, and have plenty of in focus shots of birds in flight (BIF) from every one of them. So what's going on here? This particular person hasn't been the only one that's said something like that, and I've seen it said fairly regularly about the Canon R5/R6 and Sony A1/A9 models, as well. 

Here's the thing: as in any discipline, there are "high practitioners" using professional gear, and others of varying levels of capability and understanding using professional gear but not producing the same levels of results. The high practitioners study their equipment carefully, figure out what it's doing (and often why), then tailor their photography habits to what they learned. They practice a lot. They adopt strict discipline on various things. They look at themselves, too. One reason why gimbal heads became a thing is that you can't really keep a 600mm f/4 lens pointed reliably at a fast and erratic moving subject. 

Likewise, high practitioners learned to use pre-focus techniques. If you just followed a bird from the distance to flying past you, the lens is probably near its closest focus distance as you let go of the shutter release. Then you point the camera at another distant bird and expect instant results from the focus system. Particularly on Nikon cameras that doesn't happen. Which is why the high practitioners learned to program a preset focus distance into their lens and use a button to retrieve it before starting the next sequence following another bird coming at them. 

If you go back far enough, you'll see similar statements about exposure, too (e.g. "I got more well-exposed shots with match-needle metering than I ever did with a separate light meter"). Then came automatic exposure, followed by matrix metering, followed by color/subject aware metering. 

The camera makers aren't stupid. They increase the number of folk that will buy their gear if they can keep making improvements that allow almost everyone to get results that look like those of the high practitioners. Exposure metering, autofocus, image stabilization, digital (instant) imaging, and more have been the big leaps that regenerated photographic interest and brought more amateurs into the fray. 

The number one and two questions working professionals get about their images (usually just after the "wow" response) is: (1) how did you get that shot? and (2) where was it taken? More and better automated features start to remove the need for people to ask #1, but we'll still get #2 (unless, of course, we let the built-in GPS record that information into the EXIF data ;~).

Camera makers need to pay even more attention to #1. They need to be closer to the potential customer and see what images it is that people are asking "how'd you get that shot?" about. These days, it's things like focus stacking, multiple exposure (including HDR-type techniques), long exposure, astro (including the long forgotten star trails), and more. Fortunately, for the high practitioners, the camera makers haven't quite solved those problems for everyone else yet. Focus stacking, for instance, is rudimentary automation in the camera and requires post processing sophistication, leaving a gap for high practitioners to fill. 

"[my Zfc is] a fun enjoyable camera [but] it frustrates me." --dpreview post

See my other article today ;~). But it turns out that the frustration of this poster is lenses (oh dear, buzz, buzz). Further discussion revealed that it was the conflict between focal range and aperture that was concerning this user the most. The old "you can have any two of the following three" problem in a different form. 

But this does bring up another aspect of the "fun" discussion. For me, to be fun (or enjoyable if you buy my assertion in the other article), you should be able to abandon all your concerns and just participate in the fun/enjoyment. If something holds you back, then you're not having as much fun/enjoyment, and at some point that starts to wear on you and you start an ever-declining path to "not fun." 

Personally, "fun" to me is more of an absolute. I'm either having fun or I'm not. There isn't a 90% fun level for me. Enjoyment, on the other hand, isn't so absolute for me. I mostly enjoyed watching Reacher, even though it was often sophomoric or formulaic, and there were too many "well isn't that a coincidence" moments. I didn't much enjoy Avengers Endgame, mostly because it went on forever and was beyond silly most of the time. See, no absolute to my enjoyment. 

But fun? It is or it isn't to me, which is one reason why I keep objecting to people calling their camera fun. My camera isn't fun, but it's enjoyable. And yes, there are things about it that frustrate me. So while I pulled the above quote into my "strange things" compendium, it wasn't so much that it was a strange thing to write, but more that it was strange to see someone else making my point in a different way. 

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bythom.com: all text and original images © 2022 Thom Hogan
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