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Author Topic: A Redux Critique Of Contemporary Camera Design  (Read 7010 times)
dreed
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« on: March 30, 2014, 08:38:01 AM »
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From the latest article:

"Zoom with your feet and when the limits of that technique have been reached, change the focal length of the lens. Some of the most interesting compositions occur when the photographer is dealing with a found, fleeting moment, and may not be in the perfect position or have the perfect lens mounted, so has to creatively find a way to use all the negative space around the primary subject in the composition. When time isn’t of the essence, the need to physically change lenses for compositional reasons, makes the process more deliberative. You really have to think for a moment about which lens is right for what you want to do. There are two common phenomena that occur when we see something we want to photograph. One is to take in everything the eye sees, which typically results in a photograph that lacks focus. And I’m not referring to something the lens does, but what the mind does. Not everything in front of us is a photograph, even though there is indeed a photograph there before us, somewhere. "

That paragraph, and particularly the last sentence, is the challenge that is photography. Of all the articles I've read here and elsewhere, none have captured it so well.
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Isaac
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2014, 09:52:10 AM »
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"Not everything in front of us is a photograph…"

Click! It is now.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2014, 11:16:20 AM by Isaac » Logged
BBrandonScott
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« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2014, 07:46:12 AM »
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I found Richard Sexton's piece very insightful and intriguing. But I would like to make two comments.
1) "An essential design attribute for any contemporary digital camera is dual composition and focusing technology. " I argued with this statement in his piece and re-read it several times, but I think he is absolutely correct. I am a long time Nikon user and also a Panasonic GX7 user with a selection of primes (agree about primes also). The focusing of the GX7, while very fast, does not compare with the Nikon. I cannot follow fast moving action, esp little birds. I love the GX7 for travel, but if I'm going after wildlife, it just does not get there. I think Richard might be right. The issue is in the human eye's construction and EVF will never get good enough. The great advantage of micro 4/3s is size and weight. What you give up is great focusing and the ability to follow action in the viewfinder. So you need a dual focusing technology or two camera systems!
2) It seems to me that photography is still in a state of shifting as regards what we do with the final outcome--do we print or do we post. To the largest print size I print to (13x19), micro 4/3s is fine. I'm very satisfied with the print quality. If I were printing to really large sizes, then a larger sensor would be needed.  But I'm not.  If posting to the web, micro 4/3s is fine. The question is, for how much longer will the print be standard for output? I still like to print and have invested both money and time in becoming a good printer. But I find I'm posting a lot more than printing.
Brandon Scott
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2014, 08:09:24 AM »
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"Zoom with your feet and when the limits of that technique have been reached, change the focal length of the lens."

I always found this sentence misleading when I saw it in one or the other form in various writings .
In my world it's not at all about zooming or getting lazy with your feet.
It's about getting the best position or viewpoint where the subject looks best,
has the best size relation to its surrounding objects or background and foreground,
then -and only then- chose the appropriate lens to get the desired framing.
That is why I (in the meantime) love zoom lenses.
Not because they spare me walking around.
It's because they allow me to always find the best position to take the shot and
get the optimal framing and use of film or sensor real estate after doing that.

Cheers
~Chris
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Dale_Cotton2
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2014, 10:17:19 AM »
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Chris -- you explain it well. Diff between changing focal length and changing camera position is called a change in perspective.

My take is that Richard is asking the reader to meet him half way on details like this or the essay would have had to be multiple times its current length. I'm like you in preferring a moderate zoom; but I read Richard's approach, quoted above, as saying he can find a desirable composition often enough using a combination of primes and relocation that it's not an issue for him.

Richard's essay is half about manufactured-object design and half about why he's made the camera acquisition choices he has. I was frequently delighted with the insights into design history, most of which were new to me. Both his LL essays are 'way up there near the top of my list of favourites on this site. And their being typo-free is the rarest of treats.
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BJL
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2014, 10:36:11 AM »
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My take is that Richard is asking the reader to meet him half way on details like this or the essay would have had to be multiple times its current length. I'm like you in preferring a moderate zoom; but I read Richard's approach, quoted above, as saying he can find a desirable composition often enough using a combination of primes and relocation that it's not an issue for him.
I agree: this essay is one excellent photographer who has used a wide range of gear explaining his evolving gear choices in the context of his approach, not dictating that we must all emulate him.  Read that way, it is one of the most thoughtful essays I have read in some time about how camera technology is evolving, and how this can affect gear choices.


P. S. For reasons that others have stated, I also prefer zoom lenses for everything except extreme close-ups ("macro"), but do not begrudge anyone with different priorities.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 01:22:46 PM by BJL » Logged
mecrox
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2014, 11:05:25 AM »
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An interesting counterpoint would be to lend this Leica equipment to someone or several people of 18-24 for three weeks, say, and then ask how it works for them compared to what they normally get up to. What do they think of these classic but alas uber-expensive cameras and lenses? What do they look for from photography equipment? That might give an insight into where the camera-makers need to go.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 11:46:00 AM by mecrox » Logged
Hans Kruse
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« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2014, 12:32:17 PM »
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"Zoom with your feet and when the limits of that technique have been reached, change the focal length of the lens."

I always found this sentence misleading when I saw it in one or the other form in various writings .
In my world it's not at all about zooming or getting lazy with your feet.
It's about getting the best position or viewpoint where the subject looks best,
has the best size relation to its surrounding objects or background and foreground,
then -and only then- chose the appropriate lens to get the desired framing.
That is why I (in the meantime) love zoom lenses.
Not because they spare me walking around.
It's because they allow me to always find the best position to take the shot and
get the optimal framing and use of film or sensor real estate after doing that.

Cheers
~Chris

Chris, well said!! That's exactly the point and couldn't agree more.
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amolitor
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« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2014, 03:22:58 PM »
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It is certainly one of the results of using primes, that one is forced to:

  • select a perspective
  • select a frame
  • or crop

Primes are inherently limiting. This can be a good or a bad thing. "zoom with your feet" is a terrible phrase that has, unfortunately, become something of a stock phrase which means almost nothing except "I prefer to use primes, and think that you should agree with me."

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Isaac
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« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2014, 03:53:26 PM »
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"Zoom with your feet and when the limits of that technique have been reached, change the focal length of the lens."

I was sure I'd seen that glib zoom versus prime sentiment expressed somewhere else but I was wrong.

I'd misremembered these (presumably Ernst Haas evading some "What is the best lens?" questions) --

Quote
“Best wide-angle lens? Two steps backward. Look for the ‘ah-ha’.” -- Ernst Haas

“The most important lens you have is your legs.” -- Ernst Haas
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 04:45:36 PM by Isaac » Logged
Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2014, 04:35:18 PM »
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Primes educate you to walk. Once you have  grabbed that you can start using rubber glass.
Cheers
~ Chris
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Telecaster
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« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2014, 04:55:39 PM »
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"Zoom with your feet and when the limits of that technique have been reached, change the focal length of the lens."

I was sure I'd seen that glib zoom versus prime sentiment expressed somewhere else but I was wrong.

Changing the focal length of the lens is not the same as changing the lens.

Being someone who learned photography with fixed focal length lenses, when using zooms I tend to do exactly as Richard's quote suggests. I use the zooming facility as a fine tuner.

"Primes." Zooms. Whatever works best in a given situation.

-Dave-
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Isaac
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« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2014, 05:34:46 PM »
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Careful! Ray might explain perspective again.

Being someone who learned photography with zoom lens and SLR, I was baffled that with DSLR I seemed mentally stuck at the short-end or the long-end. So I switched to 35mm and 85mm (on APS-C).

(Well, and 100-200mm zoom but that was just the cheapest option for a longer lens.)

Primes. Zooms. Whatever works… (Isn't that what Ernst Haas was saying?)
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Larry K
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« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2014, 07:28:51 PM »
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Great article; summary of where we are today.  I like primes more than zooms, but when I tried to zoom with my feet one time with a prime, I discovered that I had to do more than walk.  I had to swim a well!  Or fall off a path on a cliff.  That would make a nice cartoon, zooming with your feet into the ocean to photograph a whale.  Why is someone always making us choose one or the other, whether it's a lens or a camera.  Don't we all have 2 plus cameras now and more than one lens? 
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2014, 11:31:48 PM »
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An interesting counterpoint would be to lend this Leica equipment to someone or several people of 18-24 for three weeks, say, and then ask how it works for them compared to what they normally get up to. What do they think of these classic but alas uber-expensive cameras and lenses? What do they look for from photography equipment? That might give an insight into where the camera-makers need to go.

When I was in that age demographic a kindly old gentleman lent his funky, quaint Leica IIIG with an impossibly slow f/3.5 lens to me and, being accustomed to TTL-viewing and -metering with macro and long lenses, I chose to humor the old guy and pretended I was thrilled.  Within a week the IIIG was my favorite camera.
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Ray
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« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2014, 04:49:34 AM »
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This article by Richard Sexton seems rather convoluted to me. From my perspective, there are just half a dozen main considerations when choosing a camera. They are noise, resolution, autofocusing accuracy, weight, price and lens quality.

There are lots of other secondary considerations, such as frame rate, camera LCD resolution, LiveView implementation, menu arrangement, auto-exposure bracketing range, etc, but all these are issues one can learn to adapt to, or are limitations one can learn to tolerate.

If the fundamental requirements that I've listed are lacking, then some of your images will unavoidably be lacking, which is not to say that it always matters. If your camera is limited in dynamic range, then you can specialize in images with large areas of solid black. Sometimes, that can enhance an image. However, I wouldn't like to be in the position of having to often disguise shadow noise in my images by rendering such areas completely black.

As regards zooms versus  primes, which may require a bit of walking, which may not be good for capturing the moment, but may be good for general health, the issue is also one of lens quality and price. The main reason to buy a prime is if it produces a noticeably better quality, sharper image, than a zoom of the same focal length.

Primes also tend to have a wider maximum aperture than the equivalent zoom, so that's an advantage for the prime, if one likes a very shallow DoF, and/or if one needs a fast shutter speed to freeze movement at a low ISO, which may also result in lower noise.
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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2014, 08:00:13 AM »
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This article by Richard Sexton seems rather convoluted to me. From my perspective, there are just half a dozen main considerations when choosing a camera. They are noise, resolution, autofocusing accuracy, weight, price and lens quality.
Weight is increasingly important to me as I progress in years.  When we travel to Europe I really don't take a full kit of lenses because of the weight and unwillingness to check baggage.  I have a nice shoulder bag that will hold the camera and three lenses.  On our last trip I took the 24mm f2.8, 35mm f2.8 and 16-85 f3.5-5.6 zoom for my Nikon D300.  I admit it was a strange choice given the two primes are pretty close in focal length and I ended up only using the 35mm a couple of times.  When I looked at lens usage, it was about equally split between the zoom and the 24mm.  For Croatia this May the debate is whether to take two primes 24 & 85mm or the 24mm and the 16-85mm zoom.  I can probably shave a little bit of weight off with the two primes but the zoom is a really nice lens for routine shooting.
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Isaac
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« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2014, 09:34:04 AM »
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When I was in that age demographic…

Perhaps a sufficient number of years have passed for that to no longer be considered a useful data point :-)
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Isaac
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« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2014, 09:39:48 AM »
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From my perspective, there are just half a dozen main considerations when choosing a camera.

But… What about the really important things? Upmanship, nostalgia, aesthetics, style…
« Last Edit: April 01, 2014, 09:51:32 AM by Isaac » Logged
JimAscher
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« Reply #19 on: April 01, 2014, 09:57:20 AM »
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While Alan pertinently addresses the lens weight factor, of equal concern to me is the issue of the relative ease (or difficulty) in switching between the various prime lenses I carry with me.  I primarily use old 35-mm film lenses, which I have found cost-benefit analysis much favors -- very fine lenses at relatively low cost.  However, involved with my use of these lenses on various of my cameras involves employing several different lens adapters.  The principal cameras I am currently using are an M-Mount Ricoh GXR, a Sony NEX 5n converted for infrared, and a Foveon sensor Sigma SD15 modified for Nikon-mount lenses.  So, I'm dealing not only with M-mount, NEX-mount and Nikon-mount lenses, but in addition with a few wonderful Kodak Retina Schneider-Kreuznach lenses (and one M-39 Leica mount lens).  Now, admittedly, I do not carry all three cameras on my person at any one time, nor carry all the lenses (and lens adapters) with me at any one time, but I do carry enough to make the switching of these primary lenses in the field for a perceived photo a bit of a chore, both mentally and physically.  I have employed variously a photo backpack, a slingbag (which renders access to the lenses a mite easier), or a photographers vest, with pockets for the lenses.  (My current vest is a wonderful Vested Interest one, but unfortunately its ease of use also renders any incognito photography just about impossible.  Wearing it, one sticks out like a proverbial sore thumb.)  But at least, I can have more ready access to my lenses with it.  I recognize that a zoom lens eliminates many of these difficulties, weight included, but I do like, in the words of the famous advertisement, what my primes do for me (and my photos).
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