More Odd Things That Were Written

Continuing with my previous perusal of odd quotes found on the Internet...

"Which lens is better, the 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm f/1.8?" [paraphrased, but I've seen this construct used before.]

This is almost always followed up by a pixel level examination, or test charts, or some other stand-in for "sharpness." 

In photographic reality, the best lens is the right focal length for what you're doing, not the sharpest lens you have. What most of these "which is better" constructs ignore is the thing that a lot of novice photographers ignore: perspective. Ignore perspective and you'll get flat, boring photos that all look the same. 

When you're choosing a lens, here's the order in which I'd argue you should be making decisions: 

  1. Perspective — how close/far you are from the subject
  2. Angle of view — how much of the scene from that spot you take in
  3. Depth of field/Focus Plane — what will appear to be in focus
  4. Sharpness — how good is the lens you're using?

Note that sharpness is the last of my parameters I'm considering. As you raise your game on #1, #2, and #3, then yes, you're going to start considering a different lens that is sharper than the one you have. But here's the catch: you're only going to consider lenses of the focal length dictated by #1 and #2! 

I go back to my late mentor Galen Rowell on this one. He was questioned over and over again about his use of basically two lenses, an old 20mm f/4 and originally the 75-150mm f/3.5 but later some variations of the consumer 70-210mm. In both cases one of the pushbacks he'd get was that there are "better lenses than those." 

Actually, there weren't (at the time). #1 and #3 were important to his use of the 20mm. He wasn't typically using it at f/4, and he was using it close in to a near primary subject. For those two attributes, I don't think there was a better lens than the one he was using. 

Moreover, the critical aspect to his lens decisions totally revolved around perspective. One of Galen's talents was that he could put his body literally anywhere (hanging off a cliff, at the top of a peak the rest of us couldn't climb, in a crevasse, etc.). His images looked different than those of others because of where he put his body, which is all about perspective. But you can't carry a 50-pound pack of gear to those spots! He needed light, rugged gear, and that's what he chose in those two lenses.

As he put it to me one time: "you know, at f/8 or f/11 there isn't enough difference in sharpness between those two lenses [one a big expensive pro one, the other a smaller and lighter consumer one] to justify the extra size and weight."

Beware the comparison makers. They may be making comparisons that aren't relevant to you photographically.

“Q: What feedback or requests have you had on the cameras themselves? A: The number of card slots...vertical control grip." [from dpreview/Nikon interview at CES] 

Nope, wrong answer. Oh, I'm sure they had those requests and they were in large number, but the number one request in my surveys that kept coming up when this quote appeared was to "fix 3D tracking." If Nikon hadn't heard that, they wouldn’t have fixed it. But I’m not sure Nikon fully heard the complaint: the Z50 and D780 both have the older 3D tracking system despite the updates to the Z6 an Z7 firmware. The complaint is still being made, just no longer with the Z6 and Z7.

"Let’s say it takes 110 milliseconds for a mirrorless EVF to catch up to the action in real-time. In those 110 milliseconds, a DSLR with its lag-free optical finder can take 2 or 3 images before the EVF has even displayed the action."

While that may be true, that's not exactly how it works when shooting sports. Most action shooters are pressing the shutter release early and holding it down through the action, whether on a DSLR or a mirrorless system. The only way things would work the way this reviewer is intimating (on a 1DX Mark III) is if the shooter was reacting to action, and the full human response time is typically 200ms+ from event to mechanical action ;~). So both the DSLR and mirrorless shooter missed the shot by waiting to see it. 

What does play a role in the mirrorless EVF lag is being able to follow the action properly. If you stick in a viewfinder blackout period or compose the EVF display as a series of stills—the so-called slide show effect—over time while following the action you'll tend to lose composition on your subject. The same is true for any DSLR that has a long blackout time. But in terms of following action, the best camera right now is actually mirrorless, and that would be the Sony A9 in silent shutter mode. Next best would be the D6, I think (still need to spend more time with that new camera).

"We believe that what the market is telling us is that in the near future, all those video features should be available from high-end to enthusiast-level videographers. That’s the demand that we need to meet." [dpreview interview with Panasonic at CES]

This is not an odd statement from Panasonic, as Panasonic is one of the leading video equipment producers, and thus they have a biased look at the world to start with. However, it is an odd statement from the standpoint of a photographer. 

This is all about development focus. If a developer is focusing primarily on bringing higher end video features down into their products, almost by definition they're not spending as much time making them better still cameras. The hidden idea behind Panasonic's statement is this: still photography features are fully developed and don't need a lot more work.

When you think a path has come to an end, you don't keep going. As a hiker I've stumbled upon what look like path ends before. And then found that they weren't, I had just lost the clues and come to the wrong conclusion. 

I think the still photography industry is at a similar "path end" point right now. They've lost the trail and can't figure out where it goes next. Meanwhile, there's a parallel trail—video—that looks pretty good, so they take it instead. 

We need more companies trying to figure out what's next for still photography. 

"[the MB-N10] hasn’t been as popular as vertical grips for the DSLRs, but some customers really appreciate the additional battery capacity." [dpreview interview with Nikon at CES]

Hmm. You make a product with far fewer features and with awkward attributes for the one feature that's left and it turns out to be less popular? Wouldn't that be everyone's expectation in product marketing? So the question is this: why would you ever want to produce a product that is destined to be less popular than previous products?

"There are two kinds [of DX users]: one is the person who wants a second camera. They’re really [interested in] system size. For those people, APS-C makes sense because it makes the cameras smaller." [dpreview interview with Nikon at CES]

It would also make the non-telephoto lenses smaller (buzz buzz ;~). But Nikon really only has one of those smaller lenses for the Z system (16-50mm). Don't they get it? If the thing that is driving some of their customers to DX is size, it's not just body size that's important, it's overall system size. And that includes lenses. Like the wide angle zoom they don't make and isn't on their Z Lens Road Map. Or DX primes up to about 50mm.  

"We only have so many people, and lots to do, and [making an iPad app] hasn't bubbled up as the next best thing to do yet." [Verge interview with Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri]

Let's see, a US$20b/year operation can't find resources to develop for the third most popular platform they're likely to run on (and one that shares much with one of the two more popular platforms)? Sounds fishy to me. 

“…The aging Fujifilm f/1.4 R…” [Fujifilm Rumors]

So now eight year-old lenses are old? In the time that’s passed, Fujifilm cameras gained about 22% in resolution. A lens that was good in 2012 ought to be good in 2020.

This is a comment that implies a “newer is better than older” bias, something we see from the camera companies because they always want to sell you something new, but when words like this are used in passing to describe an existing product, you need to make sure that they are accurate. 

Many Fujifilm lenses were designed “old school”, for sure. By that I mean that the designers concentrated on strong central area results and let the corners go soft and show astigmatism and coma. The 35mm f/1.4 R is one of those. That’s not aging. That’s designed to a particular, older expectation. However, some people seek out the kind of look that type of lens produces, as it better mimics what we were doing in film last century.  

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