The Gamut of Cameras


Oh, you thought I meant Color Space ;~).

No, today’s topic is the range of cameras available to you today. Consider this progression:

  • Panasonic LX-100, Sony RX100 — Compact cameras that are extremely competent at most things, have EVFs, have solid lenses that cover a basic mid-range. 
  • Fujifilm X100T, Nikon Coolpix A, Ricoh GR — Compact cameras with APS-sized sensors and a prime out front that produce excellent image quality.
  • Olympus E-M10, Panasonic GM5/GF7, Sony A5000/A6000 — Exceedingly small interchangeable lens cameras with moderate sensor sizes and capable of producing excellent image quality.
  • Panasonic FZ1000, Sony RX-10 — Small sensor cameras with exceptional do-all lenses and feature sets.
  • Fujifilm X-T1, Olympus E-M1, Panasonic GH4, Samsung NX1 — DSLR-like mirrorless cameras with moderate sensor sizes and capable of producing excellent image quality.
  • Canon Rebels, Nikon D3xxx/D5xxx — Smallish DSLRs with APS-sized sensors capable of just about anything, and with excellent image quality.
  • Sony A7s, A7II, A7r — Full frame mirrorless cameras with exceptional image quality.
  • Canon 5Ds, Nikon D810 — Full frame DSLR cameras with exceptional image quality.
  • Canon 1Dx, Nikon D4s — Pro full frame DSLR cameras with superb performance, build, and image quality.
  • Hasselblad H5, Pentax 645D, Phase One 645DF — Medium format cameras with exceptional image quality.

Add in a few other odds and ends (the rest of the Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony DSLRs, for example), and you’ve got quite a long list of extremely competent choices available to you. What photography can you not perform given that range of choices?

I’d argue that we’re in an era with an embarrassment of riches from the technical standpoint. If you can’t make great—and I really mean great, not just good—images from one of the above choices, then I’d argue that it isn’t likely that someone could build a camera today that would satisfy you from the image quality standpoint. 

Indeed, I’d argue that virtually every serious shooter reading this site already has one of the above cameras, maybe several. 

When you think about it, that’s a considerable range of product. From something that fits in your shirt pocket (RX-100), to something bigger but not awkwardly big that can generate stunning 80mp images (H5 I’d argue that the camera itself isn’t what’s holding you back; In particular, the imaging aspect of current cameras can’t truly be faulted. 

One of the reasons why lenses become so important is that the cameras—first with film cameras, now with digital—eventually answer 90%+ of your additional needs from a feature and performance standpoint. To argue that you need more frames per second or better focus systems argues against what pros are doing with all those existing cameras. Sure, we all want life to be better and easier, but frankly, we can do our photographic jobs with the cameras that are available today. The range of jobs that you can do with any given camera tends to be mostly limited by the lenses available. 

With many lens mounts, we have a plethora of riches in lens choice, too. Certainly Canon EF, Nikon F, m4/3, and Sony A mounts have a huge array of choices, both older and new. Some other mounts, notably Fujifilm XF and Sony E/FE are slowly getting to where there’s a good set of choices available. 

Sometimes I think we argue and quibble over small things and small improvements because that’s all we have left to argue and quibble about

Personally, I’m mostly trying new things and not new cameras in 2015. New techniques. New approaches to composing. New processing ideas. Heck, I’m even getting around to trying to optimize a few prints I’ve been meaning to get around to. I’ve got my hands full. I don’t need anything new in the gamut of cameras.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t want my photographic problems solved, especially when it comes to workflow and convenience, but I’m slowly losing my enthusiasm for more pixels for the sake of pixels, more dynamic range for the sake of dynamic range, higher frame rates for the sake of frame rates, and so on. If you asked me at the moment I couldn’t tell you exactly what clock rate the CPU in my laptop runs (okay, I’m compulsive, I had to look it up: 2.6Ghz Intel Core i7). 

I think we’re nearing or at the same point with cameras. Yeah, if I were buying from scratch today I might take a look at the megapixel/dynamic range specs and consider what those do or don’t do for me, but frankly, 24mp in the current technologies really is probably enough for everything I do, just as that 2.6Ghz processor in my computer is. 

I wrote this as I headed into the field to practice photography. Cameras aren’t my problem this week. Using them is. Big difference. 

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in a dearth of new product announcements. Very few new product announcements were made in the traditional Jan/Feb time frame. I’m not expecting that to change much, though we will have several new product announcements and updates in April. I don’t expect any big, earth-shattering announcements until August, and even then I’m not sure they’ll be earth-shattering ;~). 

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