What I Really Want In A Camera Can Be Defined With KISS

  • 1-I have worked in the camera industry and the photography industry most of my life.  I am now 73 years old and my dad put my first camera in my hands when I was 5 years old.  Do the numbers.
  • 2-I worked for a major camera company, Nikon for thirty-three years and another camera company (now gone) for about 5 years.
  • 3-I ran a workshop company where I taught photography along with some other incredible instructors but that company is now retired into history.
  • 4-I have been a professional photographer at different times of my life.

I am not going to give a history lesson as to how the film based camera industry made advances such as auto focus, matrix metering, motor drives, etc.  If you are reading this article you are hopefully aware of how things got started.

A lot has happened to cameras over the past ten years or so and there is now so much that one can do with a camera like a mirrorless or dSlr point and shoot and yes a cell phone camera.

But in reality the one thing that remains consistent is light and the effect it has on a photograph.  And light is still adjusted in a camera in a variety of ways.

  • Aperture priority where the photographer selects a specific lens opening he or she wants to use to control the overall depth of a scene.  When that is selected the camera should provide the correct shutter speed.
  • Shutter Priority where the photographer selects a specific shutter speed in order to control the speed of the camera in order to stop action, blur a water fall, etc.
  • programmed Auto means that the photographer selects nothing and allows the camera computer to select a combination of shutter speed and lens opening for a correct exposure.  It provides a specific combination but that combination can be altered in camera for one reason or another.
  • Manual control allows the photographer the ability to make his or her own selections of lens opening and shutter speed and with the use of today’s sophisticated in camera meters come up with a perfect exposure.
  • Most cameras, even the simplest point and shoots also have a dial that allows one to apply more exposure or less exposure to either make the image lighter or darker.

It would be nice if it ended with all of the above but it does not.  The list of things that a camera now has built into it almost seems to be unending, and how the photographer selects what extra rub they want is not only unending but can be confusing as all get out.

Some of the things that most photographers will not or should not use more than once to alter the jpeg file are:

  • You control dynamic range, sort of
  • You can choose a look.  That means you can change the way the image is recorded in the jpeg file. It can be highly saturated, over brightened, over darkend, reduced contrast, increased contrast.  It can be 1:1 (squre), 16:9 (wide) or it can be the camera default.
  • You can shoot in simulated film types.  Black and White, and a whole variety of films from the past history of film cameras.  As an example one can select in the case of Fuji Cameras which I use, standard (provia), Chrome (for an old time kodachrome sort of look) a variety of color negative films, and a couple of more slide films.  All only impacting the Jpeg files the camera produces and in reality has very little of the look that film once had.
  • You can have several auto iso settings.  So perhaps setting A-200 to 1600 B-200 to 3200 and C-200 to 25000. Wow.  And along with that you can also tell the camera how much digital noise it can or cannot have.
  • You can tell the camera how much adjustment it should make to shadows and highlights and you can also set what levels of dynamic range to camera should apply. Usually zero or something like zero is the default.
  • You can tell the camera how much sharpness you want for your images.  Less.  More. Zero for default. ( which means normal )
  • You can add grain to the image. (?)
  • My camera has 15 different things that I can apply to auto focus.
  • Let’s not forget movie modes.
  • My camera which I consider to be one of the simplest to work with out of all of the cameras I have had in had has about sixty (60) menu options that I can play with.  On top of all of that there are on the body 9 buttons that can be pre programmed to give you your most used menu options and then there is a quick menu to do the same thing.  Repetitive.  Oh yeah.
  • And there are touch screens which also do most of the above.  I hate touch screens.  If I wanted a touch screen then I would use my cell phone.  More folks screw up because their nose does the walking instead of their fingers.  And touch screens and fat fingers like mine just do not get along.
  • Finally there is intelligent auto or iA.  My last experience with this was in a Panasonic camera.  It sets everthing and then some and literally takes away all control.  It goes way beyond the concept of point and shoot.  If this is something a photographer uses then sell your expensive camera and just use your phone.

A lot of stuff that manufacturers are now letting one do “in camera” used to be and still are delegated to computer software like Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Photo Ninja, On1 Raw, Iridient Raw, Capture 1, MacPhun, Pixelmator to name a few.  The benefit of using these image processors is that you can shoot more and better without screwing with 60 menu options that only affect jpeg files because if you shoot raw files which is more like having a negative or slide then almost all of the 60 menu options do not apply and must be enhanced in software anyway.  I mean really, do you really need to have all these options in a camera which can do no more than take away from actually capturing the image.

The old saying that “getting it right in the camera” does apply, but generally that simply involves the exposure of the image and how well you worked with the light that was available to you.


My list:

  • A high-resolution viewfinder and LCD screen
  • An LCD screen that pop up so I can do waist level or ground level photography simply
  • A shutter speed dial
  • An aperture ring on my lens
  • An over and under exposure compensation dial that can work in 1/3 increments up to 5 stops
  • A shutter release button with a cable release thread in it
  • A metering system that gives me spot, center and multi segmented options
  • Auto Focus with single, continuous, and tracking  (my eyes are not what they used to be) as well as manual focus with what is called today – focus peaking.

This is it.  It is all I want.  Camera manufacturers can take the rest of the crap they stick on a computer chip or with a variety of function buttons and stick it where the sun does not shine.

I have encountered way to many talented photographers who are simply perplexed over how to use their cameras because they truly believe that they have to use all the crap a manufacturer calls features when all they need to do is select and aperture, shutter speed, focus and shoot.

This is what exposure simplicity looks like



5 thoughts on “What I Really Want In A Camera Can Be Defined With KISS

    1. I have worked with all of the features on the X pro 2 and other Fuji digital cameras. And yes I have worked with Auto Iso, Dynamic Range and the Dynamic range can most certainly make a difference depending upon the shot. And that is where the devil is in the details. One might set shadow detail and highlight detail in the camera or easier in the quick (q) menu and then leave it there. That would be a mistake because setting it for a specific situation as an example in a landscape shot may be detrimental to your next shot which as an example might be a picture of a statue. The camera produces pretty good dynamic range without changing it. There are those who feel that the cameras general performance is better when they set it up with a change in shadow and highlite recording. They leave it that way because it is more to their taste. Open up the shadows all the time and close down the highlights all the time.

      If you are a raw shooter then it is an exercise in futility because it will not change the raw data. It only really works on jpeg files as is the case for so many of the changes that one might make in the camera such as sharpening, noise reduction, etc.

      For me because my subjects are very diverse, I tend to shoot for raw which means getting the exposure right on using the right F stop, the right shutter speed and of course the best iso for the lighting situation.

      I have found Auto Iso to work out specially if I am moving from bright situations on the street to lower light situations indoors. This could all be within a few seconds or minutes of each other. So yes there are benefits. But if I know that I am going to be in a reasonably well lit situation I shall always endeavor to shoot at the lowest iso possible and not leave it up to the camera to make that decision for me. Same goes for low light. I might choose to shoot at 1600 or 3200 in low light and sometimes 6400 in order to obtain the shutter speed I need for that low light situation.

      It boils down to understanding the exposure triangle. ISO/SHUTTER SPEED/APERTURE. Master the 3 together and the battle is really one, just like it used to be when I was first starting out.

      As for dynamic range, I tend to leave the camera in neutral because I am going to make the adjustment in shadow and highlight in post processing. But like I said above if a person wants a specific look in shadows and highlights they can dial in for that look with the understanding that it could come back to bite them in the jpeg file.

      Now I do admit that I like to shoot in the 1:1 square format because the viewfinder allows me to compose for the square. The 1:1 will show up in the jpeg file but the raw will be the full 3:2 format of the X pro 2.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. and to give you a better answer about dynamic range DR, the camera does have another setting which allows the camera to set the dynamic range based on the iso you select. That said most photographers that I know leave it at DR100 and not autoDR which means it will not change based on iso or anything else. It will remain consistent. DR400 and 200 donot come into play until you are in higher iso’s.

      This is different then specifically adjusting shadow and highlight detail in camera.


      1. Thanks, Elliot. I try to remember to return the camera to “neutral” settings when I am done experimenting. Guess it might be best to leave it in neutral until/unless I am not happy with the result! :>) It is always about that triangle– ISO/SHUTTER SPEED/APERTURE–isn’t it??


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