Author Topic: Feature priorities with cameras?  (Read 975 times)

Feature priorities with cameras?
« on: June 13, 2018, 09:08:59 am »
Looking at a new camera is a baffling series of compromises. If only there was a formula you could calculate based on some very simple questions that you coyote put in the tech specs and the perfect camera jumps out of the spreadsheet at you.

So I was wondering if it's possible to list the camera features on order of importance. Depends on type, use, etc. But I'm curious as to whether it's possible to order a set of features within types of camera / uses?

Obviously sensor size is going to be one contender to being at the top of the list but what else?

Is this even possible or is it going to cause arguments? Are the order of importance of camera specifications completely personal according to your own needs? No generalisms for newbies to look at? I know resolution in MP isn't everything it once was. Chip size changes that measure's importance. Max ISO sensitivity? Lens range? F number of lens? Frame speed? What is the importance of it all? Does it all matter?

jiberjaber

  • ... Fancy Pants \o/ ...
  • ACME S&M^2
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 10:55:52 am »
There's a whole can of worms waiting to be opened here...

You could make a formula it could be either personal (i.e. as it applies to you ) or use based (i.e. a formula related to sports, or landscape of studio)... all you would need is a list of all the attributes (tech specs of camera plus subjective aspects (cost, manufacturer preference, how it fits in your hand etc)... and then sit down and use something like pairwise comparison to come up with a weighted and ordered list which you could then put the details in to and the one with the highest score wins! 

(simple version of pairwise comparison here: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_02.htm )

If you were to do this on a personal basis, then the formula would only really be relevant to you so a better solution (though more of a can of worms) would be to get a panel of experts to agree against use based (i.e. what is best for sports or landscapes etc)

Either Way - that's a lot of effort!

Personally I'd narrow it by personal use case (for example, are you a landscape type of person or sports photography or something else?) then are you already wed to a particular format or manufacturer through investment in existing glass.  and finally how much are you willing to pay. 

From that you can probably narrow the field down to a strand from each manufacturer (eg: DX cameras or only full frame for example) then you could evaluate a smaller more focused set of cameras....

For me, I am wed to Nikon, a number of existing DX format lenses and not crazy about spending over £1K so the Nikon 7500 meets my requirements at the moment.  Obviously others may have differing views! :)
Regards,

Jason

T42

  • Gaulois réfractaire
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 11:29:14 am »
For me, for a travel camera, in general:

Price > image quality > zoom > size > weight > power supply availability > ease of use > manual control

Price: speaks for itself
Image quality: a bad picture is better than none, which is why phones have cameras, but you want your pics to look good, right?
Zoom: I want to be able to photograph the wen on my foot or that bird on the roof across the square
Size & weight: got to fit the bag and not pull you over sideways
Power supply: if you can't recharge it what's the point?
Ease of use: no use having a great camera if it's a dog to use
Manual modes: tech snobbery, mostly: cameras are excellent at working out what you [ought to] want, but manual operation is useful when you get the hang of it

Any one factor can be a deal-breaker if it's extreme.  I bought my Sony RX100 for the sensor and features but the user interface was designed by a 3-legged turtle crawling on to a Mexican beach to lay eggs. I hate the bugger.

My favourite travel camera (Panny TZ3) had no manual control and I never missed it
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 11:34:38 am »
Even without a formula, what's more important? Is there a list of functions / specifications that can be ordered by use. Portable landscape, travel, camera to use on family holidays that can still be used to make decent images but without the cost of dslr, mirrorless, 3/4 format, etc.?

It seems to me that camera information is about feeding those with knowledge of photography not those wanting to get it. Put simply it's almost a top Trumps type of information. A set of cards for travel cameras with relevant, important specs, then a set for landscape, etc. Add in budget. Every kid from reading age knows the concept of top Trumps.

T42

  • Gaulois réfractaire
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2018, 01:48:21 pm »
Even without a formula, what's more important? Is there a list of functions / specifications that can be ordered by use. Portable landscape, travel, camera to use on family holidays that can still be used to make decent images but without the cost of dslr, mirrorless, 3/4 format, etc.?

It seems to me that camera information is about feeding those with knowledge of photography not those wanting to get it.

There's no easy route. To get knowledge of photography buy a camera, any camera, and a book about photography.  Work with your camera and decide what you like and don't like, then look for the camera that suits and sell the first one.

Every kid from reading age knows the concept of top Trumps.

Never heard of it, but then I was over 30 when it came out (I looked it up).
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2018, 03:08:05 pm »
Are the order of importance of camera specifications completely personal according to your own needs?

Could be.

I see it this way: a camera is a tool for doing a job. The job determines your requirements of the tool, which in turn determines which tool you select of those available. The job here is making the kind of photographs you want to make, in given lighting and given conditions.

Key to ease of use with a camera is whether it fits well in your hand (because different people have different size hands) and whether the controls you want access to lie within reach but don't get in the way of holding the thing. This becomes more important the more control you want over the camera (i.e. when using the camera in manual mode).

I know resolution in MP isn't everything it once was. Chip size changes that measure's importance. Max ISO sensitivity? Lens range? F number of lens? Frame speed? What is the importance of it all?

The concepts of film photography still apply. You're still controlling exposure using a combination of shutter speed and aperture to record light (also be it via a sensor rather than on film). A good lens will make a clearer, sharper image, all else being equal. Shutter speed control is important for freezing action. Flash will freeze action if there's not enough light, illuminate your subject in dim light, or pick them out from the background if necessary. Optical image stabilisation will reduce camera shake, in effect allowing you to hold the sensor steady for longer, though it won't freeze the subject.

ISO is the equivalent of film sensitivity (ASA). Except on a digital camera it is settable on a shot by shot basis. A low ISO setting generally gives better sharpness and more dynamic range. High ISO generally comes at the cost of reduced image quality, though the bigger the sensor, the less pronounced this effect. 'High' is relative to the age of the technology. High ISO in 2002 was ISO 400. In 2007 was ISO 1600. Etc. Almost all compact cameras will have AUTO ISO as the default setting, so you'll never need to think about it if you don't want to.

Of course, cameras are consumer goods and so they're made to sell to the market as it currently exists, and so they're subject to fashion. You might consider 4K video capability to be a fashion. Whether you benefit from that capability depends whether you want to shoot video. You might consider a large monitor or touch screen functionality to be another fashion. Does it make a better camera? Manufacturers certainly seem to be making their camera bodies smaller, because their research will be telling them the public wants small, slim products that will fit in a pocket, like their phone does. But a small camera needs a smaller battery, which needs charging more often.

Does this mean a new camera will be better than one from ten years ago? Only in certain respects. Whether they are significant for your photography depends on what you value in a camera.

For a travel camera I'd value these things, in this order. (I'd sacrifice the things at the bottom of the list for the things at the top of the list, to stay within budget.)

1. Long battery life - there is a standard test of this, known as the CIPA standard, useful for comparing cameras
2. Handling and size - something that's not too small for my hand, and has space for my thumb to rest on the back - only truly knowable by handling the camera
3. Low cost of spare batteries
4. Low cost of camera
5. High quality lens (i.e. sharpness)
6. Shutter priority mode - the most important 'manual' mode for the kind of photography I would be doing on holiday
7. Optical viewfinder with dioptre adjuster - optical is useful in bright light and when panning to follow a moving subject; the adjuster because I wear glasses
8. A protected monitor - the twist and tilt monitors are protected when the camera is in a bag, if the screen is folded in against the camera body
9. Fast lens (f2 or as close to this as possible) - faster meaning brighter
10. Usable results at ISO 400 setting - i.e. not too much noise or noise reduction artifacts at ISO settings up to and including 400
11. Built in flash with some kind of evaluative metering system - so the camera can automatically reduce the flash burst when that would make a better photo
12. Control over the JPEG contrast setting (or RAW mode so I can control the contrast when I get to my computer)
13. Zoom range of approx 28mm to 80mm (35mm film photography  equivalent) - the zoom could be larger than this but I'd want at least this within range

That spec was being met by many of the 'enthusiast' cameras or 'prosumer' cameras ten years ago, those models dubbed 'enthusiast' cameras or 'prosumer' cameras, featuring larger than average sensors and RAW output. They can now be bought cheaply.

Monitor size doesn't matter to me on a travel camera, as I won't be reviewing the images on the camera much. Video doesn't matter because I don't shoot video. Number of pixels doesn't matter because my images will be viewed on screen, and not printed. Any image above 4MP looks fine on a screen, as long as the camera has a quality lens, etc.

The usual caveats apply to all this, i.e. your requirements may vary. That spec list would be fine for me, taking photographs mainly in daylight, mainly landscapes and social photography. But those would just be my requirements.

Finally, there's also something to be said for using the camera you've already got, and figuring out how to get the results you want using it. That would (a) show you the limitations of that camera and (b) make you into a better photographer, which would (c) inform your future choice of equipment, and reveal which features you don't need.

David Martin

  • Thats Dr Oi You thankyouverymuch
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2018, 11:49:16 pm »
I have a decent SLR camera and access to a similar model (D7100 and D610) and an older version (D80). I also have a smartphone. And sitting under the desk is a 5x4 monorail camera.  I am constantly amazed by the quality of the smartphone images. Especially night pictures when you take manual control so can keep the iso low.  I do use the SLR for top quality images, but the phone is actually better for some things, e.g. close up depth of field (due to the smaller focal length).

As mentioned above, it is a tool. Some tools give perfectly good results for most people most of the time, but to get truly exceptional output you need to have the risk of completely screwing it up. I take more bad photos on the SLR than the phone, but also many that are not possible and are great.

Here is one from the phone from tonight whilst waiting for the first riders home (I was finish timekeeper on the TT).
2018-06-13_11-47-07 by David Martin, on Flickr
(Yes I forgot I had the flash set to on - it was a quick grab shot.)
"By creating we think. By living we learn" - Patrick Geddes

Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2018, 07:58:46 am »
I've got a similar range of cameras to David and, like him, am stunned by the quality of my smartphone camera to the point where I almost never use the micro 4/3 that I bought for travel and when I didnt want the weight and size of my dslr kit.  When I'm using the phone I miss the instant control over the settings and the flexibility to edit it and crop it afterwards, but I gain so much more - people arent as scared of it as they are of a big dslr, it's instantly available and sharing the pics with the subjects is immediate and easy.  I mostly use fixed length lenses on my slr so am used to zooming with my feet, but it would sometimes be nice to have a 28 and 85mm equivalent on the phone.

3 iphone examples show why I don't take the m4/3 with me any more, I wouldn't have got these with my slr because i was mid-way through a busy day and couldnt have carried it with me. The first one is edited in lightroom on my mobile because of contrast issues, the other 2 are straight off the phone.

IMG_5832

IMG_5667

IMG_5831
(my phone doesnt have portrait mode, but you *can* blur the background if you get the subject really close!)

T42

  • Gaulois réfractaire
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2018, 08:11:10 am »
Hmph. All I can say is, don't buy a Moto G3, the IQ isn't so much impressionist as finger-painted.
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2018, 09:51:54 am »
That's the moto my partner got. Camera is passable if you don't really look at the pictures bigger than the phone screen.

Then there's the video. Shocking! I got a Samsung galaxy s2 when they first came out, literally shopped around a few towns to get one of the first ones available. It took better video clips than the moto g3. My partner took a clip of my first ride on my recumbent (well first ride after buying it). Supposedly good camera for price range but everything was simply blocky/pixelated. I looked like a guy from Minecraft! They're not bottom end phones and the camera is supposed to be reasonable for price bracket of the phone.

My phones have all been top end flagships from Samsung s2 to LG g2 then I went one rung down. Huawei honor 8. Twin lens just not the leica branding and missing the leica filters of the flagship phone. Still very good for a phone. I'm the limiting factor in that I don't play with the settings to see what it can do.

However phones are communication devices first and foremost for us. In this modern world where we limp from battery charging point to another I feel separation of key roles to different devices is important. Phone and camera with separate batteries being used for their own job. Phones can't have spare batteries to just swap over in the outdoors. You need to be tied to a power supply too much with phones at times as it is. Plus being without a phone for communication purposes is worse than missing a picture IMHO.

It seems the biggest camera property could be battery life. I was thinking it would be the more image based functions.

Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2018, 11:15:22 am »
However phones are communication devices first and foremost for us. In this modern world where we limp from battery charging point to another I feel separation of key roles to different devices is important. Phone and camera with separate batteries being used for their own job. Phones can't have spare batteries to just swap over in the outdoors. You need to be tied to a power supply too much with phones at times as it is. Plus being without a phone for communication purposes is worse than missing a picture IMHO.


agreed, but because it is so awful and I use the phone for more than just a phone anyway (radio, maps etc) I carry one of these when I'm out all day: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anker-Portable-bar-Sized-High-Speed-Technology/dp/B00P8SY7HQ/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1528971195&sr=8-8&keywords=iphone+battery+pack+charger

Lighter, cheaper and easier than a separate camera.

LEE

  • "Shut Up Jens" - Legs.
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2018, 12:34:34 pm »
1. Long battery life - there is a standard test of this, known as the CIPA standard, useful for comparing cameras
2. Handling and size - something that's not too small for my hand, and has space for my thumb to rest on the back - only truly knowable by handling the camera
3. Low cost of spare batteries
4. Low cost of camera
5. High quality lens (i.e. sharpness)
6. Shutter priority mode - the most important 'manual' mode for the kind of photography I would be doing on holiday
7. Optical viewfinder with dioptre adjuster - optical is useful in bright light and when panning to follow a moving subject; the adjuster because I wear glasses
8. A protected monitor - the twist and tilt monitors are protected when the camera is in a bag, if the screen is folded in against the camera body
9. Fast lens (f2 or as close to this as possible) - faster meaning brighter
10. Usable results at ISO 400 setting - i.e. not too much noise or noise reduction artifacts at ISO settings up to and including 400
11. Built in flash with some kind of evaluative metering system - so the camera can automatically reduce the flash burst when that would make a better photo
12. Control over the JPEG contrast setting (or RAW mode so I can control the contrast when I get to my computer)
13. Zoom range of approx 28mm to 80mm (35mm film photography  equivalent) - the zoom could be larger than this but I'd want at least this within range

Have you ever looked at a used Canon G16?  Seriously.  I know I am.  I have a Canon S120 which is fundamentally the same internals as the G16 but with a few limitations brought about by the small form-factor of the S120.
Some people say I'm self-obsessed but that's enough about them.

Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2018, 09:49:33 pm »
I don’t buy cameras often. Last time I did I worked out what numbers I really wanted for what I do with a camera. The choice was mostly narrowed by price rather than my need for top trumps winning specs. Then I went and picked some up to see if they felt good to use, and soon got down to one I liked best.
One feature that is rarely reported clearly is exposure latitude. If I was buying again I’d dig around for tests of that as it affects more of my pictures than lacking ISO 6400, or 1/4000s shutter.

T42

  • Gaulois réfractaire
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2018, 10:37:34 am »
Yebbut exposure latitude = camera dynamic range - scene dynamic range so it's not a constant for a given camera. As big a DR as possible makes sense.
I dare eat all that may become a man.

But hold the oysters.

Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2018, 10:49:38 am »
You don't need to know exposure latitude. A large dynamic range is probably noticeable by the way you can change the songs to position the scene range to create the image look/feel you want. That's what my limited experience leads me to believe.

LEE

  • "Shut Up Jens" - Legs.
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2018, 03:05:43 pm »
HDR has stepped in as a way to provide high dynamic range on small sensors.  (Automatically merging several images of different exposures).
It works very well on my phone but I've seen some implementations where it looks overdone and unnatural.

If a scene is worth taking a photo of then it's always worth "bracketing" a few exposures of it anyway.  They haven't yet made the camera that has the dynamic range of the human brain.
Some people say I'm self-obsessed but that's enough about them.

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #16 on: June 16, 2018, 09:07:32 am »
Have you ever looked at a used Canon G16?  Seriously.  I know I am.  I have a Canon S120 which is fundamentally the same internals as the G16 but with a few limitations brought about by the small form-factor of the S120.

I'd be worried I'd drop the G16. It's the combination of a short body, low placement of the control dial (in front of the shutter button) and relatively heavy weight (for something this small).

For me, a camera really must be tall (and deep) enough to fit the hand, something that seems to be at odds with miniaturisation. But perhaps that ought to be another thread.

For a holiday camera, or for an 'everyday carry' camera, I'm happier with a late Canon A6xx or A7xx. They all have a deep ridge grip on a lightweight body, and, despite a cheap lens, they're capable enough.

Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #17 on: June 17, 2018, 05:18:57 pm »
Yebbut exposure latitude = camera dynamic range - scene dynamic range so it's not a constant for a given camera. As big a DR as possible makes sense.

Sorry, yes, I meant dynamic range.
Even with HDR there’s something satisfying about getting the picture with one exposure. Especially if stuff is moving.

Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2018, 11:59:28 pm »
Yebbut exposure latitude = camera dynamic range - scene dynamic range so it's not a constant for a given camera. As big a DR as possible makes sense.

Sorry, yes, I meant dynamic range.
Even with HDR there’s something satisfying about getting the picture with one exposure. Especially if stuff is moving.


It’s been along time since I tried to get the shot with more than one exposure, particularly if the camera was po Bring in the same direction

Years ago, one of my clients was a cousin or niece of David Hockney and had several sets of ‘stitched’ images around the office, made up of small prints from 35mm shots. Some may remember this work. Looking back, it seems something of a privilege to have seen them in such an unassuming environment.

frankly frankie

  • I kid you not
    • Virtual Alps
Re: Feature priorities with cameras?
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2018, 02:52:42 pm »
Looking at a new camera is a baffling series of compromises.

They aren't compromises though.  If a camera has a load of spurious features you don't like - Scene modes maybe, or a dedicated B&W button - you aren't going to get a better camera simply by spending the same on a model that doesn't have those features.  Chippery is chippery, and manufacturers disable and enable various features seemingly at random, to achieve product differentiation.
"This is a complex subject, with a need for more than one highlighter pen."