Are we headed for self-driving cameras?

I was reading a review of the Sony A7iii written by someone who’d traded his Nikons for this thing that cost nearly as much as my Nissan Xterra, and without dissing the writer I want to make some points about what he said against his new toy. Here are his “cons” and my “comments”:

  • Comfort in the hand.  To me both of the Nikons were more sculpted to fit my hand than the A7iii. I hear ya. One of my biggest complaints about cameras is that the bodies seem to be design for non-humanoid lifeforms. Give me an Exakta trapazoid any day.
  • The D5500 had a very useful touch screen that had a number of uses.  You could tap the back of the screen to take a photo.  You could flip through photos you had taken or enlarge them with pinching in our out.  And you could go through the menus.  The Sony does not do any of this.  And it is remarkable that Sony has not included it as they make millions of cell phones every year that do. I call this one point for Sony, as I hate those LCD screens. Some of that has to do with my eyesight problems, but if you’re a Display Fan try shooting like you can’t see what you’re doing ’til you get it on the big computer screen. Then welcome to my world.
  • The D750 had marked buttons on the body to instantly get to the function you wanted to adjust.  The buttons were laid out so you could find them without looking.  I would have to say that now after a LOT of practice I now know where the Sony buttons are by sight or feel. Oh my yes! Lack of intuitive control placement is a major problem with camera design. You shouldn’t have to spend weeks learning which insignificantly sized and illogically located button can be programmed to do what vital function. Photographers know this. People who design cameras clearly do not.
  • The D750 had a top lcd panel that gave you an overall view to how the camera was set up.  I used this top panel all the time when using this camera. Well the Canon has this on the back screen and it’s kind of useful. But not so much so as giving separate and marked controls that don’t need a detached readout.
  • The Nikon menu systems are easier to use than the Sony system. Mind boggled. My Nikon’s menu system is daunting compared to the Canon’s, which also doesn’t make a lot of sense. The idea that Sony’s is worse …
  • The Nikon DSLRs both have better battery life than the A7iii.  However, the Sony battery is big and it is not a problem for me. Battery life is a major issue with cameras. Usually it’s due to powering zoom or focus motors. My Kodak eats power from both (especially with the constant focus active) and feeding an electronic display. The Nikon improves on this by not focusing until asked to. The Canon creams them in battery life because no EVF, no power zoom, and only focuses when asked to. It’s not rocket science.

His last telling comment was this: “So if I had it to do over again would I make this switch?  No.” He was missing his Nikons. I don’t know about you but I’d be really sad if I just forked over that kind of cash and was disappointed with the result. I can’t help but think much of his disappointment is due to the issue I mention frequently: camera designers aren’t photographers. This isn’t just a “familiarity” thing – he’d used the Sony for a year – it’s a “I can’t get used to the way it functions” thing.

One other comment about the review: his favourite piece of glass for the Sony was a 15-year-old Sigma lens originally meant for another camera. That doesn’t surprise me either.

What I really took away from this fellow’s brave and honest review was that it pays to be skeptical of all the hype about new equipment. And if you’re considering making a purchase, reading the on-line reviews is not enough. It’s pretty important to hold the thing in your hands for a while when you’re going to be shelling out thousands of dollars for it. If the camera shop won’t let you, bugger ’em.

It would seem cameras are turning into the photographic equivalent of self-driving cars: a whole lot of inadvisable technology trying to take the place of a functioning human brain. My advice is to use that brain first before you buy and make really, really sure that what you buy will add to your repertoire, not just subtract from your bank account.

And now a picture of the moon, because I like pictures of the moon.

Taken with Nikon P610


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