Written by Gordon Lewis
Is it just me, or are today's digital cameras getting downright sneaky? The companies that sell them would like you to believe their programmable wonders will take care of all everything that gets in the way of your creativity—trivial tasks such as focusing, exposure, white balance, and contrast compensation for example. Then, as soon as you give these cameras your complete and unquestioning trust, they do something completely unexpected and just plain Wrong.
Have you ever had the focusing point you so carefully selected shift elsewhere and without warning? Have you ever set the touch screen feature to “off” only to discover that the camera has somehow turned it back on again, and not only that, but also exposed twenty perfectly focused frames of your buttocks? How about seeing the white balance change from neutral to cool when you switch lenses, even when the new lens is pointed at exactly the same subject?
Don’t even get me started on focusing accuracy and consistency. I’ve owned cameras that will chose a different plane of focus every time I activate the AF, even when the camera is on a tripod and the subject is motionless. (Can a rock breathe?)
I’ve learned over time never to mention such quirks and inconsistencies when referring to a specific camera, because some expert user will invariably appear from the ether to inform me that, had I taken the trouble to read sidebar number two on page 229 of the recently revised PDF edition of the owner’s manual, I would clearly understand that the camera was faultless and had done exactly what I had programmed it to do. My fragile ego can survive such humiliation; I just wish my mis-focused, poorly exposed photos could.
I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but at times I become so paranoid and distrustful of some cameras that I resort to manual settings—or at least I try. How truly manual can such settings be when the lens has no aperture ring and the body has no shutter speed dial? Given that even manual settings are programmable, there’s always the chance that whatever your camera was set to when you shut it off may not be what it’s set to when you switch it back on.
For some, this unpredictability adds a sense of fun and adventure to their photography. For me, it fosters a sense of wonder: I wonder what devious little tricks my camera has up its sleeve for next time. Am I the only one who’s had this experience? Am I the only one who feels this way? Or have I only scratched the surface of the perfidies today’s cameras are capable of? I’d truly like to know.
Harvard alum Gordon Lewis has written about those treacherous cameras for decades, for many photography magazines. Most recently he is the author of Street Photography: The Art of Capturing the Candid Moment, published by Rocky Nook.
©2015 by Gordon Lewis, all rights reserved
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