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Wednesday, 27 September 2023


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Once we differentiate the words "sufficiency" from "best", then your 2009 essay could be considered the end item on this subject.

In 2009, I owned a 12mp Nikon D700 (and still do) and it was equal to anything that I had shot on film in the preceding 30 years. It was sufficient. It still is in 2023.

If we stop chasing the "best", most of us if honest had sufficiency years ago. Maybe even in 2009.

What’s the relationship between the point of sufficiency and the point of diminishing returns?

I still lust after a Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 for my F2... But not enough (yet) to pull the trigger.

Your comments about high ISO reminded me of the shallow-depth-of-field fanatics, who can certainly benefit from low ISO that then requires large apertures. Of course, that's relatively easy to achieve digitally.

My current employment has me sharing an office with a few colleagues who process images for a high volume wedding photography firm and the 85mm RF that you linked to above is one of the standouts of the RF range. even as a nikon user, the images from that lens catch my eye every time.

One difference between digital and film is that 35mm was simpler to enlarge and print than the larger sizes which is not so much a limitation to digital files. The limitation is more to do with camera size.
The ISO speed is also different as there are other ways to take instant photos using multiple exposures and other computational tricks as seen in phone cameras.

My best camera goes to ISO 25,600 but I find that it's often the quality of light which is the problem with some artificial lighting leading to horrible results at ISO 1,600.

Sometimes f1.x or slow shutter speeds just aren't suitable as we may be stuck with motion blur at 1/30 or next to nothing being sharp at f1.x.

So, I'm all for pushing the ISO boundaries and performance up for the times when flash or slow shutter speeds or f1.x are just not suitable.

Ever higher ISO ratings on digital are fine. Much prefer lower settings as an option. Nikon has ISO 64. Wish we had 25(like Kodachrome - which I shot by the case decades ago) and TechPan to ISO 3. With the attendant higher/finer quality a big part of it as well as being able to shoot lower shutter speeds without having to resort to Neutral Density filtration.

I actually use ISO 25,000 at times for effect. "Unusable" by reviewers is "creative license" by actual photographers.

Nothing wrong with options.

IBIS keeps improving. I can't imagine what "sufficient" might mean for IBIS.
But, I'm older and shakier every day.

If you repost an article, then I’ll repost a comment. ;)

In a post called Blur Never Sleeps (back in 2021) you mentioned a picture where “it was clear that the plane of focus had been placed about two feet beyond the woman, and, then, such a large aperture had been used that the woman's face and body were not within the depth-of-field”.

My (now edited) answer was: “I suspect many pro photographers share their work exclusively online and have learned that they can widen the margin of error, based on where their target audience is going to see the pictures (mostly cell phone screens and poorly calibrated monitors)”.

The point is, I’m not entirely sure cameras have reached a point of sufficiency. More likely, I think we are now seeing a sort of end of the race for cameras and lenses, and it’s the screen resolution of mobile devices that’s holding the checkered flag.

[Hmm, I haven't really investigated this, but my sense is that pictures look BETTER printed than on screen. Screen resolution is if anything misleading us into thinking tiny differences in resolution and sharpness matter more than they do; because we in effect "enlarge" details of images to the equivalent of originals of one meter or several in size. In prints, even with less distinguished cameras, the differences matter less, and the image in ink looks good. Just talking off the top of my head here. --Mike]

I am reminded of the tale of the film company representative who was giving a presentation to a group of professional photographers. His company had just released a new film stock that was bound to change the world. He proclaimed, “This film has a base ISO of 25,000,000!” A gasp went up from the crowd. Then one man in the back raised his hand and asked, “Yeah, but can you push it?”

As high as it seems compared to the film days, ISO 12,800 probably isn't high enough.

As Alan commented, a higher shutter speed to freeze motion and a decent "middle of the road" aperture is desired.

So, imagine a scene where you have to shoot at 1/30 sec. @ f/1.4 (at ISO 6,400). Increasing the ISO five stops would give you a shutter speed of 1/125 sec. @ f/4 (at ISO 204,800). That's still two stops away from "f/8 and be there". What about sports photographers who need higher shutter speeds to freeze the action?

We've seen what poor color results from those high ISO speeds. I would imagine better color at those high ISO speeds would be helpful to many photographers.

(Now, imagine some young sports photographer having to work with a maximum ISO of 1,600!)

Recently I bought an old Nikkor N.C 28mm f/2 pre-Ai (with the dale-and-valley focussing ring). It must have been made around 1974. To my surprise, from f/5.6 on it is pixel-sharp on a 45MP sensor right into the corners. It shows a bit of glow when the aperture is fully open, but this can be fixed by adjusting exposure and contrast accrodingly. While I understand that it has been a state-of-the-art lens in its day, I think that lens sharpness has been a solved problem for the last 50 years or so - at least as far as common focal lengths from 24mm to 200mm are concerned. On the other hand, these old lenses are much more susceptible to flare than contemporary lenses. Apparently, coatings have improved a lot over the years.

You are right about pictures looking better printed than on screens, but people that actually print are the exception, not the rule.
While I have absolutely no data to back this up, I’d venture that a lot of players in the camera industry realized the vast majority of pictures are displayed on small screens, so why waste lots of money and resources designing state of the art sensors and lenses whose amazing quality no one is ever going to see?


I have an old Honda Accrod- still runs well.

My objective has always been to use a camera/lens pair that is a little better than I am. My failures should be mine.

Related ... I was looking at my annual attempt to capture the look and feel of our local July 4 celebration which takes place just before, during and after dusk and fireworks. ISO 12,500!

Technology advances and makes us, perhaps, a little better.

IBIS has killed the tripod (for me), but it has not killed my interest in fast lenses or sensor. Turns out my primary subject, people, move, especially if they aren't aware of me. Or if they are playing music at the time.

IBIS also doesn't help all that much for roller derby :-) .

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