Hit Rate Is Irrelevant

This article discusses why calculating hit rate is irrelevant for me and does not provide me with any actionable information. Also included in this posting are some images of a clearwing hummingbird moth in flight. These images were captured handheld in my backyard on August 4th. Sometimes it takes a while for me to dedicate time to process my photographs. 🙂

Obviously other photographers may have a different perspective regarding the usefulness of hit rate calculations. This article is in no way a criticism of the approaches that other folks may use.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3817 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres

Inefficient Use of Time.

Calculating my hit rate is something that I avoid doing because it is an inefficient use of my time. Subjective value judgements come into play in terms of what constitutes a good capture. I know some websites quote things like ‘perfectly sharp’, ‘acceptable’ and other qualitative assessments. Doing all of that takes time, with no useful outcome for me.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3931 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

At the end of the day I couldn’t care less about hit rate. To me all that really matters is whether I created the images that I need for a specific purpose that I had in mind, and met my objectives.

These clearwing hummingbird moth in-flight images were captured as a test using extended focal lengths (i.e. 1120  mm efov) with fast shutter speeds, and at fairly close focusing distances. These shooting parameters led to me using ISO-5000 and ISO-6400 for these test photographs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3858 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

The clearwing hummingbird moth in this article was in my backyard for about 5 minutes. During its short visit I captured over 500 photographs of it. I was using Pro Capture H with my Pre-Shutter and Frame Limiter both set to 15, with a frame rate of 60 fps. I haven’t got the foggiest idea what my hit rate may have been.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3879 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.2 metres

There was no way I was going to waste my time by going through each individual photo in detail to assess sharpness. I typically need about a dozen or so photographs for an article. So, I quickly went through my images looking for what I considered to be interesting  compositions with decent lighting.

I put images that passed my initial quick review in a ‘keeper’ file… then deleted everything else without bothering to assess them further. I ended up processing 18 photographs in post and used 12 for this article. I still have a few unprocessed RAW files should I need them.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4008 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.2 metres

Locus of Control Orientation

As human beings we tend to have a basic locus of control orientation that we bring to our everyday lives. Either we have an internal locus of control and fully accept the outcomes of our actions and decisions personally, or we don’t. Folks with an external locus of control tend to blame things outside of themselves for their performance shortfalls.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4201 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.6 metres

From a photography standpoint a person’s locus of control orientation is quite evident. When we review attempted photographs that haven’t worked out we could choose to blame our camera gear, i.e. demonstrate an external locus of control.

Or, we can ask ourselves what we could have done better or differently that could have impacted the quality of the attempted photograph. This is what someone with an internal locus of control would do.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4197 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.6 metres

I always make a couple of assumptions about my camera gear. The first is that the engineers that designed the equipment, as well as the folks that developed the firmware are extremely bright, competent people who know what they’re doing.

They certainly know a heck of a lot more about how cameras work than I ever will. I need to trust in their expertise. Part of that trust involves believing that the camera I’m using is a well engineered, high performing piece of kit.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4280 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.4 metres

The second assumption is that if there is a performance issue using my camera, the most likely cause will be me. Either my technique is deficient, or I have not properly understood how to operate the camera that I’m holding in various shooting scenarios.

For example, I could have chosen an incorrect auto-focusing mode for the photographic opportunity that I tried to capture. That’s not the fault of the camera, but could negatively impact hit rate calculations. Ultimately I have a responsibility to my camera gear to learn its nuances, and how to use it effectively.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4547 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.3 metres

Perhaps it takes me longer than most folks to learn how to use my gear well. It took me quite a few months of continually using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking before I felt reasonably competent with it. For me to calculate my hit rate during this learning period would have been doing a huge disservice to my camera. Fact is, any time I calculate a hit rate for my camera, it would be an incredibly arrogant thing for me to do.

A hit rate is intended to evaluate a camera’s auto focusing performance. For it to be truly valid, my technique would need to flawless 100% of the time, which it certainly is not. The assumption underlying hit rate calculations is that technique is always perfect. That’s the fundamental flaw with hit rate calculations.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4436 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.4 metres

Challenge and Expectations.

When I go out with my camera gear I fully expect to miss capturing photographs. A good number of them. If I don’t… then I know that I haven’t challenged myself sufficiently.

Creating images should be an adventure. When we’re out with a camera in hand, we have opportunities to push our boundaries. To see the world around us from a different perspective. That’s how we grow in our craft. By pushing our current limitations. Even by just a little bit.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4470 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.4 metres

Achieving a high hit rate would be pretty easy if we never challenged ourselves. We’d end up taking the same type of photographs in the same manner we’ve always done. Where’s the growth opportunity in that? Playing it safe limits our potential.

The danger is that by focusing on an irrelevant measurement like hit rate, we inadvertently restrict our growth as photographers. Hit rates can create convenient excuses for our own shortcomings. It is a cop-out to blame our camera equipment. Not capturing an image well should never be a problem or a negative experience. It is an opportunity for growth and learning.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4482 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.4 metres

The magic of photography is in capturing a moment in time. That moment will never occur again. We only have an instant to successfully commit it to history. The subject in our image may be small, but its grandeur and uniqueness at that moment is frozen in memory. Available for us to enjoy and share for years to come.

If we feel the need to measure the effectiveness of our camera gear, it should be by the number of unique moments that it helped us capture. Not something irrelevant and potentially stifling like hit rate.

On August 4th my camera helped me successfully capture a number of good, usable photographs during a brief encounter with a clearwing hummingbird moth. It proved that it was up to the specific  challenge I put before it, and that I can count on it. Even when I push boundaries. That’s what I need to know.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are indicated. This is the 1,084th article published on this website since its original inception.

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4 thoughts on “Hit Rate Is Irrelevant”

  1. Well said Thomas. Indeed, I could care less about the hit rate – much of which I think is marketing jargon. I agree the effectiveness of the person behind the camera is more important. Good article!

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