Redefine Camera Systems

We live in a photographic age that is causing us to redefine camera systems well beyond our previous, and simplistic, two dimensional view. It wasn’t that many years ago when many photographers only considered two factors. The camera body. And, the lenses associated with it. In the past some cameras were bought more because of the lenses that could be married to it, rather than specific attributes of the body itself.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-2500, subject distance 285 mm

Advancements in computational photography, and software that incorporates artificial intelligence, are redefining the elements that constitute camera systems.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-6400, subject distance 2.2 metres

At the very least we are now appreciating  that camera systems need a third dimension so they can operate more effectively. Like a three legged stool, the software we use has become a critical component in our overall camera system thinking. We need to proactively consider our photographic software as an integral part of our camera system,

E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5, 1/400, ISO-16000, subject distance 2.3 metres

Given the size of the sensor in our camera, software now enables us to use our equipment in lower light conditions than we previously thought was possible. As the artificial intelligence incorporated in our photo software programs continues to advance, so too will the functionality of our gear.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 34 mm, efov 91.8 mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-3200

I can remember reading comments from online ‘expert’ reviewers that stated Nikon 1 camera gear could never be used beyond ISO-800. After experimenting with my software, I discovered that I had no trouble regularly pushing that equipment to ISO-3200.  That ISO level eventually became just part of my normal operating range. Those additional two full stops of shooting latitude gave me a huge amount of increased functionality in terms of how I used my Nikon 1 camera gear.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/4.5, 1/800, ISO-25600, subject distance 1.2 metres

When I bought my Olympus kit back in June 2019 I heard the same assessment about M4/3 sensor cameras being limited to lower ISO values. I quickly learned that I could push my gear to ISO-6400 on a regular basis. Not only that, I discovered that if I did a proper job with my base exposure I could push my images to even higher ISO levels.

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, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3380 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres

It is important to remember that we’re discussing the impact of modern photographic software and how it is helping to redefine and broaden the perceived limits of our camera equipment. This is true regardless of what equipment we happen to own.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/3.5, 1/80, ISO-4000, subject distance 1.5 metres, Handheld Hi Res Mode

As photographers if we are not considering our software as an important and integral part of our camera system, we are doing our craft a great disservice. We need to investigate software options and find whatever program best suits our needs, and works well with our chosen camera gear. The software we use is as important as the camera in our hands, and the lens that is attached to that camera body.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 521 mm, efov 1042 mm, f/9, -0.7 EV, 1/640, ISO-160, handheld in-camera focus stacking, out-of-camera jpeg with minor adjustments done in the Nik Collection

Computational photography is a fourth, critical consideration when weighing our options with a camera system. It represents a potential fourth leg to a camera system that provides even more overall functionality and creativity.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 403 mm, efov 806 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3537 pixels on the width, subject distance 4 metres

There has been much discussion about the decline of the dedicated camera market and why so many people have abandoned cameras for Smartphones. Some of the most frequently mentioned reasons are size, weight, convenience, and cost. One of the biggest factors is often overlooked. Abject boredom.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 314 mm, efov 628 mm, 1/5000, f/11, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3018 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.8 metres

Like many people I’ve had an ‘on again… off again’ love affair with photography. At times my creative juices have flowed freely and I’ve been consumed with photography. And at other times… I couldn’t have cared less about photography.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/320, ISO-1250, subject distance 245 mm, Handheld Hi Res mode

When I look back at my experiences with digital photography (I never enjoyed the film days at all so I’ve written all of those years off completely) I’ve had some incredible highs. And some very deep lows. My ‘lowest of the low’ moments I’ve had with digital photography occurred when I was using full frame DSLR gear.

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, 1/2000, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3258 pixels on the width

I fell prey to all of the hype about full frame. I drank the Kool-Aid and invested thousands of dollars in that camera format. The novelty of using full frame gear wore off very quickly. All I was able to do was create similar images to what I had in the past… but the files were much better with more dynamic range and colour depth.

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, 1/4000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4508 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.5 metres

I found the gear large and cumbersome to use. The fundamental problem was that using full frame gear bored the hell out of me. There was no mojo to be found in my body or brain.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/8.5, -0.7 EV, 1/800, ISO-800, HHHR Handheld Hi Res mode, full frame capture, subject distance 3.9 metres

I appreciate that we’re all different and many photographers have had a much more positive experience with full frame gear than I did. My lack of inspiration and creativity when using full frame equipment was fully my responsibility. I just never felt connected to my full frame kit. It always seemed to get in the way of what I wanted to do, rather than enable my creativity.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-320

Selling all of my full frame gear in July 2015 and using Nikon 1 kit exclusively saved my photographic life. If it wasn’t for Nikon 1 gear none of you would be reading this website today. And, none of you would have seen any of my previous articles when I was on the writing team at Photography Life.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/15, ISO-200, handheld In-Camera Focus Stacking, cropped to 4787 pixels on the height, subject distance 395 mm

For me a camera system’s true worth comes from how inspired and creative I feel when I use it. Being able to do things that I couldn’t do before is where I find continual sparks of inspiration. Those sparks fire consistently when I take advantage of computational photography functions and other technological advancements like IBIS performance.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/320, ISO-6400, photographed one-handed, subject distance 285 mm

I would much rather follow my inspiration and capture a handheld macro image only using one hand, rather than wasting my time setting up a tripod to support heavy, bulky full frame gear.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.7 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 24.8 metres

I love observing nature and seeing an image in my mind. Then using computational photography a few moments later to create that exact image with 100% confidence.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/9, -0.7 EV, 1/640, ISO-250, handheld in-camera focus stacking, out-of-camera jpeg with minor adjustments done in the Nik Collection

To leverage our creativity, and to get the best return from our investments in camera gear, it is important to redefine camera systems to include four components. Camera body. Lenses. Software. Computational photography capability.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Most images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. Images created from out-of-camera jpegs and crops are noted. Images were resized for web use. This is the 1,176 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/250, ISO-6400, subject distance 300 mm, Handheld Hi Res Mode

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Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/400, ISO-6400, subject distance 250 mm, Handheld Hi Res Mode

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8 thoughts on “Redefine Camera Systems”

  1. You said it better than I ever could. When I gave up 35mm SLR photography I was just about ready to give up on photography completely, I was tired of changing lenses and throwing away piles of slides at 50 cents a clip. Later I got a digital bridge camera and began taking photos again. Now I’m using Olympus MFT cameras and lenses and liking photography more than ever.

  2. Definitely agree with this regarding how a system can inspire you to be creative. That’s how I feel about the Nikon 1 system. I don’t have the money for anything else anymore with a young family now. I have 2 V1 bodies and 3 kit lenses including the 10mm pancake lens. I just have to go with what I’ve got and learn it inside out. I need to learn more post production anyway. Mind you, I always seem to be the odd one out with tech having held on to Windows phone longer than most but regarding my Nikon V1, well it’s here to stay until it breaks.

    1. Hi Keith,

      What I found inspiring about my Nikon 1 kit was its diminutive size coupled with some performance characteristics in terms of frame rate, buffer size and auto-focus capability. It allowed me to get into small, cramped spaces and create images that I had not been able to do with larger camera gear. The fast frame rates opened up new opportunities with bird photography.

      Tom

  3. My sister at the age of 73 just started in photography (her choice to do so). I told her she was entering a world of art and technology. I just hope the technology doesn’t appear as roadblocks but rather advantages.

  4. I very seldom like images taken above ISO 1600 on any camera or format whether taken by myself or others,
    Sure they are a record of something that otherwise could not exist but i never really warm to them because they always look like high ISO images no matter what fancy noise reduction technique is employed.
    my favourite images by myself or others are always taken at ISO 1600 and below without exception.

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