A VSL reader takes issue with my diminution of workflow as an issue for camera buyers. I think he's on to something. Well thought out.

VSL reader, Kurt Friis Hansen schools me a bit in response to my comments about workflow not being  important to camera consumers. I liked his e-mail to me, and the fact that it educated me, so I asked his permission to publish it as a "Guest Blog."  Here's what he had to say....


Hi Kirk Tuck

I decided against including this in my comment on your web site, but I think the old saying: “What you don’t know is possible, you cannot ask for!" - or something to that effect. 

I think you need to visit and review the camera-image workflow from another viewpoint. You wrote:

"Thom Hogan repeatedly takes Nikon to task for "workflow." To summarize his position he seems to think that the main issues holding Nikon back are a paucity of APS-C lenses (side issue) and the inability to push one button on the back of a Nikon camera and instantly send images directly the social media or other sharing applications. I'm too old school to appreciate this point of view and disregard it just as I disregard GPS on cameras. Since this tech doesn't require much in additional hardware costs I'm all for its inclusion but I think a much more important impediment to Nikon's success, even with existing cameras, is their foot dragging approach to video."

I think you simplify the things - especially in lieu of what modern software already delivers to milllions and millions of people in all walks of (professional) life. Let me try to describe one - my - future scenario. My dream..

  1. Camera design as such is not affected, but enhanced with a communication interface (standardized, fast, not slow and proprietary as today).
  2. Camera can use memory cards as today (a kind of a belts and suspenders solution - especially intended for pro's).
  3. Your preferred "talk to" device is selected by powering on the device and the app (iOS, Android aaand Windows, macOS). Once paired, connection is automatic in the future - unless blocked by camera setting.
  4. Capabilities, configuration,  storage targets, behavior etc. is defined in the app/program - any camera settings required is handled by the app/program as needed.
  5. If no connection exists, camera behaves as normal.

Now we have "intelligence" in a place, where it is easily handled, extended and modified. Imagine named custom settings for your camera.

In theory any number of custom settings, not just three,  that need redefining on a frequent basis. Imagine customized prioritation rules regarding aperture preference and range, shutter speed and range balanced to ISO, focal length of lens, and situational requirements (sports, landscape, walkabout etc.).

Camera side

When a connection is active, and sync is activated (not just remote control), the camera saves any image/video on card. When save has completed, whether a new image/video is made or not), the camera starts transferring/syncing recent data to the connection controller (smartphone/computer) and so on for new images/videos.

Running in the background - selectable mode to sync only when camera inactive, concurrently or manual only. Akin to the workings of Google drive, OneDrive, iCloud etc. with an extra twist.

Optionally, data acknowledged as received by the controller can be deleted as required (oldest first), leading to "unlimited" camera memory.

Optional streaming and streaming quality can be activated by controller.

Whatever happens to the data in the connection controller is of no concern to the camera.

Until connected (or paired), the camera behaves as a standalone camera.

Connection controller

The last connected controller is active. To switch from i.e. computer to smartphone only involves stopping connection on computer and starting smartphone connection (no re-pairing is necessary second time and onward).

In addition to remote control and camera configuration, the sync behavior is controlled. I.e. (Examples) as one or more simultaneous options:

  1. Data is saved locally on controller.
  2. Data is saved (backup) to one or more connected resources (i.e. USB 3 HDD or SSD)
  3. Data is saved to one or more resources (NAS) on local network.
  4. Data is sync'ed to one or more configurable cloud storage providers.
  5. Configurable/pluggable extensions to other targets (i.e. Facebook etc.) may activate a manually "clickable" touch-button on camera screen, allowing targetable sync of individual images to special targets on an individual basis (one-click push to local press/media account possible).

Combinations and implementation is controlled solely in the controller app/program (and options allowed by the camera).

Whether you use the camera by hand or remotely is of no consequence to performance.

The general view is, that the camera can be activated as a controller extension - a specialized image/video extension delivering special powers and capabilities to i.e. a smartphone. Similar to an AirPlay device, that can be controlled and/or extended in scope by an iPhone.

I'm not naïve, but I still have the dream, that the communication protocol would be an open standard. Alas…

I have the impression, that camera companies prefer to risk their own future for even a remote chance of making life difficult for a competitor. The camera industry would never, ever have invented web and mail protocol standards, and the web and mail based internet we have today, would never had existed, if camera manufacturers had been in charge.

But… maybe the "camera makers" will begin to learn to sow - otherwise they cannot be helped, and deserve their self-inflicted decline.

Real life

Imagine you have been shooting all day. On your way back to base, you accidentally drop the bag with your camera over board on a local ferry. Properly set up, your images and videos - all of them - would have ended up on your phone, and optionally also on your home server, your cloud service, and the one special image or video you kicked along would already be visible online at your business connection. Whatever. Depending on preferences and options.

Camera, gear and memory card with contents may be lost, but without any extra effort on your part, your data, your income and livelihood, would be safe and sound. No affordable insurance would help on that front.

You have worked just as you usually do - except for kicking one image along to the right receiver - and you've lost no work. When you arrive home at your base, all your data is already stored as expected, ready for work. Accident or no accident.

Now you only have to handle the insurance company.


A similar solution could have been in use today, if camera manufacturers had had the slightest interest in the well being of their professional and consumer users. It's nothing like rocket science; just intelligent use of known and working technology.

Venlig hilsen - Sincerely - Mit freundlichem Gruß
Kurt Friis Hansen


Ron Preedy said...

I have long been a proponent of using a PC/tablet/smartphone to customize the user interface on the camera and also to do what is described here. Not difficult technically and would improve both workflow and the user interface - think customized menus, multiple custom settings. It would make cameras easier to use and faster to get the results where you want them.

Standards? I won't hold my breath...

Anonymous said...

I like what Kurt wrote and would add just one additional bit: why is it that various camera raw formats and the various software "solutions" (including but not limited to Photoshop, Lightroom and proprietary camera maker programs) remain so incompatible and so painfully difficult to use? Why do we need these multi-step "workflow" "solutions"? Why can't I open up a software program - by whatever maker, not just the proprietary programs made by the camera companies - and have it immediately recognize the settings (such as white balance, saturation, whatever) that I had set in my camera, open the image with those settings automatically applied to the raw files, and have simple (and simplified, clear, intuitive) editing tools that just work? That, to me, is one of the biggest fails of the camera makers. Why do even the working pros have to spend at least as much time organizing and doing touch up editing on photos as they do setting up and shooting? And why can't camera makers - which don't even make any money on their proprietary software - work with companies like Adobe and others to make life ultimately easier for their mutual customers? That's been bugging me for years. I use a mix of Nikon software and Photoshop because there is not just one simple, easy solution with a clear UI that does everything I need.


Michael Matthews said...

Pretty sure that's the road Samsung was on. Their decision to bail was made for internal corporate reasons. That may have set progress back a bit, but at least we were spared a generation of incendiary cameras. Someone else, most probably Sony, will pick up the (no pun) torch.

tnargs said...

Furthermore, ...imagine one app for all your cameras. Akin to the current universal remote for all your TV and hifi devices at home.

That means a similar interface, a similar menu structure for all your devices on the app. Fully customisable by you.

amolitor said...

I have a visceral reaction against anything that simplifies, standardizes, and automates.

The trouble is that bad habits get enshrined in the process along with the good ones. Ideas and processes that were good but aren't any more likewise. When it's all automatic and simple you resist change until, often, too late.

Of course, as a working professional, that sort of attitude is a luxury you do not have. Automation, processes, and so on are necessary to get enough scale to make enough money to eat. Still, maybe a useful counterpoint?

milldave said...

Perhaps I'm missing something here.
I don't have an issue with the UI of my Sony A7II, in that once I set it up, set the customizable buttons to do what I want, it's ready to go and doesn't need to be changed.
Don't need an app to change anything, I can do it myself.
Everything is set for manual use (I use old Canon FD, Leica M and Olympus OM lenses), I use only the exposure compensation dial to effect the changes I like to see.
Just for me; no-one else.
My previous Pentax was similarly set up, but with autofocus points varied depending on the subject.
No angst that I didn't have 44 buttons to push, dials to twist, menus to delve into.
What am I doing wrong???
My film cameras are set to manual(maybe aperture/ shutter speed automation), I set film speed, aperture/shutter and usually leave the thing alone, except for maybe varying the exposure compensation.
Do I need GPS? No,I can read a map.
Would I send anything to a cloud?
Gods,no,so insecure.
Am I living on the same planet as the rest of you guys and girls??
This is keeping me awake at night, worrying that I'm not making things complicated enough! (Satire alert)

Jim Metzger said...

Show of hands, how many of you lost your camera over the side of a ferry? Sorry I couldn't resist.

I am old school I admit, spent decades shooting film and hated the time between handing over the roll to the lab and waiting anxiously for it to come back. In 1969 I had a clear view of the Apollo Astronauts as they came up Lafayette Street in NYC after the successful moon landing. Last 8 frames of film from that roll never came back. No parade images. And I still hate handing over a flash card to someone else.

I manually set ISO, shutter speed, aperture and most complicated, setting focus type and points. When shooting concerts, events, weddings, etc, auto everything just misses in these typically complicated lighting situations. Although I have a camera with the ability to do Presets, I have never used that function.

I will say shooting architecture has been made much easier with the ability to wirelessly view and trigger the camera with an iPad through a Camranger. That is until the connect decides to "go south".

I like to review images before display and distribution, post processing is too important to generally allow out of camera to be seen. With raw images there is too much that can be done to get the look I am after which is surprisingly "neutral" most of the time.

I realize that certain professions rely on speed of distribution; sports, journalism, etc., but I like to contemplate the image after shooting.

I have enough trouble maintaining my straight forward email and wifi on the computer at the office, I don't need the headache of trying to link all these devices and maintain / diagnose problems. Sometimes complicated is too complicated

Anonymous said...

Which digital storage media do we have that will still have our images ready once we get the electronic readers re-done after a 'Carrington Event' hits? By this I mean a massive Solar Storm that wipes out much/most of the electronic storage and hardware.
We know our planet will be hit again one of these days and major electronic disruption will result. Digital and magnetic media as well as generating hardware will be wiped out. What will survive? CD's? DVD's? Actual prints and negatives will be OK. Will any electronically stored media?

typingtalker said...

Kurt wrote, "Imagine you have been shooting all day. On your way back to base, you accidentally drop the bag with your camera over board on a local ferry. Properly set up, your images and videos - all of them - would have ended up on your phone, and optionally also on your home server, your cloud service, and the one special image or video you kicked along would already be visible online at your business connection. Whatever. Depending on preferences and options."

Canon 5D MkIV: "Built in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity provide easy sharing to compatible smart devices, select social media sites and the Canon Connect Station CS100 device."

It is also possible to set-up and operate the camera remotely.

A simpler solution would be to put your data cards in a money belt (or your pocket) before boarding the ferry.

Jeremy said...

I think Kurt is right. I still find it an anachronism that when I'm out shooting and want to send a picture of what I'm doing to someone, I have to use my phone camera. And that I have to lug a laptop on holiday so that I can back everything up to Backblaze while I'm away, or risk losing/dropping/overwriting my memory cards.
At some point someone will make a camera that is like the difference between my old Nokia and my first iPhone. The Nokia could do everything, the iPhone made you want to do it.
Automating backup is a no brainer if you're not that well organised. And it's no good saying, just get organised - automation is the answer to that.

Anonymous said...

"Show of hands, how many of you lost your camera over the side of a ferry?"

Hi Jim (and typingtalker),

I'm not trying to be a smart-ass and with all due respect: have you ever shot wildlife (i.e. whales, etc.) from an unstable zodiac or kayak, where gear is sometimes inches from rolling overboard? Or been in a remote area (such as a safari, river rafting, etc.) and seen gear dropped or destroyed? I have photographed from a zodiac and have seen gear destroyed in remote areas, so while you were probably joking, what Kurt said was actually well within the realm of possibilities. Perhaps not for you, and probably not for Kirk, who mainly photographs people in a studio or on the street. But for others, it is a very real risk, and Kurt's proposals are actually intriguing. They may not be solutions that I'd use, I don't know, but they are definitely solutions that would move us in the right direction from where we are today.

Actually, and this is not just about Jim's tongue in cheek comment, but in general terms: re-reading this post together with Kirk's re-posted thoughts in the preceding blog post (about EVFs, mirrorless, etc.), I can't help but think that mirrorless, EVF and the wireless backups that Kurt described are two sides of the same coin of progress. Some of us may choose to follow it along. Certainly, the under-30 crowd who grew up with computers, tablets and are often inseparable from their smart phones are more likely to want and take advantage of such changes. Others will drop out of the rat race and keep practicing their photography with their existing gear. But change will come, even if some of the Japanese camera makers have to be dragged into the future kicking and screaming! ;)


Anonymous said...

Pro workflow. You are working for a agency/client in Berlin, Chicago, London, Los Angeles or New York. They can not send an Art Director, whoever to the shooting site. They need to approve shots, and they are working on a tight deadline. They do not want the photographer to retouch because they have their own people.

The workflow is simple. Shoot and upload low resolution jpegs. When one is approved, then the raw file is uploaded. Any camera that makes this simpler is ahead of the game. The Canon EOS 5DS/R has a USB 3.0 connector, but no wireless. The Canon 5D4 has NFC and WiFi, but no USB 3.

Anonymous said...

I asked Thom Hogan in an email why Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc. seem so reluctant or incapable of providing a smoother, more seamless wireless workflow. His answer was the absence of a uniform standard for all potential destination devices (Mac, PC, iPhone, Android, cloud, etc.). Rather than bet on the wrong horse, they would rather not bet at all.

In my opinion, a second challenge is the size of the files someone might want to transfer. Small JPEGS are one thing; large, hi-res RAW files or video files are quite another. It will be interesting to see how the camera companies work this out -- if at all.