If you are a decent technical photographer it's so easy to fall into the trap of loving each incremental camera improvement...

A reader assumed that this was an m4:3rd camera shot. He suggested that 
captioning it as such would further nail down the argument I am making below.
Sadly, it was not made with an m4:3rds camera.

It was made with a ONE INCH CAMERA.

...but the huge majority of lackadaisical amateurs, finnicky hobbyists and working professionals routinely, "love", "like" and gush over a multitude of photographic images they see on the internet; enjoying the bounty of the proffered work at sizes nudging up toward 1,200 pixels in a long horizontal row. Most routinely lie about making reams and reams of splendid and delicious large prints from whatever camera represents this quarter's technical miracle. At best they read someone else's lie about master print making at the size of a house and pass that lie along as their own. The adoration of that last 2.3% addition of pixels to the edge of the frame is such a "last century" affectation. The reality; the hard, fast reality is that the screen is our new medium of access and appreciation for the photographic image and the screen has the distinct advantage of being almost completely format and resolution neutral.

People who find themselves all pumped up by the "perceived" difference between a Nikon D810 and a D850 need to have their heads examined. People who denigrate the "smaller formats" as being somehow inadequate are self deluding. No strength of magic wand will make an idea better. No amount of purchase power will replace the hard won skills of seeing well and imagining better.

It's a pursuit as senseless as the pursuit of raw horsepower. The internet is like a crowded freeway at rush hour. Your Dodge Viper may have crazy amounts of horsepower but in Austin, Texas, on the Mopac "Expressway", you'll be right in line behind that 120 horsepower, 1996 Toyota Corolla (with no wheel covers) and you'll both be going the same 15 MPH for miles at a time. The only difference being that you wasted a lot of money buying and gassing up the Viper.


  1. Interestingly enough, the Yashica Kicksarter was scoffed and derided on DPR, and yet, in 4 days has sold on the way to 6K cameras and is approaching 10X their original target.

    There is nothing special about the output beyond the "fun" simplicity of a camera that appears to not have any focus, has a set "film look" and ISO with the faux film cartridge and needlessly needs to be rewound after each shot.

    I think too many photographers miss what is "fun" about photography... simply taking pictures.

  2. True, but the Viper driver is much more likely to have a beautiful blonde riding shotgun, while the Carolla driver will only have a large bag of Wal-Mart brand potato chips sitting next to him.

  3. Thank you for your years of work on VSL.
    You are a regular morning read for me and the range of your subjects, and careful exposition are unparalleled, certainly in the blogosphere and, in my experience, in the print world.
    I appreciate the effort that such writing requires and I am grateful.
    My best wishes to you and to your family.

  4. Yes and we are all guilty.

  5. Kirk, I could not agree with you more. Many photographer amateurs equate their newest and best camera with the quality of their photographic skills or at least believe others should. They would be far better off to improve their photographic education and skills instead of the camera.

  6. Nice post, and I agree. I will say also that gear is fun. So I feel it's also okay to simultaneously like the new tech and also separate tech from the art and specific output objectives for yourself or clients. One way I try to keep my feet on the ground is to look at the work of the photographers I admire. Lately I've been working on my landscape photography, and cracked open "Galen Rowell: A Retrospective." Galen shot 35mm slide film, which is technically behind current m43 format sensors. That puts things into perspective and at the same time is inspiring. It means gear isn't really a limiter and we can learn to become better photographers with just about anything available today.

  7. I'm glad it's not just me! Back in the film days I used 35mm and 120 (still do actually) and it is true that at a modest print size of 8x10 the better resolution and tone of the MF neg was visible. And it was nice to have. However, I usually preferred to shoot at 35mm for other reasons. Nowadays the whole image quality thing has marched uphill to such an extent that digital m4/3 is about where film 4x5 is; meaning that I find the issue is somewhat moot, even it you do actually make prints.

    My most valued pictures over the years are ones where the technical qualities are entirely irrelevant. The subject matter, the light, the moment, were what it was all about. But I'll happily take more image quality any time it doesn't cost me – in weight or camera size.

    Off topic: I just bought a Godox AD200 after reading about your experiences. I'm really impressed! Thanks for the writeup. My PocketWizards and Nikon flash guns are history! I will be adding another AD200 and some accessories very soon.
    Peter Wright.

  8. Eeyup. This kind of thing used to drive me nuts back in the days when I worked in a camera store. "This is the perfect camera for what you've told me you want to do." "Yes, but that one's got a framlinghofer on it. I need that one." "But it's another five hundreds dollars." "Exactly."

  9. Well said. I'm assuming that the stunning image that opens the blog is micro four-thirds. Wouldn't it advance your argument to so state?

  10. I was going through some of my old 19x13 PRINTS the other day, taken with my old D700. Loved many of them then, love them now.

  11. To: The Terrified Dad. I would posit that only those of very low self-esteem buy cars like the Viper and that the only attractive blonde to have ever graced the passenger seat of a car like a Viper was.....inflatable.

    On the other hand, several of my (generally acknowledged to be) attractive friends with actual net worth of seven figures and more drive old Corollas.

    In the 1990's a studied showed that more U.S. millionaires drove older Ford F150 pick up trucks than any other vehicle. Sports cars are for wage slaves rebelling at the frustration of their cube existence. There are exceptions....

  12. Oh, I don't know. I made the mistake of looking at the Nikon 850 thread on FM forums. In the best of hands, with the best lenses, it sure seems capable of some awesome results. Thing is, I am all in with an Oly/Pan m4/3 bodies and lenses which I will not part with. That and the fact I can't afford a second system and the one I have meets my needs and is also awesome but different. But, yes, I would like at least try one. So, I'll save some money to rent one later in the year. Then, hopefully, forget about it.

  13. BUT, BUT, BUT all the work from the D850 that is impressing you with "awesome" results is stuff you are looking at ON THE WEB!!!! Right? You have yet to walk into a Nikon Store and see actual, big, photographic prints, right? Isn't that the point of this article?

  14. Thing is, in the right light, wide open, full frame and m4/3 have a different look even on the web. I can come close with my fast primes but their is a difference.

  15. My m43 cameras are already better picture makers than I am a photographer. And, some of the prints that got me awards from local art clubs came from relatively crappy cameras. So, I just may as well stick with what I've got. But, I do get tempted...

  16. Just hung a 20x20 print cropped from a Panasonic FZ-1000.
    From the correct viewing distance it looks like something from my erstwhile Rolleiflex. Even close up it does not suck. At all.

  17. Hi kirk

    just invested in 2 canon 1d II aps-h cameras 375$ each. takes both sd
    and cf Cards, 2 Card slots, 23 buffer raw, killer battery life, 10fps and great looking raws.

    Only downside is 10mp. but its enough in most cases. Sold my last canon house, the 5dII with 146000 shots on it for about the same Price of 2 off the 1dIII's.

    Iv got no need for high mp files. That why they make the perfect mach for my Panasonic cameras. Doing all the stuff well that the Panasonic has a hard time doing for a candy.

    got lx100, fz1000 and 2 gx80/85 boidies from Panasonic and a speed booster.

    Olympus 75mm 1.8f, Olympus 45mm 1.8f, Panasonic 20mm 1.7 and the 12-32 kit lens as native mft lenses.

    the old sigma ex 85mm 1.4, the 24mm 1.4f art, the tokina 11-16 2.8f II, tamron 28-75mm 2.8 and the 40mm 2.8 stm with a canon extension tube ef 12 ii for macro.

    Old and new stuff mixed togheter for a great Price/value combination that does all i need it to.

    Had much more expencive gear but this fits my need.

    gave what your pointing out a lot of thought lately an cut my gear Down to this.

    Cheer mads

  18. I'm only going to disagree on one thing - I owned a D810 for 2 years, shot hundreds of thousands of photos with it. Despite hours and hours in both LR and C1, I could never get the skin tones anywhere I wanted them to, they just seem brownish (the D750 suffers from this too). My D4 and D5 don't have this problem. Then last week I rented a 850 for a shoot and they fixed it, the skin tones and colors are noticeably better.

  19. I am not terribly interested in buying cameras or lenses based on incremental improvements - which is one reason why it takes me several years to buy new ones. (Budgetary restrictions are another.) I have a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. They meet my needs for the most part. The DSLR gets me great colours and tones for stills. The mirrorless camera gets me fine HD video in a compact package. Substantial improvements in AF and and stabilization at an affordable price would be the main things that I would want in either type of camera in order for me to consider upgrading. Both of those changes would assist me in producing better images and video. And if I'm going to add 4K video to the feature set I want it to be at 60 fps.

  20. I shoot a Sony A7 II with a selection of great lenses... but part of me wants to dump it all for a Sony RX10 series camera.

    Great all-in-one lens, enough resolution, syncs flash at all shutter speeds with no trickery. It's tempting.

  21. My wife and I went to listen to a talk / presentation at the National Geographic (in D.C.) last night by an incredible nature photographer and one of our favorites, Michael "Nick" Nichols. Never once did his choice of cameras or lenses come up in his excellent presentation. And I doubt if anyone missed it at all. His images were great - whether shot on digital or film, and regardless of camera used. Not having to change film while surrounded by a cloud of flies in the Congo basin might have made his life easier, but I am pretty sure having the latest gear would not have made his images more meaningful. For example, his beautiful picture of a chimp in 1990 reaching out to touch Jane Goodall's hair - how could the latest gear possibly improve it?



  22. Yes small sensor cameras including cell phones are all a person needs to make an excellent photo, with the caveat, in adequate light. In the studio and on the stage lighting makes those large sensors superfluous. They are still needed for those sunset and sunrise landscapes, and in dark settings where lighting would interfere with the spontaneity of the capture.. Otherwise put your money in lighting.

  23. Cannot possibly agree more with your points.
    The whole megapixel race was demented for 99% of the users out there.
    Case in point is the link below. I scanned this film at 20MP equivalent, 10MP and 8MP.
    Same frame, different scanner rez.
    For a long time "experts" told me 35mm film is incapable of more than 8MP rez and even then only for K25.
    Well, the little letters saying "New South Wales" a the bottom of the registration plate are more readable on the 20MP scan...
    Oh, the film? Fuji 400ISO. Yes, that's right, "low rez" film!
    The whole image? At this rez it would fill a whole wall, so no point showing it in a 20" monitor! ;)
    I won't show what Astia 100 was capable of - it might make the D850 crowd jump ship to the latest 100MP whatever...
    And this is why I stick to M4/3 for my digital work. Waaaay more than enough!

  24. Mike Johnston at TOP is going all soft on the "one inch" Sonys today. He points out that the longest dimension on that chip is in fact about half an inch! I think the name came about from the size of the assembly of a chip that size, encased in a glass tube in a vacuum and used for analog television cameras.

  25. A thoughtful blog, one which characterises why I keep returning!
    I think many many people forget that (unless you put your latest and greatest and heaviest camera in a display cabinet for fear that it might get a used look about it) the reason we buy cameras is to take photographs, not to carry around a brick! And I like my photography to be fun! And from observations of some and I stress some fellow photographers, there's a macho element with a need to carry around the biggest and newest. I think that's a load of s**t. It does NOT mean that the photo you take is aesthetically great (accepting that aesthetics are deeply personal) - otherwise we would reject so many superb photographers of the film era. And like others who have commented, I can't afford to constantly update.
    Oh, and here's another reason for not falling for the Siren song of camera manufacturers...when I'm out and about, I like to get familiar with my cameras and their controls.

  26. True that.
    As for digital, i still use the first OMDEM5 and my trusty walk around 109.
    ...but film still rules my photography.


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