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Dear Camera Manufacturers: please take the training wheels off!

Dear Camera Manufacturers: please take the training wheels off!

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Focus priority, limited Auto Bracket sequences, force-fit exposure correction and autogaining video without manual overrides stifle creative photographers.

By Jack Howard

December 29, 2009

Poring through spec sheet after spec sheet while preparing my 2009 HDR All-Stars Buying Guide piece left me sort of puzzled as to why so many cameras are hobbled straight out of the box.

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The answer, I reckon, is that camera manufacturers want newcomers to the SLR realm to feel confident in their new purchases vis a vis relatively sharp images with exposures in the middle of the normal range of the bellcurve for this particular shot or that.

And today's cameras are the absolute smartest cameras ever. We're talking multi-segment metering that sometimes bumps up against databases of different shot types to determine exposure, along with in-camera toe and shoulder curve corrections to preserve highlights and unblock shadows, face and even gesture-identifying cameras to help pinpoint focus and the decisive moment–provided that decisive moment calls for completely typical skin tones and an eyes-open perky grin on the subject's face.

And yes, for many a shooter, these in-camera assists may be great, at first, but with too many a camera–and not just in the entry-level class, mind you–there's some serious limitations on how far you can push the creativity bounds before hitting an unnecessary wall.

I could prattle on about the specific settings on this camera or that, but I won't, as it wouldn't be exhaustive–there's too many cameras guilty of some omission or feature throttling.

Witness the brevity of the list of cameras listed as 2009 HDR Allstars based on this simple ranking criterion: be able to capture 3 RAW shots spaced at +/- 3 EVs in 1 second or less with one push of the shutter button. There's a full-frame flagship camera that breaks the knees of its 5-shot AEB burst, by limiting the EV spacing to the same overall range as the three shot burst! Huh? Why?

There are otherwise great HDSLRs out there that autogain video, with no manual override: meaning we photographers that love silhouettes and high-key styles are stuck in a variation of (P) mode with video all the time!  I had a reader ask why they couldn't get deep rich reds in the twilight sky with a certain camera, even with EV compensation dialed way back, and I'm pretty sure it was because of a force-to-normal safety override they'd accidentally set!

Please let photographers grow with their gear!  Please take off the training wheels!

Please always offer an easy way to disentangle autofocus from the shutter so photographers can learn to cheat their focus and depth of field and not stop the shutter from firing even if focus isn't dead-on!  (Without having to resort to manual focus, that is.)

Please let photographers autobracket their shots much, much wider for high dynamic range imaging!

Please let video-shooting photographers choose if they want to go ultra-high key or silhouette style by locking all aspects of exposure during video!

Please?

Got anything to add to this list? Let us know!

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