"Like asking headphones to clean your ears"

Loving a good rant, I thought I’d pass along this bit from my fellow PM/photographer Bryan O’Neil Hughes. Hughes uses a Canon 5D Mk II and loves good camera tech as much as just about anybody. He does not, however, have much patience for gear-for-gear’s-sake, or for money as a replacement for sweat.

You don’t need an accelerometer to hold your camera level…and if you do, you should find a new hobby. That’s like asking headphones to clean your ears.

The problem isn’t software. It isn’t hardware. It’s the shoot-a-million-images-and-hope-to-hell-it-works-out philosophy that people are taking.

Here’s a snippet (repeated a million times when I used to sell high-end photo gear):

  • Customer: I want to buy a Hasselblad.
  • Me: Sure, we have those… Let me ask you, though: what don’t you like about your current camera?
  • Customer: It isn’t sharp enough.
  • Me: What sort of things do you shoot?
  • Customer: Landscape.
  • Me: Do you shoot from a tripod?
  • Customer: No.
  • Me: Do you own a tripod?
  • Customer: No.
  • Me: Let’s start there.

…And invariably they’d buy the Hassy. People always want to solve their own laziness with gear (often the wrong gear). I see it with photography, cars… man, I even saw it with skateboarding.

My Mk II has a grid overlay… my F3 had that… but honestly, if you need to lean on that to hold the camera straight… you should probably have your inner ear checked.

— BH

[In a related vein: “If You Think You Need This, Kill Yourself“]

18 thoughts on “"Like asking headphones to clean your ears"

  1. My solution to this was to start shooting MF B&W and developing my own film. With 10 shots on a roll you begin to think about little things like, oh, lighting and composition for instance.

  2. Very well said, Bryan!
    It’s like the flipside where people comment on a nice photograph and say “you must have a good camera”. I think there’s a general tendancy to deny human talent (both when it’s displayed and when it’s not).

  3. I take it that your friend is a bit peeved at the inclinometer feature that has been birthed into the Canon world by way of the new EOS 7D.
    Assuming he possesses two good hands, both equipped with reasonably dexterous fingers, I imagine he was just as peeved when autofocus made a similar entry into the scene. Why have a sensor and motor do what your eye(s) and hand(s) are already fully capable of, right?
    But I bet you he (and other such curmudgeons… I don’t want to single out any one person here) leaves the switch on his lenses slid towards the AF silkscreen at least /some/ of the time. However, if you don’t like it, then don’t use it. Keep the inclinometer turned off. Keep the switch glued to MF. Ignore the meter bars in the viewfinder. Charge your batteries via hand-cranked generator. If any or all of that suits your sensibilities and workflow, that’s great… float your own boat however you see fit.
    But to get publicly indignant over some (very small) new feature which in some way taints one’s own sense of Photo Machismo is really just a sort of childish outburst that garners no real effect. The gear-compensates-skills argument is valid, but only up to a point, and it’s OK for that point to change depending on who you ask. In the end, though, what is it that he is hoping to achieve with this emission of spittle through mashed teeth? Masses with pitchforks and torches at Canon HQ’s door demanding a more proletarian imaging contraption? Probably not, but one has to wonder. Well, wondering would be too much tribute. Rolling of the eyes is likely sufficient.

  4. Dale, I was just ranting to my friend; he thought it was funny…imagined others might too. I certainly didn’t mean to offend.
    Bryan (who loves autofocus, Canon & kittens)

  5. As in all things, those things some people will use for lazy others will use for good. Sometimes when shooting action I have a hard time keeping the camera level (on ballhead) because I am barely able to keep the subject in the frame (and focused — teleextender means no autofocus) and even when I have a tripod, my eye is much better at spotting the horizon being off .5 degrees on my 2560×1600 monitor than through the viewfinder.
    However, I am not debating where the source of the rant comes from, just pointing out its target has some benefits.
    I bet you’re real happy John posted this one aren’t you? He’s just happy not to be the target of the moment πŸ™‚
    oh and when I don’t have my tripod or I am feeling lazy, hell yeah I shoot a million photos and pick the least unsharp (luckily I have adobe software to handle those images πŸ˜‰ )

  6. Not a photographer but I see parallels with a mate’s attitude towards new editions of photoshop. Dismisses new features like quick selection and refine edges as dumbing the application down while I rather enjoy being able to get tedious tasks done faster. Or how about the red-eye reduction tool? I can understand how he might see it that way but I’ve used it and been thankful for not having to stuff around with such a tedious task as fixing people’s redeye.
    So you can either view new tools as dumbing down or you can view them as enabling you to get on with higher level tasks quicker, which is kind of the opposite of dumbing down.

  7. I love my 5D for commercial work. It was the first camera to convince me to retire my F3. But most of my street photos are taken with my Canon Elph 780IS. It’s always with me, images clean up nicely in LR2.0 and at 12.1 megapixels stands up well against its bigger sibling. And with the success I’ve had with the features included I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with rules based composition. It’s only a matter of time.

  8. I shoot with a Nikon d90. I don’t have the money to invest in pro equipment. When I purchased my first dslr, a d70s, I learned what the limitations were with that body and the lenses I had. That’s not to say that I don’t push the envelope once in a while. My mantra for photography and life in general is “get the most out of what you have”. More often than not, I blame myself and not my equipment when it comes to iffy photos.

  9. Just because he doesn’t find use in a level on the camera doesn’t mean others will. Features are all about getting the most for your money and making things as easy as possible.
    If this wasn’t true then we would all be driving model A’s, and using manual wind cameras with a single coke bottle lens that requires us to cut and load our own film in a darkroom.
    Unfortunately, I see this attitude in Adobe all too much. They add something to Photoshop Elements that is just brilliant and would save people a ton of time but never put it in Photoshop. They I guess and wrongly guess I must say that people using the full version of Photoshop are doing do because they want to do everything manually and the slow way.
    They don’t realize that people have computers to save time and make their lives easier.
    If anyone is being lazy it is companies like Adobe that refuse to take a consumer level time saving feature and turn it in to a professional level time saving feature.
    Frankly, the statement about the lazy people with the camera levels is just a man that really should have never made it in to modern days. He need to go back to making his own flint arrow heads and killing his own food.

  10. There’s the apocryphal story of the photographer at a dinner where his hostess would tell him, “Your photos are amazing, you must have a great camera.” His response would be, “That was a great meal. You must have great pots and pans.”
    Still, I take issue with the comment about grids in viewfinders, and being able to hold a camera straight. Some people have an issue with their eyes which makes it difficult to keep the horizon straight. Telling them to get their ears examined is, well, a tad insensitive, not to mention wrong.
    That is, when you want the horizon straight, and not intentionally off-kilter like the work of Eugene Richards.

  11. Don’t feel bad about your camera choices. Magnum shooter David Allen Harvey has shot many a photo essay for National Geographic with his Nikon D70. (And he used to shoot essays with a much more expensive Leica M! I bet he’s chomping at the bit to get an M9.)

  12. I agree wholeheartedly. Lots of consumer stuff has great timesaving stuff and you get idiots on forums moaning about easy stuff having no place in pro apps. What these usually techy types do not realise is that most photographers are not geeks they are photographers and simply want a quick and easy way to do stuff, particulalrly if they are a pro. And many pros I know are not really interested in the geeky stuff and struglle with PS. Simple, fast, easy powerful That’s the requirement.
    I always loved the visual tagging in PSE Album [?] and particularly the calendar way of searching/moving through images and thought it would be great for the pro apps to use, but apart from LR’s very inferior and then dropped version of the date date filter, nothing.

  13. Hold on there. The level is really useful if you shoot in strange positions and then you need to identify in what position the shot was taken. Just because he doesn’t use doesn’t mean it’s not useful.
    This goes for Live View too. It’s incredibly useful but pro photographers keep saying “oh we don’t want that!”. You don’t want it then shut up and don’t use it. Don’t ruin it for people who know how to get the most of out their gear. I WANT A SLR WITH SWIVEL SCREEN LIVE VIEW!

  14. Even when I use a tripod, I rely heavily on camera grids. My astigmatism makes me correct in a direction opposite to my viewfinder-eye’s cylinder correction. The result is a slanted horizon.

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