How important are the caveats relative to new camera specs?

Jack Douglas

CR for the Humour
Apr 10, 2013
6,767
2,291
Alberta, Canada
I'm the guy with lots of questions and a few observations but very little expertise! Better to be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt, is always in the back of my mind.

I've followed the 6D2 banter until recently "unselecting" the threads, and all the emphasis on DR kind of put me into the following mindset.

A blog by a well known bird photographer first got me really wondering about the quoting of specs of cameras and what the specs actually mean relative to real life. Here is the quote that was made relative to the shutter speeds of the 5D4 and 1DX2 (I am not interested in promoting negativity towards the individual so please don't go there):

"While both of the pro bodies, the EOS-1DX (12 fps)and the EOS-1DX II (14 fps), are a lot faster than the 5D IV (7 fps), do understand the following simplification: if you are working at 1/1000 sec with a camera that has a frame rate of up to 14 fps, you are missing 98.6% of the action poses in a given second. If you are working with a camera that has a frame rate of up to 7 fps, you are missing 99.3% of the action in a given second. This is not a great difference … (Note: the up to stems from the fact that the frame rates quoted in the specs are for One-shot or Manual focus. The frame rate drops considerably when you are working with AI Servo AF. And that drop itself varies and is related to some of your AF Menu choices."

My interest is in understanding exactly what is a fair assessment of the advantage of more fps relative to real life shooting situations. However, I'd like to take it beyond just that to the camera specs in general. Like number of AF points, as another example. Such specs are often used as clubs in CR debates (arguments).

It seems to me that most specs have caveats and often these are very important but likewise often overlooked.

So I started looking for reviews that do measurements relative to spec comparisons and came upon this site:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/sony-a9/sony-a9A6.HTM

I was comparing what is given as shutter lag between the Sony A9 and Canon cameras (the 6D2 is not there yet) and wondering how that particular characteristic shows up in real life shooting, and is it important. So far I don't think I've heard it ever mentioned when a camera is being derided.

This should be enough to provide a feel for what it is that I'd like to provoke some discussion on and thereby learn how to be more discretionary in viewing manufacturer's specs. I've mentioned a few specific examples but am more interested a broader discussion. What specs are most important and how important are the caveats associated with them?

Another example just popped into my head: the 6D2 focuses at F8 but the caveats are very significant!

Hope I won't be the only one having an interest in this thread. ;)

Jack
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
16,633
1,590
Unfortunately, specifications do not tell the whole story. High FPS? For over 100 years, pro photographers captured amazing photos with just one shot. I tried 10 fps on my 1 series camera, and had to sort thru hundreds of images to get one that I could have taken with one shot.

In my opinion, it does not matter most of the time if the shot shows a 90 mph baseball as it touches the bat.

F/8 autofocus may or may not be a factor, it depends on the shooter, I use it with my 100-400L MK II plus 1.4 TC. All my other lenses don't need it with a 1.4X TC.

DR can be a factor, but high DR cameras still don't capture all the range in many high DR scenes. There are some cases where it would be nice, particularly at high ISO settings, but you don't find it there, only at low ISO settings. At High ISO's, DR is a limiting factor for stage shots where bright lights and shadows are in the scene.

For me, noise at high ISO's is a factor, but camera makers do not list noise levels at various ISO settings. Their ISO range cannot be trusted. I also do not trust tests that reduce a high mp image to 8 mp and then measure noise. If I wanted a 8 mp camera, I'd buy one. So, if I buy a 50mp camera, how much noise is there at ISO 12800, for example.

Shutter lag can be a factor, its painful to press the shutter button and wait for something to happen.

Live view and tethering, if you want to use that, look out, it varies all over the place, and even the best is slow when using wireless.

Battery life is pretty important, having to tote around a bag of extra batteries to get you thru a shoot can be a deal breaker.

Number of AF points, this is mostly related to tracking, no one selects one point from among hundreds or at least very few do.

AF during video. Useful for non professional video making where the photographer has not or cannot rehearse a scene, measure distance to the subjects to the inch, and then execute a manual focus plan for each scene.

AFMA. If you have wide aperture lenses and use them wide open or nearly so, its a great feature. If you use live DPAF, its not needed. I just bought a camera without AFMA and miss it already.
 

dak723

EOS R
Oct 26, 2013
1,141
435
I think the reason that a list of complete camera specs is so overrated and causes so much debate on forums is that each photographer may have a totally different set of specs that are important to them. It depends on what you shoot, when you shoot (day/night), where you shoot (indoor/outdoor) the apertures you shoot at, if you print and what max. size you print, etc. The most important specs for some may be the size and weight of the camera.

For example, I shoot primarily landscapes and usually around f/8. So I can center point and refocus. So number of AF points is not just irrelevant, having more points can be a negative when I actually take a close up shot and want to move the point.

FPS is also totally irrelevant to me - and on the rare occasion I am taking a shot of a moving object, I just use "one shot" as I would have in the old days!

While specs may help a potential camera buyer narrow their choices, they shouldn't be the ammunition for debate in regards of what camera is "better" in my opinion.
 

Mario

EOS M6 Mark II
Dec 3, 2014
65
0
55
Belgium
severi.be
Jack Douglas said:
... if you are working at 1/1000 sec with a camera that has a frame rate of up to 14 fps, you are missing 98.6% of the action poses in a given second. If you are working with a camera that has a frame rate of up to 7 fps, you are missing 99.3% of the action in a given second. This is not a great difference …

With statistics, you can prove anything, Jack. One could also say: with 14 fps, you capture 1.4 % of the action, with 7 fps only 0.7 % of the action. So 14 fps gives you twice as much action as the 7 fps. That's a pretty significant difference ;).

Mario
 

amorse

EOS RP
Jan 26, 2017
785
1,048
www.instagram.com
I think it almost always comes down to the needs of the individual. The reality is that "real world" situations can be very different from one person to another, so at the end of the day the camera that best fits each person's real world situation is best. I'd never buy a 1DX II or an a9 because I have absolutely no need for high-frame rates, but there are many other photographers who build careers on using that feature. Shutter lag would be another issue to a point I'd think - if the shutter lag is so little that it is effectively imperceptible then advancements there may not really make a camera better or worse in real world use.

The real issue is that in technology advertising any spec can be turned into a sound bite to influence a buyer to choose one product over another, regardless of whether or not the user needs the feature. People can be a bit obsessive over having the "best that's available" when the reality is there is no "best", only best for x situation. With that said, even features which seem like overkill may have a genuine use to a small group of users. This can get pretty outrageous, but to be fair I look at this as an indication of how lucky we are to have the cameras we have. If we're arguing over things which may or may not have a perceptible difference on the craft then we've come a long way!
 

Jack Douglas

CR for the Humour
Apr 10, 2013
6,767
2,291
Alberta, Canada
So far I think each comment is right on especially the last one. My personal observation is that I don't fully deserve to have the amazing gear I have relative to my skill level and I'm just thrilled with what I can do, thus, I never had serious complaints relative to my previous 6D purchase. That doesn't mean I don't like what Canon is offering with the 6D2.

However, I am/was hoping for a little more specific analysis of what you really get when you get a camera with a particular spec and caveat. For your specific application what is the number that is needed or desired and is there fine print that essentially cancels the value of the spec?

For example I now know that the 6D2 will give me a single cross AF point in the center (group H) when used with 2X on my 400DO II. I'm fine with that because I was fine with the 6D and a single cross AF point and seldom used the outer points because I observed they weren't doing the job as well. My procedure was AF-ON focus, release,swiftly shift the camera position, and snap the shutter.

Another example; when the Nikon has whatever # of AF points that's lets say double what my 1DX2 has does that give it the automatic advantage or are there speed trade-offs relating to how fast each can be utilized in an algorithm? I guess the Sony A9 would make a pretty good springboard relative to considering a spec and what it's worth in relation to other cameras and real life shooting.

For example I noted a spec about the time it takes to shoot after viewing a photo, was it 1 second??. So, I'm sitting bored looking through my photos and a bird lands briefly in front of me. Could I lose the shot due to this spec?

Jack
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
16,633
1,590
Jack, the issue is that some of the things you mention may not be in the manufacturers specifications. They may have been measured under certain lighting and subject matter by a photographer who needed to know, but may be different for other scenarios. Sometimes the brand and type of flash card have a impact, color, brightness, contrast, lots of things. Manufacturers measure the camera responses according to industry standards most of the time, but they can be creative and invent their own specification if nothing exists.

As I understand it, Sony mirrorless cameras normally stop the lens down before autofocusing, which impacts low light autofocus. As I recall, this can be prevented with certain settings. Its a negative that never appears in a specification. What is not in the specifications is where you can be surprised, you can never assume based on previous models.
 

Jack Douglas

CR for the Humour
Apr 10, 2013
6,767
2,291
Alberta, Canada
It almost seems like it comes down to the photographer and his technique and ability with a given camera. OK, and then we have all this bashing of cameras that's going on with such intensity. Kind of ironic isn't it. :)

In a sense the specs don't matter since we're talking about excellent tools made by all companies and yet you'd think WW III was breaking out. ;)

Jack
 

Jack Douglas

CR for the Humour
Apr 10, 2013
6,767
2,291
Alberta, Canada
It just popped into my head that what this thread is relating to probably ties in to various discussions that have involved a fellow named Rishi. ;) However, in that case the aspect of how well a person commenting on a shortcoming of a camera actually knows how to take advantage of its features or programmability, comes into play. I'm not as critical as some since I can relate to how hard it's been for me to half master the 1DX2.

Another spec that really irritates me is the maximum ISO that gives garbage photos! ;D

Jack
 

scottkinfw

Wildlife photography is my passion
CR Pro
Hi.

In reading your post, I had several thoughts. First I'm not a propeller head, but having purchased a new camera a year ago, I went through similar machinations.

First thought is regard to the quote

"While both of the pro bodies, the EOS-1DX (12 fps)and the EOS-1DX II (14 fps), are a lot faster than the 5D IV (7 fps), do understand the following simplification: if you are working at 1/1000 sec with a camera that has a frame rate of up to 14 fps, you are missing 98.6% of the action poses in a given second. If you are working with a camera that has a frame rate of up to 7 fps, you are missing 99.3% of the action in a given second. This is not a great difference … (Note: the up to stems from the fact that the frame rates quoted in the specs are for One-shot or Manual focus. The frame rate drops considerably when you are working with AI Servo AF. And that drop itself varies and is related to some of your AF Menu choices."

No offense to the poster but to me this is a person who does a derivative analysis of numbers and draws conclusions that are logical but in no way pertain to real world shooting with a camera. In short, if you like numbers, statistics, mental masturbation, this is a great, albeit useless exercise.

When I upgraded my camera last year, I read specs, I read threads that featured experiences of shooters, and in the end, before I pulled the trigger, I contacted a couple of friends on CR whose opinion I respect and value.

Specs are nice. Some but not all comments are helpful, as there may be bias for or against a purchase for reasons that have nothing to do with the camera. None the less, I feel that reviews are helpful and comments by a respected owner are key.

Of course, you must really be in touch with what you need vs. want vs. what you can and can't do without in a camera is key. Price is also important. As you are on this site, you obviously love photography, so it is important to try not let the emotional play too big a role as you may have this camera for years to come.

The argument over DR has been on the site many times and always stirs heated debate, so be advised.

Finally, after you get all the info, consider that you may want to wait a few months so any bugs will be fixed, and price drop may occur. A win win for you.

In the mean time, why not rent one for a week or so? After all the specs, you may find that you just don't like the ergonomics or some other feature that may not stand out in your research.

Hope that helps with other ways to think about it.

sek
 

Jack Douglas

CR for the Humour
Apr 10, 2013
6,767
2,291
Alberta, Canada
scottkinfw said:
Hi.

In reading your post, I had several thoughts. First I'm not a propeller head, but having purchased a new camera a year ago, I went through similar machinations.

First thought is regard to the quote

"While both of the pro bodies, the EOS-1DX (12 fps)and the EOS-1DX II (14 fps), are a lot faster than the 5D IV (7 fps), do understand the following simplification: if you are working at 1/1000 sec with a camera that has a frame rate of up to 14 fps, you are missing 98.6% of the action poses in a given second. If you are working with a camera that has a frame rate of up to 7 fps, you are missing 99.3% of the action in a given second. This is not a great difference … (Note: the up to stems from the fact that the frame rates quoted in the specs are for One-shot or Manual focus. The frame rate drops considerably when you are working with AI Servo AF. And that drop itself varies and is related to some of your AF Menu choices."

No offense to the poster but to me this is a person who does a derivative analysis of numbers and draws conclusions that are logical but in no way pertain to real world shooting with a camera. In short, if you like numbers, statistics, mental masturbation, this is a great, albeit useless exercise.

When I upgraded my camera last year, I read specs, I read threads that featured experiences of shooters, and in the end, before I pulled the trigger, I contacted a couple of friends on CR whose opinion I respect and value.

Specs are nice. Some but not all comments are helpful, as there may be bias for or against a purchase for reasons that have nothing to do with the camera. None the less, I feel that reviews are helpful and comments by a respected owner are key.

Of course, you must really be in touch with what you need vs. want vs. what you can and can't do without in a camera is key. Price is also important. As you are on this site, you obviously love photography, so it is important to try not let the emotional play too big a role as you may have this camera for years to come.

The argument over DR has been on the site many times and always stirs heated debate, so be advised.

Finally, after you get all the info, consider that you may want to wait a few months so any bugs will be fixed, and price drop may occur. A win win for you.

In the mean time, why not rent one for a week or so? After all the specs, you may find that you just don't like the ergonomics or some other feature that may not stand out in your research.

Hope that helps with other ways to think about it.

sek

This is all perfectly good commentary and useful advice. I have, I think, passed the stage of being too emotional about purchases and have no issue going forward with what will probably be a 6D2 to complement my 1DX2. If I feel like blowing more $$ than I should, perhaps a 5D4 but since I'm actively encouraging my wife to get involved I think the 6D2 makes more sense.

However, my starting this thread was more about helping all of us get a better perspective on what various specs mean and how they influence our photography and how on the surface they can be deceiving, either in the sense that they don't come into play much in real world situations or the caveats associated with them are very restrictive (without trolls interjecting nonsense).

Recently, I've been doing more BIF and it becomes more apparent how a greater spread of AF points could be very helpful keeping a bird in focus as one pans, assuming large zone AF. It seems the mirrorless with it's VG spread will ultimately win that contest. I wonder if any CR Canon shooter has picked up an A9 and would care to comment?

Jack
 

foo

EOS M6 Mark II
Sep 10, 2016
78
0
My take on this is that the caveats are often the most important part, precisely because they're not mentioned in the specs...

Sometimes they're buried in the fine print somewhere in the manual, sometimes not, often the actual level of problem they cause only becomes obvious after quite some time of actual real-world use.

Manufacturers understandably want to focus on the headlines rather than getting bogged down in explaining the details of the caveats, especially around a new release.

Some specific examples I can relate to.... On a lower end camera with WiFi I can do remote shooting from my phone, however only a limited subset of camera settings are available via the app and all on-camera controls are disabled while tethered. So to change one of the other settings you need to drop out of remote shooting on the app and disconnect the phone from the camera, change the setting on the camera, then go back through all the hoops needed to reconnect to the phone.
You then discover that you can't get a raw file onto the phone over WiFi and worse than that you can't even get a full resolution jpeg, only a scaled down version.
Add to that the batteries evaporate faster than a fart in the wind with wifi enabled....
There's also the one where when you enable WiFi all of the connections on the side of the camera get disabled, maybe not a big problem for many, but that one isn't in the specs or the main manual, you have to dig through the seperate WiFi instructions to find the small print on that.
Needless to say, I leave the WiFi turned off on this camera as it's 99.9% useless for me.

On things like shutter lag, the oft touted anti-flicker feature deliberately adds a non-deterministic lag in the conditions it's designed for. The feature itself isn't the problem, it's the lack of determinism in the result that means we're less able to adapt to it.

F8 focus... just start digging into the tens of pages in the manual for what points work whith which lens/extender combinations, yet the spec just says it has F8 focus capability.

Ultimately I upgraded from a crop rebel level camera to a FF one. The spec updates, while welcome, are of lower importance to me than removing a significant set of the caveats.
 

foo

EOS M6 Mark II
Sep 10, 2016
78
0
Jack Douglas said:
Another example; when the Nikon has whatever # of AF points that's lets say double what my 1DX2 has does that give it the automatic advantage or are there speed trade-offs relating to how fast each can be utilized in an algorithm?

I've always found that Nikon one a bit strange. You get 150 odd AF points, but can only select 50 something. The only things to care about are the 50 selectable points and that maybe the unselectable ones improve tracking in some unquantifiable way.. So I read it as simply headline grabbing marketing BS as it tries to obscfucate whatever is important behind a competition beating number.

Seems to be a lot of people here who use center point, or other single point, for most things anyway. Which makes you wonder how much value there is to a spec like this anyway.
 

Jack Douglas

CR for the Humour
Apr 10, 2013
6,767
2,291
Alberta, Canada
Foo, good read. The F8 advertisement might even brag "all focus points", which of course is true for a few lenses. CR is a great place to learn real life shooting realities. To show my level of knowledge when I bought my 6D four years ago I didn't even know the difference between crop and FF. Fortunately, a very nice/good clerk guided me well.

Your WiFi experience is exactly what I had in mind with the thread. I always found the 6D WiFi to be finicky. I wonder if there are issues with the 6D2 Bluetooth? Which reminds me of my irritation with the 1DX2 having nothing without the extra attachment.

Jack
 

stevelee

FT-QL
CR Pro
Jul 6, 2017
1,982
737
Davidson, NC
So far I trust my reflexes and familiarity with the camera to hit the precise moment I wish to capture. Having a bunch of frames on each side of that moment instead doesn't appeal to me. Maybe as I move into my 70s I should trust my reflexes less. But so far I don't pay attention to frame rate specs. I think the best shot is more likely to be in that 98 or 99%. I shoot a little video of after-hours pick-up basketball at camp each summer involving pros, current college students, entering freshmen, and occasional prospects. (Which makes me wonder where I put the clips from the time both Curry brothers showed up while the younger one was still in college.) But otherwise I don't shoot sports. When I met parents of high school football players at a photography class, they were each hoping to buy a 7D, I think it was.

Come to,think of it, if I buy a 6D II soon, I'll take it to a college soccer and football game or two to learn how to use it. I might even try a burst of shots.
 

hbr

EOS RP
Oct 22, 2016
326
0
Jack Douglas said:
Foo, good read. The F8 advertisement might even brag "all focus points", which of course is true for a few lenses. CR is a great place to learn real life shooting realities. To show my level of knowledge when I bought my 6D four years ago I didn't even know the difference between crop and FF. Fortunately, a very nice/good clerk guided me well.

Your WiFi experience is exactly what I had in mind with the thread. I always found the 6D WiFi to be finicky. I wonder if there are issues with the 6D2 Bluetooth? Which reminds me of my irritation with the 1DX2 having nothing without the extra attachment.

Jack

I purchased a Kenko 1.4X teleconverter as it misreports (or lies) to the camera so I am able to use all the focus points at f/8 with my 400 f/5.6 L with the teleconverter. I believe that lens was only supposed to use the center point with the Canon 1.4X. Correct me if I am wrong. I only paid $149 for it new. The camera does report the correct f number in the EXIF data.

Brian
 

AlanF

Stay at home
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
8,042
9,619
Jack
Thanks for the heads up on the link. The 6DII results are now published - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/canon-6d-mark-ii/canon-6d-mark-iiA6.HTM
The shutter lags of the 6D II are very similar to the 5DIV. The 5DSR has the reputation of having a long shutter lag, but if the subject is prefocussed, the 1DX II, 5DIV, 5DS and 6D II are all very fast at ~ 0.054 - 0.059s, and using back-button focus gives prefocus.
 

AlanF

Stay at home
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
8,042
9,619
Jack
Did this further down the Art Morris blog worry you or tempt you to trade the 1DX II:

"I currently own two 5D IV bodies and a 1DX II. I have completely soured on the 1DX II, in part because of problems that I and others have had with oil spatter on the sensor, in part because it is so heavy, and possibly in part due to the fact that my deteriorating hand-eye coordination, strength, and endurance do not allow me to take advantage of the 1DX II’s faster frame rate.

I will soon be selling my 1DX II and purchasing a third 5D Mark IV."
 
<-- start Taboola -->