Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Camera Wars

There is a huge war brewing out there, Nikon D7000 vs Pentax K5, and how everyone is saying those two cameras are far ahead in terms of high ISO-noise performance and dynamic range over Olympus E-5.

It has come to a point that people are actually bashing each other up in such discussions that they have lost track of what they were doing in the first place: to find the “right” camera.

Do take note that I did not say the “best” camera. There is no such thing as the “best” camera, or which camera is better than which camera, those comparisons will be endless and mundanely pointless. So what Pentax K5 does better than Nikon D7000 In terms of high ISO performance? So you have to dump your newly purchased Nikon D7000 and go for the supposingly “better” Pentax K-5, because the review websites tell you that it has this much better dynamic range and that much better high ISO performance down to 0.0001% accuracy? Oh how about the users of older D300s or D90, oh no, D7000 and K5 are the latest and “best” cameras, they must sell off their gears and upgrade too, so what? So that their photography skills can evolve suddenly and become better photographers: just because they use the latest and most capable gear?

It is frustrating to watch the world going head over heels over specification wars and complain about even the tiniest things, like how badly the button layouts on the Nikon D7000 are. I wonder when everyone will wake up and realize that there is in fact no such thing as perfect camera. Different manufacturers and different models of cameras have their own unique design considerations, and every one of the cameras have their strengths and weaknesses. Just because the reviews say that one camera is not performing on par with another camera, it does not mean that camera was useless and should be ignored !! It all really comes down to what you want, and what you would choose as the “right” camera. I reiterate, there is no such thing as a perfect camera. However, you have to decide what is “right” for yourself.

KL Night View from Legend Hotel 8th floor

Olympus E-5 with 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 (I finally used my original standard kit lens, since a friend borrowed my 11-22mm over the weekend).
13second, F/8, ISO100, anti-shock 2 sec, IS off.

You see, I belong to the old school kind of shooter, though I was born into the digital photography age. When I shoot, I do not go ridiculously crazy over high ISO. Whenever I can, I would use the lowest setting possible, because, I only use what I need to use. Don’t tell me you will be using ISO3200 under broad sunlight outdoors. Don’t tell me you will be using ISO1600 when you are doing your studio photography works, where you have total lighting controls from fixed light sources. To me high ISO will be reserved for certain difficult situations, that I have no choice but to push it. Yes, I know having the flexibility to shoot at clean images with great noise control is something that everyone in the digital era dreams of, I do too, but it is only applied to certain situations, not all. The message is clear, if you are shooting constantly at ISO3200 and beyond (ISO100,000????) then obviously you should be looking elsewhere. If you are like me, shooting at ISO 100-800 at 80% of the time, then I do not see any reason how Olympus E-5, or any older models such as E-3 and E-30 cannot stand up against competition.

Photography is a hell lot more than just some high ISO noise performance. People always love to quantify and measure. They want to put numbers down, so there is reference and ranking. They want to compare. They want to label which is better and which is worse. Let me ask you this question: would you feel more secure and happier, if you own a “better” camera? So if you are having a less than perfect camera, you feel insecure and inadequate? Then when you look at a better camera your friend is holding in his hand, you go “ahhh I wish I am using that camera, my camera is not as good as that one”? If this is true, I am afraid, no matter what camera you use, you will not be satisfied, because there will always be something better out there, and it gets better and better in the future. You justify your own photography works based on your gear. Oh my photography work sucks, blame it on the camera. You let your photography equipments decide how good you are. What happened to the eye behind the camera that matters?

Every camera has its own place. There really is no need to label which is better and bash another brand, and make a total fuss out of it. Learn the characteristics of your camera system, ask yourself, why you chose it in the first place, what are its strengths, and weaknesses. Make full use and exploit its strengths, while working around the weaknesses with your own techniques to truly bring out the best in your photography work, supporting your photography vision. More importantly, learn to be happy with the gear you use, take some pride in the camera system (every camera system has a long history, something to be proud of) and concentrate on the core of photography.

If Olympus Malaysia did not decide to present me with a complimentary E-5, I would not be able to afford one for probably one to two years to come. That does not matter, because I still have my faithful, reliable and still fully functional Olympus E-520, a bruised and battered entry level DSLR, which I have grown very fond of. So what if it is not the best camera, so what if it is old, so what if at ISO800 the image on E-520 exhibits more noise than ISO3200 on the E-5? There is a whole world of limitations shooting with the E-520, yet I love using it. After using Olympus E-5, do I feel that E-520 is useless and unworthy? Hell NO !! It is still a DSLR, it has the strong characteristics that define what Olympus is and stands for. I love it, and a point that must not be neglected: I thoroughly enjoy using it.

So enough of the comparisons and pointless bashing already. Yes, this camera is better because of that, and this camera can do something that the other camera cannot. Just pick one camera system, fall in love with it, and start shooting.

After all, photography is all about photographs, NOT cameras !!


  1. Right on Robin, I couldn't agree more. Well said!

    Back in the days when I had a film camera (Olympus OM-10) I only ever used ISO-100 in the summer and 200 in the winter and it suited me fine. I did once use a roll of ISO-400 to take photos at a gig, but that was the exception. It is great to have the ability to use a high ISO on the rare occasions when it is actually useful but not the main reason that I love my camera.

  2. Hi Phil,
    Thanks for agreeing. I acknowledge the importance of having usable high ISO settings, but prioritizing them as the main camera deciding factor has become more and more ridiculous. Oh well, it is a trend and mentality that people have come to accept.

  3. You nailed it, Robin.
    (however, i am beginning to think you could shoot brilliantly with a shoe box and a glass...)
    Love your e5 though...

  4. Hi Kerry,
    Thanks mate. Shoe box and a glass? Perhaps I would make it into a decor item instead to put on the shelves ahahahah.
    But it is true, it is the photographer that matters, not the camera.

  5. Chong,
    thanks !! Noticed I didnt say anything about the big C? ahhaaha

  6. I love those people with cameras capable of ISO12800 and beyond but shoot crap pictures at ISO400 and below... They are my inspiration of NOT being stupid and egoistic with numbers...

  7. Hi Compmac,
    LOL nicely said. They are my inspiration too !!

  8. I completely agree with you, Robin! Today cameras are so good it's funny that people waste time comparing them. Look at my 4 latest photos. They were all captured with a very cheap Sony poin'n'shoot (DSCW35 cybershot, about 200$ 3 years ago).

    From my other compact, the Fujifilm F200 EXR, I'm making PERFECT 30x45cm prints (Iso 100-400) that look GREAT even watching them through magnifiying glass.

    Nowadays there is no need for a heavy and clumsy full-frame DSLR. Compact cameras, that you can take everywhere with you, are the way of the future.

  9. Hey Bartosz,
    Glad to hear that from you !! I totally agree, I believe that the best camera is the camera that you can bring with you anywhere you go to, because that is the only way you wont miss spontaneous photo-opportunities !!

  10. Yeah. But I don't mind if you mention it. Not like they are in top form nor I'm a fanboy :P

    Eh, what do you think of Sony NEX-5 with 16mm F2.8?

  11. I am yawning while watching these people fighting. Kudos. Keep it up .

  12. hey Wong,
    yeah, I wonder when they will get tired of the war.

  13. Cameras are only part of the equation. The whole system has to be considered in order to make an appropriate appraisal (eg. flash, professional customer support, lenses). Those folks who nit pick between the pentax k5 and the nikon d7000 probably sit at home and don't shoot much. By the way.. I think the d7000 is great, and there's nothing wrong with the button placements. ISO 4000 on this camera does wonders.


  14. Hello Robin
    I am agree with you.
    Stop the war.
    But keep shooting, with our camera.

  15. I just couldn't agree more and I think that pixel hype just turned into high ISO hype. All new cameras are more than good and capable of doing wonders. Is there someone who wants to say that my 5+ years old photos are not good, because they were made with 5 or 8 MP camera hardly capable of ISO 400?
    Yes, cameras are getting better and better, but it's the person behind the camera who makes photos, equipment just helps a bit.

  16. Hey Brandon,
    it is amazing is it not, how a smaller sensor can fare so well, even under ISO4000? And yet people still complain about it, sad to say. It is true, we have to look at the whole system, and of course we know that quality optics must not be overlooked.

    Hey Finn,
    Yeap, we must keep shooting, and something tells me the war wont end !!

    Hey Deep,
    Thanks for agreeing !! I know what you mean, not too long ago ISO400 was considered as HIGH ISO and to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. That limitation trained us to be better photographers, to be able to work around the mistakes and make usable photographs, with lower ISO settings (use of tripod, etc etc). yes, it is the photographer that matters, not the camera !!

  17. I use ISO100 80% of the time. Long live CCD!

  18. I agree with Amir - shooting Auto ISO topped at 400 for most casual shooting, but using ISO 100 whenever I can. 800 if I have to, and 1600 if I cannot avoid it, or when I'm actually *planning* to see something in grainy B&W. And like Robin, I just love my E-520 for what it does...

  19. Hello Wolfgang,
    The native ISO for Olympus E-5 is ISo200, hence its best to shoot at ISO200 for best image quality most of the time. For E-520, I would stay with ISO100. Yes, E-520 is a joy to use !!

  20. Didn't realise that you have a 'Donate' button at the side of your blog. LOL.

    What's your target this round?

  21. Hi Chong,
    The button has been there for a while now, ahahah no targets, just that one morning suddenly I found cash being delivered to me, and the kind person said he was grateful for my reviews. Hence he donated for my time and effort spent, and he suggested why not put up a donate button so others could do the same if they want to. And appeared the button LOL

  22. Hi Robin,
    Happy New Year...Peace No War.
    I like..:)

  23. Hi Awang,
    Happy New year to you too !! This has always been a peaceful place ahahahha

  24. lolx. until now I have no idea what ISO I using.

    *camera screen show Auto ISO*

  25. Hi Robin,
    It's true that people got so obsessed about camera specs etc.that they did not bother to learn and adopt the necessary skill to work around certain limitation of their present camera. For instance, proper metering technique will pretty much take care of the limited dynamic range people complain about.
    While cameras are suppose to be just tools, it is to other people a source of inspiration ( a feel good feeling ) that it makes you take better photographs.
    A Leica's specs is pretty much behind in everything compared to a mid tier dslr but it is more enjoyable to use ( maybe due to the Leica mystique) that you simply take better composed shots.
    To me the camera is much more than just a soul less tool.

  26. Hi Pek Chek Kia,
    Wah... nowadays auto ISO very intelligent liaw, no need think so much aahhaha

    hey Alfred,
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It is true that using an equipment that we truly love and connect to will greatly improve the shooting experience. Enjoying shooting sessions more will ultimately influence the overall output of our work.

  27. Nice pics and Great Camera

  28. Absolutely right Robin, choosing a camera is like getting married. Know one's strengths and acknowledge one's weaknesses before being committed so you won't regret later, then make the most out of it to be happy. It doesn't mean when someone new or younger arrives you jump ship outright.. so much for loyalty. The solution to a lasting marriage is being consistent.

  29. Robin, I need your insight on my situation. I currently own Olympus E30 w/ standard 14-42mm kit lens. Brand new Olympus E3 price is getting lower now a days, I am considering selling my E30 and purchase E3. Kindly advice on these matter. Going backwards in terms of model does not mean going obsolete, Am having these preference and pondering if it will be a better choice. Thanks in advance.