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Technology is not without its downside.  Internet -- that great lowest common denominator of human discourse -- has freed  people from the consequences of face-to-face debate, thus fostering behavior that once would have been severely rebuked.  It was not always thus.

Back when I was a little kid (about the time the dinosaurs were roaming the earth), a different set of standards governed behavior and deportment, at least in the rural South, where I grew up.  You did what you were told, you didn't sass your elders, you spoke when spoken to, you didn't say "bad" words, if you made a mess you cleaned it up, you got ready for church on time -- and behaved while you were there -- and you never complained about anything, because if you did you got a stern lecture about how all the poor starving people in China would be grateful for one tenth of what you had.

On top of that, you had not the slightest suspicion that the way you lived would be considered to be borderline poverty by the rest of the country.

The reward was, of course, that you got to roam the woods and hills with your pals on your own and to explore nature and have fun in a way that city folk never could.  You became independent, self-sufficient, self-reliant and able to know when to keep you mouth shut and when to open it -- usually when you wanted more black-eyed peas at the supper table, supper being the last meal of the day, not like today, when everyone has "dinner" at 7 PM, rather than at noon, like they properly should.  And if you crossed the line defined by Mother, Grandmother, and even Great Aunt, out would come the dredded "switch" -- which stung like the dickens on bare legs.

Which led to another lesson for callow youth -- remain silent, keep your own counsel and never let your elders know what you were thinking or doing.  Being a blabbermouth would only lead to embarrassing questions and was sure to get you into big trouble, possibly even supper without dessert.  One eventually learned, assuming there was something between the ears besides cotton, that one could garner favorable attention through deeds rather than by shouting "look at me" repeatedly.

Irritating Internet Insinuations

Which brings us to today.  It seems that somewhere along the way, the passing of the dinosaurs gave rise to the Internet, and with it the "tyrant lizards" were replaced by entitled, loud-mouthed narcissists who self-evidently never got a dose of the switch -- else they would surely exhibit a little more self-restraint.  And who, having gotten loose from the dark recesses of their perfervid imaginations, thence found their way into photography forums -- pretty well wrecking the language as well as basic civility in the process.

And that is pretty much the origin of grumpy Grandpa's gearhead gripes -- the opinings of those self-same new generation Internet scourges who make the online experience so much like an old style Wild West verbal brawl.  My personal pet peeves, related to photography, are listed below -- in no particular order, and as an open ended list.  There will undoubtedly be more. . .

  • People in gear discussion forums who insist that gear discussion be terminated and everyone go out and make photos. As if they didn't when they weren't discussing gear on gear forums.  And then there are people who conflate artistic creativity with gear capabilities -- typically deriding interest in new gear with the comment that it won't improve one's images.  In the artistic sense, no, of course not.  But as an enabler to expand imaging possibilities (e.g. with more resolution, faster frame rates, better tracking capability, better dynamic range, etc.), more is often better.  Dealt with here:  Photographer or Gear?

  • People who insist that any camera a pro uses is a pro camera, thus violating a fundamental tenet of information theory. For the relevant math lesson, consult What is a Pro Camera Anyway.

  • People who harp on camera company A, B or C's failure to create the "perfect" all-purpose, something for everyone camera -- the high resolution and high frame rate unicorn.  Never mind the fact that technology places constraints on the total capacity of the image processing pipeline (pixels per frame x frames per second).  There will likely always be a tendency to optimize products for particular markets and users, which means, colloquially, "horses for courses."  Follow-up at Personal Equation.

    • On the other side of the coin, some protest vehemently over the inclusion of video features in "stills" cameras.  Let us have a less expensive camera that does only stills, they say.  Of course it never occurs to such people that now that the technology has moved on to include video in cameras it might actually be more expensive to deliver video-less cameras due to a potentially limited market and the need for a separate production run.

  • People who myopically (and sometimes hostilely) assert that their needs are the only valid ones, or who attack others’ purchases to justify their own.   Or, who insist that their brand is plenty good enough despite obvious shortcomings compared to other brands.  Or, who seize on some obscure feature misssing from the brand they want to deprecate in order to elevate their own brand.  Examples of this abound.  One of the most popular, and most egregious, will suffice.

    • Sensor dynamic range isn't important; learn to expose properly and there's no problem.  (Question for the skeptic: what is the correct exposure for a 15-stop scene when one has a 12-stop camera?  The unwanted answer:  buy a 15-stop camera.)

  • The "must have the last word" people -- you know the type; nothing will shut them up other than not responding to their endless effusions.   (Such people are usually called "trolls.")  They doggedly cling to (sometimes) outrageous opinions despite repeated, well-reasoned rebuttals by just about everyone.  These people rarely present facts, but rather claim ex cathedra that their opinion (or some point irrevelant to the case at hand) constitutes irrefutable proof of their claims.

    • Close cousins of those above are people who just as doggedly nit-pick every post, quarreling with or amplifying ad nauseam the most minor of details, as if the entire original post is somehow flawed or discredited because it wasn't written as comprehensively as a 10,000 word lawyers' brief.  Or Internet tems of service and privacy policies.  Or, perhaps, as a patent application, wherein one claims the world in gory detail but then settles for a few grains of sand.

  • Self-centered and entitled people who reply to a post containing tantalizing information from a knowledgable anonymous source with, "Post a photo or it didn't happen" -- as if they are the sole and ultimate arbiter of all information.  This comes down to a question of trust and reputation.  What kind of reputation does the publisher have and how often have they been proven right in the past.  Often these tidbits come from insiders who can only say so much, because revealing the source would cause the originator problems, as well as forestalling any future releases.

  • Technically illiterate people who demand photo gear features that violate the laws of physics, e.g. 600mm f/2.8 telephoto as light and compact as a 50mm f/1.8 lens -- an impossibility since the front element alone would have to be 8.4 inches in diameter!

  • People who use "tilty-flippy" as a description of articulated rear view screens, thus establishing infantile babbling as the common mode of Internet discourse.

    People who sidetrack serious forum photography discussions with lame attempts at humor or references to other domains (cars, computers, wine, audio gear, movies, just about anything irreleveant to the discussion at hand, even hammers!), posts that then spawn dozens of one-up responses in a similar vein, each responder thinking themselves comedic geniuses for their inane and childish pronouncements.

  • And, on a personal note, unrelated to Internet -- a great annoyance in the field is interruptions by people who shatter my concentration to ask questions when I'm obviously trying to make images, especially with my big lens birding rig. Want more?  Try Donkeys I Have Known.

Camera Constructer Consternation

Not to be outdone by the Internet crazies, I have my own gripes with camera companies.  And, this is the place to make them known, where some semblance of balance can be achieved.  Unlike the one-sided views one encounters online, I readily acknowledge the flaws in the brands I choose to purchase as well as the good points.  I purchase the best compromise choices for my own personal needs -- without insisting that everyone else must adopt my choices.

This realistical viewpoint when purchasing products manufactured for a broad audience is explored in Personal equation.  For instance, while Canon has lagged recently in some areas, their lens selection and quality is, and has long been, outstanding.  It is a major reason why I bought into the Canon system two decades ago, and why I still remain there.  But nothing is perfect, and some of their decisions (and those of other manufacturers) have resulted in widely shared criticisms.  With that said, here is a sampling, both great and small.

  • Canon's repeated failure to produce a superior autofocus tracking system.  Nikon has long been the leader in this category, with the Sony A9 catching up fast.  In particular, the 1D Mk III was a public relations disaster.  After Rob Galbraith's AF comparison test revealed inconsistencies, Canon was forced to provide an update that made things better but did not catch up with the competition.  We shall see what the 1DX Mk III brings to the table, but based on past history there is reasonable grounds for skepticism.

  • Canon's failure to address sensor technology in a timely manner, thus surrendering the technological lead to Sony.  This has a number of aspects, including long delays in moving to smaller feature sizes, adopting on-chip ADCs, moving to backside illuminated designs and stacked sensor construction, increasing sensor readout speed and developing a higher image processing pipeline capacity.  This subject is covered in much more detail in Sensor Wars.

  • Canon's deletion of the DEP mode (depth-of-field priority) that appeared on the EOS 3 (film) and the original 11 megapixel digital 1Ds, but which, alas, disappeared soon thereafter.  A minor feature, perhaps, but for landscapes, architecture and general photography, this capability was useful.  DEP allowed the photographer to first focus on a near object and then a far object, and the camera would then select an aperture and focus setting that rendered all within the range suitably sharp.  The only complaint I ever had was that Canon's choice for a circle of confusion was a bit too large, which meant that I usually stopped down one more step to achieve the effect I wanted.  The loss of this feature is still lamented.

  • Sony's continued production of only undersized camera bodies -- as well as other ergonomic oddities -- are a detriment for some who might otherwise switch.  Sony has done remarkable things with sensor technology and mirrorless cameras in general.  MILC cameras have changed the marketplace for good, and Canon and Nikon are playing catch up.  But the idea that small and light are synonymous is flawed.  Lighter is almost always welcome, but a very small size, while welcome to many, can also be a negative in some instances, particularly when wearing gloves.  A wider range of camera body sizes might better serve the total market place.

  • Odd, I can't think of anything bad to say about Nikon. . .  They once trailed Canon in lens, sensor and autofocus technology, and in doing so allowed Canon to become the number one seller of interchangable lens cameras.  But they've long since caught up in sensors (by using Sony-produced products!) and their bodies are generally the highest performing in the industry.  Their lens lineup has grown quite large, and with it quality optical performance as well.  One wonders why they are slowly losing market share to the others.

These are my personal gear gripes.  Got a favorite gripe of your own?  Send them to Grumpy Grandpa's Gear Gripes.

© 2020 Michael W. Masters  Return to top