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November 1, 2012


Replies: 32

The Film Era's leftover

h3csc Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Student Interface Designer
From time to time I keep on stumble upon topics such as Optical viewfinder > Electronic Viewfinder, DSLR > Mirrorless, Full Frame > Cropped Sensor. All of these debates are evidence of the film era's leftover. Let's try to put down what you know in the past and start looking at these topics from another perspective. Let's start with the first one.

- Optical Viewfinder > Electronic Viewfinder
The traditionalist always tells me that what you see from the OVF is the "truth" and what you see from the EVF is basically a screen. And because of that, the OVF is the right way to go and EVF is an abomination.

This is obviously a leftover from the film photography's era. Back in the days OVF is the only way of actually seeing what will end up in your film and so it is regarded as the "true" viewfinder. However it is almost 2013 now, what laying behind your camera's lens is a digital sensor, what you see from the EVF is exactly what you will get at the end. And because of that, in theory, EVF is the "true" viewfinder of a digital camera. Of course, both viewfinders have their pros and cons, OVF is much more comfortable to use and reduce the power consumption of your camera while an EVF offers you a more accurate depiction of the final image and offers you handy features such as digital zoom and much more usable in low light. But the point I am trying to make here is the concept, a concept traditionalist refuse to accept because of their film era's logic.

- DSLR > Mirrorless
I don't want to get too technical here as I am not an engineer. I don't know about how the flange back distance can affect the sharpness of the final image. But from my personal experience, I don't see a reason how Mirrorless camera is inferior to their DSLR counterpart just because it lacks a mirror. With the advantage of a significantly smaller body and lens, I will pick a Mirrorless anytime over a DSLR.

Back in the film days, the only way to preview an image accurately is through the mirror box that reflects the image to the viewfinder, and that is the reason why DSLR exist. Rangefinder camera does not offer as much flexibility (as in lens' focal length) than a DSLR and so DSLR become the de facto professional camera.

But, things have changed. With the introduction of CMOS sensor that enables live view, the existence of a mirror box become an extra, like the appendix in our body. Imagine if you are able to look at your film without developing it, why would you still bother adding a mirror in front of the film? Some might argue because taking a photo with the OVF feels more natural, but that is simply because they have used to that method, a leftover from the film era. It is technically unnecessary, it is there just because people got used it.

- Full Frame > Cropped sensor
This is, among all three, the biggest leftover. Forget about the film era, imagine the 35mm film format never exist, then what is full frame?
In fact, any camera with lenses designed for a specific sensor is a full frame. Period. Back in the days when half frame camera and APS-C sensor was first introduced, people were arguing about Full Frame camera is the only way to make the most out of your lens. This is absolutely correct, because those lenses are designed for full frame. A sensor or film that does not capture everything from the lens is a crop sensor.

If you fit an APS-C lens on an APS-C camera, an MFT lens on an MFT camera, the sensor will utilise every single bit of the lens. In theory, that is no doubt a "full frame camera". Imagine if 35mm wasn't the standard during the film era, instead something like a 17.5mm film is the standard, people would have called the Micro Four Thirds a full frame camera while a 35mm camera will be considered as a "Medium Format".

So at the end, people should stop looking at digital photography with a film photography's logic. In my opinion, film and digital photography are 2 different things that can't be compared. Comparing them is basically like comparing a bicycle with a motorcycle. SO if you are still thinking OVF is Original and EVF is Evil, then you should start telling those who ride on a motorcycle that bicycle is good and motorcycle is bad.

I love film photography too. They definitely deserved a place in the world of photography. But we should always keep our mind open and look at the new stuff with a new perspective. Film and Digital photography should sit in parallel, not one on top of another.

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Devious Comments

Olda-G Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Interesting commentary and I see you are getting several replies from exactly the sort of close minded people you are talking about.

I currently use both full-frame and APS-C cameras, both dSLR and mirrorless. I even have a mirrorless medium format film camera lying around. Which camera-lens combination I use depends on what I want to shoot and how I want to shoot it. I use an OVF most of the time, but I use live view in situations where it is more useful. Despite what some are saying there is no format that is the "truth" or more natural. Cameras should be thought of tools for capturing images. Most of the time I pick up the tool that is going to be most useful (but sometimes I experiment). Most of us are more limited by our own skills and creativity than by our equipment.
FallisPhoto Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012
Which of any two things is "better" always depends on the situation and on whether you mean better in one way or in another.
Delahkel Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012  Student Photographer
This, pretty much.
Olda-G Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Hence your comments on having multiple bodies with different strengths and different lenses for different purposes in another thread. I seem to have come around to that approach as well.
h3csc Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Student Interface Designer
It is always fun to see replies of people from both sides of the fence. For me I don't really care about those "I have a full frame and you only have an APS-C camera so I am cooler" statement. I don't mind being "lame" for having a cropped sensor as long as it suits my need.

I agree with what you said there. A good camera will certainly create a good photograph easier, but at the end of the day it is the skills and creativity that defines a good and a bad photographer.
Delahkel Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012  Student Photographer
For action and wildlife, I'd prefer to have the "lame" Canon 7D as opposed to even the 5DIII. ^_^
6x9base13 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Bigger sensor is better, all else being equal. A 70mm sensor digital camera would be amazing to shoot with (but large, heavy, and very expensive - making it impractical for many photographers and working environments). The 35mm format is popular in digital as in film because it's about the largest sensor area you can get in a camera while maintaining decent portability (in the "you can easily carry it on a strap over your neck all day while travelling" sense, at least).

As for optical vs electronic viewfinders, I prefer optical for three reasons:

1) No time lag. At all.

2) I like manual focus. Which you may argue is another antiquated leftover, but I find it more natural than worrying about setting focus points and modes. And a split-prism optical viewfinder is a far better tool for manual focus than anything I've seen done with an electronic screen.

3) When shooting with an optical viewfinder you're holding the camera against your head. In the case of an SLR, you're holding a relatively large and heavy camera against your head. This grants far greater stability than an electronic display that you look at on the back of the camera. As for the kind of EVIL cameras which have an eyepiece electronic viewfinder, I've never come across one where the tiny electronic viewfinder was anywhere near as sharp or contrasty as an optical viewfinder would be. Give the electronics people a few more years to work on super-high-pixel-density displays and that statement may change, but for the moment it's not yet a fully-mature technology.

And as for being a relic of "film", the SLR format was only one of many camera body designs for film photography. There were view cameras, TLRs, simple light-tight boxes that you aimed and focused by rough eyeballing or measurements and math, range-finders, and offset-viewfinder point-and-shoots. SLR won out as the near-universal format for non-niche professional photography because of good ergonomics and an easy to control and understand interface for composing and focusing images.

...but the SLR was in a sense born out of film in that the earlier glass-plate media didn't lend themselves to portability and thus didn't create a demand for flexible, portable cameras for the masses. Film made photography more accessible and made of the SLR a design that could be taken seriously as a useful replacement for the old large-format view cameras that were once dominant. Digital similarly gave rise to a class of point-and-shoot cameras far exceeding the capabilities of their film-based predecessors. But large-format view cameras aren't dead, because there are things they can do that SLR's aren't particularly well suited to. And, while the digital point-and-shoot is a far more powerful and versatile tool that the film point-and-shoot, it's never going to completely replace the SLR design for photographers who want a camera that favors image quality and good ergonomics over compactness of form.
sjphoto Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Professional Photographer
You're 100% wrong about full frame vs. cropped. Full frame is better. Why? On full frame, 50mm is 50*1.6 for 80mm. On a full frame, that math doesn't apply. A 50mm is a 50mm. On medium format it's usually something like 50*.71 for a 35mm. So full frame is better. Not to mention those are "flagship" cameras packing the most features a manufacturer can put into a camera.
nprov13 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012
Focal lengths don't change. a 50mm lens is a 50mm lens on whether you put it on a FF, APS-C, Medium Format camera. The size of the sensor/film doesn't change the focal length of the lens one bit. What does change is the equivalent Field of View between the different size formats.
SteveCaissie-stock Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012  Professional Photographer
Minor nit to pick: on medium and large format cameras, it would change the focal length, because the lens mount to film/sensor plane distances are much greater.
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