Why Do Our DSLRs Not Have These 12 Features Yet?

Recently while filming video for our next educational tutorial with landscape photographer Elia Locardi I found myself asking, "Why in the world do our $4000 cameras still not do this?" Today I have laid out 12 simple features I believe would make all of our lives a lot easier, and most of them could probably be implemented right now!  Give me your opinion in the full post poll.  

Before I start, some might say I'm a Nikon fanboy. The first camera system I adopted was Nikon (Nikon D200 to be exact), and while Fstoppers has given me the freedom to test and use a bunch of different cameras, I have to be honest and say I've never owned another full DSLR system not branded black and yellow. However, anyone who knows me knows I'm the first person to admit that Nikon and many other camera companies have simply dropped the ball when it comes to implementing useful features that real professionals want.  Luckily Fuji and Sony are ruffling some feathers so hopefully the big boys will take notice and start picking up the slack.  

At times these big camera manufacturers feel a bit like Apple who ignored all those cool jailbreak features only to finally put them into their own iOS platform years later calling it a revolutionary new feature. Just like a lot of those hidden Jailbreak apps, most of these features I'm about to list may not only save you a lot of headache, but they might actually allow you to create some pretty cool imagery and/or video with nothing more than a firmware upgrade. I'm pretty sure most of the ideas in my list below have not been fully adopted by any manufacturer, but since I'm mainly up to speed on the Nikon systems I apologize now if some cool company is already offering some of these features.

I know everyone has their our own personal "dream features" that might not have made my list so feel free to share your own ideas in the comments below. So without further ado, let's dig into the list!

Digital Bulb Mode for longer exposures

1) Built-in Long Exposures

One thing I learned watching Elia Locardi work throughout Iceland, Cinque Terre, and Rome is that he loves shooting long exposures. On many occasions, Elia would want exposures ranging from two seconds to two minutes. In order to take photos longer than 30 seconds you will need to set your camera to the Bulb setting and use a remote to dial in the extended shutter release. Using this method is great for reducing camera shake when working on a tripod, capturing long 1–30 minute night time exposures, and even firing your camera without looking through the viewfinder. Locardi's remote of choice is the Nikon MC-36a, but watching him use it made me think, "Why do we even need this thing?" Can our cameras not offer dialed-in exposure times longer than 30 seconds? Is this simply a ploy by camera manufacturers to make us buy an extra little trigger for $150? If we could set the bulb with a custom time duration, we could then use the self-timer to trigger the camera without camera shake and pretty much do away with this product altogether. This feature seems like it could instantly be offered through a firmware update, and if you are anything like me, you probably won't have that specific shutter release remote in your bag that one time you find yourself in need of an extremely long exposure. Can we please get shutter lengths longer than 30 seconds built directly into our cameras?

Record long interview takes with Auto Record Restart

2) Auto-Record Restart

Most all current DSLR cameras on the market are now limited to video record times of 20 minutes. I've heard this has to do with memory cards and drive partitions not being able to handle files longer than 20 minutes (or 4GB in size) as well as crazy speculation that cameras that can recorder longer than 20 minutes are considered camcorders which are taxed higher in some parts of the world. Whatever the reason for this limitation, it sure would be nice if our DSLRs could make the most out of the situation by seamlessly recording long segments back to back. How many times have filmmakers messed up interviews or timelapses because their camera hit the 20 min mark and stopped filming? To combat this limitation on record time I came up with an idea: imagine if there was a menu item that when activated allowed your DSLR to auto-record another file immediately after the previous file hit the 20 minute mark. I know from personal experience this feature would have saved me multiple times especially when I was manning two cameras by myself. Again this little feature would be easy to implement through a firmware update, and it would be very handy when filming extended interviews.

End of File Beep would send out an alert when a video clip was about to end

3) End of Video Beeps

The auto-record restart idea above actually came from another feature I thought would be handy. What if when you were recording in video mode, a simple audible beep would happen when your video clip reached the 10 or 5 second remaining mark? Sure, this beep could potentially ruin the last few seconds of a clip, but I think the advantage of knowing your camera is about to stop recording would be a welcome feature for videographers. Again this feature could be set in the menu so you could turn it on and off depending on your recording situation. Imagine how useful this would be when you are running video timelapses or conducting long interviews where your clips constantly hit the 20 minute mark. This is such a simple feature but I believe it would help many videographers from accidentally letting their video files expire unknowingly.  Perhaps this featured wouldn't be needed if we could simply record video clips longer than 20 mins or had the option of initiating a record restart automatically.


Guests can take silent photos at weddings, shouldn't professionals too?

4) Completely Silent Photo Capture

During our road trip to Photokina, Lee Morris and I were given four mirrorless cameras and instructed to test them out without any prior experience. We took this challenge to heart and actually left the manuals back home.  Trying to figure each of these cameras out with just our own photography intuition proved to be both hilarious and eye opening. One of the cameras, the Sony a7S, really impressed me with its completely silent capture feature. Since it doesn't have a shutter or mirror, every fake digital beep and noise it makes can be turned off for completely silent operation . This is nothing new, right? Well it made me think, why can't my Nikon D810 or D750 do this? I remember first hearing about the new Nikon D810 having an "electronic front-curtain shutter" and I got really excited. If you are a wedding photographer, you are all too familiar with churches and officiants telling you that you cannot shoot during the ceremony because the camera makes too much noise (and usually the videographer is off to the side grinning as he films away unimpaired). Well the electronic front-curtain shutter was not what I expected it to be (it's more for camera shake and long exposures), but the idea made me wonder once again, "Why can our DSLRs not pull full res frames straight out of live view just like cheaper mirrorless and point-and-shoot cameras?" In this mode you would simply have both your mirror and shutter up (this is how Live View works) and with the push of the shutter your camera would pull a full frame still directly off of the sensor. You could essentially shoot in dead silence (minus initially turning on live view). Wedding photographers could now find themselves shooting silently in churches around the world! My iPhone can do it, guest's cheap point and shoots can do it, our DSLRs should do it!

Electronic Shutters or Leaf Shutters: Breaking the 1/250th Barrier

5) Unlimited Flash Sync

Now this feature probably has a lot of technical limitations behind it but I'm still going to ask the question, "Why can so many cameras and medium format cameras sync beyond 1/250th but our DSLRs are stuck dead in their tracks?" Sure, I know, medium format cameras avoid the flash sync limitations by using leaf shutters instead of traditional focal plane shutters, but in my opinion having a near unlimited Flash Sync speed is the holy grail of digital photography. The only thing really left to conquer in flash photography is defeating the current Flash Sync limitation (well besides my next point below). There have been numerous hacks on how to get your camera to effectively bypass the 1/250th limit but most of them aren't exactly reaping the benefits of a true shutterless sync.HSS and Hypersync are not true viable answers to this problem plaguing the DSLR camera. I've synced many point-and-shoot cameras with flash at ridiculous electronic shutter speeds and I think it is time that our DSLRs use a similar digital shutter to allow our expensive "pro" cameras the same flash-overpowering-ambient-light results. As photographers flock to medium format cameras primarily for this feature, Nikon and Canon could help secure their future by solving this problem once and for all.

DSLR makers need to get on the 2.4Ghz bandwagon

6) True 2.4GHz Wireless Flash Control

Okay, okay, I just said that the last hurdle to overcome with flash photography is an unlimited Flash Sync but there is one last piece of the puzzle left and that is improving wireless flash. For over a decade at least, fans of off-camera flash have been stuck using triggers that use infrared (think Nikon's CLS) or low bandwidth radio triggers (think Pocket Wizard and their FCC 344 MHz frequency). Recently Canon stepped up to the plate and released their new 600EX flash system that uses the 2.4GHz bandwidth, and other wireless controllers like Profoto's Air Remote and Phottix's Odin system have made wireless flash more reliable than ever (remember the insane distance covered in this video). From my experience with the Profoto B1s and D1s, I have to say the 2.4GHz frequency gives me a near 100 percent reliability rate compared to my near 50 percent rate with the once flagship Pocket Wizard Plus III models. Despite what everyone's favorite "strobist photographer" Joe McNally says, Nikon's Creative Lighting System is not reliable at all compared to this newer wireless technology. All the major camera manufacturers should take a page out of Canon's book and start incorporating 2.4GHz wireless transmitters and receivers into both their camera bodies and speedlights across their mid and pro product lines. It's a bit ridiculous that a cheap $70 China rip-off brand can have this technology, but our expensive name-brand cameras still do not offer any reliable way to wirelessly sync remote flashes.

PC Sync Jacks should be replaced with standard 1/8" Headphone Jacks

7) Replace the PC Sync Jack

Most of the features I've desired so far could all be implemented with firmware updates. There is one major hardware change I would love to see happen immediately and that is the replacement of the PC Sync connector. One of the first videos and posts we ever did on Fstoppers was called "The PC Sync Cord Needs to Die." PC Sync connectors are used to trigger studio flashes and strobes or other wireless remotes like Pocket Wizards. If you have ever used this flimsy connector then you know it is perhaps the worst designed connector in the history of electronic connectors. I think it is time for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Fuji to all adopt a new standard, and in my opinion that standard should be the common 1/8" TS Headphone Jack. Most photographers these days are using radio to trigger their flashes, but there are instances where connecting a speedlight, Pocket Wizard, or studio light directly to your camera with a sync cord can be useful. It is beyond time to change to a connector that doesn't fail 20 percent of the time! I mean it seems like we have to adopt to new HDMI and USB connectors on every single new camera. Why is this archaic PC Sync port even still being put on modern DSLRs?

If your current camera doesn't have Wi-Fi, it probably should

8) Built-in Wi-Fi

Before traveling with a Wi-Fi capable camera, I used to think Wi-Fi was one of those features I didn't necessarily need in my DSLR. My mind however was changed this last summer when I traveled to Photokina with the Sony a7S and Fuji XT-1, both of which allow you to tether your camera to your cell phone for wireless transfer. Most of my travel and day-to-day photos are posted to my Facebook page or the Fstoppers Instagram page. Having the ability to take high quality photographs and then instantly upload them online while on the move was surprisingly exciting. During our travels through Iceland with Elia Locardi, I had to laugh when I realized how many photographs I was taking on my iPhone instead of with one of our many D810s. The reality was it was simply way easier to upload the iPhone photos than it was having to download, edit, and upload RAW files from my "advanced" DSLR. As a wedding photographer, I can see how instantly being able to upload a high-quality image from a wedding would be a very useful marketing tool. How many times have you seen photographer friends on your Facebook feed simply taking photos of the backs of their DSLRs? There are a few cameras like the Nikon D750 and Canon 70D that offer Wi-Fi but I think this is a feature that should probably be included in all future camera models.

If our cell phones can record at 120 FPS, our DSLRs should too!

9) 120/240 Frames Per Second Video

I know by this point you are probably saying, "geez, Patrick is asking for so many video features." Well, in my opinion, the current DSLR camera has pretty much maxed out everything on the still image side of things. If you can't craft the vision in your head with 36 megapixels, ISO half a million, the fastest AF in the history of the camera, and more dynamic range than ever before, then I guess you can keep waiting for the next perfect camera. In the meantime I've found that clients are asking for more and more video, and those who have embraced DSLR video are setting themselves up to be leagues ahead of the competition. The largest photography project I've done to date, "The Stun Gun Photoshoot," was a success mainly because of the combined slow motion video paired with traditional still photographs.

Video really is going to be the next big thing for these cameras and don't be surprised when your current 2.8 Version II lens is updated yet again with upgrades that focus more on the videographer. I'll leave that argument for another time, but what drives me crazy in the current market place is that my iPhone and my GoPro 4 can still out perform my expensive DSLRs (both of which can be had for $500 and both weigh a fraction of my DSLR). What good is Expeed IV processing if we cannot pull off 120 fps at 1080? As the tiny GoPro 4 cameras are breaking into 2.7K and 4K video, our "professional" cameras are still stuck at 1080 with 60fps at best. Last night I did an iPhone Slow Motion Test at a New Years Eve Party I attended to see how well the iPhone 6 did with 120fps video and the massively impressive 240fps video (both at 720p). The results are pretty amazing for just a small phone with a f2.2 fixed aperture.  Even if you do not use the video feature at all, it should still make you mad that your latest and greatest professional DSLR camera holds a premium price while still being inferior to many lower priced consumer products.

More video cropping modes could greatly extend your lens's reach

10) Full 1:1 Pixel Video Crop

If you shoot video on the run, you probably use a standard lens like the 24-70 mm (the Tamron is currently our favorite for video). The reason you would pick this lens is because it gives you both a moderate wide-angle shot as well as a short telephoto shot. But what happens when you need even more reach but you do not want to carry another lens like the 70-200mm with you? Enter the video crop mode! Many cameras allow you to digitally crop within the DSLR's menu so you can get more reach out of your lens. This digital cropping doesn't always make sense with stills because you can crop later in post, but for video work these crop modes can be a godsend. Getting an extra 1.5 or 2x crop out of your sensor is really handy, but what if you could zoom all the way into your 36 megapixel sensor and use the center most 1920x1080 pixels? Depending on your camera you could essentially have a 3–5x crop factor built into any lens you have mounted. Your 24-70mm would now have a reach of 210mm or possibly even 350mm on a high megapixel sensor. Nikon does offer this feature on their D4S camera but really this 1:1 pixel crop should be available for everyone no matter what camera they have. Again it doesn't make sense for stills (no one wants to permanently save a 2 megapixel image), but for video users it would open a lot of doors for those running and gunning with a single lens.


Three separate rotator knobs for ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

11) Quick ISO Rotator Knob

Most professional digital cameras have two rotator knobs.  One controls your shutter speed and the other controls your aperture.  Very few cameras allow you to also control your ISO with a third rotator dial.  The reason for this is historically with film you were locked into your ISO based on the speed of film loaded into your camera.  With the introduction of electronic apertures in lenses, we lost the ability to control the aperture at the lens but gained another rotator dial.  Today, changing your ISO sensitivity is just as important as changing your aperture and shutter.  While some modern DSLR cameras do you let you modify how the rotator knobs work, very few actually give you three completely separate controls for each exposure adjustment.  The one camera that does offer seamless control without having to simultaneously hold a button down is the Sony A7 series.  I was completely shocked at how easy and fast this camera allowed users to rotate through aperture, shutter, and ISO settings.  Today many photographers might actually adjust their ISO settings more than their aperture and having such a well designed dial just for ISO makes a lot of sense.  Fuji came very close to making their X-T1 cameras quick but instead their digital rotator knobs only controls the exposure a few 1/3rds stops from the hard rotator dials (which can lock in place at times too).  Canon has the perfect 3rd wheel for this but instead chooses to require a second button to be pushed before ISO settings can be changed.  Nikon doesn't even have a third rotator switch yet so you are forced to use two hands to change ISO.  If you photograph scenes and objects that do not require super quick exposure adjustments this feature might seem like a mute point, but if you photograph events, weddings, or fast paced street photography you can easily see where having an isolated ISO dial could be a huge time saver.  

Event photographers often use WB settings beyond what our cameras give us

12) Expandable Custom Kelvin WB

If you've ever shoot events like concerts, fashion shows, or anything with dramatic lighting, you probably know how hard it can be to dial in an acceptable white balance.  Our cameras have a custom WB setting that lets us pick from a range of custom Kelvin temperatures, but did you know that editing software like Lightroom and Capture One can expand those settings even more?  Our DSLR cameras are usually boxed in to 2,500K on the cool side and 10,000K on the warm side.  Sometimes, depending on the lighting, that range is not enough to produce correct white balance.  If you are surrounded by near neon level lights, you might need to cool everything down below 2,500K, or if you are shooting in the super blue twilight hour you might need to add even more warmth to your scene that what 10,000K can supply.  Luckily most editing software expands your camera's native WB range to 2,000K all the way up to 50,000K, and sometimes just a slight change of 500K can make all the difference in the world. This is really handy when you are editing RAW files on your computer but what if you are burning in your WB with Jpeg or shooting Video (we don't have RAW video yet)?  It can be a real bummer when you run out of white balance latitude on an important shoot.  Isn't it time our cameras have the same expanded white balance settings our editing software gives us? 



We are all pretty lucky to live in this era of digital photography and video.  Never before have our cameras been able to capture beautiful imagery in the worst of conditions possible.  Throughout this first leg of our trip with Elia we have really pushed our cameras to the limits.  From shooting the aurora borealis in near total darkness, to having waterfall mist freeze on our cameras, to testing the weather sealing in hail, rain, and snow, I am still pretty amazed at how far the modern day DSLR camera has come.  Ask any Sports Illustrated photographer and they will tell you the Auto Focus is truly world class at this point.  Wedding photographers know just how amazing super high ISO can be in dimly lit ceremony and reception halls.  Photographers looking to make the transition to videography have never had a cheaper and easier time than now with the amazing HD quality we can achieve out of our pro level camera lenses.  I do not want this article to undermine just how amazing our cameras really are.

However, recently it seems like some camera manufacturers have lost touch with the needs of both semi and full time professional photographers and videographers.  Each time a new camera is released, I think many of us have been brainwashed into thinking we need more megapixels and higher ISO settings when instead we should be wanting features that actually make a difference in both our creativity and our productivity.  Sure, I'm excited to see how many stops better ISO 12,800 can be but the reality is I very rarely use these insanely high settings.  Having a camera shoot 50 megapixels would be exciting too but how many of us are actually printing these files larger than 36"x48" or even at all? I believe the real features that will make future camera releases truly amazing might be found buried under all the flashy raw camera specs.  These features might allow us to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible while also making it easier to craft this art of ours out in the field.

 In a way, camera manufacturers have reached a point of diminishing returns with each new camera release.   They are filling that gap with advances in video which I completely applaud, but from a photography stand point, each new camera release seems to be a little less exciting than the one before it.  One might be able to argue that the most exciting new features have come from the under dogs like Sony and Fuji.  Sony broke away from the megapixel hunt to provide a 12mp Full Frame super high ISO killer in the Sony A7s.  Fuji is also breaking the molds by releasing major firmware updates throughout the year that gives even their older cameras new life and functionality.  Hopefully we can see outside the box trends like this filter down through all the major camera manufacturers, but until then I guess we are just left to dream. 



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Previous comments
Patrick Hall's picture

Yeah I know. I don't recall the camera bodies being inflated as much so it seems the flashes are just inflated because they are an accessory. I remember many times buying the flagship SB800 for $299-$350. Wasn't the MSRP normally like $365?

Lee Morris's picture

I have been using the SB-900/910 for years and I still have to press every button before I can find the one that does what I am looking for. Terrible design

F K's picture

"Why Do Our DSLRs Not Have These 12 Features Yet?" Simple. They're a business and their sole purpose is to turnover a profit for their shareholders. They'll have prototypes with all of these features, but as long as people are happy buying incremental upgrades they'll just sit on shelves gathering dust until genuinely needed. It's what I would do.
However, give me the equivalent of Magic Lantern baked into all cameras as well as the upcoming usb type-c charging and I'm a happy man. Well, for a while at least.

Mike Last's picture

#5 was possible on a few cameras, such as the original Canon 1D and Nikon D70. I've been hoping for years that would come back! It would be great if there was a menu item for "Electronic Exposures" and any time you shot over 1/250, the mirror and shutter curtains moved out of the way for at 1/250, but the sensor only turned on for the 1/1000 (or faster) exposure of the flash. No shutter curtains in the way.

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm wondering why we even still need s shutter for a DSLR camera anymore? The mirror is obvious for the optical viewfinder but it seems like you could just turn on the sensor electronically with no need for a shutter at all.

Daniel Karr's picture

One reason we still need the mechanical shutter is to prevent rolling shutter effect. When i use my A7s in silent mode I will get rolling shutter effects on any fast horizontal movement. When you use the mechanical shutter the problem goes away. As global shutter CMOS sensors become better this issue will slowly go away.

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm not sure this is totally accurate but I could be wrong. When your camera shoots video, the shutter is up and out of the way anyways. The physical shutter does not contribute to video at all. Most high end video cameras do not have a shutter at all (it's all controlled digitally). Is it a wide known fact that mirrorless camera's suffer from rolling shutter problems were DSLRs do not? If so I've never heard that argument brought up before by the anti-mirrorless photographers out there.

Stephen Strangways's picture

When a DSLR or mirrorless camera shoots video, it's using an electronic rolling shutter, and you get rolling shutter effect. When a mirrorless camera is used in silent mode for stills, it uses an electronic rolling shutter, and you get rolling shutter effect on your stills. When you switch back to the normal mechanical shutter, you don't get any rolling shutter effect on your stills. This is well known, and likely the reason they give you the choice of using the mechanical shutter.

Note that mirrorless cameras in silent mode are using the electronic shutter as both a first and second curtain, unlike a DSLR which has electronic first curtain only.

Mark Davidson's picture

Another downside of the electronic silent shutters on the mirror-less cameras is that under fluorescent lighting one will get bands of light and dark using shutter speeds greater than 1/60 sec.
What we are really asking for is a global electronic shutter. Not there yet but for much of my work the shortcomings of the SS on Panasonics is not a problem.

Scott Mosley's picture

i agree, maybe just a 'shutter' for when the lens is swapped, to protect the sensor?

Garnet O'Connor's picture

I was going to make that same point. The first DSLR I owned was the Nikon D70 and it could sync at 1/500. It seems like the sync speed is getting lower each year. In the year 2020 we can look forward to a sync speed of 1/60.

Patrick Hall's picture

Ha yeah, I hate how my current camera is now down to 1/200th. The reason for the D70 sync speed was apparently because it was a CCD sensor and not a Cmos censor. Seems crazy though that in 12+ years they haven't been able to either 1) get CCD that produce nice high ISO quality or 2) figured out a way to prevent blooming caused by Cmos and high speed sync.

My theory is the camera manufacturers aren't even concerned with solving this problem.

Mark Davidson's picture

I have been agitating for silent shutters ever since I had a P&S years ago that did that. Full range flash sync would also be lovely.

Lee Morris's picture

It's so frustrating because a silent shutter could be made with a simple firmware update. Simple raise the mirror, move the shutter, and pull frames off of the sensor silently like every other freaking digital camera on the market

Kendra Paige's picture

I couldn't agree more with topics #5-#8. Those sum up some of my pain points when it comes to studio shooting. Currently my setup makes it so that I'm limited to 1/160 with monolights, so being able to shoot closer to the 1/250 mark alone would be incredible, not to mention to even go faster. There is so much motion I could freeze with more clarity if that was a possibility.

Built in Wi-Fi would be a dream, and I know there are ways to emulate this, but more often than not I'm shooting tethered to my computer, and I've lost count of the times that flimsy usb cable has been yanked out of the camera.

One thing I absolutely love is using Air Play through my Apple TV to wirelessly put my laptop monitor to the large television in my studio space, so clients and my creative team can view images as they're taken. It's seamless, which makes me wish the tethering process could be just as seamless.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think high speed sync is mainly useful for outdoor photographers who want to suppress the ambient light more and still have powerful strobes. If you want sharper images in the studio, you should test your flash's "flash duration" and see if it is a bit slow for your needs. Since the studio usually has fairly low levels of ambient light, you can shoot at say 1/50, ISO 100, F/8 and get crystal clear images simply by freezing your subject with lightening fast strobe pops. Broncolor and Einsteins seem to be the best for this buy Profoto and even small speedlights are really good too if you know the powers at which the flash duration is the quickest.

Kendra Paige's picture

Very true! I would love to leave my neutral density filters at home if I had the opportunity to cut down on the sunlight.

I am aiming to sharpen up my studio lighting skills, so I will definitely play around with that. I shoot with Elinchrom BRX monolights, and have been happy with them for the most part. I will do some investigation around faster flash duration to see if it helps. Most of my studio work uses ISO 100, f/9, and 1/160, and it's all quite sharp. It's mostly edges or moving hands that I have a difficult time keeping crisp, so I'll experiment! Thanks for the reply!

Steven Smith's picture

As much as people want these new features in cameras, I would like to see more cameras with just the basic controls of light on the market. For me the limitations of shooting with cameras such as liecas and the earlier Nikon F's just adds to my creativity.

Patrick Hall's picture

Can you not simply cover your LCD with black tape, change your dials to only do 1 stop increments, set your camera to spot meter, shoot only jpeg, lock your WB to daylight or incandescent, and use only 8GB memory cards? I've never understood the "make the camera harder to use" argument.

Stephen Strangways's picture

When Leica makes P&S cameras that are re-branded Panasonics, I think they miss out on the opportunity to simplify them. I'm not saying they should lock it in to full-stop increments, but how about removing things like "Baby 1" and "Baby 2" modes to display the name and age of a baby on the photos? Heck, when they did a "G-Star RAW" special edition, I didn't realize it was a clothing brand, and was excited to think they had finally made a camera that only shot raw, so you wouldn't accidentally be shooting jpegs!

Bill Simmons's picture

This is a great list. I'd also,like to see more modularity, so you could switch between sensors optimized for high ISO or resolution. Or upgrade processing chips as they are developed. On a more modest note, I'd like more options with view finder screens and grids, at least for Nikon (others may already have more).

Continuing improvement in high ISO rendering and low light focusing should also still be pursued. Finally, there needs to be greater collaboration between camera makers and software providers on RAW conversion, at least with Nikon.

Patrick Hall's picture

RAW Processing is a BIG one. If Nikon would license a RAW Plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop, and Capture1 I would spend 100s of dollars a year licensing that out. They need to realize no one is using their super slow software for post processing and they are missing out by not at least releasing a proprietary plugin that imports your RAWs at the starting point they were straight out of the camera.

Dave Camara's picture

I would kill for #5!!!

joshua davis's picture

I think if Canon introduced #9 into a full frame this year they would save a lot of HDSLR shooters getting ready to jump ship to sony...myself included.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think what really amazed me at the New Years Party was seeing a freaking Photobooth run off an iPhone because they were doing a "slow motion photobooth". The setup was pretty ghetto and it wasn't a very classy production, BUT the fact that a DSLR couldn't even be used for this simple setup because they can't shoot 120 or 240 fps video was an eye opener for me. An iPhone photobooth....SMH :(

rebecca frank's picture

Thanks for sharing this post!! Its a great insight to learn about various features which many of the cameras lack!!

Spy Black's picture

My thoughts on these points:

1. I've wondered about this too, although with that long of an exposure it's not that big a deal, you have multiple ways to ensure you can time it correctly, and even a minute off a really long exposure is not going to make much of a difference.

2, 3.May be issues with the inherent design of present-day DSLR production. However it may have more to do with the fact that other than Nikon, on a pro level anyway, most of the other players also manufacture pro video gear, which they prefer you to buy for such work.

4. May have to do with established production lines. Also, unless you incorporate a global shutter, you wind up with other problems.

5. May be possible using an electronic shutter, not sure.

6. This could become a standard, the frequency range certainly has plenty of available hardware for implementation. I have to ask however what makes a "cheap $70 China rip-off brand", if they're spearheading technology not found elsewhere.? ;-)

7. Durability. An 1/8 jack is gonna bust up in no time with regular professional use. The design and implementation of the PC socket has proven itself for decades. The only stipulation I would add are jacks and cables that screw into each other, those that don't aren't as robust.

8. On pro bodies with all metal casings, there's no way to get Wi-Fi (or any 2.4 meg signal, for that matter) to transmit. Unless some workaround is developed (or they just add plastic tops) I wouldn't hold my breath on top of line models with this.

9. I would say more important is simply 4k. This is a better production asset in HD production because you have cropping power. Of course, 4k high frame rate would be nice, but continuously adjustable frame rates would be even better. But again most of these manufacturers sell pro video cameras they prefer for you to buy.

10. Having 4k gives you similar capability, but this would certainly be nice.

11. If not a dedicated knob, the ability to program an existing knob would be a simple software fix for cameras that don't have it. The squeaky wheel get the grease. ;-)

12. I don't see that as a big deal, except for video. RAW capability is what's needed, but again, most manufacturers will want you to buy their wares that have these features.

Some of this stuff is just lack of insight or insufficient demand for manufacturers to implement, which some of these are readily easy to do. Others require some kind of hardware retooling, and that can be a slow boat coming off an existing production line. The rest is just manufacturers wanting you to buy their other wares to get the job done.

I think if Nikon is smart enough (and so far I have to say that's a big if) they could easily be the brand that implements most of the video stuff at least into their DSLRs because they don't make video gear. Who knows?

james johnson's picture

I'll disagree about #7. I've shot sine the ancient days, and I learned early to carry a pc connector repair tool on my key ring AT ALL TIMES. I cannot think of another connector type I have had to ever repair in the field or studio,,, cords, sure, but never a connector.

Spy Black's picture

Hmmm, interesting, never had a problem with any jack. Cables yeah, but never a jack.

Patrick Hall's picture

I agree with a lot of what you have to say here Spy....EXCEPT, that the PC sync cord is more robust than the audio 1/8 jack. Are you kidding me? I have the PC screw lock cords and they fail me all the time. ALL THE TIME. Come to think of it, I have never once had a 1/8th jack on my walkman, discman, ipad, iphone, car aux in, pocketwizard, desktop computer fail me once....not ONCE!

If you look at the PC jack, it's just a tiny little straight pin that if TOO STRAIGHT will not make the proper connection to your camera/flash. Every year I have to buy about $200 in PC cables just to feel confident they will all work during a wedding. This cord HAS TO GO!

Spy Black's picture

As I've said, I've never had a problem with the jack. Most of the 1/8 examples you've given are stationary or not greatly challenged. Cables will always fail, regardless of jack. I don't know if you've ever played musical instruments or have done any audio, but my audio cables crap out with regularity. Extensive usage, that's the culprit.

But it begs the question; in this day and age why are you using the PC jack in the first place? I haven't used one in years. My radios sync through the hot shoe. Never had a problem.

Patrick Hall's picture

We use PC sync cords to connect our Pocket Wizards to our cameras when we have an on camera speed light on the hotshoe. The ideal way to use this setup is to have a transceiver between the on camera flash and hotshoe but I found the PW Flex system to not be very reliable so I didn't go that route.

Spy Black's picture

I think I remember seeing a Yongnuo transceiver that had a hot shoe mount to compensate for the use of the on-camera shoe. I think it's also compatible with PWs. This may be of help.

There's also this: http://tinyurl.com/poopr27

I think a better idea than replacing the PC socket with a 1/8-inch jack is to do away with the jack altogether. There should be a push towards an industry-wide wireless sync standard.

Patrick Hall's picture

That adapter doesn't allow TTL pass through. I mainly shoot weddings with the on camera Flash set to TTL bouncing above and behind me with a pocket wizard triggering any off camera flashes I have. For events, TTL is a godsend.

What they should do is just do away with the PC Sync jacks in the camera and then release a Headphone Jack to PC adapter that you could use if you still wanted to rely on that horrible technology. There are still instances where I think a hardwire could be useful for bullet time or reliability like at NBA games and stuff.

I'll look into the Yonguo transceivers but I really love the PW Plus III setup with the 4 groups. I hate departing them since I have so many PW units but I might have to do that soon since I have had so much trouble with their frequencies lately.

Spy Black's picture

Well, I still think an industry-wide push for a wireless standard would be a good thing.

As for the PC socket, I'm somewhat at a loss about the issues you folks have been having. Remember, this system has been an industry standard, used by professionals, before YOUR FATHERS were born! If it was that much of a problem, then the situation would've been addressed long before YOU were born. :-)

The only thing I can think of is that today cables are just poorly made. The advancement of the hot shoe back in the 70s started to make a move away from the PC socket, except perhaps in most studio work. The development of TTL flash pushed it further back. So today you're seeing cables cheaply made that simply fail faster. Most of my PC socket usage was with monolights, and I never had a problem with them.

Although I doubt the PC socket may be replaced (remember there's tons of legacy gear, studio and otherwise), the squeaky wheel does get the grease, so perhaps it's possible to convince manufacturers to add an 1/8-inch sync jack IN ADDITION to the PC socket. Perhaps a dual-purpose 1/8-inch jack that's found on the side panel of most cameras, or one up by the hot shoe. Have you ever sent copies of your articles on this subject to manufacturers for them to read? Have you ever discussed this with manufacturers in any form? If so, what were their replies?

Hopefully you folks will get the relief you're looking for on this issue.

Lee Morris's picture

I've been sent by the photography community to argue with your PC sync point. That is the WORST plug design on any cable I have ever used in my life. It never works. The ones that screw in are slightly better but even getting them to lock in are terrible. If you wanted, you could add a screw mount to a standard headphone jack so that you have reliability and convenience

Spy Black's picture

Although as I said I've never had problems with the jack, and cables will be cables and will fail (ever play music, or do audio?) but as I said to Patrick, I wonder why people still use one actually?

Grey Tan's picture

As a semi-technical camera designer...

I think #4 and #5 is related to each other.
Mainly it is not possible now simply because the sensor is too large. The sensor reads out in rows. Larger sensors have problems dumping the data through the ADC fast enough to give any reasonable shutter speed.

Readout speed is probably the same reason why we're pretty much stuck with 1080P 60FPS of #9. The sensor/ADC/both can't handle the data rate.

Also, video compression hardware is suprisingly expensive. The reason why GoPro can do extremely high data rate is because they're using dedicated ASICs which does nothing but compress video. It's hard to imagine Nikon fitting such a specialised chip into a DSLR

Full pixel crop isn't likely to happen especially with larger pixel count cameras... simply because the pixels and the lens can't really perform. Scientific cameras have a feature called Region of Interest (ROI) capture. That takes up processing overhead as well

Patrick Hall's picture

Thanks for the response Grey. It's great to hear from someone who actually knows the limits behind the technology.

I guess at the end of the day, these features are still items that will have to be offered in the next 2-5 years so while many of them might not have easy solutions, they are still problems that will have to be solved soon.

When you say the sensors are too large, does it take heavy processing power to turn off pixels or disregard them? Like if you had a 24mp sensor but only wanted to use 1080 pixels at a predetermined location, or even 12 mp for still capture, would the processor be overwhelmed dumping all those unused pixels?

Also does physical sensor size make more of a difference or individual pixel cells? I know the difference in size of a FF and micro 4/3rds sensor isn't that big (maybe half the size?) and in many cases these cameras still have respectable 12-14 megapixels. I've heard of some 4/3rds cameras being able to sync past 1/250th using a global shutter so it doesn't seem that far fetched to think a FF or DX sensor could also do this.

Another question, when you are shooting video with super fast shutter speeds like 1/2000th, you are essentially shooting 24 frames with each of them having a 1/2000th shutter. I noticed when filming my Taser Photoshoot in super slow motion that many times there was a single frame or two that was completely blown out because of the strobe going off. It seems to me, if you could sync that frame with strobe you could actually produce the effect I'm talking about. Granted the single frame was 720 in resolution but it was also shooting a TON of info being that it was 240 fps. I just know in video mode the camera is able to process a full frame at 1/2000th of a second without getting too bogged down. Again maybe it's some hardware advantage I'm not aware of.

Stephen Strangways's picture

When you have a CMOS sensor capable of windowing, which is how video crop modes work, you have a sensor capable of reading out each individual pixel, rather then being limited to reading out entire rows or columns. The pixels outside the window area are simply not read, and are not sent to the ADC. Rather than requiring extra processing, it actually uses less. This is why a camera like a RED ONE or EPIC can deliver faster framerates when the sensor is windowed - you get a narrower field of view, lower resolution, but higher framerates.

Grey Tan's picture

yup and that is hardware enabled... which means development cost unless there is a high commercial interest to do so

Grey Tan's picture

I'll just clarify first - I'm not the technical engineer behind the scenes. I design the system, get inputs from my engineers and suppliers on what is available on the market and revise them.

Regarding the question on processing power to turn off pixels: I think of it this way, unless the electronic circuitry is physically hardwired to take data out of a certain portion of the sensor, the data is read out in full resolution. Just imagine the processor having to decide which data is useful or not it still has to say: yes/nope and that takes up operations.

Think of it this way... 400 people(pixels) queuing up to cross airport customs, whether they make it through the custom(readout) still has to check them... unless they have some electronic fast lane which is the hardwiring to pull out certain portion of the sensor data.

Regarding the 4/3 camera which can sync past 1/250th seconds: precisely, it is because it is a global shutter design which is why it can sync beyond the sync speed determined by the shutter curtain. Even a rolling shutter can do it, but that would be limited by the flash duration commonly known as T1.

Regarding the video: same as above. So long as there isn't a physical shutter it will sync. Sync quality will depend on strobe duration and profile.

Spy Black's picture

"Full pixel crop isn't likely to happen especially with larger pixel count cameras... simply because the pixels and the lens can't really perform."

I wouldn't be so sure about that. I think you simply need a fast enough processor and a large enough buffer. My 20 megapixel Sony RX100 III does full pixel dithering off it's 1 inch sensor. As a matter of fact, with it's full pixel dithering and 50Mbps XAVC S codec, it outputs better quality video than the Mk II, Mk III, and D750. If the Sony can do it now with a 20 megapixel 1 inch sensor, it's only a matter a time before you can do it with any full frame sensor, and I doubt that time is far off.

Grey Tan's picture

I'm abit confused... the RX100 III does 20mp/frame video?

By full pixel crop I meant out of say a 36mp sensor on a D800 we only crop it to 1920x1080 for video purposes. D800 does a marvelous job with the pixels but not many lenses can match it. Reading it out from the full 36mp without hardware support built into the sensor would require beefy processors though.

I think what you meant by dithering is some kind of super pixel mode. In which case the 20mp count doesn't really matter, the "pixel" size is synthetic and a sum of all the pixels combined. DSLRs do video by pixel skipping IIRC. Which is why your video quality is higher since each "pixel" receive more light due to its larger surface area than the pixel readout from the DSLR.

Now regarding the full pixel dithering processing, I'm not too sure how they do it efficiently, I would not be surprised it has a dedicated video processing ASIC for that.

Spy Black's picture

Well yes, I misunderstood what you were referring to, because I thought your comment was in reference to the comments of your opening paragraph. In all honesty however, I don't think cropping full pixel from a DSLR sensor would give you anything useful, both in video image quality, and of course the fact that it's cropping the hell out of your field of view.

The Sony does indeed take all the pixel data without line skipping and dithers it down to HD size, retaining not only a high quality image but also essentially preserving your lens's field of view (save for the HD aspect ratio).

My point was that DSLRs today really don't have to be line skipping anymore, because if a 20 megapixel image can be processed full data as is in the case of the RX100 III, it's only hop, skip and a jump to having processors that can handle full frame 22, 24, or 36 megapixel data.

Michael Comeau's picture

I have a Sony DSC-R1 from around 2005 that is completely silent and can sync flash at 1/2000s. I have to write a review up on it one of these days -- it really is amazing.

Spy Black's picture

Yeah, that's an interesting camera. Looks like it would be good in controlled lighting.

Patrick Hall's picture

How many megapixels is it and what is the sensor size? How can a camera that is 10 years old still able to do something a ground breaking DSLR cannot do?

Michael Comeau's picture

It's 10 megapixels and the sensor size is 21.5X14.4 mm, so it's slightly smaller than APS-C. Real attraction is the 24-120mm equivalent Zeiss lens, and it has a macro mode.

On the downside, autofocus can be pretty bad, it stinks at high ISO's, and it's hilariously slow. It can shoot a RAW file about every four seconds. Yes, 1 file every 4 seconds. NOT 4 files every 1 second.

Stephen Strangways's picture

The DSC-R1 had a leaf shutter in a built-in, non-removable lens.

As an interesting note, the Pentax Q series cameras have several lenses with leaf shutters in them, and some without. Using a lens with a leaf shutter, you can get flash sync up 1/2000th with the built-in flash, but that's also the maximum shutter speed. If you use the electronic shutter, by choice or because you are using a lens without a leaf shutter, it goes up to 1/8000th, but flash sync is limited to 1/13th. So this suggests to me that the best solution for faster flash sync with today's sensor technology is leaf shutters in lenses or maybe even bodies, not electronic shutters.

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