The Five Most Overrated Camera Features

The Five Most Overrated Camera Features

Modern cameras are little technical marvels packed to the brim with interesting and useful features — some more useful than others. Here are five of the most overrated camera features. 

Photographers love to drool over the most impressive and innovative camera features, and no doubt, some of them can make a huge difference in image quality or the way we work. When selecting the right gear or wondering if you should upgrade, it is important not to be fooled into thinking these features will make a bigger difference than they will. And certainly, some of the features below are useful to certain photographers or in specific scenarios, but in my opinion, they get too much press for their overall value.

1. Super High ISO Capabilities

Can you remember the last time you took a photo at ISO 3,280,000 (the maximum advertised ISO of the Nikon D6)? I know I sure can't. To be clear, I am not saying improvements in ISO performance at normal ISOs are not worthwhile. I remember when my Canon 1D Mark II used to really struggle above even ISO 400, and that was a flagship camera in its day. Nowadays, I can comfortably push my Sony a7R III to ISO 6,400 or 12,800 and get perfectly usable images (granted, the 1D Mark II used a slightly smaller APS-H sensor.) Having those extra capabilities is a huge boon to photographers in a huge variety of genres and has enabled shots that simply would not have been possible a decade ago. 

This image was shot at ISO 6,400 on a camera released in 2012, and I'm perfectly happy with how it came out.

That being said, it is rare that any photographer has to push past 12,800, even in an emergency. Seven-digit ISO capabilities look impressive on paper, sure, but you should care about how a camera performs at the ISOs you will use 99% of the time, not how arbitrarily high a manufacturer allows you to set it. 

2. In-Body Image Stabilization

Certainly, in-body image stabilization is highly useful to a certain set of creatives. For videographers shooting handheld, it can be a lifesaver. For certain genres, it can be highly useful as well, especially if you do a lot of handheld photography of static subjects. But that last qualifier is key: static subjects. The entire idea of in-body image stabilization is that it allows you to handhold your camera at slower shutter speeds, but if you are shooting moving subjects, you have to keep your shutter speed fast anyway. And if you are shooting static subjects and looking to keep your shutter speed slower, you will probably use a tripod anyway.

Certainly, in-body image stabilization can be useful in a variety of specific scenarios. And for ultra-high-resolution cameras, it can be very useful at standard shutter speeds.  However, I see a lot of photographers obsess over it when it likely would not make that big a difference in the type of work they do.

3. Resolution

You might be getting mad at me by now. Let me assuage your anger a bit. Resolution is absolutely a highly useful tool. If you are making huge prints, it is a needed feature. Furthermore, it is a tremendously useful compositional tool, as it allows you a ton of freedom to crop as needed. In fact, the resolution of some newer camera models is so high that you can easily create multiple unique compositions from a single image.

You might be surprised by how little resolution you actually need.

The problem is that a lot of photographers overestimate how much resolution they actually need, sometimes by quite a lot. If you are generally only posting your images online and making standard-size prints and not making huge prints or cropping a ton, you might be surprised by how little resolution you can actually get away with with no discernible difference. Remember that photographers worked at resolutions around 10 megapixels for a long time, and I bet you would have a hard time noticing the difference on a screen. Remember that 10 megapixels on a 3:2 sensor is approximately 3,872 by 2,592 pixels, plenty of resolution to fill most monitors and certainly enough for any phone. Fujifilm X Series cameras are a great example of this: they are wildly popular and used by a lot of professionals, but they only top out at 26 megapixels. Furthermore, remember that higher resolutions mean more storage and longer processing times.

4. Battery Life (Nowadays)

The vast majority of modern cameras have battery life well north of 500 shots (normally much more if you are shooting in burst model,) and spare batteries generally cost around $70, somewhere around two or three percent of the cost of the body itself. First, 500 shots is quite a lot of life for a variety of scenarios, and given the proportionately cheap price of a spare battery, it is not a huge deal to buy and carry a spare — at least not to the point that it should take precedence over other features, at least in my opinion.

That being said, there are certainly scenarios and genres where you need a long battery life because you can't afford to miss a shot due to a dead battery and the environment might preclude you from being able to change them. Wedding photographers, for example, come to mind, which is why they often use grips with capacity for two batteries. But for a lot of photographers, there are more important camera features to be concerned with than whether it lasts 500 or 1,000 shots on a charge. 

5. Dual Card Slots

Whoa Nelly, I am prepared for the heat on this one. Let's be clear: there are absolutely scenarios and genres where dual card slots are absolutely necessary, namely those in which a reshoot is either costly or not possible. This is why people like wedding photographers stand so firm on it. And personally, I think pros should think long and hard before they purchase a camera without dual slots. However, it is important to think about how much data loss will cost you and how much it is offset by the probability of its occurrence and what you do to minimize its impact. In other words, if you just drop a generic 128 GB card in your camera and don't copy the images to your computer until you fill it up three months later, you are taking a big risk. On the other hand, if you are a hobbyist who mostly takes a daily photo walk and you can swap out smaller cards each day and download the images in a timely manner, then is it going to be the end of the world if one afternoon's shots go missing? 

Yes, there are certainly times where dual card slots are a necessity.

And that is not even getting into how reliable modern systems are. Memory card failures are a pretty rare event nowadays. Yes, any professional on a paid shoot or hobbyist shooting high-value images should certainly do everything they can to ensure the safety of their images, which includes using dual card slots. But that being said, they are not always necessary to splurge on in a higher-level camera.

Conclusion

I am not saying that any of the features mentioned above aren't useful or even necessary in some scenarios. Rather, I think they sometimes get too much emphasis compared to other features or photographers spend money on higher-level bodies that they do not necessarily need.

How do you feel about these features? Are they crucial to you or can you do without them?

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98 Comments

Robert K Baggs's picture

It's got to be resolution for me. You can do so much with so little these days, and outside of highly niche genres (some of which I do,) massive resolution wasn't useful outside of showing other photographers 500% crops. Most overrated features are overrated because they're useful to a small subset of photographers and then that's mistaken for widespread applicability.

Nitin Chandra's picture

Resolution is important for wildlife and that is a sizeable segment. At the same time, one has to have the lens to resolve to around that resolution which is currently an issue...

Greg Silver's picture

Can't agree with you on this one. Yes - resolution can help you crop images but a fast long lens, getting closer to your subject and simply knowing about where and how the wildlife your shooting live in their habitat, will prove much more useful than resolution.

I personally shoot with 20MP, which by today's standards is relatively low, and am very happy with my results.

Nitin Chandra's picture

We all have our own experience and they are all different :)

sam w's picture

yup, being able to crop with high resolution is nice, but if you have the right lens at the beginning, it isn't necessary.

Mike Shwarts's picture

Assuming you have the right lens, have time to change from another lens to the right lens. What Mr. Silver said above helps, but sometimes a situation comes up and you have to get the shot from where you are with what you have. If you don't do that, the moment is lost. In that scenario, which happens often, being able to crop is nice.

Loren Pechtel's picture

Exactly. If you have the luxury of doing everything perfectly resolution is pretty much a non-issue. When you have a non-cooperating target (tiny, endangered, beautiful blue butterfly that won't sit still for more than about 1 second, I'm thinking of you!!) resolution gives you safety margin.

Joseph Ting's picture

My biggest problem is keeping the camera steady enough to use all that resolution, especially with a long lens

Rodford Smith's picture

Yeah, I keep having someone brag that their phone or PADD has two or three times the resolution of my older Alpha. I point out that I have a nice big macro-zoom lens on a dedicated camera with a pretty good smart system for adjusting all the factors I don't feel like deciding on. They just wave that aside.

Later they ask for copies of my photos. :-)

Martin Melnick's picture

I agree but there's definitely a bare minimum. I'd say I wouldn't go below 12 megapixels if making prints. They start breaking apart after 8x10 and although most people don't print these days, having a bare minimum of say 16 or higher allows for some wiggle room with larger printing. Needing 40 plus megapixels though is silly.

chrisrdi's picture

Agreed. I have a D800 but I honestly try to avoid shooting with it if I can. I'll pick up my Fuji XT-2 before my D800 if I can. The files sizes are just waaaay too massive. I've been tossing around the idea of selling it for a D750 but the D750 doesn't have the capability shoot at 1/8000. :/ One shoot can be more than 30 gigs. it fills up my drives too fast. The D800 takes some fantastic photos though. The first shot i took with it was of a tower where i live and it came out AWESOME but the final file after and HDR merge was over 1 gig for a single image.

M M's picture

these are overrated but in my view an underrated feature is built-in ND filters. I would love it if my Fuji X-T3 had this. Even better would be a grad ND filter with adjustable parameters. I don't even think this wold be too hard to do since it's pure software.

c0ld c0ne's picture

Emulating a grad ND in software would require bracketing in most scenarios where you'd want to use one.

Penny Fan's picture

Other than the last point, I agreed with you. Dual card is pretty essential unless there's zero possibility of card failure.

Alfonse Diantonio's picture

Does anybody know how to stop a person from following you and being a bully and hurting you on the site? Mr. John Doe is threaten ing to call me names and won’t stop even when I beg him to. Now he is reporting me. Any advice friends please would help. Thanks!

Also I dont think that is his real name because they use that name on tv judge shows alot and he doesnt have a face.

David Love's picture

No they don't do anything about trolls here and there is no way I've seen to block people. I see more comments from people that have never posted an image and probably aren't photographers or video guys. They don't even have an option to report a comment. You can add a link to his page here and see if anyone is paying attention though if you feel lucky.

Alfonse Diantonio's picture

That hurts, but thank you for sharing friend. His name is John Doe. I will ask my niece how to copy his page. You have been very helpful!

Venson Stein's picture

You are safe man. I read in my local Florida News this morning, that they "Found John Doe dead." I would say your problems are over.

Alfonse Diantonio's picture

Thank you mr Stein. Maybe it is a different man? He is still typing so I think he is alive. Or a ghost!

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

---"No they don't do anything about trolls here"

Actually, they do. I know of three they've handled. They're the ones that were constantly constantly hostile. But, yeah, if it's just folks bickering back and forth, I don't think they'll take action.

---"They don't even have an option to report a comment."

Actually, there is. If you hover the mouse to the right of the post, you'll see this:

Alfonse Diantonio's picture

I don’t want him to go away like I just want him to stop attacking me. Thank you mr Zeddi!

jim hughes's picture

These guys have very short attention spans.

David Pavlich's picture

Document it. Save posts just in case the FS staff contacts you about it. Complaints without backup are pretty much worthless.

Alfonse Diantonio's picture

Thank you mr. Pavlich! I will do that

Deleted Account's picture

Alfonse, this place is absolutely full of trolls. I suspect you are being targeted thusly because you publicly state such behaviour upsets you.

Alfonse Diantonio's picture

Thank you mr. Kovacs for your support. It is sad to see anyone be so negative and angry like mr doe. I tried to talk to him but now I know he is very lost.

Now he is making lies saying that I called someone a terrorist. And that I made a troll comment that he didn’t like. I said that racism is horrible. That was what he negative commented.

Why does he lie? So sad. But also it makes me very scared! Look how much he types about me. He is following me!

Maybe I should ignore him? I don’t want to be rude but I don’t know what else to do.

Deleted Account's picture

This guy is the troll and has been behaving in a completely psychotic manner for almost the entire day. I'm not targeting nor am I following him - but I had the gall to stand up to this narcissist and thus he feels fit to slander me in an unrelated post to where our argument took place and he demanded that I stop after flaming me repeatedly and playing victim at the same time.

(Edit: actually, he's been inappropriate for two days now. This started when I downvoted a troll comment he made, and he called myself and others out as "racists" for doing so)

But I'm sure I'm the problem.

I've saved both conversations as PDFs and can't wait to make my case - unless my account gets deleted like at least one other person who has disagreed with this egomaniac has experienced if I'm not misreading my private message conversation with him.

If you lot want to support a deranged individual's inappropriate outbursts, by all means, villainize me. It has no impact on reality (edit two: then again, Trump did get elected despite a similar pattern of behavior...)

Venson Stein's picture

Don't worry John, the Fstoppers Community has your back.

VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

I agree, Alfonse is the troll here. He pretends to be nice while Belittling people.

I just ignore him now.

Alfonse Diantonio's picture

The last time we talked you talked about how you clean your business for corona virus and I said that was very thoughtful and good and said I believe you will get thru this hard time. Why do you think that is a troll? That was not me trying to belittle. Please do not twist who I am and be cruel when I have been nice to you.

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