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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?