Test Drive Another Camera and Find Features You Never Knew Existed

Test Drive Another Camera and Find Features You Never Knew Existed

Sometimes, just sometimes, you have the head-slapping moment where you utter the immortal words "Why didn't I think of that?" When it comes to camera systems you might modify that to "Why didn't my camera manufacturer think of that?"

I'm not a big weather buff - there are those that will insist on watching the detailed weekly forecast on a Sunday and then avidly tune-in to their favorite breakfast show each morning to see what will be happening during the day. This might be for a very good reason - they have a photo shoot or are going hillwalking - or it might be because they are a weather aficionado. That's not me - the weather is utilitarian and I want to know if I'm going to get wet when I'm out on my bike! So my daily pill for many years has been the BBC's weather website which does what it says on the tin. It's time sliced with pictograms identifying the predominant weather during the day. Simple and efficient. And I tend to go by the maxim, "if it ain't broke don't fix it." Why would you if it does what you want? Then recently I happened across the not-so-new DarkSky weather forecast. I hadn't heard of it and, as curiosity got the better of me, thought I would install it on my smartphone. I was stunned at how far weather apps have moved forward - elegant design, intuitive interface and near-live rain radar maps with rainfall probabilities. It was a breath of fresh air and is now my de facto goto for weather.

It was a you don't know what you don't know moment and reminded me that sometimes you really can miss out on something good. I'm largely wedded to my Nikon D700, although very happy shooting with the D810. They are ergonomically and functionally very similar which allows me to switch seamlessly between them. But it made me think about some of the features that have crept into cameras that have made me go “WOW.”

Top of my list is most definitely Olympus' Live Bulb feature. Digital made the massive leap of seeing what you got after you had taken the photo, not after a film had been developed in a lab. Olympus has made the next massive leap - seeing your photo as you are taking it. Think of it as constant live view - you are actually watching the effect of those photons being recorded by the sensor. For long exposure photographers, this is a step-change, dramatically reducing the experimentation and increasing the hit rate. Which makes you wonder why on earth no one else has implemented in some form it as it is a killer feature for that market segment.

Also on the list are Panasonic's suite of 4K features - the fact that still cameras can now record video is significant in and of itself. Once that became commonplace, and you accept that there are some caveats to the quality of imagery that video can record, then the convergence of extracting individual frames with 4K (and 6K) video is a dramatic shift. Panasonic has exploited this to the full with a wide range of features that let you easily pull out individual images, while also increasing the number of opportunities to pre and post record video in order to catch that "decisive moment". And then throwing in some focus bracketing for "post-focus". It's an alluring convergence of technologies.

Writing about these two features made me realize that while I am very comfortable with my cameras, and you can't beat the efficiency of shooting with a camera you know, sometimes it pays to look around at what other manufacturers have to offer. That's not the headline figures of megapixels or frame rates or video formats, but those little extras that may go overlooked. So besides reading the reviews of the latest and greatest on Fstoppers, why not set yourself a target of renting a camera from a different manufacturer once a year and see what the "dark side of the force" has to offer?

Lead Image courtesy of coyot via Pixabay

Log in or register to post comments


Fritz Asuro's picture

I had it the other way around... Tested other brands, I just ended up missing the features I was used to.
But yeah, each brand has their own quirks.

Tony Tumminello's picture

I'm still waiting for another manufacturer to adopt Minolta's Maxxum 7 standout feature: getting an STF effect with any lens. It simply takes multiple exposures while varying the aperture size. It might not be the same as a dedicated lens and it does require a stationary subject, but the implementation should be dead simple and would give "good enough" results for people who don't want to plonk down $1k+ for such a specialized lens.

Also while I'm thinking of older film cameras, the Eye Control focus on Canon's EOS-3 is pretty great too. Once it's calibrated for different conditions, you just look at the focus point that you want to use and when you press to focus, it'll use that focus with pretty accurate results. No fiddling with touchscreens, no spinning dials, or joysticks, just look and it'll use that point. Haven't had any issues with my contacts either, though I haven't tried it with glasses yet. I've heard that some people had troubles with it, but if they reintroduced it 20 years later then I'd hope that they could figure out a way to make it more accurate with glasses and contacts.

Mike Smith's picture

Wow, eye control. I hadnt come across that - complete Firefox (the movie) style!

Matthew Saville's picture

Haha I actually thought eye control would be one of the primary focal points of this article, no pun intended...

Matthew Saville's picture

As a Nikon shooter, I've spent the last 10+ years seeing this happened with my Canon shooting friends... I've lost count of how many features they were delighted to finally see, which I had gotten used to long before with my Nikons. There are still features that I can't live without, and no other camera company offers...

Karim Hosein's picture

«…why on earth no one else has implemented….»

Pentax implemented something similar to that (well, the Live Composite, at least) a long time ago, at least as early as the K-3. It works in any mode, including Bulb. The feature is in every one of their new cameras. Perfect for light-painting, lightening photography, astro-photography, etc.

They are still a leader in innovation.

Will Rogers's picture

Olympus livebulb is one feature I would love my Sony to have, but I would also love the ability to use different aspect ratios for stills such as 16:9 and see it in the viewfinder, whilst still recording the full RAW image. Sometimes I know I want a square crop or a wide panoramic, but can’t visualise that well within the standard rectangular frame.