The Holy Focus



Back in the old film days, the quality of your image was determined by the glass on the front of your camera, which was essentially a lightproof box with a shutter and lens mount. Of course, shooting films such as Kodachrome 25 (as in ASA/ISO 25) made for even crisper images, but Canon, Nikon and Olympus made outstanding lenses.

With the arrival of autofocus lenses, Nikon stuck with its existing mount and Canon created the EF mount for its EOS cameras, relegating the excellent FD lenses to the drawers and attics of thousands of photographers, for them to later turn up on eBay.

With the advent of digital photography, the camera’s sensor has become almost as vital a part of the image quality as the lens. It makes sense that electronic giants such as Sony and Panasonic should be making cameras, given that they are now imaging computers, and partner with established lens makers, Zeiss and Leica respectively.

All the venerable camera brands, such as Canon, Nikon and Olympus as well as relative newcomers Sony and Panasonic are all major corporations with one primary directive: to make profits. With the today’s development cycle of cameras, the latest big, shiny new device is largely obsolete before it even left the factory, only to be replaced the following year by something even better and shinier.

Their old film cameras worked perfectly well for decades and, due to their mechanical construction, most of them still do and will continue to do so long after that new digital camera is taking up space in landfill. To my mind, all this automation and technology is taking away a lot of the skill usually associated with photography. With the Fresnel burst frame rates, it becomes like taking a frame grab from a movie, rather than using the skills of anticipation to capture the “decisive moment”.
And the primary question is: do we really need such pin-sharp images every time? Focus is overrated. Some of the most iconic and best-known photos throughout history are out of focus and no one rejects them because they are not pin sharp. Going further, what the hell is this new obsession with 4K video in still cameras ? Most people don’t have the computing power to edit 4K video, or are using it to shoot YouTube videos that will, in the majority, be watched on smartphones. So what ?

Camera manufacturers and sales people will happily sell you what you want, but not necessarily what you need. This give another spotted image of the so-called new war between well established DSLR and the newborn mirrorless cameras from Cano-Nikon or from Leica-Panasonic-Sigma pandemonium.

Do we really need them ?

Or maybe a path for wisdom is not to focus or our focus, but keep trying to improve our own skills ?

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