The March of Technology / by Michael Jin

Nikon's big Mirrorless Interchangable Lens Camera (MILC) announcement is right around the corner and I'll fully admit that I'm very excited to hear what they they will be bringing to market. Whenever any news about MILC's pops up, there seem to inevitably be an argument that brews across commend threads on photography websites. Generally speaking, it's an argument between people who are satisfied with their current DSLR experience and those who are excited by the prospect of new technology and products becoming available. These arguments will always get heated and it will probably devolve into name calling. I know because I'm just as guilty as any other party out there.

I know there are very few of you out there who will read this blog—it seems that all of my traffic is people reading my ES-2 test that I did a while back—but for those that do, let me make a few things very clear.

Whether you take advantage of it or not, you should be happy that companies are invested (and are able to invest) in bringing new products and technologies to market that increase the capability of the device that you are using for your craft. As an artist, I believe that it is really important to remove as many technical barriers as possible between you and your pre-visualized end result. For many of us, we learned how to do this through education and training. This wasn't a virtue so much as a necessity in order to take control of our craft. If you are among the group of people who can already achieve your desired vision for an image, then good for you. Understand, however, that there are people out there for whom the technical aspects of photography represent a barrier between them and their potential enjoyment of the craft.

I know that there's a feeling of unfairness one feels when you've gone out of your way to master something and a bit of software comes along later to essentially make all of that training obsolete. People who feel this way are often the people who complain that each technological advance is simply "making photography too easy" and because of this, it is somehow devaluing photography as a whole since anyone can now make a good image. If this is your stance, then I would suggest that you take a moment to consider how you are defining yourself as a photographer and why you feel it is necessary to maintain a technical barrier in order to maintain your own status. Even if a theoretical AI were developed to choose the correct exposure every single time for someone else, it's not the exposure of an image that should be defining your photography.

As a photographer, you should be defined by your unique vision. If you're just a cookie-cutter photographer does the same snapshots or same common images as everyone else, then yes, you will probably be adversely affected not through the fault of any technology, but because you are bringing nothing of yourself to the table. If you're into commercial headshot photography, you've probably read Peter Hurley's book, "The Headshot". I've seen so many images that feel like they could have been directly ripped from that book. I get that Peter Hurley is an extremely successful commercial headshot photographer, but if all you're doing is following the formula that he set forth in the book, how can you possibly think that you're NOT going to get replaced at some point, whether it's by a younger photographer following the exact same formula for a lower price or a photo booth designed to follow that exact same formula?

If your solution to the growing market share of MILC cameras is to bitch and moan on comment threads and forums about how it adds nothing, then not only are you deluding yourself, but you're publicly showing your own insecurity. Tell me, do you think that a person that's confident in their own ability and position is going to take the time out to complain about technology that's designed to brings others up? No, they're going to feel happy for the people that need it and will be benefiting from it while continuing to do their own thing. I've seen all sorts of accusations that these products are only for amateurs or people that are too lazy to learn how to do things "properly" and it's frankly mind boggling—especially when you consider that there are a number of professionals who have made the switch to newer technology for their own legitimate reasons. Why would you even say such a thing? What do you get out of putting others down like that?

The hilarious thing is that these are often the same people that will drool over every new DSLR announcement and celebrate that the new camera will be bringing an extra 1-stop of high ISO capability that they will never use because they only shoot in a studio or during the daytime and that they clearly don't actually need since they're performing their jobs just fine without that (just like MILC users were performing their jobs just fine with a DSLR just fine before making a switch). They'll rave about the superior autofocus when they don't shoot fast action; they'll hail random things like automatic focus stacking or an in-camera negative digitizing mode. As soon as this new DSLR is released, they'll sell the old one that's been serving them just fine and doing everything they need and buy the new one because.... why? The answer is because it's newer. It's the latest and greatest in DSLR technology and they want to own the latest and greatest technology even if they might not use the extra 10 megapixels or 9FPS burst rate. Of course there are some people who will legitimately benefit from these things whether they be macro shooters, landscape shooters, or high action shooters, but you get what I'm saying... the majority of photographers don't actually benefit from most of the new features that these cameras come out with.

There are several truths here. One is that you're not going to stop the march of technological progress so just stop. Fighting it is like fighting the tide. It's inevitable and it just makes you look like an idiot. The second truth is that a lot of those that bitch and moan about new technology do make some valid points. It's pretty rare for a new technology to offer something that we really NEED. More often than not, it offers efficiency or convenience. This is because technological progress tends to be incremental. It's 5 megapixels here, 10 megapixels there, and suddenly within a few generations you're looking at 50 megapixel cameras vs. 12 megapixel cameras. If you already own the latest and greatest gear, the very next thing is probably not going to be a huge leap from what you own right now so it makes sense to consider this before going ape shit over it. There are still professionals out there using cameras that are well over a decade old now just fine because it happens to fit the criteria for what they need.

In attempting to defend MILC's and their real benefits, I've been accused of having GAS, being an amateur (which I am), being uneducated, being unskilled, not knowing what I'm talking about, and all manner of things. Live exposure preview and all that stuff is a bonus, but let me make it very clear that there are exactly two reasons why I am considering purchasing a MILC (I don't currently own one and I'm not a "Sony fanboy" by any stretch of the imagination, although I respect the technology they're bringing to market.):

1. Focus Peaking - I shoot manual film cameras along with my DSLR and I would like a digital system that is not simply compatible with my manual focus lenses, but actually helps me shoot with them. I don't enjoy looking for the confirmation dot on my viewfinder nor do I want to have to stare at the back of my D850 to be able to use focus peaking. I know that focus peaking isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination (I'd rather have a matte screen), but it beats both of the current options available to me on my D850 by a mile.

2. Silent Shooting - I would like to be able to take photos in quiet places without being a distraction and there are plenty of situations where "quiet" is not quiet enough. There's a difference between SOME sound and NO sound and once again, I know that the D850 is capable of this, but I'm not a fan of shooting while staring at the back of my screen because it decreases stability and introduces unwanted camera shake.

For me, personally, the rest of is just there. I don't particularly care about Eye-AF (I intend to use manual focus lenses) or live exposure preview. If I can nail exposure on my rolls of film, I'm pretty sure I can nail exposure with a digital camera regardless of what make and model it is and these cameras have such ridiculous dynamic range these days that you don't even need to be accurate with your exposure and you'd still be fine... The possibility for compact lenses would be nice as well as the possibility to adapt lenses from other SLR systems, but those are less important to me than the two things that I've stated.

Anyway, this has been a bit of a ramble so I'll end it here. I'm excited to see what MILC Nikon has to offer, but I'm not going to recommend hopping on the bandwagon just to hop on the bandwagon. Think about how the actual benefits that the technology would afford you and see if it's even worth it. And if it afford you absolutely no benefits, do us all a favor and just shut the fuck up so that the rest of us can enjoy something that's clearly not made for you.