Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Take the Photo When You Want

This must be a generation thing... I heard about "shutter lag" first only a few years ago. At that time, I had a hard time understanding what the actual problem was. Mind you, my photographic experience originates in a fully manual SLR-cameras, which always released the shutter when I pressed the release button.

Finally, it all was clear to me, the complaints about shutter lag was caused by fully automatic settings, in particular auto-focus, of "modern" generation automated photographic equipment.

Being used to manual focus, my habit was to set the cameras to all manual, in particular for focusing. I never trusted any camera to know what I wanted in focus.

Lately, some cameras had a real impact on me, cameras that could be told which distance to focus at and stay at that distance.

First to mention in that context is the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with adapted legacy glass. Some of my older M42 lenses are rather sticky in the focus department. Set the lenses' apertures to f/8 and adjust focus according to the distance scale. Done! The metering of the camera is fast enough to adjust the shutter speed in an instance. However, if one wants to be rally be assured of the fastest reaction of the camera: choose ISO and shutter speed (according to sunny 16) manually. Great to have a dial for shutter speed selection.
The camera should have lost all the shutter lag by now.

Second choice: Ricoh GR (version V) or GR-II. Ricoh understood that auto-focus causes the greatest delays in automated photography. So, Ricoh decided to add the "snap focus distance" feature to their GR camera. With the camera in AF mode, half-press the shutter release and AF will start. However, when focus is not yet achieved but the shutter release is fully pressed, the focus defaults to a predetermined distance. Brilliant! Again, depth of field by the aperture chosen helps to determine the preset zone.
The Ricoh GR is extremely compact and fits in pockets, however, operation is very much menu-based.

Next: Leica X2 (Leica X-E, same camera, different color scheme). The Leica allows for decent manual zone focusing. The focus distance can be locked in, so it can't accidentally knocked off. That is really great for zone focusing with a predetermined DoF. The Leica also offers manual aperture and shutter speed dials, which is great for fully manual exposure settings.

Only at my 4th place: Fujifilm's X100 series. I love those cameras, no doubt! The manual focus scale displayed in the OVF is magnificent. However, the focus ring is very loose, I knocked it off bu accident several times, which ruined the shots. I wished there was a feature to lock the manual focus.
The X100 series sports manual aperture and shutter speed dials, which is really great!

5th (1st) place, solely for the reason that the other cameras are doing so well when stabilisation is not required: Olympus MFT bodies. Those cameras employ in-body image stabilisation, which is great for low light situations. When in any low light environment, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is my prime choice! With adapted legacy glass, the Olympus still stabilises the image by sensor motion.


The above ranking is certainly not carved in stone! The differences are pretty subtle.

The most important message I wanted to convey:
  1. shutter lag exists when shooting in AF
  2. shutter lag disappears almost completely when focusing manually
  3. setting exposure parameters manually cannot harm
Conclusion: Remove as much automation as you are comfortable with, you'll be rewarded with a more timely photography.

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