Latest Strange Sayings

From time to time I quote something I read in the photography Internet world that just is strange, and needs clarification (or sometimes refutation). Here are the latest ones that stopped me cold while reading an article:

"Pretty much almost as fast." [reviewer comment about GFX100S autofocus]

Oh dear. A qualifier to a qualifier. The way you have to read this is "the GFX100s is almost as fast. Pretty much." Meaning it isn't as fast, and even that statement is qualified. It also doesn't help that the writer hasn't identified the lenses and exposure at which this comment was determined. Close reading says he was comparing to a Canon R, not exactly known for its focus prowess, but lens and exposure would have something to do with this, too.

No doubt focus performance is very hard to quantify. Speed to acquire focus and focus tracking accuracy intersect, for example. You can sometimes have one without the other. The problem with comments like this one are that they're subjective based upon unknown circumstances, and then the fan boys start to amplify the comment because it fits their world view. 

Many of us grew up in the world of manual focus. Any autofocus that works decently is a step up from what we were doing in the 70's. Every decade, those autofocus systems have gotten better (and more complex, which can make them really useful if you master them). Today's autofocus systems, across most current cameras and brands, are all "pretty fast." Some are "almost as good" as others ;~). 

Bottom line: there was no content in that statement. Yet it was still quoted by others...

"Just stop down the lens a bit more so DOF covers the eyeball." [serious comment about Eye AF by a reviewer]

Let's be clear: focus only occurs on one plane, period. "Subjectively acceptable"—are we really going to argue that is a thing we desire?—is what DOF is all about. What's subjectively acceptable to one person in one context is not acceptable to another person or in another context (e.g. large print versus small Web use). Moreover, there are subtle brain cues that rely on the focus plane position that I'm not totally willing to ignore. 

To me, when you start trying to compensate for a camera feature (focus plane accuracy in Eye AF mode) by relaxing your standard—and that's what you're doing here—you're moving deep into compromise versus optimal. I want camera tools that allow me to quickly and easily get optimal results, not camera tools that allow me to quickly get compromised results. 

Now you may be different. As I've noted before, one of the reasons why Sony's mirrorless AF system got so much early praise is that the "all automatic" modes did a better job for the more casual and periodic camera users than the more nuanced-and-needing-user-attention systems that the sophisticated DSLRs did. It takes study and practice to make a tool work as well as it can for you. A lot of photographers don't want to spend the time necessary to do that. Even some pros don't have the time to do the study, though they often get plenty of practice ;~). 

"We think that [the division between] stills and movies is less and less, nowadays." [dpreview interview with Sony's Masaaki Oshima]

Well, yes, we can see that in Sony's development, particularly now that we have the FX3 and the A7S Mark III, which are basically the same camera in video and still shells. But I'm pretty sure that the majority of the still photographers don't want to hear this particular statement, and moreover it's self-serving in Sony's case, as they're trying to protect both still and video businesses. 

I'd argue that, given the FX3, the A7S Mark III is poorly designed. Why? Because it should be really handling the "stills first" customer better, while the FX3 should be handling the "video first" customer. In other words, I don't think the separation of the two is big enough. 

"[the] article is filled with technical jargon that will go over many heads [sic]. For instance, the article specifies that: 'Sony presents a 50.1Mpixel, 4.16μm-pitch, back-illuminated stacked CIS with a pipelined column-parallel kT/C noise-canceling sample-and-hold circuit and a 14b delta-sigma ADC achieving 1.18e-RMS random noise at 250fps.’ Did you get all of that? No, me either. Still, I do know this means the sensor is an absolute technological marvel." [well known photography site]

I'm seeing a lot of this lately: just throwing out tech mumbo-jumbo that the writer doesn't actually understand and then proclaiming that it means something important. They have no clue what the mumbo-jumbo actually meant, but because it was published and marketed somewhere, it must be important, right?

It's getting tougher and tougher to understand the low-level aspects of semiconductors. We're talking about things that are documented in nanometers and electrons and have near quantum relationships at times. One of the latest techniques to show up in image sensors is something called Deep Trench Isolation, which if we were to scale that to your backyard, would mean digging a 6" wide trench thousands of meters deep. I just spent two months going through documents like the one referenced by this author in preparation for an upcoming presentation I'm making, and I'm having to have engineers peer review my work to make sure I didn't miss something. 

The article in question goes on to make a claim that probably doesn't exactly mean what they think: that the Sony A1 sensor is capable of 44 fps and that Sony arbitrarily limited it to 30 fps because it would need a bigger heat sink. Most image sensors these days have multiple readout capabilities, some of which exceed what is actually used in still imaging. The reason they do that is that there are different downsides to each of the readout options, and camera developers choose an option for a specific purpose and result. "Faster" on an image sensor usually means that you either have heat mitigation issues you need to manage—which the article in question does mention—but you also can also encounter other significant problems. For instance, many image sensors have to drop the bit rate on the embedded ADC when dealing with the maximum fps the sensor is capable of in order to get accurate Digital Numbers, and in some cases higher speeds mean more rolling shutter. 

Like lens design, sensor design is a game of balancing tradeoffs. Adding stacked capability to an image sensor—essentially providing a quick off-ramp for data to another piggybacked semiconductor that can do other things with that data—is part of that balancing act. 

There's no doubt that the image sensor in the Sony A1 has a lot of great tech in it, and that this technology enables the more extreme capabilities of that camera. But citing a technical document statement and then making a broad claim against it which mostly amounts to fan-dom needs to stop. 

"[PERGEAR 10mm f/8 Fisheye] Worth More Than Toilets." [bing translation of a bing translation]

A lot of us covering the photography field sometimes have to resort to using on-line translators in order to see what's happening in other places around the world. But those translators can be really odd at times. I encountered this particular headline—which of course immediately caught my interest—that was generated when something that appeared in French was translated to Japanese and then offered to me in English. 

Generally I try to get someone who knows a language better than I do to help me figure out what non-English statements are actually saying, but I do sometimes have to rely on the online translators to figure out what it is that I might need to have a better translation of. And that leads to a lot of amusement at times. 

In case you're wondering, the gist of the original review was that the PERGEAR was better than the other "lens cap" lenses, which were not as good.

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