Last year, The Phoblographer's Chris Gampat published an article entitled: No One is Making a Bad Camera, You’re Just a Bad Photographer. It's the typical rant of the typical gearhead photo blog, ragging on the person that has problems with her camera and/or lens. Why? Because Phoblo is in the know, that's why. In Chris's own words:
This year, the site is turning five years old–and we’ve been reviewing cameras since day one. The technology has become better and better and back then (sic) folks used to say that something is a good camera or a bad camera. To a certain point, this is still expressed in forums, in conversations amongst friends, and by people that have nothing better to do with their lives than be trolls. But I’m going to tell you the complete God’s honest truth (sic) right now about the world.
Chris had me at the complete God's honest truth. And by the way, he never says anything about the world. Trust me, I read his article thrice. The conclusion I came to is that to Chris, a 'camera' is the following and only the following.
If a sensor performs so well that real photographers can add noise if they want, then that's all that matters. If it autofocuses fast enough, then that's all that matters. If its technology is better than before, then that's all that matters.
In part, Chris is correct: no one makes bad sensors anymore. Indeed any user of any modern camera system should be able to publish amazing images, even with the kit lens. And AF is good to great on most, if not all major hardware releases. In which case, I agree with Chris's longest paragraph:
No one is making a bad camera or a bad lens or a bad light or a bad camera bag or a bad sensor. For years (yes, years) the sensors have been incredible. Too much noise at a high ISO level? Oh well, bring it into Adobe Lightroom and no one will bitch about it unless they like looking at an image at 100% all the time. But those people never go on to become better photographers and only worry about looking at lab tests all day and night. Now, more than any other time in history, it is possible for you to create a better image.
And maybe Chris is just poking fun at the people that can't get over a few points of dynamic range points. In his words, these people are trolls. But seriously, since when did cameras boil down to simple constructs of sensor and autofocus? And if it did, wouldn't the people bemoaning performance be in the right? I don't get it.
The majority of people with cameras around their necks don't read DPReview, or Rangefinder Forums; certainly they read neither your rag nor mine. If they wish something was different on their camera, it's probably with something from the below list:
1. simplicity and consistency of use
2. battery life
4. start up time like right now?
The things I seethe about -- and, what in Phoblo's definition don't count in the definition of a camera -- are the following: broken interface, poor ergonomics, and especially, the constantly multiplying number of unlabelled, user-programmable buttons. Fujifilm's insistence on using two controls (one labelled and one unlabelled dial/ring) for aperture and shutter speed, could be cut down to two controls.
Sony's splitting of magnification functions between three buttons, and hyper sensitive eye-sensors that disable displays with a wayward wave of the hand, are equally as idiotic. And yet no one in the Trust me, I should know camp has a bug to bear about anything but ISO performance.
Buttons that either cannot be reached by normal thumbs, or that depress too easily, or are impossible to reach should not be turned into AF-ON buttons. Worst of all is the constantly changing interface. Camera makers should design interfaces to stand the test of simple interaction, and those interfaces should stand the test of time. Most of the problems lie in the mirrorless camp, whose main aim appears to be to make SLR cameras with out the R.
Notice how none of my complaints tick ISO performance, dynamic range, or AF boxes? I might also note that I am one of the simplest camera users out there. So is my wife. Myriad others out there merely want to take photos without having to drag along an in-the-know friend, or the manual. Hand them a camera from the same manufacturer and they want to take photos, not a 1000-level course on how to operate a camera.
Today's consumer cameras have more buttons than ever before. They are more complicated to work than ever before, and many manufacturers mate them to control schemes that change from release to release.
Bad designs exist. Bad cameras exist. And camera blogs whose sole focus is on the speed of this, or that, and draw no attention to bad design, and who place no responsibility on the manufacturer (ostensibly to procure samples and freebies), do nothing at all to improve the market. They are in fact, bad blogs.
Trust me, Chris, I've worn glasses sine I was twelve. Do the maths.