Enough with the megapixels and ISO!

What I want from the camera manufacturers

I was talking with Jared Platt and Jim Schmelzer after the classes I helped them with at Glazer's Camera's PhotoFest 2017 in Seattle today. After some technical discussions about high speed sync, hypersync, and old ASCOR strobes the conversation turned to camera features. Here are two, no make that three, changes we would like to see in ISO and megapixels. I have no idea if these are practical or feasible, but hey! Let's at least put it out there.


The discussion of high speed sync led to our agreement that we don't need any more super high ISO settings. For portraits, especially outside with fill flash, we want LOW ISO settings. ISO 32, ISO 25, and even ISO 10 would be so welcome. Then we could more easily balance daylight exposures with fill flash and have some headroom to adjust shutter speed to control the ambient light levels without having the resort to high speed sync. High speed sync (HSS) is great. But it comes with a price--lower output power. Our lights have to be very close to our subjects with HSS. If we could go to a lower ISO we could keep the lights in regular sync mode and have the power available to back them up out of the frame or to use a larger light modifier with them. Right now the only way to do this with studio power level strobes that don't offer HSS is to use neutral density filters, and that has other complications, like difficulty focusing and dealing with color shifts from ND filters that aren't quite neutral. Are lower ISO settings too much to ask for?

If you aren't familiar with what is sometimes called syncro-sun flash, it is basically using a flash unit to supply fill light on a sunny day to lessen the shadows on your subject. You take an ambient light reading without the flash (let's say that is 1/60 at f/22 at ISO 100) and then you set your flash power to give an appropriate amount of light to open up the shadows. I picked the 1/60 shutter speed so that I have some headroom in case I want to vary the shutter speed to darken the ambient light exposure vs the flash. So, I could go as far as 1/200 to darken the ambient by 1 and 2/3 stops. But I am at f/22 and would much rather be somewhere around f/4 to lessen the depth of field and make the background less distracting. F/22 to f/4 is 5 stops. I could use a 5-stop neutral density filter on the lens to bring down the ambient light level to allow the f/4 aperture. 5 stops is a lot of light being cut out. It is going to give you a very dark viewfinder for composing and focusing. And it might be too dark for autofocus to work.

If, however, ISO 12 was available, the ambient exposure would be 1/60 at f/8 (3 stops different) and then only a 2 stop ND filter would be needed to get the exposure to f/4. Much easier to look through the viewfinder to compose and focus.

Enough with the megapixels!!

How many of us need more than about 20 - 24 megapixels? What if a camera manufacturer took a high megapixel sensor and used some of the pixels to extend dynamic range?

There are lens arrays that let you adjust focus after making the photo (see plenopticsa). And think of the Bayer filter array currently used to create color images. You have a red, a blue, and 2 green pixels that are used to create our color images. What if someone made an array of pixels that, in addition to color, produced an output of a dark, normal, and bright pixels that could be combined to create a kind of high dynamic range image without having to resort to combining multiple images in post processing? All the information would be in one file, so no worry about any movement during the bracketing sequence.

ISO Bracketing

Normally, we would bracket by taking a series of images in quick succession changing the f/stop (which changes the depth of field, which might affect alignment of the multiple images) or by changing the shutter speed (which changes the ability to stop motion, affecting alignment, and which won't work with flash exposures) on each of the images in the bracket. A third bracketing option is to bracket the ISO, but that usually requires additional equipment, like the CamRanger until camera manufacturers get wise to the need for ISO bracketing and add that to their cameras. If the bracketing could be done within one image you wouldn't have to worry about the change in depth of field or about subject movement between images. OK, so that's three things I want from the camera manufacturers, not two.

I haven't upgraded my Canon 5D MkIII or 6D bodies to newer higher megapixel models like the 5D MkIV or 5DSR. I don't need more megapixels. But if a new camera was introduced with better dynamic range and lower ISO settings, I'd be looking hard at purchasing the new model.

How about you? Do you see the benefits of lower ISO (they don't have to remove the higher ISO settings, those can stay, too), better dynamic range, or ISO bracketing? Please comment below.