I just had to laugh....

Shot on film. With a Leica R8...

A few years ago I wrote a piece for another person's blog wherein I made an impassioned case for electronic viewfinders. To say I was skewered again and again would be an understatement. At the time the mantric response was, "I'll never give up the glory and majesty of a true optical viewfinder!" 
And yet, I was just visiting said blog when I noticed that commenter after commenter mentioned their desire to have a Sony A7 camera. And many of them gave as one reason.....the electronic viewfinder.

Funny how much time sits in between early adopters and the big hump of the Bell Curve. Are people that resistant to change?

How easy are we willing to make the process of making photographs before we admit how much we've lost?

I was watching a video program from PBS about Richard Avedon a few nights ago and it made me  sad. Not sad for the person (Avedon--who passed away a few years ago) or the people in our industry but sad for just how much good stuff we've (as an industry) been willing to let go of in the thoughtless pursuit of the "free" practice of digital photography. And how complicit we've all been in our own artistic decline. I am as guilty as the rest of you. If you still shoot larger formats than 35mm you are excused from this discussion and from automatic inclusion amongst the collective guilty.

Let me explain what I mean before the fire breathing forum experts go into spiteful overdrive.

Regardless of whether we work in digital or film photography there are certain aesthetic manifestations resulting from the use of different sized imaging sensors, or different film sizes, just as there are obviously different effects that come from using different focal lengths of lenses to achieve the same angles of view across formats. Newer technologies in sensors might yield less noise or higher perceived resolution but all the new advancement(?) comes at the expense of a truly diverse range of tools. And the ones that have mostly gone away are the larger formats. The same formats that made most of the amazing images from the last century. Six by six. Six by seven. Six by nine. True, in camera large format panos. 4x5 inch and bigger.

When discussing different styles of cameras most people aren't well educated enough to get very far beyond counting the number of pixels on a chip. Most don't understand that there are many visual differences between the constitution of different kinds of sensors and most don't understand the very idea of movable (non-parallel camera movements) lens and film planes. But the biggest issue is that we all chose to ignore the obvious visual differences that come from the inter-relationship of sensor size and focal length/angle of view.

We're like happy ants toiling in the tiny garden of m4:3, APS-C and good ole fashion small format 35mm frame sizes. We've completely tossed away medium format, wouldn't know what to do with 4x5 inch sheet film and are probably depressingly unaware that once film could be readily had in 8 by 10 inch sheets---and larger. And we're equally unaware that many, many practitioners of the recently past era didn't use the larger sizes to get more "megapixels" they worked in the larger formats because the larger formats gave the artists different looks. They delivered images that looked unique by format----not just stylistically but fundamentally. Down at the level of physics.  If you could make a snap shot with an 11x14 inch view camera it wouldn't look like a 35mm camera used in the same spot with a lens having the same angle of view. It would look totally different. The much, much longer focal length of the lens (for the same angle of view) used at the same subject to camera distance would have yielded a totally different depth of field in which sharp focus would fall off at a much steeper rate. These were the days of giants in the field of photography. The gear and the people.

The disconnection between micro adjust AF settings and the nature of lens design...

This is a Sigma 50mm f1:1.4 lens with a Sony A mount. It's a great lens but my camera can't reliably focus it and neither can yours. Even if you use a focus align jig and take great pains to calibrate the hell out of it. Is there something wrong with the lens? Nope, I get the same behavior from the Zeiss 50mm f1.4 for the Canon and also the manual focus Carl Zeiss 85mm 1.4 in any of the major brand mounts. So what's the deal?

It's pretty simple really. All these fast lenses have a common attribute called focus shift and the simplest explanation is that the point of correct focus shifts as you stop the lens down. The micro-adjust AF controls in all of cameras are amazingly simple and stupid. They are all made to do one calculation per lens. But if you calibrate for the wide open setting (f1.4) which is the stop you paid all that hard earned money for the lens system's focus point will shift as you stop down. The setting at f2.8 when used on my Sony a99 is three or four points different than the f1.4 stop. In theory you could test and divine a calibration setting for each f-stop but there's no way to load more than one setting into the camera for each lens.

If you were amazingly compulsive you could calibrate all the critical stops and third stops and make a chart. Then when you grab your camera to shoot you can check your f-stop, consult your data and set the correct number of every f-stop. You'd probably only need to do the stops from wide open to about f4 because at that setting depth of field masks the errors. Mirrorless cameras set focus at the shooting aperture for their contrast detection AF so they tend to be much, much more accurate. I wonder if there is a downside to the inclusion of phase detection AF points on a sensor as relates to focusing point accuracy.