Useless Camera Features

Britisher Mike Browne has a recent YouTube video by this title. It is filmed in an environment with which most of us are familiar: the exposition part of a convention/training meeting, filled with displays by manufacturers of camera equipment. The video attempts to point out that, in fact, most of the features on today’s cameras are useless in making good photographs, despite manufacturers use of them in marketing their products. Mike refers to these as the “shiny-shiny” parts of camera menus. In the real world, are camera menu features things that we are ever going to use? He says, “For the most part, no.” Let’s explore this a bit.

I took a careful look at the menus in my camera; would you believe that there are between 500 and 600 items when I counted the sub-topic items? The only features I use are focusing, aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, white balance and ISO. And oh yes, the histogram. In the case of my camera brand, users have prepared Excel spreadsheets with each menu item explained as to what it does. And yes, along with the items, an indication of which setting the preparer of the spreadsheet personally uses.

Are you and I being snookered by camera manufacturers who, when they have a new camera about to release, compare “our features” to “their features” that, if you believe Mike Browne are mostly useless?

I need to point out that Mike Browne is a “photography coach” whose reputation has grown just in the short time I have been following him. And he has hung his reputation on the idea that “cameras don’t make pictures; you do.” Truth be told, if you and I can master focusing and exposure and then move OUT of camera settings and master light and composition, our pictures just might become something somebody, somewhere, want to hang on their wall.

Remember: the definition of “shiny” is having a glossy surface. Much in my camera menus may look good at first, but has no depth. My camera never took a picture by itself in its lifetime. Think about that the next time you are considering another camera. The only situation that justifies a new purchase is when the camera you own won’t do what you want it to do; don’t be fooled by the shiny-shiny.

And, by the way, today’s photo was taken in 1990 with slide film in a Canon Elan II. If I remember correctly, you focused the thing with a lens ring and you set the aperture and shutter speed and hoped for the best. You were stuck with the speed of the film (ASA) you had in the camera. As I look at this shot, it brings back pleasant memories and it’s as good a job at photography as I generally do today. Cameras don’t take pictures; people do.