Musings on Photography

More on the disharmonious ‘convergence’

Posted in process by Paul Butzi on October 8, 2008


Well, now, that was exciting. Here’s my advice – if you want to get a lot of hits on your photography oriented blog, one sure fire method would be to write something criticizing Luminous Landscape.

It seems no matter how carefully I write something, somehow people seem to get things from the words that just aren’t there.

For the record:

  • I have no beef with the videos LL produces and sells. I don’t buy them, but the seem to be much liked by those who do. I don’t buy them largely because I don’t much care for instructional videos, not because they’re no good.
  • I’m perfectly aware that market changes are pushing more and more professional photographers to include video in the set of services they can provide. If I were a professional photographer (I am most definitely NOT) I would be (as Doug Plummer is) looking to add video shooting and production to my skill set. As a side point, I’d suggest those who are considering this go and read Doug’s blog, and see just how much work, effort, money, and ego destruction Doug has put into climbing the video learning curve. The difficulty with still/video convergence is not getting a camera that can do video. The difficulty is very obviously that you can be one of the most technically skilled and world savvy photographers out there, highly attuned to your surroundings and with great depth of experience that lets you abstract the gestalt of that world in still photographs – you can be all that (as Doug is) and STILL be nothing but a neophyte at interacting with your surroundings with a video camera. It’s not technical skills like being able to turn the camera on and off. It’s getting an in depth grip on the video workflow, so that you connect what you’re doing with the camera out in the field with what is going to happen during editing. If you want to do video, you need to study filmmaking. Buying a video camera and video editing stuff doesn’t make you a filmmaker any more than buying a still camera makes you a good photographer. Except that video is much harder.
  • I have a lot of respect for Michael Reichmann. He does what he does very well. But just as my disagreement with this single aspect of his statements about still/video convergence don’t mean I think he’s a nitwit, neither does my high regard for him mean that I agree with everything he says, nor the direction that LL seems to be taking.
  • The current direction of LL, which seems to be breathless prose about traveling to exotic locations with huge cases full of expensive gear, and making lots of photos in those exotic places – that’s about as far from my current photographic practice (mostly making photographs within about 500 yards of my front door) as it’s possible to get. I love to travel, but when I travel, photography is NOT the way I get to know places. Does this mean that LL is headed in the wrong direction? No, but it means that the return on the time investment of a visit to LL for me has been getting lower and lower, to the point where it’s still in my rss feed reader but I rarely visit. But if you’re interested in taking a lot of expensive camera gear and making photographs in the marketplace in old Algiers, LL is probably right up your alley.

As a final point, I’d just say that I don’t actually see the whole still/video convergence thing as the game-changing proposition the camera manufacturers and photography pundits do. I can certainly see that to a segment of the market for high end cameras (photojournalists, mainly) merged still/video capability could be very useful. At the same time, for me personally, adding HD video capability to a camera makes the camera more desirable to the same extent as adding an MP3 player to a chain saw. The DSLR, like the chain saw, is a tool that I own for a specific purpose, that purpose being making still photographs, and adding video capabilities just doesn’t count at all in Paul’s Metric For Evaluating Cameras Paul Might Purchase.

I am utterly unafraid that I will be ‘left behind’ as the world moves on from still photography. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that I share the photography market with people who *are* afraid (some of them for good reasons, and some not), and that will affect what cameras manufacturers bring to market in the future.

13 Responses

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  1. Andrew said, on October 8, 2008 at 11:37 am

    As a hobbyist you are probably either a still photographer or a videographer. As a professional or a soccer/hockey mom you probably appreciate the convergence. I probably agree with LL that if you are a professional photographer you should be learning more about video. However, if you are that and you want to remain successful why not just partner with a videographer to offer a single package to clients? If you are a PJ and are being encouraged to offer more video then the 5D is not likely your tool of choice. Think 1D4 with video and high still frame rates (actually that is probably on the way!).

    I’m a still photographer and in fact besides digital (mostly with a compact Ricoh GRD2) I shoot pinhole and I’m about to get a Holga. I also have a Fuji Instax Mini camera. This convergence is leaving me in the dust and I love it! I actually have the original Canon 5D and have no interest in upgrading whatsoever.

    Have no fear, there are rabid people online who will read what they want into opinions and defend their gear, ways and means to the end. Many are not actually interested in photography as an art form; they are gearheads interested in the latest and greatest technology for technology sake. Just ignore them and they go away.

  2. matt said, on October 8, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    ‘As a final point, I’d just say that I don’t actually see the whole still/video convergence thing as the game-changing proposition the camera manufacturers and photography pundits do.’

    They have to find some way of convincing people to keep upgrading . . .

  3. JH said, on October 8, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for hammering home a truth which may be lost in the marketing speak of those only interested in the latest camera technology.

  4. KM said, on October 8, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Hear, hear! Agreed on all points.

  5. Dennis Allshouse said, on October 8, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Well done! Straight clear and to the point.

  6. Paul said, on October 8, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    As one who has experimented with video, I can, from first hand experience agree with you. Still photography and video are entirely different art forms. I found that to get a crappy, pieced together, highlight video, I had to spend about 1 hour for each 1 minute of ‘highlight’ video. It is grueling.

    Also, I do not see the convergence as advantageous. A still camera is good at stills, a video camera, good at video. Period. What good would 12 minutes of HD video be at a wedding, for example?

    I would imagine that professional videographers would laugh at this convergence, seeing the 5D MK II as merely a toy, or curiosity, not a serious tool for a videographer.

  7. Mike said, on October 8, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    ‘As a final point, I’d just say that I don’t actually see the whole still/video convergence thing as the game-changing proposition the camera manufacturers and photography pundits do.’

    In just the same way that magazines appear to exist to persudae people to spend their money on the equipemnt required to do whatever they may at first appear to be there for. The whole thing is driven by fear and envy.

    I must however admit to liking high resolution…


  8. […] the blogs I read lately, the topic is mentioned by Paul Butzi, Martin Doonan, and of course TOP. It is of course the new Canon 5Dmk2 the most debated camera […]

  9. Con Daily said, on October 9, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Yes. A still photography nut does not a videographer make. Even though the device was charged the afternoon of the school orchestra concerts and forgotten in the months between, other parents (who’d seen me selling my stills at area festivals) would see my tripod and cam and ask me for a copy of what they were certain would be a great video. Ha!

    I am always happy to see that your feed has been updated with something new and interesting to me.

  10. Joe Reifer said, on October 9, 2008 at 10:13 am


  11. Laurent said, on October 9, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I totally agree, Paul. This convergence while on one hand is an interesting idea, seems like adding a philips head screw driver on the end of a hammer. Yes, they’re somewhat related tools, but ergonomics is different, lens requirements different. I mean who wants to spend $3000-$5000+ on a lens for a still camera just to get a long lens video shot? Especially considering you can do the same for about $1000 (from bestbuy, not the best price), to get a tool that’s made for the job (ie, hard drive space for all that info, 120gb of compact flash? you have to be kidding!)


  12. Bryan Willman said, on October 9, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    All of the above and more.

    1. Even LL has to have something new and exciting and different to write about. Even if it’s mp3 players embedded in chainsaws.

    2. There will indeed be a “convergence” but it won’t be from still to video. It will be video cameras (first movie cameras, then hand holdable cameras, then $25 security cameras) with single frame quality good enough to make stills adequate for some purpose. When your Handycam can make 16×20’s comparable to a 1dsmkIII, well that will be something, won’t it?

    The first effect of this will be to disemploy all movie stills photographers, as all posters will be made from the video takes.

    The second effect will be to drive all still editors over the edge, since the frame rates will now be like motordrive volume squared.

    Happily mulit-terabyte disk drives will be given away in cereal boxes by the time this comes to pass…

  13. Mike said, on October 10, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Here they have a name for this — eierlegende Wollmilchsau (egglaying wooly milk pig). This denotes a device which can do everything. I have a feeling it won’t do each action perfectly, but all to a general standard which may be summed up as OK. So none of this will really be of use to professionals. Customers who want it all (and usually for free) are to be avoided or educated.

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