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Image quality is at the very bottom of the list of considerations when it comes to choosing a modern camera.

You might think that’s a bold statement to make, but it’s true. However, I have good reason to say so.

Do you remember the last time you bought or used a camera that you thought had poor image quality? I don’t mean a subjective opinion, like if you thought the picture was a bit too cool, or if you personally prefer the reds on a Panasonic better. I am referring to unacceptable image quality, such as high noise levels, moire that renders the image unusable, color banding, or just extremely poor definition overall. I bet in the last 10 years you probably haven’t come across one. Or, if so, it will almost certainly be an outlier.

Camera image comparisons really don’t tell us anything useful, and if you don’t think you can do anything decent with a modern camera, you most likely are. in the wrong job or hobby. Even a GoPro can produce great images these days. And for those who will proclaim that “no, it can’t” due to its 8-bit nature, then, frankly, your eyes need to be tested.

Where things diversify with modern cameras is when existing technology is pushed. Once we start looking at high frame rates, that’s when picture differences will typically be seen. We’re starting to see a lot more cameras capable of producing 120fps in 4K now, but not all of them do so at full resolution. Some cameras still use methods like line skipping to get the result, and yes, that can lead to stair steps. However, for a good number of devices, the result is still excellent and the processing so good that you would probably never know it unless you looked at pixel.

Even then, things can be circumvented. I know, for example, that if I’m shooting 180fps slow-motion footage with my Panasonic S1, I can eliminate just about any problematic resolution issues with Topaz Video Enhance AI. The result, perfectly usable, and good 4K 180fps images.

Dynamic range is generally not worth discussing unless it is perfectly obvious that there has been a real progression. Most cameras today, even the smallest action camera, will record more dynamic range than a high-end Digibeta from the mid-2000s. Most modern cameras can easily record between 13 and 15 stops of usable dynamic range.

Even the cheapest modern cameras will record a better image than the best cameras from the mid-2000s.

So if we’re not going to talk about image quality, what can we discuss? Well, we can talk about lens options, because that’s likely going to be a much bigger deciding factor today than the image quality of the camera itself. We can talk about the battery life, because in everyday work this will also be important. We can talk about the weight of the camera and how comfortable it is to use. Is the control interface intuitive and easy to use? Is the camera’s feature set comprehensive enough to give it a good lifespan to earn its money? These are all things that are far more important than image quality.

A useless question

Asking me if a certain modern camera has a good quality image is like asking me if a Ferrari can go fast. The answer will be yes, but that will not have helped you in your purchase decision. And it won’t help you if you need a vehicle to cross the fields.

There may be way too much talk about cameras in general anyway, due to the rise of the YouTube influencer. A camera will not make the video for you. For me, real image quality is about the position of the light, the quality of that light, how to create depth and interest with composition, and how your photos will work in the montage.

I’ve discussed this last point a few times before as online video sites are full of montages of shots to music and camera reviews, but hardly anyone makes useful stories or documentaries . Why? Because these things are difficult, require a lot of dedication and the ability to build an effective team, as well as produce an effective edit. Instead, we get endless videos on the cameras because, well, it’s easy.

Real filmmakers and documentarians put the subject at the heart of production, and whether it’s shot on a Fisher Price camera or an ALEXA, audiences won’t care unless the picture is so bad it’s unassailable . The question anyone making a video should be asking is, “why should anyone really care?” If you can answer that, then there might be a point to what you’re doing. But please, not another camera image comparison video…