Are we all running around in circles and disappearing up...........?

"Having enjoyed a camera overdose during the last couple of years I've concluded that there is little that distinguishes one mainstream camera brand from another and I would think very few peope have the ability to identify an image produced by one camera or the other. More telling is the skill in capturing the image, and then developing the RAW file to bring out the best possible image, or variations, I would go as far as saying the ability to develop the raw file is equally as important as capturing."

Review of Olympus E-PL5 with jpg, and raw samples from Photography Blog.

Where on earth did Olympus France get this Olympus E-PL5 has no AA filter statement from? Have they simply misunderstood the question? I looked at the raw samples posted on the Photography Blog site and they looked just like OM-D files, and indeed pretty much the same as every other m4/3 camera currently available.

I put Chris's comment at the top of the page since it actually sums up my own feelings very succinctly. In terms of m4/3, this morning after looking at some of the raw samples referred to above  I got out a file I shot with a Panasonic G1 over 4 years ago and had a look at that. Using exactly exactly the same settings as my current m4/3 cameras it did look remarkably similar to what I'm getting now. Previous to this I had a look a look at images I shot 3 years ago with a Nikon D3X and again they look remarkably similar to what I'm getting now with a Nikon D600. 

Sure cameras do move on. Particularly in terms of whats inside them and what they are capable of. High ISO performance moves on too, though I would argue that much of this relates to jpg. processing. You also get a lot more for your money these days and in terms of video capture there are significant improvements. But in terms of what the files look like at their optimum, I see no evidence to suggest that the bulk of cameras are moving forward in terms of still image quality, at least not as far as some would have us believe. 

It is obviously in the interest of review sites, and I cannot claim innocence in this, to exaggerate differences between cameras and the models that replace them, but as time goes by I'm becoming more convinced that things stay the same more than they change. Sure there are oddball cameras that do show a significant difference, such as the Sigma DP2 Merrill and the Leica M9, but these can't really be described as "mainstream" cameras for everyone. Neither is particularly easy to use and both are poor at higher ISO's and will remain very much as "niche" cameras.

I believe Chris is also right when he stresses the importance of getting the taking of the image right and the importance of post processing in determining just how good the image will look. The first thing I do with a new camera is work on my raw conversion to see what are the best settings to achieve optimum quality. It is also vital to get exposure right, to make sure the camera is stable and to use a decent lens, though I have always regarded that as the least important. 

Newer is not always better, at least in terms of IQ, but many would have us believe that there is a steep upward curve in what digital cameras are capable of producing. But it probably isn't. However this does have one great advantage, in that you can pick up "last years model" at ridiculous prices. If you can stand the shame of not possessing the latest and greatest, then most times you are unlikely to compromise your photographic output or your bank balance. 

Picture at the top of the page is taken with a Panasonic GX1.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.
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