Is software now more important than hardware?

 Fuji X-E1 Sigma 12-24mm (Nikon Fit)

  Fuji X-E1 Sigma 12-24mm (Nikon Fit)

  Fuji X-E1 Voigtlander 90mm (M-Mount)

  Fuji X-E1 Voigtlander 90mm (M-Mount)
It used to be simple. A camera, a lens and something to record what they saw, called film. The quality of the lens was important to the final result as was the speed of the film. If you were shooting transparencies, once you pressed the shutter that was it. You either had it or you didn't.
Yesterday I went out with my Fuji X-E1 and Voigtlander 90mm. I also took my Nikon mount Sigma 12-24mm and an adapter, which previously had produced results with the Fuji, that were OK, but nothing special. But that was before Iridient Developer. As you can see from the above 100% blowups, using that software has turned out some wonderfully sharp files.
These were way better than I was expecting. So in effect, using different software to process the raw files gives me a 'new' 'better' lens. The Voigtlander also came up with some very detailed crisp images.

This got me thinking about what is more important these days, the hardware or the software? 

Lens 'correction' is now becoming commonplace. I remember all the fuss a few years ago when Panasonic released the 7-14mm zoom and Shock Horror! used in camera software to remove distortion and CA. There were posts about how terrible this was and the end of photography as we know it. The adjustments were in fact very minor and as nothing compared to the amount of 'correction' that the Nikon lens profile in Photoshop performed on the 28-300mm zoom I used extensively last year. And the 16-50mm zoom I used on the Sony NEX cameras I had was dreadful without software correction but a very useful and good quality lens with it.

Some of us also used to assume that raw files were a 'pure' version of what the camera / lens combination produced but in fact they are actually nothing of the sort. I thought the files from my Leica X Vario were excellent. But processing them through Iridient Developer, which 'bypasses' the corrections that Lightroom or Photoshop apply, I discovered that the lens vignettes at its widest and the images with no NR applied have moire and colour noise. And this is not restricted to new digital lenses. Leica had to introduce lens profiles into the M9 as many wide-angle primes made by themselves, Zeiss and Voigtlander exhibited serious vignetting and a purple / magenta cast in the corners. 

So digital solutions for digital photography and the quality of the lens plus the 'digital film' i.e. the sensor, isn't the whole story anymore. The in camera firmware and the raw processing software is just as important, and as the case of the Fuji X cameras, can make a huge difference to the quality of the finished file. As far as I'm concerned, this doesn't really matter. I have no problem with it if the finished result works. Plus in terms of lenses this software correction gives us smaller, lighter and cheaper lenses, and in terms of the sensor means we can use cameras in low light, without flash or additional lighting. 

If anything these days, the quality of the camera or lens firmware is as important, if not more so than the actual hardware itself. And certainly what the processing software allows us to do (or restricts us from doing) can have a significant impact on the quality of the images we produce. And to my mind its neither 'better' or 'worse', just another way of doing things and certainly something that we will see more and more of in the future.