Once upon a time - the fairy tale of Camera and Lens Review
Once upon a time there were the twin brothers Camera and Lens Review. They were both aspiring photographers who aimed for nothing less than the perfect photograph. Clearly, perfection could only be achieved with the perfect equipment! Therefore, Camera and Lens Review set out to analyze, compare and test all existing photography tools. They even developed machines and new algorithms to determine the capabilities and shortcomings of sensors and lenses objectively. Their God numbers summarized a plethora of measurements and sophisticated calculations in a single unbiased value. Finally, every photographer (as well as editors and art critics) could easily predict or determine the quality of photographs by simply looking up the God numbers for the particular camera - lens combination!
Camera and Lens Review became celebrities! Photographers finally realized that their quest for perfect photographs was nipped in the bud by the low performance of their cameras and lenses and kept buying new equipment continuously. Camera manufacturers were even more appreciative of Camera and Lenses' work. Not in their wildest dreams could they have invented a better marketing strategy. They eagerly provided pre-production test items to Lens and Camera Review, who in return published their in-depth, objective analyses. Similarly, Camera and Lenses' friend, Rumor Site, was provided with insider information to create even more hype, pre-reviews and discussions about products that did not even exist yet (there are persistent rumors that Rumor Site was not a photographer at all, but rather a marketing whiz).
Everything seemed perfect. Camera and Lens Review had turned their measuring into veritable businesses and could have analyzed lenses and cameras ever after. However, every once in a while, a nagging thought took hold of their minds. What about the perfect photograph? Now, that they knew everything about photography, they should use this knowledge to actually take those perfect shots. Why not start with the perfect portrait photograph? Very quickly it dawned upon Camera and Lens that the perfect photograph also needs the perfect subject! So they repeated what had worked so successfully for the assessment of all the equipment options: They measured, analysed and reviewed face after face. It was much more complicated than they would have thought. How do you determine the number of pixels in a face? What about dynamic range, the color depth or the low-light ISO (Induced Skin Opacity) properties? The solution was another flash of genius by Camera and Lens: The Deep-Skin Light and Resolution (DSLR) scanner! This breakthrough for portrait photography is a handheld device to scan your models in order to determine the perfect camera-lens combination and to predict image quality! There were unconfirmed, mischievous rumors (Rumor Site was not involved this time) that the DSLR scanner causes permanent skin damage and in rare cases tumors, but neither of these allegations could be confirmed in animal tests. However, as a cautionary measure and to avoid deterioration of their models prior to photographing them, Camera and Lens DSLR scanned their potentially perfect models only after having taken photographs with all lens-camera combinations. Thereby, Lens and Camera could select the perfect shot afterward by just consulting their DSLR scan results and a perfect model was not lost, even in the (unlikely) case of skin damage by the DSLR scanning!
After many years of hard work, feverish testing and dedicated DSLR scanning, Camera and Lens finally produced their first prints. Masterpieces! These must have been the most perfect prints the world has seen, they thought, and were really proud of themselves. To proof the superiority of their prints scientifically and impartially, Camera and Lens Review turned to neuroscientists and computational biologists. They employed functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and computational models as well as electrocorticography (ECoG) to determine the thoughts and emotions of test subjects who were viewing one of the perfect prints or an imperfect control print that was taken with low-grade equipment or non-optimized camera-lens combinations. Surprisingly, the perfect top-notch prints did not evoke more positive thoughts than the ordinary control pictures. In some cases, terms such as dull, mediocre or even unsophisticated crossed the minds of the test subjects admiring one of the perfect prints. Disillusionment set in. Zero correlation between the God numbers, the DSLR scans and the neurologic testing! Could this be possible? All the years of deprivation, dedication and optimization in vain? Camera and Lens Review did not realize that their theoretically perfect equipment was irrelevant in the real world. The "imperfect" nature of a scene (or of a face) miraculously wipes out theoretical differences between equipment. The composition and character of a photograph is much more important for the impression it creates than invisible technical details.
NO, this could not be the true! Camera and Lens Review were sure that they must have made a mistake in one of the formulas or accidentally flipped a tiny switch. They set out to troubleshoot their protocols, re-analyzed their data and scanned, tested, calculated and compared happily ever after.
Red survivors - that last autumn colors were surprised by early snow (Zurich, 2010).