What if auto mode actually worked amazingly well on larger sensor cameras?

Started Apr 8, 2015 | Discussions thread
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mmartel Contributing Member • Posts: 616
What if auto mode actually worked amazingly well on larger sensor cameras?

I'm a dad/enthusiast/amateur with about 15 years of experience shooting digital - about 10 with P+S and the last 6 with a mix of Nikon DX and enthusiast compact.

I've recently realized that as much as I love capturing great images, I'm starting to feel the joy of nailing good photos (shooting in full manual mode with RAW) and digital darkroom editing fading fast. Getting the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO just right is beginning to feel more like a chore and -- worse -- a real distraction from connecting with the scene and/or my subjects (usually my family). It's feeling more and more like the camera is getting between me and the moments I wish to enjoy.

More recently, I've taken to shooting in shutter priority with auto ISO for 90% of my shooting since I most commonly shoot moving subjects; switching over to manual for group shots or static scenes where I need to balance depth of field and ISO, while trying to keep shutter speeds at the lowest possible level necessary to avoid hand shake or subject motion blur. I suppose I could probably use Program mode and basically tweak from there. But I still have to think about shutter speed/aperture, tweak, and possibly set adjust exposure compensation based on the particular scene and metering result. And of course, I have to ensure the camera is focusing on the right subject with the composition I've selected.

I guess I'm getting to the point where I'd really, really like to use Auto mode for 90% of my photos. But I just can't. It's just not dependable enough.

On every camera I've owned and used, I've found Auto *never* gets shutter speed where I'd like it - high enough to avoid motion blur. Instead, it prefers to keep ISO down instead in an attempt to avoid image noise or noise reduction. The result is useless photos with blurred subjects - indoors always, but even in sunset or cloudy weather outdoors. The solution - setting min shutter speed, right? Yeah, except sometimes, depending on ambient light and subject motion, the right min shutter speed is 1/60s, sometimes it's 1/80s, sometimes 1/125s, sometimes it's 1/400s or 1/500s or even 1/800s. Basically, it's more convenient to just shoot in shutter priority (or Program priority mode) than to tweak this setting.

And of course, if I want to get the noise reduction/sharpness dialed in just right (and I do - in most cameras, luma noise reduction is excessive for my taste), and the white balance and colors set just right (again, I find most in-camera settings not quite to my liking; or they only give me the results I'd like within a narrow range of shooting/lighting situations), so I'm still spending more time in Lightroom than I'd like.

So here are some questions/ideas:

- Can any other photographers out there relate to this desire for a more powerful Auto mode, especially w/r/t handling subject motion blur? I know this is an enthusiast site with lots of people who want maximum control over their camera, and don't like the idea of the camera making any decisions for them; some may eve resent others for being "too lazy" to do the same. Good for you and that's fine. But I'm getting to stage where having good Auto becoming more and more of an important priority for me to stay engaged with photography. I personally plan to base future buying decisions on this criteria; as well as recommendations I share with others.

- Is technology holding us back from getting a more intelligent Auto mode? I'm aware that that constantly looking for subjects in the scene, focusing, metering the WB and exposure can be significant power drain / heat generator, especially if you want this done continuously with low latency/shutter lag impact there's going to be hit to battery life. But I'd love for camera makers to provide this kind of option. I know if I shoot video, I'll get less battery life. I'm OK getting half or a third the battery life with a more powerful Auto option. I suppose come cameras offer a "Sports mode" which is supposed to do this, but at least on my cameras, they still don't manage to get shutter speed right in anything but very good lighting conditions; they can still be slow to focus; and they don't always tend to shoot wide open aperture settings for some reason; and often they lock you into basic JPEG only mode with contrast settings that are way too high, resulting in detail loss and excessive/aggressive noise reduction.

- Are there *any* camera makers out there who are doing Auto mode particularly well today? In my own experience, my Panasonic LX7 is the best but still not anywhere near good enough; my experience with Nikon D5100 and Nikon J3 ... bad, very very bad. Is Oly or Sony doing a better job with Auto mode?

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