I’m not entirely sure it’s possible to stress enough that for you to create your best work, consistently and at will, you’ve got to be able to manipulate the tools you have with fluency, so that in the time of need, the execution becomes an exercise of the subconscious. In order to do that, you’ve got to have an appreciable understanding of how they work. This isn’t something exclusively related to photography, but I reckon, with about everything.
As a small example, most people understand the function of an aeroplane’s wing is largely to create lift, but really only ‘get’ lift or how an airfoil works when they’ve seen even a rudimentary diagram showing a wing’s profile, and how it creates an area of lower pressure above to generate that lift.
Anyway, if I asked any number of you to explain what a shutter mechanism does and how it operates, I’m sure few would struggle. Not long ago, we featured a video that examined the shutter mechanism of a modern DSLR in extreme slow motion. The response proved that seeing something in action does a world for deeper understanding, as it gave people a greater grip of what’s going on with each ‘click’. In extension, it led to greater understanding of how something like high-speed sync works.
Similarly, today there’s a video by Micro 4/3rds Photography showing how the optical stabilization works in the Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II. In fact, we get to see it working. Like the Sony A7II, it has a five-way axis control that serves to greatly reduce camera shake and thus overall image quality. This is particularly handy for shooting in low light and with larger lenses, and for longer focal lengths, and generally better than OIS systems built into lenses. The benefit to be had from these new OIS systems can be akin to numerous stops in light, and lighter and perhaps less expensive lenses.
While the video of the system in operation was captured by one of the strangest rigs I’ve ever seen, reminiscent of some Amazonian insect mating. The video won’t win any Academy Awards, but it does the job and is worth a watch. It’s incredible to see just how much movement is going on behind the lens. I often wonder if this kind of system makes the cameras that have them more fragile, and if any of you have experience with that, please do share.