8 camera features they make you think you need, but you really don’t

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What is an essential camera feature and what is just a camera gimmick? Everyone will hold a different opinion, but here’s our list of some unnecessary features  which you can probably do without.

8 camera features they make you think you need, but you really don't

Digital cameras are designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, and that means they come loaded with features that may not be relevant to the type of photography you’re interested in.

That said, even image stabilization, Live View and autofocus were undoubtedly seen by some as unnecessary camera features when they made their debut – could you imagine the world of photography without them today?

SEE MORE: 24 camera features every beginner photographer must memorize

However, here we’re more concerned with features that camera brochures make you think you need, but which you can probably do without.

Unnecessary camera features: 1. HDR mode

A controversial choice up front! HDR modes are increasingly common on digital cameras, and they can certainly dig you out of a dynamic range problem.

When you’re unable to record detail in both the dark and light areas of a picture using a single exposure, High Dynamic Range mode can be used to automatically take two or three at different brightness levels, then blend the best of each to create a final JPEG.

The trouble is that currently most of the in-camera HDR modes are only compatible with JPEG shooting, and even then they only save the finished image.

The HDR mode in the Canon EOS 5D Mark III does let you save the original source photos too – and the RAW files at that – so you can use HDR software to blend the exposures if you don’t like the image the camera has coughed up.

SEE MORE: HDR photography – set up, shoot and process your first high dynamic range image

Unnecessary camera features: 2. Full Auto mode on advanced camera bodies

Tips from our professional photographer: turn off auto mode

We get it. Full Auto makes it easy for beginners to move up the digital camera food chain, providing a stepping stone into more complex DSLRs.

But using a £1000+ DSLR in point-and-shoot mode? Fair enough if you use cameras as jewellery, but we’d imagine most people – you know, photographers rather than camera users – don’t.

SEE MORE: What camera should I buy? Pros and cons of each camera type

Program mode is always there if you need to grab a shot, so let’s see Full Auto’s place on the mode dial given to another function. And on the subject of automatic modes you probably don’t need…


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Unnecessary camera features: 3. Birthday Cake / Swimming Pool / Cooked Meats etc scene modes

Like them or loathe them, digital cameras have too many scene-specific shooting modes.

It’s understandable why: a camera specs sheet dripping with big numbers is more likely to attract new camera buyers.

But surely we’ve hit scene mode saturation point?

Page after page of crazily specific options are more likely to bewilder the beginner photographer than make life easier for them.

SEE MORE: Beginner photography tips – the most common mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Unnecessary camera features: 4. Smile / Blink / Burp Detection modes

Face Detection works. It’s quick to use and the ability to lock onto multiple faces at once makes it a decent option for grab shots at parties and family events.

The problem is that although a face may be in focus, the eyes may not be sharp. If getting a snap is more important than getting the most important bit sharp, then there’s no problem.

Smile Detection, on the other hand, isn’t quite as reliable. When it works – bingo. Self-portraits made easy.

But Smile Detection usually requires more than a smirk to trigger the shutter – think clear teeth and squinting eyes.

Blink Detection? Just check the picture on the camera’s LCD to see if anyone blinked.

Oh, and obviously Burp detection doesn’t exist yet. It’s only a matter of time though, you know it…


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  • Hans Heisenberg

    Great and funny article! Totally true!

  • Cary Macleod

    Appreciate the article but high optical zoom is a reality. I have a DSLR where I can’t go this high but my Nikon Coolpix is 60X optical or 1440mm. It gives a very sharp picture. The first picture is the wide angle 24mm of a tree with a Robin on Top , The second is the Close up 1440mm of the Robin, He was kind enough to stay up there and give me lots of shots. So High Optical Zooms are working

  • Phillip Burdine

    Thanks for reminding me of the totally useless and unused features I bought with my camera.

  • mikesey

    Oddly, the most uncalled for “accessories” on some new cameras has not been mentioned. I refer to WiFi & GPS.
    Pure gimmicks designed to appeal to mobile phone users.

  • mikesey

    I recently bought a Sony HX 300 with 50x zoom.
    Can’t fault it, and I actually prefer it to my Nikon DSLR!