A simple question about ‘muscle memory’


Urbanmeister

Link Posted 26/06/2021 - 00:13
Just wondering, how many of you use different cameras, e.g. Fuji, Leica, Canon, Nikon etc., as well as your Pentax?

Some context. As a former professional helicopter pilot, (North Sea), I was trained on a specific aircraft type. Technical training, dealing with emergencies, trained (simulator / line training), until things became almost automatic. You could react quickly since aviation emergencies invariably require responses within seconds - or less. That is, the training process developed what’s known as ‘muscle memory’. If you changed type, you would train on that specific type and stop flying the previous aircraft type. You would thus develop new muscle memory. If you reverted to the previous aircraft type due to, for example, promotion, you’d go through refresher training until the previous muscle memory returned.

The reason I’m asking is I’m interested how you deal with the different camera operating systems.

For example , an opportunity occurs to take the picture you know will leave the likes of Don McCullin speechless with admiration. You pull out the camera and take the shot.

Or not.

Suddenly you’ve realised the camera needs to be set this way, or that, and by the time you’ve set everything up, the opportunity has gone. Don McCullin can breathe a sigh of relief for another day. You weren’t quick enough. You weren’t ‘up to speed’ on the camera’s operating system / buttons. In other words, little or no muscle memory.

One of the members of this site - someone whose photographs I consider to be outstanding and whose technical expertise and knowledge I admire - made the comment in a PM some time ago about moving to another system but keeping his Pentax. However, he’d be using this other system more. One of the reasons he cited, and it was this that started me mulling things over, was that he found himself having to think about menus and so on. He didn’t appear to me to have the ‘muscle memory’ as it were to react almost subconsciously to opportunities.

Recently, I began to find I was no longer enjoying using my Leica Q (typ 116) or Fuji X100F, lovely cameras though they both are, simply because I needed to think differently for each camera. I went back to my pilot training / learning and decided to sell them both. I am now concentrating on developing muscle memory on the Pentax. Now, this is just me and I’m happy with my decision. In no way whatsoever am I criticising either manufacturers nor those who use cameras other than Pentax.

I’m just wondering what other views there are out there. If you have different cameras, how do you work between them? Is it just, practice, practice, practice? Or is it something different?

I’d be interested to hear.
Be well, stay well.
Last Edited by Urbanmeister on 26/06/2021 - 00:17

Flan

Link Posted 26/06/2021 - 01:25
There’s a lot to be said for having the camera on manual mode. After that , it’s a simple triangle which you can alter through the viewfinder with the appropriate dials. I find manual control far quicker to respond to with certain situations that require a fast response. I’d even go as far as using manual focus for even quicker responses to spontaneous photographing of subjects that only last a few seconds of formation. One might miss focus of the shot but you will be closer to the zone than autofocus doing a dance and totally making a folly of ones effort. These would be my default settings in general walk about photography .
Last Edited by Flan on 26/06/2021 - 01:29

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Lubbyman

Link Posted 26/06/2021 - 09:32
Interesting question. And it isn't just Pentax vs other brands. Muscle memory is a factor whenever I'm using the K20D rather than the usual K3. The issue isn't so much the operating system as the position of buttons, particularly AF (I use back-button AF). Even using the K3, if I don't use certain functions for a while (e.g. tracking) I'll probably get something wrong unless I've run through it a few times in advance to refresh the memory. However, swapping between K3 and Q isn't a problem, perhaps because they are so different in size and usage (no viewfinder on Q) that different muscle memory kicks in automatically.

When putting a camera away, I try to remember to set it to f8, Av, ISO400, WB sunny, single shot, AF centre spot etc. so it's always the same starting point when I pick it up again. Of course, the crucial shots always seem to be when I pick it up and shoot then realise that it wasn't set to its standard settings after last use....

Steve

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1stEverPentax

Link Posted 26/06/2021 - 09:56
Interesting question...although i'm not really much help as i've only ever used Pentax Digital.

I do like the Pentax menu system overall and find it quite intuitive even between different models although i'm still adjusting to the K-5IIs from the K-50 which I found really easy to use after owning for 5 years.

A lot depends on the variety of shooting one does as well...my main interests are aviation (split into jets / props and rotors as need a different approach for each subtype), flowers, insects. I prefer using manual more often than auto modes and usually set to TAV more often as i can control 2/3 variables and have confidence in floating the ISO given Pentax's good NR performance.

If i'm out walking by the river taking pictures of flowers with the Samyang 135 or Pentax 100 macro and a helicopter or light aircraft flies over I can instinctively switch into 'props and rotors' mode within 4-5 seconds
to make the best of the opportunity with possibly a less than ideal lens for that of type of shot. Outside my linked 'comfort zones' though I would be a lot slower and probably fluff the shot because I would be thinking about the best settings to use...experimentation to some extent due to lack of practice, reducing the chances of a 'good' shot.

Age comes into it as well...my son has switched through Pentax, Canon, back to Pentax, Sony and now Olympus. He seems to spend just a few hours setting up each new camera to his liking then goes out and generally takes some very good images from then on in using many more in camera functions than i tend to use...but then again i'm still using a 2G phone and see no reason to change to a 'smartphone' !

Aviation analogy you use is a good one...but how about this...my son and I were at Sleap airfield during the week on way back from a couple of hours at RAF Shawbury having undertaken our annual visit to take helicopter shots. This light aircraft parked up and two guys got out...one of whom was a 30 something QFI
who was teaching the other guy IMC flying...they'd done Blackpool-Sleap-Wellesbourne (near Stratford-on Avon)-Sleap and were on way back to Blackpool after a quick brew in cafe. The instructor had 'just under 12,000' hours flying...complaining as he'd only done 400 hours so far this year! He was constantly changing aircraft some club owned, some privately owned and loved his vintage flying as well...not just modern...his brain must have been constantly having to switch to different checklists, performance parameters etc every time he climbed into a different aircraft...sometimes several times a day. I found it a struggle keeping up with just one!

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Lubbyman

Link Posted 26/06/2021 - 11:05
1stEverPentax wrote:
...his brain must have been constantly having to switch to different checklists, performance parameters etc every time he climbed into a different aircraft...sometimes several times a day.

Those QFI types have different types of brain. A friend of mine is a retired military pilot, qualified as a test pilot, mainly helicopters but also fixed wing including fast jet. He absorbs information very quickly, remembers it accurately then uses it within generic principles and doesn't ask why. I, however, try to work things out from first principles, consider other options and ask "why?". But then I was a scientist/engineer most of my life, he was a military pilot. Presumably there are different approaches to using cameras, too, depending on how your particular brain works.

Steve

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RobL

Link Posted 26/06/2021 - 12:48
I have a small Leica which gets used occasionally and the most frustrating thing is anonymous programmable buttons which I forget what they do, it’s the one thing that puts me off splashing out on a more expensive model. Even pressing them doesn’t always give a clue, just something happens which I don’t know about until later. For a brand supposedly designed for “proper” photographers it can be a victim of style over substance but the point I suppose is that if I used it exclusively then it would be ok. I love that on the Pentax you can see what everything does and move seamlessly from one model to another.
Last Edited by RobL on 26/06/2021 - 12:49

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JonSchick

Link Posted 26/06/2021 - 16:03
RobL wrote:
I have a small Leica which gets used occasionally and the most frustrating thing is anonymous programmable buttons which I forget what they do, it’s the one thing that puts me off splashing out on a more expensive model. Even pressing them doesn’t always give a clue, just something happens which I don’t know about until later. For a brand supposedly designed for “proper” photographers it can be a victim of style over substance but the point I suppose is that if I used it exclusively then it would be ok. I love that on the Pentax you can see what everything does and move seamlessly from one model to another.

Unless you go for Leica M. The ultimate in simplicity and a camera that gets out of the way while you concentrate on the photography. Great if the 21-75 ish mm range works for you and you can afford the red dot tax….
Jon

Some occasional random stuff at The Photographers Block: link

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HarisF1

Link Posted 26/06/2021 - 16:27
Pentax muscle memory made using the Ricoh GXR a colossal pain in the butt. I fear picking it up in case I find myself lost in the maze of buttons and options it has.

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Pwynnej

Link Posted 27/06/2021 - 22:31
I use Nikon and Pentax. Menu wise both are very similar - thumb and finger wheel operation are opposite, so I have to remember which finger or thumb operates the aperture or shutter speed dials.

Don't start me on OH's Canon - it's like starting a new language.
Z-1p, K-1, P50
F50 1.7. FAs 24, 35, 50 1.4, 85, 135. DFA15-30, DFA24-70, D-FA*70-200. D-FA 100. The SMC-FA Limited Trinity.
Metz 45 CL-4, AF500FTZ. AF540FGZ.
Some Mamiya and some Nikon

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johnriley

Link Posted 27/06/2021 - 23:00
Call it what we like, it boils down to practice, practice, practice, which is I suppose the same as "muscle memory". I use a lot of different cameras for lens reviewing and the first job is to set up the camera and make sure everything I want switched off is switched off. Then it's a matter of setting up and double checking as we go and being careful, but it does get easier. Needless to say there are some cameras I find more intuitive than others, but it's not as time sensitive as flying an aircraft, so that lessens the difficulties!
Best regards, John

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davidwozhere

Link Posted 28/06/2021 - 00:57
It makes me very cross every time I try to play back an image on the K1 when there is a loud 'clack' noise as I turn on Live View! Left thumb to top left = playback images on the K5 and the K3 - then they switched it on the K1 ! Live view itself is in a different position on all three so you can't win.
Both the *istDS and the K5 are incurably addicted to old glass

My page on Photocrowd - link

Urbanmeister

Link Posted 14/07/2021 - 19:14
Insightful all, thank you. I thought johnriley's point was well made, practice practice, practice.

I also liked 1stEverPentax's comment. That resonated. QFI's are definitely a 'different breed'. I remember one of my instructors at Middle Wallop, he was called the 'Mad Pole'. He would sit behind you in the Chipmunk and smack you on the back of your flying helmet with the flat of his hand and say, 'you call that a (expletive deleted' landing. I call it a controlled (expletive deleted) crash.' So sweet. They were gods to us.

I admire the folk who have multiple types on their licence be it ATPL or CPL. I also admire those photographers, many of them on this site, who can do the same. However, the photographers might find it challenging to do the ETPS course!

Lubbyman - absolutely. One thing I think we all had in common was that we were always analysing when things weren't going the way we expected, i.e. an emergency. Never panicking - maybe an ego thing? Immediate action, IA - checklist. I had a couple on the North Sea. Double engine failure in a rotary aircraft? Even now, (mumbles) years later - drop the collective lever, plan for autorotation...
Be well, stay well.
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