Misused Terms in Photography

Misused Terms in Photography

The topic of misused terms in photography came to me when someone asked about “the industry standard”.  Industry standard implies a written, documented, industry accepted design, set of protocols and mode of operation.  An example of an industry standard in photograph is ISO.

Shutter speed, although quite simplified, is also an industry standard.  Another industry standard is aperture f-stop settings.  Every camera I can think of operates on these three industry standards:  ISO, f-stop and shutter speed.


Of the misused terms in photography, OEM has to be the most confusing and hence, its misuse.  OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer.   That is where the confusion comes in to play.  An OEM part is NOT the part that comes with your camera.  That is a manufacturer’s part.

What is an OEM part?

It is an identical part as the manufacturer’s part, but made by a company that makes the part for that brand, but sells it under a different label.  Okay, if that doesn’t confuse you, let me give you an example…

Let’s say that Sony makes SD memory cards.  The ones included with their cameras, and labeled Sony are manufacturer’s parts.

With me so far?

Now, let’s say ACME Memory buys their SD cards from Sony.  They are genuine Sony parts, but are labeled ACME Memory.  Thus, the ACME Memory card is an OEM card.

Yeah, confusing, but 32 years in the electronics industry has led me to believe OEM is the most confusing of all terms.

Industry Standard

In addition to what I’ve already said, to say something like, “Pocket Wizards are the industry standard”, says you don’t understand what an “industry standard” is.  Perhaps what you mean to say is, “Pocket Wizards are the most widely used in the industry.”  There’s a huge difference between the two.

I really wish there were some industry standards when it comes to dedicated TTL flash, but there isn’t.  There are manufacturer standards like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, etc.

4/3rds is an excellent example of an industry standard.  It was specifically created as an open standard so consumers can mix and match camera bodies and lenses.

De Facto Standard

While you don’t hear this term used much in photography, a de facto standard is a standard that various manufacturers adopt.  Eventually it becomes so widely adopted it is considered to be a “standard”, while there was really no standard set forth in the beginning.

A de facto standard doesn’t start off being a standard, but does so as more and more manufacturers use it.

In the computer world, the RS-232 interface (which isn’t used much any more because of USB) is an example of a de facto standard.  Most of the standards in the camera world come from published standards, hence, they are NOT de facto.  Probably the most accepted de facto standard would be the use of 1/8″ phono jacks and plugs for audio.

Here are some more industry standards (some by means of de facto)…

  • USB
  • SD cards (in all their varieties)
  • CF cards (in all their varieties)
  • camera strap widths (where they attach to the camera)
  • Filter sizes and thread count
  • 1/4 x 20 use for tripods