Although there are situations where extreme DR is important (like scenes of unusually high Subject Brightness Range or forgetting to set the ISO speed appropriately when photographing moths at dusk), I would say that the vast majority of photography involves not much more that the traditional "normal" SBR of about three stops either side of mid-tones.
You're probably right in that respect, BJL. The vast majority of photography is now done with an iPhone or iPad, followed by the so-called P&S camera which in turn is followed by the cropped-format DSLR. The full-frame DSLR seems to be a relative rarity.
Unfortunately perhaps, I'm not one who bases his standards on the practice of the majority. The nature of much my photographic activity is to strive to capture as much detail as possible in the scenes I'm photographing, so that I have a wider creative scope when later processing the image back home on my calibrated system.
Each to his own. Most people seem to be most interested in photographing their friends and loved ones standing in front of any object or scene that's worth photographing in its own right, hence the development of automatic face detection in autofocussing.
I'm more interested in taking notes of a scene that interests me, and a high resolution, high DR, high SNR camera is the best note-taker that I know.
As an example, I recently attended a Thai boxing performancen (I'm currently travelling in Thailand), even though I'm not much interested in the activity of two men attempting to inflict brain damage upon each other.
I did my best to get some interesting shots of a gloved fist smashing into a face, using my D800E with attached flash unit, but it was very much a case of 'hit and miss'.
When I later reviewed my shots after downloading to my Dell Notebook, I noticed that quite often the activity of the boxers was less interesting than the expressions on the faces of the audience on the other side of the ring. I saw expressions of joy, elation, disgust and total boredom, right next to each other, as seen through the V shape of a boxer's legs.
However, and it's a big 'however', such faces were partially beyond the reach of the flash. They were significantly underexposed. But never mind, or 'Mai Bpen Rai' as they say in Thailand. I have a D800E. I can make something of those crops through the boxer's legs because my camera captures detail in the shadows. If I were still using my much revered Canon 5D, I'd be stuffed; deleted image.
Another source of confusion I'd like to address is the notion that 'engineering DR specifications' are not relevant to practical photography, and that the 14EV DR claims of certain Nikon camera, from DXO measurements are no more than engineering specifications.
It's surely not difficult to appreciate that any camera, whatever its DR specification, will not produce 'nice' images within the region of the limits of its dynamic range.
All cameras, whether iPhone, P&S, or DSLR will produce crap photos at the engineering limits of their dynamic range.
The D800, 14 stops down from an ETTR exposure at base ISO, produces crap images, far worse than my underexposed shot of the world's largest moth, I have no doubt.
The issue is this, if I can use an analogy with my only other functioning full-frame camera, the Canon 5D. The 5D has a claimed 11 stop DR by DXO. The D800E has more than 14 stops, at print. Let's call it a 3 stop difference.
Surely it's understood that both the D800 in its 14th stop, and the 5D in its 11th stop produce unacceptable image quality. There's not much point in complaining or arguing that the 14th stop, in the case of the D800, and the 11th stop in the case of the 5D, is of little photographic quality. We all should know that.
The point is, if the scene has an 11 stop dynamic range, how do the cameras compare?
In the 11th stop, the 5D image is crap because that's its engineering limit. However, in the 11th stop the the D800 image is very presentable because that's 3 stops down from its enineering limit. Got it?