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Monday, 25 May 2009


I just miss having an actual shutter dial and aperture ring, ala my K1000, MX, FM or F3. The only company that had the courage to go traditional with controls on digital was the Panasonic DMC-L1 (which failed to take the market by storm for lots of reasons), so it's unlikely any company will have the courage to try it again. The only thing that stopped me from getting one was the price, I liked the one I looked at quite a bit otherwise it handled great, and I didn't have any other digital gear at the time it was released.

Why are there still comments after the OM-1(n), OM-2(n) and 35SP were mentioned? :D

The other Oly option is the Ace ... an interchangeable lens RF (only four lenses, in shutter, produced) ... I've seen results from the Zuiko glass, and it's beautiful. Now if Olympus would put them back in production. Hey, if Nikon can do anniversary runs of the S-mount gear ... I'm just sayin.

I don't want simple - I want reliable and easy to use.

If there are extra features I'm not using, that's okay - either I'll figure them out later (and come to appreciate them) or I'll have no interest in them and they won't get in my way - IF the camera is well-designed.

It's not the mere existence of extra features that is the problem - the problem is a user interface that is awkward to use and non-intuitive. It's hard to design something that's intuitive and user friendly, and it really doesn't matter whether you're designing around one feature or ten.

A welter of features can make a camera (or any other tool) difficult to use - but a single-feature tool that's badly designed can be just as frustrating, as anyone who's used a cheap screwdriver or hammer can attest. Or how about those doors that require a "pull/push" sign to guide users in the proper approach to opening them? Simple - but badly designed.

Digital "photography" is essentially a hobby for the rich people of the world.

See, now, I would argue that the exact opposite is the case. Right now, with my five-year-old *istDS, my yearly photography costs are limited to the electricity needed to recharge my batteries and to store the images on my hard drive and DVDs - which works out to less than pennies an image. (Less than 10ths of a penny, actually.) Film, on the other hand... when I add up the cost of the film itself, and of the processing (I don't have a darkroom, and even then there would be the cost of the equipment and the chemicals) and of arranging to store the physical results, there is no contest. It's nearly 500% more expensive.

Back when I was a starving grad student, I was lucky to process 10-15 rolls a year, and I went with slides because they were so much cheaper and took up much less space. Each image was carefully doled out and each was carefully saved - even the crap. Now, I have the ability to actually take the time to practice my craft, because the costs of failure or misguided experiment are so much less. Sometimes it's just useful to take multiple shots of something, to see the effects of different apertures or speeds or ISOs, and that was simply not an option for me in my film days.

Of course, it helps that I'm not a gear head. I have two lenses, one 55-200 zoom and one 18-55 zoom, and that's all I need. My total set up was about $1000, which seems like a lot, but those lenses are ones that I will be able to reuse, and so far I've put five years worth of use into the set up (so that works out to about $200 a year, or less than $0.60 a day). I'm contemplating an upgrade to a new camera, but it's not because I need to, but rather because I'd like to have a more weather-sealed, stabilized body. This one seems to have at least another five years in it, which would make its cost about $.30 a day over its lifetime.

How is that more expensive than film? I've paid my cost, and it will not go up, no matter how many images I take. With film, the initial outlay may be less expensive, but the cost rises over time the more images you take. If I take a picture a day with a film camera, I've beat that $.30 right there; if I take two, the film camera is more than twice as expensive as the digital over its lifetime.

Your equation only works if you assume people are treating their digital cameras like cell phones, and replacing them every two years.

My Shen Hao is a simple camera, with no sensor unless you install your own (once per photo).

Mind you, the things I can do with its movements are completely crazy.

Rather than looking at it from the "product" or "marketing" angles, let's look at it from the photographic perspective. If you don't have some kind of sensor and some kind of lens at opposite ends of a light-tight box and a way of stopping & starting an exposure, you don't have a camera. From there on it gets optional and dependent on intended use.

You certainly don't need hot-pixel-fixing *in-camera* for astrophotography; do it in PS or with a custom app of choice afterwards. You don't really need multi-point focus for the stated application; either zone- or hyperfocus at an aperture that suits your shutter-speed and be done. Now I know those were tongue-in-cheek examples, but what they do show is the triumph of marketing pressure and convenience over a little knowledge at the expense of control.

You might recall that the Sigma SD9 had very few controls - ISO,PSAM,compensation and that was about it. In many ways that's simple, although the cogitations as to how many megapixels it "really" had were anything but...

There's a class of camera that AF and then digital have removed from the marketplace, that seems to be what everybody is remembering so fondly: The basic manual body in a full-line photo system. The Nikkormat and later Nikon FM, the Olympus OM-1, the Pentax MX. Those cameras took just as good pictures as a Nikon F or OM-4 or Pentax LX, just as fast focus, just as low image noise, just as much resolution, etc., but were much cheaper and considerably smaller and lighter. They were frequently used by pros as second (or fourth) bodies, and by amateurs as good serious bodies that we could afford.

AF began the rapid development and high importance of the body. For any kind of action photography, AF was highly valuable, and given how far it has developed today it's essentially indispensable (you can get great pictures without it, but you can't get commercially competitive pictures in commercially competitive quantities without it, in any sort of "action" photography). The N90 no longer produced "just as good" pictures as the F4, in that (very big) area of photography. ("Action" was where 35mm was used; serious landscape work was nearly all done in larger formats, for example, always excepting Galen Rowell).

Digital has completed the (market) triumph of the camera body. A D90 does not come anywhere near taking as good pictures as a D3 or D3x under all conditions. (Okay, resolution beyond what one needs is wasted, so the D3x is not really important unless you need to crop drastically or print very large. Amateurs don't print very large all that often, mostly because we run out of room in our own house so quickly and our prints rarely go anywhere else. But we still feel the loss, at the moment. Maybe we'll get over it.)

I don't see any new cameras like the OM-1 or the FM any time soon -- not cameras that take as good pictures as the flagships in nearly all circumstances, but are much smaller and lighter and cheaper. The technological balance has changed, and that just can't happen now. I don't expect it in the near future, either.

Clearly lots of us want dedicated buttons for the things we want. We also seem to want them to stay put (I can understand that), and some of us require that they be explicitly labeled (that seems to be redundant with them staying put, or of interest briefly on a new camera).

Nobody has been quite explicit about this, but one thing I want is to promote ISO to a first-class exposure control. While my FM had a dedicated dial for setting the ASA, it wasn't usable (or intended to be used) with the camera up to the eye, and in fact required both hands I think since there was an anti-bump interlock involved (Lift and turn, right? It's been a while.)). What I want now is for it to be as easy for me to bump the ISO a stop as it is to decrease the shutter speed a stop or open up the aperture a stop. Auto-ISO is a start on the automatic side, but the manual exposure side still has ISO behind a shift button or buried in a menu or something, not up at the top with the other two primary exposure controls.

The other button I desperately want is "switch to manual exposure with the settings as used for the last picture taken". I find I frequently have to go into chimp mode and then change the display mode to find the exposure of the last picture shot, which really slows things down. In fact it's faster to go to manual and re-meter than it is to actually find out what the last exposure was.

Other things that are key controls used by some photographers in the heat of shooting with the camera up to the eye: depth of field preview, flash exposure lock (FV lock on Nikons), AF sensor selection, AF, focus lock, exposure lock, exposure compensation, aperture and shutter speed of course. No doubt I've missed some.

In order to squelch the critics, you'd have to take everything off, including the LCD. All that would remain would be a control for ISO, shutter speed and aperture setting plus a display for how many shots remain and some kind of battery life indicator. I suppose you'd need a light meter too. The camera would have to shoot raw only. I still think a monochrome non-bayer camera with this configuration would be awesome. If it hit in the $400 - $700 price range, I'd be all over it. You could make it a rangefinder and compatible with leica lenses. Ah man... now we're talking.

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