From his first impression of the Sony A550.
"The move during the past 10 years or so has been from cameras being precision mechanical devices to molded polycarbonate containers for electronic components. This has meant a lowering of overall physical quality. What one gets in terms of features, functions and image quality is higher than ever before, but the satisfaction of owning and using a high quality mechanical and optical device has for the most part evaporated. Only the top models within any brand produce a tactile satisfaction and please one's esthetic sense."
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by michael: "That is so true. I recently looked at a Canon consumer DSLR. The specs on the thing were incredible and no doubt it would have captured some excellent images for me. I just couldn't pay close to $1000 for a plasticky camera. This is not so single out Canon. My experience shows that most consumer cameras are no better. Now I pull my old Rolliflex TLR off the shelf. I don't shoot film anymore but the camera is a beautiful thing."
Featured Comment by Dean Forbes: "That's what you get for wanting it cheap and updated every 18 months."
Featured Comment by psu: "I dunno. When I handle my FM3a, the first thing that happens is that I get pissed off that it can't load and rewind the damn film by itself. Then I am annoyed that it's so hard to set the exposure compensation and/or shutter speed with those hateful tiny dials on top. The only time I'm happy with the camera is looking through it and hitting the button. Which, I grant, makes the machine make a nice noise that digital cameras cannot match. But, I'll take modern ergonomics over retro-nostaligia-driven tactile esthetics any day."
Featured Comment by Paul De Zan: "I enjoy old cameras and have far too many of them. But modern designs work better, much better. When it comes to day in, day out shooting, I'll take the image quality and the value for money over highly subjective 'haptics' every time. I like cameras, but I love pictures."
Featured Comment by Player: "I don't think Michael's quote is a universal truth. I derive as much pleasure handling my Nikon D80, D200, and D700 as much as my FM3a and F2. To me, mechanical and digital cameras each have their own appeal, but I accept that I'm pretty much for sure in the minority."
Featured Comment by Doug Newman: "Ten years or so? I'd say 25 is more like it. I'd even say things have actually been getting better for a decade or more. The absolute nadir would have been the late 1980s and early 1990s.
"Compare a Nikon N8008/F-801 with a D700 or D300s and I seriously doubt the older camera will come out on top in terms of mechanical quality. (Heck, the N8008 actually was plastic, unlike today's semi-pro Nikons.) Same with an N6006/F-601 compared to a D90, or an N4004/F-401 compared to a D3000.
"And pretty much every non-1-series Canon made from the advent of the EOS system to about 1998 (when the EOS 3 was released) was much worse in build quality than any current mid-range DSLR, Canon or otherwise. (Canon's Rebels are still pretty cringe-worthy, though.)
"Cameras became 'molded polycarbonate containers for electronic components' in the mid-1980s when, within the space of a few years, most 35mm SLRs gained AF and auto-winders. Early AF SLRs were almost uniformly awful, much worse than even today's low-end DSLRs. They actually got better towards the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s, in my humble opinion."