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Friday, 28 August 2009


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It's the look and feel of a camera,that counts a lot. Hard to distinguish between these two. Usually a camera that looks good (seen through the eyes of ergonomics) also feels good (has the buttons on the right places ....).

I was tempted, very, very briefly, to 'upgrade' from my Pentax LX to Minolta when they brought out their first autofocus model in the mid-80s (though strangely, it wasn't that particular feature that interested me, then or now). However, making the right decision for the wrong reason, I realised that I couldn't go from a svelte, beautifully constructed machine to a tacky piece of Edsel-inspired plastic, whatever its cutting-edge technology.

The most important thing is how the camera sits in your hands, where all the buttons knobs and focus rings sit for ease of use. If all of these are perfect for you but it renders an ugly camera then so be it. However if cameras are like cars functionality and aesthetics go hand in hand. If you design a car to go fast it usually looks fast and therefore is pleasing to the eye

I'm really, really sick of those overly large, plasticky DSLR's and their phallic zoom lenses toting those horrid, lotus petal lens hoods. This is not a digital v film thang, simply a matter of (life) style- and perhaps a bit more. I want to thread film again, advance it manually, feel the certainty of metal pressed against my hands.

DSLR's all look like today's cars- premolded plastiform shells. Park a '65 Ford Falcon (a nothing car back in the day) next to any 21st century eggshell auto and you know it'll kill next to any of 'em!

I recently did the analogue film equivalent- got myself two Nikon FG's for everyday shooting in near mint Cond for a combined purchase price of $150, resealed them myself, and I bet the viewfinder is every bit as bright as the Sony's. It also has a full frame sensor in a body at least as small as a Leica, and you want technology- how does a combined shutter speed dial and shutter release with an adjoining double jointed, racheted advance lever grab ya!? True, it doesn't have a DOF preview- but neither does a Leica...

It's somewhere between minor and important. After all, you're seeing it, holding it, showing it and generally interacting with it as you use the camera. Like any tool, if it doesn't make you feel happy or content using it you won't be able to make the best of it. If you resent the way it looks it'll be a distraction, and you'll be less likely to reach for it and use it.

We're human; looks and perception matters. It would be disingenious to pretend otherwise. Try this: how many "it's just a tool" photographers would be happy to trade in their current camera for a new, better camera but made up in Hello-Kitty themed hot pink with rhinestones (excellent non-slip surface) and the onboard strobe cleverly hidden behind Kitty-chans trademark cute red bow? Didn't think so.

I cast my vote as 'important consideration'.

Looks matter, they influence your brain and if you shoot people, also your subjects. I just prefer to be happier while holding my tools. Ugly tools make me sad and grumpy. Not a good mood for taking pictures.

I also think the Sony is ugly, which is why I made the "Separated at birth?" comment in your article about it and compared to an Abrams Tank (click for the link to the image).

One of the things I do when I handle a new camera is to toss it around cupped in my two hands.

I remember when I first picked up my D200 immediately thinking that it was too much like a brick - too squat and thick. I would rather it were slightly taller and slightly thinner.

I think shape affects torque, and how quickly the camera can be brought up to the eye.

My impression of the D200's shape didn't stop me buying the camera though, for other reasons.

As we all know, cameras that are too rounded and lacking in protuberances can be dangerous to own - slipping from one's grasp too easily.

Perhaps someone who has held the Sony could put me right about the following though - it looks as though it is so angular that it is not easy to toss around in ones hands and would cut one's fingers to shreds (perhaps a slight exaggeration) or at least bump awkwardly against them. Is it like that?

It's still ugly though.

looks a minor consideration? Me thinks the Fondlers not the Fotographers forced Leica to give up on the M5 design and return to tradition, even at the cost of convenience.

Hey Mike, I once owned a Rapid Omega, 'nuff said.

Of course, your realise that (even though the poll is anonymous) people will lie. Lots and lots of people buy the camera they think looks sexiest. Why did I buy the Zeiss-branded rangefinder rather than one of the Voigtländer-branded ones? Probably because it looks cooler: I seriously doubt it works any better. Why do I not own a DSLR? Because they're ugly as shit, frankly[*]. Yet what do I answer? "A minor consideration".

[*] Actually, only partly: a significant consideration is that they are so BIG! I don't see why a full-frame DSLR should be bigger than a Pentax MX, so I carry my Ricoh GR (also bought partly because it looks nice, of course) instead.

It's not the look, it is the feel/function. Is it balanced in my hand? Do I naturally rest my finger on the shutter-button? Does my nose or cheek change settings? Can I easily find (without looking) a way to change aperture or shutter? Does it feel comfortable in both landscape and portrait?

After that, unless it some stupid designer color, I don't care.

Mike, It seems like very few care if it has great technology in side, so long as it looks good on the out side.
The camera I had the most fun with was the Fatif 4X5--one funky looking camera--Every client wanted to know what it was. The mystery black box. There was only one technical thing wrong with it--the image on the ground glass was upside down. I joke. Personally as a former Pro--the last thing I wanted to hear was "Hey I have that same camera".
I think the best looking camera ever made was the original "Sinar F Classic 4X5" Not sure of name some times referred to as the green model.

Dear Carl,

What makes you say it's "very few?" The poll is saying that 70% think looks are of minor or no import in their decision.

pax / Ctein

One thing that I find objectionable is the size of dSLRs. The current generation of photographers seems to have been sucked into the paradigm that pro/semi-pro gear needs to be big and black and heavy. Pick up a film camera from the post OM-1 era. These things were tiny in comparison and they had full-size glass pentaprisms. What about a dSLR requires such weight and size? Don't tell me it's the electronics - look at an iPod in comparison for what miniaturization can achieve. With the notable exception of the recently introduced Pentax K7, there doesn't seem to be any effort to shed unnecessary fat from these things.

Many years back, when I was considering moving from my MF K-mount gear to autofocus, I evaluated the "enthusiast/affordable" models from Nikon and Canon. In 2004, that was the Nikon F75 (N75) vs. the Canon EOS 300V.

That I went with the Nikon is primarily because I hated the looks of the EOS, plus it was sold only in silver- plain fugly if you will.

Yes, form must follow function, but it rarely has to be an either/or choice.

I have to admit that one reason -- among many -- I've been shooting film all this year is because frankly the old stuff looks funky. I'm always stopped on the street when I have my Polaroid 600SE (hows that for unsexy?). Or a funky folder medium format camera like my Ansco Speedex. Retro cool IS cool. When everything has the sameness of it -- all DSLRs look alike from a distance -- having something that reminds people that there is a history I believe is important. That's why the great cities preserved their old architecture.

I did an informal poll of my online friends they all agree, the Sony looks ugly.

My tastes are not the same as theirs because when I showed them a picture of an Alpa camera with its round viewfinder I assumed they would love it -- most did not.

There's a depressing sameness to DSLRs. Singling out the A850 isn't fair. Can ugly exist in the absence of beauty? How can any of them be termed classics? Someone has to break the mold... please.

Sorry Ctein, wrote it too early in the vote.

Like people it is what's inside that counts!

I voted "not a consideration". I drive a 2007 Honda Ridgeline. Even I think it's butt-ugly. And not in an "ugly, but I like it" kind of way. I don't care for the looks of it. I suppose if I detested it, I'd have discounted it altogether. But even though it was the least aesthetically pleasing of my choices, "features" won out. And that's a vehicle I'm seen driving. If I can live with that, I can live with anything in the way of a camera.

(Almost, anyway ... I couldn't see myself with a champagne gold Sony DSLR or a red or blue Panasonic G1).

Somewhat off topic, my first "good" camera, a Nikon F, 50mm 1.4, and I couldn't tell you which exact model, circa 1968, because I bought it for the "name", and grew to really hate it. Not it's looks; it's size and sound and weight. It was built like a tank, and sounded and felt like one. I ended up selling it for a Ducati motorcycle and a Pentax HV1. A lighter, quieter camera, and the motorcyle may have been a "help" in certain, romantic inclinations I had at the time.

It's asymmetrically distributed, too. But if a camera managed to be offensively ugly to my sensibilities, that would count against it for real, might change my mind (though I can't think of an example). Being fantastically beautiful is cool, but if it's not a fine camera that doesn't get it bought.

While not the most important, it certainly has some importance to me, as well as to many who would claim otherwise. I haven't really read the replies, but just while scanning down to reply, I noticed more than one occurrence of the words like "fit" or "handle". Those who use this as a way of downplaying looks are probably doing nothing other than fooling themselves, at least in many cases. Purely subjective measures like feel, or handling are very much biased by the related emotion of looks. Something that we think is ugly will just never feel right in our hands; that is just the way it is.

I think that no industry knows this better, nor exploits this as well as the ultra high end audio market. People buying YBA, Krell, Jeff Rowland or anything in that stratosphere buy not just because their gear sounds great, but because it looks and feels so sexy too. Put YBA in a Pioneer chassis and no one would ever buy it. Why would cameras be any different? Probably this is why I have never even been a tiny bit interested in auditioning McIntosh audio equipment; no matter how it sounds, it looks awful to me.

I want my audio gear to look great, have great tactile feel and to sound great. I want similar things in my cameras.

A related thing would be with Apple products. No one will ever convince me that many of their products would have much appeal were they not so nicely styled. Apple knows this, makes their stuff look great and then commands a good price for it. Good for them.

BTW. I don't mind the look of the Sony, I would put it in the better half of most current DSLRs in that category. Ugliest DSLR ever? That is so easy; the Olympus E-300; the Manuel Noriega of cameras.

It's true that ultimately it's the results (i.e., the photos) that truly matter.

However, assuming that other photographers are as visually oriented as I am, it's surprising that a higher percentage of voters are not rating the camera's looks as an "important consideration."

I care a great deal about the physical appearance of my world, and I have long assumed that concern to be the reason why I'm dedicated to photography. So, yes, a camera's looks are important to me.

I'm mostly concerned with function, like many others here, but a fair amount of what I like in a camera (such as a large viewfinder) had implications for its appearance. I'm not fond of cameras with lots of knobs and ugly dials and so on - is that an aesthetic choice, or a practical one? Hard to say.

One area where appearance really _does_ matter is color. As much as I like the _idea_ of a non-black camera, I've learned the hard way that dark cameras are much better if you're ever around any reflective surface, and don't want a reflection of your camera to become an inadvertent part of the composition.

What I actually want is a nice, modern digital camera made of some light, sturdy metal, and coated with a matte enamel or leather surface like the old Argus C3s. Sturdy, good in the hands, and not shiny. But I've come to reluctant acceptance that the planned obsolescence people will never again make electronics intended to last for more than 5-10 years.

With cameras, I think beauty is in the eye of the holder. One can learn to appreciate an "ugly" camera that functions beautifully, or to dislike a pretty camera that's unpleasant to use. On the other hand, one can even grow fond of handling quirks in a "friend".

Assuming we are speaking strictly of first impressions, though: if "looks" includes size and totability, it matters to me; if it doesn't, then it doesn't.

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