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Thursday, 18 March 2010


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Do you accept pre-orders?

George Klidas

Brilliant. The other advantage is that unlike the traditional waist-level viewing screen, the image wouldn't be laterally reversed!

I especially like the square sensor idea. I would however put the screen on the handle, and let the lens swivel separately. This is like the Sony F707 and it's brothers. I used those cameras briefly several years ago and absolutely loved the design. Makes sense - your arms and eyes will always be connected at your end, why not coordinate the inputs on the camera!

It should really have an "old fogey" setting so the image is properly reversed as well as a "normal person" setting where it isn't.

...Mike F

Why don't they just make square sensors and seal that back up to keep everything clean and aligned? Otherwise I love it. I suspect the new Pentax and the Leica S2 are going to be closer than anything else so far.

In fact... Imagine a new version of the F808 with:
Square sensor.
Alpha mount
Panasonic speed AF
Pro SLR class shutter lag and (screen) blackout
HD video
Now that would shake things up in the pro an prosumer markets!

I love the view through a waist-level TLR -- unlike SLR viewfinders, the TLR viewfinder shows a flattened image that looks like an actual photograph. I always find it much easier to envision the final photo from that square of glass.

But I never liked the waist-level aspect -- I don't really want to shoot from down at my waist. I want to shoot from eye level. Unless I'm shooting children.

So your ideal camera would not be mine, though you never suggested it should be.

I have a similar imaginary camera. It's a Baby Rolleiflex with a 36x36mm sensor, and a switch that lets you select between 24x36mm (horizontal or vertical) and 32mm square.
Given a modern sensor that's clean to ISO 1000 or so, this camera would cover 90% of my photographic needs.

OK, granted I'm an idiot...but if the sensor is 4cm "square", why is orientation an issue at all? ...unless you mean that...no, I don't get it.

Having spent the past few years dealing with the problems of color casts and corner funnies that occur combining wide angle lenses with large digital sensors, I would love to know if your large box camera vision extends to the Hasselblad Superwide, the camera made more generally famous by Lee Friedlander over the past 20 years. With a symmetric, nearly distortion-free 19mm-equivalent lens covering a 56 cm square film area it's a point&shoot that offers infinite depth of field and a unique kind of controlled chaos on the street. You can already lash a digital back of considerable size onto the viewing box in your illustration, so I wonder if anyone has done a body of work combining the SWC with digital capture.


The adjustable handle on the side with shutter button & easy to access shutter speed dial sounds just like my old Rollei 6008 Professional.

Well, forgoodnesssakes. I found myself heading in pretty much the same direction due to my deep frustration with the l.c.d. monitors universally found on the backs of cameras: can't see them at arm's length (presbyopia), can't see them in moderately bright daylight. Don't forget the flip-up magnifier inside the hood (available in a variety of dioptric strengths, of course). And your V H engraving has a nice historical resonance!

I'll take one.

I've imagined almost the same camera. That's probably a bad omen. I'm the guy who always votes for the losing candidate and loves the product that gets discontinued next week.

I would like this camera. Therefor, there is no market for it.

"Imagine a new version of the F808 with: Square sensor."

I would totally love that. The demise of that style of camera was the worst side effect of Sony's takeover of Minolta's camera division.


I mean that the square is electronically cropped.



This one is a bridge too far.

Since you used the words "ideal" and imaginary -i.e. "the no boundaries" category, I guess it would be difficult, even for you, to explain why it is "ideal" to have to look down, towards your waist, in order to actually see forward... Or maybe not :-)

Kind regards,

Peronally, I like the slab sides of MF cameras of this type (have an RZ67 myself, which gets too little use).
Much of this seems like the dying Hy6 MF spec.

"I guess it would be difficult, even for you, to explain why it is 'ideal' to have to look down, towards your waist, in order to actually see forward..."

It's not difficult at all. Not everybody prefers it, but you only have to try it to see the advantages of it. Basically, people don't feel like you're looking at them. It becomes very easy to take pictures of strangers without being confrontational. When somebody is facing you and holding a camera up to their eye, you tend to feel "stared at." When someone is looking down at a device they're holding in their hands at stomach level or chest level, the "read" by the other person is that they're preoccupied with something else and you tend to feel they're not paying attention to you.

It's very freeing for certain kinds of photographing.

As a side benefit, it can be a big help in composing pictures to see the viewfinder image in two dimensions rather than three. Again, this is personal choice. I find it helps, personally.


Give me the option of a square format, as well as the 2 rectangles and I'll have one to go, thanks. Don't wrap it...

I wonder given the mirror less feature, the thickness of the iCamera would be too narrow to accommodate a view finder. There is a reason why the LCD is on the back for digicam I guess.

Perhaps one may think about something like the one as in the arcbody -- http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/arcbody.shtml


if we insist on waist level, can we just have the TLR with real optical view + taking lens. The reason is that you can avoid the issue of slow focusing as you use your eye, not live view from the sensor, to do the focusing. You may even do phase auto focusing.

I dig the square sensor part. I've been trying to convince digital camera makers (well, Canon and Olympus at least) to make a square sensor camera without success but your switch needs to be S/V/H so that there is a possibility to shoot square images with the full sensor. Otherwise the corners of the beautiful square sensor are being wasted. Better yet, have a dial that cycles though programmable aspect ratios (1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 2:3, 3:4, etc.) while the cropped areas dim on the LCD screen.

There's no reason to have a TLR with digital, and it greatly complicates lens interchangeability and expense. One lens can easily serve for both taking and viewing, as on any Micro 4/3 camera or point-and-shoot.

The "TLR experience" is the inspiration here, though.


Now if you could just add the ability to yank the sensor and load 120 film . . . and a half dozen or so Leica-size and quality lenses....

While the viewfinder should have the auto "real" rotation - as opposed to a flag in the file and electronic masking, I think the actual camera files should have all the pixels - no sense throwing data away. Though you could have the JPEGs be "cropped" and the RAW files the full pixel data.

"I think the actual camera files should have all the pixels - no sense throwing data away."

I disagree--rather strongly, actually. It's much better NOT to have all the data--what you see should be what you get, no more, no less. To do otherwise just adds confusion.


Would love it. And for those that want a eye-level view-finder, allow for a Hasselblad, Bronica, etc. view-finder to be substituted for the waist-level. That is how the one pictured would work. I also would like the square format option.

To play in the "ideal" category, I think the fixed relationship between lens and screen is a mistake. While I agree that looking down is useful for many situations, it's not best for ALL situations.

In fact, the modern design, with a thin body and an LCD on the back that can swing and tilt is closer to my ideal (though I approve of the bigger sensor and interchangeable lenses on your design, of course).

Based on my experience as one of the dusty individuals who has used a waist-level camera extensively, back before The Dawn of Digital, waist-level viewers have one significant drawback: Whenever you tilt the camera downward you are also tilting the viewfinder away from you. If you ever have to point it straight down you will then have to either turn the viewfinder around to face you or, if the camera is on a tripod, you will have to move to face the viewfinder. Either way, the controls on the right side of the camera will now be on the left. Can you say "awkward?"

May I suggest that instead of a waist-level viewfinder you opt for an articulated screen attached to either the left side or the rear? It would be hinged so you could fold it flat to the camera for protection or flip it out for use. As long as the hinge could pivot 90 degrees in either direction, you could point the camera straight up or down while the viewfinder stayed pointed straight at your face. It could even have an optional flip-up shade similar to what Hasselblad uses on their waist-level finders.

This approach has the added benefit of eliminating the need for a reflex mirror, which in turn reduces the size of the camera body and the lenses you'd need to fit it. It would also eliminate a major source of noise and vibration.

Not that any of this matters, of course. There's not a chance in hell anyone will ever manufacture anything like this. It's too practical.

Three more advantages to waist level shooting:

1. It's more comfortable to hold a device at chest or stomach level for long periods than it is to hold a device up at eye level.

2. Hanging from a neck strap, the camera is already at shooting position, and the strap contributes to steadying the camera, either supplementing the two-hand hold or freeing a hand for other duties (like hooding the lens).

3. You can adequately frame a snap "hip shot" with a quick glance downward.

Having said that, I don't see any reason (other than cost) why the view screen shouldn't articulate--hood and all--at least enough to be viewable from the rear of the camera. Unless Mike is envisioning the good old "sport finder" keyhole option! (Or perhaps the digital version would be an optional EVF?)

Mike wrote:
"I disagree--rather strongly, actually."

Hey, it's your imaginary camera, so I stand corrected...

Rats, posted too soon. I am going by my APS experience where it was nice to be able and go back and get the full frame even if you told the camera you wanted the panorama (or the C size). Of course toward the end, the processor ignored that anyway and just printed the whole image.

"Hey, it's your imaginary camera"


That's the nice thing about imaginary things in your own imagination...you can't be wrong....

Now that I say that, though, I admit that I'm open to other ideas. For one thing, why not (per robert e and Gordon) have the viewing-screen-and-hood assembly hinged at the back so it could be articulated upwards?

The key for me is simplicity, which means enough flexibility but not too much. That's a tough line to define sometimes. Because too much flexibility leads to overcomplication, but too little cripples the camera for certain uses that might be important to certain individuals. (Being able to point the camera down while retaining comfortable viewing is probably not an unreasonable request.)


Hmmm, consider a slight modification. Change the sensor to 36 x 36 and use a lens mount that will allow your favorite old manual focus (35mm format) lenses. I'd like one in Pentax K mount. Someone else might like Canon or Nikon.

"Change the sensor to 36 x 36 and use a lens mount that will allow your favorite old manual focus (35mm format) lenses."

Good idea, but actually, I thought of that, and decided against it for a specific reason. More on that in Part II.


Why are everybody so excited by the idea of a square sensor? I agree it's pretty good, but the ideal camera would have a CIRCULAR sensor.

With a circular sensor one would be able to capture all the light that comes through the lens, allowing me to make any type of capture without turning the camera. Want a 4/3 ratio shot? No problem. A 16/10 ratio angled 10 degrees? It'll work too.

The RAW image would obviously contain the full data from the circular sensor, allowing complete flexibility in Lightroom when doing rotation and cropping.

I believe that I did see some rumors coming from Olympus in this direction. It was discussing the possibility of putting a larger sensor in the 4/3 cameras in order to be able to change aspect ratio without having to crop. The circular sensor is just the logical extension to this.

No way, John!

Ideal camera will have new ideal lenses included in ideal package.

I don't want a circular sensor unless I'm going to take circular pictures (it's been done--early Kodaks too circular pictures). As a process issue, I'm convinced by the old argument that you should learn to see how the camera sees because it, well, improves your seeing. Leaving aspect ratio and cropping till post just makes it more difficult to visualize with the camera in your hands.

At any rate, MY ideal camera would have to see one way and gives me results that are exactly what it sees. That way I can learn to see like it does. It's not a technical issue, it's a mental/conceptual process issue.


Your imaginary camera seems much less crazy than the Ricoh GXR, at least to me. Probably more marketable too.

If you could ditch the sensor and put film in instead I would have one..... wait.... I already have one.... or two or three!

I'm just wishing for the day that the manufacturers finally get away from the moronic PASM system and give us aperture rings and shutter-speed dials again.

But, wait... That would require mechanical items--modal systems are so much cheaper to manufacturer--after all, it's just software then. Instead of improving the handling of the cameras, let's give the photographers more menus to dig through. Yeah, that's the ticket.

"TLR experience"

Three recent digital camera designs each give you portions of the "TLR experience", though awkwardly — the Sony F828 (and siblings), the Sony R1, and the Panasonic G1/GH1.

Waist-level viewing, eye-level "through-the-lens" electronic viewing, and over-the-head viewing. Even "back-of-the-camera viewing". Only the GH1 provides the option of a square aspect ratio. The articulating LCD of the G1/GH1 and a neck strap don't get along well together.

If only the Sony F828 design had a larger sensor, larger LCD screen, better EVF, and a square format option — that would be a sexy camera!

When someone is looking down at a device they're holding in their hands at stomach level or chest level, the "read" by the other person is that they're preoccupied with something else and you tend to feel they're not paying attention to you.

Mike, how's the waist-level finder different from what DD-B mentions, the articulated or at least flippable LCDs? With a contrast AF, taking pictures of unsuspecting public would be a breeze. (And yes, it is. :))

OTOH, I have to admit such cameras are not ergonomically made for waist-level shooting.

BTW, the original 4/3 patent talked about a square sensor. But then, they talked about a 1.4 lens in there, too, and we still haven't seen one.

I miss my TLR. Years ago I thought of what would be the ideal camera for me: I looked around for a digital back (at the time it would probably have been a scanning back, likely from Betterlight) that could be fixed on the rear of my Mamiya C330. This seemed perfect to me. And, since the C330 had a dark slide to protect the film when changing lenses, sensor dust would be practically a non-issue.

I'd like the selectable V-H/Format to show the whole frame, and indicate the selected orientation/format in some manner, perhaps dimming what's not being selected. Being able to see outside the frame is useful, I think, in being able to make compositional adjustments before snapping the picture.

Also, like KeithB, I'd like the crop info stored in metadata. Later in the editor, I'd see what I shot, but if I wanted, I could have it show me the in camera cropping so I could adjust it. It doesn't happen often, but occasionally I see a shot and think, "gee, I wish I had included just a bit more." Of course, you wouldn't have to use the feature if you didn't want to.

Atbout time somebody told me that V and H stand for vertical and horizontal.

The last 50 or so years I have believed it stood for Victor Hasselblad.

Is 4 cm square 4 cm x 4 cm ? Or 4 square cm's (i.e. 4 cm^2) ?

..amazing idea! In fact, I'm so intrigued that I'd like to offer virtual money to help seed investment in the virtual company...rock on...LOVE IT!

Although I don't like articulated LCDs, the LCD of your imaginary camera should be articulated at the lower end so that you can also shoot from eye level.

rotate the back to select V-H? allow replacing the hood with an eyeprism. I like the grip.

make it light.

I suddenly have an urge to take a walk and shoot a roll of spring on the RB67...

...of course,upon releasing the shutter, built-in speakers would play a recording of the shutter release sound of your favorite behemoth of old -- Hassie, Mamiya etc. chosen from a menu. Chahlungg!

Seriously, though, with all these ideas, we are forever running into the fear that shortening focal distance (mirrorless designs) will put wide lenses at a disadvantage with digital sensors that don't like to "see" obliquely. Until that aspect can be addressed at below-Leica costs, we can only dream on.

Isn't there some interactive site where we can collectively draw that perfect Digiblad (and send links to the powers that be)?

I still have (and use, occasionally) a Yashica Mat 124G that has a WLF. I think it's a great camera, for several reasons. In addition to the WLF, it also has a handy pop-up magnifier lens - for us ol' folks, this would be a great addition to your 'new' camera.

Oh yeah, the Yashica shoots 6x6, and from that I can make any horizontal or vertical crop I want!

I wonder if, with this sort of design/form factor, the sensor could move in the body to adjust the flage-back distance. That should help simplify some of the lens designs.

my imaginary camera wouldn't have a folding hood. i've been thinking about it, and what i really want is a pivoting chimney finder! tough as nails *and* dust proof. unlike traditional chimney finders, this one would sit flush with the rest of the body in either position. it's really just a glorified evf.

Wow Mike!
That's exactly what I want!
I'd actually been thinking about how to go about cutting or grinding out enough of the film chamber in a Yashica A to nest a lensless E-PL1 inside. 160mm (equivalent) would be an awkward angle of view, and I'd have to mask off the viewfinder. (And/or cut a new mirror and construct a new mount...) But hey! Square format (the first thing I thought of before I read your addendum) and a waist level finder in digital! Woo hoo!

Other than one of my grandparent's old cameras that I remember barely being able to make out the image through the small viewfinder, I've never had the opportunity to use a waist-level finder. We recently upgraded our first digital Canon S330 (circa 2003) to a Sony HX1, though, and during our winter vacation I found myself shooting a great number of shots at waist level with it's LCD screen flipped up 90 degrees.

My left thumb falls across the top of the flash with my left fingers cradling under lens and the base of the body. My right forefinger around the front of the finger-bump on the right side of the camera, right fingers under the base, and the right thumb on the shutter release. Not a great position for making quick setting changes through the menu (is that an oxymoron?), but if the camera settings are where you want them, it worked great. Much less shaking than I get when trying to hold it "aloft" in front of my face trying to see the image through the bottom of my bifocals. (Yes, it has an electronic viewfinder, but we've both found it less than satisfactory.)

I can easily understand your wish.

The side handle idea existed on the Rolleiflex Hy6 / Sinar Hy6 / Leaf AFi:

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