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Friday, 02 July 2010


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You mean since they started to sell Japanese convertibles nobody has the patience to admire the tactile satisfaction of leaking MG's anymore?

"since they started to sell Japanese convertibles nobody has the patience to admire the tactile satisfaction of leaking MG's...?"

I believe the subject is cameras...Michael does say that "What one gets in terms of features, functions and image quality is higher than ever before" and no one's arguing that. But if you'll handle, say, a Nikon F2 (or even a Pentax Spotmatic) and then a Sony A550 (the subject of Michael's article) I think you'll understand what he means and then some.

Two steps forward, one step back....


Boy ain't that the truth. Starting out with the, by today's standards almost "steampunk" Leica IIc, not much short of the M9 comes anywhere close to the same tactile feeling with a digibox. Perhaps a quick nod to Olympus for a good effort in that direction with the E-P1.

Yes, you're right, I think Olympus really did make an effort in this regard and deserves some kudos here.


This is actually one of the main reasons I got the D700. I like a camera that has weight and feels like it could go to battle.

I enjoy the experience of shooting with the Digilux 2. At first glance it has a boxy body. But in the hand, especially once it's up to your eye, the elegance of form and function turns this camera into a sleek, sexy, beast. While resting in the palm of my left hand, the D2 nestles comfortably into my right hand. All controls are easily accessible. Your index finger commands the shutter button and shutter speed dial, while your thumb dances from EV button, to FUNCTION button, FOUR WAY selector, and SELECTOR dial. Then with the left hand you set the aperture, zoom, and focus. And all without pulling the camera from you eye. It's like magic..... So yes, I guess you can say I kinda like this camera and enjoy shooting with it like no other.....

My ebay purchased Nikon FG (basically a used Ford Falcon) feels very much the mechanical precision instrument these days.

Pentax K-7. It's still a slightly-rounded black lump, but it's got a nice metal body which feels solid and well-crafted. I guess it does fit within the "top models within any brand" caveat, but it's also currently priced around the same point as this Sony model.

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.

Haven't read something I've agreed with so readily for a long time. Immediately thought of the utilitarian feeling I get when using the Canon 50D with the pleasure of using an OM1.

It seems to me that mass-market cameras have always been fairly indifferent in quality. My Yashica FX-3 is a pretty robust and functional little camera, but the build quality, handing, and materials can't compare to a professional SLR of the same era. Maybe the trend is in the other direction, as professionals, with higher expectations, now find this level of equipment functional and reliable enough to be useful.

"You mean since they started to sell Japanese convertibles nobody has the patience to admire the tactile satisfaction of leaking MG's anymore?"

11 years ago I drove an MG; it was all engine noise, gear whine, vibrations, trees flying past, wind noise... I looked at the speedometer, I was going 35mph. I bought a used Miata and never regretted it.

The most satisfying camera I own is a Canon F1-N. It is simply an awesome machine. That being said, I use it maybe once a year. I'd rather use the Olympus E-P1 for photography, it is just more fun. And fun is where it's at.

I didn't buy my camera to fondle it, I bought it to take pictures.

My workhorse camera is an Olympus E-1.

'nuff said.

"Only the top models within any brand produce a tactile satisfaction and please one's esthetic sense"

This is important, because the point of owning a camera is to produce tactile satisfaction, not high-quality pictures.

Every time I get tempted to buy I haul out my Contax RTS II w/motordrive grip and the temptation evaporates. (but I did buy a Panny G1)

How true. I recently handled a friend's old M42 mount Praktica, an MTL3 if I remember right. Even that had the satisfying feel of good machinery, when Praktica were not considered to be in the top rank in the SLR world.

He (Scruffy Pete, for any bikers here from the Milton Keynes area) showed me some of the excellent bike racing shots he took with it back in the 1980s. The Praktica could do most things a Nikon or Pentax could do, with just a bit more work.

Yeah, and Volvo advertisements used to say that `a comfortable driver is a safe driver'.

In both cases the proof of the pudding is in the eating, not the making, however.

To play devils' advocate some more, in the last 10 years I killed two Meopta Flexaret VIIs; my Bronica SQa started to fall apart towards the end; my first ever SLR, an EOS 500n, eventually broke horribly. And now, touch plastic, I'm quite happy with my 550D for giving me results I like, good image-quality nothwithstanding, and it's not fallen apart after a whole *month* just to spite all the nay-sayers.

It's the lens and light-sensitised receptor that make the image; the ergonomics of the box in the middle don't interest the viewer.

I agree with MR on this one. Barely a night goes by without me picking up my Ikon, looking through the viewfinder and focusing on something across the room. No pleasure in that with the dslr. Of course, I tell myself that it's just to practice focusing...


If one is vain enough to use material goods to differentiate oneself from the masses, even if just in one's own mind. I suspect that's a part of the "satisfaction" referred to.

Someone had to say it . . . .

Still love my Nikon F-100. My D-200 is close in feel and weight, but just not quite the same. I'll have to get that D-700, or what ever replaces it, and see how that feels!

Would it not be nice if Leica were to offer a retrofit service for those of us with excess M3s to replace the film innards with Leica X1 digital guts for the price of a Panasonic GF-1?How difficult could that be?
Just askin'.

This is part of the reason I like the pentax limiteds. They have a good feel to them... at least a lot better than the "polycarbonate container" I have them attached too.
We live in a disposable world and I am a disposable girl... er boy.

What Michael says is quite true. Yet Nikon and Leica, to name two prominent examples, still do offer some of the old qualities we admire so much, as least in some of their models. I find Nikon's recent D series models to be quite pleasurable to use. I still love the feel of Leica M, Hasselblad, Rolleiflex, etc., but I also find them very restricting in use when compared to, say, a D700.

I was at a local camera store some months ago. Lookin at those well-crafted used cameras,lens and accessaries from various brands,I was marveling how elegant they were, and then I wished those cameras were digital and those lens can be used on digital bodies...Anyway, my photography journey began with a solid Nikon D200, and I am lucky I can enjoy those old AI and AIS lens.

I concur 100% with Matthew Miller. The Pentax K-7 is simply a joy to use, especially paired with an all-metal Limited prime lens. Compact and solid, with superb ergonomics. And not too shabby in the IQ dept either ;)

Mind you, I've never handled a Leica, so I can't draw any comparison...

The physical quality is awful in most modern cameras, but in the end it doesn´t matter, they aren´t meant to be the "latest cameras" for very long. There is always a new model just about to come out every 18 months. Maybe it´s a marketing ploy so we don´t feel attached to them, easy to dump and easy to replace with their latest camera.

I have a couple of 30-year-old Hasselblads that still work flawlessly (if handled properly). With proper maintenance and handling they'll probably still be working in another 30 years. I'm pretty sure they'll outlast me by a fair margin. The are beautiful packages of mechanical precision that, in the right hands, are capable of producing stunning images. What a shame that the peripheral technologies they depend on will become obsolete before the cameras do. Makes me sad every time I think about it.

On the other hand, My D700s do a fabulous job and have been totally reliable, but they're already starting to look a little long in the tooth and will probably poop out altogether in a few more years.

Either way you're on a roller coaster ride to obsolescence. Might as well just enjoy the ride I guess!

Does this explain the appeal and success of the Leica M8/M9?
Rick in CO

As one who writes with a fountain pen I should put myself in the camp that likes things the old way. But I'm not. If the end results are the same, and things aren't harder with a digital because of build quality, than all you feel is nostalgia.

There's nothing wrong with nostalgia, mind you. I've joined its fan group on Facebook. Just know it for what it is.

People associate weight and feel with a certain quality when they are younger, and that's their benchmark even when technology changes.

I will have to come down on the side of the new. When I went digital I never looked back. About a year ago I had a chance to handle an slr camera that I used to use and was famous for its refinement. It seemed like a clattery old contraption beside my Nikon DSLR. Lenses are the opposite though if you have to manually focus them.

I read an interesting piece in my regular online newspaper 'The Guardian' which showed where we are heading here - see http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/jul/02/luxury-watches-popularity

Getting off on the tactile sensation and manly heft and engineering quality of a film era mechanical camera is just like appreciating the feel of owning an expensive Swiss watch. Cameras and watches have a lot in common. You can use them to take pictures and tell the time. But they are also used as status symbols, to make a statement about the wealth and taste of the owner. And they can both be satisfying just to handle without actually using.

Mmmm... must order one of those Swarovski crystal Pentaxes.

"11 years ago I drove an MG; it was all engine noise, gear whine, vibrations, trees flying past, wind noise... "

But that's the whole point!

Anyway MGs are for wimps, real men and women drive Triumphs where you get more noise plus the anticipation of random fires and explosions and the opportunity to say "we need to get our trunnions greased" in polite company.

"'we need to get our trunnions greased'"



When it comes to the choice between digital cameras and film cameras, it's not so much that digital cameras are better or worse in terms of build quality and ergonomics. It's that they have the SAME ergonomics. Almost all digicams have similar ergonomics. And almost all dSLRs have similar ergonomics.

Now go compare an Olympus XA, a YashicaMat 124, a Leica M6, a Pentax 67, a Nikon F100, an Olympus Epic, a Koni-Omega Rapid, a Hasselblad 500 series, an Olympus OM-4, a Brownie and a Holga. Notice anything?

Photography is a hobby for me. It is an amusing distraction, something I do for fun. Any you know what? I get BORED shooting my Nikon dSLRs all the time. Every once in a while I toy with the idea of using a digicam, just to break up the monotony, but the image quality doesn't do it for me. So I spend a month or two shooting film before making my way back to the digital fold. Don't get me wrong: I get better pictures more easily from my dSLRs. But BOY do I love playing around with a different camera every once in a while!!! The micro-Four Thirds cameras are interesting just because they are even a little bit different than other cameras.


Enjoying cameras as cameras always gets a bad name on blogs like these.

The bloggers and/or posters simultaneously fetishize cameras, both old and new, and constantly remind us that "the camera doesn't matter". It's all very American, to exploit lust and wag your finger at it simultaneously. The guilt is part of the pleasure, it seems.

There's something to be said for enjoying a camera as a physical thing, just as there's something to be said for enjoying a car as a physical thing, independent of its practical uses. If a camera provides pleasure as a physical object, it is more likely to be used and brought along and used, which is in itself added value.

It's important to remember something else: 99.9% of all photographs are crap, regardless of the equipment used. When you take this into account, it makes sense that cameras should provide pleasure, since so few of them get to produce anything resembling art.

I second Paul De Zan's comment right down to the punctuation. It represents exactly how I feel. (And I just bought an unused-still-in-box Rolleiflex 2.8 FX this week!)

I enjoy fine manufacturing design and craftsmanship. But today's cameras are simply not comparable to those of the 'olden days'. Suggesting that, say, a polycarbonate-bodied Canon Rebel is a poorer camera than a steel 1960's 35mm body is simply nutty.

And in the final consideration who gets extra points for recording a crummy, dull image with a wonderful vintage camera? Only other amateur photographers will care. In photography it's all about the final product, not the means or methodology.

But would any of our current wonderplasik cameras be any more useful if carved from a block of solid brass with its innards lubed with trunnion grease (or maybe sperm whale oil)?

Maybe I felt like that once but with modern materials I'd disagree that quality is diminishing. So many comments about older equipment come with the caveat "with proper maintenance" or comments about heft.
Weight long ceased to be a marker of material quality, in fact nowadays much the reverse. And modern cameras don't seem to need the TLC that older ones did to keep them running through tens of thousands of frames.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a lover of fine mechanical devices but not through some mistaken belief that they are somehow better quality than modern equivalents.

Plastic and electronics started with the AE-1 in 1976.

I started shooting after the good old days so I never experienced the feel and handling of a real camera. On the other hand I shoot my E-PL1 nearly every day. It is compact, well made, full of plastic and half the size of my 5D. I mostly use manual focus legacy lenses on the beast which has made me think of getting something more deluxe like a used Leica m8 or some such instrument. It is better to live in interesting times.

I still like one button and one switch for each function as on the Nikon F4; I realize that my
Nikon 5000 makes picture taking easier. But it also takes away a lot of the fun. I guess the old retro-hands-on is a habit hard to put down.
So I find myself shooting mostly sheet film with my Tachihara view cameras and my "fast-operating" state of the art Super-Graphic. It has a (gasp!)--electric shutter release! Wow. What will they think of next?

Well, let's see, the Nikon F from the late 60's, built like a tank, and sounded and drove like one, too. The BSA Victor 441, Ole Thumper, ripped the heel off my Frye, square toed boots, way too many times, not to mention the Ducati 250 Scrambler, whose electronics were even worse than the british efforts of Lord Lucas, the Prince of Darkness. Love my plastic fantastic digital cameras, and really appreciate a vehicle with 155,000 miles on it, plastic all over, but still runs just fine. Then there is wonder gadget, that obsolete 2G iPhone, plastic, metal and glass, that tells the time, the weather, takes phone calls, and allows me to read TOP when I'm out and about and have some time. Shows traffic conditions, too. Any nostalgia I have is for the women I didn't chase down, not the gadgets I used to own.

PFUI, real men drove MG-B's, with electronic overdrives, or BSA's; little old ladies drove triumphs.

As a daily user of a Leica M6, I can relate. But still, if we're going to gripe about trends in cameras, I think massive feature overload is a far better candidate.

I'd take a light plastic, affordable, fully manual digital camera with fantastic image quality and bare bones features any day. Heck, I'd even skip the LCD.

Read all the comments with great interest. I don't miss my older Nikon FA as much as I thought I would. Did at first though. But I have come to realize it was the fact that I learned and treated my camera as an extension of myself that I missed. It was familiar to me! Never in my way! I knew where everything was and could operate its simple controls with ease. So now, as many commenters have suggested, I treat my now relatively older Pentax K10 as a tool. But familiarity? Not really. Way too many options and features that I never use. One thing I do miss is the DOF scale on the lens. I think I am going to sell all but one lens and get all manual lenses.


It never was about the camera, it was always about the seeing

I think that what MR means is that all the whistle&bells partly invalidate the joy of the experience of picture taking. Automation and multi-thing devices are hard to remember and to acquire the second-nature of it, is next to impossible.
I've always thought EOS cameras have an enormous design flaw. Depending on mode, the dials change on what they do.
It's like driving a car that you could modify at will on how they ride but your accelerator pedal would turn into a brake!!!. I just got a Mitsubishi 4X4 with a truly awesome sounding stereo. But if I decide I need more treble, first I need to find a small button (while driving) to mode the stereo to treble. Then, I need to push this button seven times. Finally, I have to find another small button to step-by-step change the levels. No matter how great the sound is, the experience of owning this vehicle is sub-par. The same thing is happening wiith all kind of electronic devices. I like a lot my 5D2 results but operatively is frustrating when compared to my 500Cm of my now gone Nikon F3HP. Please somebody stop this madness. You bloggers and reviewers of the smart world, please stop these engineers with prodigy-child brains. They know crop about photography!.

Sorry, I forgot to add this. Two nights ago, I saw this TV program about airlines crashing and the investigation. This airliner cockpit had the descent speed and the angle of descent in exactly the same window and position. Another mode button was used to switch between them and others. The captain and the co-pilot both missed to read the digits right. A slaughter that never shoulded happenned just because some engineers decided to simplify the gauges!!! Maybe there were no room for more gauges but please give the people that fly these airplanes some analog controls. For God's sake, please give them a steering wheel!!!

Using various digital cameras was motivation enough: a new lens (the lovely Zeiss 35/2.8 Biogon-C) for the M6, a hundred rolls of film for the freezer, and enough XTOL and Rodinal to develop it. Yeah, I still haul out the DSLR.

No, it's not the same.

Not at all the same. And for those who say pure IQ is what "really" matters, I reply, no. I have a busy life and innumerable distractions and an intense and fulfilling career. If I'm going to carve out time for photography, I need a camera that calls out to me, that begs to be carried, and used -- that's worth carrying when I walk to the bus and that whispers into my ear to get off of the bus a mile early, already, to take some damned photos on the way into work.

Would I go out and buy an M6 or MP or M9 today? No way in hell. But the fact is that an M6 and a couple of lenses are in my bag, and have been for a dozen years, and I can't tear myself away from the damn thing. I care about results, sure, but life is short -- and if I don't also care for the process, well, full stop.

And there's one more thing. We are in a golden -- but finite age for film photography. Films are better than ever. Developers are fantastic. Films and developers are still cheap ($3/roll for Legacy Pro [Neopan or Neopan ACROS], developed; $4/roll for bulk loaded TMAX400, developed), and easily available.

Digital is only going to get better. Digital is, for the forseeable future, a perpetual cycle of dissatisfaction. But -- make no mistake -- cameras of tactile wonder, and silver emulsions, will over time be rarer and rarer, and more and more expensive. The time for film is now, and you won't know what you've lost until it's gone.

The time to use film is now. It is evanescent, It will probably be easy to get top-quality materials at reasonable price and with little effort for another decade or so. Right now it's still a pretty easy choice; soon enough it will be a hard choice.

For me, that's reason enough to stay with film and the M for a few years more. Plus, shooting with most digital cameras is a shallow, hollow, empty experience... ;-).

Every time we do this little dance we seem to step on the very same toes. No one is arguing that current DSLRs don't deliver better overall image quality than (35mm) film cameras. No one. Or that digital isn't more convenient, versatile, etc, etc...

A few of us just lament the loss of the tactile pleasure and aesthetic beauty that classic metal cameras offered over the bloated, plastic digital recording devices of today- and therefore choose to shoot that which we love with the instruments we've long respected and admired. In the process we get images that retain a quality we've grown to appreciate, one that is becoming increasingly more distinctive by the day.

This simple camera is a kick to shoot with, looks (and feels) way better than today's DSLRs costing 50 times more and can deliver images one can still be proud of...


I have a Leica M6 and new to the stable a Nikon F3. Can't decide which one I like more. If I had to give up one I'd be happy with the other. Love my 5D but it cannot compare in soul to either of the above mentioned cameras. (PS is there a better viewfinder than the one on the F3??)

If it isn't oak and brass, if you don't need a hood, and if you can carry it without the assistance of your man-servant, then is it a camera at all, Mr Fox-Talbot?

It seems that nobody has posted this before, so there I go:

Mike, in order to enjoy again the feeling of touching a precision device, you need to buy an iPhone 4. This is what St. Steve Jobs said about it, during its presentation:

""You gotta see this in person. This is beyond the doubt, the most precise thing, and one of the most beautiful we've ever made. Glass on the front and back, and steel around the sides. It's like a beautiful old Leica camera."

There you have it: forget about modern Leicas, get an iPhone 4 with its stunning brand new camera for photos & HD video. :P

I'm with Chad Freeman and JMR on "massive feature overload" and "way too many options and features." I could care less whether a camera is made from titanium or bakelite. What I care about is whether a camera becomes part of me or gets in the way when making photographs. Good design involves making choices, not piling option on top of option.

We seem to live in an age where clutter is a virtue. How is life made better by having to choose between twenty different categories of toothpaste and six different categories of orange juice? A myriad of options and controls is just more stuff to steer clear of when making a photograph. Life's too short for this nonsense.

Ah, here's where we turn everything on its end. Hats off to the first camera company that can create a metal body to hold replaceable electronic components.

Just a thought.

I have a lot of cameras that have become "classics" because I've kept them enough years after buying them new that they've gained that distinction. But modern cameras are so much better tools. I also love my carefully restored 1969 Mustang, but a modern Mustang is so much better built and so much more fun to drive. As for cameras, I'll take my 1D MkIV over my old Nikon F with motor drive any day!

I have no issue with my D700. In fact, I love holding it and shooting with it. But then ... it's an aluminum body. My old N8008 was plastic, smaller, and lighter. But it was just a plastic box to carry film, house a shutter and meter. My D700 is a mini computer.

I too take out my M6 and fondle it along with my M mount lenses. I've shot with film occasionally just to hear the sound of that shutter. I have a few bricks of K64 that I'll push through the Leica just to use it all up before processing goes bye bye. But honestly, I'd much rather shoot with my D700.

It's not entry or mid-level, and it's aluminum.

You get what you pay for.

I have been a pro photographer for over 35 years, i do not care what the camera is made of or how it looks, Every day i use a D3s and D3x and every day i think would the pair be much lighter if they were hi tech carbon or plastic. There are two types of photographers, one type is into the gear and the other type into the images, i am the latter. Both are legit as they bolster the same market. GB.

I currently do a lot more digital photography than film. As for the latter, a roll of Tri-X still goes into my Rollie TLR or Leica M6 every now and then. The experience reconnects me with the pleasure of using a camera made to last and the Leica mystique.

Dan K.

I love the old cameras for the unforgiving way they deliver their lessons. Today my Pentax LX reminded me that if I set the shutter speed to 1/1000 after loading a new film so I can cap the lens to shoot blanks on the first three frames, I need to reset the shutter speed to "Auto" before I shoot the rest of the roll. I expect this lesson should stick with me for a while. :-)

My Peugeot 504 diesel finally went to the great 504 graveyard in the sky after 750k km, just behind my first ever good camera, a Pentax SV, bought in 1964 when I was 15 with all my savings from pocket money ever accumulated.... (which finally went to the Pentax graveyard in the depths of Lake Manapouri , South Island, New Zealand,after a boating accident) " The quality of a product is remembered long after the price is forgotten"..... so true.. from an owner of OM-1, Nakamichi tape deck, Nagra reel-to- reel and currently enjoying a new toy, a Samsung EX-1.... So there!!!!

For those who miss manual focus lenses with a precise feel and excellent build quality, I recommend the current line of Zeiss lenses in various 35mm camera mounts. I have the 35/2 ZS Distagon and just recently acquired an 85/1.4 ZE Planar. The attractions of the ZE mount, for Canon users, is that there is no slop in the mount and there is full electronic communication with the lens, so you can set the aperture with the wheel on the back of the camera like other EOS lenses, but I actually prefer to set the aperture on the lens like just about every camera I've ever owned, so I think I'd prefer the ZS (M42) mount on lenses where it's available, and of course there's the attraction of compatibility with other cameras like my FD-mount New F-1.

The ZS mount lenses also have a manual stop down lever on the lens, which I also like, but of course that means no auto-aperture function, which can also be preferable depending on the situation. With the 85/1.4 Planar, I'm finding that it's a good idea to check focus at the working aperture.

What they need to make is a really high quality mechanical camera with interchangeable sensors.
Pardon me, it appears Hasselblad has been doing that for a while. My 1960's vintage 500c can take a 39MP back right now provided I hit the Powerball this weekend.
Also, you gotta love a photo site that talks about MG, Triumph and Beezer.
One of my friends still has the 441 Victor he bought new in high school. My first car was a TR3a I bought in 1970 with money I saved while overseas in the Army.
Back in 1980 Mrs. Plews and I bought a 1974 TR6. It's still out in the barn.
Any Morgan fans out there? Royal Enfield, Matchless, Ariel square 4, Riley?
What a lovely crowd wanders onto this site, it's just a treat!
Happy 4th to all.

Bron, When visitors from the US came to visit my workplace and the moniker "Prince of Darkness" for Lucas came up in conversations, we sometimes asked them what plane and engines they used to cross the pond. Depending on who they were, we sometimes liked to mention casually that they were flying on Lucas FADECs (engine controls). Not as scarey as it might seem, since most pilots never see even one engine shut down in their career. The reliability of electronics in motor vehicles is crucially dependent on both design and quality control at both the supplier and the vehicle assembler. We in the UK didn't do either well enough in the 60s and 70s, but we do them rather well now - just not for major UK-owned companies. Just sayin'. (Disclosure: I'm a retiree from Lucas Research)

Time to roll back the years. I've had a few cameras on the shelf and my Canon 30D is one of the best made. Similar prosumer film cameras like to EOS5 are nasty and plasticy and don't even talk about the EOS50 (Elan II) with it's sqeaky back. The earlier AE1 Progam is delightful and elegant. I'm beginning to think it's all abut money after all the 50s, 70s and noughtys were all good times...

We all have different relationships with the cameras we use, as is obvious from the above posts. I'm a pianist, and to me the digicam/dSLR transition has seemed a lot like the onset of electric pianos and then digital synthesizers and other keyboards, and their displacement of "old-fashioned" acoustic pianos for many purposes. The digital instruments are marvelous inventions, with far more functions, permanence and purity of tuning, stability and range of sounds and automatic outputs than an acoustic Steinway piano. However, even though a performer can physically play exactly the same music on a digital keyboard as on a mechanical acoustic instrument, and can even digitally mimic the tones and dynamics of the Steinway, few musicians would be inspired to play in the same way. You don't "hear" the touch that the player feels, but it certainly influences how he thinks and plays and thus what you hear. There is a physical relationship you have with the "right" instrument that makes it "your" instrument rather just a neutral mechanical means to output music. I choose my camera to be my personal instrument, rather than just part of a tool or gadget collection that outputs pictures. I want the right instrument in my hands and at my eye, one that gives me a feeling of seriousness of purpose like the touch and sound of a fine piano. The disposable plastic feeling of most current digital cameras is a negative feedback that interferes with my seeing of pictures. I guess I fit pretty well the tiny niche that the digital Leica M's seek to satisfy today.

I like the piano analogy. Very apropos.


Mr. Ironside, apologies if I have offended; though it should be obvious that I've owned my share of British machinery, and am very fond of the British brewing arts. And the Ducatti was far worse electronically; also from that time: "on a quiet night you can hear a chevy/ford rust". Brand preference optional.

An aside, I love my digital doo-wahs, have no desire to revert to film, but if any body goes to my web site, I practice a multi-thousand year old craft, in the way it has always been done ... by hand. Go figure. Though I've integrated the computer into the craft.


Here is a good article about a photographer who spent time and money to find out which is better, film or digital? This was posted on the Digital Photography School blog:


I think it is worth reading in context to this thread.

If one can separate the film (digital sensor) from the camera, you might have better choice. If you are using digital back, you can still in many cases use the old manual camera.

Semilog, you are so right. I bought 200 sheets of TMAX 4x5 this month and I will continue to do so until I have enough in the freezer to last me the rest of my life. What is real key difference between film and digital photography? In the first case, what remains at the end is an artifact. In the latter case, a file. We can still print Mathew Brady's negatives today. Who will be able to open an SD card 100 years from now if it contains a single bit error in the wrong place?
I am enjoying XTOL but as long as we can buy chemicals there's always D-23.

The handling qualities that I love about my Panasonic Lumix L1 (Leica Digilux 3 equivalent), is the aperture ring and shutter speed dial. Surely other digital camera manufacturers could include this in their cameras.

"PFUI, real men drove MG-B's, with electronic overdrives, or BSA's; little old ladies drove triumphs."

Oh, a BSA; I had one of those. Worst machine I ever owned, ever. I suppose one had to get one of the pre-unit construction bikes to get a good one. Among other things, the horn fell off (the bracket broke from metal fatigue from the vibration); I had to carry extra Zener diodes with me, they constantly shorted out; the brake light shorted out, but since the circuit ran through the ignition, every time I hit the brakes the motor would die....

Oh. Sorry to get off topic. Let me get back on... I wish I had a photograph of that bike it definitely was beautiful, at least.

The success of Apple seems to show that a company who prioritises 'tactile satisfaction' and 'esthetic sense' over maximum functionality can be rewarded.

I recently took some shots with a 1938 Contax III. Certainly it's beautifully made. I wanted to enjoy using a rangefinder, using film and using a manual camera. But at the end, I came away thinking give me my plastic Canon DSLR any day...

Yeah, I think what accommodates us to technology in any era is simply that it's the latest and best available, so we learn how to make do with it because we can't do any better. In 1938 I'm sure the proud Contax owner did well with his beautiful camera. And fifty years from now people will look at your current Canon and think, Holy Cow, this ancient thing has SEPARATE PHOTOSITES for the different colors and doesn't even allow for selective focus and....

It will seem as kludgy and limited to them as the old rangefinder seems to you today.

I'm still pretty amazed that Dorothea Lange could make "Migrant Mother" with a Graflex D, though. Shooting with that thing must have been like driving Fred Flintstone's car.


"Here is a good article about a photographer who spent time and money to find out which is better, film or digital?"

Next, we can look forward to a monthly article that addresses the next burning question:

"Which is better, a watercolor or a woodcut?"

"Which is better, a Stratocaster, or a hammer dulcimer?"

"Which is better, a Richard Sachs racing bicycle, or a Ducati 996?"

"Which is better, Lenny Bruce or Meryl Streep?"


It's not the plastic, it's the nostalgia... :)
Tactile mechanical apparatus was for prosumers in the 70-80's what today would be an Intel Core i7-955 or 15 megapixels. Although they appear to be completely different things, I think they are all the same - the sensation of owning the most polished, advanced contemporary state-of-the-art technology. In the 70-80's cameras competed over mechanical build. In the 90-2000's cameras compete over other features.
My dad had a Nikon F1, which I still keep. Indeed, pressing the shutter on the Nikon F1 gives me a marvelous sensation of 40 years old mechanics that still work. But the handling is catastrophic. I would not replace it for my D300 handling.
BTW, marketing theory has it that consumer products evolved from lowest price (T-model) to highest quality (during the 60's) but today consumer products are directed at producing the highest value to the consumer. With only a handful of nostalgia affectionados in desire of hefty premium, heavy mechanical build - most consumers would like it light & cheap.

Ye canna hanna manna granna spanna ..... Sidchrome!

Even yer humble mechanic has a clear sense of pride and satisfaction from owning good kit. In the case of a spanner it might even feel the same in hand as the cheap one. He might never have been let down by cheap kit, and yet he will aspire to buying the good stuff. It might be a very sizable chunk of money he doesn't have to spare. The purchase might be made very seriously, the payment handed over carefully. But the feeling, inside, isn't about boasting, nor about pride or superiority. The feeling is of commitment, it is taking oneself seriously, it is symbolic. The connection between man and tool is deep, it is primal, definitive and close to identity.

How long ago would we have been seen picking up a stick, shaking it, dropping it, and repeating the process until one feel just right? Then when we find the right one it never leaves the hand. Some things never change.

I'm with you, Semilog. We're living in the golden time for film shooting and we must enjoy it while it lasts. Thank you.

Superb mechanics, sublime image quality and tactile experience, all in one? Only a Contax RTS III can deliver...

It's always good to pick up that old boat anchor camera to remind you how good the gear is these days.

"I'm still pretty amazed that Dorothea Lange could make "Migrant Mother" with a Graflex D, though. Shooting with that thing must have been like driving Fred Flintstone's car."

I keep thinking "That Mike guy is pretty nice except for the occasional Graflex slander".

My favorite camera. I was given an unused Graflex in 1986 set up with X-sync, and just loved shooting portraits on Polaroid PN film and making 40" enlargements.

Some people talk about a camera not getting in the way of the photographer, not coming between the photographer and the subject. The Graflex is just the opposite, It keeps the photographer from coming between the camera and the subject. When you use the Graflex it's like you are crawling inside the camera, observing the outside world like Plato's caveman. Not only that, it smells good. My old Nikons and Leica smell nasty, the Hassalblad doesn't smell like much of anything at all.

Maybe you had an encounter with a beater Graflex or something?

You are a better man than I, Mr. Crawford. But then, I knew that already.


Let's remember that electronic components are made to levels of precision FAR surpassing that of any of the physical components in cameras of the past.

If you do want to fondle real top-quality machining and admire smooth fit, finish, and function, though -- consider collecting firearms. Since their basic function requires very high mechanical strength as well as great precision, they have remained impressive physical artifacts.

Those who lament the curvy plastic cameras of today replacing the metal cameras of boxy design have someone to blame - Luigi Colani, who designed a famous ergonomic camera for Canon in the early 80s.
See http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/design/kikaku/t90/03.html
He had designed a add-on grip for Minolta SLRs earlier.
The Canon T90 was his first production Canon, I believe.

I've got to back up Mr Crawford on the Graflex. These are really wonderful cameras, and I think I take some of my best portraits with a 5x7" Press Graflex. Its only disadvantage is that it doesn't easily shoot verticals. For that I'd need a 5x7" Home Portrait Graflex, like Strand used. They really are as simple as an SLR gets, and you get a large format neg, big enough to contact print.

When my son was starting to crawl, I was photographing him mainly with a Bronica S2a, and after a while I swapped the focusing helical for the faster rack and pinion focusing tilt/shift bellows, and then after experimenting with different finders, I found I liked the chimney finder with the 3x magnifier best for this task, and it became obvious that I'd just turned the camera into a medium format Graflex. That's when I realized that a 5x7" Press Graflex is the ideal camera for chasing toddlers around--


It's always a hit on the playground--


"Its only disadvantage is that it doesn't easily shoot verticals"

Doesn't EASILY shoot verticals!?!!



Well, there is actually a tripod socket on the side of a 5x7" Press Graflex, but I think I'd need a pentapod with two legs parallel to the ground, extending to the adjacent walls to stabilize the camera against the momentum of the mirror in that orientation, and I have tried it on a few very sturdy tripods.

Well, even though they are "molded polycarbonate containers for electronic components" I would take my d700 out in the rain at any time, which I'd never do with any of my heavy all-metal tanks/cameras.
And I'm pretty sure that if I'd bang my Leica M6 against a couple of objects it'd break much earlier than the "crap" one has to buy nowadays.

I think that older/vintage cameras do feel sturdier also for having less buttons and other things to "break", however when it comes to honestly trusting them as a tool I'd go with one of the newer higher-level cameras.
Ask the pros with which camera they'd rather earn their living.

Just embrace the new technologies, if the old cameras really are as sturdy and great as everybody says then you'll be able to enjoy them for many many more years.


I take better pictures with my Panasonic
GF1 than with my Nikon F3 and film. So,
if the picture is the most important thing,
it doesn't matter what camera you use.

However the key phrase is "most important
thing". Handling a Rolleiflex f2.8 twin lens
reflex or a Leica M3 or a Linhof 4x5 Master Technika borders on the orgmastic.

As Ctein said some blogs ago....do what
makes you happy.

The technology transition has been a good one for me. I placed way too much emphasis on mystical qualities of gear and process when I shot film with finely crafted mechanical cameras. My indifference to my digital gear allows me to forget about that hoo-ha, and concentrate on the world in front of the camera rather than get so caught up in the camera itself. I don't love my DSLRs like I did my Widelux or Rolleiflex, but I love more of the finished photographs.

Re your comments about the S2's "simplicity": That's been the nice thing about most Leica cameras--very simple, very minimal as far as controls go--even the M9 fits into this category.

It's nice to shoot a no-frills camera that puts YOU in charge, not a microprocessor. Makes you feel like you're really photographing. As I like to say, with a Leica there's almost nothing between you and your shot.

Just a shame all that simplicity costs so much....

Reminds me of a quote by one of Gandhi's aides: paraphrasing: "It costs a lot of money to keep the Mahatma living in poverty."


Just to elaborate on some of the comments made above:

I LOVE my E-3. It's a killer camera, and I've gotten many shots with it that I could not have gotten with my old film-burners.

But...it's not the same as shooting with my old-metal-bodied film jobs. While I get great pictures out of the E-3, I never feel like I'm REALLY photographing.

Maybe it's because the majority of my photographic life has been spent putting things on film, but there's something about shooting film--almost a tactile experience--that gives me a sense of accomplishment which I don't get from digital. Part of it is because using film forces you to SLOW DOWN, as opposed to digital, which can lead to machine gunning for shots, if you don't watch it.

Plus, as I've said elsewhere, there is something refreshing about using a bare-bones camera that forces you to work to get the shot. Probably like driving an old MG sports car...

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