« 'Kiev's Fatigue' by Eric Bouvet | Main | Music Notes (OT): Rootsy Gumbo »

Friday, 21 February 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I will make the same comment here that I have made elsewhere. I think the quote should really read "Canon doesn't do retro, except when it comes to their sensors" :P

Put a Canon 7s next to a Nikon SP or a Leica M3 and this makes sense. The Canon isn't ugly but it isn't timeless either although with the super fast 50 it does look pretty gnarly. I'll give it that.

Good point. I immediately like Canon a bit more now.

There is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, Canon doesn't seem to do innovation either. Their last groundbreaking product was the 5D mk II five years ago.

Most companies give a lot of thought to the image they want to project. My observation is that many camera companies seem to be frantic to catch the latest trend, giving us an overload of "me too" camera models over the years.

Ruminations: I love the industrial design of Apple computers, but I have been a PC user for fifteen years. My PCs are ugly; they are workhorses and easy to upgrade.

I once dated a girl who was drop-dead gorgeous. She was not a nice person. That experience taught me something about functionality and form.

Of course, there are always exceptions.

If 1989 is retro, I really feel old!

My dad, and antique collector, often said nothing could be an antique unless it was older than him. Where are the retro designs based on Speed Graphics and TLRs (and the silly miniature TLRs don't count).

I don't give a rats behind what my camera looks like. As long as it feels good when I'm using it, does what I ask of it and has the controls where I want them, that's all I need.

I've shot Nikon, Canon, Leica, Rollei and Hasselblad professionally. Of all of them the only one that drove me batty was the Canon digitals. I just couldn't get use to the controls. Their film cameras were great.

If a camera can't become part of my subconscious when shooting then it gets tossed. Style is extremely low down on the list of what's important to me.

what an ugly camera. i never had a canon and i never will. same with nikon...

Actually, they look like the T90 which came out in 1986 and was pretty revolutionary at the time (until the Minolta 7000 came out)

Is choosing a proven form factor retro or just good design?

Canon created a really solid design language with the T90 and then EOS, it's a real tribute to them that an 1989 EOS user can pick up a current camera and set the important things without a manual - or relearning muscle memory. They may have made a dramatic, break all compatibility move with the EOS line, but they have stayed true to ever since.

Good excuse for not doing anything innovative. My two pesos.

I think that is a rather flippant and irresponsible remark. I for one am not impressed by Canon's 'non-retro' look, and what about their G9 - G16 line of cameras?

They can ignore the “retro” aesthetics all they want, but let’s hope they don’t miss the motivation behind what brought about people’s desire for the “simpler” cameras of yesteryear.

Almost all digital camera designs have had INCREDIBLY awful usability. Like mind-numbingly bad, marketing-driven, feature-bloated camera designs.

Sure ignore the aesthetics, but please God fix that.

Well - I like the retro designs but I shoot Canon(for digital) and I'm glad they aren't doing it.
I guess its the hipster in me - the true hipster - making me want to be opposite. Everyone wants a Fuji now - so I prefer the 'modern Canon'.
Tattoos were once rebellious - now everyone has them - I'm a rebel for not.

What I find much more amusing than the Canon's casual dismissal of retro design is that they expended so much effort into explaining the development of a camera that no one here seems to have the slightest interest in. The PowerShot G1X Mark II is, after all, a newly introduced mirrorless APS-C camera that isn't even available yet. Who is it for? Will they care any more than we do?

Who cares about camera style if the camera creates good images? While I loved the Olympus EP-2 when it came out I quickly got bored with all the other companies' iterations of the basic design. Fuji seems to realize that good handling always takes precedent over trendy-ness, why else the return to the jelly bean style.

Car guys could make replica T-birds and Impalas from the 1970's all day long but engineers have long since discovered the economics of jelly bean designs....

In the camera world they fit in your hand in the car world they save gas.

Maybe that's why I bought a couple of Panasonic GH3s. They handle like modern cameras. Not like hipster relics...

Regarding the looks of the 7S, I'll agree it's not the best.

But take a black "P" with a 50/1.4 on it? I'll stack that against any Leica or Nikon or even the best of them, the Contax II.

A mirrorless digital that looked and handled like the P would break sales records for Canon like the original did in 1959. But that's not going to happen, alas, because right now Canon is stuck in a DSLR rut.

If your Division in a large corporation is not doing as well as the other divisions, then you don't get the budget from the board to develop new, products.

All you can do is denigrate your competitors.

On the others hand this quote could also mean Canon is developing a retro-style camera and want their competition to think they aren't.

No wait, Canon isn't that cleaver anymore.

Canon's design is like seeing someone with a mid 1980s haircut determined to only wear modern fabrics, none of those retro cotton or wool fabrics.

On the other hand, taking the retna wrenchingly wretched Chevy Camaro as an example, retro can really backfire

A camera whose looks only Batman could love.

It seems a little odd that Canon wouldn't consider offering a digital AE-1 albeit with the current lens mount. Perhaps they have the disappointing marketing data which proves such a camera would be a waste of time for them but how hard would it be to offer a repackaged version of one of their current cameras? I won't be buying a Nikon DF because I don't need a new camera for some time to come but I do like the thing.

It's still ugly wünderplastik, though.

"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." -Steven Jobs talking about the iPhone.

He made an interesting comparison which is worth exploring.

Jobs was right in the sense that both the Leica and the iPhone products were "game changers" that re-shaped their respective industries.

We don't have any "game changers" from Canon here. Canon is simply saying we don't do retro (ie: Knobs, dials and analog indicators) like everyone else.

Retro will establish a market niche; but the precision, fluidity and malleability of a digital interface, when done right, is more effective.

I remember seeing Mary Ellen Mark work in Washington Square many years ago, her retro (and at that time state-of-the-art) Leica M6 was an extension of her hand and eye. No doubt that skill came about after a lot of practice with her tools.

The opportunity for the camera makers is to make the user interface so intuitive to use so that it becomes an extension of your hand and eye. Most makers have failed here (IMHO).

The camera industry can learn from the aerospace industry where there has been a quiet transition to a "glass-cockpit". This is today's standard in the commercial aviation industry and it will continue to grow and improve. Even the now retired Space Shuttle was upgraded to a glass-cockpit in 2002.

Now, think for a moment.

Would it be conceivable for Boeing or Airbus to offer a "Retro" cockpit as an option to increase sales?

I don't see this as a sales strategy for either Boeing or Airbus, but it seems to be for Nikon, Olympus and Fuji film.

It took about twenty years before digital camera got a good optical viewfinder (Fuji X100). How retro is that? I wish some others would follow. Many companies made good, small, fixed lens 35mm film cameras that had very good viewfinders and even range finders. But with digital, nobody, not Canon, not anyone else could make one. And still cannot. Apart from that one and only Fuji.

Difficult to improve on the Canon S90 s95... S120 series.

I have been using Canon cameras since 1973. I have found them to be reliable and of course capable of taking great images. But because of the size, I have been using a Sony NEX, which is also nice to use and is better at autofocus than my Canons. I recently tried a Sony A7 and this camera was nicer to use than any Canon digital that I have tried, including the 5D mark 3. Small for a full frame sensor camera, it fit well in my hands, and the controls were intuitive enough to be quickly figured out and easily used. I even thought the EVF was good. I might very well start to migrate over to Sony, despite my appreciation of Canon products and service over the years. If others feel as I do, then Canon is going to have problems in the future.

A big reason, in my opinion, for the poor response to a lot of digital cameras is due to both marketing/engineering as well as customers confusing styling with design. Good design begins in the metaphorical center of the product and works outward to produce the best product by solving the problem at hand. Styling is the conceit that you can apply surface features that will resonate with a market group. That is not design.

In photography, there have been basic designs that solved specific market problems (i.e. that we ended up with a few form-factors suitable for specific types of photography. a Minox, while good for certain kinds of photography, would be a poor architectural camera). Within those archetypes there were distillations of the concept that became classics for how they enabled ease of operation. I truly think the camera is more important than the optics in just about all photography. My anecdotal proof: Imagine any great photos you have seen, and imagine how they might be improved viscerally with different optics. But if the photographer was not fluid in operating the camera when taking picture in question, it would arguably not have happened. Ergonomics (assuming the shutter/aperture/meter etc operate as designed) is more important.

And my point (I really do have one) is that there hasn't been a digital camera yet (of which I'm aware, and my knowledge is not exhaustive) that distills the basic operating parameters to create a fluid operating process except when auto is enabled. And what do we need to tame since the creation of the Leica M? It seems to me there are really only two more parameters: ISO as a variable at capture time, and functions related to focus. In manual focus 35mm days, we had a wheel for setting ISO/ASA which largely was set at the loading of the film and left alone. We had a dial for shutter, and another for aperture. Pretty simple, and easy to go from one manufacturer's approach to another. To me, it seems like the best 'designed' solution is yet to be found for photographers who want to shoot manual or partial auto. And none of this has anything to do with retro. Modern camera designers need to solve a different problem than Barnack did.


Retro doesnt equal cool. Retro is a design fad for the moment. I never knew EOS-1 was considered ugly and a Leica or anything 1/2 resembling it was "hip".

Retro knobs and dont make a camera faster or easier to operate. Its just another way to manipulate the settings. Retro is not a "pure" photography experience. If you want to have really pure - people can go get a big wood box with plates. LOL

For example I am now seeing dedicated ISO dials on the top - so I have to take my eye off the viewfinder to change it unless it has a dedicated ISO button you can activate with the scroll wheel.

Last time I checked on pretty much any Canon EOS camera I can be looking through the viewfinder and push the ISO button and change it with the scroll wheel in a blink. If you are not looking at the viewfinder you can either hit the ISO button and move it via the 4 way tab or the scroll wheel while looking at on the screen.

I have used lots of APS-C sensor cameras and frankly I dont see much difference in the image quality though I am not a pixel peeper.

Frankly I am thankful that Canon is ignoring the retro thing. Their interfaces are far easier to manipulate than any Fuji.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007