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Saturday, 17 December 2016


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I do miss a solid mechanical mirror lock as on the Nikon F3. Even more I miss ISO25 and down into TechPan territory of ISO3. Ever climbing ISO settings are nice but low so I don't have to depend on Neutral Density filters would be good for me.
An excellent optical finder as easy to focus manually as the old Nikon and Canon Pro bodies would be a real plus.

Sorry I can't cite the original origin, but computer scientists are equally optimistic. From the Message of the Day archive for Unix systems: "Every program has at least one bug and can be shortened by at least one instruction -- from which, by induction, one can deduce that every program can be reduced to one instruction which doesn't work." (http://motd.ambians.com/quotes.php/name/freebsd_fortunes/toc_id/1-0-2/s/935)

Your theorem, while almost alway true in practice, is false. Here is a counterexample.

I've used Pentax MXs for over a quarter of a century (I've had four, of which I still have three). The only improvement I could ask for is that they would not (very occasionally) go wrong, still less wear out (they don't actually appear to ever wear out, so this is purely theoretical).

It took me about twenty years to realise this though.

(Caveat: obviously this is within the constraint of being the cameras they are, so 'being large format / digital' would not be an improvement in the sense I mean.)

(Technical caveat: also, the chrome ones should be black.)

Only us gear geeks would look for perfection in a camera. You usually need to obsess over something to begin that quest. Considering our idea of gear perfection is ever changing, the odds of finding it ain't good. It's the things you don't think about and just accept that come the closest. Playing fetch under the Milky Way on a moonless night is a good example. :-)

The Improvement Law and the Resignation Imperative could easily pass for episode titles on the television show Big Bang Theory.

I wonder if the Improvement Law is counter to, or proof of the entropic nature of the universe?

As for Keppler's preference for a shutter button on the front, I've mentioned before, and I know Mike has acknowledged he likes, the angled front shutter button on the Pentacon Six. I owned it briefly, when I was fickle, and but for some shortcomings (most notably a VF w/ about 70% coverage) it was a pleasant and cheap intro to MF cameras, and the lenses were cheap and quite good.


Ah, a shutter release on the front, just like my old Exakta VX! Now that would be a fine improvement on my Fuji X-T1 ...

But as I read this column, I have in front of me on the kitchen table my Titanium Nikon F2 with its meter-less prism. It is completely beautiful, and works perfectly in spite of being nearly 40 years old, helped by a recent overhaul by F2 guru, Sover Wong in the UK. (I normally use it with a Zeiss 50mm Makro Planar, or Nikon AiS lenses) Try as I might I can't imagine any 'improvement' that could be made without the camera becoming something else – add autoexposure, autofocus, make it digital, etc. and you don't have an F2 anymore – you see the problem. If you 'improve' it it becomes what it isn't, so you can't have made an improvement.

I call this the "design conservation conundrum", and it only seems to apply to older cameras.

The imaginary camera must have been based on a Miranda,I'm guessing with a Nikon lens mount for the era. Wonder what the other tweeks were.

When I was 13 or so, my father bought me an Exakta VXiib. He had a connection at work with a guy who worked part time at Seymour's Exakta -- a camera shop dealing exclusively in Exakta cameras. It had the shutter button on the front -- on the left. The shutter button ran through an appendage from the lens that also stopped down the shutter. It was for me the perfect left-eyed camera (I am right handed by my left eye is my dominant one).

Is the corollary "Be careful what you wish for?"

And then an improvement few us would have ever thought of, but very important to some (or an important few): encryption.

https://freedom.press/news/over-150-filmmakers-and-photojournalists-call-major-camera-manufacturers-build-encryption-their-cameras/ via DPReview.

Postulate 3: Every camera should be easy to use.

Correlate 1 to Postulate 3: Every camera should be fully automatic.

Correlate 2 to Postulate 3: Every camera should know what the user wants to do before the user does.

I agree on the screen - I have discovered that I really, really dislike an articulated screen. It is a dealbreaker for me. That's too bad for me, too, because it eliminates some pretty interesting cameras from serious consideration.

Moving the shutter button to the front is the one thing I would change about almost every camera I use. There hasn't been a good reason to place the shutter button where Leica, Nikon, and Canon put it since the days when shutter buttons spun when you cocked the shutter.

I read most of Keppler's columns through the 70s and 80s. I think he rolled out and updated his "Perfect Camera" column every few years. I remember one of them finishing up with something to the effect that "The camera still won't tell you 'Hey, that composition is lousy' " I think the modern do-all DSLR has everything else he listed in the mid 80s.

There are quite a few film cameras I've liked that I wish could produce digital files. Does that count? There are also digital cameras I've liked that I wish could shoot film.

I too am a tip-not-flip fan so today's ideal cam for me is a wx-sealed g85. Ah well.

Another axiom is that what you shoot today may annoy you in two years.. cameras change and so do we. I love Bill Gekas' Pentax portraits of his little girl, but a) she's less little and b) he is now doing street shots with Fuji.

I would not know what to improve on the Nikon FM2A, the classic Linhof Master Technika or a Rolleiflex 2.8 FX.
On the other hand my far from perfect Olympus micro 4/3 replaced them all.

A while ago I bought a used 10 year old digital camera for under $100.00. Why? See the Dec. 2014 column “The One That Got Away.” I got my money’s worth, but it had it’s flaws: not many megapixels, ISO 400 was the highest it could go, and it was too slow for everyday use. I can’t live with a camera that takes 12 seconds to write a RAW file.

This camera had a feature that I really liked, that my “good” camera at the time did not have. So I looked around and eventually I bought a new camera I like that has this feature.

Time passed, and this year I bought another “One That Got Away,” this time “only” five years old and, of course, costing more - close to $300.00. Wouldn’t you know it, there is another feature on this camera that I really like and is not on my current “good” camera. This feature is very rarely found on any good cameras.

If there is a lesson here, it’s that potential improvements can be found using cameras that are obviously worse (in some ways) then the your current camera.

For now I am resigned to living with a camera that takes 2 seconds to write a RAW file. Other than that, the five year old camera is quite good for me.

This post with all its corollaries, postulates and axioms, makes me feel like I have to go back to school to "get it" :-)

However, I wish to add one more into the mix: The Sigh! Corollary :

I know there will be improvements, but, my god, there has got to be a superior being somewhere helping me out of this dilemma?

I'd like to propose a corollary to postulate 2. "Said improvements being highly variable depending on current application."

I prefer the flip up screen on my E M-1 until I'm shooting macro, close to the ground and then I want the swivel screen off my Pen F.

Do not agree at all, every gear geek should take op yachting (bankrupty is eminent anyway and believe me yachting eats money), every photographer should take the most maliable camera he knows. In my case an old Canon with Magic Lantern....now that is exactly the camera a gear geek should own. Not because it is an old Canon, but bacause Magic Lantarn turns an old Canon in a totally wild and outragious photographic weapon of mass creation. No camera has more options then a Canon equiped with ML, no camera can do more tricks then a Canon equiped with ML. ML is verry reason I bought a Canon (as an old Nikonion) in the first place. We should al embrase hacking and hacked hardware and all camera producers should open all camera's to third party developments (by international law). That way great hardware can be taken to it's limits and even beyond. No harm done. It will not impede on sales of hardware, since sensor limits (the only reason to upgrade a camera) will not be broken.

When set my Canon to movement trap and watch it taking shots all by itself without the need for any hardware what so ever, or when I set it to audio shoot and clap in my hands an have a picture taken, hell that is so cool!

Greets, Ed.

Having been less than prudent during the years when I was earning a quite decent income, my budget took a big hit when I retired, now some eleven years ago, one result of which was, after so-and-so-many quasi-happy years of being a gear-head (that was part of the imprudence of those years … ) that I found myself "stuck" with the one camera and four lenses I happened to own at the time.

This was perhaps the best thing that every happened to me as a photographer! I actually had to start figuring out how to make what I had do what I wanted instead of perpetually hoping that there was some equipment "out there" that would do the job for me.

Eleven years on, the equipment I've been stuck with has just gotten better and better, so much so that I'd venture to say that by now it's damn near perfect (though I wouldn't say that about my photographs, even if they have improved a bit along the way too).

A variation on the old saw about the best camera being the one you have with you …


The best for you will still have a few things that you wish were different. Agreed, who else is married?

Found in Indiana University's OneSearch:

Why can't the SLR I really want be under my Christmas tree this year?
Keppler, Herbert
Popular Photography. Dec 1997, Vol. 61 Issue 12, p15, 3 p. photograph
Description: The unfulfilled wish for the perfect single-lens reflex camera leads a photographer to an imaginary design of an ideal SLR. His ideal camera is made up of the best features of a Contax G2 and Minolta Vectis S-1: Shutter release controls, an infrared rangefinder and LCD information panel.
Database: Academic OneFile

I'm going to have to say that the most urgently needed improvement to digital cameras is that they write encrypted files, just like an iPhone does by default.

"The foundation, which has both Poitras and Snowden on its board of directors, is asking those companies to add the encryption features missing from virtually every standalone camera on the market, so that no thief, cop, or border agent can access their footage simply by grabbing the device out of their hands.


Beyond filmmakers, photojournalists are just as vulnerable. The Committee to Protect Journalists says seizures of photojournalists’ cameras and other devices occur so often 'that we could not realistically track all these incidents,' according to the group’s activism director Courtney Radsch."

150 Filmmakers Ask Nikon and Canon to Sell Encrypted Cameras

When building things or fine tuning some calibration we start trying to get that last little extra something only to find it costing time and money or going backward. "The enemy of good is better"

I miss the inconvenience of a convenient camera.

I love the little size of my Sony A7R, and the pictures it takes but I wish...everything else. In every other respect, I've never been indifferent to/disliked/hated a camera more but, here's the thing: I've never been happier with my photography. Perhaps photographers need a camera they don't really like?

I think the resignation comes not from a realization that all cameras always have room for improvement, but that you're just one person and what you think is an improvement, someone else thinks does not.

I'd like to like Panasonic cameras more than I do, in part because of the articulating screen, but find other things bothersome enough to make them "just another camera". The inability to set exposure compensation while shooting Auto ISO in M mode makes it a non-starter, when other cameras offer this feature. I bet no more than a handful of photographers care about this. But I like the articulating LCD.

If the film industry had not died as it did I would still be using my Nikon F3 and producing images as colour slides. That did not happen. Now we have an industry/obsession that produces items on too regular basis, each one a bitdifferent this or that; they all are able to render images albeit on a computer chip. Still, nothing is the same, nothing!

As far as I'm concerned it's just like bicycle racing. If I reduce the weight of my bike by several kilograms, I can ride a tiny bit faster for a tiny bit longer. If I reduce my weight by several kilograms, I go a lot faster for a lot longer. But it's easier for to buy a lighter bike than it is for me to lose weight.

I am just delighted and happy when a camera works properly.

When I say 'works' I mean it does everything pretty much as I would expect, and does it consistently.

Ever since cameras started to get auto-everything, such examples are increasingly hard to find.

Dear Mike,

I dare to add the statement that your "Antidote to the Persistence Corollary of the Improvement Law" is like the definition of falling in love... with a camera or a person.

In the emergence of my photographic consciousness, four gurus:

Herbert Keppler
Art Kramer
David Vestal
Ralph Hattersley

Happy times of Popular & Modern - the sixties in Marrakech (Morocco), bought from the newsagent of Avenue Mohamed V just in front of the paradise, the shop of the photographer Wrédé.


Always there 50 years later.
Everything moves, nothing changes.

Mr car is missing many desirable features, but also a monthly payment.

Front-release cameras: Miranda and Exacta, already mentioned. But is there no love for Topcon? My father acquired a Topcon Super D (aka Topcon RE Super) back in 1970...first camera with TTL metering at full aperature, rather than via stop-down. Lenses were quite nice, with extensive use of ball-bearings in all moving mechanisms (very smooth focusing, but you could hear the balls shifting when moving the lenses in a camera bag...

Who gets to decide what is Perfect?
(I'll volunteer!)


There's only one rule: don't upgrade until your new camera has at least one essential (as opposed to incremental) improvement that matters to you.

Had both the Exakta lla and llb, and was delighted to get rid of them when I could afford my F. Bought an F2 Photomic to keep the F company and my senses calm. The F2 was easier on the hands on a long shoot because it was a bit rounded at the edges. I hardly ever shot faster than about a 500th sec, usually a bit slower, so top speeds meant little to me.

They both went when an F4s came along, but that went very rapidly when I realised the F3 was still available. Why backwards like that? "Improvement" in film-loading which was anything but! Had the F and F2 had better flash synch. then I'd never have spent time buying FM and FM2 bodies just for that single function. In every other way they weren't in the F and F2 class. Which of course, Nikon never claimed for them.

Digital. I have a D200 and D700 and need nothing better. Just hope they keep on truckin' as long as I can. Or perhaps the other way around?

If you have a real, commercial market for your output, then life takes on a different set of perspectives.


Statement:"The grass is greener on the other side of the fence."

Retort: "The grass is just a different shade of green. Grass is grass."

Mike, one of the major advancements your not really covering at all in "Photography" is the advancement in non camera/lens gear which is enabling significant advancements in computational digital modeling and before impossible advances in imaging. Here's a example of a company doing just that.


I have no interest or position in this.


Interesting; the Topcon RE Super (Super D in the US) shares three of the features of the Miranda Sensorex I found interesting -- front shutter release, interchangeable finder, and metering on the mirror so it works with all finders. Given release dates any influence would be from Topcon to Miranda.

The best camera is one you will actually use to take a photograph.

This seems a good time to mention the Focusing Illusion by Nobel recipient Daniel Kahneman:

"Nothing In Life Is As Important As You Think It Is, While You Are Thinking About It"

Found here, as part of a wonderful array of scientific concepts that will make us all smarter:

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