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Tuesday, 19 March 2019

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Agreed! But here’s an option that could help - enable the ability to connect the camera to a computer and set all the settings through that larger screen real estate. That does not decomplexify the camera but it helps by not making settings on the small screen.

Agreed. I don’t buy cameras for their whiz bang features but for their ability to capture images in my clumsy hands. Ninety percent of every setting I need or want to change on a camera has a dedicated button or dial on my Fuji XT2. The few things extra I want to do I learn either by mistake (oh! That’s how you do that!) or by sitting on my sofa with reading glasses lost in menu hell or googling for help on my iPad.

It makes me laugh that with all the complexity contained in a current digital ILC people are still writing articles about the mysteries of aperture, iso, shutter speed, and exposure. The very basics have become arcana somehow.

It can, and does, do wonders in taking the fun outta it...

I think this is connected somewhat to people going back to film. My current main system camera has exactly three controls, all of which do simply exactly what they say on the dial/ring. After working all day on high tech stuff it's refreshing.

Another aspect of the complification issue with adding features is that many (most?) do not want to use all of the features so they don't bother with learning how to use them. The addition of these features also drives up the cost for all photographers whether they want the features or not. This leads to the cameras getting expensive enough that photographers stop upgrading since they can't afford the costs.

re: a complexification topic you might enjoy - A little over a year ago we purchased a Mercedes GLA 250 (Crossover), a model at the bottom end of the Mercedes line. We optioned it up to our liking and, upon taking delivery, it required 45-60 minutes with the dealership concierge (that was his title) explaining / demonstrating all of the various features and their computerized systems of optional setting. The complexification was such that, by 30 minutes later on the road, we were as confused as we were during our instruction season .... last month the car suffered relatively minor rear end collision damage by an idiot from Long Island who didn't know how to drive in the snow. While the car was in for repair, we were given a Mercedes E-Class to drive. The car made the navigation of our Mercedes complexification seem like a simple walk in the park. I can only imagine that, if we had purchased that car, we might have had to spend a day or 2 with the concierge together with an aggravating month or 2 trying put it all into practice. Re: killing with complexity - talk about distracted driving causing accidents, the attention it takes (even after you have sorta figured it out), focused on the display screen, to accomplish something that should be as easy as pie, is downright dangerous. Enough already.

Well, I tend to think cameras got too complex somewhere around 1976 when Canon introduced the first SLR with a microprocessor. :) The A-1 was a great camera (I still have one, and it still works), but once microprocessors and software get into a product, it's a sign that any simplicity or ease of use the product once had is on its way out. One of the reasons I like Fuji's X-series cameras is that the retro user interface of having an aperture ring on the lens and dedicated knobs for shutter speed and exposure adjustment (and ISO on the X-T models). There is still a menu, of course, and it still has more options than most people will ever need, but at least the main things are where they should be. Compared to my old Canon 5D Mark II, it's a much more pleasant shooting experience.

Now, the ideal digital camera for me would be one without auto-anything, just a nice EVF with exposure preview, a histogram, and a good manual focus aid. But I know I'm outside the mainstream on that.

I agree. Has me reaching for my Diana some days.

This is why I might be willing to pay a premium for the (DSLR) Leica SL, which shares the wonderfully simple 4 button interface introduced in the Leica S (and likely borrowed from Phase).

Sometimes less is more... and costs more.

Once apon a time you could switch from an LTlM Leica to a Nikon F, and never fell the need for a quick-start-guide. The arrival of digital was also the arrival of the mastering-bator. The more complex the camera, the more there was to master. Never the less mastering gear without mastering composition and lighting leeds to photos that suck BIGtime. No-one gets likes with sucky-shots, which leeds to lack of interest. Lack of interest plus ever increasing prices leads to decreased camera sales.

I loved the ergonomics of my Sony NEX 5n. However the menus were so hard to use I’ve never considered another Sony still camera!

Well, I'll admit that if I haven't handled my Fuji XP-1 in a couple of months that I'll have completely forgotten what I have to do to use it with a manual focus lens and an adapter. Focus magnification involves pressing the wheel (which, of course, doesn't look like a button, but functions like one). I'm waiting for a camera that is smart enough that I can just tell it what I want. "Camera. Go into Robert Frank mode. No, not Robert Capa, Robert Frank. Mille grazi. . ."

Every time I read about how complex cameras are today I pick up whatever camera I happen to own at the moment and look at the mode dial. They all, even "Pro" cameras, have setting called "Auto" or "iAuto" that will take a good picture in almost any shooting environment, maybe even better than the one the confused photographer is missing out on because he/she is busy menu diving. What could be simpler than "Auto"? I suppose you could have a camera with only "Auto" and no other dials or buttons but why is it wrong to include both "Auto" and "not Auto" for those that have fun fiddling with dials and buttons?

If photographers are frustrated by complexity, why not "Auto"? You don't have to tell anyone that you shot that magnificent picture in "Auto". It will be our little secret.

It's a common problem Mike. If the average user of Microsoft Word uses 5-10% of the available functions I'd be surprised.

By way of contrast, for a variety of reasons I bought a view camera recently. They started making this model in 1969. It's a thoroughly professional tool. It's ridiculously simple in design and execution. It does everything a late 1960s view camera was expected to do, and not one thing more. And it does those things well. If you've used a view camera before, you already know how to use this one. People who enjoying fiddling with buttons and menus and like endless complexity will find this a very boring tool.

Modern cameras (and software and electronics and....) are nothing at all like this, and I don't think that's a positive development.

Hmmm, I do not think there is a mainstream buyer for DSLRs. There were in the day, just like record players (er turntables) and many other consumer products that are no longer mainstream. That market went away some years ago, the smartphone meets the imaging needs of 99% of the mainstream. The mainstream is usually defined as "the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.".

It is possible the camera manufacturers are out of touch with their customers or constituents, but maybe not - the bulk of the buyers of DSLR cameras today are not photographers or artists - by all consumer data they are digital enthusiasts buying peripherals for their computers :) Creative wannabees? The feature wars are aimed at exactly the buyers - problem is that ain't us :)

I think there is great truth in what you say, and 'feature creep' where every camera has to have every Thing or capability has been brought about by two things: since most features are software/ firmware based, there is very little actual cost to adding most features, and 'instant camera "Reviews" are often little more than lists of features with check off boxes---so any "deficiencies" are easily seen.

But there is a real cost to this complexity in the form of complicated nested menus, and Tons of "Custom Functions"
Many of these settings or preferences are in no way obvious when you just pick up a camera.
Modern AF systems alone have become so complex that almost no one completely understands and uses them to full effect.
BUT.......most of your readers have found a way to use some subset of features that is appropriate for their style of work and preferences. I actually think that is OK for me & many of US.

I do believe what you are saying is quite true for much of the camera buying public. However, automatic modes have gotten ever better which does help to some degree. But not only are cameras too complex for comfortable and confident operation, manufacturers have effectively done nothing about connectivity.
I have often found myself using a phone, just because I want to easily and immediately share the images in some way.

Some manufacturers STILL want to sell you a multi-hundred dollar "WiFi adapter" Shame on them.
Camera manufacturers have devoted minimal resources to customer facing software---almost as if they didn't know that the idea of a Camera is becoming more software every year.

Analysis paralysis. You don't need to know everything about the camera. If you just leave all the menu options on default, you'll get excellent photos. Leica has figured that out. It makes all the choices for you, and removes all the options that overwhelm the average user.

Amen.

You may have a point. I have a friend who, many years ago now, was happy with his Sony point and shoot. When it was damaged, he opted to replace it with something bigger and better, and bought himself a shiny new Nikon D50. I reckon he maybe took 250 pictures with it before putting it back in the box where it still resides, a barely used antique (by modern standards). I know of at least a few others who have abandoned their little used SLRs, realising all they ever wanted was something to take holiday snaps with (enter iPhone).

You're talking about me, too, Mike, I don't mind admitting it.

For years now, a necessary first step for me with a new camera of recent vintage is to check to see if a camera nerd site has a recommended settings checklist for that camera, so I can turn all the "features" off, and glean something of what they do. (Thank you, camera nerd sites!)

Sure, in the past one could find multiple guides about operating, say, any given Canikon DSLR, but those were optional(!), mostly devoted to accessing the few features and options beyond normal camera functions, perhaps while relating everything to general photographic and aesthetic basics.

Nowadays, I need these sites to tell me how to set up the menus just to have the camera get out of my way.

Then, I generally find myself pretty much alternating between this "everything off" setting and a full-auto mode, because the maze in between is just too much trouble to get into.

It is exhausting, yes, and demoralizing. I used to be a camera nerd myself. But cameras were different then. Could be the mind ossifying with age, sure, but I don't think that's all of it.

This is exactly why I'm staying with Panasonic MFT. I've had Fuji, Olympus and Nikon cameras, and I'm fed up with learning new menus, features, buttons. And when my cameras die, I'll probably get a compact with a medium zoom and leave it at that.

It isn't the camera, it's the photographer ...

I had a canon dslr from 1993 to 2015 and I think I understood about 90 percent of the settings because they added them slowly one at a time. Mirrorless doubled the complexity overnight but 4 years in I think I have recovered to maybe using/understanding 80 percent of the features. I like messing with everything though. I am a tinkerer.

Amateurs use SLRs and DSLRs as P&S cameras because they aren't taught otherwise. And really, to care about depth of field or special exposures you have to learn how to see light, how to see a composition first. Who's gonna teach them?

So makers have been promising perfection forever, and everyone's scared to blink first, by offering basic controls at the expense of a spec sheet that won't list a marquee feature the competitor has.

But pros always use the top of the line, do it all stuff will buttons galore. Glad I'm not one.

Look, there are legions of people who never used easy to use cameras even when they were the norm. You have to care enough to try harder and overcome what you don't know. I hate most camera designs, but overall design isn't the bogey here.

Ya think? Nikon's Pet Mode: https://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and-explore/a/products-and-innovation/pet-mode.html

My wife has and uses an Olympus OM-D E-M10 ii camera, always on iA (intelligent Auto) and is not interested in any other option but the self-timer. She is a happy shooter because she can change lenses if need be. I think she is not the only ILC owner who thinks like that.

The fast development of cellphone cameras is more likely the cause of decline of sales of ILC's in my humble opinion.

To add....many buy the branded "Complexificated-Saturated" camera for bragging rights but use the auto mode to take (quite good) shots like a point and shoot.

Got money, no problemo.

k.i.s.s. wins every time

Your "Options" ideas and the complexities post are well linked. A boutique camera company/store could consult with the buyer and both "accessorise" the camera and adapt all the buttons and screen steps to suit. Importantly it would have to be done in a way that was not trashed by a subsequent firmware update as happens commonly now. The service would be worth paying extra.

I actually think you are being too generous to your audience with the implication that we are not similarly overwhelmed by and unaware of some of the potential benefits of our complicated cameras.

I can't speak for others, but on the whole, I think you have a very good point there.

I was a pro all my life, and I have often remarked that were I to have been confronted with digital cameras before I made that career call, it might never have been made. Film cameras were simple devices - apart from my first 500C 'blad whose instruction manual scared me witless and into thinking I might jam it like a machine gun (they do jam, I think) if I screwed up the sequences for changing lenses or loading the backs. In the event, nothing happened. 135 format cameras were really friendly, or at least, my Nikons were except for the F4s and its awful loading system that never worked at first attempt. I traded backwards to a new F3.

Digital, had I not had those earlier decades of film experience, would have put me right off, and I think that only the same years of producing prints allowed me to understand how to operate Photoshop as far as I need to know and use it. My two digital Nikons are both tuned to be as manual as possible; the one thing I really appreciate from the bodies is auto ISO, and because of my old eyes, autofocus on two of my lenses. I'd have it on the other ones too, but not about to spend more money on photography that, today, brings in none.

Yes. And YES. I have two examples, one of which is an outlier.

My (step) father-in-law worked for Kodak from just after World War II until his retirement several years ago. He was in purchasing (aka "supply chain management") so wasn't deep in the photographic weeds. But neither was he ignorant of the fundamentals of photography.

Lately he has been using a very small, pocketable Panasonic digital p&s which he liked except that the lens is too slow for many low light situations and when he doesn't want to use flash.

So he came to me for advice, and I surveyed the current offerings. After refreshing myself on the market, I decided that the Panasonic LX100 would fit the bill of having a fast and quality lens, plus the model just previous to the current model was more affordable and wasn't lacking in any features that he would need.

So I purchased it via Amazon Prime, familiarized myself a bit with it, and he came over so I could introduce him to its operations. I told him he had 30 days to decided whether to keep it - I could sense all the options might be overwhelming. All he wanted was to "point and shoot" with a quality, autofocus lens.

He returned it. In fact, after he got it home, he never even took it out of the box again. Yes, he's slightly the other side of 90, but he's reasonably sharp and has photographed with quality SLRs in the past. He's not photographically ignorant.

So there's the "extreme" example. The other is not so extreme. I recently traded in my XPro-1 for an X100F. I wanted a 'OCOL' digital option, and everything I'd read about and seen of the X100F convinced me that was "the" (non-Leica) digital camera for me.

And it is. Some of the new features are great, and the image quality from the 24MP APS-C sensor is wonderful.

But the menus ... oh dear lord. The advantage of setting the ISO manually with a physical dial (that single feature was enough to have me part with my cash) is overridden seemingly on the whim of some demon hiding deep in a menu or an errant button press. I JUST WANT A FIXED LENS CAMERA THAT IS AS CLOSE TO A MANUAL LEICA AS I CAN GET WITHOUT TAKING OUT A MORTGAGE. WHY MUST YOU TORTURE ME WITH HAVING TO DIG THROUGH MENUS AND A MANUAL?" (rant off)

Yes, I know the Fuji menu system is not as "bad" as some. And yes, I know that I could sit down with the (soft copy) manual and finally figure it out. And yes again, I know that as a hardened film guy who's attitude to automation is to barely begrudge aperture preferred AE on an OM2 or OM4... yes, I'm a curmudgeon ... but WHY isn't there an EASY, OBVIOUS option to turn off ALL automation except for AF & AE?

I think I'll have a drink.

I think most people end up putting their little computer that could on P and getting 90% decent exposures.


The best thing I did in this regard came after I first ran into the dreaded Olympus menu maze, also called WTF. I bought one of those big thick books that goes into exhaustive detail about how to set up your E-M5. I finally got it the way I wanted it and those hints carry over to every Olympus that I have owned.

Thom Hogan does these books for Nikon people. A good investment.

Probably one reason Fuji cameras are so well liked is because of the controls on the outside instead of hidden in menus.
For example, I personally must have exposure comp available outside a menu system.

Two things come to mind. First, cameras are expected to do a lot nowadays. There's a bazillion AF modes, customizable controls, image formats and picture settings, connectivity and a ton of things related to video. Not much can be left out as the expectation is that an expensive purchase can handle several situations that the user might encounter.

Second, low to mid end cameras do not do exactly what people want. They are essentially refined evolutions of the mid-end SLRs of a few decades ago when such a device gained electronics. Yet the concept remains the same while devices such as phones have an entirely different approach with as much automation as possible in image taking, then low-threshold editing and sharing. And if the user wants more options just install an app.

Mike,
I’m there already. Every time I break out my ancient (four year old) K-3 I find items in the menus that I had no idea existed. The only new camera on the market that piques my curiosity is the Leica Q2, purely for the limited interface that prioritizes still photography. But for $5K, I could almost buy a new bike! The kids are currently using my old cameras for a school photography class; when they’re done I think it’s time to load up the MX with some film and forget about pixel-level photon quantization or third menu level continuous autofocus functions.

I think that Nikon was on to something with the Df but failed because they couldn’t let go of enough of the electronic baggage that comes with modern cameras. Fuji has tried as well with mixed success (I love my XPro-1 except when it won’t fire when I want it to or the AF takes on a mind of its own). For my photography, there is nothing that I want beyond the capabilities of my early 80’s SLRs than the convenience of a digital sensor. I want control of the exposure and I would rather focus manually than fight the autofocus to do what I intend. If Nikon put a 24 MP sensor in a FE body, I would pre-order it today.

One could argue that a Leica M9/10/whatever is what I’m looking for but a rangefinder doesn’t suit my needs (macro/telephoto) and the price is out of hand. The ME Super that I bought in 1983 for $150 and has been to the top of Mt Rainier and through the Grand Canyon with me still amazes me with it’s bright, easy to focus viewfinder, solid feel and 30+ years of reliability. It’s stunning to me that no manufacturer has taken a shot at producing a simple, solid, reasonably priced, high quality output camera. That went longer than I thought, I guess you touched a hot button!

You are correct about the complexity of new cameras, but perhaps most people don't need all of the bells & whistles.
As a semi-elderly journalist, I use a pair of Nikon D750s and a couple of Sony crop-sensors, an a6300 and an a6000. Very different beasts, with different talents.
The Nikons are easier for me to learn. I don't know how to use HDR, but I don't do HDR. I don't use the saved mode settings, because those settings are in my head, I don't know how to edit video in-camera because I use a video editing program on my laptop.
I can't tell you how to shoot a panoramic with a Sony because I don't do panos, etc, etc.
I know what I need to know to do my job.
When I need to know a new trick, I get the instruction book, or download the PDF, or look for a YouTube video. Some 12 year old photographer probably posted a video on that very skill.
Perhaps camera sales decline because it's so easy to make a good photo on your phone, and because the phone is always with you.
BTW- I did learn a nifty new trick last week. I had a D750 on a monopod, holding the camera way up high. I couldn't see the screen and had to use the self-timer to trigger the shutter. It was all a crapshoot. I discovered that the Nikon will WIFI a live view to my phone and I trigger the shutter from the phone. AMAZING!

I understand there's no market for cameras without video capabilities or all kinds of in-camera image processing, but at least a more basic firmware mode that replaces all the complex stuff with more traditional controls might actually increase sales a little bit.

When you're not using a camera every day or week, an overdose of features is not helping and actually makes it harder to pick it up.
What does help a bit are custom presets, so that you can quickly get back to a known state without going through many menus to check all the settings you don't even all remember.

This is not about reducing complexity by adding all kinds of smart automated features that I then need to second-guess, but by seeing only the more basic controls and features that I'm actually using.

But all that has been said before I guess...

Completely agree! Tried an used 5 makes of DSLR camera bodies extensively and only kept 2. The other 3 had horrendous (to me) interfaces. Using SLR since 1974 and DSLR since 2001.

You are absolutely right on this. The only current cameras that I know of that come close to this ideal are Leica M digitals and therefore you have to pay a 100% premium for simplicity. Cameras seem as unmasterable as Photoshop but without Photoshop's breadth of purpose.

In response to this and the previous post it must be much easier and more rewarding for the camera manufacturers and their customers to offer this type of personalisation. The changes are achieved in software whereas for the car manufacturers options are hardware based (turn indicators?).

I have long thought that it only requires a simple change in mind set.

Currently, Olympus certainly but presumably the rest, enable you to save your settings to your computer. Just reverse that so all settings are made on the computer and then saved to the camera.

Many benefits flow from this:
- the user interface is so much less clunky than with the controls and screen on the camera;
- one has plenty of screen real estate to map the route through the settings;
- there is room to explain the impact of various settings;
- the camera companies and their gurus could publish their own settings for particular styles of photography;
- the settings could be saved to one's phone and reset simply in the field;
- for photographers the complexity issue seems to stem from having too much choice, this arrangement enables one easily to get rid of the choices one does not currently want safe in the knowledge that one can change ones mind;
- for the camera manufacturers they can continue to offer cameras that are all things to all photographers, but the photographer can easily choose which settings she wants today but then decide to be a completely different type of photographer tomorrow. So this morning (or this year) I have no interest in video so assign the video record button to ISO. This afternoon (or next year) I decide to be a a video fiend and choose the video settings accordingly.

I've got a simple, possibly silly, question, Mike. Have you ever gone out for a day's shooting with a camera set on full Automatic? My Oly and Panny* cameras call it iAuto, Sony and Canon, simply Auto, generally highlighted relative to the other Mode settings. These Modes look to be very sophisticated in analyzing the subject and optimizing the settings.

Well, of course you have, that's way your iPhone works; that's why it's so easy to operate. You need to download special apps to get more control. But have you done it on a real camera?

". . . the darn things got more challenging than they are rewarding."

My assumption is that the Auto modes are meant to be the antidote to the complexity offered to folks like me in return for the flexibility to take photos I otherwise could not.

I freely admit I've not tried them, but they weren't meant for me. Perhaps the Mode dials should be hidden, or act like keys, removable; maybe require a password to activate for anything but Auto?

I wonder what proportion of these cameras are never used with any other settings? And perhaps how many more should be. \;~)>

* Panny adds an iA+ Mode option.

Seems the masses have always been about 'easy" when it comes to photography. From Brownies to auto everything point and shoots.

At my work place several folks over the years have asked me about photography basics. I usually try to explain the relationship between DOF and aperture then aperture and shutter speed. To be honest I don't think anyone really "got it".

Phone cameras rule now.

Every camera I buy gets set up in pretty much the same way. Probably 98% of my shots are on aperture priority and the rest on manual. Always shoot RAW and can't be bothered with filters effects etc. The viewfinder is set up with a level and a central point of focus which I use and then recompose (can't be doing with multiple focus points popping up). I'll set up a custom button to switch between manual and autofocus (AFS) where necessary. I learn where/how to select exposure compensation. Then learn how to adjust white balance and to set the ISO. Then, basically, I'm good to go. A camera that had just those functions would be quite enough for me.

If one is old enough to have learned to edit his surroundings, as I am, the complex system is not daunting as long as there are a few familiar handles to it. In my eighties I took up the Sony RX 100 M4 and reviewed its huge menu of possible tools. I found what I and can ignore the rest. Same with Photoshop. My pro friends showed me a few basic operations more than 20 years ago and I have what I need. I pick up maybe one new tool within Photoshop every year or two. As an old wet darkroom person, even that much seems miraculous.
(PS: I tried to use Facebook to log in but FB says there is a problem with the FB login implementation on this site.)

"I'm not talking about anyone reading this site."

Don't be too sure of that. I feel the same way about all the complexity. Consequently I've never even tried to learn all the things my cameras can do, and I haven't bought anything new since my Panny GX8 because I just don't need all the new stuff.

Add to that the poor documentation for most cameras. Most manuals will tell you that if you press this button, it will bring up this menu, and that will bring up these sub-menus. Not much about what the menu items actually do. If I buy a Nikon digicam these days, I tend to leave the manual in the box and plump for one of Thom Hogan's manuals. He not only pops open the hood, he'll tell you why they chose that particular fastener for the hinge on the hood (if you really want to know).

"I'm talking about the average mainstream potential buyer of any higher-end DSLR or mirrorless camera."

I don't think this is a market that has ever existed. And now phones are dominate because they are completely good enough for most mainstream buyers as they probably pretty much only take pictures of their self or family or pets, etc.

the reason I think this market has never existed is my father. He loved photography, taking pictures yet he never bought anything close to a upper level or mid range film camera or lenses. He was happy with the "base" level stuff. And he traveled all over the world.

Also the digital camera world in my view has made things default settings so much easier, not more complicated. PASM - easy, auto focus so much better and easy. While it's true their are more options for custom settings most folks would rather just should with defaults and move on. The complexity of modern Pro or Pro level cameras is a bounty of optimization for extreme enthusiast, not a stop sign for the average users that simply find their phone better than it's ever been with any system for taking pictures of their lives.

You push the button, we do the rest.

Eastman was on to something. Also, he made a dumb device, which is the surest way to empower the user, instead of lots of buttons to control an "exposure triangle".

I've seen holiday snapshots from a friend who went to a destination near the equator and shot his images accidentally at ISO 6400. So much sunlight, but he came back with blotchy, noise-suppressed images (shot at very high shutter speeds).

Personally, I'm also forever confused with the auto-anything settings, where the automation never ends up where I would have wanted it (especially this odd outofocus feature).

There's just so much room for operator error.

Complexity? Sure. Another reason is pretty simple- many simply cannot see the difference between their $479.00 2 lens outfit purchased at Costco and their $500.00 (or much more) smartphone. A phone fits in your back pocket a 2 lens dslr kit requires a bag to haul around, maybe settings to make (that's where the complexity comes it) and it becomes a pita.
Simplicity, convenience trumps (small t) better image quality and greater flexibility. Again not talking about enthusiasts.

Do any cameras you know of have "programs? I mean, a hardware or software switch where you can call up the most-used features for, say, "Portraits" or "Landscapes?" It seems to me that pre-installed programs like that could simplify a lot of things -- your instruction book could simply say, "Here's what you get when you opt for 'Landscapes.' If you want to change any of these basic setting, do X. When you're satisfied, push and hold option button 1, and your program will be saved." In other words, you're offered a set of, say, five basic and fairly simple cameras. Even my now-aging Panasonic GX8s have a bewildering number of options -- all honestly offered, I think, but nevertheless bewildering.

[Sounds like you're talking about something very much like custom modes?

https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2015/09/special-for-you-custom-modes.html

--Mike]

As an enthusiast and professional for over 50 years I have unsurprisingly used a variety of cameras. The one thing they have all had in common has been their utter simplicity. I'd be the first to admit that it's probably a case of simple things for a simple mind, but they've all served me well and have allowed me to concentrate on what I consider to be the important things, rather than cameras.

I’m guessing you haven’t tried a Leica T (or TL, or TL2). It has the most minimal user interface I’ve ever used on any digital device of any sort, and it works perfectly! You even drag-and-drop just the menu items you want to use onto a special submenu, and never need to ever think about the other settings ever again.
Somehow it feels the most film-like digital camera I’ve ever used, whilst simultaneously having the most advanced and futuristic interface - and that feeling comes from the incredible simplicity and intuitiveness of the camera in use.
I have never enjoyed using a digital camera so much.

I think you are onto something here. I have had at least a couple of people say this to me. While I can fathom the cameras, I am not so thrilled to have to, and they do not always hold settings as well as one would like to believe they should.
While I have occasionally a need for the complex functions, mostly I would like a much easier camera that I don't have to familiarize myself with every time I use it.

I am going to come across as heretical, but here goes. I agree that the newer cameras (at least the newer ones I own) are overly complicated. But, I have learned to put up with it because I find a couple of settings that give me pictures I like, and then leave things alone. I also only shoot JPEGS, so no post-processing for me. I began taking pictures in 1953 (do the math) and the cameras were simple to use, and occasionally, like the blind squirrel who finds an acorn, I would get a good picture.

The digital cameras today are far and away 'more better' than my gear back then. I suppose I am easily satisfied by what I get out of my cameras, but then I only take pictures for my own amusement. (And frequently, I'm the only one amused, but...) You can run your camera using all of the features if you want to take the time to study the owner's manual the way some people study Holy Writ, or you can set it simply, and fire away and have fun. I think it's what you want to do with your art/work; I don't think one needs to get bogged down in piddling details unless you want to.

Just my $.02.

With best regards,

Stephen

People are feeling stressed by clutter. That explains the popularity of the de-cluttering show on Netflix by Marie Kondo. We need to Kondo our cameras, but that would require companies putting all their camera features into a big pile, and then carefully folding only the ones that give joy back in. They would thank the other features for their service before putting them in the recycle bin. In the end, our camera features would give us pleasure each time we looked at them.

...or perhaps they opt to set the thing on "A" then wonder why the images aren't much, if any, better than their phone.

Had this happen with more than a couple people I recommended a Sony Rx100 mark whatever.

Rich

Darn tootin'. I have a pair of X-T1's. Knowing then what I know now it would have been X-T10's. I want IBIS, I want a few customizable presets (not the few parameters on the X-T1) for street, for party, for jump-out-of-the-car landscape. Video? You mean for my Friendster account? Oh, and when Fuji updates features they need to integrate it into the manual, even just the pdf, not issue some pages that don't line up with the original manual. I better quit now before I mention the two pancakes I need.

Agreed, but this complaint could apply to almost any consumer device today that uses microprocessors. Engineers can't resist doing things that CAN be done no matter if anyone WANTS it to be done, needlessly complicating the device.
Same for the buttons on the camera. If I could I would remove half the controls on my PEN F. I don't use them much so I forget what function buttons are set to do. I use a new camera for a week or so then sit down with the manual and set every item I know what it means to what I want and ignore the rest. Other than exposure, maybe man/auto focus,, I don't mess with menus, I just take pictures.
The problem is the setup. More than a decade ago I was talking to a camera rep at a trade show about the confusion of menus and setups. I suggested that the manufacturer should create a setup program with a computer (today we would add a tablet or phone). that would function as a combination tutorial and setup for the new owner. They would connect the camera to the computer and do the setup. It would automatically update the software (like an iPhone) then go through a number of tutorials, each time asking questions about how the person prefers to use the camera. With each topic, the user could be given suggestions and choose options and save it to the camera operating system. Ideally, they could choose several setups and save them to be called up as needed, eg snapshots, action, landscapes, portraits, etc. (yeah, like my iPhone...) The setup could be kept on the users computer to be backed-up and/or changed when needed.
The camera rep liked the idea but told me he had been told by his bosses here and in Japan that they did not accept ideas from customers - he thought because they did not want to get sued for stealing someone's idea. Guess they never heard of signed releases.

I just upgraded my DSLR two years ago. The last one I bought before that was 2008. I'll confess to not knowing how to do TONS of stuff on my camera but there's really only a handful of things I need to know. When I got the new one I read the manual enough to figure out how to do those things and how to set custom menu shortcuts so I could do the few things easily. Maybe sometime in 2028 when I have free time I'll learn about all the other things it can do.

I agree, too many bells and whistles on virtually all digital cameras. I just ignore those that aren't of any use to me, just as I ignore most of the features of Photoshop.

Mike, i have thought about this too and it surely has altered my buying. It takes me 12 months to "learn" a new body -- same brand! -- so i am in no hurry to replace it.

Let's think of this from an engineering perspective: compared to film, MF, SLRs that thee and me started with, what actually has changed? In the core photo-taking controls, two additional degrees-of-freedom (dof) have been added: ISO and all the AF features. Actually in fairness, there are many more than dof in AF alone; so we have traded one dof in MF for ever expanding tumor of AF features and controls.

And, honestly, i think that that is pretty much it. The ISO flexibility is kinda like changing film -- slow speed outside, 800 or so inside, 1600 (a miracle!) for special situations -- but keeping track of AF features is a burden.

The truth is that we ask our gear to do more now; the resolution jump alone has mad high precision AF all but mandatory. And we want fps quicker, on moving subjects no less, etc. All of those were difficult to impossible with MF.

Nikon tried to sell a body a few years back whose whole appeal -- insofar as the marketing would imply -- was to use your AIS lenses (of which i have a shelf). It didn't do too well.

I suppose that the manufacturers would say that a digital version of an Olympus OM-1 or any basic all manual SLR of your choice would not sell well enough to make it worth their while. I think they would be wrong.

I have been lucky enough to employed as a photographer for 30 years. I have also worked in camera retail before and during my career as a
photographer. When a customer new to photography purchased a basic manual SLR, I could show them how to load it, set the "ASA", make a good ballpark exposure, focus the camera and even explain the basic principals of aperture and shutter speed in about fifteen minutes or less.

As time went on, the camera companies started to add automatic features, that while somewhat useful, also complicated the user experience for people buying their first camera. Each generation of SLR cameras added more features and the learning curve got a bit steeper. Today in the digital world each new camera model adds a feature or two or changes their menu system. The learning curve for a person that buys their first digital camera today is really steep.

Enough of my rant. I can say to all of the camera manufacturers, first company to offer a somewhat affordable all manual DSLR or mirrorless, will sell at least one. I will buy it! I really think that lots of photographers would also.

I have a Nikon FM3a and a Contax G1. I use both in aperture priority only (the G1 is an aperture priority only camera) and both have only 1 focus point. It is for these reasons, among others, that I will never part with them.

Steve

Dennis hit the nail on the head in this household.

"As an aside, I truly believe that many people do not think that their phone is a 'good enough' camera (how many times do you read that phones are good enough for most people)—it's just that the ease of use/sharing is worth the compromise. I think a lot of people who shoot phones as their primary camera would love a better camera in their phone"

My wife is bugging me for a new phone before our trip to Bhutan. Why? For better camera(s). She's perfectly happy with all the other functions.

Why not the photographically far superior high end P&S I offer? It doesn't allow quality viewing and/or sending to others.

Some newer bodies allow saving JPEGs to the phone/tablet connected via WiFi or BT - but it's just too klugy/non-transparent for her.

Thats why I love my M10 so much. Its not the glass or the quality, Its the simplicity of it all. An aperture ring, a shutter dial and a shutter release—that's about it. You can concentrate on shooting. I also use a Sony aR7iii but it can be annoying. There is always one of the many buttons that gets touched or pressed accidentally and then I have to spend about an hour figuring what I did to undo it. I won't even get started on the menus. Safe to say they are way too many choices and its complicated. On the Sony I don't even know what most of them do, and for the most part I don't care because they have very little to do with making and interesting image.

Completely agree. As a working professional, I use almost none of the complex offerings, though I will say that eye-autofocus on the Sony A9 is a game changer.

I'm interested to see what that upcoming Zeiss camera offers. Looks nicely simple.

Someone mentioned in the comments the Nikon V1. I also loved how simple that camera was.

And finally, I do wish we could have seen what Steve Jobs would have done for a large sensor camera. I think he would have been the one to refine the user experience.

It’s still a wonder to me why Pentax, a cam company that clearly needs to be “working a niche”, hasn’t come up with a “Digital K1000” basic DSLR given the massive success that they had back in the film days... For that matter Cosina could do the same, much like they did with the Nikon FM10... Manual operation, simple aperature priority if need be, simple “ over/under” light meter perhaps... Pentax even already has a bargain 35mm prime lens for it... I’ve dusted off my now “old” Epson RD-1 for the same reason, it’s simply more fun to use than newer stuff... Makes me now wish I’d never gotten rid of my very first 35mm camera, a Yashica Electro-35, which was pretty radical electronics back in the day, but as it turns out was all that was really needed after all, *sigh*

Just point and shoot. Hmm, sounds familiar.

Sure they’re complicated. But I’m pretty sure every advanced camera on the market today has both a Manual mode and a full Auto mode on a physical dial. What’s so hard about unpacking the camera and choosing one of these? Makes the camera easy to use - either easy like your old pre-automation film camera, or easy like a P&S. No need to touch s menu.

Oh, you say, you just hate the way the icons in the viewfinder are laid out? Well, I happen to like them. But the manufacturer has given you the option of menu-diving and changing all that stuff, if you want. See, the problem is we all want a simple camera setup exactly the way we want it . And we all want it a little differently. So you now have three choices: fully manual, fully automatic, or design your own camera. I fail to see the problem.

One more comment if I may. I own 3 somewhat dated digital cameras. The most impressive of the bunch tech wise is a recently acquired Olympus EM1. And that is the reason it ranks last. OMG how many buttons do I need to program then remember which was programmed for what?

Tech wise the least impressive is a Fuji XE2. And that is why I love it. Used with a number of adapted lenses and manual focus lenses it just does what it needs to do. One quick push of the only dial on the back gives me a quick magnified, focus peaking view of the target. The menus are a no brainer as well. Yeah simple is better.

I think camera makers should stop reading comments and wish-lists on gear forums.

Modern cameras are bewildering for anyone new to the game, and yet they seem to expect us to use them in JPEG mode.

My D800 had so many permutations for setting up continuous AF tracking modes that I gave up, but it couldn't even focus accurately using off-centre focus points in single-shot mode.

As I've said before, I would love a camera that simply didn't support JPEGs at all. That would eliminate half the menu settings at a stroke.


ah, yes, I got bit on the a** about a year ago, when I got the Olympus OMD EM5ii. In some ways it is the camera that I have always wanted. The ergonomics are perfect for me, it fits my tiny teenage girl hands perfectly. It's light and gives my aging back and neck a break. The files are good, if perhaps a bit clinical, but where I'm lost is the inscrutible menus. I can't understand just what exactly some of them do. I don't know if it's the results of ridiculous demands from the marketing department or engineers run amok. I keep going back to my Panasonic GX7, which has less snappy and accurate AF, but I understand it perfectly. I am seriously considering selling the OLy and replacing it with either a G9 or a GX9.
But really, I must say that my previous digital cameras had perfectly plain menus. The Sony R1, had the guzzling of Minolta been delayed just a bit, an R2 could have been close to perfect. And the Nikon D3? A perfect example of ease of use and easy understandablity.

Oh well, I don't see things getting any better. About the only thing that could bring a smile to my face and a frown to my pocketbook would be if Fuji made a digital xpan.

Strange..... when I bought a 5D4, the only time I needed to look at the instructions was to set up the WIFI for shooting tethered to a computer.

Anyone who bought the Canon 5d mark 1 in 2005 could pick up a new 5D4 today and just start shooting.

The review sites don’t like the idea of “If it’s not broke, don’t fixit”.

Combine this complexity with the typical laziness of a lot of buyers, and what is the end result? Using a several thousand USD outfit in P&S mode.

But really, even pro-film cameras of the early 2000's were complex already. Especially the AF modes and their numerous settings and combinations.

The way I simplify is to stick to Av mode, and auto-ISO for normal shooting.

This is something I'm fighting through right now, having bought my first new camera in about 6 or 7 years.
Task 1 - figure out how to switch off all the annoying bits.
Task 2 will be to set it to work like i want
Task 3 (about a fortnight later) - actually use the thing.
It's a lovely camera to hold, main buttons ergonomically placed, nice viewfinder. But a shockingly unnecessarily complex menu and proliferation of extra buttons.
BTW, it's an Olympus Pen-F.
As with several other commenters - if only I could programme this all remotely and upload it all.

Yeah, I shot film, loaded the cartridges from a big roll, mixed all the chemicals, adjusted the temperature, processed the film myself, printed everything worth printing, on multi-contrast paper with the proper filters, dried the prints, flattened them, mounted them....

Such complexity!

Digital is a blessed relief.

The exposure latitude and the color are so much better, and the processing is almost impossible to permanently screw up. The camera itself has the same controls as ever, but now we can change sensitivity on the fly!

Those additional menus? Who wouldn't want the option to choose which info to display? A histogram? Good lord, yes! That would have been so useful in the film days.

These tools and options make pure photography so much easier than the bad old days of film. The results on my monitor are glorious.

All the real camera companies have good manuals with indexes to look up the setting you don't recognize. You need not plow through hundreds of pages, nor fiddle with any settings that are not useful. You have tool that makes good photos so much easier.

I wrote about this topic in March 2015.

https://www.thewanderinglensman.com/2015/03/would-you-like-to-be-able-to-buy-a-la.html

Two thoughts. First, market a basic camera body with only a few basic choices, then in an a la carte manner, provide “options” either individually or in packages as do automobile manufacturers.

Second, create an “App Store,” open to developers (the Apple model) who then can create downloadable features and a wide variety of add-ons which can be added with firmware. That opens the market to creatives, provides consumers with low cost options and the camera manufacturers get a cut of everything since these have to be purchased through their site. Everyone wins.

Yes, the number of options available on digital cameras has dramatically increased their apparent complexity. But the fact is that we asked for it, “we” being the amateur and pro-am market. Most of this complexity was due to (a) the integration of video into still cameras, and (b) the demand for ever more sophisticated autofocus management. Other new layers were introduced when “we” demanded that cameras be able to wirelessly communicate with other devices over networks. Yadda, yadda.

I see lots of sympathy for your general complaints among your readers. But I actually think that digital cameras have become simpler to use due to this automation. I’ll save that counter-point discussion for another time.

Your core thesis is not really camera complexity but that that camera manufacturers are “killing” their market due to increasing complexity. While there’s an element of truth in that thesis I would say it’s largely untrue. The decline of dedicated sophisticated camera sales is inarguably due mainly to the dramatic changes in how photography is used in society and integrated into an ultra-communicated culture.

The problem is not really just that the new machines are always more complicated than the old machines. The bigger problem is that the complexity grows but the *value* does not grow.

To a first approximation most of the camera-hardware companies are still making the same basic kind of box as they did in the 70s. You stick a lens on it, you turn some dials and maybe push some buttons, and it takes pictures into a thing in the back of the camera. They keep trying to add new features and value on that part of the chain.

What they have missed is that for about 85-90% of the pictures anyone takes, that part of the chain (the button to capture part) does not *need* any controls or really any human input beyond where you point the camera and how you crop the picture. Sorry all you old time photographic craftsmen staring at your focus screens and your spot meters. None of that really matters.

The result is that the NikCanOlyPanSonLeicas of the world are playing in the fringes of the fringes trying to add anything new to their boxes that will make people buy them rather than use a phone. they never seem to examine what it is the phone is doing that makes people want to use that relatively inferior tool for most work rather than carry around their boxes. There are various obvious answers, but the most obvious one is that no one actually wants to deal with the

capture -> import -> tag metadata -> edit -> backup -> select -> edit -> backup again -> save to sharing service

flow that has existed basically unchanged since 1999 when the first good DSLRs came on the scene.

I am a computer programmer and long time physical and digital darkroom person and *I* don't even want to do that.

Yet in 2-0-1-9 there still isn't a single "high quality" serious camera from any of the major manufacturers (that I know of) that has made that pipeline above even one step simpler.

Instead they just keep adding menus for autofocus settings and video encoding.

I have an older and longer version of this rant here

http://mutable-states.com/the-golden-age-of-cameras-part-1.html

Not that much has really changed ... except 2019 phone cameras are about two generations better than 2014 phone cameras.

I think this is one reason that my iPhone is sort of taking over my photography from my Olympus kit. It frees me from the technical side of photography to focus on seeing something worth shooting and composing an image. And for about 90% of my images the results from the phone are hard to distinguish from those from my Oly. And the phone is more fun.

I keep wondering why no company that I'm aware of is combining the advances in computational photography that are the basis of the phone camera's greatly improved performance (and success) with the larger sensor size and optics of traditional cameras. I think that would be a winner as at least one option in a range of cameras.

Something like an RX100-6 without all the complexity, a new kind of point and shoot with computation taking the place of traditional controls and options. Just a phone camera with a zoom lens, viewfinder and bigger sensor to perform better in marginal light, but still pocketable.

How many people use MS Word properly? I bet they're stuck at the features of V2.0 and never went beyond them, mostly because they never needed to.

Well then, the cure for complexification is something like the Leica MP filmer. Minimalist as hell—just expensive as hell, too...

I completely agree. They have long since also moved beyond the point of sufficiency so people don't need the extra complication and feature saturation. I bought a film camera again 6 years ago and although I shoot more photos with my X-T3, I like the film cameras much more. There is something nicely pure about setting an aperture, a shutter speed, focusing and interpreting the meter reading. It's sort of real photography - how it used to be.

My favorite guitar is the Telecaster and my favorite camera is the M9-P.

Both have just enough "features" to get the job done for me. Both are super simple. Both have long legacies that inspire me to live up to the standards set by players and photographers that came before me.

In my world, they're the perfect tools for what I do. If I was shooting sports again, I'd love a digital version of my Konica T4 with its auto-winder.

Getting back to basics with a box camera-
http://members.efn.org/~hkrieger/bikepath.htm

Homo_erectus makes the case "I can pick up nearly any bass in the world and play music on it without reading a manual"

Try buying low end guitar amp. I picked up a $150 Fender yesterday that literally has millions of ways to set it up, and most of the millions sound awful, two or three of them sound about the way I want. The previous owner had loaded all 3 dozen of the presets for heavy metal one string guitar and I had to track down the software that relies on Microsoft Silverlight which is really problematic to run on a recent Mac in order to erase the settings. The simple amps all cost more than I feel like spending. The guitar and amp I had back when I was a kid would set me back about $5000 now. ( cheap guitars on the other hand are amazingly good these days I must say )

With the exception of the thousands of ideas of how to prevent accidental double exposure I can pick up any film camera and figure it out.

Homo_erectus nails it when he says "I've played bass for thirty years. I can pick up nearly any bass in the world and play music on it without reading a manual, adjusting anything, or even really looking that closely at it. There are tons of different manufacturers making them but the core design is essentially the same."

That essentially describes film cameras. Although the locations of dials might move around from model to model, the principles are the same, because the principles are principles of PHOTOGRAPHY. (Aperture, shutter speed, film ISO, focus, focal length.)

But digital cameras are primarily ELECTRONIC GADGETS that perform the functions of a camera. And that's where so many people get lost. Even if the functions are basically the same, how you access them differs from brand to brand and model to model. So there is very little continuity, and therefore little in the way of heuristics and affordances (fancy ways to say "hints on how to use the thing").

This is were the newer generation of ILCs showed some promise by going back to manual (or manual-looking) dials. Experienced photographers could figure out the basics right away, and less experienced people had the option of learning the mechanical fundamentals of *photography* and not just the mechanical fundamentals of *this particular camera.* But hey, I've been yelling about that on TOP for at least ten years already. :-)

It had been a long time since I used my old 35mm SLR, so I put a roll of film in it and began to take it with me as often as possible.

It's a Minolta X700. It's a joy to use. It has a 50mm f/1.7 lens. There are so few control options that I can concentrate on picture taking. The great big viewfinder helps.

I'll check the settings before I go out:

ISO is fixed, if there's a film in the camera.
Film present, and how many shots left?
Aperture? About f/5.6 to 11.
Aperture priority (from five modes including X and B)
Zero exposure compensation.
Focus, about ten feet.
Battery okay? (It lasts a year)

That's it, and all I have to think about when taking the camera out. Seven items. Four are considered when shooting, plus the matter of when to press the shutter release.

The digital Pentax, pretty good in the handling department has more to check:

ISO is set depending on the light.
Card present, and how many shots left?
Aperture? About f/5.6 to 11.
Aperture priority (from a dozen modes including X and B)
Zero exposure compensation.
Drive mode.
Rendition mode (set to natural)
White balance.
Flash mode.
Flash exposure.
Battery okay? (It lasts a week)
Focus mode; S, C, or A.
Focus zone and number of points, and are they central or not?

Thirteen items to check. More than twice as many, but the different options multiply together. Usually six are considered while shooting, plus when to press the big button.

With the Minolta, nearly everything can be checked just by glancing over the top of the camera, but with the Pentax nearly everything has to be seen via pressing buttons; some of it on top, some on the rear screen. I think there may be a threshold of complexity, over which the camera intrudes into the picture taking.

The Minolta and the Pentax are pretty typical of film and digital SLRs, and the above applies to most other 35mm SLR or DSLR cameras too.

I have noticed since few of your recents post, a number of mentions about simply shooting film again. Even something about photographing with film in Leica M6 as a project for an eventual retirement.

What remains of my commercial work is still shot with a DSLR. But for my personal pictures, I have now a strong preference for the prints coming out of good scans of negatives than ones coming out of a digital camera. This has been my preference since few years already.

Maybe digital photography may not be that enticing to me after all.

My favourite all time imaging device is the pencil.

Most Olympus users know that they can set up the Super Control Panel (SCP). Just add the functions you are interested in, then at any time press the "OK" button on the back of the camera and up pops the SCP.

As an Olympus Pen-F user, with the SCP I could smile at the masses whining about the complexity of modern cameras, but at random times my SCP gets reset or modified. Operator error (most likely), programming glitch or random electrons, I'll never know. I'm now starting to wonder if my grandkids would really mind if I reduced their educational funds by the price of a Leica Q2.

Many cameras ARE available as a 'Base Model' - the old 'green square' mode on Canon cameras, or Fuji's auto switch on their newer models. Just set and go. Fuji's have a very direct path as well - set RAW or film simulation, and then shutter, iso, and aperture are set directly, or can be selective automated. Easy peasey. It can be more complicated, but doesn;t have to be. There's zero cost savings in selling a defeatured camera, so while there certainly needs to be better UI, and ideally a dumb/quick/easy mode, removing potential complexity is also making things much harder for many users.

Nikon has done an okay job with this, with user banks, setting the info is not super fun but once done, can largely be ignored.

Sorry Mike but, respectfully, I don't agree with your assessment. Buyers will, I agree, purchase their cams for a variety of reasons - some reasons valid, some not, but that is not the point here so I won't elaborate further on this. But most camera users - as with users of any complex and full featured piece of technology - will use, and be familiar with a subset of the features on that piece of tech. There will be other features that maybe they would use but haven't yet gained the familarity with them, as the complexity of the tech means they have focussed on another more immediately useful subset. There will be features that are of no interest or use to them. And there will be some that would be marginally useful but are not really - to that user - useful enough to make the effort to familiarise with them. But I think your piece, on this occasion, does camera users a disservice. Few of us have the time and attention resources to learn every single nook and cranny of our kit. Some nooks and crannies may indeed be a bit challenging to learn. But we are not obliged to know every last piece of our kit nor do we need to do so in order to use it effectivly or efficiently. Yes I do think it is a good idea for makers of cameras and other tech to make them usable without a PhD, but generally I think they do, contrary to your argument. Do complex cameras not have auto settings? My wife uses her SLR on simpllified settings constantly as she is not great on tech, and whilst a better knowledge of the principles of operation would undoubtedly allow her to take better pics in marginal situations, this lets her use her artistic skills (which I lack) to take very good pictures. I could make an argument that cameras many years ago required more skill as they lacked such automation. So in summary I have to reject your argument.

Interesting! I was out today with my (dead-simple, analogue/film all-manual) camera round the back of Kenilworth Castle, and saw a larger than usual group of people with DSLRs. I spoke with one; not a camera club, but a college course on digital photography (probably should be some capital letters there!) He specifically said that until he started on his course, his camera was set up all wrong, and he couldn't get decent shots. A normal articulate, middle class 60-ish man needs a college course to get his camera to work properly! Sheesh!

These modern digital camera menus are nothing compared to a broadcast video camera menu (not digital cinema camera). I think only a few engineers have ever truly understood all the settings in a broadcast video camera.

What's interesting is the success of the Arri Alexa digital cinema camera. Because the camera is designed for shooting a "digital negative" if you will, the menu is much less complicated as it doesn't need every possible (color, sharpening, color matrix) settings for live output.

On the Alexa, there is a large enough LCD menu screen on the side of the camera with many dedicated buttons to get to the part of the menu one needs to adjust. I think the popularity of this camera, is beyond it's image quality, and due to it's ease of use.

A few weeks ago I had to shoot with a Sony A7RIII camera ... and... it drove me totally nuts. So hard to get to the setting that needs changing, and so easy to hit a button that screws up the needed settings! And even the manual for the camera doesn't have clear explanations to all the settings!

I will gladly continue to shoot film on manual only cameras for still photography, with it's simple Iris, Shutter, Focus controls. But... of course I need to scan the film... and I'm back to being a computer wizard! :)

Judging from the camera usage of 250+ students at our school, I concur with Dennis' observations. Some do prefer the functionalities provided by DSLRs, but for most ability to quickly load images on to Instagram, LINE, Facebook, etc. out weighs concerns over quality. Particularly now that on some forums, people want to share images for only a short period. (Ironically, digitalisation has led to a mode of sharing in which durability is NOT expected, or even desired.)

From the standpoint of maintaining camera sales for company survival, as Thom Hogan has noted (I think this the correct attribution) they should invest more in connectivity technology to attract users. If we think a back to the 60s/70s, photography buffs and pros knew the value of their Leicas, Nikons, Olumpuses, etc., but most people bought cameras like Instamatics. While that point supports the main argument of this tread, the differences in image processing/and display methods have dramatically changed. Regardless of your camera, with any widely sold variety of film, you could shoot->develop & print at a drive up kiosk->show. In terms of speed of sharing, and Instamatic was no worse than a very expensive SRL. These days, print is now largely replaced with "web upload", and this much more time consuming with many DSLRS.

From the standpoint of someone such as my self (on the far side of 55) keeping up with that kind of tech is a challenge some times, but for the consumers of tomorrow (the teens of today), it is just a part of life.

All I have to do is look at the quality of the 18x24 inch (image size) prints I make right here in my apartment and I forgive it all. I shot for decades with everything from Leica and Nikon through Hasselblad and Mamiya to Sinar 8x10, with a beautiful darkroom. Lots of things I can bitch about but basically never happier than now with Pentax K-1 and 645Z, Olympus Pen-F, a bunch of lenses that cost next to nothing second-hand, and a Canon 6400 printer.

- - - - Josh Hawkins: "I usually figure out how to change around seven settings. (Seven is a totally arbitrary number. I’ve never actually counted. It’s not many.) Everything else I set once and I’m done. There are to many settings to learn them all. - - - -
That's probably not an arbitrary choice - a study commissioned by Bell Labs in preparation for converting the telephone system to direct user dialing found that seven things (+/- 2) was the maximum amount that the median human being can process in one chunk. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Armitage_Miller and his paper "The Magic Number Seven", which is widely used in UI design - back when UIs were thoughtfully designed.

The idea of wandering away because a camera experience is not natural or easy or gratifying is probably more true of beginners due to the complexity of the camera and the complexity of the post processing.

When new ILC shooters are told they must shoot RAW to get the most of their new camera, the added complexity of sitting down at a computer to do post combined with the monthly cost of Adobe software can be too much. Many would much prefer to sacrifice image quality for a much easier, more fun, and more streamlined camera experience using their phone. A phone is the perfect tool for those who may never print or may never buy a desktop/laptop computer.

As an enthusiast who has never made a living with my camera, I’ve avoided the complexity issue by being broke most of the time. I’ve always bought basic entry level cameras that are simple, light weight, inexpensive, and produce nice results when used with great glass. I’ve always saved my money for that next great lens.

Last summer I was having a crisis of confidence, and was feeling incredibly uninspired to make work. I was paralyzed with indecision regarding what lens to use, what sort of work I wanted to do, etc etc. So I sold off my main gear (A Fuji X-E1 and a number of lenses) and used the money to buy a Ricoh GR2. While the GR2 itself is full of features and customization options, it's also very easy to simply pick up and use. Using the GR revitalized my photography practice. It's small enough to grab and take anywhere, and produces photos of a quality well above my requirements. It's fixed 18.5mm lens forced me to see differently (I usually use normal to short tele lenses). It put the fun back into taking pictures.

Later on I also bought a Pentax MX and will soon be narrowing my film gear down to this, a backup for when it breaks or needs servicing, and one or two lenses. Between the GR and the MX I've had more fun with photography than I have in years, even though by many people's standards my kit greatly restricts the type of pictures I can take.

"I use almost none of the complex offerings, though I will say that eye-autofocus on the Sony A9 is a game changer." JOHN GILLOOLY

And there you have it: eye-autofocus means nothing to me, but focus stacking has been a game changer, a whole new world of photographic possibilities.

Poll your readers on game changers, and you'll end up with a camera with all the "excess" features and complexity you complain about.

As others have already have pointed out, choosing options on the camera isn't economically feasible. However, choosing at what level of automation to use it, which features to use and which to turn off/ignore is a set of options, all for far less $$ than custom optioned cameras would cost.

I do not understand the problem. The microwave oven in my kitchen has 26 buttons plus a numeric keypad. Just because it has all those buttons does not mean I must use them all. Heck, I'm not sure what they all do. I only use the keypad to enter time in minutes or seconds and the START button. Done.

My Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II as many so called "Scene" modes. But they have never confused me because they have never been used.

We will only be troubled by the complex possibilities of our cameras if we choose to be troubled. I just use the controls I need.

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