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Friday, 28 February 2020


I have a Nikon Df with a K screen from an FM3a and a 1.2x magnifying eyepiece which makes it easier to focus with than my F2A and still autofocusses perfectly. The screen has to be slightly modified but with my ai 20mm f2.8, 28mm f2 and 50mm f1.2 and with the dials I can forget the command wheels and regain control. Love it.

Pentax Q? Perhaps a bigger sensor though.

What really needs to happen is that the camera firmware should become open source. That way, some enterprising hobbyist will make the firmware that will do all of that.

Ok, so there won't be a literal groundglas, but that can certainly be simulated in the software. Everything else can too, as long as the dials on top are flexible enough.

Regarding the Fujis. What I can't get over is how hard it is to get to exposure compensation on the X-H1. As long as the camera is mostly auto, that should be the primary control.

You know who really nailed the camera controls? Sigma. Of all camera manufacturers. On the Quattros. In P, the main command dial is exposure compensation. In A, it controls A. In S, it controls S. In M, the primary controls A, the secondary dial controls S. There is a clutch for manual focus on the lens.

If I were mostly a landscape photographer, I would be very happy with a pair of DP0 and DP2. I'm pretty happy to have the body attached to the lens, though, so that's that. I already have a DP2, so I am not too far!

As it is, my most important subject is a small child, and a Sigma Quattro simply will not keep up. Such is life.

Some have mentioned Leica. More specifically, they one I use, an M-D is from in my experience what comes closer to your which camera. It even does not have a display in the back. I love it. An analogue camera that records in a chip instead of film. But, with the exact simplified user experience.

These posts are very interesting. Analyzing them leads to some very interesting insights.
I'll bet everyone here would blame this complexity for cameras on the digital sensor part of the camera. But take a look at the Nikon F6, introduced in 2004. Practically every function offered in a digital camera, save those fixed by the choice of film instead of a digital sensor - resolution, ISP, white balance, image review - are available in the F6, which has pretty much the same clutter of switches, buttons and even a rear panel LCD we've come to expect on a DSLR. (Here's Ken Rockwell's page on the F6 - look for yourself: https://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/f6.htm - compare to a D2: https://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d2hs.htm) The F6 has a MENU button and will even store digital EXIM data on the exposure on film on a CF card!
The point is engineers had been using microprocessors in cameras for quite a while by then, learning how to control functions like shutters, aperture, focus, exposure, etc. Setting up the modes of a F6 looks pretty complicated. Blame the same camera designers for creating the complexity of today's cameras. But remember just because you have all those options, you do not have to use them all the time.

When we lived on the farm, I kept two Olympus E-P3s. One had a Panasonic 100-300 lens and was set up as my "critter cam." The other was set up for a Oly 12-50 with macro function that I used for everything else including close-ups of flowers and insects. All I had to do to get a photo was grab the right camera.

Look at the car analogy. Buy a new car and the manual runs to hundreds of pages. For most cars, you can program the look of the instrument panel, center display for car functions, how the doors lock/unlock, turn signals work, lights go on and off, etc. etc. etc. Many cars with a sporting nature allow you to program engine/transmission mapping, suspension, etc. for every driving mode from comfort to racetrack. If you are willing to take time, you can customize the car so it works to fit how you like to drive. But - and this is the analogy for cameras - you don't need to reprogram it every time you drive if you have it set up properly. Except when you drive on a track, maybe.

And Mike, we know you don't like SUVs, but you are single, still fairly young, and may not be carrying a lot of stuff all the time. But when you are a decade older like me, with a bad back to boot, the higher seating makes entry/exit easier. loading stuff you carry, even simple things like groceries, much easier. Having space for more people in a vehicle where entry/exit is easy and legroom is generous is appreciated. SUVs are practical for more people than sedans which is why they sell more, not the lemming mentality you allude to. Families still buy minivans too! And if you lived in the LA area with our notorious traffic, you would not be so enamored with a manual transmission. Both my kids, shifting aficionados, have abandoned manuals too.

As you like to say, "just sayin..."

I’m holding out for a true MX replica. Until then the Panasonic LX-3 is still taking photographs.

People who complain at once about the expense of a Leica and about missing the good ol' days of film are practicing a particular type of innumeracy.

I got back into shooting rangefinders, first with a Fuji GW690 and then a Minolta CLE. They were cheap-ish, and I really liked using them. What I realized, though, after 6 months of shooting, was that I'd spent roughly $500 on film and chemistry _per month_. And I wasn't shooting for any clients (well, one wedding in that period, who requested film), most of that was just my personal shooting, street and documentary work. My bank was happy to give me a loan at a decent rate, and now I have an M10P and shoot as much as I want, for less than half of what I was paying when I was shooting film and schlepping to the lab twice a week.

So yeah, it's expensive. But it's still a lot cheaper than shooting film.

Hi Mike, reading you loud & clear.
That’s how I tend to use my Nikon DSLRs; manual focus (AI-S lenses), shutter speed, aperture, ISO & spot metering, and RAW.
Not so sure about the histogram, only because I can’t visualise it.

One thought that might allow this to play out, and let everyone have what they want. Have the basic physical controls on the camera as you suggest, and then make all the digital controls, including image review, available via pairing with smart phone or tablet-like device. Therefore, someone can set the camera up however they like, including for absolute bare bones, and then shoot away.
It would require the camera companies opening up a lot of proprietary stuff, and outsourcing the device software to a company than knows what it’s doing, given camera makers have basically proven that they don’t. Add in IBIS and we’re done :)

While waiting for such a pared down digital camera to appear on the market (and suppressing my lust after a Leica), I tried adapting the shooting process and configuration of the tools I already had in hand (Olympus E-M5, Nikon Coolpix A) to try and emulate the experience I was looking for.

As others have suggested already, part of the solution was to set and forget as many variables as possible: ISO, metering mode, colour (for JPEGs), aperture. The one thing I struggled with and wanted the most though was an interactive and enjoyable manual focusing experience. After many disappointing experiments I found that advice common amongst rangefinder shooters worked best for me: get to know your distances and let the deep DOF provided by small apertures work for you. This, combined with an optical viewfinder on my Coolpix A made for one of my favourite ways of shooting: I could forget all about the camera in hand and concentrate solely on what was in front of me. Some of my favourite photographs were made in this way.

I believe the not uncommon desire for a camera like the one you describe stems in part from the anxiety caused by the near infinite number of shooting possibilities offered by modern cameras. This isn't a trend limited to the photography world, either. Music software, for example, tends to offer similarly open ended experiences such that it's easy to get lost in the possibilities and land up with something mediocre, if anything at all.

By providing controls dedicated to essential photographic function, companies like Fuji seem to provide an economically sustainable product that also caters to the minimalists out there. But as my experience with the Coolpix A showed, I think one can get a similar experience by ignoring the myriad features offered in cameras on today's market. I suppose the remaining challenge is convincing the consumer that they ought to ignore the features they paid (dearly, in some cases) for, and concentrate instead on the bare essentials. Perhaps this isn't such a difficult proposition though if it's what you're looking for in the first place.

Hasselblad 907X... I only just noticed this was available. It's even more appealing than the X1D.

Ah to have the spare funds. This is quite possibly my dream camera.


At the moment, photographers who want a camera similar to the one you describe are typically using a 35mm SLR and a film scanner. This gives them the pared down control options you describe. I think this is the purer option for many.

I generally ignore many of the settings on my DSLRs, like many others here. But on my holidays last year I took an old Canon G9. It's as simple to use as my carefully set up main cameras, but that's because there are far fewer options.

Just knowing this is liberating. It allows me to concentrate on the shot, without the weight of options (even if I never use them) that are lurking in the back of my mind.

So I propose a different answer. An interchangeable lens camera with a stripped down interface that appeals to both us seasoned and grizzled experts, and the less experienced making the jump from a smartphone.

The menu would have one page. The controls would be as simple to use as possible. The mode dial would be cut to the minimum amount of options, but would include a full auto everything mode that would also control ISO, AF, and white balance.

You could set the mode to full auto, loan the camera to a complete beginner for a week, and all they'd have to do is point it in the right direction, allow it to focus, and press the release. On the other hand, there would be a manual exposure mode.

What we are both talking about here is simplicity of use, but full control when we need it. Then the mind can concentrate fully on the creation of a satisfying image.


It sounds like you’re asking for a digital imaging module that can fit in the film slot on a classic SLR.

The digital camera you wish for may never be made, but the folks at Fuji are listening to photographers complain about cameras getting to complex. The new Fuji X-T4 that is about to be released has all the video menue choices altogether & it is the first ILC that also has a switch on top of the camera that allows the photographer to completely grey out all video settings. You just turn the switch to either PHOTO or VIDEO & voila, no video settings appear. Since I have no desire to shoot video, problem solved. They are the first manufacturer to implement this type of feature.

Bill Pearce said: "Photography has been hijacked by what we used to call 'advanced amateurs,' but I will now call 'technical hobbyists.' Folks fascinated by the technical aspects of the process, the lenses and the cameras.

My goodness, that sounds just like the film hobbyists! They are fascinated by the arcane aspects of the many processes, all the mystical chemicals, entire Zone Systems built around exposure control, oriental (sic) papers, obsolete lenses, and on and on. They don't care about images at all, or they would shoot digital.

I already have one. My Panasonic GX1, VC 35mm MF lens, camera set to A. I either use the EVF or the back screen for focusing. Super simple, super small.

Mike, I'd be a buyer for that system, but . . . . the days of photography being a learned discipline as we had to approach it in the film days are over.

Digital technology has displaced any learning curve for most people, it's 'point and shoot' whether it's and I-Phone or a D6. WE know better technology allows folks to make better bad pictures, but that doesn't seem to matter to them.

When Photoshop replaced The Kodak Master Photo Guide, it all changed.

I was ready to take the plunge into an M10 a few months ago. I did all the mental gymnastics needed, like: “I already have some very nice lenses that I miss using”, “It will probably be the last camera I buy”, “It’s not really that expensive”. Finally I walked into Leica Gallery in Frankfurt to play with the camera a little bit. The deal breaker was the weight. I had my XPRO-2 with me and the difference is huge for a lazy guy like me. I pretty much set my Fujifilm as a basic camera and that’s it. That being said, I would love it if Fujifilm decided to make a body like you just described, but full frame and with an M mount....

I fully agree with the need for simpler cameras.
But my simple camera will look different than yours.
Now you cannot expect that camera producers can develop and produce a whole arsenal of different types and remain a healthy company. Unless ... there is more cooperation.
Suppose we could 'force' manufacturers to all use the same lens mount (for a specific sensor size), then a company would be able to work in a niche more easily without having to worry about the survival of their system / lens mount. They don't even have to develop their own lenses; other companies can do that.
The camera market is shrinking. If one wants to preserve diversity, they must work together, instead of all, in addition to each other, making 'similar' things that are not compatible with each other.

The past has proven that it is possible, when all companies supported the same format for audio carriers (the CD).
The time has come for camera manufacturers to do the same and to develop one system. This will, on the contrary, benefit diversity.

(Google Translate)

Hey Mike, it seems that you're confusing film photography with digital photography, analog with digital. Film photography is inherently simple: you're exposing a strip of celluloid to light and then exposing light sensitive paper to light through a negative. Digital is way more complex with more controls, algorithms, and so forth.

You can make film photography simple and still obtain great results; if you dumb down digital photography you end up with a cell phone camera.

I think if you want simplicity just shoot film. To wish for digital to be simple is like wishing that women thought more like men. It's just not the nature of the beast :-).

I used to agree that your simple digital camera (which is similar but not identical to mine) won't get made, but I no longer do.

It's interesting to compare software, which suffers from the same kind of feature-bloat that cameras do of course, leaving us all living with the vast incomprehensible horrors that result

Except that, well, not all software is like that. I'm writing this comment with a tool which is displaying the text of the comment on the screen, and that's all that's on the screen, unless I move the mouse, in which case a little indicator appears at the bottom of the screeen saying how many words I have written (560 words). I can choose the colour and size of the text, and the colour of the background. Apart from line-wrapping there is no automatic formatting at all.

This is a commercial product. I have another commercial product which is a fancier version of the same idea: it lets you maintain organised collections of text, including notes, and it supports a variety of markdown so you can add headings, *emphasize text*, add footnotes and so on. There is at least one other similar system to the one I use.

People are, I assume, making money selling these tools.

So, well, the standard argument is that the reason these tools exist is that the fixed costs of making software are very very low compared to the fixed costs of making hardware, so it's possible to serve a tiny market and make money when writing software, but hardware has to serve a very large market. The market for radically simple cameras is, by assumption, small.

I partly believe this, but only partly, because it's not actually true. For instance, I have a phone (not my main phone, OK) whose whole purpose is to, well, be a phone. It has buttons which let you dial numbers, make a call and so on, and a screen which will display who is calling you. It has contacts, and it can even do text messages. I also have a very beautiful latter-day recreation of an HP-42S: a calculator. Yes, inside there's a great mass of software which is emulating the HP-42S, but in terms of hardware it's just a calculator: it has buttons and a screen, and if you've used an HP calculator you know how it works.

These things are current products. In both cases they were designed for the relatively small market of people who want machines which do one thing, really well, and which are really nice to use. And they're not software, and they do include lots of fancy electronics, and they are not vastly expensive.

So it's clearly perfectly possible to make complex hardware which serves rather small markets, and to make money doing so.

And there is a market for radically simple digital cameras, and in due course some company is going to serve that market. The only reason it hasn't been served already is that the only company that has realised that this market exists is trapped in a world where they are not allowed to make a camera which is not hugely expensive because doing so would destroy large parts of their existing market, which is people who buy their cameras because they are so expensive.

Cameras are like computers, software packages, cars, TVs, any other complicated gadget, in that each of us uses a fraction of their capabilities and we long for a version that offers just the fraction that we use. Your simple camera isn't my simple camera and rather than make 20 different simple cameras, manufacturers just make one that does it all.

The best solution I can think of is customizable firmware - you run software on a computer/tablet/phone that lets you decide what features to enable/disable, button/dial assignments and even available menu options, and it builds customized firmware you can put on your camera. One ugly part of this, to me, is that you either choose to not label dials/buttons or you label them with defaults, but either way, the user doesn't have an easy way to label buttons with the customized function.

Sadly simplicity is usually either very cheap or very expensive. Like the Contax S2, essentially a yashica FX-3 super with a faster shutter and a spot meter at approx 7x the price.

In relative terms I would therefore imagine your camera coming out at roughly the same price as the (relatively) cheapest Leica M, so you may want to start saving!

I've found that there's often a gap between what people say they want and what they actually want.

Not saying this is you of course! I simply suspect that a significant proportion of people who see themselves as the type of photographer who would appreciate such a camera would actually falter in their enthusiasm when presented with the prospect of actually working with one.

There was an interview with Stefan Daniel at Leica late last year where he walked through the company's product line and explained how each was unique in the market.

The interviewer at one point asked, weren't other medium format cameras like the S? He responded something like yes, but none that are simple, they're all custom buttons and touch screens. The S is simple: four buttons.

Another statement (from Kaufman I think) addressed people lamenting the M systems lack of features. He said that people say they want a camera that has an EVF, that is good for video, that has every feature that they want. "That camera already exists!" he said, "Other companies make it."

Leica don't just understand simplicity, they understand that strong differentiation is their license to charge like they do.

“Mike replies: Other than cost, no, but cost is the reason. This is "economic parochialism," but I can't help myself.”

And how much would it cost for 5 years of film and developing to get the desired user experience with the film camera instead of a digital Leica?

Dear Mike,
First of all it is great that I found your blog (not so great that this took me 10 years of reading for several hours daily...).
Your point of the camera getting out of the way is the main I keep from your post.
Like many others I suffer from G.A.S and I am trying everything from film cameras (leica R4 and a couple of Nikons) to mirrorless (Olympus) to Canon and Nikon FFs and SONY compact (RX100 line).
Your proposed simplicity is attainable by probably all of them if I dont overthink about the most efficient 'one to rull them all' setup.
Right now it seems that my OMD EM10 is making shooting transparent, be it with Oly glass or with Nikon glass.
In any case again I fully agree with your the camera getting out of photomaking's way.

Ken Tanaka's right, this is not the first time this post has come up, and in fact, I seem to remember a very similar one last year or thereabouts.

But, anyhow, any Fuji X100 series camera is about as simple as it gets for a digital camera.

Which is what I said the last time this came up.

And, given that the X100 series is as close to the Decisive Moment Digital you waxed poetically about approximately 15 years ago, I've always been a bit surprised you never took to owning and using one.

Personally, I think the X100F is one of the 3 best cameras I've ever used, and...one of the simplest.

I just bought (at great expense) a Leica M Monochrom typ 246. It is a pretty simple camera, which for the moment I'm really enjoying. Aperture Priority during the day then Manual with Auto-ISO at night (with usable high ISO photos) is really liberating.

The unit itself was secondhand, less than 1000 shutter actuations in the 2 years of its life. The previous owner struggled to take photos of his children apparently and went to Nikon.


The idea to put a histogram in the viewfinder is interesting, but conflicts with the more important desire to have a nice big bright 100% field view - sayeth the dSLR user. I suppose that one could make this work in an electronic viewfinder by having a toggle switch: image OR histogram.

As for vintage manual lens use, I am pleased to be able to use my old AIS-Nikkor and M42 lenses via adapter on an ordinary Canon (6D) dSLR. I really miss the old split-prism focusing, though.

Mike you hit the nail on the head here, and you probably speak to a larger audience than you think. I've been blogging similar comments about camera design needing to appeal more specifically to stills or video shooters. While you may be right about companies not being brave enough to make such a camera, I think there might be a chance in desperation of the shrinking market to eventually listen to stills shooters. Likely a design would come from a smaller company first, but who knows. There is however a real demand out there for this kind of camera!

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