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Wednesday, 26 January 2022


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It would help if you could use an app or desktop to set the camera up.
I would suggest it ask a few basic questions about how you use the camera and from that remove unnecessary options/questions.
There would also be the option to have more detailed information on each question/option.
Then blue tooth the new settings to the camera.

Those that make the most noise are heard. DP Review's fora are read by many—TOP not so much.

Gear Geeks, who may own cameras but never use them except to take photos of brick walls, WANT complexity. 'Nuff said.

A complicated-computer camera can be used as a simple camera--but you can't go the other way. I'm sympathetic to what you're saying and often dream of a digital camera that behaves essentially as a film-like camera. But, then I catch myself and realize that nothing is stopping me from using my complicated digital camera as a simple film-like camera: Set ISO to auto (well, that's not exactly film-like), aperture priority, thumb on the exposure compensation dial, and off I go. Forget all the whiz-bang features. And if I really want it to feel like a film camera, no chimping, and wait a few days to download the photos.

[Yeah, but then there will always come that time when you want to make a setting that is basic but also out of the ordinary for you, and you either won't know how to do it or it will take a long time and a lot of fiddling around. So you still have to be familiar with a lot of the more esoteric features of a complicated camera, or you will still end up frustrated. --Mike]

Reinhard Wagner wrote a guide on the Olympus PEN-F of only 128 pages. I found it hard to finish it. Not because it is in german but because I am only interested in 90% of the content. And that is only a fraction of what the camera is capable of.
Quote RW: Allein die MONO-Stellung bietet vier Millionen Möglichkeiten…

["The MONO position alone offers four million possibilities...." --Ed.]


Can someone explain to me why cameras are loaded with top of line pro or semi-pro video features? The number of people who understand what those things mean rounds to zero. I'm grateful when a youtube video doesn't have black bars on the left and right because people don't know to hold their smart phone horizontally.

And after all the feature-overloading, I still can't tell the camera to set itself in hyperfocal mode and to lock focus so that I can't accidentally knock it out of position. Geez guys, if you're going to have all that tech, then make it do things that are hard for humans to get right. Machines are supposed to serve us, not the other way round.

Mike, I beg to differ with you on at least part of your post. The Porsche Carrera T is not a stripper that cost more. The T has a number of standard Porsche fun parts not usually available on the base Carrera model, like Gorilla glass from the GT3, a different active suspension, less sound deadening, different final drive ratio and a unique interior. It really is a hoot to drive BTW.

As to the rest, well of course. One of the reasons I've liked Pentax is that they never got all crazy with the menus. If you are reasonably familiar with a DSLR you can set up any Pentax in a few minutes.

Sigma is another one that is stripped down to basics, at least judging from the two I've had.

You have a "stripper model" of a camera, sort of, the Fuji X-T1. If you want Ibis, perhaps a $300 K5iis might be good. Or splurge for the Ricoh GRx, which has a great lens from all reports (but get a couple extra batteries).

Leica dslrs are supposed to be simpler and intuitive. It's like that Vonnegut story where the middle class and poor are forced to consume like crazy, and only the wealthy can afford simple, low stress lives.

Camera companies should take more advantage of the computers they are programming between lenses and sensors. They could be a little more pedagogical and offer multiple UI screen workflows such as: (A) Anybody can push the shutter button mode; (B) Basic Camera Operation mode, or (C) Computer Engineering for the pixel peeper mode. Then a user could progress at their own pace if they want to become a rocket scientist alongside a pixel peeper. But what do I know as I have stayed on aperture mode since my F3 days.

People used to say that Olympus had the worst menus - I had like three different models and at some point, you knew where to look.

The Fujifilm X-E2 was simpler, but it is a bit older and maybe simpler. But even with Fuji, people are complaining that their menu complexity was getting out of hand with the latest models.

Now I have a Panasonic GX9 and I find the menus at least as bad as the Olympus ones.

Guess it's mostly familiarity. And let's be honest, after the initial setup, one seldom does need to dive deep into the menus, at least that is my experience.

Nothing is simple anymore. We are overloaded with complexity and distracted by superfluous gimmicks of all sorts. We are surrounded by amazing things, yet we are miserable.

The problem with cameras is that we expect too much, and as we do that we take less responsibility over the image.

It would be grand if there was a camera, say fashioned after a Nikon F2 or Canon F1, with a purely mechanical interface, beautiful pentaprism finder, mechanical shutter and lens system, no AF, no auto wind, and a center weighted meter, with a battery that only powered a sensor that purely shot raw files to a card.

The only controls would be shutter speed, aperture, ISO and WB. Not even a screen on the back to chimp. Now that would be simple. Just think how long the battery would last. The guts of the electronics could fit where the film used to go.

A camera for photographers, just like the old days. You won't know what you got until you develop the raw files.

Now, now, Mike. You're shaking your cane again! ;-)

Cameras became more complex as direct results of consumer demands. Specifically, two categories of feature demands really led to today's ultra-complex digital cameras; auto-focus sophistication and, the BIG one, integration of video into still cameras. As sensors enabled more AF points and ultra-quick phase detection AF, the AF behavior control options became insane with some cameras. ("Would you like to follow the left or the right eye of the leader of a wedge of geese?") And of course video introduced a myriad of inane tech complexity to your camera.

In fairness, many of these features were requested by vocational photographers, particularly news orgs who wanted their photogs to also be videographers to save expense. But, also in fairness and honesty, NONE of them would have come to exist if waves of amateurs hadn't been willing to bankroll these developments.

But back to your complaints...Sony has long, and deservedly, held the worst rep for user interface design. As an owner of many of their cameras, from the A6xxx line to the A7R III and IV, I agree. It's getting better with their new touch-oriented design as seen in the A1. But it's clear that they have a poor culture when it comes to user interface.

The BEST systems that I own are from Hasselblad and Leica. The Hasselblad X1D2 and 907x 50C are sheer simplicity and, yes, beauty in touch-screen-based controls. Yes, video is not a feature of these systems. But you can see how it could easily be added without introducing complexity to still photo control.

The Leica SL2's control interface is also pretty darn simple and elegant. It's more a system of a few physical buttons and dials with a simple system of menus than the Hassy. But it's easy to learn and also relatively easy to customize.

Back to your A6600...I've never used one. But I'll bet it's easy to set up as a "stripped-down" device. With a little customization I've been able to almost entirely avoid diving into the deep menus of my Sony's. Just relax, download the PDF manual (or go to the online manual), breathe deeply and regularly and it will be all over in an hour or so.

I don't think of camera complexity as a problem, at least with my DSLRs (Nikon D300/D700) which allow me to control aperture and shutter speed with the finger and thumb of my shooting hand and ISO with a button push of my left hand + the thumb of my shooting hand. Other parameters I might want to change, such as white balance, AF mode, metering mode, exposure compensation, mirror lockup, or self-timer can also be done quickly/easily with physical buttons on the camera.

I didn't shoot film, but that seems like as much or more control as many film cameras had back in the day. What more do you need?

Sure, there are tons of other options, but I don't need them and mostly ignore them. I did buy Thom Hogan's books (way better than the Nikon documentation) to learn about the cameras, but after playing around for a bit and realizing I could do 98.7% of what I needed with the physical controls I pretty much ignore the rest.

If your camera can't control basic functions without menu-diving or consulting a manual maybe you've got the wrong camera.

Re: “The only controls would be shutter speed, aperture, ISO and WB.”

I can’t get the pentaprism, but I can pretty easily set my Olympus E-M1.3 and E-M5.3 to operate exactly like that. It has a mechanical shutter, I can adapt legacy MF lenses to it. I usually keep the articulating screen turned in so I can’t see it, and you can set the viewfinder to not show previews. There are enough control points on the camera to set your four desired settings. It’s perfectly happy to shoot raw only, and have a single centered focusing point.

I really don’t get the angst over features one doesn’t use. Especially for simple setups like this, it doesn’t take that long to set it up and then you never have to look at a menu again. Turn the camera on, set your film (ISO + WB) for the day, and go out. Focus and set aperture on your adapted lens, change the shutter speed with the dial on the body. Press the shutter button. Done.

Oh, and I’m sure I could write a very short guide showing you how to setup the camera for that mode of shooting. As could many others.

I've tried taping over most of the controls and screen to limit complexity. Didn't work out too well. HaHa

Your comments are absolutely on target. Digital cameras, DSLR or mirrorless, are way too hard to figure out (and newer phone cameras way too good) for all but the most dedicated users. Why have camera makers decided it would be a good idea to sprinkle lots of tiny buttons around the camera case, then make them reassignable to perform different functions?

Cooker does loads of things I have no clue about. TV the same. Washing machine, car heating system, radio, radio alarm, phone, printer, even the fridge controls are baffling and it seems the interior temperature is set for all eternity. It ain't just cameras.

There may be some cognitive dissonance going on here.

First of all, "simple" to a photographer has never been that to many consumers, since long before cameras were computers or phones or doorbells. Right now, we camera geeks are an ever-growing proportion of the ever-shrinking market for dedicated still cameras. I think that's one reason cameras are so competent these days.

Apparently at least seven of us hanker for more (or less): a "simple" camera like those of yore, or more accurately for a device that behaves like one, even though it is at heart a substantially different kind of device (it's more like four devices that have to work together perfectly, which is by itself serious complexity).

But we're greatly outnumbered by consumers who don't think those cameras are simple at all and aren't interested in becoming proficient in the arcana of aperture and shutter and blur and DOF. (Their loss, but oh well).

Apparently the solution for Sony with the A6600 is to let it all hang out and let the user sort it out.

On the other hand, as overpriced as Leicas are, a non-trivial portion of that price goes to the non-trivial job of implementing or modeling a specific set of traditional camera haptics and behaviors that appeal to a relatively small group of camera jocks and would-be jocks (and, apparently, rich people). In this case, less is more.

Which is a long-winded way to say that I think the reality of what you're asking for, Mike, isn't a "stripper," down-market A6600 but rather a highly refined and customized version, one many consumers (and Sony) would consider complexified. It would by its nature cost more, not less, and have a tiny market. It's just not going to make sense to Sony.

Which begs the question: If most all camera makers can implement an "idiot-proof" Auto mode on a dial, why can't they put an "old-time photo dawg" mode on it, too?

I bought a Leica SL, the original version, specifically because of the simplified controls and simplified menus. Four unmarked buttons and a power switch on the back. One hour to learn the menu. Very limited complexity for things like Jpeg settings or video. A five line section in the menu for video. It's exactly the camera you are describing as a great photo camera. And it's well built, feels great and takes a complete system of lenses from three alliance partners and a growing base of other makers. They are available all over the used market at about $2200 in great shape. There's the solution to all the "deep dive" menus and complexity. Clutching your pearls at the cost of Leica lenses? Just grab the Sigma i-Series, full frame lenses in the focal lengths you like and you'll have a great system at a nice, low cost. And with as little complexity as you can get in an interchangeable lens camera. Want something newer? Try the SL2 or SL2-S. A bit more complex but still way less daunting than a typical Sony or similar. Think Leicas are too "precious"? Slap some tape over the logo and get on with the photography.

If you ask 100 people what a "simple" camera should be, I imagine that you'll get 100 different responses.

Which is probably why Sony has a feature called "My Menu" on some newer cameras. This is a very handy feature! Mine contains 9 entries, and pretty much everything else that I need can be had via the catch-all Fn button.

IIRC, there's a dial on top of Sony marked "auto" and if you select that, you can just start taking pictures and getting good results.

Fuji has a great feature, an 'Auto' with that was at least on the X70, which was such a perfect solution in line with their design ethos - a physical switch that put the camera in simple mode, that you could hit and then go back to the dials and menus and such. Very helpful and perhaps that's the best hope we'd have of a streamlined mode - a hardware switch that would set a mode that the user could configure ONE time. Remove menus, etc - and easy to flip back out of.

But yes, it's a lot of complexity still there - I really wish that the Silicon Film wasn't vaporware; a digital insert for an M6 or F2 really would have been a wonderful way to shoot.

If you purchase a new car, you have the same problem. My new Honda CR-V came with a manual of 675 pages. I downloaded the PDF version so I could search for key words to figure out how to set up the various systems in the car. I think it took a month to get most of the items done.
My new Nikon Z-fc has a 624 page manual. Same deal - search the PDF for keywords to figure out how things can be programmed.
But after the setup, both are operating like I like them and I never change anything in the menus. The Honda instrument panel now only shows digital speed and down at the bottom the outside temp and miles on this tank of gas. On the Z-fc, I have even turned the rear screen toward the camera body and never look at it.
My advice is download the PDF version of the manual so you can search the text, set it up and then use the camera like a 25+ year old camera - or car.
Unless you just like screwing around with all the menu options instead of taking pictures (mildly sarcastic).

I don't buy new cameras very often, but IMO, it would be nice if they were delivered with every feature turned OFF instead of, it seems, vice-versa.

I don't know about others but I *hate* having to learn more about features I don't need or want only so I can disable or delete them!

And kudos to those manufacturers that separate their menus for stills and video operation, because this makes it easier for me to completely ignore the latter!

I think a solution to this would be a menu structure that lets you turn various features on or off. And if off they basically disappear from the menu and from the camera's controls. And of course easily could be turned back on. In this approach there would be only one model of a camera, not several.

I use an Olympus E-M5iii, which has lots of fantastic features, few of which I use. I use it more like I did my old Nikkormat. I also use Apple Photos for editing. The Photos editing menu is set up like this. Various editing capabilities can be turned on or off. So you can have a simple editor limited to, say, auto enhance and cropping, or you can have a fairly complex editor with all the features Apple offers, or anything in between.

To me this would have the added advantage of simplifying the learning process. Start with the simplest feature set necessary to take a photo and then add others as your mastery of the camera progresses. It would also help beginners understand what is fundamental to all photography before getting distracted by features and gimmicks applicable to very little photography. Finally, you could also create a simplified camera that is set up for a single complex task, like birding or night sky photography.

I was reading through the TOP archives yesterday while researching m43 lenses, and I stumbled across Gordon Lewis's review of the GX85. I remember reading it when it was posted, but I ended up skimming through it again out of interest as that's my main camera. In the second part, he describes the settings he uses, including "front dial controls aperture, rear dial controls exposure compensation". "Ha!?" I thought, "The GX85 only has one dial and that's on the rear! He must have confused it with the GX9." I even took a quick glance at my own camera to confirm this - nope, nothing on the front. Then I noticed that nobody in the comments appeared to have picked up on this blooper at the time. So I lifted up my ol' faithful, much-used camera and took a closer look...

Reader, the GX85 has two control dials, including a front one. As William Shatner said in Airplane II, "why the hell wasn't I told about this?!" It's kinda 'hidden' because it surrounds one of the buttons. On the other hand, that button is the shutter release, so it's not exactly unobvious. Five years of ownership and nearly 8000 images, and only now do I find this out! Or perhaps I knew about it once (because mine doesn't control the aperture, which Gordon says is the default, so I must have changed it at some point), but I immediately forgot about it again.

Will I start using my 'free' extra dial now? Probably not given I've become used to controlling both aperture and exposure compensation with the rear dial.

(Apparently though, Gordon also says I can use the F1 button to add extra functions to the dials? And there's a focus peaking view too?! Can open, worms everywhere.)

Anyway, yeah: cameras are too complicated. And I do computers for my day job.

How did anyone make a photo worth saving before the digital revolution in photography.
Aperture, shutter speed, ASA, manual focus. How did they do it?

On the firmware/menu side there is a relatively simple way for a manufacturer to provide what you seek. Simply produce reduced instruction set menus.

On first whack, break it up into (1) Basic, (2) User, and (3) The Whole Enchilada Menu Sets. The User Menu Set would include the Basic Set, plus whatever else an end user would want to add from the Whole Enchilada Set. Make it such that you could do this easily through a UBS link to a computer or via phone app, and such that the configuration could be saved and shared. Might even have a couple different User Sets, for different conditions. A cottage industry would probably develop around those that have read the almost 1000 page manuals, and figured out how to spin up the best menu sets.

They make a stripper version of the Panasonic full frame cameras. They are called "Leicas" and they cost 4x more. You can ask your friend Kirk T. about them.

This is one of the reasons I like the X Pro 3 and X100V. Every setting I could possibly want to use on a camera is on a dial on the outside of the camera. I am particularly fond of the X Pro 3 because I can fold the screen up where I don't see it. I can set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO on clearly marked dials. It also has a clearly marked exposure compensation dial. I do not want to have to resort to a menu or rear screen to change any of these variables. I rarely ever look at the menus for anything. But that's just my preference which I am certain is an extreme minority opinion among people who use cameras now.

While it's true that a complicated camera can be set up to act like a simple one, it needs an experienced and knowledgeable photographer to do it. This is no good for a beginner who would like to achieve more than their smartphone is capable of; result, no sale.

So I think darlene's suggestion of being able to set three levels of complexity (none, some, or lots) is a viable one. This would be far more attractive to prospective buyers than expecting them to jump in at the deep end.

There's also room for another sort of camera; one that is simple to use but that produces high quality results, and isn't full of the latest expensive tech. It'd be most reasonably priced and feel good in the hand.

It would appeal to beginners with not too much spare cash, and to experienced photographers (also with not too much spare cash) who want a second camera as a daily carry and for those rare times when they need to work with two bodies.

The other problem with this sort of complexity is that it is impossible to know if a used camera is operating properly. I’m a 3-5 generation back buyer. In October of 2019 I finally decided to dump my E410 and go mirrorless. Purchased a very clean EM10 from a known reputable online dealer. Okay, everything fine for two weeks then….the first (and only the first) exposure each time the camera awakened was about 6 stops under exposed. Tried different cards, reset to factory settings, don’t remember what else. It just kept doing this weird thing.
No problem, the dealer replaced it with another one they had and it’s nominal, as far as I can tell. But really, how would even an experienced camera dealer know about this, especially if it was intermittent.

No wonder people want to go back to film, not because of the film itself, but because the cameras were so much simpler.
I also believe this is the reason simple, all manual (and cheap) lenses are so appealing on digital cameras. Manual focus and manual aperture selection are understandable. The instructions for the lens could be on an index card.
And that’s all I got to say about that.

How about offering the same camera, but three different operating systems, beginner/mid-level/pro, that can be uploaded as firmware?

Then you don't even have to change cameras as your needs advance, or simplify.

Or, even simpler, have the one menu system, but the first menu item is 'Menu Complexity' with a number of options. Pick 'simplest' and the camera masks vast catalogues of options.

OTOH Sony already offer owners a 6-page custom menu that they can build with up to 36 favourite menu items, plus customisable 'quick menu' page behind the Fn button. Set this up once and live in THAT camera, of your very own devise.

As soon as there is a menu, we're doomed.

I think what the manufacturers try to do is sell the idea that features can lighten the burden of craft learning. Like autofocus dispenses of learning pre-focusing and zone-focusing.

Most everyone has a simple camera and carries it all the time: the phone. Everyone can use it without reading a word about it. Faced with such competition a simple "real" digital camera would be a very niche product, very expensive. But that exists: Leica M11 :)

I don't think going back to "normal" simplicity is even doable with hybrids. You are going to need adjustments for the screens whereas an optical viewfinder doesn't need that. But nothing really prevents them from making a digital camera that would only have semi-auto and aperture-priority auto-exposure with no measuring modes to choose and no other functions than ISO, aperture, speed, distance. Apart the fact it would indeed not sell.

You may be overlooking a difference in market preference by age, perhaps.

You, and I, and a rather significant chunk of the regular commenters here, are old pharts. And even then we don't all agree with you about this. People who grew up on the complexity of computer software seem to dislike it less than some of us do!

I personally don't find any real problem is using a complex camera without using all the features.

But I also think I use more of the features than a lot of people. I use multiple AF modes when shooting roller derby, and very different ones when shooting late-night music sessions. I do use the video capacity, to the point of having shot footage for a commercially-released movie using my Oly EM-5. I use auto exposure and auto ISO (it's so easy to watch in the viewfinder that I know when I need to override).

What I don't use is the "art modes" and the "intelligent" auto modes. I have to admit it does bother me that they take up slots on the main control dial, but I can't think what else should be in those slots, and the dial isn't over-crowded. But, like jpeg mode and especially lower resolution modes, it terrifies me when I think about being in one of those modes accidentally. I'd love to be able to lock them out in the UI!

So, maybe I agree with you in specific areas after all.

Isn't simplicity of the menus (along with other considerations such as lenses) why many photographers buy the digital Leica M cameras? Of course, the techno-geeks on DPreview hate Leicas, but they are not the target audience.

> I want a stripper model of the A6600

There is one, sort-of. It’s called the Leica CL.


This did happen in the word processor world. People who just wanted to write (didn't need shapes, formulas...) went to text editors and Markdown. The big word processors didn't simplify. Other companies just came out with simple products.

I don't think that this can happen in the camera world.

I think the camera of which you speak might be the Leica T. It is fabulously stripped down. One button in addition to the shutter release. Two dials. A very responsive and pretty touch screen for everything else, and by everything I mean very little, and you fit most of the functions relevant to stills photography on their version of the quick menu. In A mode, the right dial adjusts the aperture and the left dial can be set to one of six functions, including exposure comp, which is where I leave it. It’s got autofocus and an add-on EVF, and tweakable auto-ISO. I think it’s brilliant, and bravo to them for bucking the trend. (To boot: the T was released prematurely with a very poor firmware, so it received a lot of negative press. They upgraded the firmware and created a sleeper camera that, if it shines for you, is a heck of a deal.

The Leica TL2 is a great, no frills camera as well. And the lenses for it are pretty swell too.

I’m with you. The only ones who make a simple camera is Leica, with that screen-less model.
And no screen or zoom is not the simplicity I’m looking for.

I share your disdain for cameras for which someone could write a 500+ page book describing the infinite and mind numbing range of different settings and how to set up the camera. Unfortunately, virtually all cameras manufactured today fall into category, because virtually all of them are designed in Japan. The Japanese camera manufacturers are either incapable of designing a simple, clean user interface for a camera, or they do not believe that there is a demand for it. However, you are inaccurate in saying that there are no alternatives. There are three camera manufacturers that I am aware of that design cameras with simple, clean interfaces. Leica, Hasselblad and Phase One. It's counterintuitive but true that the only cameras that are uncomplicated are among the most expensive. Try a Hasselblad X1D to see what's possible. The User Interface is brilliantly simple in concept and operation. (The color science is also exceptional, but that's another story.)

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