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Thursday, 24 February 2022

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I would buy one. If it took either K-mount or M4/3 lenses. And had a usable viewfinder. And was appropriately priced.

I completely agree. Unfortunately I think we’re in the minority. And while this camera exists, I’d like one that I can get my wife to agree to allowing me to have.

Some of us would really like a Fuji X-ProM.
A B&W version of the X-Pro series.

This has indeed been flogged to death. The problem is: there are already cameras like this on the market, I own two of them: the Hasselblad X1D and the Leica T. These cameras have barely a couple of buttons between them. Their menus are the absolute pinnacle of simplicity and minimalist beauty. They both even take wonderful digital images. The only problem with them is that hardly anyone is interested in them.

Just a couple of weeks ago I decided I was done with digital (again), and got in touch with Sweden's biggest camera seller to see whether he was interested in my two very carefully and minimally used cameras. He turned me down flat: no-one buys these cameras, apparently.

As an aside, in the past I owned an M8 (and sold it at a massive loss), and it was a nice enough camera, but the only digital I truly regret selling over the years, was the Epson RD1s.

Oh, yes. Simple cameras are impossible to get unless you shoot a venerable film camera, but every time I think about it, I ask - why can't we have this with a digital sensor? There's nothing which precludes simple, limited functionality but a nice modern imaging pipeline. It's just not the way the world works with expensive electronics. We can't market something that does "less, better."

I've actually gotten my older Olympus OM-D (the E-M5 Mark II, to spell out the over-long name) as close as possible to this concept, by, a) closing the articulated LCD, b) setting the two spinny-clicky dials to move at one-EV increments, c) shooting in Manual only, and d) sticking with a particular ISO value until I need to make a change, then manually changing it. It lets me have a camera with an EVF as the only window into what the lens sees, discourages chimping (since the screen is closed), and is very easy to adjust aperture and shutter speed (one click up or down on either wheel changes a stop).

I'd actually be happiest with a camera that has the limited, stripped-down, simple controls on the outside, but does the most fancy work on the inside. Like an updated Foveon sensor, or the computational wizardry that OM has put in the new OM-1. Just, make that part automatic. Make the camera work behind the scenes to do all the AI/computational/whatever else exists to make the file (RAW file, please) look as good as possible, but make the human/machine interface as simple as possible. All the camera horsepower can go to making sure those functions are operating at lightning speed when we twiddle a couple controls, raise the camera to the eye, and click the shutter.

I have a Panasonic LX100. Like the Reporter it is stupid simple to use. It even has a Leica branded lens. I guess you could call it the "Cub Reporter".

An even more radical idea- the simpler camera should cost less.

All my cameras are simple cameras. Even the CFV II 50C back is married to a 203FE. Simple.

Maybe the Fujifilm X-PRO3 comes somewhat close.

Yep. It's much of why I love my M 240 so and keep blathering on about it here.

It does have video but it's out of the way and I can (and did) lock out video functionality. The buttons for ISO and exposure comp are nice touches on your newer camera. On mine, ISO is a button on the back and or also with exposure comp, white balance, raw/jpg/color/B&W, metering mode are on a quick one-page menu and once I finished setting up everything that's all I need.

The killer is the expense. My camera is between 6 to 10 years old and when I got it last spring it still set me back over $2500 and for me that was only possible due to an inheritance. Ah, but it's the best Veblen good I'll ever own ;)

[And, you are very clearly enjoying it, which is, as they say, priceless. --Mike]

These days, people who just want to take pictures use their phones.

These days, cameras are for people who want to take pictures in challenging circumstances, where their phone can't keep up. And, to take pictures in challenging circumstances, you need advanced features.

Exactly which advanced features depends on which kind of challenging circumstances you're going up against. Auto-focus ranks pretty high on the list though (applies to a lot of situations—anything that's fast-changing). I found that by experiments in 1994 (for my work, of course); and AF has improved hugely since then (and my eyes have not improved since 1994!).

My M3 was a step forward in my ability to take candid photos; I could focus faster in low light (for either high-speed film, or flash), I could see beyond the edges of the frame, and I had my first fast medium telephoto in that mount.

I have fond memories of that camera...but I didn't replace it even back in the 1980s, because SLRs had gotten good enough (brighter viewfinders and better focusing aids) that the complexity of two systems wasn't justified for me (or affordable, even that early).

You do realize that you've said in your article that the M10 doesn't exist, right? "There's not a camera on the market anywhere close to as simple as this. Not one." Well; maybe you're saying it isn't a camera, or that it isn't in the market, rather than that it doesn't exist? I have your own testimony that it does exist, right in that article.

Now you have a taste of why I like digital Leica's so much... Film speed, aperture and shutter. What else do you really need, even for digital?

The rule of thumb in the oh-so distant past was you bought Leica for the extraordinary lenses*, and stayed for the amazing (and simple to use) cameras.

*And, as you wrote earlier, in the here-and-now almost every manual focus lens ever made can be used on the M cameras.

You need to check the Fujifilm X-E4. Two dials on the top plate. 5 little function buttons also on the top plate, two on top and three on the back of the plate. Finally two buttons and a joy stick for the menu.

How much more simple can you get?

Currently shooting quite a bit of personal work with a Nikon F3, Nikon FE2 and a Mamiya 7. There is something very enticing about simplicity after meandering down the digital rabbit hole for two decades.

...and a big viewfinder.

this is how I use my Fuji X-T2; I only use manual focus lenses on it. I've turned off much of the tech built into it - so much so, that I occasionally feel guilty for not using it. for the big slap of tech, I have an X-H1...

Simplicity? That costs extra.

I'm totally with you here, Mike. I stick with Fuji cameras as they are the only thing that comes close, given my financial limitations. But even with Fuji bodies, one gets tempted to tweek things with options buried in the menus. But it is possible to limit myself to ISO, shutter speed, and aperture

Why not? I can think of three reasons. People who are interested in a simple camera need to know enough about photography to use it well. This is a small number of people. It consists of professionals who need the camera to put bread on the table every day. They want a fast camera with autofocus so they don’t miss a shot, and thus a payday. The rest of that group are people like us, older simple people who have taken pictures most of their lives but don’t really make a living from it. Too small market. Leica adds a bit to that by making it a luxury product that has nothing to do with the camera itself. As long as it is expensive some will buy it. The vast majority of people buy things based on comparing features. Simple camera always loses in such comparisons.

and manual focus 'loxia' anyone!

I appreciate that the Leica illustration that you included shows that that camera can be set up to operate in as simple a manner as my Sony. It seems that with only a single trip into the menu, the Leica ISO dial set to A, as illustrated, can control ISO with respect to shutter speed in a preferred manner, the A on the shutter speed dial indicates that the Leica, like the Sony, can handle aperture priority, and, of course the aperture can be selected by the lens, just as with all my lenses.

I use my Sony in that simple way, just as I'd use the Leica. I think that the combination of the 42mp A7R III with the excellent Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO would certainly at least give the M10 with its similar Leica lens a run for its money, but the Sony + 50 APO setup does weigh over two ounces more than the Leica + APO. Still, without really addressing price, I suppose that that slight increase in weight is the price that must be paid for a handgrip and IBIS, so I'm OK with that.

"You can still have your Omega777 on which ..."


I wish I still had my Omega C700. I miss it quite a bit.

I wholeheartedly agree Mike. I’d gladly trade all of the potential whuzzit HDR / film simulation / panoramic whatevers for a higher quality build (to ensure a longer than usual lifespan) simpler-to-use camera that didn’t cost an arm and a leg like a Leica. My beloved Fujis are the closet analogue I know and even then I refuse to use more than the ISO-SS-aperture controls operated in manual mode via the dials on the cameras themselves. Which is a tremendous waste of all the lovely whiz bang capabilities they offer. Perhaps it’s a particular kind of stubborn madness? I don’t know. Ultimately however, for me at least, it’s a matter of the heart wanting what it wants, rational or not…

Fujifilm X-PRO series is also quite simple. And it even has AF.

Oh, but I have that camera! It´s called the Nikon FM2N. Like the bard wrote and sang: "No fancy preparations, no bubble machines, just my Fender guitar and my old blue jeans". Albeit "Nikon camera" though.

I see the point but if someone else other than Leica made a camera this simple they'd probably have to charge a fortune for it as it'd sell in tiny numbers and who's going to buy a minimalist and expensive Sony (for example) like that at a Leica price?

Maybe the easier and cheaper way to get simplicity is to buy a Sony A7 (for eg but anything will do) and only use the front and real dials for aperture and shutter, the exposure comp dial and the shutter button. Ignore everything else and Voila! Simplicity! Or fit a lens witn an aperure ring and be even happier.

The Leica S3 is even simpler in a number of ways. Of course it’s even more expensive.

Voltz

No, Mike! A cold compress . . . NOT a hot water bottle!

More on the Fujifilm X-E4. I forget the most interesting (Command) dial. This is the one on the front of the Top Plate.

This dial controls the ISO, Exposure Compensation, and lastly the aperture if the lens has none. You never have to take your eye off your subject and can quickly go from one to another and make a change.

I personally think the Exposure Compensation dial should be eliminated. I never use it because the front command dial is quicker.

Also I would like Fujifilm to eliminate the shutter speed dial and put that control into the front command dial also. Then ALL functions that control exposure are all together.

While we are at it isn't this what the Nikon Df was supposed to be?

I never owned one of Cosina's Voigtlanders but that was because of my budget, not my interest. Would I like something that just shot fine jpegs and had a modest range of well-priced primes? The trouble is that then I say that if it's a rangefinder it has to have a way for the user to adjust it. Could I live without IBIS and a flip-out screen so I could shoot low without getting dirty? The price would be the answer. It sounds like there's a market for at least ten or twenty among your readers.

A digital camera that provided a simple, split-image finder as in the Nikon Fs of old would do just fine.

There is no need for complex menu/dial battles for the experienced snapper: he already learned how to use a camera some time ago. I wouldn't even want an exposure compensation dial or button or whatever: that job can be done quickly, when needed, by looking at the exposure information strip in the viewfinder and adjusting shutter or diaphragm as you wish.

I would also like an inexpensive black/white version of my old D200. I don't like the philosophy of paying more to get less; I don't even like the policy of a manufacturer providing more than I really need to buy in a camera.

I didn't buy into Leica when I was in business and could easily write it off, simply because both the M and R types always struck me as being several steps out of touch with the best on the market. However, everybody knows that cameras are no longer designed for the production of photographs: they are designed to wring the blood from your wallet. Period.

Photography, largely, has become redundant.

I imagine that I am getting the same simplicity from my Fujifilm X-100F.
Set the film profile to Acros with yellow filter (or whatever) and use the dedicated dials for ISO, aperture, speed and compensation.
Output a jpg in best quality and a RAW file I only touch in the rare cases it is necessary.
The X-100F has too many configurable bottoms, but I just ignore them.

mani wrote:

"...no-one buys these cameras, apparently..."

I think the reality is that only photographers buy those cameras. However, unlike "the old days," there are virtually no photographers. The profession mostly died out when digital, and even more importantly, cell phones, took over.

Today, camera manufacturers design products for tech-loving geeks who seek toys. Of course the market doesn't want simple cameras. How could geeks show off what they've bought with cameras that lack needless complexity?

There is unfortunately a fundamental principle in marketing that states "more features = better". Hence the endlessly growing list of menu items for cameras, the mushrooming digital connectivity of cars (please, get off the Internet and *drive*!), and the progressive bloating of Photoshop.
I guess we're the curmudgeons here. I'd happily pay more money for an operationally very simple but very well built camera that stays out of my way.
Just like I'd gladly spend a bit more money for a well-built, nicely appointed car that happens to be small. Instead I have to choose between ghastly cheap econo-boxes and obese gadget-stuffed SUVs.

"All you really need."

Actually, "All Mike really needs."

I detest rangefinders, always have. Yes, I used one regularly, long ago, because it was the only camera available to do what I wanted. I liked the form factor, the results, but not the rangefinder.

"What is so complicated about making a simple camera?"

Nothing, nothing at all. What's hard is making a simple camera and not losing money doing so. I will spare us the lengthy treatise on the economics of manufacturing.
Perhaps it will suffice to say that I'm surprised that the Leica T sold for as little it did.

Mani has put it simply, based on his experience, "no-one buys these cameras"

Posted by Alces Alces, a large North American antlered ungulate of the Cervidae family — we are also in Eurasia, where they call us Elk.

why can't we have something like this? Why can't somebody make something like this? There's not a camera on the market anywhere close to as simple as this. Why not?

Huh? The Fujifilm X100 series is something just like that.

There's a button on the back for review, one for live view, and one for the menu Check.
There's a four-way navigation pad. Check.
There's a shutter button with an on-off collar around it. Check.
There's a bay for the battery Check.
...and for one (gasp! one) card. Check.

And...the Fuji X100Fi is $7396 less expensive than an M10-P Reporter, and...it comes with a lens. Just 1 lens. Which makes it..even simpler.

Regarding the comment from Mani above: I have never shot any images with the X1D but when I hold it in my hands it is the absolute perfect size, weight and feel. Really need to give that camera a shot.

It strikes me that Olympus tried this idea, too, with the E-PM1 and E-PM2. Small, dead simple and pretty capable.

I used an E-PM2 as companion most often with 12-50, to an E-M5 with 70-300. I took over 4,700 photos with it, with 11 different lenses, over about three years. I can attest that it's a good camera.

But I'm afraid it's A simple camera, but likely not your simple camera. The only control wheel is one of those flat things you rotate with your thumb. It's easy to set aperture, EV comp and ISO, but not with top of camera control wheels.

I eventually moved on to a GX7 as pair with E-M5 for two main reasons. First, I got tired of no EVF. And then, the two axis IBIS was falling behind later models. Especially a problem for close-ups.

One of its strengths was the lack of a physical Mode dial — so it never came out of bag or pocket set wrong!

I was disappointed that Oly ended the PM line. I imagine it was for the same reason in my last post, lack of adequate sales.

That's pretty much the conclusion I got after a couple of minutes of handling a digital M. They are far from perfect digital versions of their analog heritage - not the fastest, quietest, lightest, ... But they are the simplest digital cameras you can buy. And I like that.

Pak

Thomas Tveit Rosenlund: "Well the Leica and Hasselblad simple cameras are crazy expensive. Why not just get the Fuji X100v and be done with it. I don't like the menus but I only use them to format the memory card anyway."

@Thomas: you do not have to go into the menu to format your card on the x100v. Simply push the 'Drive/Delete' button, count to five, then push in the 'Rear Command Dial' - the format screen will appear.


Huh! How can Leica sell a simple camera, and the others can’t?
Because it’s a LEICA!
If anyone else made a simple camera, Nikon, Canon, etc, - how do they make money if it’s simple and no frills? If a high end full frame or even APS-C body is sold for $2500 more or less, what can they get for the simple camera? What can they justify selling it for? No, only Leica can do it, because everyone knows and expects them to be expensive!
In my humble opinion! 🤭
Fred

We have simple cameras; they're called smartphones, and they're ubiquitous.

1000% agree, and we have had this chat over lunch. In addition to such an M mount rangefinder (that I can afford) I would not mind a “full frame” digital OM-1 that could seamlessly mount my existing Zuikos, plus a Rolleiflex digital with only the minimal controls; I don’t even really need a chimping/review screen, just an ISO dial and monochrome sensor.

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