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Tuesday, 21 June 2022

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It's always interesting to me when people suggest cramming "everything" into a camera, or, conversely into a phone. I had personal experience with camera/phone overreach when I was a beta tester for Samsung's ill-fated Galaxy NX camera. That Franken-camera "featured" a 5 inch screen on the back and also "featured" an Android OS which allowed users to play games such as Candy Crush, etc. It was cell enabled, wi-fi enabled and Blue Tooth enabled. You could read the NYT on the rear screen between shots. With enough trial and error one might have been able to type a book on it. It was a combination of all the "capabilities" that writers like Thom Hogan routinely sing the praises of. Not only was it an incredibly unpopular camera with consumers but, in my opinion, it's poor reception (with pun also intended) by consumers led Samsung to exit the camera market for interchangeable lens cameras altogether. The idea of immediacy of picture distribution to Instagram isn't as wonderful as social media addicts advertise it to be. The Galaxy NX was an effective example of what can happen when you try to make one appliance do too much.

It's probably the same reason we don't have clothes washers and dryers in our cars. Or microwave ovens mounted on the dashboards. Sometimes one should just concentrate on the task at hand. It's better and safer that way.

When I was testing the Galaxy NX in Berlin in the Fall of 2013 I would often see a photo I wanted to capture only to have the camera automatically pause to start downloading a new rev. of an Android Jelly Bean compatible spreadsheet program or an update to Candy Crush. It was a miserable bit of camera paralysis. And many lost images. Not to mention that the multi-tasking nature of the camera made it an incredible battery draining machine.

I have a pair of needle nose pliers here and I'm trying to figure out how to wrench out whatever it is in my cameras that allows me to upload photographs from them. I can always do that from my computer instead. After I've finished a session.

You nail two things together that have never been nailed together and someone will buy it. As to the current idea, count me out…far out. Rather have a phone in my shoe, like Maxwell Smart.

Sounds like you are describing this $6000 Zeiss camera that never took off.

There was also a failed Samsung with Android as well, if I remember correctly.

Well, I'd like to see this implemented in the opposite direction. I'd like to see Apple make that camera that you spoke of the other day. Could Apple be the company with the pockets and guts to make a beautifully designed, simple camera? Their M11 of SL2 but without the historical baggage to match it to. I've been wanting to see how Apple would execute a full frame mirrorless camera for years. Beautiful, solid, functional, simple.

"..., so it's already a Swiss Army knife."
You would find no chef in the world, who uses a Swiss army knife to do their job. A Swiss army knife is a godsend in the field when you need to improvise - but hardly more. For real work, you use real tools.
So, I would definitely go for a simpler, smaller photo only camera (with interchangeable lens but definitely not with smartphone functions). Right now, I like to take my tiny Panasonic GM5 with a smallish lens around (video button deactivated).

I can’t imagine it would ever happen. For one thing, who would own it - Apple or Leica? Why would either of these storied corporations ever accept second place?

Something that’s interesting about smartphone cameras is how unexpected their success has been. If you watch Steve Jobs’ “1 Product” presentation (you can find it on YouTube) you’ll see that in the whole thing (45 minutes?) he devotes about 15 seconds to the camera: “it’s got a camera - 2 megapixel….”, and that’s it. Since then, of course, the camera and the associated systems have become one the differentiators between different phones, and they have come on so far.

(Incidentally, I might hold off from buying the next iPhone. It’s rumoured that the one after that might have true optical zooming, via a sideways optical pathway. I’ve got an iPhone 12 Pro, the earliest one that can do ProRAW, and one of those might be worth a look. You wouldn’t want to face upgrading after just 12 months.)

I’d love to see an operating system that we can install apps on in my camera. One that is available for developers to write apps for. A phone operating system already has so many camera and processing apps and would be perfect. So I think the idea is a great one. And yes Mike you are right, “it ain’t never going to happen.”

Wasn't that idea already tried and tested?

If I recall correctly, there were at least two different Samsung Galaxy phones with zoom lenses, and Panasonic CM1 with a 1" sensor. Those were phones primarily, cameras secondary.

Samsung Galaxy NX and Zeiss ZX1 are/were a camera first, smart device second, Samsung with now-dead NX mirrorless mount, Zeiss with a full-frame sensor and fixed Distagon 35mm F2 lens. Both are running Android, Zeiss comes with mobile Lightroom CC already built in. Nikon also had a compact camera with Android, back in 2012.

For me, a definite "no". I really want my phone about as flat as current phones, and that doesn't work for any standard lens mount. Also I want the camera shaped to grasp steadily, and with controls right at my fingers when so grasped. It's fine for it to be thick and lumpy, since I carry it and multiple lenses already.

However, I'd love my camera to have GPS location information to encode into my pictures, and also GPS time information (much more accurate than I can set the current clock; and when we have multiple people, or I just have multiple cameras, photographing an event, having their clocks precisely synced is useful; currently I do it by having each camera photograph my watch, then correct in Photo Mechanic so they're all to the same second at least. But GPS would be closer than a second and no work. This lets you merge all the photo streams into close to actual time sequence.)

There are times I would like to be able to use the WIFI or cellular data to dump my photos into the cloud as they are shot. It would have to not slow down shooting (so the upload might run behind), and I'd like to be able to select whether just RAW was uploaded or just JPEG (I rarely shoot RAW+JPEG, but in a high-risk environment, uploading the JPEGs live but not the raw would greatly reduce the risk of losing any photo completely; think of covering civil unrest). This is more theoretical than really important to me, but I can see how it might be crucial to some people.

"...touchscreen on the back of it...would that be something that would appeal to you?"

Nope, absolutely not. I have three cameras with touchscreens and after much effort, the only way that I can use them was to go into the menu and disable all touchscreen functions.

It's the on-paper "advantage" versus the real world operation that make touchscreens desirable. If you have ever had a stray pinkie suddenly open something on your phone or go into some mode that you were not aware of (butt dial, anyone), then how can you not expect the same thing with a camera?

So many times in my learning curve my nose would shift focusing points unexpectedly. A thumb would swipe the back screen while just carrying the camera and I'm in fluorescent white balance. Then there were the inadvertent shutter releases, again while just walking with my camera thru crowds because some piece of flesh touched something on the screen.

I'll carry a real camera with knobs and dials and my phone, thank you.

I'm reminded of (I believe) a Saturday Night Live bit when the iPad first came out. A character was clumsily trying to have a phone conversation with the iPad plastered to his ear.

The more functions a device has to accomplish, the worse it does with each task. That's precisely what I love about refined, well designed, purpose-built cameras like Fuji's X-T series. They do what they're designed to do so well, and their haptics are so nice, that I derive some delight from just handling them, even without taking photographs. That's decidedly not the case with my iPhone.

I’ve found holding the iPhone in ‘landscape’ is difficult without an accessory grip and the lens not being central is disconcerting so I’ve settled on holding it ‘portrait’ and setting it to 1:1, which I like anyway, as the best compromise. It’s still tricky to fire the shutter single handed.

I’m surprised no one makes a case that could somehow fold in to make a grip or fold out to make hood for the screen in bright light.

Samsung tried that, about ten years ago. I saw it, and picked it up, and tried to imagine using it. Nuh-uh. (It was at Photo Plus Expo.)

I had said that I wanted a camera that had a phone built in. After that, I no longer did.

Such a phone/camera combo would be somewhat interesting. That said, I'd rather a cell phone that I could wear on my shirt ala the "comm badge" from Star Trek and have the camera be a camera.

Might as well hope for 3D images and a fly car to take me out to shoot them too ;)

Samsung had the Galaxy S4 Zoom and the Galaxy K Zoom. The S4 looked like a point and shoot with all of the camera's back taken up by the screen. It also had a shutter button and a small "grip." Take that form factor and make it slightly thicker and put in a Sony 1" sensor. To that, I would had the touch screen functions in Sony's Xperia Pro i phone. Phase detect focus, real time tracking and the other goodies.

That would be my next phone. Sure it would not be aps-c or m4/3, but it might small enough to be appealing. I already carry an RX100 and phone when not carrying a larger camera. Best of both worlds, if not perfect?

The only successful dual-product integration has been the alarm clock/radio, it should be left at that...

Unsolicited product ideas sent to companies sound about as welcome as unsolicited story ideas sent to writers:

"I have a terrific idea for a product/story but don't have the skills to engineer/write it. Why don't you do all the hard engineering/writing then give me most of the credit and half of the money?"

I'm not surprised at the low level of take-up.

...Mike

When hand held electric drills first hit the market they were touted as do-all tools. Circular saw, jig saw, sander attachments etc. Black and Decker even had an ad showing a housewife using one to polish a table top.
That has all stopped now. The emphasis is on dedicated tools. I just wish phone manufacturers would follow that lead.Just give us a phone not a jack of all trades(amd master of none)

Being of the age that my eyes are not so good for close focus the use of a screen to compose/change menu etc. requires glasses.

I use the viewfinder which has the option to adjust to suit my eyes deficiency.

Surely I am not the only one!

I took a ride in a friend's new Volvo yesterday and right in the middle of the dash was what looked and acted just like a Google tablet. It hosted a bunch (a technical term) of standard Google aps as well as some specific to operating the automobile. It was capable of communicating to the outside world using 4G.

The market for tablets in cars is larger than that for iPhones in Leicas and the physical limitations are less but the world is moving in that direction -- for cars quickly, for Leicas not so quickly if at all.

Hi Mike,
I’ll play devil’s advocate to your opening paragraph about doing something the best. Remember video, and Beta vs VHS?
Beta was the better tech, but VHS was good enough, cheaper, and able to record longer - I.e. it met consumer requirements.

Nevertheless, I agree with you point about implementation.

Also, Apple is going down the AI photography path, rather than the better photography hardware path. I doubt they’re interested in cameras. They’re interested in images.

A couple of years back, I proposed an improvement to the Leica M finder(through my local dealer). I got a very friendly response from Stefan Daniel (Global Product Director) along the lines that they had already been thinking about something similar. Kind of the perfect response, I guess, since if they implement it, I can’t claim the idea as mine :-)

How about a phone back for my Hasselblad 500c?
With my luck it would be a rotary phone but it would look cool.
But seriously, I change out phones about every three years but my favorite digital camera is a Nikon D7100 which is pushing a decade old and I see no reason to replace it.
The idea of a high end camera with phone capabilities is interesting but I am too old, broke and cranky for one.


I assume it would be called a phone camera to distinguish it from a camera phone. I am shooting film almost exclusively these days and increasingly leaving my iPhone at home and relying on my Apple Watch in its place, so no interest in a phone camera. A light meter function in the Apple Watch would be a very niche item but I would no longer have to carry a Digisix meter in my jeans watch pocket.

Not me - I prefer things be purpose built. This sounds like it would be a "spork" and like that tool, such an idea has a has a very narrow market.

Old-timers here may remember that Apple did make a digital camera in 1994. It was the QuickTake 100, soon followed by a 150 and 200.

https://www.dpreview.com/articles/3774104701/throwback-thursday-apple-quicktake-cameras-pioneers-of-consumer-digital-photography

I don't want a camera that is a phone or a phone that is a camera or any version of that. What I would like is a useful API (application programming interface) that would allow my camera to work seamlessly and transparently with my phone. It would be great if a thumbnail or small version of each pic was copied to my phone (even when locked and in my pocket) and also deleted if removed from the camera. Each time and every time would be great. I do have this capability now with my Nikon Z7, but it is kludgy at best. Sometimes it works, but it never works without some kind of intervention. -Tom

You don't need to wait for the iPhone 14 to get a new phone with a great camera system; get an iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max now.

I've been using for the month or so, and am fairly blown away by the quality of the camera, it's amazing.

Just a minimally representative example...I'll send you some examples.

I discovered photography in the 60's "SLRs, Wave of the Future or just a new fad?". But only recently I have rediscovered the sheer joy of photography and connecting with people using my iPhone 13 Pro and a Fuji Instax Wide printer. People absolutely love holding a print in their hands. A pedicab driver in Laos, a curry wurst vender in Berlin, a couple in love in Denver, they all love the tangible. The iPhone is non-threatening, it takes much much better pictures than a Fuji Instax camera and after the print is gifted, the picture is still on the phone's photo library.

Yes, prints can be expensive, evidently Instax is the profit driver for Fuji, but only a single print can be the ice breaker. So I'm not going to hold my breath for a more Apple like camera because I''m quite happy with my current rig.

"So, mental exercise only: picture some compact but good quality APS-C or Micro 4/3 ILC such as a Ricoh GRIII, a Sony A6[x]00, or (okay, Bear) a Leica Q2. If it had a phone touchscreen on the back of it, with all the functionality of an iPhone, would that be something that would appeal to you?"

I turn-off the touchscreen & swiping in my X-Pro3 and X100V cameras because it is more annoying than useful. The digital backs on cameras I shoot, you have to use a touchscreen (or side buttons), but it is a totally different experience, especially from a tripod or studio stand. I like my iPhone 12 just the way it is. If I were more inventive, I'd design a case that had a little flip-out grip for use when shooting the camera.

"So, mental exercise only: picture some compact but good quality APS-C or Micro 4/3 ILC such as a Ricoh GRIII, a Sony A6[x]00, or (okay, Bear) a Leica Q2. If it had a phone touchscreen on the back of it, with all the functionality of an iPhone, would that be something that would appeal to you?"

No. The shape of an ILC design would make all the iPhone-like non-camera functionalities rather uncomfortable.

The Android-powered cameras mentioned in the comments above lacked a phone application, so the most fully realized implementations of this fevered-dream were Sony's QX series, & the Olympus Air AO1. They were compact but good quality APS-C and Micro 4/3 ILCs, respectively, that can be clipped onto a smartphone and remotely tethered to access the camera controls.

The obvious problem with this approach was it still required additional items you had to carry around; so then why not just carry a dedicated camera?

It sounds to me a more realistic solution is to simply wait for a better near-future version of a smartphone with 1" sensors, and wider optical focal length range capabilities. I say better, because iPhone 13 Pro already has three lenses giving it a focal length range of e-13mm to e-77mm. The e-13mm "ultrawide" & e-77mm "telephoto" lenses are paired to 1/3.4" sensors, while the e-26mm "wide" lens has a 1/6.5" sensor. Personally, I think that's an impressive range to begin with.

The obvious problem with this approach is it will still be a flat slab with no real buttons, knobs, or eye-level VF; so then why not just carry a dedicated camera?

The Pixii camera is offering a middle-ground in the form of a camera designed to be a companion to your phone. https://pixii.fr/
Its not a camera for me... I'm too 'old school'. But it could be interesting for those folk of the computer generations.

I'm late to the game as usual, but your 92% chance of screwing up the implementation reminded me of science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon coining of Sturgeon's law, "90% of everything is crap."

I own a 24x36 digital, APSC and a m4/3, since I upgraded to the iPhone 12 Pro I have not shot any images with the digital cameras. The reasons are as follows: The phone is always with me, the screen is amazing for composing, viewing, it shoots in RAW, the video is amazing, you can edit on the phone with Lightroom, Snapseed, others as well. I think camera manufacturers have missed the boat and are hurting in sales for their missteps. The only reason to use any of my digital cameras would be to make a print larger than 8x10 and then it would be the 24x36. The iPhone is truly an amazing technical achievement. I would love Ctein to perform some testing using the latest iPhone, what do you say?

iPhones have very poor ergonomics/haptics as cameras. A necessary compromise, I suppose. I think of the iPhone camera as a document scanner which can also be deployed, however frustratingly, as a scenic camera. And the peculiar, aggressive sharpening and tone mapping ensures that you'll never get a print that looks good. One thing the iPhone camera excels at AND that no real camera has: Effortless, auto-stitched HDR panorama shots.(That look bad when printed)

Perhaps its interesting to note that the Android operating system was originally developed with the intention of using it in cameras. Only after the developers realised there weren't enough cameras to make it commercially viable was it diverted for use in phones.

No other sailors in the group? A Sunfish had a lateen rig, not a lug, balanced or other. So a "sunfish-style sail" would be a lateen rig.

[I didn't mean to get us into the weeds on this point, although it was very interesting to correspond with John C. Harris. I think the Boston Whaler in question really did have a lug rig. --Mike]

For the readers, if you didn't know a Chinese company has been trying to do this with good micro four thirds sensors. The Yongnuo YN455 should be out in China now. But it might need a firmware update to really make it work.
I found a review here:

https://yn455.weebly.com/

I second the mentions of the Samsung effort that failed. But your readers, especially for this post, may find this amusing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIRBxRlsYR0&list=FLLXlbF19LqWNUJBLYRLPigg&index=82

I am surprised you didn't like the Boston Whaler with the outboard. They completely swept that market, and I presumed it was with competence. They always seemed fine to me, mostly as an observer.

They were a development of the Hickman Sea Sled, a brilliant design that failed due to the inventor being a total jerk. Hard to believe, but it's in the history books.

By adding one more arch to the hull, Boston Whaler skirted the patent and went on to the the most successful manufacturer in it's market and era.

Look this up, it's a fascinating story, both halves individually and together they are just a gem IMHO.

https://www.gerrmarine.com/Articles/SeaSleds.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hickman_sea_sled

You can start your Boston Whaler reading from there.

But these were the most significant hull designs of the 20th Century.

[We're talking about different things. I'm not talking about all Boston Whalers. Just the one we had, which was an all-purpose dinghy that came with a sail and oars. Didn't look like other Boston Whalers, definitely not the same hull design. Its hull resembled an old bathtub without the claw feet more than anything. No idea what it was called; it's been decades now. --Mike]

I'm with Tom: if I could see the photos on all of my cameras as if they were just another album on my phone, I could do everything I want in a very consistent way. We have something close to this with pretty much every camera system now, but it is so clumsy in use that it is hard to want to build a workflow around it. It is still faster, easier, and more reliable to use a card reader in most cases. Knowing that it could be better if these corporations could play nicely is frustrating.

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