Having already firmly and definitively established that all sensor sizes provide adequate platforms to create excellent photographs and that the choice between them should be one of user experience and photograph aesthetics, let me expand my gift to the universe by describing the perfect camera. Oh, humility …[insert camera brand] … you’re welcome. You do seem in dire need of help and guidance.
Somewhere between the legendary cameras of the film age and the atrocities of today, it appears that a sense of what it takes to make a photograph was lost, diluted in the Hocus Pocus of digitisation. What ever happened to Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance and the metaphysics of quality?
Where is the Steve Jobs of the photo industry?
Compare this sweetie with your average digital camera and you’re in for a shock. We could have simplified it even more by removing the film lever and we could have called it un jour.
Instead of which the contemporary fiasco of camera design is increasingly alienating those who want to actually focus on their creative thought process (gosh, the very thought of that …) and making the others sweat through a PhD-sized learning curve.
Seriously, the testing process that must go on before some of the modern wrecks come out of their stable is so baffling it makes French administration look efficient.
But the worst part is this: instead of getting it right first time (hint, backtrack and look at the photo above) our modern manufacturers deliver their love in increments. The whole hoo-hah of launches even makes us feel like it’s fun to take a 50% financial hit on our previous investment every 18 months. Well, it ain’t. And the whole idea of obsolescence marketing is so past-millenium … Wake up.
What we need, then, is a genius tyrant to cut the fluff out of contemporary design by understanding what we photographers need better than we do ourselves. (All of which is purely in jest. I do not yet own a single Apple product, and the world around us aptly proves the damage done by tyrants. Heck, I even think the ongoing Delirious Design Disorder phenomenon is a healthy sign of a free market. But I’ll never admit to it and will continue my rant unimpeded by good faith or morality).
Until this happens, let me volunteer a few thoughts on design.
The way humans make photographs
Please note the use of the verb make, which implies a conscious and creative thought process to transform a real-life scene into a 2D representation of it that fits our personal criteria of beauty, inspiration, emotion, meaning … It therefore excludes point and shoot for which a screen, a button and no menus are the best way ahead.
Those of us making, or trying to make good photographs from scenes follow this routine, for which Ken Rockwell has forever preempted all authority in my heart with his how to F.A.R.T article 🙂
The complete process involves the same two phases that Ansel Adams described, decades ago, in his magnificent trilogy The Camera, The Negative and The Print: capture and post-processing.
The first part remains the same as 50 years ago. The second has benefited from digital brute force in ways that were unthinkable only a financial crisis ago.
I see two very distinct phases, two thought processes (both originating from the same pre-visualisation) and two distinct sets of tools. Interaction between the two (sets of tools) are minimal and should, at all costs, be minimised by the user interface of the camera.
So it irks, me, ever so slightly, when bozos in a corporate suite or some nuthead design department decide that the two should mingle.
Evil is energy misplaced.
Stop me now, before I grab some garlic and stakes.
Back to my perfect camera …
Camera makers, we all have phones !
You thought the first photo on this page was a quaint joke? Think again. Here it is once more.
This is the perfect camera ! This design perfectly separates analog (capture) and digital (processing).
Down to earth, a camera design proposition
“In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.”
― Winston S. Churchill
So, having been so assertive and full of myself, let me climb down my ladder and explain my thoughts … 😉
Take a loot at the Samsung VR headset. This cheap device does away with complex electronics and screens by plugging a Smartphone into a simple optical contraption with minimal intelligence. I believe most cameras would benefit from the same approach:
If you think about it, the EVFs and rear screens on our cameras are basically augmented reality devices. They show the world with histograms, horizontal levels, zooms, menus … None of them, to my knowledge, come even remotely close to a Smartphone for those purposes.
My suggestion, then, is to give us a cleaner separation between analog (aperture rings, ISO dials, speed dials …) that suit our eye-hand coordination habits (read no right brain to left brain hindrance) and digital (HDR, panorama, star trails, housekeeping, …) leaving the latter to a phone app or three.
This is looking an awful lot like the new Hassy X1D …
Other companies have experimented too. Leica come to mind, with their 6 grand M-D (Typ 262). Many laughed. I was among them, shame on me. Now, I get it and regret it.
In my defense, the marketing nonsense that surrounded that launch did nothing to make the message clear. But now, I get it.
Why do we use rear screens, other than for setting menus? Chimping!
Chimping at the restaurant after the shoot is inoffensive fun. But checking your photograph after your shot, to take a second if you fluffed? Not good. That’s not how good photographs are made (outside a studio) !!! Really, really not.
Imagine Robert Cappa, Robert Doisneau, HCB or Pentti Sammallahti chimping after a decisive moment and thinking “let’s rewind so I can compose better”. Laughable, right? But camera makers, with their 700 point AFs & crappy ergonomics are trying to make us think that it’s better to create a meaningless photo that’s pin sharp than a fuzzy masterpiece. Have you ever seen a Doisneau up close? …
So. You pre-visualise, you don’t iterate (again, out of the studio) ! Sure, chimping can occasionally save the day, but it should never become a part of your process. Think about it. Get it right. First time. Cue the Typ 262, a tremendous photographic tool for those (rich and) brave enough to face and fight their inadequacies.
But no screen at all? I think not. That’s saying 24×36 is the only format (no panos, no zooming). It’s saying the photo world has to be literal. It’s saying the camera can only serve one purpose. A phone with great apps can show the milky way build up on screen (like Olympus pioneered), can remove intruders from in front of the Taj Mahal (and, as a fun bonus, cause some nauseating purists to choke on their outdated views of authenticity) via multiple photographs, can pixel shift (if the camera has IBIS) … Who would want to miss out on all that?
Bring the Zen back !
Why do people jog?
Why do people join Fight Club?
Because it’s simple!
/There, my first ever Haiku/
Be honest with yourself. Jogging is fun because it’s so simple. Grab a friend and run. The minute you add training apps, digital thingamebobs and fancy gear, performance soars and the fun evaporates.
As human beings, we need to bond and create. Complex equipment hinders both by creating clans and engaging our left brain.
Simplify our gear
Claim Zen for photography
I hear jaws dropping
About that crowdfunding
You know who would do that really well? Zeiss would! (right now, a man called CC is hating me for bringing this up again 😀 😀 😀 ) Sure electronics aren’t Zeiss’ core business. But they sure know a thing or two about tight tolerances, analog quality, ergonomics and connectivity.
Now, if at least 200 000 readers commit to buying their smartphone-based camera when it’s ready, who knows where this can take us? I’ll take two, so as not to swap lenses. Only 199 998 to go!