An Appeal to All Camera Manufacturers for Simplicity

It’s one of those articles — published by Luminous Landscape — that really feel the pulse of many photographers and come at the right time. Mark Dubovoy’s essay An Appeal for Divergence and Simplicity pulls all the right strings, at the right moment, given that Nikon looks destined to fulfill his wishes with its new Pure Photography campaign that preceeds the announcement of a retro, back to the roots full-frame FM2 lookalike. With video creeping into still cameras, Dubovoy isn’t screaming, “Screw convergence!” of still and video photography. He’s just having an extremely difficult time trying to find a current camera that achieves the simplicity goal; a simplicity in actual use and design, one of the hardest things to achieve and the basis of a pure, unspoiled photography experience.

Some want a joystick in a camera. As if there’s a trophy for the camera with most buttons and functions cramped in… Many are longing for the opposite. Are camera makers producing cameras that photographers don’t really want? Says Dubovoy:

Most of our cameras today are full of ugly clutter, convoluted menus, useless functions, an unnecessary explosion of buttons and dials, lack of direct simple access to critical functions, major ergonomic mistakes and big compromises (…)

I wish someone would explain to me why a Pro camera needs insane convoluted menus with lots of items and procedures that make no sense. Why does Canon not allow one to do something as simple as set a camera for mirror lockup without having to either read the manual or memorize an idiotic arcane procedure?

Mirror mirror on the wall, who has most buttons of them all?
Mirror mirror on the wall, who has most buttons of them all?
Why does Nikon have two separate memory banks and why can one not lock the profile memory settings? One minor change (such as exposure compensation) for a single image and without warning the camera changes your profile for all subsequent shots. Ridiculous!

Why is it that in every SLR and every Micro Four Thirds camera I have tested something as simple as changing the ISO make us have to push buttons plus turn dials at the same time, or go to a menu? All these things are an abomination.

The major camera manufacturers don’t seem to be able to figure out even the most basic things, such as changing the exposure.

There are three ways to change exposure: shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting. So why don’t we get cameras with three controls, one for each function.

Dubovoy’s appeal to all camera manufacturers:

We need simplicity. We need you to cover the basics properly.

Give us the critical functions first. Think of the old motto that “form follows function.” Design for proper ergonomics.

Try and remember than humans have two eyes on the sides and noses in the middle so put the viewfinder and the screen in the right place.

Remember that human fingers are wider than a toothpick and cannot convolute into ridiculous positions.

Balance the weight. Give us a decent grip.

Give us three direct controls for exposure.

Use the viewfinder and screen of a camera properly; they are not a video game or a billboard where the goal is to try to cram every number, menu item and icon you can possibly cram into it.

And please, do not obstruct parts of the image with all this visual junk. Leave the image clean!

Couldn’t agree more. And a good light meter.

Visit Luminous Landscape for Dubovoy’s full essay.

  • Reed

    Seems to me you need a Leica M9. Or hopefully the new Nikon.

  • As Dubovoy says, Leica comes very close. Personally, I hold shooting a Leica M above everything. While other, less beautiful cameras give me not much worse files, so far no other camera matches the Leica experience.

  • Bengt Nyman

    A fully manual camera can be very simple, and in the right hands, and with plenty of time, it can produce excellent images.
    But that is not today’s reality or where the market is at.

    The market demands auto everything and fast everything. That’s why cameras look the way they do. A well known camera brand, talked about by a few but used by even fewer, offers old simplicity but represents less than 1% of the market.

    Going back to romantically alluring simplicity which requires tedious execution is out of the question. Auto light metering, auto ISO, auto aperture, auto exposure, auto focus, auto flash metering, auto flash and image stabilization requires a lot of technology.

    Most top cameras today do a much better job of instantly balancing these variables than even an experienced photographer can do.
    A National Geographic photographer setting up for an hour and waiting another hour for the right light is a different story.

    So let’s be realistic.

    A trend that I think we will see more of are fewer buttons and for example four programmable, easy access dials which to you and I will mean ISO, aperture, exposure and flash. To somebody else they might mean light, color, isolate and special effects.

  • I guess I would have to agree with your assessment about choosing the Leica experience as a comparison. The other pilot I’m flying with this week asked me several months ago when we’d last flown together if I’d recommend the OMD. I told him I’d heard good things about it. Well he’s had it for several months and asked him today how he’s getting along with it. Told me he’s still trying to figure it out. Enough said.

  • Exactly… here’s a follow-up Duane:

    Maybe the Nikon is the one Leica should have built.

  • I did read that article first which led me back to this one. (I haven’t kept up with my reading the last couple weeks.) But as most of us know there really isn’t a perfect camera. By the way, I finally upgraded my over 6 year old MacBook Pro to a 2013 Apple reconditioned Retina version and all I can say is my images on the computer have a whole new look! My 30 year old 35mm Summilux pre-ASPH is not looking so soft now wide open!