Steve's quest for the holy eunuch: The simple digital camera
In common with other bloggers who specialise in photography, I know that a review of a camera or a lens always attracts more readers and comment than a story based on the results, the actual photographs. I’m not sure why this is, but there is no doubt that gear reviews are the most popular items on Macfilos.
I have a friendly difference of opinion with our Australian colleague, John Shingleton about this. He doesn’t like gear reviews and prefers to concentrate on the photographs. He's capable of sticking with one camera, the X1, for the best part of six years, unwaveringly. It’s a view I respect and a loyalty to one camera that is remarkable, but I do tend to like talking about the latest cameras and lenses and I like to think that prospective buyers come to Macfilos for help on which camera to choose. I suppose it takes all types.... and I hope that Macfilos strikes the right balance between gear lust and "real" photography.
I like trying out new cameras and I am always tempted by the latest gizmo. Our mutual friend Steve Huff has much the same dilemma, I suspect. In his opinion piece yesterday he says this:
"I realized long ago that I was buying WAY to many cameras. They would be released, I would use and test them, I would get excited and want them. I would then buy them, only to realize 2 months later that my last camera was in reality, just as good. Hell, I was looking back at pictures I shot with the old Leica M8. As glitchy and strange as that camera was, and as limited as it was, some of my fondest memories were captured with that M8. The files look just as good today as modern-day cameras look and in some cases better."
Steve is clearly hankering back to more simple days and I can understand his quest. Modern cameras have become too complicated. Features are added, boxes are ticked and we persuade ourselves we have to buy the latest version because the autofocus is a split second faster, the burst speed is doubled or the sensor has a few more pixels. Perhaps, though, we are being led up the garden path by manufacturers who know that a few more frills will give more thrills and open customers' wallets.
Even now I am waiting for the new Panasonic Lumix G9 I ordered from London Camera Exchange in The Strand. With my interest in micro four-thirds in general and my particularly leaning to Panasonic rather than Olympus, I was persuaded that I owe it to myself and to readers to try out this remarkable new camera aimed at still photographers. The GH5 was a draw earlier this year, but I resisted that bauble because it specialises in video and that’s not something I do. With the G9 I have no such excuse, but do I really need it? The answer, of course, is no. But I will probably buy it and review it because I think there is an interest out there. I have no doubt readers will be interested and I believe it will be a great camera, if loaded with all the gizmos that form the antithesis of Steve's and my perfect minimalist camera.
What new simple camera would get Steve really excited and bring on the WOWs? He has a short list of must-haves:
- Full frame sensor
- A well designed body that feels like that of a real camera
- One-page menu with no gimmicks or special features — just the basics.
- All controls and settings available via metal dials
- Quick power-up, long battery life and no gimmicks.
I agree with all that. I also concur with his list of exclusions, including no video, no high-resolution shots, no stabilisation, no apps and no special modes. All this simplicity, he says, should come with a price tag of around $3,500, body only. Again, it sounds like a deal.
For me, Leica has always come closer to the ideal of simplicity with the M range, particularly the M262, the M-D and even the new M10. The CL is also close (despite its crop sensor), while the SL is almost there, as Steve admits, except that it is big and heavy and comes with a range of unnecessarily hefty system lenses.
Of all these, the M-D comes closest to the ideal, the ultimate simple camera for the seventh age of man: Sans screen, sans menu, sans gimmick, sans video, sans everything but superb image quality. Leica, as a niche manufacturer, has displayed a remarkable ability to produce rather eccentric cameras that are by no means mainstream. No other manufacturer, perhaps with the honourable exception of Hasselblad, had this freedom of operation and openness to the views of a minority.
Last word to Steve:
“While I know so many love the features and gimmicks, and I would never want them to go away, just give us one simple digital that makes us WANT to shoot it. It’s partly why so many pay big bucks for a Leica so if someone can do it at normal price levels, I think it would be welcomed with open arms from most passionate photographers.”
What do you think? Do you agree with Steve? Should we return to simplicity? Add your comments and let us know.
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