Modern Cameras: Feature rich or minimalist pure?
Just what features do you really need in your new camera? One of the reasons I like Leica’s products (especially the M) is that features are kept to a minimum or effectively hidden. For sure, cameras such as the SL and Q are well capable of matching the opposition feature for feature. But Leica has a knack of hiding all the stuff you don’t need and you can convert any Leica camera into a simple device that mirrors your personal preference. For instance, I much prefer menu Leica's approach to to the efforts of, say, Sony or (worst of all for complexity), Olympus. Oddly enough, it is Panasonic that comes closest to Leica in its menu presentation and I suspect some of this is down to the company's close cooperation with Wetzlar.
Sadly, many of the multitude of options on modern cameras are there just to keep up with the Joneses. Even Leica isn't entirely immune to the pressures of the box-ticking set. The prime example, always, is the amount of menu space and button functioning devoted to JPG production. In effect, you have a mini laboratory in your hands and you can twiddle to your heart’s content. If you like that, all well and good. If, however, you prefer to shoot RAW and do your processing in the quiet of the evening, much of the feature bloat on a modern camera is superfluous. Many photographers go out of their way to pare the options down to the basic exposure triangle: Speed, aperture, sensitivity. Each to his own.
Ming Thein has written an excellent essay on this very theme. As he says:
“It’s nearly impossible to buy a camera without a feature list as long as an encyclopaedia so the marketing people can ensure it wins every Top Trumps style comparison with the competition; and secondly, how many of us ever buy the camera with fewer features? Do we even know what we really need – as opposed to what we think we want? The analogy of bitter medicine being good for you keeps coming to mind. The last year-plus running a medium format primary system with a considerably smaller feature set than I’d previously been used to, in parallel with the Olympus E-M1.2 with perhaps the longest and most feature-rich menu system I’ve encountered – has prompted me to reconsider what I really need in a camera for my shooting needs.”
I agree with everything Ming says in his article, which you can read here. What do you think? Do you prefer a minimalist control and menu setup or do you really enjoy fiddling with little buttons and complex setup?