Less is more: what does a camera really need?

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I’ve long been threatening to post a photograph of a toilet as an example of a minimalist everyday object made interesting – its basic form has been decomposed down to the bare minimums; ornamentation isn’t necessary, nor does it sell more toilets: less is more. Appropriately, this was also shot with a minimalist camera: an iPhone.

Here’s an interesting question: how many of you have given some thought to the bare minimum of what a photographic device needs to be used as an effective camera? The problem today is we’ve become far to accustomed to camera makers stuffing in additional software features in order to sell devices; none of which are useful, most of which don’t even work properly. Think back to when you last used one of the headline ‘new features’ of your last purchase – pano stitching, for instance; or 10fps tracking; or the ‘supergreen national park-like foliage mode’. Probably only once – shortly after unboxing it – and then never again. I’m willing to bet you can’t even remember which combination of button presses is required to activate it. But judging from current product offerings and advertising, the concept of selling a camera with less features in it is one that simply makes no sense…or does it?

Within this site’s reader pool at least, I’ve noticed an increasing appreciation for shooting film – part of that is undoubtedly due to the tonal map and overall image aesthetics; however, I suspect there’s also a part which is due to the refreshing simplicity of most film cameras that predates 1001 scene modes. The upshot is that as a photographer, you can concentrate on the scene and the resultant image, rather than being worried about what mode your camera happens to be in, and whether a certain setting is engaged or what happens when you press button X, A and the down arrow twice.

I digress. To know what we need, we first need to have an idea of the end goal; here I’m going to revisit the “four things” I keep going on about. We need good light, which means some way of controlling our exposure – shutter and sensitivity of the recording medium. I’ll leave aperture to the second thing, which is subject isolation. In fact, aperture is the sole physical photographic control that we have to control subject isolation. The only physical parameter built into the camera that affects composition is the focal length of the lens, which translates into angle of view and perspective; none of the technical controls affect the idea at all. That’s all down to the photographer.

Exposure control can actually be simplified greatly: you could make the camera aperture priority by default, then have a spot meter with AE lock and AUTO-ISO at say 1/1-1.5x the focal length – this gives you the ability to set exposure very precisely, and removes the need for an exposure compensation dial. Of course, you could go one step further and design your shutter speed dial with an A position, which would default to spot meter-exposure-lock-on-half-pressed-shutter behaviour, or set it entirely manually – this is the one overlooked stroke of genius in the controls of the Leica and Fuji X cameras, for instance. You can set manual, shutter priority or aperture priority all according to which combination of the dials are in A mode, and which are overridden with manual values. Hell, if the iPhone had a spot meter and exposure lock on one volume button, and AF/shutter on the other, we’d be pretty much there.

That’s actually not a lot of things, if you think about it. For a digital body, we have shutter speed and ISO on the body, aperture on the lens, and perhaps three focal lengths – one wide, one normal and one tele. A viewfinder is a must; preferably something that shows the actual view through the lens, be it an SLR, LCD or EVF. The more accurate its representation of reality – in terms of both color fidelity and detail reproduction – the better. Notice I haven’t said anything about autofocus at this point; I honestly don’t consider it to be all that important. For critical applications, you’re going to be using manual focus most of the time anyway; I prefer to be in control of what I’m focusing on, especially when I might want to bias my distance forwards a little to take into account the depth of field required for a given composition. Add some basic playback features, responsive operation, and decent ergonomics, and I think you’d have a winner on your hands: something simple enough that people who want to learn photography would be able to experiment and see the impact of changes without feeling intimidated, and yet controllable enough and light enough that it serves the needs of serious photographers, too.

The trouble is, for most companies such a dual-market product isn’t seen as a good thing: there should be the ability to sell two versions at different price points even if only the badge and some of the cosmetics are different. I disagree: the halo product used by the pros is the only product you make, and the same one that everybody buys. The only excuse for mediocrity is the user. It’s democratising in the same way shooting with an iPhone or GoPro is.

The worst thing from a commercial standpoint is that you can’t suddenly start charging more for a product that has fewer features (no ‘pet smile beauty retouch mode’, for instance) – especially not to a market that has been force fed feature overload for as long as they can remember. It’s why niche cameras with large sensors and fixed focal lengths haven’t been very popular outside enthusiast circles; people get confused when you tell them one year you need a 30x optical zoom, and then turn around and say 35mm can be used for everything. Both are true for different reasons, but consumer education has never been high on manufacturers’ priorities – in the long term, this is a very stupid move as it will take an educated buying market to be able to both differentiate between increasingly niche products, as well as to appreciate the value of those niches in the first place.

In theory, this minimalism was long the preserve of the Leica M cameras – even the digital ones – but I can’t help but feel that with the introduction of the M 240, Leica has lost its way somewhat – there’s now a scary amount of feature creep entering the bodies, rendering it neither fully fish nor fowl and entirely a compromise. Take for instance the EVF and the strange new focus on video: sure, live view is a good thing, especially through an eye level finder; however, why put the microphone next to the place where you’d be breathing out, and even worse, not include a MIC IN port to take the signal from an external one? Or the inability to reassign the video button to another shortcut for people who don’t use their M cameras for video? And making an adaptor – essentially a tube with two mounts at a very high price – together with the EVF, as a ‘solution’ for use of legacy SLR (R) lenses – without taking into consideration the poor ergonomics and weight of the whole thing is sheer lunacy. I’ve talked about this before: you can put legacy glass on your newer cameras, but just be prepared for compromises everywhere – in ergonomics, image quality and functionality.

From a purely engineering point of view, I’d rather have less: the simpler something is, the fewer things there are to go wrong, break, or require servicing to be kept in tolerance over time; our toilet from above is a great example of this. If you don’t have a 20-element zoom with four helicoids, there’s less chance of one of those elements drifting out of alignment and affecting your image quality later; if your shutter runs at 2fps instead of 12fps, you can simplify the engineering considerably. I like to think of this as the mechanical equivalent to Mark Twain’s policy on brevity: it takes longer, but the end impact is greater. From a design standpoint, there is an elegant simplicity to the form of those objects which have been distilled down to their bare minima. If you can’t price a product premium on the promise of good design and robustness of engineering, then I think something is very wrong. (Of course, this assumes that the promises are duly made good.) I don’t know about you, but if Nikon shoehorned the D800’s sensor into an F2, I’d pay a considerable premium for one.

In the end, I still come back to the most fundamental reason for us photographers to be looking at simple shutter-aperture-ISO-focus cameras – they remove the distractions from our photography, enabling us to make better images. And if you can make better images, subconsciously you’re going to be predisposed towards buying one, or another one, or convincing your friend to buy one: result, sales. In the end, it’s a win-win: but somebody – either the photographer or the manufacturer – has to break the endless cycle of feature creep and start voting with their wallets. MT


Enter the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards here – there’s US$35,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, it’s open to all ASEAN residents, and I’m the head judge! Entries close 31 October 2013.


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  1. So, my 1963 Leica M3 is basically the eternal, essential & perfect camera already. 🙂 As Ken Rockwell put it in his review of the M3: it etches perfection on film.

    Just something I really want to correct that’s just plain wrong and I’m always utterly disappointed when professional photographers get it wrong: the focal length of a lens DOES NOT translate into perspective. The only variable that influences perspective is the point of view or put in other words, the position of the viewer in relation to the subject in three dimensional space. An image taken with the camera fixed on a tripod with a 28mm lens has the same perspective than an image taken with the same camera and a 300mm lens.

    Try yourself. Put your camera on a tripod, for convenience, mount any zoom lens you have and take images at various focal lengths, without changing the position and alignment of the camera. Let’s assume you took a 28mm, 50mm and 80mm image. You can now scale down both the 50mm and 80mm images at their respective scale (zoom) factors each to layer these images on top of the 28mm image and they’ll be 100% congruent with the common field of view of the superimposed layers. By definition, this wouldn’t be true if the perspective changed with the focal length.

    If you want to manipulate the perspective, you need to change the position and alignment of the camera relative to the subject. It has nothing to do with focal length. This is something EVERY elementary text book on photography, painting, drawing and other art subject teaches.

    • Pretty much, yes. I feel the same way about my Hasselblad Vs and F2 Titan.

      As for perspective: we don’t get it wrong, we make an assumption on one critical bit: to maintain the same subject magnification different focal lengths change perspective because in order to do so, you have to physically move – which is of course the same as what you said. I can’t think why you’d stand still and change focal lengths but expect your subject to have the same visual prominence…

      • I’m afraid you don’t understand perspective. Perspective is not changed by scale, magnification or a different crop by changing your focal length. Perspective can only be changed by moving the camera to a different position in relation to what you are photographing. That is elementary photography knowledge and has been covered in the most well known photography text books. You teach photography classes, you should really know basic stuff like that. If you still don’t believe me, do yourself a favour and read up on the subject matter. I suggest Ansel Adams “The Camera”, where he explains on page 106 (Basic Image Management, Subjective Properties of Lenses, 16th paperback printing): “True perspective depends only upon the camera-to-subject distance.” Get it here:

        Andreas Feininger’s text book on photography contains the same explanation which is also a good read. Both books state clearly that focal length (or any lens property for that matter) have an influence on the perspective with easy to follow explanations.

        • Of course I meant “have no influence” instead of “an influence”.

        • I did not disagree with you. Read again, carefully: to maintain magnification with different focal lengths you have to change your physical position relative to the subject, which changes perspective.

          Lastly, understanding it is one thing, practical application of it is quite another…

          • That last statement in your comment is correct. But it’s still wrong to write in the blog post “The only physical parameter built into the camera that affects composition is the focal length of the lens, which translates into angle of view and perspective” as the focal length does not determine perspective. Perspective is a function of only distance of camera to subject. The sentence is not only misleading, it’s wrong as it implies that the focal length influences perspective and a change of focal length changes perspective. I’d change it.

            Also, in your comment above, you still got it wrong, as you wrote “…different focal lengths change perspective…”. That’s just wrong any way you look at this and even if you meant the right thing, the sentence is misleading at best. This is better: Change the distance of the camera to the subject and you will change the perspective. If you changed the perspective and you want to maintain the same scale of the old perspective, you have to change the focal length. However, the focal length has no influence on your perspective. This is probably what you meant.

            Another Ansel Adams quote, as he put it much better than I have:

            “The perspective of an image is controlled by the distance of the lens from the subject; changing the focal-length of the lens changes the size of the image, but does not alter the perspective. Many photographers overlook this fact, or are unaware if its significance.”

            This quote is taken from Ansel Adams, Examples – The Making of 40 Photographs:

            • We are arguing semantics. The physical position of the camera is NOT built into the camera. The lens is.

              • Nothing that is built into the camera alters perspective. That’s the whole point. However, you write that the focal length translates into perspective. That’s wrong.

                Perspective isn’t even associated with the camera at all. It’s a term to describe the spatial relationship of two objects in three dimensional space. Take a camera and put it at coordinates (a1, b1, c1), your subject is at (a2, b2, c2). The vector defined by these two points in space is the perspective. NOTHING ELSE. Now remove the camera and put ANY object, for example a stone at (a1, b1, c1) and that object – even if it doesn’t have a lens attached – has the same perspective as the camera had. That’s ALL there is to it.

                You clearly wrote:

                “The only physical parameter built into the camera that affects composition is the focal length of the lens, which translates into angle of view and perspective;”

                That is WRONG. NOTHING that is built into the camera translates into perspective. It’s just wrong and if you want to be taken seriously as a photographer instructor, you should correct that statement.

                Also, in the comments, you wrote:

                “As for perspective: we don’t get it wrong, we make an assumption on one critical bit: to maintain the same subject magnification different focal lengths change perspective because in order to do so, you have to physically move – which is of course the same as what you said.”

                Different focal lengths DO NOT change perspective. What you wrote there is wrong. You are mixing in scale and magnification which by themselves have NOTHING to do with the perspective.

                We are not arguing over semantics here. We are arguing over the basic understanding of what perspective means. And unfortunately, I don’t think you get it, given those above quoted statements in your post and the comments.

                • Jorge Balarin. says:

                  Tobias, I’m sure that a lot of extraordinary photographers and photography teachers occasionally were not able to enunciate what perspective is using precise dictionary terms. And that minor fact didn’t affect at all the quality of their photographs or their teachings. Ming is an extraordinary photographer and teacher (buy some of his video instructionals), and your comments are a bit petty. Sorry.

                  • I’m not bashing Ming and his work. He is an excellent photographer based on the work he produces.

                    But he is plainly wrong with the facts here (not just by using the wrong words, he is 100% off by saying that ‘focal length translates into perspective’) and refuses to correct his post(s). If his misconceptions were just another ignorant forum post in some forgotten and irrelevant forum, I wouldn’t bother discussing this. But his blog actually has a big audience and he teaches photography (for crying out loud). So to prevent a lot of people from picking up an obviously wrong understanding of perspective and how it is altered (Correct: ONLY by camera to subject distance/position!!), I pointed out that he made a mistake. Instead of correcting the mistake, he bends his misunderstanding to make it sound like it’s what I meant and sticks to his misunderstanding instead of correcting it. Am I honestly the only person who cares about facts displayed correctly and proper facts being passed on to fellow photographers? I refuse to believe that.

                    In fact, follow the link to the blog post he marked with ‘perspective’, that’s titled ‘Pet peeve: Proper perspective practice’ and is not about perspective at all but about choice of focal length (again illustrating how he confuses focal lengths and their misunderstood and non-existing effect on perspective). Read the comments. Another person pointed out that perspective has nothing to do with focal length (correct), just follow the rest of that discussion to see how common that misconception of perspective is and based on that blog post too and how Ming responded to the comments, I am very sure, he does not understand that perspective is defined by the spatial relationship of the viewer and the subject in a three dimensional space based on position and distance only – nothing else.

                    And it’s all in the books and by books I mean the books every photographer should have read before he calls himself a photographer teacher or instructor – no matter how good his pictures are! I’m not the one making up things. Read Ansel Adams or Andreas Feininger text books (and basically any other book on photography worth buying) and it’s right there.

                    Seriously, someone who teaches photography and focuses on architecture photography and product photography a lot too where perspective is especially important, should be able to get the definition and facts right. How hard is it to correct the blog post?

                    If I didn’t like Ming’s work, I wouldn’t read his blog. I’m not here to bash him. But by now, he’s past the point where I am willing to believe he made an honest mistake in writing.

                    • Peter Boender says:

                      Tobias, you ask: “Am I honestly the only person who cares about facts displayed correctly and proper facts being passed on to fellow photographers? I refuse to believe that.”
                      I don’t think you are the only one. I think you’re absolutely right.

                      But, by now this argument is not a question of being right but of being put in the right. A sentence of yours like: “You teach photography classes, you should really know basic stuff like that. If you still don’t believe me, do yourself a favour and read up on the subject matter.” doesn’t help you to drive your argument home. It is not just a petty text or argumentative position, it is downright condescending. Maybe it’s a language thing, but it made the hairs in the back of my neck stand up. And I’m not even the writer of this blog. Imagine how Ming would feel.

                      Ming concurs with you; he wrote “I did not disagree with you.” He also wrote: “to maintain the same subject magnification different focal lengths change perspective because in order to do so, you have to physically move”. Now, this may not be to your liking, because it is not exactly following the scientific definition, but it is the way most photographers approach perspective. Most knowledgeable photographers pick a telelens out of their bag with the intention of photographing with a compressed perspective. Not because they want to run around with this lens on the camera after the fact only to fill the subject in the frame. By the way, I find it a bit pathetic to take the 5 middle words out of that last sentence of Ming, take them out of context, and then start bashing about a theoretical definition.

                      So, I’m left with only one question: what is your point to ensue this for so many replies? Don’t you think Ming got your point after your first reply? You want the blog changed? Well, it’s his blog, so he can choose whatever to do with it. Don’t like that? Only one thing to do: go write your own blog.

                      I’m sorry, but I feel everything became just a little bit too hard-headed.

                    • Hi Peter,

                      I pointed out his ill written sentences early on in a mild mannered way, check the conversation.

                      If he agreed with me, he’d change the sentences that are just wrong. Focus length does not translate into perspective. Period. Still, that sentence is in his blog post as I am writing this. Does he agree with me? Obviously not or he had changed that mistake already.

                      Ming is very good at self promotion and marketing as a photographer and instructor through his blog, an iPad app, video tutorials and even an email learning arrangement as well as workshops. If someone puts themselves out there that prominently, they need to get their facts right or face the heat. Like others pointed out above, he could have reverted from his ill written statements much earlier in the discussion and corrected them. Instead he tried to dodge around the inevitable and said he agrees with me but still, he sticks to phrases like “focal length changes perspective”. I don’t agree with that because it’s wrong. And it’s right to demand that someone who teaches photography gets the basics like perspective right.

                      Of course it’s unfortunate at this point to revert from his position (or should I say ‘perspective’?!) without losing face, but that’s not my problem, I gave him enough solid arguments that his sentences are wrong and misleading, even in writing by quoting Ansel Adams himself.

                      By the way, I did write a blog post putting perspective, how it’s defined mathematically and what that means for photography in a blog post. Just hit the link on my name.

                    • I teach my method of image making, no more, no less. You have expressed your disagreement, I’ve already agreed with you. I don’t have time to rewrite the post because I’m on assignment at the moment. I will correct it when I have time. There is no need to continue to personally attack me and my business on my site.

                      I have not deleted any of your posts, which I could have easily done if I chose to. Even the ones that link to your own site and appear to be somewhat self-promoting. I will assume for now that this is because english is not your native language. Remember you are a guest here. Be careful not to turn into an unwelcome one who will be banned if you continue to be obnoxious.

                      Peter, Jorge, I appreciate your comments and support. I have already agreed that Tobias is technically correct, however his method of expressing it leaves a lot to be desired – I will assume that is because English is not his native language and leave it at that.

                    • Jorge Balarin says:

                      Tobias, Show me your architecture and product photos to compare. I’m not interested in mathematical definitions, because only seeing photos that show an excelent understanding of perspective I’m able to realize it’s value.

                      It seems that you are trying to tell us that Ming is not a good teacher, and that aseveration is absolutely wrong. Anybody that have had the privilege of having Ming as a teacher know that, but also the ones like you, that are learning seeing his blog for free on a weekly basis. I don’t want to believe that you are trying to promote your blog, or that you are somehow jelous or frutrated, but unfortunately your insistence on trying to find a microscopic spot on a brilliant large surface is suspicious.

                    • Jorge Balarin says:

                      Tobias, could you show me some of your architecture and product photos to compare ? I don’t need mathematical formulas to understand what perspective is, and to apply that notion in my photography work. For that purpose it is enough to see photos that show a perfect understanding of perspective in photography, like the ones of Ming.

                      Are you trying to tell us that Ming is not a good photography teacher, or that he doesn’t qualify for the job ? You will have a hard time with any of the lucky student’s of Ming, and also with the ones like you, that for free are learning from Ming posts on a weekly Basis.

                      I don’t want to believe that you are somehow frustrated, jelous, or just that you are trying to promote your blog; but unfortunately your insistence over a point that could be subjective is supicious. The focal lenght is not changing the perspective physically, but is changing our PERCEPTION of perspective; and from a photographic point of view that is all that matters.

                    • Jorge, first of all, there’s no need to get personal, so back off.

                      Then I have to respectfully disagree with you on a few things.

                      I believe a photographer teacher needs to get his facts right. Ming’s facts about focal length and perspective are not right.

                      Perspective is an elementary concept in all art forms that work with a two-dimensional canvas. Even if Ming manages to produce excellent work without either the correct understanding of perspective or the ability to explain/teach it, that takes away from his ability to teach and educate properly. Uneducated photographers reading his posts are misled to believe that they can influence the perspective with their focal length.

                      I’m going to repeat myself with that Ansel Adams quote here:

                      “The perspective of an image is controlled by the distance of the lens from the subject; changing the focal-length of the lens changes the size of the image, but does not alter the perspective. Many photographers overlook this fact, or are unaware if its significance.” Ansel Adams, Examples – The Making of 40 Photographs

                      If Ming chooses to be and remain one of those photographers that overlooks this fact, too bad for him. But spreading wrong facts is going to attract opposition if you’re advertising yourself as a subject matter expert – no matter how good your pictures are.

                      Please don’t waste your time trolling me with getting personal, invest that time in understanding perspective.

                    • Jorge Balarin says:

                      Tobias, I don’t know what is “trolling”, but I know what is to be unkind, unpolite and impertinent. You said that you use to see Ming photos and read his posts, so I guess that you are getting something visiting his blog, and I expect you to be at least a little bit respectful. If you really wanted to be nice with Ming, you would have insisted in your point sending him a private mail, and you would not have behaved the way you did.
                      About my understanding of perspective I will say that is a good one. At least I don’t lose “the perspective” on the way you did it. If you don’t understand it, I advice you to invest some time trying to realize what is to be polite, and a good man.

                    • @Jorge / Ming / Peter (and possibly others)

                      You should really take a step back and look on your own claims in comparison to those of Tobias. Now, I am not saying that he has been a perfect diplomat. However, neither are his opponents and they really should not try to claim the moral high ground. Ming’s threat of a ban seems arbitrary and more a matter of protecting his own image (in the non-literal sense) or a wish to have the last word—not reasons that are legitimate grounds for censorship.

                      (Note: Since I see the comments as irregularly arriving email notifications, I would need to re-read the thread in order to see which exact opponent has said what. This is the reason why I speak in general rather than, more fairly, discussing individual contributions.)

                      Tobias main fault: Not knowing when he is wasting his time on an unresponsive counter-part or even does his own cause harm through lack of adaption to the counter-part. (A fault that I am very prone to myself.)

                      Concerning the wish to disregard math and look at pictures: Here it appears to me that (at least) two different areas need to be distinguished, namely understanding what perspective is and implies (the point Tobias is pushing) and the ability to shoot images that are accomplished in the general area of perspective (what Jorge pushes). The one is strictly speaking something entirely different from the former (i.e. here we do have an issue of semantics), although a theoretical understanding can be very helpful in practical accomplishment. To take a similar example: It is possible to write excellent prose and still confuse the meanings of “noun” and “verb”. If an excellent author does give a faulty explanation of “noun” in a blog post, his ability to write great texts does not alter the degree of faultiness of his explanation. Conversely, the faultiness of his explanation does not lower the quality of his texts (obviously excluding the one containing the explanation). In contrast, an author who fails to understand the underlying _concepts_ (as opposed to the words used) on at least an intuitive level is highly unlikely to produce anything worth reading.

                    • Thanks Michael. Now that Ming is going to correct his blog post (thanks Ming, I appreciate that), there is nothing else to say.

                    • Peter Boender says:

                      First of all, this discussion is getting a bit silly and tedious, so this is the last time I’m going to share my thoughts on it.

                      @Tobias / Michael (and possibly others):
                      By now (and even before that) everybody understands what perspective is, and that the only thing that will change it, is changing the distance between the camera and the subject. We all agreed we need to move our feet!
                      Ming gave a perfectly good explanation for not having it changed on the blog (yet). Self-promotion or not, I happen to know how busy the guy is. Since when did working hard to earn a living become a thing of loathing?

                      No, this is no longer a discussion on photography theory or definitions. It has become personal. I think Jorge hit the nail on the head when he wrote: “unfortunately your insistence on trying to find a microscopic spot on a brilliant large surface is suspicious”.
                      Tobias, you are heard, we are listening, but please stop this endless barrage, because by now, to me at least, the only thing left that you are trying to prove is that YOU corrected this supposedly well-known, highly regarded and brilliant Ming Thein. Your fifteen minutes of fame, or whatever.

                      Please let it stop!

                  • Since third-parties are getting involved:

                    As a neutral by-stander with an interest in both language and methods of argumentation, I have to say that I find Ming to be the pettier one. Either he should provide an argument why he is correct or he should admit that he was wrong. As is, I have the impression that he is either missing the point or making excuses.

                    Sidebar: In my experience, the claim that a debate is over semantics is usually incorrect. Paradoxically, while very many disputes _are_ a matter of semantics, e.g. two people meaning the same thing but using different phrasings, the very debates where “semantics” is claimed are usually the ones where a deeper issue actually is present.

                  • It was me who originally objected against Ming’s relating perspective to focal length. I think he understands the issue just fine, and in the context of his story, he isn’t wrong. He is simply making the assumption, like many do, that distance to the object is not an issue -we have legs- and so he takes it out of the equation. If the camera has a wide-angle lens, he can shoot the object from up-close and get a lively wide perspective. Or if it has a telephoto lens, he can photograph the object equally large from a distance and get a more formal, compressed perspective. It is in that very practical sense that focal length brings a certain perspective, and it is for that reason that most photographers like to think of lenses as having ‘a certain perspective’, even though perspective is actually only a property of the chosen subject distance (well, and angle).

                    So, it is a popular misconception that lenses have perspective, and it’s good when photographers discover that it isn’t true. I’ve had this discussion before, elsewhere, and another photographer commented:

                    “It’s almost liberating, once you realize that wherever you are, the perspective you see is the perspective the camera will see… the lens’ focal length only controls how much will be captured. There’s no mystical ‘distortions’.
                    Stand in one place, zoom all you like, the perspective remains the same. Or select a focal length that will let you achieve a particular artistic vision, and move around to get the perspective you want”.

                    So, I think Tobias is right to suggest that Ming, being a teacher, might rephrase that line, so as not to contribute to the misconception.

                    • For those interested. I compiled the math about perspective and how that relates to photography and focal length into a blog post.


                    • Jorge Balarin says:

                      So, we could say correctly that focal lenght CHANGE OUR PERCEPTION OF PERSPECTIVE, at least on our photos.

                    • Jorge, focal length has no influence on perspective. If you think perspective is subject to perception, you still need to understand what perspective actually means and you probably confuse field of view with perspective. It’s really easy actually: perspective depends only on the viewpoint and describes the spatial relationship of two objects in three a dimensional space for a projection on a two-dimensional image plane. Focal length only defines magnification and field of view. From the same viewpoint, all focal lengths deliver an identical perspective. As perspective by definition creates our sense of proportion, size and dimensions of a two-dimensional image, all images from the same viewpoint regardless of their focal length create the same perception of proportion, size and dimension. I put together a blog post that should explain it well enough, just follow the link on my name.

  2. It’s me or you know something about the probably new digital F-shaped Nikon? 😉

  3. I am glad you mention the “F2 with sensor” idea. I would be the first to buy that camera. And I really can’t believe what should be so hard about building it.
    If all the enthusiasts on the web start writing about this idea maybe sooner or later Nikon feels that they really have to do this.

  4. Reblogged this on saturn1ascends.

  5. Ian Christie says:

    I think the answer is the Epson R-D2. Failing that, it could be the Sigma DP4 Merrill. This will have a 40mm-eq. lens, no video, no live view or image review, a plain OVF with a focus indicator, dials for aperture, ISO and shutter speed, AP and manual modes only… and that’s it, folks.

    • Ian, the DP2M’s field of view is very close to that (~45mm).

      Did you mean it should be full frame, too?
      But Sigma aren’t allowed to release a DP4M until I can afford and have bought a DP3M. After that, yep, fine, as you were fellas 🙂

      I own an R-D1s and am torn whether I’d like to see them do a R-D2. Besides the fact we’d all end up calling a successor the R2D2 all time, the R-D1 was kind of perfect as is, in its way, don’t you think?

      • Ian Christie says:

        Thanks Tom. I think you’re right: the R-D1 is fine as it is. And your FF idea for the DP4M is also just right. And to finish off the specification, we’ll have a screw-thread cable release in the shutter button. The Sigma DP-Merrill-Minimal – it has a ring to it !

        • Hah!
          Yes, seriously, screw thread cable release would be lovely. I also happen to happily own a Nikon F2, near as dammit the same machine as the F2T in Ming’s lead photo there [with a lovely creamy highlight on the lens barrel, so tastefully lit, I just never get tired of that photo] and for a 70s camera, which ticks all the boxes we’re talking about today on here and the other manual cameras thread—the cable release is weird on the F2. The little self-timer makes up for it though, that is awesome.
          [And the (optional extra) hot shoe is even weirder. I use the PC sync port instead, as intended?, but yeah, would be nice to have had a proper hot shoe on there]

          Completely with you on the spec for our DP4MM 🙂 .

          Yet another camera I own is the Panasonic DMC-L1, from 2008, that’s actually pretty close, too—shutter speed dial, aperture rings, bounce flash built in, the few controls we need all out on the body and each one makes a proper “click” when you move it and you have to intentionally move it in order to move it, if you catch my drift. Its achilles heel is the viewfinder which is just HORRID. And we can’t really manual focus it—well, we can but it’s the yucky fly by wire stuff…. and that’s assuming you could actually see anything through the finder to focus on in the first place.

          I guess with digital, body-wise a few older cameras, a generation or two back, or more!, had it almost spot-on. My pride and joy is a Nikon D3 and I think this was pretty much the pinnacle [honestly, I think the camera supreme was the D3s: the D3 body and controls, with the ISO performance of the the (then not existing) D4 and a new sensor with fixed over-orangey response]. So the older bodies and feature sets are just fine for me. I want them, but I want them with newer sensors, or even better, the newer algorithms and processing. I don’t mind “low” res; 6Mpx is all I need [a happy amateur]. I do want more bits on my RAWs and better engines to write them, better software software to read them. That is all.

          You’re so right about:

          – no video
          – no live view
          – no image review

          Nice to have, but we’re making a still photography camera here. Videographers can go buy a GH3. Sorry videographers. But I would swap all the fabrication and parts and R&D costs for those three above, and more, and ask for every penny possible — really, as much as they dare — go into a finder, a proper finder, designed and intended for use by actual human beings who manual focus and don’t mess with superzooms and just want a big bright panel and frensel and a split collar and be there.

          I would be a lifelong Sigma fan [and I’m close already] if they did that for us.
          [And made a camera with build quality that’d last us a lifetime, too.]

          I wouldn’t say no to a manual shutter cock, like the R-D1, either!
          [though after getting into and using film cameras recently, that R-D1 shutter cock doesn’t feel as satisfying anymore… not feeling the resistance of the film behind the lever is what does it I think]

          Now. We just need to convince the rest of the World, Ian.
          [only in order to create the market to get us the camera we want; everyone can go back to their gizmos once we’ve got our DP4MM!]

          The hard way = the best way
          [and “the only way” in my inexpert opinion]

          • Ian Christie says:

            Thanks Tom.
            I suppose every market has to start somewhere. And this is starting with… two people!

            • Three. Put me down for one too.

              • Pre-coffee, admittedly, but at first I read that, it went: put me down for two. And I thought Go Ming! 🙂

                Well, all this talk of less is more and asceticism… it was payday yesterday, and I’ve been very good and am in the mood for going out and bloody buying something. Perhaps made of glass. I really want to build a little self enclosed AF-S collection for the D3: just three focal lengths + one specialist lens [macro]. My 85G was the first step. Next I would like a 28G and a 50G.
                Since I’m on a D3 and will never foreseeably upgrade [this is the last DSLR for me—famous last words? 🙂 No, but seriously, it really is] I’m quite open to a 1.4G for the 50 length. Everything else is fine at 1.8 by choice or lineup limitation.
                I would also like some extension rings, but they can wait and aren’t expensive or difficult.

                The Bronica is dying for a 80mm 2.8 Zenzanon.

                My computer is not getting any younger.
                My screens are not great.

                I need a new pair of shoes.

                Guess which one is automatically passed over? 🙂

                • The screen, shoes and computer. The screen and computer matter. Shoes don’t. And you really don’t need more lenses. But if you want an excellent 50 for F mount, there are a lot of choices better than the 50/1.4 G – the 1.8G, the Zeiss 2/50 Makro Planar – wait, you already have the 45P though…

                  • /wants AF

                    sorry to say that here, of all threads!

                  • Sorry completely missed the shoes creeping in at #2 there!
                    Is this for all the walking about when out on the streets, CAMERA IN HAND 🙂

                    I have a really hard time with shoes over here though. Finding my size is one thing; then finding my size and something that doesn’t like the boots Herman Munster walked about in, is another—-and then, if they’re made from leather, you see the price!

                    Could have 10 to 15 boxes of 120 for the same money 😮

                    /currently enjoying 400 TX
                    //and not enjoying holes in my shoes

                    Ah, photography! 🙂

                • Jorge Balarin says:

                  For sure the shoes : )
                  Go and buy your glass; less is not always better.

          • The cable release is a pain. But it does make for a very nicely designed shutter button and ‘safe’ mode locking collar. As for the hot shoe…don’t even go there. I never use this camera with a flash, and even if I did, it’d be off camera, for which I’d use the PC-Sync port. But while clearing out my parts drawer the other day, I found an original, new AS-2 adaptor in the box – for the F2! No idea where I got that from, other than perhaps I found it NOS when I had my original F2 and bought it ‘just in case’. I might put one of the SB900s on it one of these days to see what happens…

            • Please do. And post the results for us 🙂

              Yes, I’m using off camera flash, with the PC sync, and it’s all quite painless and has gone OK. Not amazing or earth moving; just pleasantly good and surprisingly painless. If I have time to faff—I use my D3 as a digital polaroid—> mount the same, or same ish, focal length on* and play with the lights until it’s how I want it => transfer settings to F2, transfer PC sync lead into F2, wind film, quick prayer, press shutter. I’m done. If I don’t have time to faff, I use the sekonic meter in flash mode and just go with what it says; though it is supremely scary to do that, i.e., no test shot or “this is what it’ll look like” guide. I’ve only tried twice, both came out OK.

              * of course the focal length has no bearing on the light intensity, 1/16 will light the subject as 1/16 whether I have a telephoto or wide angle on; no, it’s just good for making sure the lighting equipment won’t be in shot, i.e., no use faffing getting things lit as much/little as you want, then switching cameras and FOVs and seeing an umbrella poking out in the corner!

              An F2 flash shot I did to see what’d happen, on slide film too [great, great scanning problems with these: the positives are lovely the scans, not so much]

              The D3 digi-roid for the same shot [different angle of view because I couldn’t be bothered taking things off and on the tripod]

              Quite a way to go on the film shooting for me!
              But flash on the F2 is good, prettay prettay good 🙂

              • * of course the focal length has no bearing on the light intensity, 1/16 will light the subject as 1/16 whether I have a telephoto or wide angle on
                Not quite. Zoom head setting matters, too.

                Less dynamic range on the slide film…

    • We can dream…I want a square full 6×6 sensor for my Hasselblad.

      • Ian Christie says:

        I see your Hasselblad 6×6 sensor and raise you my Mamiya 6 Digital, with square sensor and otherwise no deviation from the M6 film model…
        Are any camera manufacturers reading this thread?

        • We’d better stop before somebody tries to shoehorn that RED 6×17 sensor into an ALPA.

          I do know a lot of the camera companies read my site, but I’m not sure if they read the non-gear threads. They probably should, what goes on below the line is really quite useful market information.

    • Peter Boender says:

      It’s been said many times before, and I put the question out here again: If Nikon would put a digital sensor (let’s say a 24mp FX) in the venerable FM3a, would we be happy?

  6. I am reminded of these words from Henri Cartier-Bresson:

    “Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important.”

    Probably even more pertinent today!

    • Pretty much. I spent the last two days shooting with the Hasselblad in Amsterdam before the workshop, and have switched back to the OM-D for teaching – I admit that there was an adjustment period during the first hour or so…

  7. I have written this for a very long time and it’s the reason I do not have a digital camera, except a small credit card format compact.
    When I mentioned it on forums I was answered ” make your settings once for all and don’t bother about the many buttons and modes”….. well…. why I should pay for something which disturb me and have no photographic practice meaning and is a factor of potential failure !
    The Sigma’s DPM may enter the only cameras which are plainly simple as it should, but they have so many con’s.
    I expected Ricoh to propose to us something like that with the GR, it’s a miss !
    … I am still waiting for something else.

  8. The problem you describe really has nothing to do with specifically cameras, but can be observed on countless other items, e.g. cars. As a software developer, I am particularly aware of (and annoyed by) the many, many cases of unnecessary feature bloat in various software applications and operating systems. A common joke in the software business runs roughly “every application expands until it can read emails”.

  9. I’m not a photographer nor do I feel like I have a very good eye for shots. That said, I’m enthusiastic and I keep trying. Since I picked up an RX1R things have turned for me and my snap shots more often than not, look like photographs particularly when shooting wide open shallow depth of field. It has no Wi-Fi or fancy schmancy editing software or an articulating screen. Just a wonderful full frame sensor and a fixed 35mm lens that seems magical to me. It gives me fabulous jpegs right out of the camera and phenomenally detailed raw files for when I want to tinker in Photoshop or Lightroom. You might try to convince me that I need not spend $3K on a camera to achieve this level of personal satisfaction and to that I would disagree. I’ve tried all the rest but for me the RX1R is my personal minimalistic best!

    • The technology is undoubtedly impressive, but the 35mm FL just doesn’t suit me – I much prefer the 28mm FOV, and until Ricoh does a full frame GR, I’ll stick with the current APSC one.

  10. Less is more…

    Can I just parachute in here down at the bottom out of everyone’s way and grumble about iOS7.


    I mean, my artistic philosophy is that less is less. But not for things like iPhones… Could they have destroyed the Apple look any more. Could they have tinkered where it didn’t need tinkering or ignore what needed sorting in any less spectacularly inept a fashion?

    Of course I’m going over the top, but did I mention the look of it, i.e.,


    • Not just you. I made the mistake of updating both iPhone and iPad; they’re now laggy, slow, and there’s frankly too much unnecessary moving around. The icons look childish. There are some neat features, but honestly, it’s now a slower and clunkier experience that feels much like windows 8 mobile! Ugh.

      • Yeah, I mean what gives? Andre—if anyone knows… tell us!

        How is it possible for people who don’t understand Apple to run and make products for Apple? If the desktop OS goes like this I’m jumping ship: if I wanted Windows, I’d buy Windows—and will.


        • Weird, my experience was the opposite. I really like iOS 7. It even sped up my iPhone 4! You can turn off the motion parallax feature too.

          • Wow. Lucky you Andre. It totally killed my 4S. EVERYTHING is slower. But I can live with that — I’m a Sigma Photo Pro user, let’s remember 🙂 — it’s the look of it. Specifically the icons. I mean more or less the whole thing, from the fonts to the type pads to the changed app interfaces, the whole shabang. DON’T WANT. But specifically the icons. I don’t know if Apple started the trend, or not, but in my mind they were the first with lovely nice icons in the first gen. OSX, with that two-tone shading thing that every man and his dog must now copy, i.e., the Apple look was what everyone copied. So the logical course of action is relinquish that status and copy someone. So now they copy Google, etc., with the flat icons? I mean Google are smart, they knew to differentiate themselves and go for a different look—like the beer brands that insist on a unique glass. It all goes toward building the rep. But what are Apple doing? It’s what Jung identified as the death urge. Happened to Porsche some years back—remember them trying to Volkswagen?

            Who ON EARTH decided it would be a good idea for Apple to do this with the look of their icons and leave every single user with a first impression of: “oh, they’ve made it look like Windows/Google.” Jesus. I really despair for these big companies sometimes; like with the Sony mirrorless marketing we were talking about the other day… OK, if they make great big mistakes. I can cheer great big mistakes. But this doesn’t look that way to me… They look like design, and redesign, by committee and hedging and compromise and basically none of the stuff Steve Jobs knew to do or most of us can figure out in ten seconds flat. It is hard, admittedly, when you’re on the inside and can’t see the wood for the trees. But think of it as a dictatorship—one man must think up the “look,” everything flows from that, as soon as anyone is allowed to have an opinion: it’s over.

            Apple on thin ice with me.

            Now, where’s my Linux old box at?

        • I’m with you Tom. How could Apple turn something that was so elegant and pleasing to the eye into something so ugly, so cartoonish, so crude looking? The aesthetic sense is gone.

          • Come Greg! Let’s paint some signs up and go heckle the bods at Cupertino!! 🙂

            Someone somewhere has to like this, I mean PREFER it over 6? We’ll leave Andre out of it — he’s a special case of a rational sensible adult person — but my office friends all hate it, my immediate circle all hate it. Did I mention that I hate it. And more or less the internetz all hate it. Yes, it’s status quo bias—BECAUSE THE STATUS QUO WAS GOOD!

            Ok, forget the painted signs—pass the pitchforks!!

            • Change for the sake of change: where have we seen that before? If they left the UI skinning the way iOS 6 was and added the new features alone, that would have been a very good upgrade, I think.

            • Hi,

              Well I do like it and some people around do as well … is it googlish, is it Microsoft-ish … do not know but I do like the new font, the new icons – once I manage to identify the applications … I found it simpler, leaner and a bit more “clean” but my taste are:
              1) not universal
              2) my taste

              If I’m to complain – background app update & other fancy features are not helping the battery life – but – on/off is an option.

              Time will tell and you always can go back in time …

              and for the record – NeXTSTEP was way nicer than Mac OS X 10.0 … but it is another ago

              • Thanks giles

                Yes, I’ve been making sure to backup my old iOS environments before updating after a bad experience with the jump to iOS5. So, yeah, I can go back at any time. Though it’s supremely annoying that I have to do that and be intentionally left behind by Apple. I’d rather dig my heels in and have the mountain move to Mohammed [pbuh].

                Interesting that you like the look. Just open up “Contacts” for instance and tell me it’s easier, at a glance, to discern names and numbers. It’s like twenty times harder now. Intentionally! And this is on a phone we’re talking about! They’ve made the alphabetic headings the same size font and capitalization as the font and capitalization in the listing names. Open up “Calendar” and try and figure out ANYTHING. Nothing’s perfect, but these two basic and fundamental to smart phone functions were pretty good before… who decided this was an improvement? Obviously someone who never uses their phone to organize anything or call people. Safari is a turd now. Notes is destroyed. The camera, actually, is a slight improvement, perhaps. But overall, to my taste—YUCK. I’m just the same as you though giles—this is my opinion [hyperbolic and for entertainment purposes!] and by definition is certainly not universal 🙂

                I had a thought, strolling about at lunchtime yesterday. Once an iOS has been superseded, wouldn’t it be great if they left the outgoing iOS for developers to play with and offer their tweaks, of an old environment, for us to download on the App Store, say. If someone did what MT mentioned above to iOS6, I’d be ALL OVER that environment. I bet you almost everyone else would too. And I bet you Apple knows that and is why this could never EVER happen. We all know it’s a pie-in-the-sky idea. But this just underlines how bad, knowingly bad, the Apple iOS has become. If they were confident in the OS and truly thought what they’d put out is the better product and better user option: what possible fear and problem could they have with the above proposition.

                Of course, it’s just filler. Another product for the sake of another product. Thinking of users like dope-fiends [we don’t help disprove the image, to be fair] and a free lunch. Will come back to kick them if they aren’t careful. I’m certainly on the edge. All it will take is this less perfectionist Apple philosophy, and its look, to creep into the desktop OS and I’m out. Plenty of great environments and hardware makers out there—I’d be willing to try another if Apple push me much further.

                • Companies get away with it because most people just buy what they’re told rather than actually making up their own minds and voting with their wallets. Some of it is due to lack of knowledge, and that’s due to lack of interest/ not caring. Though perhaps the tables turn a bit if all of the people whose opinions are sought – my reviews for instance – say something is completely good/ bad. It never is that simple, though. Maybe I should truncate these things in future to ‘buy’ or ‘don’t buy’.

  11. reading your blogs and articles with delight, I feel you will end up with a Leica S. 🙂

    I have gone this way and I’m entirely happy with. the simplicity and quality of the camera. For street and privat photography just add one of the new super-compacts.

    • I tried one, but it’s just too expensive and DSLR-like for me. If I wanted that experience I’d use the D800; what does seem to work well for me is the CFV-39 on my Hasselblad…

  12. Rain Santiago says:

    Great thoughts Ming, I felt the same way as I continued to use my Ricoh GR more and more that it’s straight forward no-nonsense approach with controls, focal length. In my opinion even though camera sales aren’t doing as well because of the mobile phone camera is good enough for most folks, perhaps we’ll see companies take a much simpler back to the basics approach to what picture taking is all about.

    • Slight correction: I think they’ll start exploring the niches because a) the mass market is sewn up and b) those segments are willing to pay a bit more than the average consumer, and that will help to prop up revenues…at the end, it’s all a commercial decision. Art doesn’t enter into it until we hit the user side – I don’t think the camera companies care whether we make masterpieces with their equipment or crapshots so long as they sell more cameras. They only care about photography to the extent required to support their business; it’s superficial.

  13. I thought primarily of two cameras while reading this. My Nikon 1 V1 and my 4×5. In a ridiculously pure form, the 4×5 gives the photographer a place to hold film (or digital sensor), and a place to mount a lens. Most large format lenses only have aperture and shutter controls. The viewing mechanism is the ground glass, which is moved out of the way to hold film. However, there is not fast, nr easy, in using a large format camera.

    The Nikon V1 is a crazy contrast to a 4×5. Controls are hidden, or buried in menus. Out of the box there is a lens to extend to activate the camera, and then most of everything else through one shutter button. Of course enthusiasts complained on the internet about the lack of dials and buttons, and the size of the sensor. I’m use to much more control on cameras, yet once I stopped fighting the V1 and used it as intended, then I found a device that got out of my way and just allowed me to compose and capture. Nikon tried to go the smartphone route with the J1 and V1, but simplified those cameras too much for the average consumer. The exposure compensation control is probably the one dial I use the most on the V1.

    My main camera has become a Bronica RF645, though quite often I just use my Nikon D3, because some clients do not want any hint of film being used. There is the other matter of a large Canon or Nikon “appearing” to be “professional”. Anyway, the Bronica is a rangefinder, which allows me to focus and compose quickly. It also has a vertical view, which matches the way I often photograph assignments. The Bronica gets used on manual settings, or sometimes Aperture priority, very much how I use my D3, and in fact much like how I used my Nikon FE in the past. The Nikon FE use to be my favorite camera, because it was incredibly simple and did just get out of my way.

    • I’m still waiting for your 4×5 🙂

      As for the V1 – I’d go even further and suggest the iPhone; since we got some control over focus and metering, I’ve found it to be pretty much adequate for the majority of situations – have a more capable sensor and a raw file, and I really start to question the point of a dedicated compact. You could probably even not use the exposure comp dial if the thing has a spot meter (presumably it does, somewhere).

      Ah yes: ‘appearing professional’. I thought it was just in Asia where the average client is less educated…for that I’ll bring one of the Hasselblads and leave it on a tripod. The problem is then I can’t resist using it because I have it with me…

      • This article about photographic simplicity reminds me that, tomorrow, I’m headed out on a day trip with Harman direct positive paper loaded in my 4×5 film holders, along with Speed Graphic, Fujinon lens, tripod and light meter. Afterwards they’ll be tank developed in the comfort of my kitchen. Light upon silver paper, a direct process from camera to print, a return to simplicity. Thank you for this thoughtful article.

  14. Less is more – amen to that! Sometimes I feel I have more control with my 35 year old Nikon FE than I do with my 5 year old D700. Precise quick focusing with a split image focusing screen and quick intuitive knowledge of the exposure condition with the analog match needle. Easy to assess how many stops off I am or want to be instantaneously! Manual exposure and focusing control with such a setup is a piece of cake. Even when using the D700, I try to use it like a film SLR as much as possible which means using small manual focus prime lenses most of the time and fiddling with menus is strongly frowned upon. Using aperture priority and a lens with a real aperture ring means I don’t have to spin any wheels on the digital camera body at all when taking the shot. I grew up with film SLRs so I guess this behavior of mine is unsurprising.

    The only thing I really appreciate with digital (and I really do appreciate it) is being able to change ISO from 200 to 6400 from shot to shot if I want. So just give me an FM3a or a Contax G2 (with their great handling bodies) and add a digital sensor and I’d be very happy.

    Thanks again for your thought provoking articles. Love the articles and the intelligent commentary.

    • Thanks Greg. I’ve been told – and read in several places – we can do something similar with changing ISOs on a single roll of film if we stand develop, but I’ve yet to either find a recipe for my usual film/chemical (Acros and DDX) or try it myself to see to what extent this is possible. Intriguing idea, though…

      • Not sure if this is what you mean, but as a young (i.e. poor) amateur in the 80s, this is what I did when I was only halfway a 36-frame film and needed to up the ISO: I’d find a completely dark place (such as a toilet.. :-), open the camera and put a small sticker on the film as a marker. Then close the camera, take one crap shot to get the stickered frame out of the way, and use the remainder of the film at a different ISO. Afterwards, in the darkroom, cut the film in two near the sticker and develop each half as needed.

        • That’s not a bad idea, actually. It would work with the 35mm cameras (I do wonder if the sticker might possibly come off and foul the film transport) but not medium format because of the backing paper. That said, I should stop being lazy and just carry two backs.

      • What I know for 35mm, I don’t know if it helps
        – once upon a time I used to use Diafine, a two bath developer, which increase the “sensibility” of the film about two stops, while giving modulated blacks and detailed lights and no increase od grain. So standardising with one sort of film (Tri-X or HP-5 at this time or even the “new” T-Max) I had 320 and 1200 iso, just by using two different developers. I ended using exclusively this developer because the subtle rendition suited me. Diafine is already to find, but difficultly out of USA.
        – Changing development in the middle of a film. You have to loose 3 frames each time you want to change the development. Make a blank one, unset the lens, stick a little piece of self-adhesive on the film, reset the lens and go for another blank frame and… keep careful recordings!!! In the darkroom snip the different strips where the self-adhesive are and so on. Good luck… 🙂
        – Changing the whole film is only a bit less tricky: you have to re-spool your film carefully, absolutely letting the tongue out and writing down the number of frames done. When recharging that one, you have to make totally black releases of the number of frame done the first time, plus on or two for sake.

        But I can’t imagine these methods are “less is more”… 😉

        I read these methods about Zone System, not about changing sensibility, but never do. At the time I met Adams writings, B&W films and papers had gotten so wide scale recording capabilities and quality that using adapted development was no more relevant, in my opinion. As with the last digital sensors: if you carefully expose your lights, the whole usable scale is in the box, is it for printing or for screen. The rest is a matter of work-flow. But it was worth learning ZS carefully for my education.

        • I still use the zone system, but in a slightly less sophisticated way – I know my meter reads for middle grey average; I just bias my exposure by x stops depending on the latitude of my film and the scene. It’s usually +/- 2 for Acros in DDX.

          • Interesting! On digital It will probably give a little less post work than to expose for the pre-visualised zone IX as I (and Pekka Potka) do (which in fact is the same as spot metering this zone). And your method is usable with each camera, where the mine is only possible on those EM’s…

            • That’s what I figured. Cross-platform matters for me since I use so many systems for different purposes; consistency is of paramount importance for professional work.

  15. It’s very refreshing and confirming to have you write articles like this. The world isn’t quite as crazy as I thought.

  16. I don’t know what I want OR what I need… What I mean – I know I only need one camera and I’d probably be more happy if I could settel with a DSLR or a mirrorless system, plus a P&S for the usual snapshot when I’m not bringing a camera. However, I can’t decide and I feel I want to try out every new gadget that comes out. Back in the film days I was happy with my Nikon SLR (ok, must admit I had a Pentax ME Super for a few years) and used it for everything. Now I find myself changing camera every year and moving around the mirrorless market like shark. I want the fuji for its IQ, Olymous for its AF and build quality, the NEX for its.. well, let’s just say that I haven’t tried out that before. Oh, and I need both a X100S and a X-E1 in case I want the silent leaf shutter. Bought the Ricoh GR a few months after the Nikon A just because everybode raved about it and I didn’t know what I was missing.

    Part of me blame it on the Internet. I shouldn’t be reading all the photo forums and review sites…

    • My solution for GAS is to rent a camera or lens that I might be interested in from some place like LenRentals. After a week of using one, the GAS is usually gone, because of some flaw in the camera. I’ve spent the last two years looking for something to replace my EOS 40D, and until the E-M1 wasn’t happy enough with anything to buy it. The M5 was almost right, but the controls were too close together to be comfortable for my hands. The P5 with the VF-4 was pretty much perfect (for me) until the M1 was announced, and that’s what I ended up pre-ordering.

      I have a GR this week, and it’s a very nice camera. If the rumored Olympus super compact wasn’t around the corner (hoping for the M1 sensor with a fixed wide lens and 5-axis IBIS in a very compact body with great controls), this might have been a very expensive week.

      • I thought I was the only one who got bored after a week or so; probably because I use so many things I have a very short attention span for gear. Something that I still want to pick up and use after that period, I usually buy because it means I haven’t found anything that consciously annoyed me, or better still, the gear works for me. The E-M1 and GR were both like that; somehow the Coolpix A didn’t get much use when I returned to Kuala Lumpur.

        The only thing you might gain from the rumoured Olympus over the GR is the stabilizer; more likely that the older system goes in, which is pretty much useless anyway.

        • Argh, don’t spoil my other GAS cure: reading rumor sites and waiting for the next best thing, so I never buy anything. That Olympus will be the best thing ever … until the next rumor. 🙂

          • There’s always this whole ‘photography’ thing that involves the curious process of making pictures, you know…

            • I just read a rumor that Sony is introducing that very feature in their FF NEX. I hope they offer a firmware upgrade for their older cameras.

    • Actually, the opposite: read the sites that are about photography, ignore the cameras they use (I use anything) and focus on the pictures. I suspect that will make you happier.

  17. Jorge Balarin says:

    Dear Ming, your toilet shot is a fantastic example of what you can do with the kind of talent that you have. Greetings.

  18. I really do love your work and respect your knowledge. And I feel that I am learning something useful each time I visit your amazing blog!

  19. James Hidlreth says:

    If its a digital camera you need away to adjust white balance. AUTO doesn’t always work. Unless its b&w only, of course.

    • You just need to be in the ballpark if you’re shooting raw since the camera never gets it perfectly right anyway.

      • James Hildreth says:

        I suppose that’s true. I wonder how many photographers like me try to get it right in the camera rather than rely on a lot of post processing. We spend a lot of money on cameras whose manufacturers invest time and money on developing their Jpeg engines and then we use Lightroom instead. Those SOOC Jpegs you posted from yhe OMD M1 looked great. Maybe the minimalist camera should only produce (faithful) Jpegs. Keeps it simple in keeping with the minimalist goal.

        Love your work, by the way.

        • Actually, you need to get it as right as possible in camera otherwise you’ll a) sacrifice image quality and b) time trying to fix it afterwards. And even then, you might not be able to do so. I do as much as I can in camera, personally. The adjustments that I have to make out of camera are mostly local ones (dodge and burn etc) and cannot be done either in-camera or in LR anyway.

  20. Great topic, great points made!

    This is one of the things I really appreciate about my Sony NEX-7: I have immediate, direct access to shutter, aperture, ISO and magnified MF assist. I can roam about all day and seldom bother with anything else. (Drive mode, WB and a few other secondary necessities are also appropriately handy.) I really love what Sony did with this “Tri-Nav” layout – I hope they retain this in future higher-end offerings.

    The other day just for kicks I switched out of RAW and experimented a bit with in-camera HDR. I wound up spending a good 10 minutes, poking through the menus. And once I moved on, I of course forgot to change certain settings back so that tripped me up a bit, later on. It was a good reminder of why I so strongly prefer to shoot RAW – it really does simplify one’s “shoot flow”. Ties in very nicely with the “less is more” philosophy.

    • Workflow is perhaps the most important aspect of digital photography that isn’t talked about; without a solid workflow you have neither consistency nor control.

  21. Ron Scubadiver says:

    Your heart is in the right place, but the world isn’t that way. You might not like AF, but for me it is a must have because I shoot moving targets a lot. I manage to muddle through the excess features by ignoring them. I am tempted to buy a Fuji, although issues regarding processing of raw files with ACR have kept me away.

    • Don’t get me wrong, I see the use for AF – and use it over MF most of the time – but I also know that I’m using it as single-point AF-S most of the time because of control or accuracy reasons – the higher up the MP chain you go, the more critical the focusing point becomes.

  22. I have just bought an Olympus OM-20 – an aperture priority or manual SLR. The shutter speed is displayed in viewfinder, the aperture on the lens, manual focusing with a standard split image micro prism focus aid. There is exposure compensation of + or – 2 stops in 1/3 stop increments and off the film plane metering. It cosy £2.97 (3.50 Euros) because the seller sold it as ‘spares or repair’ as she said the film winder was jammed. In reality the shutter was cocked and the battery was flat. Two new SR44 batteries and everything works perfectly. And they’ll last 12 months and cost next to nothing. By comparison the Zuiko 50mm f1.8 lens and 28mm f3.5 lens were expensive at £25 (30 Euros). An excellent condition ERC added £4 (4.75 Euros).

    It is all practically mint condition and works perfectly. It is even made of metal but only weighs about 600g. This is all you need and leaves you to do the thinking and take the photographs. Pure simplicity, no menus and 100% fun. What more do you want?

  23. I also think (like the reader Preben R) that the Sigma DP merrill cameras come quite close to this simplification. However, I am also sure that Sigma sells comparably few of these cameras. Unfortunately, the readership of this blog only represents a small fraction of the market for photography equipment.

    • A very small market; but I like to think we influence the influencers 🙂

    • DPs need VF, the LCD is useless in sunny conditions – but it can take a lot of abuse. I slipped on the rocks by the see in July and smashed little DP against the rocks, small scratch on the hood but camera works without any problems 😉 I’d like to see Sigma releasing DP based camera with changeable lenses, that would be a brilliant system (providing they would offer VF for it).

      • Lets hope that Sigma’s recent step up in quality lens production is to serve a future Foveon sensored, 24MP, Pro-quality ILC mirrorless camera system 🙂

        • The odd thing is I find the DPs lenses to be really quite excellent; the other interchangeable lenses are rather…inconsistent, at best…

          • The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens is *THE* finest 35mm’s I have ever seen and that includes Carl Zeiss Distagons. If Sigma’s new lenses hit this mark again and again, we have a whole new ball game with regards to Sigma.

            • I hope it still performs that way after a few years. I’ve had various Sigmas over the years, and whilst they all started out excellent, things wore out or drifted out of calibration and eventually landed up bad. The Zeiss 35/1.4 isn’t one of my favourites; I think finest 35/1.4 goes to the Leica FLE, but if you don’t mind f2, then the 35/2 Distagon is pretty hard to beat, too.

              We can only hope for better and more competition for the incumbents; at the end of the day we are the ones who benefit.

  24. Great article, fully agree with you. For me, first liberation came (in digital terms) with little quirky Fuji X100 -> it had all I ever wanted from a digital camera, aperture on the lens, shutter dial on top and both of them with ‘A’ position. Then X-Pro1 came out with, what I like to call golden trio of lenses, 18-35-60 fast primes (27-50-90 eq.) with the same formula as X100. Honestly, I haven’t really checked what else is in the menus because, first of all, I always shoot RAW and second, all exposure related controls are on the body/lens (apart from ISO which I access via Fn button).
    Video – never really understood the need for it, in my mind it’s nice add-on (I’ve never used it) but ergonomically photographic tools are not well suited for video work (that would explain massive aftermarket rigs and other things which improve handling).
    I’m shooting also on film (35 and 6×6) and that means manual focus only and in the case of my cameras (Leica and Hassy) it also means manual exposure. I really don’t need anything else than way to set ISO, aperture on the lens, shutter speed dial on top and good manual focus (not that crap Fuji installed on their lenses/cameras)

  25. Hi! Thanks fot that another wise post.

    But this time I don’t agree with a lot of opinions of readers… 🙂 Let me explain.

    1. For 20 years ago I used not to go out for a photowalk without my two SLR bodies, about 3-5 lenses, one handmeter, one spotmeter, a handfull of filters, a load of films and so on. Thats was a heck of a load! Sometimes I only took my Canonet QL 17 and a spare film or two and two filters for B&W candids, but that was not the rule. I practised B&W labor partly in my bathroom, a good part of the time on my knees, partly in the lab of a photoclub.

    To day I use _one_ OM-D E-M5 ans on computer and a comfy armchair is one headpiece of my lab… 🙂 I’m shootin’ 90% jpegs and 8mpx. And 98% of the time with the kit zoom. Why ? It depends for which use, of course, but I follow the rule that if you see the difference, pay (in efforts, drives capacity etc) the difference. When I shoot raw, essentially for “*scapes”, I use the method I ever used for positives: shoot for the lights, the shades will do what they can. Actually I use the and settings and the method of mesuring suggested by Pekka Potka here : http://www.pekkapotka.com/journal/2012/6/14/olympus-e-m5-exposing-to-the-right-and-lightroom-41.html which is a tad smarter :-). It consists in fact in placing the zone VIII/IX.

    I love the tilting screens because it multiplies my point of view possibilities. Why craddle when I just can bow? Why climb a chair when I just can lift my arms?

    On the spot, I use F* for switching between jpg and raw+jpg. A is setted on f:8. S is setted on 1/500, essentially to be ready for street, kids and grankids shots. For all no critical shoots: full auto (80% of the time) or rarely P. That’s it. Isn’t that simple ?

    Would I made it more complicated ? Why? Would I go back to analog? No. (Remember the knees 😉 I live in the same flat for 33 years). The body with the kit lens, the 9-18mm, a polarizer, a grey filter and two spare batteries fit in a small bag I can grab anytime. If I go for a longer walk or trip, my 50-200mm is in my backpack along with water and a jacket.

    2. About features: I understand what most of you mean, but I think that since digital bodies are a sort of disposable things and R&D so costly, I cannot blame the manufacturers for the load of features. Only for lack of ergonomy, yes that can’t be helped. It’s to me to vote with my wallet for what I feel as the best ergonomy and imaging process, and to override what’s not to my taste.

    3. What I believe hard: in less than five years I nevermore will have to shoot my 10% raw. Thanks inbody technology.

    It’s a bit out of subject, not so much, but if I were born before the invention of penicilin, I would have died at 3, anno 1949. Make the math :-). In 2003 I had a surgery on the back that would’nt have been possible ten years before. So I will never be able to totally spit on scientific and technologic progress.

    If I where a pro landscape photographer or such, I would buy a little truck and a view camera, a 6×18, a Hassy or two, a five kilos tripod, floating cases and so on :-). For the moment, i’m on retiring, and I guess I’ll never do a enlargement more than 16×20″. Most of the time jpegs from my Oly will be more than good enough for that use, with eventually a little trigging.

    So the the point is: what’s our goal? As usual. We all have seen inspiring images out of smartphones, isn’it?

    Cheers and thanks once more for your inspiring blog.

    • I think you understand the concept of sufficiency very well: but more importantly, you also live by it. 🙂

      Unquestionably we have more than we need AND digital does make our lives easier: I’m not saying go back to film, I’m just saying I want the option NOT to have all of the bells and whistles…simply because I don’t use them, even when I do have them.

  26. Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
    ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman’s Odyssey

    • Reminds me of the 1967 Formula One season, back before wings were added to the cars to increase downforce. Before then, you made the cars faster by taking things OFF the car, not adding them on.

  27. Chris Sellers says:

    …Ming – an excellent article – this is a degree-level exercise in stating what should be quite obvious! My very favourite camera is my Leica M Monocrom, closely followed by my Leica MP. While the, digital, Monocrom is rather more flexible by virtue of the changeable (and very usable) ISO settings, I use both cameras in Aperture Priority mode. In reality, of course, the MP has no Aperture Priority function and this camera requires rather more thought in its application because, being a film camera, the MP user is constrained by the native ISO of the film in use at the time – however, in order to obtain a shallow depth of field (for example) it is possible to use a wider aperture within the parameters of the ISO sensitivity of the film in use in the camera at the time, dependent on the light levels prevailing at that time.

    Anything else is rather surplus to requirements, in my view…I am happy to use the Monocrom for landscapes as well – an ND grad and a polariser are available (and easily used) on the Monocrom, with the results reviewable immediately post shot on the rear screen; with practise, I am sure, it will be quite possible to do the same with the MP – although the results will need to be assessed post development – but, of course, practise makes perfect.

    The continual “arms race” of extra “capabilities” and “improvements” will always trap the gear collector – but there is something quite liberating in settling comfortably on a system and method of working that produces satisfactory results, without distracting the photographer from his or her core function – ie taking pictures. I draw the line at the iphone though – time will tell.

    Thank you for your very valuable and informative articles on all things photographic.

    • Thank you. Sadly, what should be obvious clearly isn’t – otherwise we wouldn’t have the same angst and amount of words spilled on gear!

      The Ms have a couple of flaws that started to annoy me a after a while for use as a general purpose tool – both to do with the rangefinder: drifting focus calibration, and the difficulty in composing precisely without having to crop and throw away some of the frame after the fact. For some things, they are excellent – reportage, for instance – for others, utterly useless (macrophotography).

  28. For me, it’s my Nikon FM2. Absolutely beautiful photographic machine. Pure simplicity, none of that digital bling to get in the way of making images that I am so proud to have made.

  29. Hi ming,
    “In fact, aperture is the sole physical photographic control that we have to control subject isolation”.
    Question: imagine a person still in the middle of a crowd walking, with a low shutter speed, that could be subject isolation as well no ?

  30. I have loved images since the 70s, made a career of it from 1990, used cameras from all formats of film and now full-featured digicams.
    Yet, they’ve only be used in aperture priority, both matrix and spot metering mode and now auto iso.
    Perhaps we shouldn’t bemoan the fact that modern cameras are gizmo laden wonders, could it rather be that we (old timers) have an unhealthy pining for the good ole days?
    Dont you think that you, at only 26, shouldnt be having such an outlook? 🙂 you will age before your time.

    • I’m a ripe old 27 now!

      Actually, I find the tech often gets in the way. Sometimes it’s liberating if implemented well – the problem is when the camera gets too clever and we hav to struggle to control it.

  31. Food for thought… The article helpe me to decide on the gear I’ll take for the Amsterdam workshop later this week. I’ll limityself to the bare minimum. See you on Wednesday. Cheers, Rudy.

  32. Ian Christie says:

    Thanks Ming – spot-on analysis. I am in the market for a digital camera with manual and A-P modes only, no video, no autofocus, a rangefinder, a plain OVF and no bells and whistles. I’d even settle for a digital Rollei 35, with a DOF scale on the lens and scale focusing. What are the chances? So remote that I hold on to my old Minolta-Leitz CLE for a reminder of the stripped-down film experience. (Sighs…)

    • Steve Jones says:

      Keep the CLE whatever happens Ian. It’s a good one.

    • Sadly, it doesn’t exist. Hasselblad V with a digital back is about as close as you’re going to get.

      • Ian Christie says:

        Thanks – actually, I do still own one of the few digital cameras to approach the ideal, namely the Epson R-D1. It’s effectively a film camera with a sensor installed. I love it, but it could do with more resolution – and ideally a Foveon sensor. As it stands, it is the next best thing to a digital CLE, and a lot cheaper than a Leica. Maybe Epson will have another welcome fit of eccentricity and produce a yet more minimalist Epson R-D2. But I don’t hold my breath.

  33. Hi Ming,

    One thing I learnt quickly in photography was to keep it simple and restricted with regards to the camera. Options just get in the way of what you should be doing, which is observing the peripheral. I think this complexity in camera’s extends into post processing, although fortunatly there are no shortcuts to sincerity. Your photo demonstrates that you can make an interesting composition from anything, Its just that the creative options required are not buried deep in your camera’s menu options

    • Actually, I prefer not to use the menu options at all; the simple combination of shutter/ aperture/ focus is really enough. Using something like the F2 or Hasselblad V is very liberating indeed; one focuses entirely on the composition.

  34. David Challenor says:

    Hi Ming,For me you hit the nail on the head! I started photography in the 60s with a Nikon Ftn and worked my way through most models to the F5s, stayed with film until changing to digital D100. I also used medium format and could change from one camera to another in moments without reference to a manual. Today with a D700, Olympus OMDEM5 and SonyRX100, it is confusing when changing between systems, and the manuals (x pages thick) are not easy to use either. I would love a simpler system as you describe,maybe a compromise would be to add a separate shooting mode, called PRO,with a simplified shooting mode and reduced menus. Your digital Nikon F2 would be my dream too, in the meantime I will reduce down to the OMD system.Thanks for the fresh approach.

    • Have a serious look at a second hand Hasselblad V and digital back; the CFV16s are not that expensive now (easily less than a D800), still produce wonderful files and guess what: you use it just like a film camera. 🙂

      • David Challenor says:

        I already have a Hasselblad CX and a couple of lenses but no digital back. Might look into this possibility as I reduce my Nikon equipment. Love the portability of the Olympus though!

  35. just my 2 cents: I can not start to comprehend why a team of young engineers-entrepreneurs don’t create a start-up to build a digital camera similar to a simple organic design (e.g. F2 or LX) with a FF sensor and an open lens mount (e.g. K or M or F etc..) with just A,P,S,M,ISO functionality.
    Of course there are too many patents held by those big slow and conservative Japanese conglomerates .. but still ..why not?
    Would you consider such an idea? 😉

  36. One thought: Take any digital camera and tape a tiny “cup” above the play back button. So that you cannot press it to review the image. Also turn of the quick preview after the image is taken. Then take this camera for a spin. How would lacking play back influence the shooting? Is it needed? My experience is that it is not if you use Liveview, if you use a DSLR, it would probably be nice to get exposures right, but then on a film DSLR you don’t have a preview button…

    Which features do one really need? Could one get rid of the big screen? I wouldn’t have minded a hybrid OVF/EVF where the EVF can be turned on if one need to manually focus to get enlarge view, but have the OVF with the basic info and focus point as in a DSLR. .

    • We spend time pursuing the last iota of perfection with digital because it makes it too easy. I shoot my CFV digital back on the Hasselblad this way because a) it’s so damn slow, and b) the screen is worthless anyway. I do notice the back is a lot more sensitive/ particular to getting the focus absolutely spot on, though; I think it’s because the thing has no ‘thickness’ in the same way film emulsion does.

  37. “The only physical parameter built into the camera that affects composition is the focal length of the lens, which translates into angle of view and perspective [..]”

    Not to nit-pick, but perspective is governed only by your distance from the subject, not by the focal length of your lens. We like to think that a wide-angle lens has a ‘different perspective’ than a telelens, but that’s only because we tend to use them from different distances from our subjects.

    Very nice article btw, although I suspect that a bit of nostalghia and artistic snobbery also lies underneath the popular ‘less=more’ approach to photography. My first camera, an early Asahi-Pentax SLR, offered just three functions: aperture, exposure time, and manual film transport. Those early experiences have left their marks even in this digital age: I’m still pretty good at guessing exposure, and everytime I take a shot, my right thumb still itches to cock the film transport lever. But I’d never go back to such a spartan camera — features like AE, AF, zoom lenses, etc. contribute greatly to my photos and I imagine that modern wizzardry like focus peaking, eye detection etc. will do so too. Some may feel that technology is taking over, or even that it is stealing away some of our artistic accomplishment, but in the end I think photography should be about realizing a certain vision and any technology that contributes to that should be welcomed.

    I do sympathize with the sentiment though, and for that reason I’m very sorry that the Indiegogo crowd funding campaign for the ‘Digipod’ sensor module (which you could put into any ‘135’ analog body to turn it into a digital camera – see http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/digipod) is about to end unsuccessfully just as I write this.

    • Not to nit-pick, but perspective is governed only by your distance from the subject, not by the focal length of your lens. We like to think that a wide-angle lens has a ‘different perspective’ than a telelens, but that’s only because we tend to use them from different distances from our subjects.

      Doesn’t this in itself imply that the focal length also changes the end result by the way it is deployed? 🙂

      The ‘digital film’ idea was a good one. But implementation is probably a bit of a nightmare because of the different backs on each camera. If I had the resources, I would seriously look into producing an all-manual digital SLR again…I suspect it might do quite well.

      • Hi Ming Thein, in your “Pet peeve: Proper perspective practice” article, you said it yourself that perspective means “things closer to the lens will be exaggerated in perspective compared to things further away”. I think you had already implied that the distance between the lens and the subject changes the perspective. On the other hand, if you stay at the same place, and you zoom out, or switch to another lens with longer focal length, the perspective won’t change because the distance to the subject remains the same.

        • Why would you do that? It would make for a very boring image. If you’re trying to compose something with roughly the same subject size and different focal length, you’ll have to move. So the perspective effectively changes in practice.

          • When the focal length is changed, usually we need to move; otherwise, we might end it up with a boring picture as you suggested. However, it does not change the fact that only the subject distance changes the perspective, not the focal length. This is important because many have said we can use our legs to zoom, which is misleading. Using our legs to zoom is not the same as changing the focal length because the formal would change the perspective while the latter won’t. Just my 2 cents.

            • Technically, you are correct, but the explanation is very confusing to most. Simplify it this way: if you want to keep the same visual prominence of your subject when changing focal lengths, you have to move the camera position. This in turn changes the foreground-background relationship.

    • This is a good chance to add that my first camera was also an Asahi-Pentax SLR spotmatic. What’s truly amazing, is that I bought it duty-free around 1970 in Panama for about $ 300, a lot at that time. But when I corrected that price for inflation it came out to about US $ 2,000, approximately the price of the latest Nikon D800! How could that be? Think about the technological achievements build into the D800 that we are talking about here. the Pentax was a box with an innovative through the lens light meter, a nice mechanical shutter, place for film, and to attached a lens. Mechanical dials to set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Basic basic basic and it worked well. But think of the science and engineering miracle that goes into the D800, at roughly the same price? Yet I doo prefer the simplest configuration as long as it works well enough. Why not add a button to the D800 or OMD M1 (mechanical or software (easier), that “simply” says “simple.” Once set, the camera works the way Ming described it. Or am I just describing the already existing Fn1, Fn2 buttons on the OMD M1? If so, then what are we talking about here?

  38. sammyconductor says:

    Many thanks for this blog. Reading and smiling I remember a slogan: “An amateur is worry about the equipment, a professional about money and the master is worry about the light”. GEORG IR B. (hopefully correct translated)

    Some of my best shots are made with the worst material I’ve ever used as the absolute beginner I’m. On the other hand for specific goals you need specific tools (example street-photography and a loud KLICK is a no go) Some of the greatest picture artist lives in a special symbiotic relation to their equipment, I feel “U 2” // So I hope there is a next step for ever for all our believes and needs. Especially for making pictures it is very important to bring the evolution forward

    • I like to think of it a different way: the amateur is the only one with any true creative freedom – since he doesn’t have to produce work for a living – but too often, they forget about the pictures and only think about the gear…

      I beg to differ on the loud click: I’ve been using a Hasselblad for my recent reportage/ travel/ street work, and that thing doesn’t meekly (or loudly) click: it sounds more like a door slamming 🙂

  39. Hardly any digital camera comes close to the simplicity of even the most advanced manual focus film SLRs. The Contax RX is a favourite of mine, as the Olympus OM-2 (I own and use both). The Nikon F6 comes close, since it’s configured in a way that hide the advanced functions well. It’s the best point and shoot ever 🙂

    Many have been asking for a digital OM or FM for years. We did of course get the OM-D, which is an excellent camera, but it’s just as complicated as any other digital gadget. PASM, shutter time, WB, ISO aperture is really all that is needed, plus a button for spot metering and a switch for AF mode if there is AF. No LCD, particularly not if there’s an EVF or hybrid viewfinder.

    I don’t think that we’ll ever see one, and I don’t mind. When I’m not working, I mostly shoot film anyway 🙂

    • Agreed: though the F6 behaves to me much more like the D2 generation than any film camera. The Leica M8/9 are closer, and a Hasselblad with CFV-back even closer still.

      The OM-D is an OM in design cues and name only; not in technology or usage experience. Yes, it’s a gadget, but a good one – at least it doesn’t try too hard to pretend to be ‘retro’ at the expense of functionality/ proper integration of new technology.

      Sadly, I don’t think we’ll ever see one either. But like you, when I’m not working – it’s mostly Acros. 🙂

  40. Thanks, Ming. I completely agree. I was a product of the 70s when we learned on manual cameras – mine was the F-1 and it taught me a lot. We used film. We understood the zone system. We worked in dark rooms. But things were basically very simple.

    It’s cool and advantageous at times that cameras have become more sophisticated as they allow certain functions, say tracking a moving subject or focusing on something in very low light, that otherwise might not be possible, and still for only a select type of photography. But it’s tough to stay current unless you’re a pro. I’ve taken the hook from many a camera manufacturer over the years, but after just a wee bit of experimentation, found myself back with the basics, just as you’ve described.

    Personally, it was the introduction of the Leica M9 and your blog which brought me around to my 2nd naiveté and a resurgence of my love for photography. The reason why? Haptics and simplicity. It was like shooting an old F1 film camera but without the processing work and expense. It feels like a 2nd life, like Lazarus rising from the dead, like a fresh wave of creativity because there’s so little to think about.

    Hey, I love the little Ricoh. It’s a great compact camera and it’s output is awesome. It has a fixed lens so you start to see in that 28mm view when using it. It’s stealth. It’s non-intimidating. I have to say, as a travel carry camera, it’s a gem. But the Leica is the shit. Maybe the photos aren’t better technically with the improvements from other cameras. But it makes me think about the basics and I end up with crafted photos instead of grabs. I like the little Olympus I just got. It takes great pictures. But it’s so versatile and has SO many features, that I forget how to make things happen and get distracted from the mission at hand. And I’m practicing with these cameras on a daily basis.

    I agree with you about the new Leica M240. I had one on order and cancelled it. I want to stay with the feature set of the M9. It has it’s own personality quirks and fiddles but it’s simple, beautifully constructed and, quite frankly, has output that looks like a medium format camera sometimes. It’s so much better Image Quality than anything I used back in the day.

    I’m sure I will continue to experiment with new things. But the return to simplicity is amazing. As a composer and music producer, I’m always hearing about and seeing the use of amazing new technology. But all my songs are written on an acoustic piano or acoustic guitar. If a song holds up in that mode, then you know it has staying power and quality.

    Another great thought starter. Can’t wait to see you and the crew in Prague. Cheers!

    • As a composer and music producer, I’m always hearing about and seeing the use of amazing new technology. But all my songs are written on an acoustic piano or acoustic guitar. If a song holds up in that mode, then you know it has staying power and quality.

      That’s a really good point: and the same applies for images. If it holds up without any of the frills of modern faddish processing like filters and the like, it’s a good one. It’s also why against my own advice of travelling light, I also brought my Hasselblad and four boxes of Acros. 🙂

      I think we should have a blowout on the last day of Prague. I even picked up a good box of Cubans specifically for this purpose at the airport – this tour is going to be a blast!

      • Excellent. I had a several year love affair with cigars that has lapsed over the last few years. But the quality of this group, our location and our common passion is sure to make for a memorable week and I’m sure rekindle a love of smoking, conversation, philosophizing and general camaraderie! Woot Woot!

  41. Very interesting post, really clear view of the essence of photography.
    The only thing i don’t understand is your “hate” for fuji X-Pro 1 camera you so well have described in this post!

    • I don’t hate it, I think it was a near miss: so many good ideas, a well-thought out and optically excellent lens selection, but poor implementation: ergonomics and workflow above all. I initially saw this and wanted to switch – pre OM-D – and didn’t simply because file handling was a disaster. It still is; results are either poor (ACR) or take three to four times as long as another camera. This is a huge no-no for working pros.

      • jerryr@me.com says:

        I understand the workflow concerns, although they’re starting to sound dated after multiple LR updates and support from C1 and others. I don’t understand the ergonomics complaint. Aperture ring on the lens, shutter speed dial on the top of the body. ISO switch with the Fn button under your shutter finger. Improved focus point selection.

        You’re talking about one of very few cameras that allow you to set aperture, shutter speed and zone focus without turning the camera on (when using the newer primes). With the reworking of manual focus to a much shorter throw, and the addition of focus peaking, it sounds as though some of your complaints are the well-worn phrases of the masses instead of familiarity with the current state of the hardware/firmware.

        They’re still not fast focusing but have made great improvement there as well, and shouldn’t be an issue with the slow paced, thoughtful approach you seem to be in favor of. There is a rapidly growing list of pros using the X-Pro1 as their main system.

        I never expect you to love the system but perhaps a second look would provide your readers with more recent information.

        I enjoy your thoughtful comments!



        • Sure, there’s an LR update, but the quality of the conversions is still horrible – they still don’t match the JPEGs, which will never do justice to any sensor because the data is limited. Don’t forget I still have a lot of X-trans raw files from my previous experiences with the XF1, X20, and X-Pro1 and run them through the new ACR versions periodically to see if anything has changed. It hasn’t.

          This site and everything in it is my personal opinion, and therefore biased. I make no secret of that either. Whilst I’m sure plenty of people would like me to spend time testing everything, the reality is that a) I don’t have the time because I also have to make a living, so I shoot what’s relevant and interesting to me, and b) if I was a gear reviewer there’s no way I could actually be a photographer – there isn’t enough time to get familiar enough with the gear that you can operate it instinctively and not have it get in the way of the photograph. Nothing has changed enough in X-land to warrant me trying it again at the present moment; that’s not necessarily true in future, of course.

  42. Was I the only one who thought it was a picture of an LED bulb?

  43. Steve Jones says:

    I agree. Cameras now have more features than we need. In fact, they get in the way.Time was, I used to know exactly where all the controls were, what they did, and didn’t have to spend time thinking about them. Not anymore. Honestly, I quite often forget where some setting is and I believe that many leave their digital camera in P mode just so they don’t have to mess with button pushing. Yet you ( and I ) and many others are intent on buying the OMD EM1 when as you say, we really want an F2, M2 or whatever with a state of the art digital sensor.So what message are we giving to the manufacturers? Getting rid of menus on the LCD screen would be a good idea in my opinion. I don’t want to be scrolling through something like 60’TV channels’ when I’m taking shots.And really, when we select those ART modes why are we doing it? The awful truth is often BECAUSE THEY ARE THERE! Were you REALLY planning on taking a dramatic or diorama picture before you noticed it was on the menu? If your favorite restaurant had a 60 page menu. it would take you an awful long time to decide what to eat. And if you could change the colour of the food to Astia, Provia, Velvia, Monochrome, Sepia, and then you could adjust the restaurants mood lighting at your table with hue, saturation,tint…anyway you get the idea. Eating would be a more complex experience and not entirely better for it.
    This is a great topic that every photographer ought to be thinking seriously about. How often are we making the image we want to make as opposed to the one the camera settings and menus want to make for us? And then… we wonder why our photographs look like everybody else’s.

    • It’s gotten to the point where I have to force myself to use all the cameras in rotation frequently so I remember how they’re set up and where the important controls are. We can’t even give our cameras to other people to play with without worrying that they might inadvertently change something minor but critical under certain situations, and we won’t spot it until too late – it happened to me not long ago with the GR; the ND filter got activated and I was trying to shoot at night!

      My favourite restaurants don’t have a menu. We eat what the chef feels is good on the day – I say leave creative decisions to the creators! 🙂

    • David Babsky says:

      All the buttons and knobs and dials are there for when you need them ..but you don’t have to keep fiddling with them!

      Look at your car dashboard (or plane console) ..there’s an ammeter (to see how much juice you’re pumping into the battery, or drawing with the headlights on) and a voltmeter (to see how fully charged the battery is), and theres a rev counter (to show what speed the engine’s doing) and a speedometer (to check you’re not going over the limit), and a fuel gauge (to see how much is left in the tank), and you’ve a stick to turn on the direction indicators, and one to turn on the windscreen (windshield) wipers, and maybe a switch to alter their speed – but you don’t have to keep looking at, or twitching, any of these: when it’s dry, you don’t need to turn on the wipers. When it’s bright, you don’t need to turn on the lights.

      Same with a decent digital camera: if you WANT to adjust the digital noise-reduction-in-low-light option, it’s there. If you don’t want it, just leave it alone. I’ve never used any multiple-frames-per-second option; I shoot only single frames. It doesn’t bother me that my camera(s) can shoot 3, or 6 or however many frames it is per second ..it’s not a function I use, so I simply don’t bother with it. But it doesn’t annoy me that it’s there, any more than the feature on our car which can tell us if the tyre pressures go down too low. I’ve never used it, but it doesn’t irk me.

      Perhaps it’s fashionable to moan and complain that cameras are too over-complex. If you don’t need esoteric features which are in your camera, just don’t use them. If one wants a (complex, digital) camera to behave like a Nikon F, use only the aperture and shutter speed settings and leave the rest alone. And stop when you’ve shot 36.

      Then wait – before shooting anything else – for the time it’d take to rewind six feet of film, and to insert and thread in another cassette, and to close the back, and to wind-on and shoot a couple of blank frames.

      You can use almost any feature-overloaded digital camera just like a primitive film camera. Simply set it to Manual mode. But one day it just may be fortuitous to have the in-built stabilisation, the accurate spot metering, the auto white balance (instead of hunting for filters, or pulling out your daylight-balanced film and swapping it mid-roll for a tungsten film), and the noise-free (‘grain’-free) higher-than-any-film high ISO capability, and the thousand-shot (not 36) capacity, and the auto-adjusting ISO capability, the info-preserving EXIF files, the multi-shot blending facility of a Fuji, Sony or Casio, for example, for clear, sharp shots in very dim light without a flash, the multi-shot bracketing capability, the Vivid / Sepia / Hi-Key / Lo-Key / Soft Contrast options, the action-tracking auto-focus capability (I’ve never used mine), the pre-shot histogram, the touch-screen focus or the automatic shutter-speed-to-focal-length matching.

      I’ve got a little switch on my camera(s) marked “Moan & Whine” ..and – like those imitation shutter sound effects and beeps – I leave it permanently ‘Off’.

  44. Went to buy the SONY SLT A77 after I finally caved in to go digital. I stopped taking pictures twelve years back when I could no longer get my slides processed. I packed up my Minolta 9xi and 9 and plethora of lenses like the famous 135 2.8, 70-210 3.5 and 100 2.8 Macro. I wanted the SONY so I could use those lenses again. When I went to the store I saw the diminutive RX-100, the price immediately caught my attention. I had read about the camera so when I handled it at the shop and took some shots I was impressed, the AF was good enough for me and so was the results. I decided long and hard that at my age of 49, I can’t lug around equipment no more.

    I bought the RX100 and have never regretted it, its all the camera I need for now and in future will add the RX-1. My main camera is the one on my SONY ZR which with its 13MP camera does a swell job. I fully agree with your article, nicely put.

  45. Here’s an idea for anyone who wants to implement it: make the Ming Thein iPhone camera app with exactly the controls needed: spot meter lock, focus lock, and maybe a live histogram or an EV meter so you can judge the amount of exposure comp to dial in with judicious spot metering. Bonus points for an easy to use program shift. I’d do this myself except between my day job and photography hobby, I’d have no time for one or the other. Ming could bundle it with a variant of the CC masterclass video except using an iPhone instead of the little Sony. The potential market is huge, but I’m not sure what the uptake would be like, ie. how many iPhone owners are interested in becoming better photographers?

    I rented a Ricoh GR this week for my vacation, and the main things I wanted to configure to make it fit my shooting needs are spot metering, AF lock toggle on the back button, shutter button AE locks on half press, RAW mode, and that might be it. It’s amazing how little you need for the camera to get out of your way. And it’s almost as amazing how hard that is to do on some cameras.

    • I actually discussed this with my partner, but we didn’t think the market would justify it: those who would buy it can use the existing iphone camera just fine; those who can’t wouldn’t buy it because it has no filters/ effects 🙂

      Similar problem we had with the ipad app: it seems that there is no additional audience to be gained via the Apple platform; only a 30% tax. We never recovered development costs on it, and frankly, it’s turned out to be a bit of a white elephant. Ah well, live and learn.

      I’ve got a GR in my pocket, too – set up the same way as yours. But I do like to switch my metering modes and aspect ratios too, so I have those on my rear toggle.

      • Ah, that’s too bad about the iPad app. I’m sure you’ve seen the stats: the App Store is so big and the recommendations lists so small that a huge number of apps are barely used, if even downloaded. They’ve definitely got a lot to improve for app discovery.

        I’m curious when you use the other metering modes on the GR.

        BTW, I’m seeing a lot of tourists here (many Japanese and Chinese nationals) with APS-C DSLRs, almost all Canons, and only one mirrorless ILC so far: a NEX-5 with its kit lens. Last week I saw a tourist with his baby and baby stroller, and a 5DIII with its optional battery pack, and some big L zoom all strapped around his neck. That is one big piece of kit.

        • When the contrast isn’t high enough to warrant spot, or situations are changing quickly and I can’t be precise (i.e. shooting from the hip).

          The Chinese – and Asians in general – are still very much in ‘bigger-is-better-must-show-face’ mode…for most, the pictures don’t matter. It’s big, so it’s professional, and therefore it must be good.

        • Earlier this month in Rome, I was actually amazed at the amount and diversity of mirrorless cameras when I started paying attention to it. Much more than I expected. This was while waiting at the Colosseum for my wife to reappear out of the giant line for the bathrooms… Sure, there were SLRs, but also a whole bunch of Sony Nex 3/5 models, some Olympus PM/PL models, one Olympus E-PM5, perhaps a Panasonic. Even a single Nikon 1!

          Well, that, and my own Fuji X-E1. Which I absolutely adore for how intuitive and fun it’s making photography again for me.

          • Less is definitely more. I’m in Amsterdam at the moment for a workshop that starts tomorrow, and there are definitely a lot of mirrorless here; they’re just less noticeable than the DSLRs because of their size. An inexplicably high number of Nikon 1s compared to the rest of the world, too.

  46. Wonderful! How rare to even have these controls on the camera where they can be set with the camera off.

  47. I think you should do a tv show on how to shoot specific subjects, with ANY camera and all of the limitations of each camera. Give it a consumeristic spin, or educational spin, whatever. Now everyone has a camera so you’d have a huge interested audience.

  48. To me the Sigma DP Merrill cameras represent just this. Simplicity and minimalisme. They are not focusing on features only good image quality. I used a DSLR with lot of controls the other weekend, after picking up my DP3 again, the joy of photography returned.

    I don’t think this is a film vs digital debate, really. But there is one point and that is if you got an film Leica I would probably last you a lifetime whereas a digital Leica has a much much lower life expectancy before breaking down or batteries no point available.

    The real problem is that when everybody, apart from Sigma and the Leica MM, is selling cameras with the Bayer sensor, they feel like overloading the camera with features to better the competition. Usually non of these features have to do with image quality, but reviewers are putting more and more emphasis on them. It is quite funny to see how the DP Merrill’s lack of features is held against them in every review I have read. At the same time some mentions that this is refreshing. One could probably have minimised even the DPs more, but to me it is not needed.

    And before you think, yes, but the DP Merrill is not ILC, are you then not thinking of a way to maximise and add more lenses etc…? 😉

    • No, it’s not a film vs. digital debate at all – it just seems that way because we don’t have any digitals that are truly aperture/shutter/focus only – except perhaps a digital back on a Hasselblad V. I’m pretty sure the obsolescence issue is twofold: firstly, digital is much more complex, and thus the risk of failure is higher; secondly, demanded economic returns are much higher now…

      It wasn’t lack of features, or even speed (though they could certainly AF faster) that give me pause about the Merrills: it’s the workflow. Same thing with the Fuji X system. What a lot of people do not understand is that workflow is absolutely critical for control and consistency of results; not to mention throughput if you are a busy working pro. Unless you are willing to outsource your file handling and sacrifice the final product, then you have to have a lot of time to work with those files; I simply do not. Unfortunately a shame because the files themselves are gorgeous; the software side is a disaster.

      • Yes, it is a pity that Adobe et.al. is limiting the marked for new and improved sensors.

        • Actually, I don’t think it’s Adobe – I suspect it’s the camera makers themselves not providing adequate support or documentation.

          • Nolan Haynes says:

            What you say is true Ming. There has been much teeth mashing from 2005 to 2008 when the OpenRAW initiative ran it’s course. Though, it started 1997, dcraw is working on reverse engineering the RAW files from cameras. Guess which project won?

      • epson needs to revive the R-D1 !

        • It’s still going strong on the used market tt! I have one, use it A LOT, and love it A LOT 🙂

          All manual digital camera, no extras –> center-weighted meter [no options], aperture on rings, shutter speed on shutter dial, manual focus only; ISO, WB setting, file setting [RAW, jpeg, etc] all on the outside of the body, that’s it. You never need the menus. You never need the rear screen to chimp [just fold it away].


          Seconded on the Merrills—I own two of those 🙂

          And seconded for Gregorio’s feeling –> I have a Nikon F2, eye level finder, no meter.

          Sensing a pattern here…

      • Nolan Haynes says:

        dcraw supports almost all of the Merills. Check the “Supported Cameras” part of the page which is here: http://www.cybercom.net/~dcoffin/dcraw/

        • Unfortunately the UI is even worse than SPP…

          • Can I just blow my own trumpet here –> I knocked out 83 X3F to 16bit TIFF conversions in one hour yesterday. If that was just straight conversion workflow it’d be good; but I’m talking WBing, exposure correction and desharpening before saving as TIFFs, ready for a proper editor.

            Ming (and all the Merrill users) know what I’m talking about—this was a miracle! 😮 🙂

            • OK it was an hour and a half… But a miracle either way, I’m thinking of contacting the Guiness Book 🙂

            • Yes, that IS amazing. I can’t even get the damn computer to preview that many in that time. Windows vs Mac thing?

              • Haha. No, 13.3″ 2011 McBair, jam packed top spec mind, and never using full res preview [I think there actually was method in SPP designer’s madness on that—they knew no-one is going to seriously use SPP, so why waste our time loading up the full res image? I know, to check sharpness, but I can tell easy cases from the screen sized preview [25~35%] and it’s actually quicker to WB, correct exposure, desharpen and save, than press the full-res button and wait, then zoom in look around yada, yada. Or it feels quicker. So that’s what I do. When you’re flying like I was yesterday, you can get through quite a few at quite a pace!]

                But I try and treat my Merrills like film cameras—limit the shots to what you really, really want, because you know SPP is waiting for you 🙂 And anything more than, say, 50 shots to PP in that is like trying to run through treacle, isn’t it.
                The force was with me yesterday.

                • Full res preview makes almost no difference when you’re running a 2540x1440px screen 🙂

                  I actually find the new Airs to be pretty surprisingly good editing machines. My 11″ from late 2012 will chew through D800E files faster than the previous Macbook Pro; the only problem is the screen is utterly terrible.

          • Nolan Haynes says:

            Well, I don’t use dcraw in its RAW form (pun intended). I’m currently testing out DarkTable (http://www.darktable.org/) and RawTherapee (http://rawtherapee.com/) for my workflow.

      • I prefer Capture One, so the poor Adobe support is
        not a concern for me with the X-Trans. I have been printing
        with a Piezography set up and really enjoying the results I get
        from the Fuji X-E1 and a Leica 50 Summilux.

        I will also do the manual aperture, shutter, and auto ISO. It
        seems to work well for me.

  49. I hope the manufacturers will read this and realize there is great pent up demand for simpler designs. Many will say the Leica M can be used without all the new technologies just as the M9. However, there are more menu choices to make in order to restore the simplicity and to scroll each and every time. Despite the Leica community stating the minimalist design is attractive there is always the cry for more choices, more complexity and the camera loses it’s primary appeal, I believe the M suffers this fate. I could only imagine the sales volume of a Nikon F2 Titan with a digital sensor, or those beautiful Nikon F3 Titaniums (yes, pink is the color of the chrome version) with a digital sensor.

    • I think they’d definitely sell. But what’s holding us – them – back right now is simple economics: something like that might well cost more to design and build than another iteration of D7000 or whatever. And being typically conservative, the Japanese companies will not move until they have no choice – i.e. no sales.

  50. So very true Ming. One of the reasons I am fund of my Leica X2. The bare basics, I started with the basics about 50 years ago, as there was nothing more and actually nothing has changed ever since. It is just camouflaged. All you had was shutter speed, aperture, focus and film sensitivity to play with. On the camera itself I mean. And it is still that. End of story. If you don’t understand these, than you don’t have control over your images. If you don’t need or want that control, fine. Only thing I am using more often lately is the AF due to poorer eyesight. Aperture control is my “thing” and work from there on. Coincidentally, I am visiting Amsterdam (my hometown) as well at the moment, and will look out for a group of photo nuts, which might be your group. Have a pleasant stay…

    • Thanks Frans. If the X2 had a better LCD, it would make manual focus usable – but then again you can always zone focus to get around it.

      The photo nuts will start on Wednesday, but I don’t lead people around in packs – you’ll never experiment and learn to see that way, plus it can be counterproductive to attempt work when there are packs of photographers around; you land up interfering with the subject matter. But if you happen to see a youngish Asian guy with a grey Hasselblad in the next few days, that’s me. There can’t be too many in that combination!

      • I will make part of the group in Amsterdam . . .
        My favourite cam is the Nikon D4. It has a scaring amount of possibility and features, and most of them I never use. I think most people are like myself. Why does Nikon go into the trouble of providing all those options? It allows the user to configure the camera precisely according to their needs. Period.

        • That camera is supposed to be potentially all things to all people – so it has to offer everything a pro might possibly need, and does. A lot of pros shoot sports and might well need 11fps; most of us don’t. Choice is nice to have; as is the choice of not having to use every single feature if you don’t want to. See you in a couple of days!

  51. Good points all round. I’m one of those people who recently got into film photography, and I enjoy it just as much as digital. What I see happening sometimes is that people discover film and then get this rose-tinted, nostalgic glow in their eyes which prompts them to disparage digital and become a sort of “film evangelist”. Like a smoker who quit and now wants to make everyone else quit too 🙂

    While I see your overall point, you were very enthusiastic about the upcoming OMD EM1, which looks to have an absolute boatload of features (HDR, wifi, scene modes, PDAF/CDAF, stabilisation…although that’s without doubt a useful feature…). Of course we can choose to ignore those features we will never use, but they’re still there.

    Maybe this is an amateur/pro distinction. These extra bits and pieces are probably useful to a working photographer but distracting and superfluous to the hobbyist / enthusiast.

    • I’m enthusiastic about cameras that allow me to just concentrate on the photography because they make the rest of the operation of the camera transparent; the E-M1 is one of those. But at the end of the day, I still shoot it mostly in auto-ISO AF-S aperture priority/ spot meter, like all of my other cameras. I sometimes need the other features for specific jobs – and I suspect most users are like that – which means it makes sense for me to have one to minimize the number of different tools I have to use. But for my personal work – I use one of the old film cameras most of the time, and all we have is aperture/ shutter/ focus. Not even exposure compensation. And that’s enough.

      • Hi Ming, I appreciate your thought provoking articles as resting points when navigating an internet of redundant information and occaisionaly misleading opinion.

        Regarding your use of the em1 (and presumably the em5 until recently) in auto-iso mode with spot metering, I would have concurred with you as recently as a few months back, but I changed my habits recently. I’m curious what you think about the following approach?

        Since I love the em5 at iso 200-400, but only tolerate it at 800, I started manually switching between 200, 400, and 800 in reasonably good light, and then thinking in the same terms as I would when pushing a roll of film. This way I am able to take into account exactly what the next frame in a particular lighting situation will look like. For really dark settings, I do still occaisionaly switch to auto and let it go up to 2500 or 3200, but sometimes find surprises when I review images.

        The other thing I started using recently is “ESP” metering mode, which is surprisingly good, especially for rapidly changing conditions. Although I also prefer to spot meter (or sometimes take a center weighted reading), Oly seems to have some secret sauce in their matrix algorithm. I am just now trying to find the situations where a little exposure comp helps, but unless I am saving big brackets for HDR it isn’t needed as often as i would expect with any of my previous cameras. This is just a guess, but could they possibly be applying some localized exposure compensation in real-time?

        What this combo of settings seems to give me is the ability to focus on visualizing what the final processed image will look like, while I am doing the other things necessary to get ready for releasing the shutter. BTW, I really hope the em1 shutter isn’t too different from the quiet “snick” I get from its little brother.

        Since I find examples really useful, here are a couple recent pictures that I offer with tricky exposure settings I would have missed if I was spot metering or letting the camera pick a likely shutter speed at the same time as auto-iso.


        • ESP is good when the dynamic range of the scene doesn’t exceed that of the camera. In very contrasty situations, you really need to use the spot meter because you will lose something at either end of the tonal scale; you just have to consciously select what because it will affect your composition.

          I use auto-ISO simply because there’s no point using ISO 800 if ISO 560 will do, for instance.

          The E-M1’s shutter sounds like the E-P5; a bit higher in pitch than the E-M5 because the blades have to move faster to achieve 1/8000s.

  52. To me the Sigma DP Merrill cameras capture just this. Simplicity and minimalisere.

  53. Good god. You make so much sense that it’s scary.

    Recently, I’ve mainly been using my Samsung NX300 with a Canon FD50mm f/1.4 lens. I select the aperture and the ISO rating and dial in the focus myself. Sometimes I’ll also select the shutter speed.

    I also use other Canon FD lenses (28mm, 100mm, and 135mm).

    I have had my very best results using the NX300 and the Canon lenses. The sensor in the Samsung appears to be very good, and the old Canon lenses work quite well. I’ve made the camera simpler–and I enjoy it much more.

    • That’s because I don’t really care about the technical stuff now that we’ve passed sufficiency for pretty much every purpose. I care about the images. And I suspect that’s actually pretty rare…

      • What people think they want (“need”) is often not the best solution. Marketing drives many choices. Shame how many people complain about the large file sizes of the D800.

        • Absolutely. And then the same people complain their D800s aren’t as sharp as their D700s because they lack the shot discipline…but Nikon is happy.

  54. GREGORIO Donikian says:

    I Only need my old PENTÁX MX.



  1. […] associated lenses) alter perspective. More specifically, the common myth on the Internet is that a change in focal length changes perspective or less directly, focal length is somehow associated with perspective. Both assumptions are […]

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