Cameras not gadgets.


In the UK there is an organisation called CAMRA, the campaign for real ale. Formed in response to what the founders thought was the disturbing trend of pubs to sell mass-produced gas pumped beer. I'm thinking of forming an organisation called CAMREC, the campaign for real cameras!

On my blog a couple of days ago someone wrote "time is passing by and we are getting gadgets not the useful tools."

In his review of the Sony NEX-C3 Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape wrote - "I've been reading recently that there is strong consumer push-back in the US against 3D movies and TVs, even though all the major studios and TV makers are flogging 3D relentlessly. I see a parallel between 3D and all the gizmology built into some recent cameras. Why is it there? Because it's just firmware, and firmware is less expensive to implement in the feature wars than hardware."

Are we now in a situation where every new camera released is a gadget rather than a camera? Well not yet, but I think we're close. Though there are obviously people who love them, with the the latest NEX camera, the C3, Sony seem to have dispensed with the idea of making it either look or feel like a camera. Someone described it as an "electronic lens cap" when paired with its kit lens. I posted a video link here from What Digital Camera and looking at it it was obvious the reviewer was struggling to operate the controls on the back of the camera. There's also a Steve Jobs quote about some very small piece of technology needing to have a file included so people could trim their fingers to use it!

Add on to this a string of complicated menu systems with functions here there and everywhere, bluetooth connections to your iPod, smartphone and toaster and we have come a long way from a Speed Graphic and a Nikon F. I'm not opposed to technology, far from it, so long as it exists in a camera to enhance the picture taking experience. It should improve it, but not complicate it. It should, surely, make taking pictures easier, not harder.

I've been testing a Nikon D5100 for the past week. A genuinely small and light DSLR that takes wonderful pictures and videos, and has superb fast AF and operation. It has a wonderfully coherent set of menus, buttons for many of the basic functions, good solid build quality, and a body that its actually possible to change settings with. I absolutely love it. It does what its supposed to. Make taking pictures a pleasure, make it relatively simple to do and produce high quality results at the end of it. It has technology yes, a few "micky mouse" gimmicks yes, but overall its a good solid picture making machine that won't break my back or break the bank.

It also has this revolutionary feature, I can put it to my eye and look through the viewfinder! In years to come people may look back at pictures of people holding cameras against their face and wonder what on earth where they doing? Its funny how a viewfinder makes me feel like a real photographer instead of someone trying to read a menu with the wrong glasses.

But hey, I'm over 17 and seriously uncool and thats not what people want, is it? We're all so locked into the mobile phone way of doing things that we don't want to hold our cameras to our eye anymore and get a really good view of what we're photographing. No we all want to squint at some screen a few inches away and if we're out in the sunshine, make an educated guess as to what we might be taking a picture of. We also want to stick our greasy fingers all over the screen to change a setting. Much more efficient, much cooler!!

It strikes me its getting to the stage where people show each other their cameras and say "Hey look at what this can do" rather than "Hey look at these pictures I took" And yes I'm guilty of that too. Is this a good thing?