My kind of camera(s)


There are DSLR's, mirrorless, compact cameras and then there are these. Cameras that look to many of us like cameras are supposed to, but don't need a course in body building to carry them around. One of the things that amazes me about digital DSLR's is how did they get so big? My last 35mm film SLR's were the Pentax MZ series, for me masterpieces in elegant, small, functional design. And then there were the Olympus film OM series, early Nikon F's, and of course rangefinders. I used medium-format film cameras that were lighter than some current DSLR's. 

Yesterday I was writing about how mirrorless camera manufacturers are puzzled at why the world is not embracing their overpriced, undersized, supercompact philosophy but it is also true that DSLR manufacturers have also failed to get the message that most of the general public is not rushing out to buy big heavy cameras with big heavy lenses either. There are many who like those kind of cameras certainly, just as there are those who like cameras the size of Derek Zoolanders mobile phone, but I suspect that for the most part that serious or aspiring photographers want something that looks the part but won't require the need for traction at some point in their life or the ability to reduce their fingers to hampster size. So is the small DSLR, the large mirrorless and the rangefinder lookalike, everybodys ideal camera size? 

Well thats a question I can't really answer for everybody else, but it is for me. I just love the two cameras at the top of the page. I've been using them almost exclusively for weeks now. I love them so much in fact that currently everything else I own is on ebay. I've written about how I picked up the Leica X Vario and instantly fell in love with it. It is my 'personal' camera. Not something I've bought to do my job. Its expensive, but as I've indicated before, if its like every other Leica I've bought it will hold its value much better than anything else. How it has been received by the photographic internet doesn't matter either. The M8 got pretty similar press but you still have to pay the same price to buy a second hand one as you did 3 years ago. I have had problems with the non-OLED viewfinder and polarised sunglasses but the purchase of a cap that shades my eyes means that I can now work comfortably with non-polarised sunglasses in bright sunlight. You will appreciate how much I like working with the X Vario as I absolutely HATE wearing caps, or indeed any kind of hat, but am prepared to do it to shoot with the Leica. I have now become unrecogniseable when out shooting beneath the peak of this cap and the oversized very dark sunglasses that I wear, as a result of this. Not sure whether thats a good or bad thing yet!

The Fuji was definitely not love at first sight and with the X100, X-Pro 1 and now the X-E1 my relationship with the Fuji X series has been up and down to say the least. However, I've now come to a comfortable long-term satisfactory relationship with the X-E1 and I like using it very much. 
My appreciation of these two cameras is helped of course by the fact that they both have extraordinarily good image quality at all ISO's, are a pleasure to handle and combine retro aesthetics and technological innovation in a great blend of old and new. For me, they are just the right size, just the right weight and with the right combination of old-school dials and knobs that I can actually use comfortably. I can also set them up be simple and easy to use. Whatever is inside a camera it still comes down to selecting an aperture and a shutter speed that is right for the picture you want to take, and these cameras make that easy to do. For me everything else is just 'fluff'.
If I have any notion about the future of camera design it is that this style of camera plus the oversized mirrorless concept of the GH3 and OM-D and the scaled down DSLR like the Canon EOS 100D will become the norm. I can also imagine even more merging of DSLR / Mirrorless and Rangefinder designs that produce small (but not too small) and light (but not too light) cameras that satisfy most peoples desire for a camera that delivers high quality images in a sensible simple way, looks good and doesn't break the bank or our backs. Pretty much going back to the days of film cameras. And it is of course early days in digital photography. There has been a lot going on in the relatively short time its been around and things are being tried and discarded on a regular basis but do seem to be finding some sort of level. Canon are right, I believe, to make the DSLR smaller, just as Panasonic and Olympus are right to offer larger and better handling mirrorless cameras. The camera market is I suspect a lot more conservative than many manufacturers think it is and too radical an approach may yield few rewards. Certainly the two cameras at the top of the page are traditional in their looks and approach to picture taking and there is nothing wrong with that. This kind of camera has worked for decades, so its very much a case of "If it ain't broke etc." and it may well be the case that after years of experimentation and innovation we end up with pretty much what we started with, in terms of design at least. And for me thats no bad thing.