The perfect camera

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by W.Boeke, Oct 7, 2006.

  1. W.Boeke

    W.Boeke Guest

    Who decides about digital camera features? Maybe only the marketing departments
    of the camera industry. They apparently decided that 'the number of megapixels' is
    the first, and 'the number of functions' the second most important selling point.
    Somebody who only wants to shoot good pictures and who is looking for a new camera
    feels like drowning in a miriad of features that he didn't ask for, and still cannot
    find a camera that simply does what it should do. Maybe I'm the only one in the
    world, but here are the features I get but don't want, and the features I want
    but cannot get. I am talking about a camera that is small enough to be carried
    in a coat-pocket. All postprocessing (color balance, brightness, picture geometry
    etcetera) will be done afterwards on the computer. I am prepared to read the manual
    and to modify my photographing habits.

    This is what I do not want:
    - No sound (provided by all modern P&S camera's)
    - No movies (idem)
    - No predefined 'scenes' (idem)
    - Not very much pixels, extra big monitor or exessive zoom range.
    - No automatic recognizing of faces (as provided by the Nikon Coolpix L4)
    - No special provision to make baby foto's with the age of the baby attached
    (as provided by the Panasonic DMC-LS2)

    This is what I want:
    - Not one shutter release button, but 3: one button to set the AF distance,
    one to set the exposure, and one to release the shutter. If the first 2 are not
    used, then regular automatic operation.
    - Square picture format, so the camera can be held always in the same position.
    - All information on a separate LCD screen, not across the monitor.
    - A viewfinder with an internal screen identical to the monitor.
    - Simple manual tradoff between shutter speed, diaphragm and ISO value.
    - An extra mode for the monitor: white for scene parts that are over-exposed,
    black for parts that are under-exposed, and gray for the rest. This will be
    more informative then a histogram.
    - Optical image stabilization.
    - 5 megapixels for the sensor is sufficient.

    Probably such a camera could cost not too much, depending on the quality of the
    lens.

    If you happen to be in the decision-making part of some camera manufacturing factory
    and if you see something useful in the above considerations, then please set your R&D
    and fabrication departments at work. Afterwards, a possible advertisement slogan
    could be as follows:

    SO YOU NEED YOUR SHOES FOR WALKING, YOUR PEN FOR WRITING, AND YOUR CAMERA ONLY FOR
    TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS? THEN THE NEW MONO-PURPOSE xxx WAS DESIGNED FOR YOU!

    Regards,
    Wouter Boeke
     
    W.Boeke, Oct 7, 2006
    #1
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  2. W.Boeke

    timeOday Guest

    I'm using a Canon S80, which is a coat-pocket P&S.
    Here's how you would do that.
    1) To get the focus, point at something at the desired range and push
    the shutter release half way and push the MF (manual focus) button.
    That will cause the camera to not change the focus further.
    2) To set the exposure, point at an area with the amount of light you
    want, push the shutter button half way, and push the ISO button. That
    enables the auto exposure lock.
    3) Take the picture.


    Come to think of it, you don't need to use the AE lock. Once the focus
    is set, you can just hold an exposure setting by holding the shutter
    release half way, then frame the shot and fully depress the shutter
    release. I suppose any camera with a manual focus could do the same.
    Some cameras do make the hotspots (pure white) blink when you look at
    the photo, but only after it has been taken. I'm not sure a camera
    could accurately determine where hotspots will be *before* taking the
    shot, particularly if a flash is involved.
     
    timeOday, Oct 7, 2006
    #2
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  3. If you have a gift for instinctive good composition, stay away from any
    "square" format such as in 6cm 6x6 format Rolleiflexes and Hassleblads.
    You will compose so well the square result can't be cropped to fit normal
    paper sizes, and a square picture if often very dull... no exciting width
    or height as in the classic 35mm 2x3 format. I happy my DSLR shoots like
    my old Leicas and Nikons. Shooting square is for squares (old US slang).

    Limiting yourself to square images is a terrible idea. The old spring-
    motor German "Robot" cameras shot 24mm square images on 35mm film, but
    only because they were mostly used for surveillance/intelligence work
    inside concealment devices where rotating the camera was not feasible.
    Never popular with the general public.
     
    Charles Gillen, Oct 8, 2006
    #3
  4. W.Boeke

    W.Boeke Guest

    My point is that most features have not been asked for by anybody, and
    also are not useful in real life. They may have some toy value, but they
    have been mainly introduced to increase the number of camera functions.
    If the average buyer has to choose between a camera with 20 functions and
    one with 30, he will choose the latter. If a marketing person is reading
    this: am I right or wrong?
    If I want a vertical final format but keep the camera horizontal, I will
    loose a lot of pixels. Using a square initial format is more optimal.
    That's the reason why I added a hint for an advertisement campain at the
    end of my initial message. Make people aware that they get lots of features
    that are not useful in real life, while they don't get useful features that
    are technically possible but are difficult to market.

    Wouter Boeke
     
    W.Boeke, Oct 8, 2006
    #4
  5. W.Boeke

    W.Boeke Guest

    Of course you must crop a square picture into 2x3 or 3x2 format afterwards.
    A really square person would be somebody who takes digital photographs
    and send them to the photoshop unmodified.

    Wouter Boeke
     
    W.Boeke, Oct 8, 2006
    #5
  6. : My point is that most features have not been asked for by anybody, and
    : also are not useful in real life. They may have some toy value, but
    : they have been mainly introduced to increase the number of camera
    : functions. If the average buyer has to choose between a camera with 20
    : functions and one with 30, he will choose the latter. If a marketing
    : person is reading this: am I right or wrong?

    Before they became "special package" ingredients, how many people asked
    for white wall tires, racing stripes and special paint designs on their
    new car. True there were a couple other items in the package that were
    wanted, but the only way to get an AM/FM radio was to get the paint job
    with the brand name in 1' tall letters. So this kind of thing is rampant
    everywhere. You are correct that some consumers just look at the length of
    the list of "features" rather than on what the features are and if they
    will ever have a need for such a thing. And if the features list includes
    numbers, the bigger the better. For many people the large print "12x zoom"
    is much more important than the small print "3x optical, 4x digital". To
    go back to the auto analogy, a car with a 5 speed transmition sounds much
    more impressive than one with a 3 speed trany. Even if the 5 sp vehicle
    can almost get enough force to get up to 60 mph and the 3 sp one can do
    1-60 in 1.2 seconds, if a clueless purchaser is "sold" on the "powerful 5
    speed transmition" they may not inquire about how much torque the engine
    driving that trany can put out.

    But for those of us who have a little more experience (and a clue to what
    these "features" actually are) we look at what features we have a need
    for, and which ones we want, and then how difficult it is to work around
    or ignore the features we don't want. We also know to balance a camera
    that is has all the features we want but very awkward to use or difficult
    to disable or workaround the unwanted features, against a camera that may
    be missing one or two desired features but in all other ways works
    beautifully for our needs.

    Since manufacturers of all products of any type from cars to cameras, from
    toys to shoes, make more money by counting on the clueless being impressed
    by the hype, they will continue to hype the numbers and downplay the
    reality. How else can you account for the fact that two manufacturers
    making exactly the same pair of jeans can have one selling for $9 while
    another can sell for $150 and the more expensive ones sell out. All
    because of the perceived value of a tiny little label over the back
    pocket. :)

    Randy

    ==========
    Randy Berbaum
    Champaign, IL
     
    Randy Berbaum, Oct 8, 2006
    #6
  7. Unfortunately, it is easy to sell a device based on things that are
    easily quantified. It is easy to count "megapixels", less easy to count
    the real quality of the image.
    Personally I wouldn't like it if my digi's had no sound - I rely on it
    to tell me when it has actually taken the photo. OTherwise, looking
    through the optical viewfinder, there is no indication whatsoever.
    You're not really paying any extra for this feature - the chip has to be
    able to record in video mode if you want live preview. All movie mode
    does is save the live preview to the chip. You'll find that cameras that
    offer the smoothest and clearest live preview, also have the best movie
    modes.
    Just cos they are there, doesn't mean you have to use them. They are
    just preset settings - with shutter/aperture/iso curve to match the
    scene type (ie aim for fast shutter, max depth of field, max sharpness,
    etc) along with predefined colour & sharpness settings. Considering most
    people who buy a P&S camera do so because they don't know the first
    thing about photography, making things easier for them is a good thing.
    Scene programs are not new to digital photography - many film slr's have
    had them for many years. Again it is something that would add no cost to
    the camera other than having one more switch position on the mode dial.
    All the camera does is select a different curve for the
    Shutter/Aperture/ISO.
    Megapixels - yeah less can be better (in light of less noise), and
    unfortunately most compact cameras don't have a good enough lens to make
    full use of the # of pixels they have, but 5-6MP cameras are so cheap -
    would you pay more to have less megapixels? you might, but 99% of the
    public won't. Heck I've even noticed that 30D's have become less popular
    since the 10MP 400D came out - people opting for the 10MP rather than
    the better build.
    As for monitor size - many people have failing eyesight and for them a
    large screen is a boon. A large screen doesn't hurt does it?
    Excessive Zoom Range? Well you have the choice of a 35-105 or similar in
    a compact camera, or a 35ish-400ish in a larger 10-12x camera. Choice is
    yours and choice is already there. I guess if you want a 35-105 zoom in
    a camera the size of an SLR, or if you want a 35-350 zoom in a camera
    the size of a Canon Ixus, you are out of luck.
    It's just a few lines of programming in the chip that works the camera -
    a few dollars for the programmer to design it, but then a miniscule cost
    per camera. On the Nikon L4, you are not forced to use face autofocus.
    It is a mode you can turn on if you want it. If you don't want it, don't
    turn it on, simple as that. But for someone who doesn't know much about
    a camera, knowing that it will lock onto the persons face is a real boon.
    Yeah that's a bit of a dumb function, but again, it costs nothing to
    have it, and you aren't forced to use it.
    Every camera I've had has had similar function - half press and hold the
    shutter button to lock focus, and there is a button to lock exposure
    Two pieces of masking tape on the viewfinder - presto, square format. If
    you are concerned that you would lose 1/4 of the pixels by doing that,
    remember that printing a square format on 6x4 will take out 1/3 of the
    pixels. Personally I'd rather a 4:5 format (to match 8x10) or a 2:3
    format to match 6x4 - by far the most common print size. 4:3 is an
    orphan format and a bit of a dumb choice if you ask me.
    Agreed that this could be handy. or perhaps they could use a 3:2 sensor,
    and use the top bit of the 4:3 screen as an info screen.
    Many do. Personally I'd prefer an optical viewfinder - much clearer and
    easier to see what's going on.
    Yeah this is where many fall down, especially in the compact size. A few
    of the Kodak, Sony, Fuji and Panasonic cameras (I've probably missed
    some) are very easy to adjust, with dials available, similar to a modern
    SLR, but it does seem to only be a feature on larger cameras. Most of
    the P&S's that provide aperture/shutter override unfortunately have a
    pretty clunky interface. But on the flip side though, most compact p&s
    cameras only provide 1-2 stops of adjustment on the aperture, and at the
    short focal lengths there is almost no change to DOF, so there isn't
    much point having manual control anyway.
    Quite a few do have flashing white on the monitor.
    Thankfully becoming more prevalent. Whether through the lens, or by
    shifting the CCD, this is a very handy function.
    For most compact p&s, the lenses are simply not good enough to make
    proper use of more than 5 or 6 MP, and beyond that the noise levels go
    up anyway. Now if they kept pixel pitch the same when increasing MP (ie
    larger sensor, and correspondingly larger lenses and body) then it might
    be an advantage.
    Probably it would cost more, because it would have a very limited target
    audience, hence design costs, costs of tooling for manufacture etc would
    be spread over a smaller number of units, thus making these costs higher
    per unit.
    Personally, I'd love a rangefinder with a good quality fixed 50mm/1.4
    equivalent lens, and a monochrome only sensor of APS size or larger with
    8-10 Megapixels and not much in the ways of other bells and whistles. If
    they were to sell 100,000 or more of these over the life of the model it
    could be made fairly cheap, but practically, worldwide there are
    probably only a small handful of potential buyers for such a camera, and
    so if someone was to make it, it would likely cost more than a 30D.
     
    Graham Fountain, Oct 8, 2006
    #7
  8. W.Boeke

    pbdelete Guest

    Dynamic range, S/N etc should be easy to measure. althought they don't say
    everything. (Wonder why numbers like this aren't printed..?).

    In the pc industry there's a tendency more MHz -> better performancy + buzz.
    While a Alpha cpu would run circles around a x86 cpu for the same
    clockfrequency. Mips/ARM cpu are also powerful.

    Maybe books should be measured qualitive wise by the number of pages they
    contain.. More pages the better :)
    I can hear the shutter (or whatever it is on S2IS :).
    Now if more manufactors would use mpeg4..
    One could use a small peltier..
    Large screen => more power => less time to take photographs.
    And less space for buttons to allow faster control.
    I find it tricky too keep it halfpressed.
    Canon S2IS have.
    A large sensor in a compact camera would be really nice. System cameras are
    not weightless.. ;)

    One can always hope ;)
     
    pbdelete, Oct 8, 2006
    #8
  9. W.Boeke

    Bill Funk Guest

    Actually, I'm happy that such buyers exist in the numbers they do:
    they help pay for the features I want.
    The more cameras sold, the lower the price for each sample. (In
    theory, anyway; and I'm pretty sure it works that way in practice,
    profit leaders notwithstanding.)
     
    Bill Funk, Oct 8, 2006
    #9
  10. W.Boeke

    W.Boeke Guest

    May I summarize your (and others) postings in my own words?
    1 - Customers are impressed by big numbers, so the camera industry will
    offer them products with exessive number of megapixels, functions, etc.
    2 - If you don't want those features, don't use them.

    My take: the camera industry for the point-and-shoot camera's is focussing on the
    average customer, who is supposed to have no clue about what features are really
    useful and what features are only meant to impress him. The result is that
    many, nearly equal camera's are on the shop shelves, and the shopkeeper
    tries to sell the most expensive of them to the clueless customer, using the
    numbers as an argument. I cannot understand why a well-informed photographer
    wants to be part of this circus, and why photo journals never complain.

    Why cannot some manufacturer start a separate camera line that looks like a
    normal point-and-shoot camera but has the features that are technically feasable
    and that are also really useful? If we (the well-informed photographers) after
    some discussion could agree about what we wanted, then a small but informative
    marketing campain should be sufficient to make this a success. If somebody
    involved in the camera business is reading this: please post your objections!

    Regards,
    Wouter Boeke
     
    W.Boeke, Oct 8, 2006
    #10
  11. W.Boeke

    Bill Funk Guest

    I'm not in the camera business, but...
    The camera companies already do this.
    They may not make cameras with *ONLY* the features you think
    "well-informed" photographers want, but they do make cameras with
    those features.
    It also seems that you think your "well informed" photographers will
    come to a consensus on what their dream camera would have.
    Dream on! :)
     
    Bill Funk, Oct 9, 2006
    #11
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