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Dumb Things Camera Companies are Still Doing (dslrbodies.com)
583 points by ValentineC on Sept 27, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 385 comments

I love 1/4-20 sockets. Attach my camera to a flash bracket? Yep. Attach an eyebolt to attach a carabiner to attach a neck strap? Yep. Attach a hand strap or a 40mm, 80mm, or 200mm Arca Swiss plate. Yep. Yep, Yep and Yep.

There's nothing stopping a photographer from permanently attaching an Arca-Swiss plate to the bottom of a camera body with a bit of cyanoacrylate or some screws if it makes better photographs. For me, walking around with an Arca-Swiss plate on my camera made me appreciate that 1/4-20 socket is flush. Walking around with a 120mm plate made me appreciate that the 1/4-20 socket is flush both top to bottom and front to back.

Like everything in photography 1/4-20 and Arca-Swiss are defined by engineering tradeoffs. The cost of slower direct attachment of 1/4-20 is in exchange for the physical strength of bolted connection and the flexibility adopting a broader standard affords - I can build a camera mount from general components available at the hardware store (including round stock and a 1/4-20 die in a statistically unlikely universe).

edit: I left out all the electronic/software rants because photography is undergoing Cambrian explosion in regards to controls and computation (but mirrorless cameras are nothing new).

The only thing wrong with the 1/4-20 mount is that there's only one. Camera manufacturers should add a second one half an inch to the side so that plates can be mounted with two points of attachment, which would eliminate concerns with twisting and loosening.

Wanting to force the weight and cost of Arca Swiss on everyone is just selfish. In fact most of these complaints are just examples of wanting everyone else to subsidize features they might not need that this guy happens to want.

The Qi demand on the other hand is just dumb. Wireless charging requires close proximity, so you'd have to set your camera down just so or it would fail to charge. With different lenses changing the balance point and accessories like portrait grips changing the shape, many people would never get Qi to work properly. Plus in a world where enthusiasts largely have multiple batteries anyway, wireless charging built into the camera seems utterly useless. I'd rather rapidly charge my battery in a dedicated charger than leave my camera on its own charging pad all the time.

Some QR plates have set screws that can be tightened down to reduce twisting. For example, you can see them in https://uniquephoto.azureedge.net/resources/uniquephoto/imag...

These positions line up with some locations on various medium and large format cameras (where there is a lot of weight in play).

That's a pretty good idea, especially if the camera body has indentations that the set screw can really bite into. A second screw socket in the camera body would be better, though. It would be 100% backward compatible and solve the issue completely.

If you look at a Pentax 7 bottom plate, http://forum.mflenses.com/userpix/271_PENTAX67BOTTOM_1.jpg you can see that additional screw location. I am certain one of the holes in the hex plate matches it.

Good for Pentax for actually solving this issue. :)

For some applications, Velcro on the bottom of the camera and top of the accessory might mitigate twisting. I've also read about people using compressible materials to increase friction. For what it's worth, there's nothing preventing modifying a camera to add a second screw.

Drilling into the body of a camera that costs multiple thousand dollars to add a second screw seems like a risky maneuver and definitely warranty-voiding. I would personally advise against this.

Adding Velcro doesn't seem to me like it would do much for vibration or slippage (large rotation, yes, small scale rotation, not so much), since Velcro is not a rigid connection. Rubber or similar spacers can help but it's still not great. I use a plate that's got a lip on it to prevent twisting (which was a happy accident, because I actually ordered the wrong plate).

To me, the degree to which a camera is likely to see a built in Arca Swiss plate is inversely proportional to the degree to which it costs multiple thousands of dollars because the higher the price the more modular the design. The reason for more modular designs is that the variety of systems with which high end cameras are designed to integrate tends to be higher. Or conversely the more likely the camera is to be designed to lock the photographer into a proprietary systems sold by the camera manufacturer.

In terms of adding a second screw, a multiple thousand dollar camera body is probably not the ideal first subject for a person who has never disassembled a camera or done similarly fine grained work. Such a person should perhaps hire a technician or practice on broken equipment first in cases where such modifications seem worth the effort/cost. Hoping camera manufacturers would design around the edge case is not much of a plan.

I think the inverse proportionality is probably wrong since entry-level cameras generally never get mounted on anything. Arca Swiss mounting on my mom's camera wouldn't be particularly useful.

I don't think a multiple-thousand dollar camera body is a good target for invasive modifications unless it's already out of warranty, regardless of whether the change is being made by someone with the appropriate skills. I also doubt that the result of such a modification would be very good anyway. Without being part of the initial design (e.g. a captive nut embedded in the base), the best aftermarket modification would likely be based on either threads tapped directly into the body or a nut essentially glued in place.

I'm a pretty avid DIYer with a lot of tools, taps, dies, vises, etc.

I would not feel comfortable either 1) drilling into the bottom of my DSLR, or 2) taking it apart to see if I could safely drill into a given spot.

I would say there's quite a lot preventing me from modifying it, and even more to prevent normal users.

I mentioned cyanoacrylate for those reasons -- although other adhesives might be better, it seemed like a place to start. Anyway, one of the themes of my comment was that if it's a problem there are alternatives to hoping the camera manufacturers will address what is mostly an edge case that can be mitigated with attention to detail during the selection of accessories and their use in the field. I mean after a while, experience will lead to checking if the plate has become twisted before operating the shutter. It might take years for someone to recognize the problem and gain that habit and most people with cameras probably will never even experience it as a problem because it never is for them...because most people don't use a tripod most of the time.

Unless you're taking serious action shots on a violently shaking platform, even a hand tight 1/4-20 isn't going to shake or blow loose. Is loosening a theoretical or actual problem?

Depending on what you're mounting the camera on, it can be a real problem. A moderately-heavy lens attached to a tripod head turned 90 degrees for a portrait can definitely put enough torque on the screw to loosen it. This is most likely just going to be an annoyance, though, because the camera will droop but won't actually come loose. On the other hand, if you're using a "rapid" bottom-mounted camera strap, the possibility of the screw backing out and dumping your camera on the ground is very real.

e.g. https://www.photo.net/discuss/threads/black-rapid-and-other-...

"I definitly have had issues with the tripod socket mount coming loose during carry. It is rare, and usually only after a very long time of not adjusting it but I came within a wisker of dumping my F5 one time and the D300 has seen it loosen up a couple times."

I'll second this, and note that this is a problem more significant in practice than in theory.

Speaking as a physically inept "software and pure maths" person with consequently no authority whatsoever on this matter, I believe this is mostly on account of the usual "thumb-screw and rubbery no-slip pad" construction of typical non-camera-specific mounting hardware: while it's hard to imagine any lens without its own tripod mount is capable of enough torque to loosen even a hand-tightened bolt, as soon as the non-slip pad ceases to be effectively rigid, very little torque is required to loosen the bolt. And as with most (all?) "rubbery" materials, stiffness of a given non-slip pad at constant compression is a function of temperature.

I think it has more impact on very long exposure shots that can span 30 minutes to hours where a breeze can ruin a shot of it moves in the slightest.

But I agree. I think for the majority of shots it doesn't make that much difference.

I think you're missing the point. If camera manufacturers just molded an Arca Swiss dovetail into the bottom edge of their cameras, then you could have both solid, easy QR compability and the 1/4 socket--simultaneously.

The way it works now, you have to use the 1/4 socket to get QR compatibility.

When I use my flash bracket, I bolt the flash bracket to the camera. When I use the camera with flash bracket with my tripod, I bolt an Arca Swiss compatible plate to the flash bracket using another 1/4-20 hole in the bracket. A third 1/4-20 hole allows me to leave the $0.75 1/4-20 eyebolt (stainless steel no less) I use for a carabiner + neck strap on the flash bracket.

That said, from an engineering perspective the long term durability of a plastic molded dovetail when clamped in a metal Arca Swiss clamp might be a challenge because the Arca Swiss system is not designed around that degree of dissimilarity of material hardness (not that I have anything against plastic). One of the characteristics of Arca Swiss connections is that they are not based on a formal standard and this leads to minor dimensional variability among components that is mitigated by clamping the clamp tighter or buying components from a company like Arca-Swiss at the prices their products command.

Potential durability aside, a molded in dovetail would increase the bulk of a camera and generally the trend seems to be away from camera bulk all things being equal. While a molded in adapter might increase stability in some cases, in others it would decrease it. Setting a camera on a table is an obvious case. Any other mounting is also going to be through a longer lever arm and with a higher center of gravity.

The QR dovetail would be metal. Most high end cameras have metal shells on the bottom, and that's really what Thom is writing about: high end cameras.

EDIT: and it would not stick out awkwardly on the bottom. It would be engineered as part of the shape of the camera itself, while keeping a flat bottom that sits level, with the 1/4 threaded socket.

I'd prefer dual 1/4 threads on the bottom of the camera, then you could add the Arca Swiss dovetail and it wouldn't have the rotation issues. Also, the aesthetics and feel of the camera body wouldn't change.

A dovetail would change the way a camera feels in-hand. For all the non-Arca-Swiss users, a dovetail would forever be caught on things without adding utility.

It doesn't have to stick out - think two ridges on the underside, but the whole bottom is still flat.

I wish the author had explained this better. It seems obvious now but initially I was having the same confusion as some of the ancestor comments.


It's like the old phone jack that Apple wants to be rid of--a common and cheap standard that attaches to every known thing in the universe already. And replace it with what? A proprietary system that may be better in some ways, but reduces your choices. Now, I also use the Bogen hex pads--which means if I am out with my Nikon, or my Hasselblad, or my Fuji 6x9, or even my Wista VX, I am good to go.

Comparing the 1/4"-20 tripod mount to the 1/8" TRRS jack isn't a great comparison.

The tripod mount has been a standard for decades and decades.

The phone headphone jack fractured into competing standards years ago. Works fine for listening, but once you want to use a microphone you're dealing with different pinouts for different manufacturers, balkanized auto detection and signaling, incompatible plugs sizing, grounding issues with the phone case, etc. It wasn't a pristine situation when Apple left it behind.

>once you want to use a microphone you're dealing with different pinouts

This is true, but ultimately they are all variations on the 1/4" phone plug, which has been a standard across multiple industries since the advent of the telephone. Adding another ring to a TRS, or changing the pinout, is a minor variation compared to Apple's alternative. The phone plug is so ubiquitous that I think the comparison is valid.

It is a good comparison to make with TRS connectors, which got hit in the crossfire. It's been a standard for decades and decades. As you say, it works perfectly for listening. And for those of us that don't want remote controls or microphones on our headphones, the connector is an unfortunate casualty of "progress".

Vote with your wallet.

My next phone will also have a headphone socket.

No kidding on standard components. When we have family gatherings and want to take a self timer group shot and I don't have a tripod, the shade attachment screw at the top of a lamp usually fits into my camera's tripod socket. The shade mount is sturdy enough to hold A small camera in place while also allowing enough pivoting and turning to frame up the shot.

Update: clearly I am not the only person to notice this: https://books.google.com/books?id=nRsTBQAAQBAJ&lpg=PA57&ots=...

Wow, that is brilliant. I never thought of using a lamp like that.

I absolutely agree... While Arca-swiss is ok, having this as "the #1 dumb thing camera companies do" really made me lose confidence in this article. I mean, seriously - it is the one thing that remains compatible with every single camera in the whole world made for the last 80 years...

As a Bogen hex plate user, I would be aghast at having an Arca Swiss mount on the bottom of my camera.

Furthermore, a permanent Arca Swiss would prevent innovative designs such as the Really Right Stuff L brackets (which would be my choice if I were to ever switch QR plate systems).

Furthermore, many QR plates are protected by patent. Having the classic screw isn’t.

Another thing with the 1/4" socket is that it's so easy to whip something up real quick to attach the camera to whatever. It could literally be as simple as pulling a hex bolt out of a box and tightening it in.

As said in this [1] article, one of the worst thing camera makers are guilty of is not slapping Android on their cameras to open up th instant publication, photo manipulation, etc. It's a shame that a professional camera is 90% of the time simply not as useful as a smartphone, even ... as a camera.

[1]: https://mondaynote.com/memo-to-camera-makers-put-android-in-...

If Android is on a camera, I want some sort of a hypervisor situation where it does not interfere with real-time operations. My Canon T4i will very responsively snap a picture once I have locked the focus, aperture, and shutter speed. I do not want to lose that and "gain" lagdroid.

Also battery life considerations. I wouldn't want to have to carry extra batteries/ wait for android to boot if I go on a hike and need to conserve battery

That would be pretty easy. Lazy solution would basically to just stick an extra processor in the existing hardware that would just poll the camera for data and time critical operations would be handled by the original system

You don't even need a separate processor, grab one of the ARM SoCs with Big/Little cores, control the camera in bare-metal /hard real time in the little core, and keep Android on the big core(s). There's some low-level driver/hal type work to get that setup - but it isn't magic or even a particularly large investment of resources.

And now you're up to your neck in a networking swamp that also drains the battery like it's going out of style. But yeah, it's easy.

Quick google search tells me that I can power a model 2 b rpi for 5 hours off of a camera battery. And you can better than an rpi for power consumption. I could be missing something here, but I used to do a lot of work that boiled down to building linux control units for machines and it genuinely isn't that difficult most of the time.

A DSLR can "sleep" with the power switch on, waiting for a shutter press for weeks. I actually have no idea how long it can go, because the drain seems to be practically zero...

This is an incredible feature. Coming from a mirrorless background, the ability to pull the camera from a waist pouch with a gloved hand, put it to my eye, and press the shutter has been a revelation.

It is many seconds faster, making shots possible that I never would have taken with my mirrorless body.

I used to cover long events with my DSLR - on a single charge, I could do two back-to-back 12-hour events, taking hundreds of images at each with the camera on the entire time, and still have some charge in reserve. Five hours isn't a lot by comparison.

Would that "extra processor" not be better off just being your phone?

If I had a pair of extra hands, perhaps. Note that this goes double into the other issues - now you're worrying about compatibility with the other device, and the communication link.

Sure but you'd wanna duct tape the phone to the camera so you don't have to hold two devices simultaneously. I can see the merits of putting android in the actual camera.

Why would you duct tape them? My phone and camera establish a wireless connection with an NFC touch point to activate it. From there I can transfer photos or use it as a remote viewfinder and shutter.

I don't want android on my camera. I just want it to be able to send all data that it's curating to my android device (which has an actually useful screen size and powerful enough cpu/gpu to do real editing) in a browsable fashion where I can see what's on the camera, and pick what to transfer. Kind of like, say... FTP over bluetooth/wifi? (or sFTP, of course).

And of course, a full input mapping for all "buttons" on the camera so that I can "press" any of them from my android device. Don't even bother labeling them appropriately, just have a button signal protocol that says "the following numbers will work, and have the following N-step granularity" and then simply supply the relevant profile both on-camera (it's a USB device after all) and as download for each camera model that can be used to resolve "number" to "name of actual button on the camera".

In fact why stop there: I want that standard to be so open that any windows, linux, osx, raspi, android, iphone, etc. user can communicate with any camera. Got a Sony and a Nikon? Why would you care, just switch profile, done.

While Android on the camera itself would be a terrible idea (it would only be useful in such a stripped down config that user apps would be pretty much impossible), seemless interoperability backed by at least two open standards would be fantastic.

I guess we'll see how long it takes IKEA to make a good camera. None of these things are new, they've all been around for decades, camera makers just can't be bothered to make cameras for people. They purely make them for money.

Bluetooth might not be great. The max transfer rate is something like 24 Mbit/s (3 MB/s), and say a single RAW file is 20 MB, then you'd be looking at about 7 seconds of transfer time for each photo.

With high quality jpegs ~5MB it would be closer to 2 seconds per picture.

I think you'd need some kind of direct cabled connection for good perf for professional photographers.

Not to mention getting all the camera and app providers to standardize on a protocol and set of features.

I wouldn't mind using a cable if it was fast and went somewhere useful on my phone. e.g. not get stuck in a shitty Canon app. My Canon 6D "has" WiFi but it's so slow and terrible to use it may as well not be there.

WiFi, 802.11ac, direct connection between devices. Would be screaming fast.

Battery life could be a concern. While using my Nikon DSLR I won't turn it off at all until I'm done for the day and that seems to barely affect the battery. I can leave it in a drawer for months, pick it up and snap a hundred pictures and put it back in the drawer for a few more months and the battery is still fine. In fact, I'd be surprised if I charge it more than once a year (mind you, since phone cameras became good enough I have very little use for my DSLR.)

I love Android (I've only had Android phones since my first smartphone), but battery efficiency is definitely not its strong suit, even on a clean install on a flagship phone.

Perhaps it just needs to be a separate system completely that shares a display and storage. Separate battery. Keep the existing highly tuned photo system. Augment by having an onboard computer.

I think people are missing the point of DSLR to some extent. They aren't meant for this sort of thing. If you want onboard editing, don't use a DSLR. It is meant to be very good at one thing. It doesn't /want/ you to edit photos in place. It wants you to load them up onto a secondary computing system. I like my D90 the way it is. It can sit for weeks and not need a charge, and it is an instantly responsive camera, that happens to have a computer.

A way to connect your phone (any phone) to the camera with some kind of sync app seems like it'd be way better than putting all of freakin' Android on the camera. Phone makers can't even keep that updated and secure, plus battery life concerns, plus it's waaaay overkill for the job. Putting it on cameras is a bad idea. Add a wired or wireless sync-to-phone option, put the phone in your pocket, snap pictures, then do the editing or whatever on the phone if that's what you're into. Less work to implement that feature, more secure, easier on the hardware and the camera's battery, more future-proof.

> I love Android (I've only had Android phones since my first smartphone), but battery efficiency is definitely not its strong suit, even on a clean install on a flagship phone.

Except your DSLR (probably) isn't trying to drive a 6" 570ppi display with a bunch of always-on wireless hardware constantly being used. That 3" 270ppi on my D5300 is consuming almost nothing by comparison, and my camera is also very aggressive at turning the screen off.

It's like when people reminisce about battery lives in their old Nokia phones and forget that they didn't stare at the screen for 5 hours a day surfing Facebook. As long as the camera manufacturer limits some background services and continues doing the same aggressive display management, it should be fine. Until the day Nikon lets you install Facebook on your camera, that is...

> While using my Nikon DSLR I won't turn it off at all until I'm done for the day and that seems to barely affect the battery.

FYI, for the most part Nikon DSLRs are always 'off' until you hit the shutter or some other button. The on/off switch just disables all the buttons so you don't accidentally hit anything. This is why people measure DSLR battery life in shots taken, not time with the camera on.

I don't understand. A phone that's 7mm thick and the size of your hand can operate for like 16-24 hours on a charge. A 1.5 lb hunk of plastic that's nearly a cubic foot in volume can't? Maybe we need better camera batteries.

A lot of the "hunk" and weight in the camera comes from needing a certain amount of room for the mirror and sensor, plus a solid coupling mechanism for the lenses, plus a good amount of surface to provide comfortable grip, plus a number of slots for all kinds of connectors (for your tripod, for you external flash), etc.

I'm not saying the design can't be improved, or that every empty recess couldn't be filled with extra battery capacity, but personally I find the current state of affairs (where you can just get an extra battery for $20 and throw it in your camera bag) better than a phone-like model with non-replaceable batteries.

Totally agreed. My point was that making the camera 75 grams heavier by adding a little more battery capacity to run Android wouldn't make a noticeable difference to most users. I would assume some pros would want the lightest possible body, but most photographers wouldn't care that much. And worst case scenario, yeah just swap batteries.

The batteries for a typical DSLR are around the 1800 mAh hour, not that different from a phone battery.

I used to get around a thousand shots out of my Canon 5D3 per battery; there's a lot of mechanical power and ~25GB of processed data going into that usage. That could be either over 2-3 hours (event coverage) or over days (landscapes). So DSLR battery life isn't really measured in hours.

I don't think the batteries need to be better, particularly since you can install a grip to let you have 2 in the camera at once, and it only takes a second to swap them.

That said, adding a separate Android subsystem (that doesn't always have an LTE radio on) shouldn't add too much drain. You could easily get 4-5 hours of screen-on time to use for photo editing and processing.

I don’t think people really want or need that. A big pro DSLR is a big investment, it will last 5-10 years easily. Any SoC will be ancient by the time it’s 5 years old, and no one will want to support it.

And who would want to edit photos on a big, heavy DSLR when they have a much more convenient smartphone, or iPad with a better screen?

The battery drain is also an issue. DSLRs use a mechanical shutter, which is sort of antiquated today. But it means one camera battery can last for hundreds or thousands of shots, and days of standby since the main screen is rarely on.

The challenge then is that quality camera chips historically vastly outdid the ability of corresponding communication chips. So if you went for the "camera as peripheral" approach, its ability to talk quickly to the phone is critical... and my 8-year-old camera produces large file sizes that would be painful over slow bluetooth of its day.

I have the lightning SD card adapter, I find it (as a hobbyist) to be pretty convenient when I want to immediately have my photos on my phone.

USB adapter here. Went on a family holiday to a tropical island recently. On the way home I downloaded all the photos and videos on our 'tough' camera. They had GPS data recorded, so they just slotted into my iOS photo library easily and got added in to the 'memories' auto-grouping.

30 minutes on the plane produced an awesome little 90 second clip I could show everyone without boring them to tears.

The camera doesn't need to run Android itself, and Android is probably too slow and power hungry to make sense in dedicated cameras. Instead think of the camera as a peripheral to the user's existing smartphone. There is a lot of room to improve connectivity and usability for that mode.

In that case the question becomes how? Bluetooth? USB? A proprietary solution like Moto Mods?

Bluetooth is probably the best option now since the bandwidth is high enough now to allow fast transfer of images and videos. Some cameras use WiFi, but that tends to be worse because then you have to drop your smartphone's WiFi connection and connect specifically to the camera's access point. USB cables are too fragile and awkward.

So a camera released just 5 years ago would be now running....Android 2.0? Slowly losing any ability to publish anything over time as services like google and facebook are cutting off support for older Android devices each year? It's the same argument as saying that PS VITA should have had Android - I disagree. If it did, it would be a horribly outdated piece of tech today, while as it is now it runs just as well as the day it came out.

I feel like it might make more sense to put a cheap Bluetooth module and let it just stream to your actual phone

I believe Sony already has this starting with the A6300.

While my A6000 doesn't have bluetooth, it supports NFC and wifi and I can easily transfer photos to my phone. Sony's PlayMemories Android app is actually pretty cool. You can use it as a remote control - seeing exactly what the camera sees. You can adjust aperture, focus, set a timer, etc.

Panasonic's GH series has a WiFi connection (not ad-hoc, but an infra point) that you can connect to and use their app.

It's not a DSLR, but that's part of why the GH cameras are awesome. Panasonic, full-stop, makes really good gear that feels pretty modern; it has a couple of things I'll beef with, like what feels like really flimsy mini (GH3) and micro (GH4) HDMI connectors, but for the most part, I love 'em.

How fast do you find the WiFi, when it comes to browsing and transferring photos over to the phone? My camera (Oly OM-D E-M5) just predates all the cameras getting WiFi as standard. :(

I only use it for remote viewfinder control, but it's snappy.


This! or develop a bluetooth SD card similar to the wifi ones that already exist, and have it communicate with your phone/tablet.... instant upgrade for all cameras

I've actually seen a camera which runs some flavor of android. It was a few years ago at Best Buy, maybe it was a Samsung, but I'm not certain. My first impression was turning it on and waiting for it to boot which took some seconds. If you've never used a digital SLR, that might seem acceptable. My Nikon D80, from a decade ago, takes some number of milliseconds (like 400) to become fully functional from a cold start. Here's an article from 2007 touting the D3s startup time of 120 milliseconds. https://www.dpreview.com/articles/9148811427/nikond3 That's a cold start, pop in a new battery and go times. Waiting seconds, puts the camera into the toy category.

The other factor is updates. I've had that Nikon D80 for 10 years, never had to worry about updates and never had to hook it up to a computer. Why trade in something with a offline, baked-in firmware for a constantly moving security target, or worse, as we see in the mobile space, an OS and app landscape that will be abandoned after two or three years and left vulnerable.

Having used the Lytro Illium, which appears to run in some flavor of Android I have to disagree.

I expect my cameras to be mechanically fast. I don’t want software getting in the way.

Sony cameras run Linux and contain an Android subsystem (mostly 2.x AFAIK). A "cold boot" takes a bit longer (3-4 seconds), the main UI and camera functions are implemented natively as far as I can tell and Android is only used for apps. It's possible to write homebrew apps [1], but there's currently no way to access the proprietary image processor, so there's not too much you can actually do. I don't think they'll open up the platform, unfortunately.

[1] https://github.com/ma1co/OpenMemories-Framework

Even better, they should've started selling smartphone camera components to smartphone makers 5 years ago. Ride the disruptive innovation and all that, instead of fighting it (and now losing).

To be honest, I don't know if putting Android on DSLRs would've helped that much. Samsung tried a bit of that, too, and it didn't really work. Panasonic did, too. Eventually the smartphones just ate them up, from the bottom up. It's what disruptive innovations typically do. Incumbents usually can't win by slapping parts of the disruptive tech onto their older incumbent tech and call it a day. That doesn't seem to work usually.

So DSLRs makers becoming lens, sensor, ISP, etc makers for the smartphone industry would've probably been a more successful approach. But they were too afraid of "cannibalizing themselves". But what disrupted incumbents who fear cannibalization always seem to miss is that the cannibalization will happen whether they do it or not. Staying out of the market won't help them that much in the long term.

The real physical limitation is the sensor size. Whatever innovation you can come up with for a tiny smartphone sensor, they would work proportionally well to improve a bigger sensor.

Isn't that what Sony did? Don't they make the lens for many of the iDevices?

Kind of, but I think it was more of an "accident" and not something they purposefully set out to do when they were getting disrupted, because they already had their own mobile division, so they probably made the decision to make sensors for their own division way before they decided to sell to companies like Apple. Once Apple knocked on their door with a huge bag of cash, they decided to take it and then they saw there could be real money in it.

But Canon and Nikon never had a mobile division to realize that they need to do that, too.

I found Filloux article thought provoking.

The argument reminds me of Polaroid film. There were two primary use cases. Ordinary snapshooters could at one point buy a new Polaroid camera for about $10. High end photographic systems accommodated Polaroid backs. A third use case was addressed by a few specialized camera models with robust high quality construction and dedicated Polaroid film paths. But for most people, 126 or 135 or 120 or sheet film was the a happy path.

The situation is similar today. Cameras running Android are ubiquitous and popular and widely used and the happy path for many many people. High end camera systems should probably be seen as including a laptop/desktop computer as part of the pixel pipeline. And there is an increasing middle ground of dedicated quality instant publishing camera equipment with a variety of engineering priorities (drones, gopros, point and shoots, and APS-C and fullframe DSLR/mirrorless).

The most useful feature of a cellphone camera is that it is always with people.

Yes that's what cameras need... Java. Ever used Android TV? Or Android for that matter? Lags and crashes on the camera OS would absolutely bug the shit out of most photographers.


One of the biggest reasons I still lug a DSLR around is because of how unpredictable the Android camera can be. After I click the shutter button, I never know how long it's going to be for it to finish auto-focusing on every object at once, balancing colors, downloading updates, reticulating splines and whatever the hell else it's doing in the background.

By the time it finishes my kids have started wandering and come out as smears on a landscape.

iOS seems to be a little better at this.

Versus the DSLR-- Set exposure, push button, take picture. Fix errors in post.

The issue is startup time. Do you want to wait 30 seconds after you turn on your camera?

By the way, some cameras do run linux, and they take 5-15 seconds to start up. If a camera does take long to startup, it is because it's running linux. These are typically security cameras, which are switched on basically only once, or as a periodic power cycle. Consumer cameras always use a RTOS. Ambarella makes chips for both cases. for example the H2 is for linux, while the S5 is the same chip but for RTOS.

My first digital camera was a Kodak DC220 [0] and it ran the Digita operating system. [1] Boot time was in the 20-30 seconds (good for the time) but you would often miss shots. "Spontaneity" wasn't in it's vocabulary. Photos were surprisingly good for a 1 megapixel camera with fixed-focus.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodak_DC_Series

[1] http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DC220/DC220Acgi.HTM

Flash memory, wow.

I'm almost certain my first digital camera wrote to floppies.

There is no reason you can't have boot in under a second.

Ew. Open up the OS but please don't replace it with Android.

I feel like we need a good standard "light" OSS OS to fill the role for such devices - both for IOT and peripheral devices like this.

That's dead on. There is a video on Digital Review where they compared someone using their iphone to post an instagram photo vs a good camera and copying it via wifi to the phone to post.

With my LX10 you can batch transfer the photos so that it makes it easier. But it's still a pain. (You have to manually connect with the phone etc)

There should be a service connection on Panasonic's side to say: this camera id is configured for these services and accounts and I should be able to view the photo on the camera and post directly to say imgur. (No phone needed)

Android isn't really designed for fixed-function devices like cameras. The App model isn't suitable here.

What you really need is an API set that attaches to each function of the camera that third-party developers can use process/publish photos.

So, instead of turning on the camera and seeing a grid of apps, each one you have to figure out separately, you should turn on the camera and see the camera interface. Apps can then add additional functionality to this interface. And when it comes time to review the photo, a third-party app can enhance this section as well, perhaps to post on Instagram or other effects.

But the grid-of-apps is a horrible model for a fixed-function device like a camera. You're ALREADY in the camera, don't need to add another separate layer to interface to it. Just add the ability to enhance these sections.

The pro photographers and photo journalists who spend the most money on "pro" cameras don't care about instant publication and on camera manipulation because they already have better workflows for those.

Android isn't required for those features, anyway. My Nikon allows quite a bit of manipulation and pre-processing before generating a JPEG.

For some context of what a big name pro photographer might be working with, check out [1]. He's spending a lot of money, and he's not manipulating pictures on camera and sending them to Instagram in real time.

[1] https://petapixel.com/2017/05/06/heres-one-photographers-cam...

From the article, the use case is being able to post photos to Instagram?

Rather than junk up my camera with Android, why not just enable it to easily sync with the smartphone of choice, and I can Instagram/Fb the pic from there?

I personally wouldn't care as much about that being on the camera if there was an instant and automatic way to transfer it to my phone (e.g. via bluetooth). I'd find it to be more useful that way.

I wish the Moto Z's mods became a standard - an Android phone that you can slap onto a device to make it "smart" would be best of both worlds.

Sadly, the Hasselblad camera mod available for the Moto Z is widely considered an overpriced joke, but it demonstrates how you can make a "have your cake and eat it too" design using the Mods concept.

The shutter lag on my Nikon is 40ms. Can Android do that?

Here's another dumb thing. The camera companies make things harder and more expensive for underwater photographers by making minor changes to size, shape, and control positioning in every new model. Much of this is just change for the sake of change and doesn't actually improve functionality. Every little change means photographers need a completely different waterproof housing. These are quite expensive, often more than the camera itself. So you see a lot of underwater photographers still using old cameras because even if they could afford a new camera they can't afford a new housing for it. The camera companies are missing out on those potential upgrade sales.

And one more dumb thing. They don't include internal GPS receivers or electronic compasses for geotagging even in fairly expensive models. The chips cost <$10 now so this is just a silly limitation. Add-on GPS receivers tend to be bulky and fragile.

While GPS chips might seem like an obvious addition, it might negatively affect other camera functions like battery life.

That has massive import/export implications, changes how you can ship them, all sorts of nonsense. As always, when a group of hundreds of smart engineers are doing something superficially inexplicable, it's actually either:

a) complicated, and a good idea, or b) complicated, because of the government.

I don't accept that. Many cameras, even some cheap point-and-shoot cameras, do include GPS receivers. I have an old Canon Powershot S100 with GPS that was sold all over the world for less money than a smartphone. So obviously the import/export and shipping implications aren't that massive. There's no valid reason to exclude that feature from DSLRs any more.

> I don't accept that.

For a start you need to deal with the laws in China. They apply not only to items sold in China, but also to items brought into the country (eg by customers). Economies of scale make this easier with widely sold products, and more painful for low volume products (higher cost of implementation per unit sold). Repeat for laws in other countries.


My point and shoot from a few years ago had two pages in the manual covering the builtin GPS usage in China.

c) to improve profit margins at customer UX expense.

Many cameras have had GPS modules and none have suffered from this problem.

It's easily solved by polling infrequently (you don't move a lot when taking photos) and only polling when you're actually using your camera.

GPS can be turned off.

GPS based on solely on satellite signals tends to require several to tens of minutes before it can provide an accurate location. Cell phone geolocation tends to much much faster because it utilizes terrestrial radio signals from cell towers and wifi networks and who knows what else...a database of such signals is part of the what else.

Erm, my Garmin GPSMAP 64 can get a fix after a reboot in about one second. And if I didn't boot it in a few months it takes 15 seconds tops.

You are thinking of very old and very crappy GPSes.

Today GPSes not only get a fix very quickly, but don't even use much battery. My Garmin records tracks continuously through daylight for several days until I have to replace the two AA batteries.

[1] https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/140020

Thanks. I'd expect better performance out of bespoke hardware than a camera feature. That's why if GPS was really something I wanted, I'd get a handheld GPS because it's less than the bulk and weight of many lenses.

An accurate GPS receiver literally weighs a few grams now. I have one in my wristwatch. Weight and bulk aren't valid reasons to leave GPS out of cameras.

I don't disagree. For me, if I really cared about GPS, I would buy a GPS and drop it in a pocket. I would not tie a camera decision to its availability or unavailability because GPS does not really affect how I rate the quality of my photographs. On the other hand, if I was taking crime scene photographs where geolocation had evidentiary value, then my concerns might be different.

My old point-and-shoot camera with a built-in GPS receiver can go from completely powered off (battery out) to an accurate GPS fix in under 4 minutes as long as it has an unobstructed view of the sky. So your time estimate is way too high in most cases.

Cell phones are even faster because they pick up an initial approximate location from the cell phone tower and also automatically download GPS satellite ephemeris data.

To me, four minutes seems to fall in the range of "several to tens of minutes."

Sorry, I misread your earlier comment.

Laptops (and phones) use the mac addresses of nearby wifi networks to approximate location (especially inside buildings where GPS signal is low.)

Though it requires an internet connection an online database to actually compute the location. So, probably not as useful for a camera.

skyhookwireless.com is one example of a wifi location database.

I could only imagine if Apple took all of their camera expertise from the iPhone and all of their existing Chip expertise and all of their Operating Systems expertise to create a Semi-Pro Mirrorless camera.

Imagine full iOS integration, super fast A-11 Bionic chip (same as iPhone), high throughput wireless components, custom OS (like WatchOS), developer API, W2 chip for Bluetooth pairing, OLED screen, and beautiful lightweight aluminum housing.

That would completely change the market. But we can only dream.

Sounds like an iPhone with a bigger camera chip.

I don’t think Apple will venture into dedicated camera equipment. The iPhone camera is one of the big selling points and keeps people upgrading. Apple will not sacrifice their cash cow for a comparatively niche market. A dedicated device also goes against the unification that Apple seems to pursue.

> Apple will not sacrifice their cash cow for a comparatively niche market.

I never understood that reasoning. As an individual, I can't simultaneously develop 10 different products, but a large company sitting on billions in cash could develop 1000 niche products simultaneously.

In fact, some large companies (Procter & Gamble, 3M, General Electric) have thousands or tens of thousands of products.

To use your Apple example, why couldn't Apple create a professional camera division, giving them $25 million startup money, and tell them to never bother the iPhone team, but do give them access to the source code, engineering drawings, and contacts in the supply chain.

It seems very fashionable for tech companies to be very narrowly focused. They work on the one thing that is making the most money at that moment. If any experimental development isn't a wild success, it's shut down right away. All of those make sense if you're an individual or struggling startup, but if you have billions just sitting there, what's the harm in trying many things at once?

I think this is slightly changing at Apple, and in my opinion will slowly make things much worse.

One of the first things Steve Jobs on returning to Apple did was to cull what he felt were unnecessary products, and product groups. You could argue that Apple is large enough now to have thousands of products, but what was clear is that Jobs had the defining vision and no single person can have a single defining vision of thousands of products.

To use your example you cannot create a camera division and not allow inter-group communication because you are then building products in exactly the same way as someone like Sony. You end up with disconnected systems, nothing integrates together well and in-fighting between the groups.

I remember looking for a 32" Sony TV a decade or so ago, and there were 5 or 6 different models all at slightly different price brackets and with different discounts everything became muddled. Sony of course were simply capturing every portion of the market they could, from the person who wanted the cheapest to the person who wants the best.

I'd like to see Apple re-focus, make single models of iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iMac and the Apple Watch. Stop trying to capture as much of the market as possible and just focus on a limited number of highly integrated devices.

>I'd like to see Apple re-focus, make single models of .. MacBook, iMac

Apple made multiple models of iMacs and MacBooks (and PowerBooks) under Jobs - I think this would be a horrible idea, for computers specifically you just can’t address everyones needs with one size of laptop/desktop screen.

what's the harm in trying many things at once?

Bad PR when you eventually close them down. See Google: they ran Reader for eight years and gave people plenty of time to migrate. Half a decade later, it's still used as an example of why they can't be trusted. Regardless of whether that's justifiable or not, it's an harm to the company's image. Better to just dump money into external startups (see Google Ventures) and then acquire them if they're interesting.

Big companies usually work either by C-level exec fiat or by middle management promotion plans. Neither of which usually want small fish. If you work for a $100 billion company and you say: I need $25 million to pursue an idea that might make the company 2x or 3x, there's a good chance they'll say: no, sorry. We prefer to invest that $25 million to either improve our $5 billion product or invest in an idea that could become another $5 billion product.

And from this we get the innovator's dilemma :)

That's why they should take that 25 million and invest it in startups that might become competitors one day.

It's just not elegant to try to put everything under one company. Better to buy back 25 million of stock from an investor, who can then buy one of those startups and run it independently.

I don't think they're that afraid of digital camera startups :)

It's not about being afraid, it's about letting other companies try innovations that won't succeed within your own company.

I think there's several arguments why Apple would not want to attack this niche market.

The strongest one is talent dilution. If they poach talent from existing teams, then the new project must be more profitable to make that a good idea. Building a new team from scratch is not an easy task - you need management that can guarantee the same level of productivity/QA that other teams have. The team leads that can produce this kind of top quality are rare - why would you spend them on the niche market instead of advancing your main product? (unless they can find a leader who is only interested in the camera niche)

The second one would be the profitability of this niche market. Why wouldn't Apple just invest money in P&G stock(or whatever, I don't know much about the stock market) - do they really expect the investment into the camera niche market to bring better gains?

I know Procter & Gamble owns a ton of brands, and I don't know if there's any cross-effect when one brand fails. My suspicion is that Apple won't be able to get away with low scrutiny, even if they spin off their own "NotAppleAtAll" cameras. This may be a third concern for them.

Less related, but many of P&G's products are direct competitors, e.g. Ariel and Tide laundry detergent. Perhaps that's just not a business model that Apple is interested in pursuing?

"As an individual, I can't simultaneously develop 10 different products, but a large company sitting on billions in cash could develop 1000 niche products simultaneously."

Because the question faced by large companies, and even merely medium-sized and small companies, is not what can we do, but what's the best thing to do.

If I've got a product line with 100 engineers that is making me a million per engineer, and I've got a product line with 5 engineers making a quarter million per engineer, and I decide I'm going to hire 10 more engineers, even though it is true that I can't guarantee that the scaling numbers will hold when I add more engineers, it is still often the rational choice to assign those 10 new engineers to my very profitable product. In fact it can make sense to eliminate the product line with 5 engineers and put them on the really profitable product. The fact that I could do 11 projects with 10 engineers each isn't very interesting because odds are that the other 10 projects won't be as profitable, and I won't get anywhere near as much money.

Meanwhile, some other company in the market might very happily take on the less profitable, but still profitable, smaller niche. They can do it with different degrees of overhead, maybe in a different cheaper location, and perhaps with fewer compliance requirements bearing down on them, etc.

There are, of course, endless, endless nuances and "what ifs" you could play. This comment is not a course in resource allocation for business. It's just a comment intended to point you in the direction of answering the question "Why don't GooFaceZonaSoft do all the things?" in a reasonable manner. It also explains why GooFaceZonaSoft still acts resource constrained quite often, and why despite the fact the tech industry tends to develop very large giants at the top there's always, always a ton of smaller companies and there's never any risk that the entire industry is all going to consolidate into one big company, because the first thing that mega corporation would do is divest a ton of the less profitable sub-businesses, which would promptly reform externally.

If you create a premium product that is successful but limits the room for your mass product you risk a competitor eating your mass product, if you don't limit the mass product then you likely trash your premium product. There needs to be a natural need for the premium offer that partitions the product space such as cost of materials or design, and allows you to pull huge margin from the niche to discount the risk you take on it.

Been said many times before but I’ll say it again:

If money could buy great products, Microsoft would still be relevant.

This isn't Apple's MO. They are big on secrets, big on integration, big on higher ASP but fewer products (though that's changing with increased Apple's market cap).

Apple continues to be unique and continues to be questioned as to the viability of their uniqueness.

(edit: clarity)

They only have so many people, and they’re already having trouble delivering the products they have now. I think the airpods are just now available in stores as of a couple weeks ago. And the same thing for the iPhone X, most people probably won’t have them until 2018.

Especially considering that they're delving into multiple cameras, phased array cameras would let them create 'virtual' apertures the size of the phone back, for example.

I would very much enjoy playing with something along those lines.

Apple has no problems cannibalizing its own products. That being said, I don't think they would do dedicated cameras.

They were pretty pioneering with the Quicktake camera in the 1990s, but ducked out when digital cameras started to become mainstream https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_QuickTake

The profit potential isn’t there. Apple probably makes more money selling dongles than they’d ever make with a camera.

Also, the Mac Pro fiasco makes me doubtful that Apple wants to be in any pro markets anymore.

How many years in a row are people going to make this proclamation? First it was not making screens anymore, then it was Final Cut Pro X, then it was iOS and the iPad, then it was the Mac Pro. Never mind that the Mac Pro is a great machine, and they've already announced the iMac Pro and hinted at a newer Mac Pro that is more in line with people's expectations. At this point, no matter what they do, people will say, "they don't care about the Pro market anymore." It's ridiculous.

The controversy was not about nothing. Lots of professional users did not upgrade because they were not happy with the new offering.

It's a fairly small and rapidly shrinking market - mostly because of camera phones, so this is incredibly unlikely, obviously

The Full Frame and above DLSR market is not really shrinking though. It's certainly not a huge market, but it's ripe for disruption since the pace of innovation of the current incumbents is very, very slow.

The DSLR market is shrinking, simply because everyone who wants one already has one and there are no compelling reasons to upgrade. There was a golden period of a few years where if you wanted a decent camera a DSLR was the best option, so the market expanded quickly. Those days are over.

Adding the features identified in the post would cure the "no reason to upgrade" problem, at least temporarily. But the market for serious cameras is pretty much fixed and easily saturated.

I was talking about "Full frame and above" please don't just my comment about DSLRs in general. APS-C size sensors DSLRs do not fit in my description, and that is the category that is shrinking the most.

OK, that may be true. But I propose that it's still a temporary situation, as APS-C DSLR users upgrade. The larger sensor camera market will saturate as well.

No - what Apple will do is evolve the iPhone camera(s) and computational photography, over and over every year, pushing it further and further until most of the needs for a mirrorless camera are gone.

Rather than disrupt the high end consumer camera market with a camera in 2 years, they’ll do it with iPhone in 5 or 10 years.

An alternative - a partnership with Canon on Nikon where they would build a shell around the iPhone that would accept DSLR lenses, and build an iOS app to have all the DSLR features, with deep integration (like panorama, could make use of the other lens, AI, etc). They make more money on lenses anyway, let apple sell razors while they continue to sell razorblades. Furthermore, the case itself would cost $100-$200, which coupled with the phone would be > $1000, while the "normal" DSLR sensor shell is already about $600, so it still leaves room for both products. Also, it would even lower the barrier to entry to purchase DSLR lenses for current iPhone owners, which would increase lens sales. Assuming it works from a technical perspective, I don't really see a downside with this business model.

> That would completely change the market. But we can only dream.

No, it really wouldn't. Look at the heavyweights right now, they all either have a ton of expertise in optics or in sensors. That market cares more about glass selection, sensors and taking pictures than bells and whistles like iOS would provide.

It would only make sense from a financial perspective if the market they were entering (think: auto) is bigger than the one they could be endangering (mobile).

Also, would they then be making camera sensors? Or would they just figure Sony (whose profits they'd be stepping on) would just take it? Do they have a 2nd source for this critical component?

They could buy Leica and build a new M series camera, it could be massively expensive and still be an insane hit.

This is closer to what a real world vision of my description would look like. However as others mentioned, it’s an incredibly small category relative to everything else Apple do. Apple isn’t one for distractions.

Beats worked because it built on their iPhone and music streaming strategy rather than replacing pieces of either.

Leica Q is a really nice camera that compromises between ease of use and high quality optics. No need to bring Apple into the mix. I’ve owned many M series bodies and lenses but I still use the Q the most often.

Apple could take their MacBook experience and make a phenomenal netbook. There's no argument that it would be the finest netbook of all time.

But that, too, would be moving in the wrong direction.

Apple could take their MacBook experience and make a phenomenal netbook.

They kind of did when they released the MacBook Air.

And even moreso, the new 'macbook'

You are absolutely right. It makes no sense for them to invest in something like that. Especially at the scale that they operate at. iPhones have completely changed what photography means at a basic level.

However, I would still love to have something like I described.

What about Macbook Air? That should count. Or what do you imagine as a "netbook"? Something even smaller? Or something cheaper?

Finest and most expensive.

Great article.

I was hoping that the author would add something about the UIs of these cameras. The bodies of modern DSLRs are jampacked with every kind of knob, control, button, dial, and dongle that you can possibly think of.

To a large extent, that's kind of the whole point — these cameras are for professionals and professionals ostensibly need to be able to adjust every aspect of their picture. But in practice, 95% of users aren't using 95% of these adjusters 95% of the time. Most people are changing their aperture, exposure compensation, and a small handful of other things, and yet, dozens of other readily-available and features are still bolted onto the camera that get used roughly never.

There are other downsides besides complexity too. Fuji's mirrorless X100 series is a popular camera with consumers and for years it's shipped with an exposure compensation dial right at the top edge of its body. For just as many years the thing's been loose enough and with little enough inset from the outside that whenever you throw it in a bag or something, there's a pretty reasonable chance that it'll come out cranked all the one way or the other. Sometimes you don't notice, and there goes your shot.

The possible fixes are pretty easy — either move it in so it's less prone to accidental adjustment, or take the units off the thing so that it could optionally be reset every time you turn the camera on, but Fuji will probably never fix the problem – the way things are is the way things are, and they should stay that way.

It would be insanely great if instead of just cargo culting what they themselves have done in the past and what everyone else is doing, camera manufacturers started to think about optimizing these designs for the benefit of the user a little bit. Unfortunately, they never seem to.

> The bodies of modern DSLRs are jampacked with every kind of knob, control, button, dial, and dongle that you can possibly think of.

That's what I actually like on the more "expensive" camera's, the ability to control everything just with single click/rotation.

I'm mostly shooting manual, on my Canon 5D I have a dial for apperture, smaller dial for shutter speed and a knob for the focus point(s). When I used Canon 500D from my friend, I couldn't use it in manual as this requires you to push one button, to then change the shutter speed with a dial (the same one that controls the apperture (or vice versa I can't remember anymore)).

But I think canon is doing it alright as the "entry" level DSLR's like 500D are meant for normal users who just want a point and click camera for most of the time, and don't need that many knobs and dials. While the professional versions have a lot of controls.

But then again, this all goes to personal preference, and most users will buy a camera that they like to use, with or without many controls. I haven't seen anyone with a 5D saying "I'm not happy with total control of my camera", but I heard more people say "Damn, I wish you could change this value much faster and not go to the touchscreen"

> That's what I actually like on the more "expensive" camera's, the ability to control everything just with single click/rotation

I use Nikon and have gone from D200, D300, and now a D700 because I love the quick and direct access to a lot of the controls. The consumer bodies are great cameras but once you become accustomed to the layout it is really useful and logical. I presume the Canon pro range is similar.

Nikon is known to be one of the best at quick access through shortcut physical buttons. The problem with Nikon is discoverability is bad, but once you're in the know it's awesome. According to some, the shortcuts are better than what Canon provides. I've never even held a Canon camera so I can't comment. :)

Yeah, I'd definitely concede that some people are making pretty frequent use of this stuff, but I meant to suggest that if you really started looking around, you might be in the minority. Optimizing for the majority of buyers would probably involve removing a few things that most people are probably never going to use.

> But then again, this all goes to personal preference, and most users will buy a camera that they like to use, with or without many controls. I haven't seen anyone with a 5D saying "I'm not happy with total control of my camera", but I heard more people say "Damn, I wish you could change this value much faster and not go to the touchscreen"

There might be a few other options for design around this type of thing. I really like Leica's approach here for example: keep the settings that are really often needed on the body, relegate the less-frequently used features to menus, but then provide accessible custom profiles that are totally user-configurable and which can be switched between easily. After doing a few test shoots with a Leica Q, it feels like a nearly perfect compromise to me.

>Optimizing for the majority of buyers would probably involve removing a few things that most people are probably never going to use.

You think people aren't buying cameras on the level of the 5D because there are too many buttons and knobs, and not because the market for a $2.3k US camera is small to begin with? The thing could be completely smooth and still only dedicated camera aficionados or professionals would buy it at that price.

> features are still bolted onto the camera that get used roughly never

I see your argument about making sensible choices on smaller form factors but DSLRs aren't point and shoot.

There's only one button I "roughly never" use on my D750 (the little "i" button). Everything else gets a hot supper. And it's not just that I use those features, I mean I use them all the time. In environments where I need the muscle-memory to affect them quickly. Things like ISO, bracketing, flash and focus and aperture priority modes. I don't think I'm unique.

I won't tolerate a camera that forces me to disengage with what I'm doing so I can fanny around in a menu system.

Maybe they HAVE thought of these things, and what you think consumers want in cameras is wrong? I disagree with almost everything you want for cameras and would consider them worse products if they implemented them. Not everything should be a shitty tap-screen mobile interface awash in whitespace and crappy icons. Physical controls are better, when you don’t have time or attention to fiddle with displays. That you don’t understand that is not a failure on the part of camera companies.

There are actually very few controls that you need to fiddle with while you're taking the picture. Take white balance for example - you only need to set it when lighting conditions change, it's very unlikely that you need to change it on every shot. A touchscreen for that would be better than having to scroll through the choices with a control wheel or buttons.

The modern trend of replacing descriptive text with icons needs to die.

> The bodies of modern DSLRs are jampacked with every kind of knob, control, button, dial, and dongle that you can possibly think of. ... But in practice, 95% of users aren't using 95% of these adjusters 95% of the time.

Amen. I've been casually shooting with a Nikon D70 and now a D7000 for around 15 years now. Here's an illustrated guide to every single physical control on the D7000, which isn't even a high-end camera:


...and for many of those I'd need to read the manual to find out what they even do (Fn? Lv?) and I struggle to find any reason I'd need to twiddle with, say, the image compression (QUAL) so urgently that it needs a dedicated shortcut button.

> But in practice, 95% of users aren't using 95% of these adjusters 95% of the time.

Not a snark: maybe 95% of users didn't need a semi-pro DSLR and should have gone with a smartphone or a point-and-shoot instead? The remaining 5% need those knobs and controls, and would be left with a less useful camera if they were removed or simplified.

I'm in that 5%, for sure. When looking for a smaller camera than my DSLRs to carry around I was tempted by the Ricoh GR and Sony RX100 series, but ultimately their lack of manual controls turned me away and I went with Fuji's X100T.

I want long lenses for taking pictures of my kids playing soccer. The phone on my camera just isn't going to work for that. Nor will point-and-shoot telephotos because they're too slow to focus.

> ...and for many of those I'd need to read the manual to find out what they even do (Fn? Lv?) and I struggle to find any reason I'd need to twiddle with, say, the image compression (QUAL) so urgently that it needs a dedicated shortcut button.

Right! Physical buttons and dials are great, but after a certain point adding new ones isn't an improvement to the interface anymore. Too many of them makes the interface overly complex and more prone to accidental adjustment. `QUAL` is a perfect example of something that belongs in a menu.

I've been using a Sony A6000 lately, which has a great auto mode that will pick pretty much every parameter for a shot for you and do a good job of it. As you learn more about the camera and photography you can start taking more control.

However, I've found that smart phone cameras have gotten so good that they match or even beat the A6000 for a lot of shots so I tend to use it only for very specific kinds of pictures now.

They are already aware of this, and already tweak cameras accordingly. Have you ever compared the buttons, switches and dials on a Rebel to a 5D? Every time I try to shoot with a Rebel I find myself wondering where all the buttons I want to use have gone.

> Sometimes you don't notice, and there goes your shot.

That's because you're not using the EVF, which you should be. The single most useful feature combination I find on the x100 series cameras is the EVF combined with the exposure compensation dial. This relates to the following annoyance from the article:

> No focus information in viewfinder

Any need for this is negated by a well implemented electronic viewfinder. Fuji are killing it on this aspect. An EVF will give you: exact framing, exposure, white balance, focus, and depth of field. You get none of this in a traditional optical viewfinder. It completely removes the need to "chimp" and you can concentrate on shooting photographs rather than reviewing what you just shot.

> That's because you're not using the EVF, which you should be. The single most useful feature combination I find on the x100 series cameras is the EVF combined with the exposure compensation dial.

That's a fairly strange assumption to make. A performant EVF is one of Fuji's greatest innovations, and also one of its most conspicuous. Of course I'm using it.

Unfortunately, sometimes you're shooting from the hip (literally or figuratively), and not verifying every setting before you do. Sometimes, the EVF is almost unusable because you're out in bright sunlight. The existence of an EVF doesn't compensate for poor body design.

If you're shooting from the hip then, by definition, you're not using the EVF. I'm surprised you've had problems in bright sunlight, I can't ever recall the EVF being hindered by that (I've spent three years shooting a project with the local ski club with the camera so it's fair to say I've seen plenty of bluebird days).

As an economist: isn't this 'just' an example of software eating the world?

One the one hand, quality camera's should keep upgrading the periferal hardware to keep match with modern IT-supplies and on the other hand keep a focus on durable products. Why wouldn't producers do this? Cost savings and probably price competition.

The competition (smart phones) have a whole different market. They have a product that people (regretably?) replace every 2-3 years. The market dictates the newest techniques. Pictures are sensors + software. Software has a much shorter improvement cycle. Hence, I would expect a continuously larger part of the camera market to 'fall' for the smartphone camera. Heck, the 'official' advice from my preferred reviewers is not to buy a small camera anymore, but use the savings for a better smartphone.

And then you have large old-camera corporations struggling because their highest margin products (just a guess that that was the little cameras in the former days, not the professionaly product) are falling away. So they don't have the money to keep their high-end products up quality wise nor the institutional awareness to quickly adapt. Cycle a few times... Read OP.

> The competition (smart phones) have a whole different market. They have a product that people (regretably?) replace every 2-3 years. The market dictates the newest techniques. Pictures are sensors + software. Software has a much shorter improvement cycle. Hence, I would expect a continuously larger part of the camera market to 'fall' for the smartphone camera. Heck, the 'official' advice from my preferred reviewers is not to buy a small camera anymore, but use the savings for a better smartphone.

The old corporations in the field (Canon, Nikon, Sony) should make you pay for better firmwares (i.e. plugins or at least revisions) so that they have an incentive to keep improving their existing DLSRs. I think on my previous body there was only ONE update in x years and that did not bring anything new on the table.

Thanksfully nowadays we have MagicLantern for Canon DSLRs at least, which brings a ton of additional features for photo and video. It's still not at a parity level with the software available on phones and the like, but it's a big jump vs the base firmware nonetheless.

At least Fuji and Olympus have realised the new model cycle is getting longer so they are releasing new firmware features until the replacing model is launched.

Canikon aren't doing new features in firmwares, seems more like bug fixes and Sony is somewhere inbetween at least with the A7-series...

Sony A7 series have also some kind of small apps you can buy and download from their store to your camera. Haven't seen that many apps there =(

Finding, downloading, and using those apps is a whole exercise in pain tolerance. Took me an hour-plus to download the timelapse app.

>> Took me an hour-plus to download the timelapse app.

Oh wow. I had the same experience. In my case I just wanted to update the existing apps I had installed. Apparently you need a Sony entertainment account to install apps (it must be a new requirement as I never had one when I installed the apps in the first place).

I tried for 15 minutes to create an account using the camera.

    * My A6000 doesn't have a touch screen so I had to use the camera's wheels to operate the on-screen keyboard
    * The account creation page is non-responsive.
You would think Sony Entertainment Network's account login/creation webpage would be responsive so it would be usable within the camera OR there would be a completely different page. NO, it is the same desktop, non-responsive page including Google's painful anti-bot script which requires me to select 10 images that represent street signs using the camera wheel.

Amazingly, I could actually use the A6000 to create an account, but it kept erroring out when submitting. Finally, I realized it would be easier to just use my laptop and to my surprise it still failed because their account creation was down. About 10 attempts later it still failed with a slightly different error, but I still received the account creation success email (?) and was able to login fine after that.

Edit: Formatting.

Good point. That would be a camera as a platform-model. We're half-way there in re-assembling a market structure that can withstand the 'new' pressures. The only way for a truely decent product, would be a decoupling of 1. camera as high quality parts for making great pictures, 2. camera as a communications device, 3. software.

Alas, I can think of exactly no digital examples of that market structure to work. Perhaps the old-school PC hit that mark. How many of those are still around? Perhaps we can see cloud computing as hitting that mark (separating 1,2,3), but still we need a complete device (1+2+3) to interact with the cloud.

Why would they try to compete with smartphones? Dropping product differentiation when the competition comes from "a whole different market" doesn't really make sense.

This seems more like an issue of quality control.

They're not choosing to compete with smartphones - smartphones are eating into their market thus forcing competition. As smartphone cameras have improved the more they've eaten into the market. Note that this argument does not require that all users of their cameras would ever consider using a smartphone instead.

What market? Smartphones and high end cameras aren't really comparable. They compete in the sense that they're both able to take pictures, but they don't compete across all possible dimensions. I mean, I could be wrong, but these don't look like substitute goods. Smartphones and crappy cameras certainly are, but not not smartphones and high-end cameras. But using cheaper parts does make cameras crappier, so doing so in order to engage in price competition is choosing to compete with smartphones.

Which is what I don't understand. Because, as far as I know, firms should engage in product differentiation as long as it's possible.

The point is that as software improves, phone cameras are starting to compete in the traditional dslr arena. On my last vacation I took a roughly 50/50 split in pictures between my dslr and iphone7+.

Of course the dslr can do more, but the ease that a phone + software can make a wide range of really nice pics is eating into the consumer level dslr market. I like taking pictures, so I don't mind fidgeting on my dslr for the perfect shot. Meanwhile my wife has taken multiple great looking pics on her phone is wondering what I'm doing ;)

> What market?

It's a great question and I don't know.

What I do know is that I have not bought/used a dedicated camera since about the time smartphones came along. Nor have any of my family members - they all used to have dedicated cameras used to take holiday photos, photos of their children, birthdays and so on. Now they just use their phone.

This must have an effect on the camera manufacturers.

The companies historically creating cameras had a business model creating low to high end cameras. That's unravelling. Coping with quickly changing markets is hard. So even though smartphones and high end cameras aren't compatible and not substitute goods, the institution creating those cameras suffer with no good alternative as of yet. Hence the movement towards crappy high end cameras.

Yeah, I see it now. But then it ceases to be an issue of direct competition between high end cameras and smartphones and becomes an issue of shrinking economies of scale and scope e.g. raw material orders become smaller and lose previous supplier discounts and crappy camera designs which were "subproducts" of better designs are no longer feasible and thus all the cost falls on high-end designs instead of being split among several models.

Camera makers do or have produced cameras with lesser or comparable qualities (for at least certain classes of use, such as for everyday users). These compete against smartphones. Another case is the users who might buy a higher end camera but now find that decision hard to justify when for their purposes smartphones are at least adequate. A third case is there being less of a demand for professional photographers these days, in part because of smartphones, which also is a kind of competition that higher end cameras have to deal with.

The bar of what smartphone cameras are capable of doing keeps rising, keeps eating into the territory of what previously required a standalone camera.

All these things are competition that eat into profits, which in turn may affect those companies' abilities to produce high end cameras. Eg they may only be able to use cheaper components compared with what they could afford in the past.

>I mean, I could be wrong, but these don't look like substitute goods.

Smartphones have destroyed the compact consumer camera market. There is no hyperbole there. Professional cameras? Sales of those are going down also, depending on how you define them of course (SLR is probably appropriate to call "professional")

Sales of prosumer and up SLRs are going down primarily because newer models don't add enough useful features to justify the price. The new Nikon D850 looks like a great camera, but if you have a D810 that's working just fine the minor improvements that the D850 bring could be hard to justify for the price tag ($3.3k US).

People who buy that level of camera understand, moreso than the general public, that, for example, an increase from a 36 to a 45 megapixel sensor may be nice, but in the end the photos both cameras produce are still great and whoever sees them in print or exported for the internet would never be able to tell the difference.

but these don't look like substitute goods

I know lots of people who used to carry DSLRs everywhere but who now only carry their iPhone.

I'm actively trying to become one of those people. The weight alone is a pain while traveling/hiking.

As I wrote the other day in a different context, when prices got low enough, a lot of people bought DSLRs with cheapo kit lenses, turned the control dial to Auto, and lugged them around to take snapshots for posting to Facebook. For the most part, smartphones have gotten good enough that, if that's how you use a DSLR, you should mostly leave it at home.

Many people do have a number of lenses and use DSLRs for creative control but they may not even be a minority. Heck, I'm a relatively serious amateur photographer and I often don't bother carrying a dedicated camera today if I know I'll just be doing some occasional casual shooting.

I'm mostly one of those people, but I still often lug the DSLR because even the best smartphone cameras still suck at shooting distant subjects. They may have a lot of megapixels, but the lenses and sensors are so small that once I crop the shot down I end up with something I would be ashamed to even post on Facebook. Even the cheapest DSLR kit zoom lens produces dramatically better images.

On a recent vacation I found myself leaving my 70-300mm on my dslr for times I need reach, and using my iPhone7+ for other shots. Worked out pretty well.

I know about two of those people, but I attribute their change of heart more to a passing fad.

Indeed. 'Big corp' would find it very hard to react when a profitable segment of their portfolio drops out (smartphone vs. simple camera / so you're struggling financially), while competition or complexity ramps up in another part of their portfolio (high end camera / I figure a new market structure is needed, but never before tried out).

Snarky: It's just not thaught that way in business schools. Lookup Nikons financial trouble. Canon has no financial trouble, but seems to be quickly moving to other markets that are profitable (medical supplies). So perhaps they will just drop out of this market in a few years.

I disagree with this article in a lot of ways; the tripod mount is about the closest thing to mattering to a field/wedding/studio photographer.

- IR Remote; Works in the studio (or in the field) because your lighting is to the sides or front (if it's behind the camera, you have shadow)

- USB/Wifi version. The typical pro is taking 300-3000 clicks before uploading to lightroom for post; between this there are many other time sucks: A) transportation back to the studio B) unpacking your camera gear backpack C) showering bathroom. I don't know how this is interfering. The field shooters are traditionally switching multiple cards from a day/week/second shooter - there HD gig and backup purposes never have them go camera to computer.

- Slow card writes; this affects burst and you'll find the best sports cameras either compensate with ram or have faster card writes. Of course, this matters more with video.

I can agree with some of the the points though; better AF UX; though I appreciate my classic dot that lights up and I can preference with a joypad. The better tripod mount. And battery grips should mount through the tripod/battery/base and need no cables (my camera battery grips work like this)

I also don't want android apps; for the most part, i even resist a program that does multi exposure for fireworks - especially now that anybody with an iphone can take that picture, probably better.

D500 owner. Clearly the original post was directed at the high end and reads much like first world problems and to the extent that much of his wish list is not on all cameras can be attributed to profit margins.

I agree with the raw stuff and perhaps the focus as well (though what he asks is just a function of modern day laziness).

I disagree with the wifi and usb issues. I can count how many times I have used wifi. And only at home. Really do not want to be having to set up wifi access at every location, do not want the security risk of wifi, and most imporant - do not want the battery drain of wifi.

As to USB - give it a couple years and the usb connections will be type C. Camera companies are very conservative and won't punt on the traditional until they are certain it won't be a hardship. USB 3.0 is already available on the d500 and d850.

The d500 and d850 for sure have UHS-II, I'm sure similar Canon models do as well.

Which brings up another point - I don't transfer files over USB either. For the most part, I take the card out and use a reader with laptop or desktop. The USB is nice to have when using other equipment but I find it no inconvenience to use the card manually.

Agree on battery drain, I can leave my D300s on for days and it still has battery left.

If it had WiFi it would be a matter of hours.

Slow card writes: CF is faster than all SD formats, IIRC. Which is why high end cameras always have CF. Usually at least on the Canon side for the past few generations they couple this with SD. If you shoot to an SD slot, you notice the buffering a lot more than if you shoot to the CF. FWIW, I've only very rarely encountered issues after purchasing a high end CF on high end Canons. Currently I have a 5DS. Previously 1DS Mk III.

> you'll find the best sports cameras either compensate with ram or have faster card writes

Don't most DSLRs do this? I know my low end Sony Alpha will buffer about 7-10 frames from a burst before getting constrained by card write speeds.

My pet-peeve with modern DSLR's is that none of these manufacturers seem to care about motion-cadence with their video offering. There's been amazing leaps with 4k video and now 10 bit image depth with the Panasonic GH5, but the footage looks so damn robotic and souless compared to cinema cameras from Arri and Red.

I obviously don't expect a $2000 dslr to match a $50k Alexa in image quality, but surely they must be able to make the motion of the images smoother and less CCTV looking.

Blackmagic put out an amazing little pocket camera a few years ago with gorgeous colours and buttery smooth motion, why can't the big guys follow suit?

I think a lot of the problems relate to the experience of the person behind the camera.

Often you can see the choppiness when things are moving. That to me looks like they are using a high shutter speed which is inappropriate for cine work. In still photography if you take a picture of a waterfall on a bright day at 1/1000 you'll see every crisp drop, shooting at 1/30th will give a little bit of smoothing motion blur. Using a DSLR shooting at 25 frames a second and leaving the shutter speed on auto can result in a sequence of 1/1000 second shots which will look choppy. What they should be doing is using Neutral Density filters so they can choose the appropriate aperture for the shot whilst keeping the shutter speed at 1/30 or there abouts. This will give the smoother motion images but does take skill and time.

My other bugbear is many cameramen appear to have forgotten what a tripod is. The camera wobbling about can occasionally add to the atmosphere but most of the time it is just annoying and distracting. Again a combination of lack of skill and production values.

Maybe someone here can answer my question:

During panning shots (horizontal, vertical), in recent films the image is blurry and uncomfortable (for me). Similar panning shots in earlier films seem cripser and more "comfortable".

Is there a technical reason (shutter speed fashion) ? Or is it in my head ?

It's called 'Rolling Shutter'. This was never a problem until the advent of using CMOS sensors for motion recording. It basically started with the Canon 5D and iPhone video.

As a camera operator, this crap technology gave me my first gray hairs. It allows for the processor and write tech in the camera to only handle one line of pixels at a time instead of the entire frame. In response, camera departments had to invent the term 'Global Shutter' to describe the proper way to do it, in which the entire frame is captured at once.

Interesting looking article, thank you & I'll read that later.

An example of a different shutter mechanism producing an odd effect, this picture https://www.flickr.com/photos/sorenragsdale/3192314056/ shows that what the camera sees isn't always the truth!

There are really nice video explanations for rolling shutter effects on very fast things by Smarter Every Day[1] and standupmaths[2].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNVtMmLlnoE

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP1elMR5qjc

There is always https://photo.stackexchange.com/ too :-)

> My other bugbear is many cameramen appear to have forgotten what a tripod is. The camera wobbling about can occasionally at to the atmosphere but most of the time it is just annoying and distracting. Again a combination of lack of skill and production values.

With projection and home displays lagging camera technology, I'd be surprised if the opposite didn't happen. You can do a lot of shake reduction with 2x the pixels you intend to keep.

Also I think a lot of the shake these days is added in post, partly to cover for production flaws and partly to add "atmosphere" as you say.

It's not camera shake creating blurry images I'm talking about, it's the cameraman 'wobbling' about so the image isn't steady. The images will still be sharp, just the camera moving about a bit.

Ah, you mean displacing rather than rotating, yes, I see what you mean, there's no way to correct that perspective shift.

Though perhaps with two cameras and/or some grid projection...

> Also I think a lot of the shake these days is added in post

That's easy to check; if there is no parallax then it was definitely added in post.

Using an ND filter to get a slower shutter speed is the way to go. The more expensive cameras usually have a ND filter built in. Shooting at 24fps is possible on most modern cameras these days.

If you want to have the ability to adjust the amount of blur in post shooting at 120fps+ allows for that workflow but it’s a pain to do.

Or is it something else like a bad video codec?

It's more to do with the way motion is captured by the sensor than shutter rates, ND or applying motion blur. Someone else posted an article about global-vs-rolling shutter, which gets to the heart of that jittery video look common to CMOS sensors found on DSLRs.

Also, in film, people generally keep the shutter angle at 180 degrees. So for 24 frames per second, the shutter speed is usually 1/48 of a second.

As for codecs, that's actually where some of these cameras are making leaps and bounds. The GH5 I mentioned is capable of 10 bit recording, which means you could record ProRes HQ with an external recorder.

I've got the Blackmagic pocket. I'd say the main difference is being able to shoot raw video. It's just like butter in grading compared to 8bit video. And their colour science is good.

I think we'll have h265 10bit video in most cameras (and mobile phones) pretty soon, and that will be a marked improvement in terms of colour and dynamic range of video footage.

Some higher end Sony and Canon dSLR's shoot raw video, but I guess it's generally a niche feature, most people wouldn't want to shoot or edit raw video.

Wouldn't you think that's the global shutter of the camera? Raw definitely helps with pushing the image in colour grading, but I always thought the nice motion cadence on the BMPCC comes from the fact that the global shutter scans the entire image at once when capturing a frame, which makes it more filmic and less jittery than rolling shutter sensors which scan a series of parts of the image to create the frame.

The BMPCC has a rolling shutter. Some other Blackmagic cameras have global shutter. I don't personally think there is a huge difference unless you're doing fast camera movement`

I think the video quality is down to reasonably high dynamic range sensor, and RAW sequence capture, meaning you can actually access all that dynamic range

I thought they added a switchable global shutter mode, no? Maybe i'm getting it confused with another model. Probably!

I'm only now looking into DSLR's for a low-light option. Funnily enough, the ones that stand out to me are the Samsung NX1 and the Fuji XT2. Samsung oddly has great motion cadence, but awful macro-blocking. Fuji, unsurprisingly, has beautiful colours. Unfortunately both are only 8 bit, which is kind of a deal-breaker for me.

As an aside, how rare and cool to get to geek out on Hacker News over this stuff!

Sony A7r ii is the low light king, there is a new version due in the next couple of months.

I am not going to be buying another camera with 8bit video, so will be holding out until there are more 10bit options out there. HEVC has a 10bit profile and it will be everywhere because of HDR TV's and phones, but might take a year or two to get popular in cameras.

It's amazing in low-light, but I find the colours are pretty washed out and the image can band pretty bad once you apply post processing to get it looking half decent. That's been my experience with it anyway. Didn't know they have a new model - great to hear.

To learn about what you're calling "shakiness", look up 'rolling shutter'. It's a way of processing only one row of pixels at a time. CMOS sensors all have this problem. They are able to have much cheaper and slower processors in cameras this way but he result is garbage and nobody notices except people like myself who worked in camera department and operator, and even many of them didn't understand.

Only after a decade of trash CMOS sensors are people starting to realize that cameras did not get exponentially better overnighy. They got worse.

Even RED cameras use these CMoS sensors, albeit very fast ones. Alexas have proper global shutters along with most Blackmagic cameras.

There's not much to capturing motion besides shutter speed and frame rate. Mostly the latter.

Rolling shutter aside, given the same settings, there should be no real differences between Arri, Red and those DSLRs in motion capture (and not in image depth, dynamic range, resolution, and color science), and I don't think there are.

All kinds of movie, TV and documentary work use high end DSLRs from Canon and co, and the motion is just fine.

Of course the idea is that motion is usually set to 24fps in both those cameras and Arri, Red etc. If you want "smooth" motion of the hi-fps variety, jack up the fps. But then it would be soap-opera like and not what most people associate with cinematic motion.

I really want the focus information in the display.

Tell me the DOF, and make finding the hyperfocal distance easier -- a button to just take me there, or a calculator that tells me the ideal distance and a display that shows me my estimated focal distance.

In the manual film days, all that information was often engraved on the lens. Some currently manufactured manual focus lenses also include depth of field scales as well. These make zone focusing easier...not that I don't like autofocus.

Agreed. The camera knows this stuff, why not display it. I've got the top of the line Canon 1DX II, a $6000 body. WTF, Canon? You can't put that in there?

Magic Lantern proves it’s possible to show it too, but alas, Canon can’t seem to follow their lead.

Several mirrorless and pro compacts at least have focus peaking built in. Not perfect, but something that can be worked with.

Some cameras do have this. The Fuji X10/X20 (and probably X30) had a focusing distance indicator on the screen, and I loved that feature. I can't speak for the other Fuji X models since I only had the X10 and X20. I really miss this feature on my other cameras.

X100 cameras do too. I never find myself using it, personally, but I understand why some people would.

I use the focus display all the time in "action shot" scenarios – kids and pets. The auto focus is too slow (at least on the X100, X-Trans was supposed to fix this) to capture these, and I can't manually focus quickly enough through the LCD either. It's similarly useful for low-light shots.

The 3rd-party CHDK firmware for Canons has a focus display as well. Loved it when I had a Canon for the same reasons.

I also wish split prism focusing screens were at least easier to get your hands on, if not the default. Makes it 10x easier to quickly tell when a subject is in focus instead of squinting & hoping.

I believe split prisms work best at fast apertures. With the movement towards lower cost DSLR's and lenses, typical apertures are slowing down. Your typical Rebel might never see glass f/2.8 or faster.

High end cameras like the 1D and 5D series have always had better focusing screens and several different replacement options available.

Another thing I hate about a lot of recent camera hardware is the move toward cheap plastic, everywhere.

I shoot pretty much only with old manual-focus lenses from days of yore. Most of my lenses are older than I am. They're all made of metal, built like a tank, and way easier to use. No fidgety UIs or menus to manipulate, perfectly calibrated infinity focus (slap the focus ring to the end until it stops and landscapes are perfectly sharp 100% of the time), rock-solid, don't break under pressure inside my bag, and they just work, no questions asked.

Totally agree about the lack of Arca-Swiss adoption by camera manufacturers. Camera bodies and heavy lenses could easily have a built-in Arca-Swiss shape at the bottom and still have a 1/4-20" screw hole for people who need it.

On pro cameras, at least, although they have plastic outsides it's pretty strong plastic, and the actual chassis of the camera is cast alloy (usually magnesium-aluminium).

A nikon D3/D4/D5 will withstand a huge amount of abuse - at least as much as my more obviously metal pre-digital SLRs did. Another issue to be aware of is when using large, heavy lenses, a lot of stress gets put on the mount point and that most modern pro-orientated DSLRs are actually stronger than their old film equivalents in this regard, as the engineering has improved over time.

Re: arca-swiss plates - the reason camera companies don't do this is because of the licensing fee (source: I've talked to a bunch of them, and this is always their reply). I'm sure Thom is aware of this, but the licensing fee is not insignificant, and with extreme pressure to control costs it's not surprising that companies very rarely do this. Of course I personally would be very happy to see them included, but I know there are a bunch of people that don't use them, and would resent the extra cost to include them.

> I shoot pretty much only with old manual-focus lenses from days of yore. Most of my lenses are older than I am. They're all made of metal, built like a tank, and way easier to use. No fidgety UIs or menus to manipulate, perfectly calibrated infinity focus (slap the focus ring to the end until it stops and landscapes are perfectly sharp 100% of the time), rock-solid, don't break under pressure inside my bag, and they just work, no questions asked.

This is what I love about the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic-era cameras.

The only dial on the camera sets shutter speed and the sensitivity of the light meter.

If you go out on a nice day and practice shooting with "sunny 16" technique you don't even need a light meter, just set your aperture and shutter speed and get creative.

At the time that was my deciding factor picking between canon rebel something vs nikon d80 (2006, when it was brand new). Photo quality-wise they were so well matched, until i read a review where the author said, the canon is plastic and the nikon metal and the metal makes you feel you have a real tool in your hands instead of toy. (also i'm not the most careful person metal stronger then plastic, typically)

Given that you're often hand holding a camera, being lighter is a significant advantage, it can often be the difference between a stable or a blurred shot.

And good plastics are plastic in the traditional sense of the word: if you drop them, they'll absorb the force by deforming and then spring back into place. Metals deform permanently. In a car that's an advantage, you can just hammer it back into place. With a precision instrument a bent tool is just as bad as a broken one.

I don't know how a Rebel compares against a Nikon in a drop test -- I've dropped my Rebel without issues, but no major drops, luckily. But I can compare the pre-unibody MacBook Pros with Thinkpads from the same era. In the store, the original MacBook Pros felt and looked a lot more solid, but they were really crappy cases. OTOH, the ThinkPad's were tanks. Their plastic cases had a magnesium frame, giving them the best of both worlds. Of course, once Apple switched to unibody and ThinkPad's have started to compromise to compete on thickness the story hasn't been so clear.

> And good plastics are plastic in the traditional sense of the word: if you drop them, they'll absorb the force by deforming and then spring back into place.

That's not what I was taught plastic meant. I was taught both plastic and elastic materials deform under force, but the elastic ones (not the plastic ones) return to their original form once the force is gone …

"Plastic" actually stands for "thermoplastic", meaning they can be easily deformed when hot. At normal temperatures, a thermoplastic material can be pretty elastic.

If you drop an iPhone hard enough it wil dent. Drop a polycarbonate phone: no problem. Windows phone wasn't a great OS, but the Lumia line were absolute tanks.

PC is a very impact resistant material, but you can also form it cold, a bit like mild steel, actually.

So is nylon. But nylon is hydroscopic, and thus not well suited for electronics applications.

I do prefer ABS-PC or ASA for a lot of my more-adverse condition cases. They're much more heat resilient, and chemical/UV resistant in ASA's case.

Well, a great many connectors (even, or rather, especially industrial ones) are made from PA6 or 66 with some glass fiber fill; including the actual contact carriers (if they are a separate part). FR4 is somewhat hygroscopic as well; moisture expansion causes real problems for some applications. Never heard of issues with PA connectors.

In mechanical engineering, plastic deformation does refer to permanent/non-reversible changes (as opposed to elastic deformation) past the elastic limit. That said, plasticity is more commonly used to suggest malleability.

A heavier camera can be steadier to hold, just by sheer mass. Micro shakes in muscles can make a light camera body move more.

Plus a heavier body can better balance a heavy telephoto lens.

Elastic deformation is reversible with a release of the driving force, plastic deformation isn't.

Typical metals will have an elastic zone, where they act like springs, and a plastic zone, where they don't, and then they fracture. Brittle materials have a relatively small plastic zone, ductile materials will have a large one.

That's true an over years read many people that dropped their canon rebel and they were surprised it didn't shatter into a million pieces and often still worked as good as before. Some brought it to service centers just to be sure.

I never dropped my camera though, but i do run into things a lot, doors, doorposts, fences and most of all tiny people.

Though with a bit typical lens 70-200 or some people often bring, i doubt the difference in weight of the body plastic vs metal is really noticeable. (plastic rebel XTi 556 grams vs 668 grams metal nikon d80)

>I never dropped my camera though, but i do run into things a lot, doors, doorposts, fences and most of all tiny people.


I'm not the most careful person with my camera gear. All my bodies and lenses have taken some blows here and there from, as i said, doorways, people, brick wall corners etc, flew through the car once, i just never let it slid from my hands on the ground or something.

Typical i have a shoulder or wrist strap, ads (no im not affiliated) peakdesigns' or blackrapids' straps and wrist bands

If any reading this still use the neckband with their cams, checkout black rapids systems or peak designs. It's so much more comfortable then 2+ kg dangling from your neck.

Mostly referring to the "tiny people".


Oh sorry, i meant kids indeed, they are about head height of where i carry my camera, waist height. (im 2m tall)

> Given that you're often hand holding a camera, being lighter is a significant advantage, it can often be the difference between a stable or a blurred shot.

Lighter camera ~ more vibrations.

Not when you hold it in you hands, which is the clearly stated premise.

No. Hand-held a heavier camera gives you less shake, unless it is too heavy to hold continuously without quivering.

I beat the crap out of a Canon Rebel XT for about 12 years before finally replacing it. Still worked fine, no issues, I just wanted better high ISO performance.

I carry my camera all the time, so I'm not super upset about it being made of plastic rather than metal. The plastic of which it's made has a higher tensile strength than any casting-grade aluminum; machined aerospace aluminum would be stronger, but would also cost a lot more to make and thus to buy, and I don't mind having paid an entry-level price for my entry-level DSLR.

DSLR camera bodies aren't cast aluminium; they're cast magnesium (which contain 10 % aluminium or so).

Which DSLRs? All the ones I've seen and handled have been PC-GF30 or something very similar.

The low-end ones are wound around some folded sheet steel core; but higher end DSLRs have cast cases. Gripping surfaces are rubberized.

Concerning arca mount, I would prefer the camera without it. I wouldn't want the extra bulk when using no mount. I'm not seeing the problem with screwing a mount plate on and leaving it there. If you really want it to be permanent, get some Super Glue. Modular design in camera equipment makes for compatibility, adaptability, reusability, etc.

On this note, I am a professional photographer and have worked professionally with any form of digital, video, emulsion movie or still camera on the market and never have seen rubber on the bottom of a camera that i can remember. Maybe some have it but it's always on the plate if anything in my experience.

Screw mount is lame design I agree but arca mount is not at all a replacement for it. It's a different mount option, which itself requires a modular attachment solution which the screw mount is.

The Arca Swiss mount isn't even among the best quick-release plate systems, when it comes down to it. You could argue for a long plate back in the days when lenses were mostly unit-focus and the CG would shift; these days with just about everything being internal focus, a fully-captured plate is an immensely better solution than a dovetail plate (hopefully) captured with clamping pressure in one dimension.

As for the GP' complaint about plastics, it just shows that there's no experience there with minor dents requiring major repairs that would have been harmless bounces with a filled polycarbonate. Probably never dealt much with focus shifts or lens element alignment problems in severe heat or cold either. They use appropriate plastics on the pro-grade stuff where they use it because it's better, not because it's cheaper.

My D7100 is pretty tough and fairly new. My issue now is the weight. If I carry the D7100, 70-300, and wide angle it's a lot of weight to lug around. I do it because it takes amazing pictures, but I'm not going to pretend I like the weight.

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