Rant: Control spartan vs. control profuse cameras

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In an earlier blog, I commented on how I didn't like how professional series Minolta SLRs tended to be ... button and dial profuse... in comparison to the professional series Canon EOS SLRs which tend to be button and dial sparse. A reader wrote back to me saying how he preferred the proliferation of buttons because it meant he could tell the camera settings at a glance.

This is only my own opinion and it only counts for my own working style (although I know many professional photographers agree with me), but I prefer control spartan cameras because basically I never change the settings. With my SLRs, I almost always shoot in aperture-priority, one-shot focus, single-shot drive mode. I have the auto-focusing control shifted to the rear '*' button so I can control it with my thumb, auto-exposure lock is thus set with the shutter button. This is how I shoot 99.9% of my work. Never changing modes means I only have to think about the photograph not the camera.

I prefer the format used with the EOS 1/3 series cameras where all shooting controls (motor-drive; AF mode; AE mode) are set two-handed. There are no control dials that can get knocked accidentally out of place in the camera bag. I know pros that even tape down the AF/MF switch on their lenses since most (all?) pro Canon EF lenses are full-time-manual ultrasonic anyway. Less buttons and dials also means better environmental sealing and reliability. The Canon EOS 1/3 series are virtually water and dustproof.

On a Minolta alpha camera, I would have to constantly look at the dials to make sure they hadn't been jostled out of position. I find this happening with my EOS 10D, where the control dial is just a bit too easily changed. At least with the 10D, you can change parameters to have the ISO changeable on the fly with the SET buttonm, rather than allocating a button just for that purpose. The Minolta alpha-7 digital isn't waterproof and I doubt all those dials can handle dust very well either.

In many ways, that's why I prefer my Leica M7. Basically it has everything I need in a camera (aperture-priority autoexposure) and nothing I don't. The shutter dial controls the AE function and is well-dampened so that it doesn't move out of position. There are otherwise no other extraneous controls (I even wish I could lock out the exposure compensation dial since I don't use it, rather choosing to AE-lock-and-recompose instead). This is a holdover from my days when I shot with the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SPII.

A camera has four basic controls: focus, shutter-speed, aperture, and a shutter release. Why complicate things?

But again, this is my shooting style. Your mileage may vary.


On the old blog:

Luis said...
because there are people who enjoys handling their camera more than making shots, but I'm partial here, I'm one of those who has most bells and whistles disabled and still prefer manual lenses, but as you said, it's just me. 4:30 PM  

Barron said...

I totally see your point about manual switches being able to be switched by accident while the camera is being carried around. In fact, there is one switch on my a507si that is prone to do this, the AF-area sensor switch. Minolta also recognized this and fixed it in later bodies by recessing it a bit. And the main mode and exposure dials now have a button on top to prevent accidental movement. You said that you had to constantly check the Alpha to make sure none of the controls had moved. Which camera were you using, and what knob would change? I bet it was the model I use as well. Just wondering because I believe the new bodies have improved on this.

As for the knobs letting dust in, I haven't heard anything mentioned about it yet on the Minolta boards I frequent.

Like you, I also don't switch the controls often, except for the continuous/single/auto lock AF. (kids tend to move around a lot) I usually have it in aperture-priority, single shot mode. At any rate, all cameras have the potential to allow the photographer to realize their vision, regardless of the # of knobs and dials. And we humans can adapt to all forms of camera user interfaces. :) 7:33 AM  

Barron said...

Correction - It's the metering mode (spot/center weight/honeycomb) switch that is too easy to mistakenly shift, not the AF-area switch. 11:14 AM  

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on March 10, 2005 2:10 PM.

Rant: "Security" on the Amtrak was the previous entry in this blog.

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