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THE PERFECT CAMERA WILL NEVER EXIST: An Open Letter

Posted in Cameras, Photographic Culture, Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2012 by Stefano Mazza

Whenever we scroll the blog of any photographer, both amateur or professional, it’s very likely that we find somewhere in his or her writings a post about a possibile “dream camera”, where he/she stresses all the features that in his/her opinion a serious and highly desirable camera should have.

Well, I won’t be an exception here, even if I’m fully conscious that:

- the perfect camera will never exist
– my voice won’t be heard very far away
– market strategies won’t change after my writing

Urban perspective

Sometimes Yashica EZ F521 has appeared to me as the perfect dream camera.

However, I still would like to address my humble open letter to the public, including worthy Camera Makers, in order to inform them about the list of things I would expect from a hypothetic “dream camera” I wish to handle:

1. Outstanding lens choice. This is the first thing a serious photographer looks for. If I dislike the lenses available for a camera system on the market, I just avoid it. I also expect that actual state-of-art technology can provide very good lens at reasonable prices. By the way: 1000 € (or bucks) for a lens is NOT a reasonable price. We all know that very good lenses can be marketed at 400 – 600 €/bucks.

2. Small and highly ergonomic camera body. It seems that recently many photographers are looking for rangefinder-style cameras or at least small, light and easily portable cameras. I walk among them. Good examples I can suggest in this view are Panasonic GF, Sony NEX, Samsung NX, Fuji X, Olympus PEN and some other.

2. A very wide, inviting and luminous viewfinder or, maybe, rangefinder. Althought most of the photographers are now accustumed to look into back monitors, the opportunity to look into a viewfinder still remains as a totally different experience to take good pictures. Any camera should include it.

3. (Very) limited geometric distortions. Please consider that many serious photographers are not concerned with sensor size or pixel count at all, but that sensor size modifies the sensor-to-lens distance, which is crucial because it’s connected with geometric distorsions. Crop factor due to sensor size should be as limited as possible, because a big crop factor forces the use of short focals, and this means geometric distortion, which is a problem. If I want to shoot wih focal equivalents of 40 or 50 mm, I should not care for distortions. For example, actual micro 4/3 cameras deliver highly distorted images even at 40 mm equivalent focal due to their crop factors and this is still a fault. Automated in-camera corrections aren’t enough to fix this issue, and in any case they are lost if we have to process the image from the RAW file.

4. Small sized lenses. Lenses should be small, in order to keep the overall camera size as pocketable and light as possible. Pancake designs are highly reccomended.

5. Autofocus and metering should be FIRST affordable and THEN fast. AF controls and AF direction should also be immediately available on camera body.

6. Good JPG quality, both colour or B&W, it avoids time consuming conversions from RAW format. Any serious photographer loves to obtain good JPGs straight from camera instead of pulling them out from RAWs. File size is not a problem, just give us quality.

7. Open RAW formats. Yes, RAW format should be possibly open and easy to read by most of image processing softwares: Lightroom, PS, Gimp, iPhoto, whatever. In a comment on Gianni Galassi’s PhotoGraphia (a highly reccomended blog to visit and follow), I once stated (here) that camera makers and software developers should sit together on a meeting and decide how to create a universal RAW standard. I know that it sounds like science fiction now, but that’s what many of us are dreaming of nowadays.

8. Construction quality is important: a serious camera body should be made of metal, mostly.

9. Image stabilization is not a must, many of us have shooted for decades without it, but if you consider to include it, please do it at sensor level, if possible.

10. Limited noises. A good camera should be very, VERY quiet, almost silent. Just to mention a few examples: Leica M9 is way too far from this concept, Panasonic GF1 is highly improvable. Fuji X100 is the right example to look at.

11. Options and setting menus should always be highly intuitive and easy to use. There is no point in creating deep-embedded functions that nobody will have the time or the willingness to find out.

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Comments and suggestions on what stated above are more than welcome.

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