Travel Photo Thursday: Overly Complicated Cameras

July 24, 2014

in Travel Photo Thursday

  • SumoMe

I’ve been taking photos for more than a half-century.

When I was in high school, my grandmother gave me my first 35-mm camera, an “Auto S” rangefinder model made by the Japanese firm, Konica. I would later use it to shoot images for a photography class while pursuing a degree at the University of Washington.

konica 35 mm

As I recall, the Konica did not have interchangeable lenses, nor could you zoom in or out with the one built into the camera.

You could shoot in fully automatic mode, or manually adjust the aperture (lens opening) and (I think) the shutter speed.

It was more or less a “point-and-shoot” camera. Easy enough to use, but limited in what you could so with it.

But that would all change six years later when I purchased my first “SLR” (single lens reflex) camera.

I still owned the Konica, but I was now living on the Japanese island of Okinawa, where U.S. military base exchange stores sold cameras and lenses at very reasonable prices.

So I bought a Canon FTQL, wide angle and a telephoto lenses to fit it, a flash attachment, filters, and a camera bag to hold the gear.

Like the Konica, the Canon could automatically set the shutter speed and aperture. All you had to do was point, focus and shoot.

Because it featured through-the-lens metering, odds favored the camera getting the exposure right.

But the automatic mode could be turned off, allowing you to decide how long the shutter should remain open, and how wide the lens opening would be, permitting some “artistic” control over the resulting photograph.

I purchased the Canon forty-five years ago, not long before I and the rest of the world saw the unforgettable images of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon.

That camera is (I think) still sitting in a closet in my home.

Now I’m shooting photos (and, if I chose, video) with a Sony DSC-RX100 digital camera. I bought it last summer, just before a trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The Sony is the third digital camera I purchased over the last few years. I was so unsure of how to operate it, that I took the Nikon film SLR camera that I’d gotten from my sister-in-law twenty-odd years ago along with me on the trip.

As it turned out, after solving the mystery of why the RX100’s batteries were draining so fast (I wasn’t putting them in the charger properly), and after using my older Canon digital camera as a backup to the Sony, I didn’t need to shoot a single image on film with the Nixon.

Today, about a year after that trip, I’ve been contemplating how complicated the use of cameras has become.

Digital cameras are portable computers with lenses attached. Unlike film cameras, the controls are not standardized, even across different product lines from the same manufacturer.

Bells and whistles. More bells and whistles. Too many bells and whistles!

The user manual for my Nikon FE film camera is 47 pages long. I can fold it in two, and stick into a shirt or rear pants pocket.

The printed manual that came with my Sony DSC-RX100 was too skimpy to be useful for figuring out the camera’s myriad menus and functions. So I paid about $15 for an “after market” manual that runs nearly 400 pages and is too bulky to carry around, except in a day pack.

KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid!

That’s what camera manufacturers should be doing.

And that’s why people are turning to smartphones to meet their photography needs, and perhaps why sales of new digital cameras may be declining.

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