Why can't the digital-camera makers get the ergonomics right?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005.

  1. Having just adopted two kittens, I have been thinking about a new digital
    camera for taking kitten pictures. I already have an Olympus C-3030Z and a
    Canon S110, and although they are both fine cameras, they are also seriously
    flawed in comparison to my film SLR cameras.

    Here are some of the problems I've observed:

    1) Focus is much too slow and imprecise. I cannot select a small area and
    say "focus on that, please." Even if I could, focusing takes too long. My
    film SLRs are much faster.

    2) Not sensitive enough. If I select ISO 400 (on the Olympus), I can use
    f/2.8 and almost get a fast enough shutter speed for indoors without flash,
    but 400 is pretty grainy and "almost" is a polite way of saying "not". I
    can put an f/1.4 lens on my film SLR...

    3) OK, so I can use flash. But when I do, the camera always gives two
    flashes in quick succession, giving the kittens enough time to close their

    So the obvious solution is to buy a digital SLR. There is even a nice one
    on the market that will take my existing film SLR lenses. Not only that,
    but I am led to believe that I should be able to get results at ISO 800 that
    are as good as I can get with film at ISO 400. What's the problem?

    There are three. One is well known: The sensor is smaller than 35mm, so I
    give up wide-angle capability. But even if I'm willing to live with that,
    there are two other problems:

    1) The finder has the same absolute magnification as the finder in my film
    SLR. That means that the image I see through the finder--the image I use to
    compose the picture--is 1.5 times smaller than the image I would see when
    using filim. I guess that if they increased the finder magnification,
    they'd lose brightness--but I'd be willing to live with that to avoid the
    tunnel vision I get now.

    2) Dust is inevitable, and I appear to have the choice of sending the camera
    back for cleaning every so often, or doing it myself and voiding the

    You're going to say: Why not buy an Olympus DSLR? They claim to have solved
    the dust problem, and maybe their finders are better. But the Olympus'
    smaller sensor results in reduced performance, and I would have to buy all
    new lenses.

    The other alternative I've considered is one of the ZLRs with an electronic
    viewfinder. But those all have significant time delay compared to a real
    optical finder, and again that delay is significant when dealing with

    Are there any other possible ideas I've missed? Or do I just continue to
    wait until someone gets it right?
    Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005
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  2. The features you want in a point and shoot have only recently become
    available in the better newer dSLR's. They are starting to appear in the
    digital point and shoots, so give them another 6 months or so and you should
    start finding most of them.
    Joseph Meehan, Jun 21, 2005
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  3. The kittens will be almost full grown by then :)
    Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005
  4. Sheesh. This is seriously old news. So buy a dSLR already. ISO 1600 on the
    70D or 350D is better than ISO 400 on the consumer cameras (except maybe the
    F10, and there I wonder if they're doing in-camera noise reduction) and the
    AF is the same as the film SLRs.
    So buy a dedicated wide angle lens: the 10-22 for Canon or 12-24 for Nikon.
    Both are _very_ nice lenses. (Most people really like it that their
    telephotos got longer.)
    Get over it. (Seriously, you'll get used to it.)
    Use canned air to charge a clean nylon brush. It doesn't void the warranty.
    (Also, the dust isn't as bad a problem as some would have you think.
    (Aparently is is, though, on the 1Ds and 1Dsmk2.))

    Directions at: http://www.prime-junta.tk/
    My bet is that by this time next year, Nikon will have a 12MP 1.5x camera
    for US$2000, and Canon will have a full-frame for US$3000 about the same

    But the 6 and 8MP cameras make very nice A4 prints, even at ISO 1600. (The
    first time I printed out an ISO 1600 image at A4, I was shocked.)

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Jun 21, 2005
  5. Andrew Koenig

    Eric Gill Guest

    Consumer grade point and shoot cameras have fewer features than pro SLRs?

    Whod'a thunk it.

    BTW - you leave out just what brand of lenses you already own, making it
    pretty well impossible to make any recommendations for a solution.

    Eric Gill, Jun 21, 2005
  6. Yes, that's what I said.
    As I said, this issue isn't a deal-breaker--but I should point out that even
    if we stick with Nikon, the 12-24 on a DSLR won't go as wide as Nikon's 14mm
    on a film SLR.
    That's the difference between working around a bug and fixing it.
    So is it or isn't it?
    I don't care much about number of pixels. I do care about the finder -- at
    least for me, the finder influences how I compose pictures.

    If Nikon's new camera has a better finder, I'll probably buy one. But right
    now, every time I pick up my F100, I marvel at how much more pleasant it is
    to use than the D70 I tried.
    Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005
  7. Nope, it's not features that are the issue; it's ergonomics.

    Why is there not one single digital P+S with a finder anywhere near as good
    as many 35mm P+S cameras?

    (I know part of the answer -- in an effort to make the camera small, they've
    made the finder small too. But not all digital P+S cameras are small.)
    Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005
  8. Andrew Koenig

    Scott W Guest

    You have a great reason to justify going out and buying a new camera,
    enjoy it. I have the 20D and love it, get the 50mm 1.8 lens shoot at
    ISO 1600 and you should have no problems.

    As for dust, this is really not a problem for most people. In the 6
    months that I have had the 20D it got small bits of dust on it twice,
    once in the first month and once in the second. Time to clean the dust
    off was less then a minute each time.

    Scott W, Jun 21, 2005
  9. The F100 has what is, to the best of my knowledge, the best finder of any
    camera ever made. OM-1, FM3, Contax Aria, every Canon ever made, every MF
    SLR ever made; none are even close. And don't get me started on the medium
    format rangefinders.

    If you insist that your next camera has as good a finder as the F100, you'll
    never buy another camera.

    (When I got back into film photography 4 years ago, I looked at a lot of
    cameras. The F100 really is seriously amazingly wonderful and a lot more
    than head and shoulders above everything else I considered.)

    Anyway, I think you are overreacting to the dSLR viewfinders. Some of the
    best photos in history were composed on hopelessly dim ground glass upside
    down (or left-to-right reversed), or with the totally useless viewfinder in
    the pre-M Leicas. The dSLRs get enough right that it's worth it to put up
    with a couple of irritations here and there.

    Also, get a cheap and light body (e.g. F65) for you 14mm lens. Not that much
    heavier than the lens alone. You don't have to use digital for everything.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Jun 21, 2005
  10. Andrew Koenig

    Mike Henley Guest

    Yes you've missed an idea or two at least. Here's the deal: you don't
    want to deal with dust or lack of a WYSIWYG preview of the DSLRs, but
    you want a highly responsive digital camera that's fast to focus and
    has a good ISO range and low noise, and the obvious answer is the
    latest Fuji's P&S cameras. If you just want an automatic JPEG P&S
    camera the F10 has been getting rave reviews and you can shoot at ISO

    Here's a pic of a kitten at ISO 1600

    Here's from a professional review "... The Fujifilm F10 surprised us
    with an overall manual ISO noise score of 11.42. Most compact models
    score in the 4-5 range on this test, so to reach this level is pretty
    unbelievable. Images are virtually noise-free and they rival SLR
    photos. The F10 displayed less noise using its ISO 1600 then any camera
    released this year that we have tested at ISO 400 (including the Canon
    PowerShot SD500, the Konica Minolta Z5 (at ISO 320), the Kodak Z740,
    Panasonic FZ5, etc.). it is truly unbelievable!" "The F10 produced the
    fastest startup time of a compact digital camera that we've tested. "
    " Shutter to Shot (8.89) Photographers who are tired of slow shutter
    lag will appreciate the F10, which only takes .01 seconds from the time
    the shutter button is released to the time the exposure is captured.
    Very impressive for a compact camera!"

    And here are the reviews http://www.dcviews.com/_fuji/f10.htm
    Mike Henley, Jun 21, 2005
  11. The Fuji GW690 has an excellent finder, also.
    I don't insist that it be as good, but I"m looking for one that is at least
    in the same league.
    Yeah, I know; I've been spoiled :)
    Maybe. But I would really hate to buy a D70s and have Nikon release a new
    one in a few months with more sensible finder magnification.
    Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005
  12. Andrew Koenig

    Eric Gill Guest

    No, actually, it's the features.

    Consumers will buy one set of features, professionals another.

    Whether or not that's reality, that is definately the perception from the
    marketing departments of the major manufacturers, and ultimately they
    control what gets released.
    Because your average consumer hates the optical finder and would rather
    shoot through the LCD. I'm surprised they even bother to include them

    Eric Gill, Jun 21, 2005
  13. Indeed, I have heard good things about it. But it has no optical viewfinder
    at all!
    Also, I'm disappointed in the amount of purple fringing I've seen in
    Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005
  14. Andrew Koenig

    Neil Ellwood Guest

    On my 350 it seems the same as I use to get on my Olympus SLRs.You get dust with film and don't forget the tramlines from labs heavy
    That is just personal preference in action.
    Neil Ellwood, Jun 21, 2005
  15. The model that Nikon is supposed to announce soon is the replacement for the
    D100. I doubt that Nikon will release a consumer camera with a better finder
    than the D2X. I don't know how big the gap is between the finders of the
    D70 and D2X. If the gap is big enough, Nikon may create a finder that is
    somewhat in between.

    The big question is whether Nikon will develop a new body for the consumer
    DSLRs, or whether they will keep using F80 derived models.

    I guess that Nikon will keep the F80 body in the 'D200' if there are
    going to be significant improvements to the sensor.

    If the sensor is not really better than the 20D, Nikon may try to create
    something semi-professional.

    I have a D1, and the finder doesn't get in the way. But I don't have a
    good idea how the D70 compares to the D1.
    Philip Homburg, Jun 21, 2005
    Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005
  17. And how does "your average consumer" see anything useful in the LCD on a
    half bright day, let alone a bright day? I can't...
    Malcolm Stewart, Jun 21, 2005
    Philip Homburg, Jun 21, 2005
  19. Nikon's specs for the D70 (and F100) say that the finder magnification is
    0.75x with a 50mm lens. That means that for 1.0x finder magnification, I'd
    have to use a 67mm lens. a number I get by dividing 50mm by 0.75. (I
    misspoke before when I said 75mm).

    That means that when I look into the finder, the image I see occupies as
    much of my field of view as the camera can capture with a 67mm lens.

    An F100 has a substantially wider field of view with a 67mm lens than a D70
    has. Accordingly, its finder image looks that much bigger through the

    For the D2 cameras, that 0.75x becomes 0.86x, so the 67mm becomes 58mm
    Andrew Koenig, Jun 21, 2005
  20. Andrew Koenig

    Paul Rubin Guest

    The D70 has the same viewfinder as the F80, except the edges are
    masked off. The viewfinder magnification is the same. The D70 just
    has a narrower field of of view. You see a smaller rectangle in the
    viewfinder. It's cropped just like the APS-sized sensor crops away
    part of the full-frame 35mm image coming from the lens. Does this
    explain it?
    Paul Rubin, Jun 21, 2005
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