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Friday, May 18, 2007

Building the Perfect Point-and-Shoot

We've done several posts here recently on point-and-shoots, a subject which is, despite all the attention, not near and dear to my heart. We have learned, among other things, that some people like the little stinkers; that the best ones are made by a company (Ricoh) that doesn't sell its products in North America; and that, in any case, no one can agree on the definition of just what a point-and-shoot is.

Here, for the record, and in hard-to-read rainbow colors (sue me, I'm bored), is a description of Ten Features an ideal point-and-shoot would have, in no particular order.

Feature 1: True shirt-pocket size
Reason: Many serious photogs who use p/s cameras do so because they're portable and painless to pack.

Feature 2: No more than 8 megapixels—6 would be better
Reason: Where too-tiny sensors are concerned, more pixels mean lower image quality, past a certain point.

Feature 3: RAW capability
Reason: Using a RAW converter is the best way to extract more image quality out of any given sensor, and eliminates the worry and fuss of setting white balance while shooting.

Feature 4: Waterproof, shockproof, and freeze-proof
Reason: A take-anywhere camera should be able to be taken anywhere.

Feature 5: A zoom lens of no more than 3X, 28–85mm equivalent, ƒ/2.8 or faster on the short end.
Reason: Greater magnification zooms compromise on image quality, and are slower. Most photographers can do anything that needs doing with these focal lengths.

Feature 6: Reasonably noise-free to ISO 400.
Reason: I know, it's asking a lot of a small sensor. Still, Fuji manages.

Feature 7: An articulated LCD
Reason: Many tinycam users use the LCD as a viewfinder.

Feature 8: An optical viewfinder
Reason: Many tinycam users prefer not to use the LCD as a viewfinder.

Feature 9: Anti-Shake/Image Stabilization/Whatever Yawanna Callit
Reason: It's a very useful feature, especially in low light and with tiny cameras that are hard to hold. (I'm still impressed with this technology.)

Feature 10: Must be fast, responsive, and very quiet, with excellent shutter lag and shutter release feel.
Reason: Because this is a criterion that should be met by any camera that is meant to take pictures with.

I might point out, modestly, that I've also just devised the perfect point-and-shoot rating system. Any camera can be evaluated by simply awarding ten points for any of the above features it has. Zero is worst, 100 is best. I am a genius. Modest, too.

The 100-point camera described above will most likely never be made, because cameras of this type aren't made for photographers and never have been. Still, a number of existing cameras actually come pretty close on various fronts—there might even be some cameras out there that score a 50 or a 60—so there's no point in complaining.


Featured Comment by OK-1K: "If you ask a random teenager who's browsing through Best Buy for XBox 360 games what they require from a point and shoot camera, you essentially receive the instructions that millions of dollars of marketing acumen and sampling tell the camera companies every year:

1. It has to be small, futuristic, and shiny so that it will look cool when I non-chalantly show it off to friends.
2. It has to be able to zoom in really close, just in case a girl is looking super hot and I'm too far away to see anything with my own eyes.
3. It has to be able to have enough shutter lag for me to blame my lack of photo talent on the camera.
4. It must have a flash so that people will know I've taken their picture, because otherwise they don't know to stop posing until I tell them. And I hate talking.
5. It must be able to take pictures in the dark, because I'm mostly nocturnal and spend most of my time in basements or clubs.
6. The LCD display needs to be big so that I never have to print anything and can just show people the back of my camera for 95% of what I take. The rest I'll just upload lo-res to Photobucket for my MySpace page.
7. If my parents have to spend more than the cost of an iPod on it, I'll never hear the end of it when I inevitably lose it or drop it in a pool.
8. I need it to do HD video, too. Again, just in case that hot girl is around.
9. The fewer buttons the better. I only have one belly button and that's the way I roll, so that's how I want my camera to roll.
10. And, finally, could I just subscribe to your company for an annual fee and receive the latest model every 6 months, because these things are disposable, right?

"Anyhow, hats off to you Mike for keeping this POS topic rolling. I hope the powers that be read your blog."


Blogger dasmb said...

Make sure you mean optical image stabilization, and not the "solution" offered by Samsung et al -- hopeful marketing.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Good call on the 28-85 lens. For some reason, people get all wrapped up in wanting long zooms. I bought the Nikon 5400 just because it went to 28mm.

2:55 PM  
Blogger erlik said...

One thing...

Pooint 4 and point 7 are in a direct collision. Mju 770SW and its predecessors succeed in being waterproof, shockproof etc by being tight little boxes. I don't think that an articulated LCD lends itself to those qualities.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Ernest Theisen said...

It is nice to meet a fellow modest genius, there are so few of us around. So, based on your description of features of P&S digital cameras, I gave my Canon G3 a score of 66. It is my “carry in the truck” camera. Perhaps I am a bit too generous to it but not much. E.

3:13 PM  
Blogger clayton said...

I want two. One with 28-85 and one 100-300.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Nanami said...

i don't quite understand why would the "perfect" point and shoot has a small sensor??

consider a perfect film point and shoot,

it can be very compact too, but it still manages to be full frame and has a sharp lens,

so i think the "perfect" digicam ought to have a big least a 1.6X if not a full frame.

4:11 PM  
Blogger DonovanCO said...

Mike: I think those of us interested in this type oc camera are off track by referring to it as a "point and shoot". Yes, sometimes we do want to do just that-point and shoot. But what I think we really want from reading the many and very good posts, is a capable compact camera at an affordable price point. We know it can not have M8 quality, but it should be easy to adjust such things as ISO, aperture/shutter speed. And be usable in a variety of lighting situations. We are willing to use our eperience and knowledge to make adjustment to the camera, but do not want to dig thru menus to do so. I remember shooting an entire vacation in Maine several years ago with a Retina IIIC-definitely a compact camera, but it did require setting the esposure and focusing. Excellent results, however. Maybe what we want should be called the "thinking photographer's point and shoot". I like your list of requirements, but would add the ability to make ISO and exposure compensation very easily. And that articulated monitor should be viewable to bright daylight!

4:31 PM  
Blogger Dr Hiding Pup said...

Basically, what you want is an Olympus C-5050 in the shape of a Canon G7, with a Fuji F30 sensor in there, and the shutter release off a Ricoh GR Digital. Maybe some nice Panasonic LX1 styling thrown in for good measure.

Me too...

5:09 PM  
Blogger David said...

Why a zoom? Why not something like a digital Yashica T4 Super (T5 in some markets), which has a decent 35mm Tessar, if one really wants such a thing?

David A. Goldfarb

5:14 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

My Yashica T4 Super does pretty well:

1) Shirtpocket size: it's a little thick but it fits ok. Check.

2) No more than 8 Megapixels: scan the film at whatever resolution you want. Check.

3) RAW capability: is TIFF out of a scanner close enough? Check.

4) Whatever proof: Spashproof, at least. Yeah, sure. Check.

5) Zoom lens no more than 3X. How about a fixed-focal-length of 35mm? Meets the criterion. Check.

6) Reasonably noise free to ISO 400. With modern print film (or black and white). Check.

7) Articulated LCD. Oops. No Check for you!

8) Optical viewfinder. The T4 Super has two! Check.

9) Anti-whatever. No check.

10) Fast/responsive/etc. Hmmmm. Not as bad as digitals, but not all that great. No check.

So the T4 Super gets 70 points. oh. wait. did you want digital?

5:23 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Why a zoom?"

Just as a concession to reality. I'd personally prefer a selection of single-focal-length primes, but that's never going to happen. Plus, if the camera is going to have a prime lens, then it should have an APS-C sensor, too, and we're back to my old DMD idea.


5:26 PM  
Blogger Juan Buhler said...

Something I would love to see in a p&s is an all manual, mechanically operated lens. Give me a couple of little sliders or rings to zoom and focus, and do away with the motors. Not going to happen, but I'd love the fast control that would provide.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Good call(s).

How about:

* large sensor
* modest zoom (3x)
* shutter speed dial on top right surface (a la 1970) with an "A" setting
* aperture setting on top left (won't fit on tiny lens barrel, sadly) with an "A" setting

plus most of the other stuff you specify.

Sort of a real-cheap one-lens Leica.


I wish Mr Olympus paid attention to these posts.


7:19 PM  
Blogger John said...

On the viewfinder: I would stress a viewfinder that actually shows you what you get when you push the shutter release. Many of the existing p&s cameras have optical viewfinders that diverge from reality as you operate the zoom. In those cameras the lcd often provides a more accurate represntation of the borders of the final image.

7:21 PM  
Blogger John said...

And, i would agree with the comment by donvanco: a small image sensor does not obviate the utility of usable manual settings. Granted that seems at odd with your definition of a point and shoot.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Dibutil Ftalat said...

Mike, if you dream, dream without limiting yourself to the current level of technology!

How about that.

1. Lens: flat slab of `glass` with nano-particles `floating` inside it. These particles are oriented by electro-magnetic impulses programmatically in series of diffraction arrays for each wavelength that the photographer is interested. Such arrays can be programmed to emulate all lenses ever produced (e.g. via open API so that enthusiasts will measure antiques and publish results to the community) as well as programmed directly by user to create new effects. Several useful and nicely tuned focal lengths with no aberrations at all can be saved in camera at production time.

2. Sensor: no sensor at all. Back to the film! 50-100 frames per roll would do. The film shall have photo-sensitive surface that can fixate latent image after electric impulse. Same technology as lens but inverted. Let the light orient those particles when we allow that. The opposite side of the film shall have light-emitting surface that displays properly inverted image just captured on the photo-sensitive side. At 100 fps. Ah, forgot to mention, the sensitive side is fixating the image by special impulse and the other sort of electro-magnetic action will scan the film with resolution sufficient for the opposite, emitting side. The final scan is done at home at desired resolution, apparently with no limit for DPI - the latent image is analogue, not digital! The storage time for such images shall be >100 years, as long as `erasing` impulse is not applied. After erasing the film is re-usable. No need in index prints: the emitting side shall `keep` the last saved picture visible in reflected light.

3. Shutter: no shutter, really, just a `commit` button. Let us say that a single film frame captures not a single image but records say 100 of them per second, for 2 seconds. And the commit button just freezes those 200 images, 100 preceding the shutter click and 100 following.

How about that for DMD, eh?

This might seem wild and we might not live to such camera but it does not contradict any physical laws, thus could be implemented.

Publishing those specifications I flatter myself with a thought that one day such camera will be built and my name mentioned ;-)

9:13 PM  
Blogger Damon said...

I think your list is just about spot-on, and it's much more constructive (and better buying advice) than the previous 'they're all shit' screed.

Funny thing is that since the advent of AF and Program mode, most cameras, even SLRs are point-and-shoots at least when needed. I always thought of a true point-and-shoot as one that wouldn't let you manually control focus or exposure. My Canon G3 is (in my hands) not a p&s, but my Olympus Stylus Epic certainly was (and scored damn high on your test though it was a film camera.)

In fact, I believe that's basically what you're asking for: a p&s digicam with all the best properties of the film models from the 90s but with modern digicam amenities: instead of film we need RAW image capability from good sensors, Good LCD panels, and near silence. Those 90s era p&s film cameras were fatally loud with their motor drives and autorewinds. Good fast lenses are always welcome but rarely appreciated by most consumers in that market. Sigh. Oh, and they also need built-in flashes to ruin portraits with. That's important.

9:49 PM  
Blogger al said...

Id like to see a more modern version of the 2/3 sensor (or bigger) with a lens system like the old pentax 110 slr styled like a good old rangefinder, image stab is a must and why not go whole hog and have at least one option with a 1.4 or faster lens. Make it take 2 or more memory cards and a decent buffer for raw files. Give me a 3/2 ratio im used to it and prefer it. I want dials to do all the important changes fast; shutter, iso & exp comp combined, app ring round the lens. No multi mode just 5 app & shutter priority, full auto , Manual and auto iso (ala k10) so I can set the app and speed I want and the cam just alters the iso. Use of a commmonly available lion battery with maybe a small grip for AAs or how about interchangeable battery packs so you get one that matches the more common cammera ones ie nikon and canon ones. I dont want video nor do I want silly effects.

10:08 PM  
Blogger igivanov said...

Here are some comments from a fairly passionate amateur photog.

IMO there can't be The Ideal P&S, but there can and should be several ideal P&S for different purposes. See my comments below, and I agree with the features I didn't comment on.

> Feature 1: True shirt-pocket size
> Reason: Many serious photogs who use p/s cameras do so because
> they're portable and painless to pack.

Another reason is that they are unobtrusive. There is a world of difference in doing e.g. street photography with a small camera or a brick with an attached 20cm lens. Anymals are also scared by big cameras with protruding lenses.
There can be an ideal shirt-pocket size p&s and a bigger size ideal p&s for the occasions when small size is less important. Or in fact when a bigger size is better - e.g., winter, shooting in mitts.

> Feature 2: No more than 8 megapixels—6 would be better
> Reason: Where too-tiny sensors are concerned, more pixels mean lower
> image quality, past a certain point.

5 or 6 high quality (in terms of resolution) megapixels gets my vote.

> Feature 4: Waterproof, shockproof, and freeze-proof
> Reason: A take-anywhere camera should be able to be taken anywhere.

IMO as an option - in case waterproof/shockproof conflict with a bigger size lens and in-lens stabilizer or are too expensive.

> Feature 5: A zoom lens of no more than 3X, 28–85mm equivalent, ƒ/2.8
> or faster on the short end. Reason: Greater magnification zooms
> compromise on image quality, and are slower. Most photographers can
> do anything that needs doing with these focal lengths.

I disagree. There could be ideal p&s for different purposes with different ranges and max apertures. My additional requirements: zoom must be internal (inconspicuous) and manual.

> Feature 6: Reasonably noise-free to ISO 400.
> Reason: I know, it's asking a lot of a small sensor. Still, Fuji
> manages.

Also Canon according to reviews.

> Feature 7: An articulated LCD
> Reason: Many tinycam users use the LCD as a viewfinder.

Also great for shooting from awkward positions and inconspicuously. Must be color-calibrated. 3" size gets my vote :-)

> Feature 8: An optical viewfinder
> Reason: Many tinycam users prefer not to use the LCD as a viewfinder.

A good EVF is even better: it covers 100%, shows all the current shooting modes and live histogram(s) overlayed + live WB + live zoom indicator + reference grid!

My additional requirements:

- metal tripod mount; for bigger size p&s arca-swiss mountable camera bottom (!).

- AA batteries, or some widely used format of Li-ion batteries chargeable outside the camera;

- good battery life;

- SD cards;

- minimum scene modes;

- S,A,M modes.

- excellent UI.

- clamshell lens cover (like Oly Stylus).

- "hyperfocal focus" button.

- usual commonly used focusing and metering modes.

- no video unless all other requirements are met :-).

One of my reference points is my old 3mpix Panasonic FZ3 which is 35-420mm f/2.8 with EVF. It has several drawbacks but still is great for travel and street photography. The big zoom comes in very handy, but I'd be happier with 28-300 or 28-250. It's an a example of quality megapixels: according to reviews it's more like 4+Mpix on an average p&s.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Randolph said...

Why not a large-sensor pocket camera?

11:51 PM  
Blogger Mikko J. Kalavainen said...

I agree on all points of your list, expcept for the articulating LCD. Those things would make the camera too large, not shirt-pocket small. Save that for the DMD, I say.

Also, it NEEDS to show at least the shutterspeed (aperture would be nice too!) on the screen before you take a shot. Not seeing what the camera is doing is frustrating to say the least.

Oh, and make sure that the lens gets f:2.8 or faster AT 35mm SETTING. Those wide-Panasonics make me crazy, the 2.8 is only at 28mm, and I don't like it.

3:15 AM  
Blogger Sybarite said...

I reckon it's been all down hill since the Canon S50 for which I gave up using my Rollei 35s. Fortunately though things are starting to look more promising with the arrival of the Sigma DP1 and the Ricoh GX100. I'd love a play with either of those but guess I'll have to wait to hear the comments from our resident genius in chief!

Not all the truly small ones are bad though. My wife has a miniscule 3mp (yes 3!) Minolta XG and I'm still amazed at just how good the pictures from it can be. I'm still upset that there'll never be any more from that stable.


4:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David and Mark stole my thunder. I was going to suggest: Point 11, must take a roll of film.

I use the Yashica T Zoom (T4 Zoom on your side of the pond) and it scores 70+ on your scale.

Examples here.

5:23 AM  
Blogger greg said...

The reasons why P&S cameras are the way they are, are:
1.) People buy them, just as they are. There is no economic incentive to Stand Out From The Pack.
2.) Most of the bits, parts, and sub-assemblies of all the P&S cameras are made by Sanyo and Sony, and the engineers at Olympus, or Panasonic just pick choose which assemblies that they're going to include, and buy them from Sanyo and Sony. As these assemblies are upgraded (a 6Mpxl sensor, replacing a 3Mpxl sensor), the cameras are upgraded. You'll notice that most of them look... basically... alike. This is why.
3.) The marketing is bass-ackwards. Camera companies look at the TOTAL amount of money spent on digital cameras, and want "market share". They have NO interest in driving a new market, with new features and new technology, as Canon did, in the late 70's, with the AE-1 SLR. Part of that problem is that Camera Stores, which had been viewed as repositories of Arcane Photographic Know-How, are largely gone, and cameras are sold in Big Box stores, or online, by functionaries who know little about cameras, or what a "megapixel" consists of. This, of course, is one reason for The Online Photographer's success. Who ya gonna call??? It is interesting to note that the largest "bump" in The Curve Of Photography in the last few years has to do with cell 'phones, that include digital photography capabilities. This is a "new" idea, and a "new" technology, driving a new market, that The Camera Companies didn't much care about.
I started in Digital Photography (after many decades of film photography) with an Olympus C-3030 camera, which HAD a nice f/2.8 zoom, an acceptable ISO 400, and the ability to connect an outboard flash (or radio synch). It was pretty useful, until I didscovered RAW shooting... but is gone, now, because Sanyo stopped making the lens assembly. They replaced it with a variable-maximum-aperture lens that was less attractive to discriminating buyers, and the size of the bodies that the new lenses fit into was too large for the general photograhic market... so, in one fell swoop, Olympus and Nikon managed to build a couple of very nice cameras that were unliked by Pros and Advanced Amateurs, and unsellable to Aunt Katie or Cousin Lester... therefore, that whole philosophy of P&S cameras died, with a whimsy.

Greg Mironchuk.

9:16 AM  
Blogger scotth said...

Could you really have an articulated LCD on a camera that fit in your shirt pocket. I think it would actually be irritating to try to use such a thing.

I don't want to let the camera companies off the hook here, but there are always going to be trade offs associated with small size. I'd give up a number of things for small size, but some things just won't fit and still be usable.

The Canon S-40, 45, etc series used to be a good compromise, but they they lost they way too.

9:17 AM  
Blogger John Banister said...

One thing that's not explicitly on your list (although almost all shockproof waterproof cameras have this feature) that I always (after the first time) require in a camera I'm going to carry everywhere in my pocket is that the lens not automatically attempt to protrude when the camera is switched on. I've given up on hope for a camera that can't be accidentally turned on while in a pocket, but I need one that won't self-destruct by attempting to push out lens where there's no room for that to happen.

1:20 PM  
Blogger huzur & urmuz said...

A different concept of P&S:

My perfect p&s would be rather versatile than pocketable:

feat 1: I don't think it's necessary to be really "true shirt-pocket size". A camera can be portable without being pocketable.
And I dont't really need a retractable lens - this just ads to the time needed from start-up to the first picture taken. I'd like a zoom ring and a focus ring, like in Lumix Fz30 or Lumix LC1.

feat 2: 7-8 Mpx: I like to crop, not massively, but sometimes significantly. And I want this sensor in the 16/9 format!

feat 3: RAW capability: agreed!

feat 4: splash-proof is enough - otherwise you really need to make a little box. My dream point and shoot would just need to resist to a moderate rain.

feat 5: I think that a point and shoot has to be versatile, or 3X zoom is not versatile enough. My dream: 24-120 F2.8-4. Although Leica's Digilux 2 / Panasonic's LC1 optics is pretty appealing (28-90 F2-2.4).

feat 6. "Reasonably noise-free to ISO 400" - agreed. And just stop at ISO 800. Who needs ISO 3200 from a P&S - such an ISO is just an insult!

feat7. Articulated LCD - mandatory!

feat 8. I really don't think it's necessary to have an OVF when you can have something like Minolta A2's EVF. As long as you don't need to follow fast-moving objects (sports, races), a good EVF is enough.

feat 9. optical image stabilization, like in Lumix models.

feat 10. "Must be fast and responsive, with excellent shutter lag and shutter release feel." Agreed.

There are, yet some other things to have on a P&S, and not all existent P&S do well in these regards:
- fast accurate focus in low light conditions (maybe with an assistant beam, not with flash!)
- a built in flash with two positions, like in Lumix LC1 / Leica Digilux 2 (why did Panasonic discontinued that model?)

So, consequently, my dream point and shoot is possible: it would be a splash proof Panasonic LC1 with a 16/9, 7mpx sensor made by Fuji, with Minolta A2's viewfinder, and with mobile LCD.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Canon sd 700 IS Rating = 68. Dinged for the noise at 400 but fairly clean.

9:09 PM  
Blogger John said...

Your missing 3 attributes -

- degree of manual control available
- post shot exposure feedback (historgram)
- degree of focus control (ie manual focus, or ease of selecting the point you have in mind with autofocus)

11:46 PM  
Blogger Paul Leidl said...

"Here, for the record, and in hard-to-read rainbow colors (sue me, I'm bored), is a description of Ten Features an ideal point-and-shoot would have, in no particular order".

You are describing what you believe the best features a so called ideal "point and shoot" should have. Fine. But the postings have heaved into strange waters. You initially wrote about your concerns regarding the crap quality of pocket digital cameras and why they are disagreeable and should be avoided.

Now we are all talking about a different breed of relatively competent digital and film cameras.

The whole issue that you peevishly raised (with good reasons) seems to have become confusing because there is still no agreement (now ain't that stating the obvious..) from your readers or- more importantly from you as the guy that raised the topic in the first place- a clear definition as to what a "point and shoot" camera actually is.

A Leica M could certainly be considered a point and shoot and was used as such.



12:38 AM  
Blogger nextSibling said...

I like the list, but I think it's missing a criterion: Reliability and robustness. I've had too many compact cameras fail on me after a few months of use.

These cameras ask to be slung in the bottom of a bag to bounce around, squished into a jeans pocket, handled by kids, taken to the beach, pushed around on cluttered desks and generally used and abused. Not deliberately mistreated, but be able to hold up against sometimes indelicate treatment. That they're the go-to tool when when doesn't want to fuss with an SLR is one of their strengths.

The unacceptable shutter lag of the Yashica T4 I've mentioned somewhere hereabouts already, but what made me finally give up on it was when it decided to start automatically re-winding the film when it was only half used. I tried a tiny Minox 35 for a while and rather liked it, until some plastic gear stripped somewhere inside and it stopped winding properly. The hair-trigger shutter release on my Olymus XA stopped releasing. I experimented with one of the early Canon Digital Elphs, until it started declaring some indecipherable error code on the display, just out of warranty.

The only compact I've never had a failure with is a Nikon LiteTouch. Now about a dozen years old and still going strong, even after being lent to and returned from various friends and relatives. A very underrated little camera in many regards, but thats maybe for a different comment sometime.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

There should be a term for non-lemon, or the opposite of a lemon. Sounds like your Nikon Lite-Touch falls in that category. I have a little carry-sized blow-dryer (that's what they used to be called, anyway--for drying hair; as distinct from a "hair dryer," which in times past was a specially-equipped chair with an egg-shaped contraption on top that women sat under after having their hair done...I don't know if those still exist or are still common). Anyway, as I was saying, I've had a blowdryer that a girlfriend left at my apartment 16 years ago that's still going strong. I keep using it out of fascination, curious as to how long it's going to last before it finally craps out. It is almost certainly an anti-lemon too, since it was not a deluxe product even when it was new. I can tell you from many years of dealing with amateur photographers that there probably are, or were, plenty of people out there who would be only too happy to regale you with stories about how their Lite-Touches failed them. I don't know that for a fact, just a guess from long experience.

My facts'n'figures are out of date now, because it's been a long time since I was actively involved in the industry, but I remember that in the late '80s the DOA rate on SLRs was .5%, whereas with point-and-shoots it was 5%. The industry just decided that a 10x higher DOA rate was acceptable, and built it into the cost of the cameras. The other major change was that SLRs of that time and earlier were essentially designed to be repairable, whereas point-and-shoots were designed to be replaced. If and when they broke, the repair costs were so high that it made more sense to buy a new one--and that was by design.

Of course, the all-time champion for a repairable-vs.-replaceable, tough, reliable, long-lasting, hard-wearing camera was the film M Leica. The big problem there seemed to be that Leica insured itself of a loyal customer base but a non-recurring one. And, of course, many of its customers were so impressed with the cameras' build quality and potential longevity that they honored them by putting them in glass-fronted cases and never touching them. Recently, on behalf of a friend, I tried to sell a pristine M4 to an Italian dealer, who returned it because of a nearly microscopic pin-prick defect in the chrome of the top plate. The irony is that it probably came from the factory that way, almost forty years ago, and was not caused by wear at all.

For many reasons, I still think it's good advice to look at a camera like most people look at their cars--as something to be used regularly, taken care of, but eventually used up. People like Jozef Koudelka and Jim Marshall, who have worn out M Leicas, are rare, but it's a noble goal.


2:21 PM  
Blogger Mister B said...

Point 4 is a bit of a fake. The Olympus mju 770SW claims these things, but if you read around there's a fair bit of user discontent. My own is currently back at Olympus having apparently sprung a leak.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Paul O' Connor said...

Another superb article and a great discussion.
- Paul @

5:06 AM  

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