Author Topic: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation  (Read 2525 times)

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« on: June 16, 2018, 12:11:25 pm »
So I recently acquired a used Canon G9. I bought it because the reviews indicated it would meet my needs as an 'everyday carry' camera. On paper it was perfect. All the manual control I wanted, including dedicated buttons and dials, and even a hot shoe. But I didn't like. I couldn't figure out why for a while. The results were okay. The menu system was intuitive. I just had a vague feeling of unease when taking photos. And eventually I realised. I was worried I'd drop it. The problem was the combination of a short body and relatively heavy weight (for something this small).



While the Canon G series past the G6 aim to be miniature SLRs in their look, their feel and their layout, there is a problem. The problem is my hand hasn't been miniaturised, and so my two smallest fingers end up redundant. The G5 suffered less from this. The G2 less still. And it's a pleasure to pick up these older cameras. A camera, like any other tool, is easier to use when it fits the hand.

Yet the miniaturisation trend of the last decade and a half has driven camera design in another direction. The Canon S series illustrates the trend. The S90 abandoned the 'brick' form factor for something like the shape of an IXUS - shallow and flat.



I'd probably drop that too.

And yet a few compact cameras manage to be small while fitting the hand extraordinarily well, as if to prove it can be done.



Some of the mid range Nikons from the noughties are a revelation when it comes to handling. As far as I can tell, this is thanks to a deep grip combined with low weight.

Beyond that, a radical rethink of the camera form can produce something easy to control that fits in a pocket. The split body designs from Nikon are just that. For a while Nikon abandoned the box-with-a-lens-on-the-front form, for something rather unusual. These are the Bromptons of the camera world.



The shape of the Nikon 4500 didn't make sense to me til I used it. In this design, you aim the lens with your left hand, and adjust settings with your right. And this model was a miniaturisation of the Nikon 995 - which also feels good in the hand. Actually the 995 feels as good as my DSLRs. Shame Nikon stopped designing split bodies.

Fast forward a decade and a half, it turns out that handling is what dedicated cameras have on smartphones. It is the selling point. It may be their only selling point, now you get Really Good Results from the miniature camera you carry all the time.

rr

Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2018, 02:05:29 pm »
That and the size of the optics.

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fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2018, 03:13:46 pm »
I guess smartphones are fine for the conditions where a cheap lens is good enough. Lack of manual control is 'worked around' by ever smarter software.

Outside of the photography studio, a dedicated camera is best where you need something that's easier to hold that an up-ended glass slab with rounded edges. So I think handling is where camera designers have to invest if they're to compete with smartphone makers, and that may mean small compact cameras are no longer desirable.
Meanwhile, the wearables market is anyone's for the taking, and that industry now needs the type of solutions that camera companies are good at, i.e. hardware solutions. So we may see once again start to see innovation in form, and choice for consumers beyond the 'slab' or the 'box with a lens on'. Separating the lens from the settings interface may be key.

Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2018, 04:12:27 pm »
I think you need something about the size of an slr for holding in the hands; you really only hold small cameras with your fingers. Small cameras are flat simply because they fit in pockets better. Once you have a lump, you might as well go for something bigger.

There have always been small or miniature cameras, handling or ergonomics weren't their main selling point.

Perhaps the answer is a folding camera.


LEE

  • "Shut Up Jens" - Legs.
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2018, 04:23:30 pm »
Bridge cameras.
Basically small DSLR form factor.  Usually have a nice chunky grip.
Some people say I'm self-obsessed but that's enough about them.

Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2018, 05:26:41 pm »
Ergonomics depends a lot on ones hands and pockets, I think. My hands are on the small side, but I’m willing to give my camera stuff it’s own bag.

Last time I picked up a Canon or Nikon SLR they felt all wrong to me. I couldn’t get the buttons to sit under my fingers. A smaller body (m43, Minolta x700, Nikon fm2) works for me. Even so, some of those cameras in the pictures look too small for my tastes.

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2018, 05:39:12 pm »
...you really only hold small cameras with your fingers.

That's certainly true of cameras with minimal thumb space, where I have to pinch the camera between thumb and middle finger. The little finger tucks under the camera body to take the weight. That never feels great though. That's why the Nikon 4300 I subsequently tried was a revelation to me. There I could wrap my hand around the grip and support the thing with my palm. It's nice to hold despite it's relatively small size.

Perhaps the answer is a folding camera.

That's pretty much what a Nikon split body is. In its untwisted state it is a thick slab that (just about) fits in a pocket.



In its twisted state, it is a camera with a deep, forward-facing lens barrel, with a useful zoom range and macro capability, and a usable optical viewfinder.



They stopped designing split body cameras around 2003. I don't know why. Perhaps the market wasn't ready for the unusual form, preferring instead the familiar box-with-a-lens-on-the-front. But I'd be really interested to see a modern split body camera. The chief limitation of this particular series was the lack of a hot shoe, but flash is needed less often on modern cameras with high sensitivity sensors.

Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2018, 01:37:35 pm »
my hands are huge and I struggled with small form cameras until I bought a thumb grip (not this one, but something like https://www.amazon.co.uk/DSLRKIT-Thumbs-COOLPIX-Fujifilm-X-pro1/dp/B00D86UQWK/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1529411775&sr=8-6&keywords=camera+thumb+grip )

it made the camera feel much safer in my hand.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2018, 01:51:09 pm »
They stopped designing split body cameras around 2003. I don't know why. Perhaps the market wasn't ready for the unusual form, preferring instead the familiar box-with-a-lens-on-the-front.

The Sharp ViewCam was mid-1990s.  The market's been not ready for them for quite some time...
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2018, 02:42:39 pm »
... I struggled with small form cameras until I bought a thumb grip (not this one, but something like https://www.amazon.co.uk/DSLRKIT-Thumbs-COOLPIX-Fujifilm-X-pro1/dp/B00D86UQWK/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1529411775&sr=8-6&keywords=camera+thumb+grip )

it made the camera feel much safer in my hand.

Yes. That looks like it would help.

I bought a battery grip for my DSLR. I love the improvement it makes.

Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2018, 11:55:37 pm »
A Leica M4 is the correct size


;)

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2018, 01:55:56 pm »
Alas, my wallet is not.

 :-\

T42

  • Gaulois réfractaire
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2018, 09:04:02 am »
I hear you re the weight of the G9. I sold on my G12 not because of the results, which were great, but because the bugger was so heavy that I never carried it.

IIRC it came with a neck strap, but it was so small it felt daft carrying it that way.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2018, 09:55:34 am »
A bit of internet time-wasting research reveals that grip cases are a thing, both for compact digital cameras and for phones.

Here's a bamboo grip screwed to the tripod mount of a Fuji X100. And from the same maker, there's this wooden grip for a Leica Q which is appealing in its simplicity.

There are also stick-on grips. These are small and generally mimic the finish of the camera body. Here's a grip for the S90.

LEE

  • "Shut Up Jens" - Legs.
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2018, 05:05:08 pm »
I always use a cheap cord wrist-strap with my Canon S120. 
I don't have a problem holding it but I have even less of a problem holding it when I know I won't drop it.

It's quite a stiff cord and retains its loop shape.  This means I can easily put my hand through the loop before pulling the camera from my jersey pocket. 

The Peak-designs straps are also very nice.  The "Clutch" makes for a super firm grip but not sure it would work on a compact.
Some people say I'm self-obsessed but that's enough about them.

Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #15 on: June 24, 2018, 05:34:10 pm »
I don't have a problem holding it but I have even less of a problem holding it when I know I won't drop it.

+1
I don't think I'm prone to dropping cameras, but the reassurance is nice, mine are either on a neck or wrist strap.

I think how you're used to holding a camera has more to do with how you get on with different models more than the size.
My cameras sit in my left hand and are operated with the right, I've never been comfortable using a camera one handed.  From the largest - an Olympus OM SLR, to the smallest = a Panasonic LX, that's always been the way I've used them.  My first serious digital was the swivel body Nikon and I couldn't get on with it at all.  A boxy Samsung NX, which was technically better than any other digital I'd owned, was PX'd for the LX which although smaller suited me better.  I have real trouble using a phone camera. Small means less room for physical controls, don't expect that to get any better, I watch younger generations shun them in favour of the touch screen even when they're there.  Telling them in the good old days there was a button for that just gives them something else to mock you for.

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2018, 07:35:40 pm »
Holding the camera with two hands is what I was taught as a child and is still my preference. Certain cameras are designed for this, others - the Canon 'Rebel' DSLR series included - are clearly designed for one handed shooting, though they can still be supported with the left hand. And then there are cameras that have nowhere for the left hand to go because the buttons are in the way.

The challenge facing the camera makers is that removing buttons is not an option on those cameras whose users demand dedicated buttons. Yet at the same time the market in general is demanding both a bigger screen and a small camera body. So we get the problem inherent in the Canon G6...



...when it's covered in buttons, there's no obvious place for the left hand to go. I'd probably hold it by the edges of the hot shoe.

Touch screens allow the removal of buttons, though they're not perfect because, as yet, they don't offer the same level of kinaesthetic feedback - you can't feel when you've clicked, something that's crucial to the user experience.

So for now, augmentation with wrist straps and/or extra grips is the way - and some of those augmentation solutions look very good.

We may see a halt to the trend of miniaturisation, as camera makers continue losing market share to phone makers and it becomes clear that the main point of difference is 'ease of use' of the camera as a physical object. This would happen as photography enthusiasts come to make up a larger proportion of a shrinking market, in which Canon et al are able to sell fewer cameras to general consumers. Problem of a shrinking market will be a shrinking R&D budget for things like sensor development, but that's for another thread.

frankly frankie

  • I kid you not
    • Fuchsiaphile
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2018, 02:43:13 pm »
I've still got a Nikon 4500.  Purely in terms of handling, the best digital camera I've owned, great design. 

A Canon A650 (an old favourite that I still use quite often) runs it close (AA battery, how quaint).
"This is a complex subject, with a need for more than one highlighter pen."

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2018, 08:45:42 pm »
This is one way around the problem.
https://www.dpreview.com/news/2888145442/the-leica-m10-d-is-a-wi-fi-powered-rangefinder-with-no-lcd

If there's no room for manual controls AND a nice large monitor on the back of a digital camera, omit the monitor. People can use the screen they carry every day, via a wireless link.

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2018, 09:01:20 pm »
I've still got a Nikon 4500.  Purely in terms of handling, the best digital camera I've owned, great design. 

You might enjoy the Coolpix 995.

Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #20 on: October 25, 2018, 10:48:38 am »
This is one way around the problem.
https://www.dpreview.com/news/2888145442/the-leica-m10-d-is-a-wi-fi-powered-rangefinder-with-no-lcd

If there's no room for manual controls AND a nice large monitor on the back of a digital camera, omit the monitor. People can use the screen they carry every day, via a wireless link.

that's just silly.  My waterproof camera wifi's to my phone and it works great when it works, but there's always a minute or so getting it to communicate at the start - imagine that every time you want to check if someone was blinking in a photo...  God bless Leica.

Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #21 on: October 25, 2018, 10:55:43 am »
Steve Huff's review nails it - not for a pro, niche product, absolutely perfect for those who want the analogue photo experience without film. If I was ever at a point where I could drop £7K on a whim, I'd love one.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2018, 11:31:31 am »
This is one way around the problem.
https://www.dpreview.com/news/2888145442/the-leica-m10-d-is-a-wi-fi-powered-rangefinder-with-no-lcd

If there's no room for manual controls AND a nice large monitor on the back of a digital camera, omit the monitor. People can use the screen they carry every day, via a wireless link.

that's just silly.  My waterproof camera wifi's to my phone and it works great when it works, but there's always a minute or so getting it to communicate at the start - imagine that every time you want to check if someone was blinking in a photo...  God bless Leica.

I rarely use the rear screens on my Olypmii, I chimp using the view finder. If you are out with me taking photos you'll occasionally see me appearing to take photos of people's feet.
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fuaran

  • rothair gasta
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #23 on: October 25, 2018, 01:09:40 pm »
But that Leica doesn't have an EVF, unless you pay an extra $500 to add one that sticks out of the top. So no way of chimping without that.
Seems like it's just making life difficult for yourself.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Cameras and the problems of miniaturisation
« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2018, 01:23:41 pm »
Ah, I hadn't picked that up. My goodness, it is ugly with that thing stuck on top.

The Bang and Olufsen of camera manufacturers.
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