Is it the Japanese? Is it electronics designers or engineers? Or am I just getting old, grumpy and stuck in my ways?
Seriously, what is with digital camera makers? And, I'm not complaining for me. My thumbs are well versed at the art of scroll select and push, scroll, delete. I get it. But there is a huge segment of the population out there that doesn't get it.
Do you ever wonder how many of these new digital do-alls ever come close to being used at their full capacity? How many average users say "screw it," and put the dial on the little heart icon and start shooting? And then one day, they discover they can actually preview the images on the back of the camera... and maybe six months after that, read the book and realize the little head icon will set the camera for portraits and the little mountain icon will set it up for landscapes... and whoa... wait, what is that.. a running man icon? ACTION baby!!! Oh the joy.
For the most part, I'm OK with that. The average snapshot consumer is still further ahead in image quality using one of these little digital dynamos. And... they're probably getting a lot more memories than when they were standing at the drugstore counter panting and anxiously awaiting to see how many of that roll of 36 frames from their vacation actually came out.
But what about the enthusiast? What about the small percentage that gets the bug and wants to pursue a little hobby for themselves? Forget about the "photography based" challenges of aperture, exposure, depth of field, ISO, composition etc. etc., you now have this huge learning curve ahead of you just to navigate your way around the camera.
Think about it, how in the heck are you supposed to learn what a control functions when you don't even know what it is you're controlling?
A friend recently picked up a new Canon 50D along with a medium telephoto zoom lens. His first question to me was "should I try to shoot in manual mode or just put it on the "little green square" and forget about it?"
To be honest, I had to tell him go with the "little green square." This isn't what I really wanted him to do... but the other option would have been a nightmare. He did ultimately get to TV mode.
But that really isn't the problem either. I mean, OK... put it in automatic , start shooting and see what you get. Learn some composition fundamentals, enjoy your photos and start back engineering from there. It's reasonable.
What isn't reasonable is the complex navigation through the menus, dials and multitude of options. Seriously, where does someone begin?
The root of this rant is this; when will camera manufactures realize that there's a "new" hobbyist market bubbling up from all of this digital camera boom? When will they put two-and-two together and realize it's in their best interest to develop a segment of the market into smarter end-users?
Olympus just announced a new camera called the EP-1. They are howling at the moon about the cameras retro appeal and how it harkens back to a simpler time of the beloved Olympus Pen. Oh sure, it possesses some aesthetic DNA to the PEN. It has some lovely interchangeable lenses that will promote versatility and flexibility in a small size. And, the technology is even being claimed as revolutionary. I'm guessing they'll sell a ton.
But they missed! Yep... allow me to rise above the crowd and tell you flat out... THEY MISSED. Where is the shutter dial? Where is the aperture adjustment? Where is a simple button to change the ISO? Oh... and yes.. WHERE in the hell is the viewfinder?
Opportunity missed. It's knocking, to be sure... but the Olympus EP-1 ain't answering. Nope... here we've got this great looking camera. Nice style, nice size and I'm guessing pretty nice image quality. So why does it miss? It still requires you to pedal through a series of menus and screens jamming your thumbs at it like a pimply faced pre-pubescent 13 year-old schizoid amped up on six cans of Red Bull while texting WTF to their BFFL.
A shutter knob, an aperture ring, an ISO dial and a view finder. Is it so hard? Is that so REVOLUTIONARY. What about the PHOTOGRAPHER?
OK... I'm done. I'm off to make pictures. Thanks.