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Your Perfect Camera

An old photographer friend and I used to discuss how we would build our dream camera body. He is a Canon user (and a Democrat; but I have long forgiven him for both) and I am a Nikon user. We could never agree, though, on whether it should be named a Nicanon, or a Canikon.

Though our discussions date back to the days of Kodachrome and Velvia, the “gear” part of the discussion would probably still be relevant today. One of the really cool things about buying a desktop computer from the manufacturer today it the degree to which you can customize your computer for your own needs. Our thinking was that a camera body could be offered much the same way Gateway or Dell offered their computers back in those days. A base “motherboard” today would translate into the sensor/processor combination. The base computer would translate into the maximum shutter speed and ISO ranges. Pretty much the rest, would be ala carte.

It’s fun to think about. I know what my ideal camera body would have. I would spend the $ on the (physically) largest sensor (not necessarily the most megapixels) I could get with a Nikon mount to fit all my current lenses (even if the sensor was larger than the proverbial 35mm I would give up the length factor—but unfortunately, it would probably cause vignetting problems, so the probably the current, D800 sensor would be the best I could hope for in today’s technology. I would have it housed in a D700/D800 style body, with a 100% viewfinder, and, if possible 100-8000 ISO range.

The rest would be my ala carte picks:

  • Mechanical, front access remote socket wired to accept the trusty, reliable and ubiquitous MC-35 remote release
  • DOF Preview Button on the bottom right of the lens mount (where it is on the D700)
  • Manual, AF-Priority, and S-Priority settings (no others; especially no “canned” shooting modes. Ugh!)
  • Raw and HIGH (only) Jpeg Setting, with a way to turn off the Jpeg setting so it cannot be accidentally accessed (no other “fine” or other size jpeg settings)
  • Mirror Up function
  • AF back button
  • Extra “Function” buttons (at least 2 would be nice)
  • User 1 and User 2 settings on the main dial (ala the D7000)
  • AF mode settings dial (ala the D7000)
  • Front and Rear Function Dials

I have no need for many of the other “bells and whistles” on the current body offerings. I don’t shoot video. I think it’s incredible that they have made such strides forward in video (I know some videographers who think it rivals dedicated video cameras). But it should be an ala carte item. I don’t use it; don’t want to use it, and most importantly, I certainly don’t want to pay for it. Nikon’s announcement of the new D600 is a great example. It was rumored that it was going to be in the $1500 retail range. I was set to pre-order. The actual, $2000 price tag gives me pause. I cannot help but wonder if they offered it without the HD video capability, which is prominently listed in the specifications, would it then have been able to hit the $1500 (or even less) price range?

Likewise, I have yet to see the utility of “live view” at least in terms of justifying the cost and of having it “clog” the controls and complicate the menu system. I appreciate that some are using it to their advantage. That’s why I like the ala carte idea.

I have always marveled at the fact that, in a so-called, pro-level body, the manufacturers would clog up the works with all of the “dumbed-down” features of P&S and consumer-level DSLR bodies, like “scene modes,” “action modes,” and the like. And automatic exposure modes seem to me to totally defeat the purpose of a higher-end tool like the “prosumer” and professional grade models offered by the manufacturers. I would specify only manual, aperture and shutter priority modes.

My thought would be for a stripped down, simple menu system with fewer controls that control only what we want and need as photographers.

Do-able? I don’t know. We would have to ask engineering. They would probably say no (which doesn’t necessarily mean it cannot be done, LOL). I don’t expect we will ever see it. I have no idea what it would do to manufacturing and marketing costs. And it would be difficult to accomplish through current distribution chains in which the vast majority of cameras sell through third party retailers and not direct from the manufacturer. But it’s fun to think about. What would be your ideal “modular” camera?


4 Responses

  1. Hi Andy,

    Love your idea of a “cafeteria” plan for a camera. Those of us with tripods that are too short – certainly enjoy the live view option. Especially our backs.

    Can’t find your e-mail on your website so please e-mail when you get a chance.

    Thanks for your outstanding introduction to the UP – what you shared was amazing and inspiring.

    Have a great day,


  2. Sounds like you really want a Leica M9. But, you’d have to sell your Rolex to afford it. :))))

  3. LOL, Ray. I actually have a Rolex Perpetual Oyster – however, its a knock-off that might be worth about 50 cents 🙂

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