Fifteen years ago, the perfect camera was the Sony Cyber-shot camera phone I had with me wherever I went.
It was more than good enough to capture pictures of dew dappled cobwebs, smouldering sunsets and decaying leaves.
Post processing meant simply plugging the camera into my PowerBook and uploading the images, then sorting through and delete those I didn’t want.
Today, right now, I would say the requirements haven’t actually changed much, despite the hundreds of cameras that have passed through my hands in the interim.
More importantly, I think I’ve learned there is no perfect camera, indeed there is no perfect anything.
You choose the best you can with the knowledge and feelings you have, then try to make the most of it.
Perhaps even more importantly, you consciously limit your exposure to other options, for the sake of your own sanity and happiness.
Imagine having a wonderful partner but scouring dating sites every night to see if the might be someone ever so slightly more “perfect” for you.
Or going to a restaurant, ordering one meal, having a bite or two, then ordering another meal instead in case it might be slightly tastier, then another and another.
The more we look around at other options, the less content we become with what’s right in front of us and working out very well thank you very much.
I’m reminded of a Chinese proverb, the man who chases two rabbits catches neither.
I’ve been there, with relationships, with cameras and other things, and it’s a very unsatisfying and unsettling place to be.
So back to today’s perfect camera.
It’s the one I’ve used most recently, the more than capable, excellent handling, light and compact Lumix FZ38, that cost me a fraction of what my camera phone did all those years back, and an even tinier fraction of what I’ve spent on cameras in between these two.
What are your thoughts on the “perfect” camera? Does it exist?
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8 thoughts on “The Ever Evolving Perfect Camera”
This is a subject I muse over frequently. Often along the lines of wishing manufacturers would listen to, or at least have some understanding of, photographers. Rather than marketing experts. There is a decided trend towards packing in as much techno-glitz as possible, with the idea of feeding the phenomenon you speak of: convincing the user this latest version is the greatest version and they must ‘upgrade’.
If I were to design a camera for them (and I have no small amount of experience with cameras myself) the people in Marketing would be disappointed owing to the lack of “features” with which to con an unsuspecting public into making yet another purchase. I often wonder just how much of a cameras abilities are ever employed by the average user. I would wager that they try them all when they first get it, then settle down to taking pictures like a normal person instead of implementing any of the hundred different built-in special effects.
But then I’m an old film photographer who now uses digital, albeit in the same way as one would use film.
I agree Marc, and the cameras I like most and have stayed with me longest are all ones that feel like they were designed and developed by people who were real photographers too, not some marketing team constantly trying to dazzle us with numbers and features we don’t need. Of course this isn’t exclusive to cameras. It baffles me to see car adverts where the main selling point seems to be how well it integrates with your iPhone, regardless of any of the more important and fundamental (to me) features of a car like how reliable, frugal, practical and comfortable it is!
That is easy, the perfect camera is always the next one I’m going to buy 🙂 Just like the perfect lens…
Kidding aside, I’m not sure a perfect camera exists – they say you should always accept the best compromise considering what you are trying to do…. with that in mind, I’m still pondering if I should only take my new-to-me K-3 to Brazil for my 2 month trip (it’s basically replacing the K-S1 as my all-around camera – it has the advantage of a better grip/ergonomics/weather resistance, but it’s also heavier) or if I should take a 2nd camera for specific purposes – either the K200D for the CCD sensor, or the P30T with some rolls of film.
As of right now I’m thinking about enjoying the trip and just taking the K-3. But then I’m thinking also about what lenses I should take… 🙂
Ah Chris, that’s like the formula for the perfect number of cameras to own, which is N+1, where N is the number of cameras you already own!
For me, I’m more likely to use a camera on a trip if it’s the only one I take with me. The option then becomes use the camera, or don’t, and all other choices between different equipment are eliminated.
There’s a funny monologue by a comic I saw a few years back where he talks about going on holiday and having to narrow down your possessions to fit in a couple of suitcases. Then he says what if someone then invites you to stay on a smaller island for a couple of days, away from your main holiday home, so you have to make a smaller selection from that already narrowed down selection of your stuff.
Then from that island you take a day trip, so have to narrow your stuff down further. And basically how this freaks him out and he spends so much time and energy trying to whittle down his possessions he doesn’t enjoy a moment of his holiday.
It’s much funnier than I sure I’m explaining it!
Having been on the other side of the equation, happily taking money off anyone chasing the perfect gear, I personally had a fairly cynical attitude to the gear acquisition syndrome of hobby ‘photographers’ who were more like collectors of shiny things.
But, no matter how I ‘master’ my current gear, I’m not immune from wishing for something different for some reason sometimes–maybe my growth, missing some functionality that I’ve been working around not having or maybe just a fancy–and would hope that wanting it to be better in some definable way, technical or ergonomic, is reason to justify something new(ish) every five years or so.
I’ve just taken delivery of a new (to me) camera outfit–a gift from a generous benefactor who was befuddled by it–which is based around a camera that is modern and technologically outrageous and seen as one of the best cameras currently on the market. Having now got it in my hands, the first thing I’ve done is ordered a grip extension for it…
The rest of it seems pretty good, but it was obviously not ‘perfect’.
Oh, ironic that with all that digital functionality, the basic functionality of something like good ergonomics is lacking!
Maybe it’s always been the case with camera gear and certain people have been about shiny thing collectors than photographers, but it seems this has accelerated as the electronics inside cameras have been more sophisticated and they’ve become more like another gadget (phone, watch, car etc) than a true and pure photographic tool.
In 1999, the perfect camera was my Sony DSC-S70, a 3.4 megapixel point and shoot. Now it’s a Fuji X-T2. I don’t have to consciously limit my exposure to other options because I’m not looking. I guess I have what Thom Hogan calls last camera syndrome. My current camera has good enough resolution, shooting speed, ISO performance, features, and lens lineup for my needs. I don’t crave for more.
I think “just not looking” is what I might also call limiting my exposure to other options. It’s a great place to be with anything in life, content with what you have, and not restlessly looking for anything more.