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Old Apr 3, 2004, 2:05 AM   #1
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Default Why is it so hard to find a "basic" digi-camera?!

I've been holding off buying a digital camera for quite some time because nothing seems to fit what I want in a camera. I'm basically an old school mechanical camera guy; I love levers and dials, not tons of buttons. I also dislike all auto-exposure modes and all the extra features like "portrait mode" "scenery mode." etc..it's all just useless clutter to me. In all honesty, I would be fine with a full manual exposure camera without shutter/aperture priority features. They're helpful but I could live without it if it kept the price down. Just give me a stripped down camera with a good lens (and put the aperture settings on the lens ring!!) and I'll be happy.

Last month I saw a picture and description of the Panasonic DMC-LC1 and was ecstatic. This camera was EXACTLY what was I was looking for...except I don't need a super expensive German lens or lens stabilization. I was thinking maybe $700-$800 street price since every other Panasonic camera is around $500 or lower (and the DMC-LC1 is only 5 megapixel)....but later was shocked to find it a LOT more. So now I'm back in waiting mode for something new to come along.

I've looked at a few digi-cam webpages but it's impossible to go through each of the endless digital camera models available. It seems brand-new cameras are coming out every other week and it's hard to keep up.

So here is my question. Does anyone know of a camera coming out or exist already that may fit me? Here is the features I want.

-Basic controls. Very little or no buttons. (like the Panasonic DMC-LCI) I would LOVE to have aperture settings controlled by the lens ring.
-Sharp lens but nothing too exotic. (but good light gathering...like a f2.)
-High zoom is unimportant. (3x is fine)
-Around 4 megapixel. (I'm not too concerned with big numbers)
-Strong (metal?) rangefinder style BOX SHAPED body. (none of the futuristic roundy stuff)
-Basic features. (Manual exposures, spot and average metering)
-Don't need a movie mode.
-No bulti-in flash but has a hotshoe.
-Retail price for under $1000.

Why can't anyone make a stripped down enthusiast model for people that don't want gizmo's? Something like a 35mm Leica M series camera but digital and made by a Japanese manufacturer? (ie..lot less expensive) I really want a digital camera but I'm terribly frustrated that every new camera is being so packed with a shopping list of features that I'll never use. I've tried a few newer cameras and I always seem to accidentally get stuck in some weird mode that requires five button pushes to get out of or staring at a tiny number on a LCD screen. Just give me a freaking camera that I can look down at and immediately say,
"Okay..that lever is set to spot metering, good. That dial is set to the correct shutter speed and the lens dial shows the right f-stop...ready to go."

Am I the only weirdo type looking for a camera like this??
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Old Apr 3, 2004, 7:49 AM   #2
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Good points.

Keep in mind that digital offers/forces choices in the camera that you simply don't have with chemical camera. Instead of choosing film, you have to choose ISO, white balance, saturation, sharpening, contrast, and probably a couple other things in the camera. Those are real choices that you want to be able to make just as you want to be able to choose your film.

IMHO, much of the control problems with digicams is due to the designers being engineers and any use testing is done with random folks off the street instead of photographers. That is not true for the top of the line digitals aimed at the pros - and those cameras are expensive. I think the manufacturers will figure that out over the next few years and there will be more cameras that fit your needs/desires at reasonable prices.

In the mean time, I'd suggest that you spend some time figuring out how to use a photo editor. One of the dirty secrets of digital is that you have to do your own "darkroom" work. Shoot a few rolls of film and have them put on CD - cheap when done at the time of processing. Also fairly low resolution which is just fine for learning how to use a photo editor. Or buy a cheap digicam with all the flaws you noted. Then you will be ready to use a "real" digicam when you get one.

And you will get a digicam- the only question is when.
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Old Apr 3, 2004, 10:02 AM   #3
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I donít think you will be satisfied with anything less than a DSLR. You can get a Canon Digital Rebel with the starter zoom lens for close to what you are looking to spend, but you will need a memory card on top of the purchase price.

The Minolta A1 is going for around $600 and the A2 for around a thousand. They have more dials, bezels, switches and buttons than anything on the market including DSLRs. You donít have a dial for the aperture, but you donít have to take your eye off the viewfinder to set it Ė or just about anything else. Image stabilization eliminates the need for a tripod in most situations and 28-200 is a very useable range. It also looks stodgy enough that you wonít think it was made to look like a space ship or something.

The A1/A2 also have a little ďPĒ button you can push to get you back to square one immediately. Donít plan on mastering one in a store like you seem to think can be done. There is a learning curve. Generally the better and more controllable the camera the longer the learning curve.

I went from the D7i, which is an earlier model of the A1/A2 with probably more physical controls than they have, to the most menu driven camera ever made other than very cheap and basic entry level P&S cameras. I got a Panasonic FZ10 because I wanted a stabilized 12X lens. I still grump that I wish a real camera company had gotten hold of that great Leica lens, but the camera is useable as far as the settings and menu. Iím not suggesting the camera because it is just the opposite of what you are looking for, but pointing out that it isnít impossible to adapt if the features and size are there.

As Bill pointed out, digital cameras have a lot more things you want to control. They canít all have their very own bezel or dial. Some are better at physical controls than others, but none have the kind of one control to one function as your 35mm Ė nor will one ever have.
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Old Apr 3, 2004, 12:36 PM   #4
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Default Leica Digilux 1

Try this one:

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Old Apr 4, 2004, 6:05 AM   #5
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Thanks for all the help everyone, I appreciate it.

I kind of came across a little bit too picky. There are many "techie" features I realize will have to be there. I'm perfectly fine with an LCD screen surrounded by tiny buttons, I just would rather have the main operating controls (ie..aperture, shutter speed, metering modes, etc..all be dials/levers). Everything else like different flash modes, resolution settings, ISO settings, etc..can be done with bush buttons and menu selections. Most of these features are something I may adjust now and again, but it's not something I need to do every single time I take a picture.

For instance, I've used my mother's Canon A70 a few times and ran into a few problems. Don't get me wrong, the camera takes wonderful pictures and is a great value (and she loves it...which is the most important thing). It just doesn't fit me. The aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual select is on a big dial, which is fine. When putting the camera on fully manual, two different buttons have to be used to go up and down the range. When changing the aperture, another button has to be pushed first and then the two previous buttons can adjust it. I just find it difficult to go back and forth (shutter speed/aperture) while looking through the viewfinder. I instead find myself having to pull the camera off my eye, adjust the setting, compose picture, repeat. I forgot to add in my original post about viewfinder indicators for shutter speed/aperture being a nice additional feature also. It just makes off-the-hip picture taking difficult.....and I'm the type that likes to walk around and just snap pictures when I'm out and about.

I really don't think I'll be satisfied unless I get a DCM-LC1. I really don't think of any of the detachable lens SLR's would be for me either. I use to have a 35mm Nikon N90S but that thing got on my nerves too (lots of button pushing) so I sold it. Looks like I may just wait a 6 months and see how much the LC1 drops to. If it goes under a thousand, I may just go for it. Thanks again for all your help.

By the way...I'm sure a lot of you think I'm some cranky old purist who "hates all dem new thingamabob's and new-fangled gizmo's." Sadly, I'm actually only 24. haha
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Old Apr 4, 2004, 6:25 PM   #6
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You didn't like the LEICA DIGILUX 1?
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Old Apr 4, 2004, 6:44 PM   #7
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Regulatori, I used to be like you. I was an SLR junky and I was so dreadfully against digitals - until I tried one. My first was a Sony Mavica. The images were dreadful, but the convenience was a winner. Now I use a Canon 4 meg, and I'm sold. I can use as many settings as my old SLR heart desires - but don't worry about the cost of shooting many images of the same subject. Sometims I shoot ten images and choose to keep only one.

Not only that, I don't have to wait for my pictures to come back from the processor. I use PSP 8 and can enhance them as I wish.

You couldn't pay me to go back to the 'good old' SLR. May it rest in peace.

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Old Apr 4, 2004, 7:11 PM   #8
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1. My assumption is that one reason manufacturers don't put more dials and levers on cameras is the cost factor. Solid state electronics are much cheaper to produce in quantity than mechanical activators.

2. I agree that most digital products (not just cameras, but fax machines, copiers, etc.) are provided with too many functions. They're not put there because they're necessary, but merely because it's now possible to put such functions on a chip without adding much to the cost, and the manufacturers can then brag in their ads about all the things their product can do. For most of us most of the time, it just means wading through more levels of menus to get to the few core functions we normally use.

3. In addition to the post-production digital darkroom techniques others have mentioned, one fundamental difference between digital and film photography is the fact that with a digital camera, you're not just carrying around a camera with you, but a mini-darkroom as well. The controls on modern digicams allow you do perform the equivalent of "exposing for the shadows and developing for the highlights" right there in camera, all as part of making the shot. And due to the current lack of lattitude (compared to film) in most prosumer digicams, making those kinds of adjustments are not just handy, but actually necessary if you're going to get a usable shot under certain contrasty situations.

4. In sum, in one sense digital photography is not merely an extension of the "old" game of film photography, but an entirely new world, and therefore one that brings with it an entirely new set of conditions and possibilities.
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Old Apr 6, 2004, 10:37 PM   #9
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Look at the Epson/Cosina/Voigtlander RD-1http://www.epson.co.jp/e/newsroom/news_2004_03_11.htm. It's what I want to get but the expected street price is a little steep. If it drops in price it will be hard not to get one. I think I'm the only one excited by this camera on this board.

It will take a Leica M mount lens (there's that ring aperature setting ) and even uses a mechanical shutter. You have to cock the shutter on your own.

I think that the big downside on this camera (other than price) will be the interface that allows you to select the needed features. As someone else wrote there's a lot of features that a digi-cam allows you to set because they're needed.

I love my Canon G2 but what I hate about it is the shutter lag while the AF and everything else does the trick. And manually setting exposure is a pain and not that intuitive.

Sometimes I want a lot more control - hence I bought a dSLR because I couldn't get the control any other way. I shoot 40% of the time in Av, 40% in Tv, 10% in P and the rest in manual.

As far as the feature creep goes - I like how Canon minimizes it by allowing the 'idiot' modes to be turned off. Sure I can set the right shutter speed, but my wife can't. But at least I can hand her the camera, turn the knob to green box mode (or portrait, or sports) and end up is some of the pictures once in a while. As far as some the advanced stuff goes - well I set my camera up once with the manual and if I need to adjust I'll pick up the manual again to figure out how to do it. Just because a feature is there doesn't mean I need to use it or know how to use it.
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