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Old Aug 17, 2013, 10:12 PM   #1
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Default Are printed manuals extinct?

In 2004 I got a Canon A75, which gave me a few good years of service and then died. I figured this was my chance to go for more megapixels and longer zoom, and I got a Panasonic DMC-ZS8.

Two printed manuals had come with the Canon, a quick-start manual and a comprehensive one covering every bell and whistle. I think the latter manual was about 5" wide x 4" tall x 1/2" thick--a good size to slip into my daypack along with the camera. If I were a woman (or a drag queen), it would have been a good size to slip into my purse!

The Panasonic came with a hard-copy quick-start manual and the full manual as a PDF on CD. I opened the PDF in Adobe Reader, and it looked as if the individual pages were about the same size as the pages in the A75 manual.

I called Panasonic and ordered a manual ($30!), and when it arrived, the pages were 8-1/2 x 11, 3-hole punched. Much bulkier than I had been expecting, and I had to buy a 3-ring binder, which added more bulk and weight. I was extremely disappointed, to put it politely, and wrote Panasonic a strongly worded letter about it.

After a couple of years of lugging the manual around, it occurred to me that I'm not married to the Panasonic and can get another camera. Since I'd liked the A75 well enough, I called Canon's U.S. office for pre-sale information and asked about the manuals that come with their current cameras. The guy I spoke to said you get a quick-start manual, the full manual as a PDF, and that's it--I couldn't even order a hard copy manual as I did from Panasonic.

So--does any camera manufacturer offer a compact but comprehensive manual, or is this the way it is these days, and I have to suck it up? Thanks.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 9:07 AM   #2
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If printed manuals aren't extinct, they should be.

I very much prefer having PDFs instead of printed manuals. You can search for keywords in the PDF, that you can't do with the TC or index. Plus you can have as many copies of the manual as you want. I've got PDFs for all my gear (cameras, lenses, TVs, cable boxes, alarm system, cars, garage door opener, lawn irrigation system, computers and smartphone) on my desktop computer, laptop and smartphone. That's a lot more accessible than a single printed manual ever was.

And all that's got nothing to do with saving trees, which just happens to be a side benefit.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 11:10 AM   #3
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Staxman- they're not extinct,but certainly an very endangered species- and are pretty much pot luck as to whether or not you get one. Most camera's opting for the far simpler (and less expensive) PDF manual on CD- and some even opting for a manual on the built in memory in the camera..!
As TCav states,there are obvious "green" merits to the modern methods- and even if you lose a disc or paper manual, a PDF is available (usually for free) at the mere click of a keyboard button.
With a basic "point and shoot" you could argue that one isn't needed,other than a basic starter guide- and with a more advanced model the said manufacturer could argue that he/she should know what they're doing with this type of camera- negating the need for even a basic user guide.

That said,the nice fat little paper manual I recently had with a Canon 600D was kinda refreshing- and I didn't have to boot the computer up to find something out..!
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 11:32 AM   #4
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That said,the nice fat little paper manual I recently had with a Canon 600D was kinda refreshing- and I didn't have to boot the computer up to find something out..!
I see! I suppose that argument could be made if you didn't have your computer on all the time. My computers, if I don't leave them on 24/7 anyway, automatically turn themselves on everyday at 6AM.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 12:28 PM   #5
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You can search for keywords in the PDF, that you can't do with the TC or index. Plus you can have as many copies of the manual as you want.
True, but IMO PDFs and manuals complement each other. PDFs aren't the be-all and end-all. I don't have a smartphone, nor any immediate plans to get one. I'd like to, but I'm always very cautious about taking on anything that ratchets up my basic monthly cost of living--in this case, the data plan. I also don't have a laptop, and if I did, I wouldn't be crazy about taking it out just to consult the PDF for my camera. An iPad or some such might be OK if I consider its overall usefulness and not just the ability to read the PDF for the camera, but again, there's the cost of the data plan and the initial cost of the iPad. (This all comes at a time when I expect to be writing good-sized checks to my auto mechanic and my dentist in the near future.) I just found it very convenient to consult the fat little manual for the A75. Not that the Canon 600D is the only camera to offer a manual these days, but it's more camera than I need for more than I'm willing to spend. I leave my desktop computer up 24/7, but 98% of my photos are taken away from home.

When I buy a piece of computer software, I print out the PDF of the manual and put it in a binder in the computer room. I wouldn't do this if displaying the PDF onscreen did it for me. Often, there's as much to know about a camera as there is about a program, and the manual is about as big.

Maybe I should see if FedEx Office, formerly Kinko's, can print the Panasonic manual to 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 paper, scaling down the image to fit. That would take a bite out of the size/bulk issue, but would still be suboptimal IMO.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 12:54 PM   #6
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  1. Tablets like Amazon's Kindle and B&N's Nook can display PDF documents, and don't require data plans.
  2. Most printer drivers will let you print 2 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 pages on a single 8-1/2 x 11 page so you can cut and bind them yourself. Many can even print them on both sides of a page and even in booklet form, so you don't need to cut pages, just fold them. Check your printer driver.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 4:23 PM   #7
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Printed manuals are very handy....for those photographers that want to get the most out their camera equipment....particularly when they are out in the field.

I often times go for long photographic forays in forested areas...where I live....Canada.

Even though I've been an avid photographer for 45 years...a few of those years earning my living with a camera....I do find myself reaching for my printed manual on a semi regular basis. My camera manuals are quite dog eared from use.

I have a Canon and all I received was the computer disc and starter manual. I don't carry a laptop with me to access the manual info. I called Canon, complained and received a printed manual (photocopied). I spoke to a rep and he indicated that the reason Canon wasn't providing manuals is that not many individuals, consulted manuals...whatever form....printed, electronic.

I'm not surprised. Many consumers...rarely read their new car manuals...again whether it is in print, electronic.. But some of us, perhaps the minority do.

As far as saving trees....in Canada (also the USA) we have plenty of quick growth trees that provide huge employment to many families through carefully managed harvesting and replanting.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 4:50 PM   #8
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  1. You can find things faster in PDFs than in printed manuals. And what's more, they don't wear out with use.
  2. I recently rented a 2013 Ford Fusion from Enterprise. It didn't come with a printed manual. I downloaded the Owner's Manual from Ford's website, so I could learn how to use the Parking Brake. I used it a short time later to figure out how to connect my smartphone to it. On the last day of the rental, I spent 10 minutes at a gas pump, reading the Owner's Manual on my Netbook, trying to figure out how to open the gas cap. (It turns out, all you have to do is push it.)
RTFM, and be smart about it.
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Last edited by TCav; Aug 18, 2013 at 7:33 PM.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 7:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCav View Post
  1. You can find things faster in PDFs than in printed manuals. And what's more, they don't wear out with use.
  2. I recently rented a 2013 Ford Fusion from Enterprise. It didn't come with a printed manual. I downloaded the Owner's Manual from Ford's website, so I could learn how to use the Parking Brake. I used it a short time later to figure out how to connect my smartphone to it. On the last day of the rental, I spent 10 minutes at a gas pump, reading the Owner's Manual on my Netbook, trying to figure out how to open the gas cap. (It turns out, all you have to do is push it.)
RTFM, and be smart about it.
I could find out anything in a printed car's owner's manual....much faster than that. Get it out of the glove box, use the index...turn the page...read....do.

Let's face it...we all have different ways of learning. One way isn't better than other ways.

Whatever works well for each individual person.
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Old Aug 19, 2013, 4:40 AM   #10
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I could find out anything in a printed car's owner's manual....much faster than that. Get it out of the glove box, use the index...turn the page...read....do.
"Gas Cap" wasn't in the Index.

"Gas" wasn't in the Index.

My point was that people still need manuals, regardless of how good or bad they are. I found out what I needed to know as a result of searching for "gas" and not finding anything.
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Last edited by TCav; Aug 19, 2013 at 4:45 AM.
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