Tuesday, March 06, 2007

DMD Cameras

As I've complained about previously, there's a dearth of a certain class of digital camera. When I bought my Canon G5 a couple of years back it seemed like a step in the right direction:

the Gx is essentially the high-end of Canon's more-or-less pocketable digital camera. A large pocket to be sure. It also has a fair degree of manual control, a moderately fast lens, and a usable (if not exactly great) viewfinder. It also supports RAW mode, a camera-specific storage format that preserves the maximum amount of image data for later processing in the PC. It's ubiquitous is digital SLRs and the like but far less common in lower-end models. I think of my G5 as occupying a tier between true "point and shoots" and SLRs--albeit without fully allowing a traditional "rangefinder" level of control. Which is one of the things I like about it and, frankly, is a category of camera that largely disappeared in latter film days.

However, the G7 represented a step backwards in some ways (e.g. removing RAW support and the G5's sometimes handily-pivoting LCD display) and didn't make any real advance in any of the areas where it was still lacking from my perspective--shutter lag, slow focus, narrow f-stop range (albeit with a relatively fast lens), so-so optical viewfinder (at least it has one). Instead, the G7's advances were the ones that look good on spec sheets to the unsophisticated--especially the overexposed megapixels.

Just to be clear, I'm not looking for a Leica here. I'm looking for a moderately-priced, modern analog to film camera like the Olympus XA, Canon QL-17, or Yashica T4. (One can argue about the exact specs, but that's the general category. Reasonable levels of manual control, pocketable at at least some level, and not overly complicated.) I own a couple Olympus XA's and a Canon--although I haven't used them in a while and their light meters aren't too accurate any longer. These would typically be second cameras for folks who are serious about photography--probably SLR users for the most part.

I'd been meaning to write about this for a while, but I got stimulated by this post by Mike Johnston over at The Online Photographer in which he lists 8 "Digital Cameras We Need." I confess to not seeing anything on the list that I'd rush out immediately and buy until he hits the top slot:

1. The DMD. I've ranted about this before, so enuff said. I'm amazed—really, honestly amazed—that we still don't have this. It's so obvious, so crucial for street photography and some kinds of art photography, and it would require absolutely zero in the way of new technical development. It could easily be put together with existing technology. Whoever does it first will instantly create a new digital camera category. I hereby offer my services, free, to any camera company that wants me to spec out what it ought to be. Just because it hasn't existed heretofore doesn't mean it shouldn't—to paraphrase Al Gore, all that's needed is the will to do it, and that's a renewable resource.

Mike points over a longer article on the subject that he wrote over at the Luminous Landscape. I might argue some of the specifics--e.g. the lack of a zoom lens--depending upon the tradeoffs involved. (Likewise, on camera flash is pretty useless as the main light source, but can be handy for fill.) And might wonder if we couldn't even have an option to focus manually. (Retro is in, you know.) But I fully endorse his bottom line which he summarizes as: "Bazillion digital point-and-shoots currently inundating market: tiny sensor, slow zoom. DMD: large sensor, fast prime."

Read the whole thing.

Post a Comment