Retro Mania


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Ever since Fuji originally introduced its X100, I’ve noticed more and more cameras with similar pseudo-retro designs. Initially, I was amazed with this “back to the roots” movement, I have nothing against buttons and thumb wheels for the most important settings, quite the contrary. Quick access to the most important settings is desirable, and there’s nothing faster than pushing a button or turning a wheel. Now that perceived every second camera comes in retro-design, whether it makes sense or not, it slowly but surely annoys me. I’ve realized how silly this old design is for modern, fully featured cameras. Especially if you try to make it even more “retro” than the old, analogue SLRs and rangefinders were.

Nikon-Df-3

Source: Nikon.com

Let’s take the Nikon Df as an example. The FE was allegedly the model for the new compact DSLR.

Nikon_FE2_2

Source: Wikimedia.org

At a closer look, however, you’ll discover that the FE has a dial for ISO/exposure compensation, an additional one for exposure time and an aperture ring in the front. The Df has a PASM-dial, one for ISO on which there is a second one for exposure compensation, one for exposure time and two further ones in the front and the back that may be used for exposure time and aperture. So, a total of 6 dials. It’s a little bit like the TV-series “Pimp my Ride”, with the only difference that rapper Xzibit here might say „Yo dawg! We heard you like dials on yo camera, so we put a dial on yo dial on yo dial!” Modern cameras with auto-focus, stabilizer and many more features have too much functionality to place on wheels and dials. If you try it nonetheless, it’s going to end up in a handling catastrophe. The Df looks as if you couldn’t even touch it without changing the settings. This is the wrong way to go. It would be far better if manufacturers tried to combine old and new control elements (such as a touchscreen for focus-field-control). Optically and haptically, thumb wheels and buttons are tempting if well-dosed, but to be honest, all of us want to have a camera that can read our minds. Until this is the case, we need a better concept than 6 dials and a dozen buttons. 😉

  1. Thank you for pointing that out Lars. I’m in agreement with you. Going retro is a gimmick that only works when well executed.

    By the way, I just discovered your great website after researching the merrill DP cameras. I’m so glad I discovered it. I must say I am intrigued and very strongly considering one. However, I recently got my first full frame camera (a Canon 6d) and am wondering if I should bother. Will I essentially just be duplicating the already very good image quality of the full frame sensor? Looking at your photos the images do look very smooth and in some ways more nuanced. How do you think they compare? I would use it for landscape and travel. You can see the type of photography I do at lightgrab.com or here: http://500px.com/dan_7

    Thank you Lars. Looking forward to getting to know you.

    My best, Dan

    Reply

    1. Hi Daniel

      Thanks for visiting!

      Will I essentially just be duplicating the already very good image quality of the full frame sensor?

      The DP Merrills are essentially compact cameras with a large sensor. Meaning that they don’t replace a DSLR but rather complement it. I take my DP2M and DP3M with me on a daily basis, even when going to work. I often use them to take some photos during my lunch break. I certainly wouldn’t use my SD1M DSLR in the same way. It is simply to large and heavy in comparison. At ISO100 I think that you can get even better IQ with a DP Merrill, than with the 6D, but if you bump up the ISO, the 6D will produce far better IQ. DPMs are exceptionally good, when lighting levels are high. Besides the very sharp Foveon sensor, the DP2M and DP3M have exceptional lenses. I’ve compared the DP2M with the Sigmas 30mm f/1.4 EX, and it was no contest. The 30mm f/2.8 lens on of the DP2M was leaps and bounds ahead in sharpness as well as in lack of CAs and vignetting. In my experience there is no other standard prime with this level of IQ in such a small package. Take a look at this image and at the 100% crop. Amazing, right?
      Or take a look here at the level of detail the DP3M can deliver.
      That’s the reason I’m using DP Merrills. 🙂

      Hope that helps.

      Regards,
      Lars

      Reply

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