The Plain Jane


Not that Jane – she is anything but plain. I mean the Plain Jane camera that was the everyday possession of the amateur photographer in the 1950’s and 60’s. Think of it as having had these characteristics:

35mm film – 24 x 36 mm film aperture

fixed lens – from 35-50mm focal length

optical viewfinder

rangefinder or scale focusing

automatic exposure with an on-board light meter

self-timer mechanism and small platform feet to allow for set-up shots

leather case and strap

and finally – a price that was about 1.5 x a weeks basic wage in Australia.

All the above characteristics save the fixed lens and the low price say ” Leica ” with Leicameter, but unless you have $ 10,000 to spare you cannot say Leica M now. Even if you say Leica Q you are still speaking $ 6000. The Sony RX1R series are in the $ 6000 mark. The 1.5 x basic wage is about $ 950 before tax and those of us on fixed incomes see far less than that. So we will never be able to deal in Leica or Sony products of this sort.

Yet, we could probably use a digital camera with those basic specs very well, and I suspect that camera makers could probably produce them. And the business of fixing the lens – and I mean fixing it…no need for retractable nonsense mechanisms – should relieve the costing department of some burden.

We can dispense with the rangefinder bars, mirrors, and cams now that reliable autofocus is here – simply leave a de-clutch mechanism in place and a focusing scale on the lens. If you must, put it in the viewfinder, but it is better out front. The optical finder can be plainly that, with a projected square to indicate where the AF point is. Or just a good green flash and beep when it locks – most of us depend on that already.

Video? no.

Folding/touch/complex screen? No.

Pop-up flash? Not needed – we can slot in a small add-on just as easily and it will likely reduce the red-eye anyway.

Focal length? Divide the debate – make as perfect a lens as you can in about 42mm focal length and leave it at that. Be nice to the sales staff and give it a 46mm or 52mm filter size so they can find a damn filter to fit it. If you add a pull-out lens hood it will be perfect.

Shorn of all the claptrap this could be the Volkskamera of the future.

Note: if you decided to reduce the sensor to the APS-C size…a perfectly good idea…you already have the Fujifilm X-100 series. AND YOU CAN GO OUT AND BUY ONE OF THEM RIGHT NOW.

PS: bring back the leather case and straps, please.




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