Is That A Camera In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?


We have been in the grip of tiny terrorists since the 1960’s – not the ones in the news, the ones in the camera advertisements. The designers and promoters of ever-smaller cameras and lenses. We have had decades of finger cramps and broken nails.

I wish I could say that it is bound to stop soon, but the trend is for it to get worse. This is no surprise as the people who design the cameras are physically small people with delicate hands, but the people they design the things for are large crude types with ham fists.Thus what feels good in one mitt is lost in the other.

It was not so much a problem in the 50’s and 60’s when the film cameras were made for export. Western hands could slide over TLR and 35mm cameras very well, and the knobs and levers were graspable. Some were even made on the generous side – the Mamiya RB and RZ series were hefty beasts. Of course they incorporated many hard-to-figure features that made them slow to use – but at least you could hold them.

The game bolted the other way when Olympus introduced the Pen cameras and then the OM cameras. Their styling pleased their makers and their size pleased their eastern market. And we were told that it pleased the western market as well, or at least told that we should be pleased. It has gotten worse as the digital era advances – more controls needed and smaller spaces to place them. Hand grips that become finger grips and finger buttons that are indistinguishable from the surrounding surfaces. Odd ergonomics that bear no relationship to anatomy if you have not broken your hand doing karate chops on bricks…

The touch screen with the swipe, squeeze, poink, and whack-it-against-the-table-edge function has now entered the contest, and as far as I can see has won. I dread touching the things for fear of setting them off…or worse; changing the settings so that nothing works. In some cases I have adapted the computer procedure of turning it all off and then not turning it on again…

A plea to the makers; hand the prototype to a meat packer from Wisconsin and get them to change the settings in the menu. If they can’t do it one-handed, make everything 5% larger and try again. You can settle on final dimensions when the bad language stops.


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