OPINION: Let’s go back to simplicity with cameras. What I would love to see.

OPINION: Let’s go back to simplicity with cameras. What I would love to see.

Yep, I said it. I see it every day, and I see it quite often. Comments, forums, discussions, many saying this or that about cameras, so much nonsense. Today, photography is so much different from it was just 15 years ago. Back then, we shot with film and we did not have the conveniences we have today, and IMO, it made us work even harder to achieve what we wanted, and with that, came a much more fulfilling reward. We did not have pano features built-in, we did not have “high res shot” modes nor did we have video capabilities (could you imagine a hybrid analog film still and film motion camera, lol). We did not have 5 Axis IS to stabilize our images. Yet, when I go back to an old classic camera and shoot film, I do not care about, or want or need all of these modern. day features, which in reality, are gimmicks created by camera companies to keep selling us newer , better cameras. Now, do not get me wrong. I love technology more than most of you reading this. I love to check out new gear, new lenses, and new technology. In all areas. Not just photo. So I am a tech guy, and am guilty of buying my fair share of electronics and gizmos and gadgets. BUT my 1st love is and always has been Cameras and photography.

Today though, it is hard to stay excited about every camera release as many are just rehashed and gimmick filled version of what came before. Most companies CAN create the perfect camera that would last us 10 years but that is not a smart move for any camera company. Instead they release them yearly, or every 2-3 years at least. They have to keep things out of some camera models so they can add it in later and sell us a new body. Back in the film days a good old Nikon would last us 10-20 years, or more. Today, we seem to recycle our digital cameras and good much more often. Yearly for some, and even sooner for others. Some keep their cameras for the long haul but for many it is tough to NOT want that new piece of gear as the new features can be enticing.

I realized long ago that I was buying WAY to many cameras. They would be released, I would use and test them, I would get excited and want them. I would then buy them, only to realize 2 months later that my last camera was in reality, just as good. Hell, I was looking back at pictures I shot with the old Leica M8. As glitchy and strange as that camera was, and as limited as it was, some of my fondest memories were captured with that M8. The files look just as good today as modern-day cameras look and in some cases better. I think it is partly because when it came out it was so different from any other digital so my excitement grew as did my passion for the camera and craft. That camera was and is VERY simple but very limited by todays standards.

That M8 camera shot up to ISO 320 without noise, could not be used in lower light, had issues with color unless you used the screw on lens filters from Leica and at times froze up, had the RF that would go out of whack meaning missed focus, and had crappy battery life. Even so, it created some nice images. With only 10 MP under the hood, I never wanted for more back in those days. It was simple and STRESS free. Todays cameras (besides the M of course) are full of layers deep menus, complicated features, slow motion video, super res modes and all kinds of gimmicks to make the camera more attractive to buyers. When will camera companies run out of ideas to add?

Not sure but I do know that the more that is added to cameras today, the less I like using them. One reason I love the Hasselblad X1D, and especially now with all of the firmware updates. It’s a special camera IMO, one you can bond with and LOVE for a long time. It’s not one of those that you use and say “I can’t wait for the XD2”..you just love it and use it and enjoy the results. It’s the simplest camera I own, or have ever owned. Even simpler than Leica in the menus and control. THAT is what I hope to see more of in the future.

I think today that most photographers, especially the younger crowds, are spoiled with features, tools, and things built into cameras to try to make them more “WOW”. I do not think these things actually HELP us become better photographers so I would LOVE To see a camera company like Sony with all of their knowledge and tech, create a bare bones, specially designed camera for those of use who love simplicity. Design the body in a way that makes us WANT to hold it, shoot it and adore it. Create a one page menu, that is all. Have all metal dials outside, so we do not even need the menu after set up and give it an amazing EVF. Give it a solid feel, and create a trio of special old school primes to use with it. The Leica SL is close but also a pricey system with larger than needed native lenses. 

Make it a statement piece, even limited edition. For those who want that kind of experience. Analog experience in all aspects but with digital guts. Does that exist today? Hmmm, well yes, sort of. The Leica M (But it is manual focus via RF only, which causes issues at times), the Hasselblad X1D ticks most of my boxes, but it is priced much to high for many of us who want that experience. Create a camera like this, keep it at around $3500 body only and it would be a smash hit.

RETRO is in. Vinyl Albums, Car designs that go back to older styles, historic homes, and I think many out there today would love to see a camera that takes us back to the roots of photography without  gimmicks, without limitations and without compromise. To me it would need the following:

Full Frame sensor a must for me, still my fave sensor size

Beautifully designed body that feels like a REAL camera. Think old school Nikon analog cameras, Pentax, etc. 

Big Bright EVF (Leica SL style) 

1 Page Menu with NO gimmick or special features. Just ISO, Exposure, JPEG/RAW settings, etc. The basics. 

ALL controls and settings available via dials, metal dials. 

Quick power up, long battery life, and no gimmicks. No video, no pano, no high res shots, no in body IS, no apps, no special modes, not too small in size, not too large in size. Create a trio of fast aperture solid metal primes, small yet quality. Even if they are mechanical Manual Focus lenses. OK with me. 

Price it at $3500 body only. 

I crave something like this and I know of quite a few who would love to see this as well. While I have MOST of my wish list already in the X1D, I want to see something priced much lower. So more can enjoy this way of shooting. No stress about settings, no worries about what mode to use, none of that. Just an old school, analog like experience. But digital.

I know of nothing made today that ticks all of these boxes. Other get close but they are priced into the stratosphere. The Nikon Df is close as well and I Love the style of that camera. But I want simpler than that even and a better sensor, and mirrorless so it can be thinner instead of bulky. I do know Sony used to make very limited products that were very special. Headphones, Spy Cameras, and special one off products that were made to show just what they can do tech wise. Maybe one day they will make a special old school photographers camera, even if it is a one off limited edition. If so, I would jump in 100%!

How about you? Anyone else out there crave a truly analog feeling digital that is not a rangefinder, doesn’t have massive native lenses and is semi affordable? Latest digital sensor tech in an old school design? While I know so many love the features and gimmicks, and I would never want them to go away, just give us one simple digital that makes us WANT to shoot it. It’s partly why so many pay big bucks for a Leica so if someone can do it at normal price levels, I think it would be welcomed with open arms from most passionate photographers.




  1. Steve I love what u say and connect head on as i was afilm guy and digital messed me up but finally had to throw in the towel and go digital. But all your desires can be answered by M10 fitted with a EVF. I recently bought one and find shooting amazing the fact well not as bright as sl (though i have that also) but better for angled view. The menu un M19 vanishes before switching on the camera one can set every setting like good old manual days. With M lenses and focus peaking M10 is what is ticking all your boxes. What do u say?

    • Sorry for typos aah did not have typos when there was a physical keyboard 🙁 please read M10 not 19

  2. #Monochrome only.
    #Manual Focus only.
    #TILT SWIVEL EVF OLED : NO blackout, 7Million dots, X.95 magnification.
    #TILT SWIVEL OLED Touchscreen : NO blackout, 5Million dots.
    #TWO Dials shutter iso.
    #TWO Memory card slots UHS-II.
    #ONE Joystick.
    #NO AF, NO Video.
    #Combining Green, Red, Yellow monochrome filters.
    #5 Axis Image Stabilised.
    #Rugged, Weather Resistant, Freeze Drop Resistant.


    Now they can make this with :
    Fixed lens 28-105mm Constant F4
    Fixed lens 24-90mm Constant F3.5

  3. Whilst a simplified camera lacking all the useless gimmicks (we know what they are) would be fantastic, unfortunately it would be quite a niche product. Personally I think it would be too niche for any camera manufacturer to consider and would most likely end up close to Leica in price. I’m sure we’ll have to put up with the endless menus and features (like 4K video) most dedicated photographers wouldn’t use in order for the main manufacturers to cater for the masses and to guarantee a lot of sales.

    Over the last few years (frustratingly having to calibrate many dslr lenses) I’ve got frustrated and bored with autofocus lenses and have yearned for the fun I used to have with secondhand manual cameras but with the convenience of digital cameras. No current camera will fully re-create that experience and fully manual, native lenses are a niche and fairly expensive option on mirrorless cameras (forget it for dslr). Possibly for me the best option is a Sony A7 ( not a totally great camera) and Zeiss and or Voigtlander lenses. I’ll just have to put up with the video mode and endless and pointless menus I’ll never use.

  4. I would be looking for a either a new tech mirrorless camera with no gimmicks (exception EVF) or a retro mirrorless camera with no gimmicks (exception EVF).

    But both of my wishes would have to come to a camera with some bt of heritage which is why I hope Sony would not make it. Leave it up to Nikon, Canon, Fuji. Leica kinda already keeps this heritage in the M line, but yah I agree with the peanut gallery….if Leica would make it an M-like of sorts with just EVF, no range finder, FF, ILM camera I would buy. If Nikon/Can/Fuji made a FF, EVF, ILMc RF or Df-like camera I would buy. It’s importanrt for me to spend hard earned cash to feel like, look like and function like it came from the past.

  5. Steve, Just wanted to add one more voice of enthusiastic agreement to yours and all others’ wishes for such a camera tool. Interesting that so many of us eye the same current options – Hassel, Nikon DF, Sony RX1, Fuji XPro models..You’d think it’d be a straight forward product to pull together. I too tried the fujis twice with extensive shooting but while the colors could be great, that sensor’s muddling of the fine details of plants and trees just ruled it out. Here’s to hoping Sony or Nikon give us our Christmas wish soon (company execs, are you listening?!?!) Craig

  6. My Suggestion: Just get a Leica M3 with any great Leica lens and you have reached what Steve is wishing and hoping for. Best of all your own Brain and senses as well as best Quality optical materials have actually created the Image and not a Sensor , software and Electronics.

  7. It’s possible Sony might bring out a simplified version of their 7 series camera, maybe with a much faster AF and image processor, more robust and bigger buttons, serious weather sealing and a stainless steel body – a nod and a wink at Minolta’s swansong, the Dynax 9. But I’m betting this will also be really expensive!

  8. THE MANUFACTURER WHO DARES TO MAKE THIS CAMERA HAS A GUARANTEED WINNER! All these replies prove it. I hope it will be Sony.

  9. I have been saying this a few times already: I want Sony to make a simple, “maual” A7, but with the latest quality features (of the Riii, no less), but a layout exactly as you describe it, without all those features that are no more than debris for shooters like me. Not you, Steve, but I would be the first to order! 🙂
    BTW, don’t give Sony the idea to make this a limited series, this should be a regular, always available type.
    Oh yes, I have definitely decided NOT TO BUY THE Riii, but to keep my A7Rii for a long time. I will not follow this mechanism any longer to automatically pay another few thousand Euro’s for a few new features, that are presented as is they are to be indespensible for any serious photographer, but in fact is the opposite. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing else will help me making better pictures, nothing else than an A7Miii (this “Manual” version of the Riii, this camera that you describe in this article). I’M SCREAMING FOR IT!!

  10. I’m late to this thread, but I agree fully with Steve. I got serious into photography in the early 1960s with all -manual cameras. I did fine without light meters, but loved the Leicaflex SL I got in 1969, and never understood why people wanted more “features” than it had.
    I also wanted Pentax to make a “Digital MX” as the original small SLR was great.
    I saw the Leica M9 and bought one with my retirement bonus, using all my old Leica RF lenses. I could use the M9 exactly like my old M6 (still used for film) and ignore the menus and LCD. Then after 7 years of great service, Leica replaced the sensor (which just started to show corrosion) and returned the camera in as-new condition – for FREE. Their digitals may not last for 20 years, but they do stand behind them!
    For a digital SLR replacement I use the basic Sony A7 with adapters for all my old Pentax and Leica R lenses. Set for spot metering I can use it just like my old Leicaflex SL, but with auto exposure. I just ignore all the other settings and menus. I’ve seen no reason to go for newer models as long as it still works.

  11. “Create a camera like this, keep it at around $3500 body only and it would be a smash hit.”

    I was with you right up ’till this point. Have people completely lost their minds? $3500? Since when did back to basics simplicity carry a $3500 price tag? The photography industry has really lost the plot.

    • Well, the most basic cameras today that fit the bill? X1D at $8k, the Leica MD at $7k…$3500 would be morethan welcome. You ill NEVER EVER get a top quality digital, built like a tank, with basic operation and the best sensor, EVF tech and speed to come along with it for less than $3500. In fact if this ever does happen it will be more like $5k. Look at the Nikon Df. It’s semi basic but still pricey and still not what I am looking for. $3500 would be great IMO. I’d pay more actually to get away from the gimmicks, menus and nonsense.

      • Steve, Take a Sony A7Riii, remove everything from it that is too much, DON,’T make it a one off special series but a regular line instead, would it become more expensive or less than the A7Riii?

    The camera industry, along with the smartphone industry, are not yet ready to simplify.
    The audio amplifiers underwent an analogous path: along the decades they “gained” filters, tone controls, graphic equalizers, Dolby, surround, etc. All that is gone – today’s top products just have a power on switch and a volume control.
    Back to the cameras, the first dismissal should be the video, let still cameras be still cameras.
    Next could go away ALL menus and buttons. If someone likes to configure once basic parameters like those for jpeg conversion, that could be done via an external app.
    That leaves us with two rings in the lens, focus and aperture.
    In the body, just a power switch and three dials: exposure time, ISO sensitivity and exposure compensation.
    Plus a shutter release button that if pressed hard, shoots continuosly.
    EVF and display both OLED without touch capability.
    Standard Nikon (or Canon, of Fuji) lens mount.
    A battery generous enough to forget there’s one.
    Open SW upgradable by manufacturer and / or third parties.
    All that should be feasible in FF for a fraction of the Leica or Hasselblad price tags.
    If someone will start a croudfunding to this purpose, I’m in.

    • I think there are cameras out that already supply the tools needed to configure a basic camera; the problem is everyone’s idea of what is basic is different. Just look at the comments received already. For me, basic means: 1.) direct control of aperture, shutter speed and ISO through dials; 2.) a Quick menu with 12 – 16 settings that is configurable and can fit on one screen of the back viewfinder; 3.) a full menu system that can supply a user’ preferred settings to the Quick menu; 4.) perhaps pre-configured Quick menu sets from the manufacturer to use as a basis for the user’s own custom sets. This is certainly do-able today with the exception of the preconfigured Quick menu sets, and there’s plenty of examples available on the internet of user’s preferred configurations. The preconfigured sets would require a firmware update from the manufacturers but would certainly take the pain out of using cameras with complicated menu sets such as Olympus is notorious for. Rich

      • Good point, Rich: indeed, everyone’s idea of what is basic is different.
        Other industries have already more or less solved the puzzle.
        The ERP systems for enterprise management pose a similar challenge. The SW industry response has been to provide a standard application with a default set of functions according to the “best practices” that apply the “best in class” companies. Whoever needs something different must “customize” the application, meaning: choose and organize some of the countless additional options hidden from first sight.

  13. I found simplicity with fuji x-t1 and 2 prime lenses (35mm and 16mm, both f/1.4) : aperture ring, iso and shutter dials, quick menu and almost no editing.
    I was nikon shooter and when somebody put a canon camera in my hands, i was lost and didn’t know how to use it. The x-t1 is user friendly : if you understand iso/aperture/speed, you’ll be able to shoot with this camera.

  14. I thought forever that Pentax would make a digital k1000 that is what you describe here

    I was a 35 year Pentaxian and loved many of their offerings with my last entry being the k3 and all of the Pentax limited primes

    BUT – the K1 for me was not interesting…flippy screen withstanding and new colors of bodies was not going to cut it either.

    Where are their brains? The k1000 had a legendary following and nuttin’

    I gave up. Im an Oly guy now

    EM1MKll and the pro primes

    Luv the primes baby

    Luv the primes

    But a basic k1000 would still take me back to my youth…would love it

  15. I like the article, but I don’t get it when you say it has to feel old school. For me, old school is mainly no AF. I also wonder how a camera with EV can feel old school. Or with an LCD. Basically, it seems to me that you’re asking for a Leica M-D with an EV and cheaper. Although, at the end, I don’t know how anything with batteries can feel old school. At the end of the day, anyone can get a Sony A7 line, avoid the menues and stick to manual controls and manual lenses.

  16. “Back in the film days a good old Nikon would last us 10-20 years, or more.”

    More. I’m using Leicas from the 1950s, Rolleiflexes and Nikons from the 1960s, Minoltas from the 1970s . All for my current work.
    Just shoot film. It does a body good.

    Hey Steve, when u gonna review the Leica M-A?

  17. A digital Nikon FM3A (with the exact same specs, especially this great shutter) with the K3 focus screen for use with manual Nikkor Ai-S lenses. Nikon dropped the ball twice there. This is what the Df should have been or at least what should have been released for their 100th anniversary. I would be willing to pay a premium for that, buy two, sell all of of my Fuji and my film gear and be happy for the rest of my days.

  18. Amen! and Amen again, Steve. I am a good deal older than you and started my amateur photographic career in the mid 1940’s. My first real camera was an Argus C3. But I quickly changed to and Exacta VX with 58mm Biotar. I still have it today and it still works. The pentaprism with central split image range finder is the brightest of any I have ever owned, bar none.

    As I get older, I long for the earlier simpler days before complicated LCD menus and not so bright EVF’s. I thought I had found my simpler classic in the Nikon DF. And it is a great camera. But I do a lot of cropping and photoshopping and 16 megapixels is simply not enough for the 17×21 art photos that line my walls.

    I have finally hit on a new simplicity at 42 megapixels, the Sony A7RIII with 40mm f1.2 Voightlander Nokton. 40mm hits my ‘sweet spot’ normal vision. I set the camera on M, the ISO on automatic, the speed on 1/200th ( to account for my mild aging tremor), and away I go, changing f stop on the lens along the way to suit for various lighting and depth of field needs. The manual focussing, with magnification and focus peaking is amazing. It gives me almost the same fast focussing capability I had with my split image range finders. So there you have it, as close as I can come to old style simplicity with a modern camera.

  19. I 100% agree with you
    And I would buy that camera immediately.
    Nikon: Be brave!
    And Nikon, please also be brave enough to finally get rid of that ultimately ugly red thing on the front or your cameras!

  20. The Nikon Df is still the one that comes close. All the dials on the top are what reminds of retro. Each tactile feeling even to the on/Off switch, and the clicking sounds is what reminds of a special craft. The digital back however falls short but still fairly simple to use. Steve keeps winking on the Df comments. I think he knows something but that’s what NDA’s are for 😉 ahem!

    • I’ve ventured onto a Leica Q. It’s not old school but it’s a fantastic stop gap between the Df and an Rangefinder-like camera….. till “that” camera comes out, I’ll be busy making memories with my Df and Q 🙂

    • Interesting how people are commenting on the Nikon DF. I have a friend who recently sought out a good one, specifically for photographing inside churches(!), and loves his. Most of those requests for simple/functional/menu-free are met by my Panasonic L1. That is one quality camera and I find modern RAW converters make those files gorgeous, which wasn’t really the case when new.

      Of course the Nikon has a larger sensor. Steve has aimed, rather arbitrarily, for a 35mm sensor in his ideal camera but that’s overkill. Smaller sensors nowadays are easily good enough for anything but shooting in that dark pub (once you’ve done that a few times, surely it would get stale?) and the cost/size/quality of lenses more than compensates for the largely irrelevant improved quality of larger sensors.

      All of which means the Leica CL is looking good…

  21. Mamiya 6!! – my zen camera,
    With fuji across or velvia 50 – the ‘sensor’ is plenty big enough. And 3 great primes!
    And developing B/W at home brings back a lot of happy nostalgia for me too.
    Sure I love all the coolness of modern m43 and use it when I need it.
    But for me the Mamiya 6 is the photographic equivalent of a Sunday afternoon with a fat cigar, a good brandy, and an acoustic guitar. 🙂
    It brings me a lot of pleasure in the inherent relaxed process of making square film images

  22. The premise, and the many marvelous responses to it, suggest that we all yearn for for sweet but elusive perfection, be it in terms of gear or the art it produces. When mass manufacturing and the brutal economics of industry converge, a catering to every possible taste (all things to all people) results in cameras with far more features than many of us want or use, not unlike the nearly 2000 cable channels that we pay for, but of which we may watch fewer than 10. Ultimately, I wonder if there is a sustainable economic model based on customization, where the buyer gets to choose from among five, say, main parameters (separate and apart from the many features that are, effectively, apps). Or a model where, instead of changing lenses, one carries three fixed-lens cameras; am thinking of the Leica Q and Q-50 and Q-75 versions, where lens and sensor are matched (perfectly, of course), and where the body itself is small enough such that carrying three is hardly a burden. Then again, assuming I had that, how long would it be before that subtle sense of dissatisfaction crept in causing the eye to rove toward the latest glitzy offering?

  23. Hi Steve,
    been a reader of your site for years now for me a simple camera would be like the old analog ones an excellent sensor, no frills at all, no video, just the iso, white balance and 3:2 size. The rest can be done on any computer with lightroom or PS or any other postproccessing program probably better than what most of ammateur photographers used to do in the darkroom.
    I started taking pictures some 50 years ago and all we had at the time was ASA choice (not even dx coded) speed, aperture and a basic exposure cell. That was more than enough and it has made loads of keepers. I bought a sony a7 + sony/zeiss 35mm f2.8 a few years ago but finally ended up selling it. It’s a perfect piece of computerized engineering but the menus are so complicated and useless to me. I did not like the texture of the results which seemed to me very shallow so now I shoot a ricoh grd 3 or 4 and a leica x2. These 2 have kept it simple, happy with the results and I always have a camera with me whenever I go out. The only thing I miss is the viewfinder but getting used to shoot with the screen. A camera is just a tool, not a computer built on steroids. Sure some lenses are better than others (I love leica lenses) but I don’t see the point of having powerhouses with pages and pages of user manual when all you need is aperture and speed dials. Thanks a lot for your site and a merry Christmas and a good time with your family (a bit in adavnce, over exposed in camera terms) and plenty of keepers of family reunion

  24. Steve, the camera you are describing is the Leica Digilux 2. Minimalist styling, wonderfully sharp zoom lens, manual “old school” controls and few buttons on the rear of the camera. It even had a built-in tiltable flash! I loved that camera and used it for years. I wish Leica just kept the look of that model and just kept updating the sensor and electronics. It had everything a photographer could ask for and more. And sexy as hell IMO! LOL!!!

    • Nope. My camera includes a full frame sensor, a one page menu, and usable low light. The Digilux 2 is good at base ISO, that’s about it. The sensor is tiny, and its slow as molasses. It has no shallow DOF or low light capabilities and is not very responsive. It’s nice, but not close to what I am hoping for.

  25. I had this it with the Epson RD-1
    100% control on camera, no need to go through menus and you can even flip the LCD back to avoid seing it, which I did !

    For me the best camera, and whishing for an R-D2, just upgrade the sensor in FF, et voilà, nothing else to change

  26. Background, I used film when I was young (12-15) and then didn’t really pick up photography again until my mid 30 (now mid 40’s). I’ve never touched a Leica (and probably won’t).

    So I guess I don’t get the desire to strip away technology, that I find useful (in body stabilization, custom buttons, etc). As far as the dials and controls being dials and metal that would be fine, but I honestly now find my A9 just as easy to use as the x-t2 that I used tohave. I find most of the modern cameras I’ve tried (em1, em5mkii, xt2, a7rii, a9, df and d750) to be fine. I prefer the size of mirrorless, but IMO sony and fuji bodies size wise are pretty close to perfect for me (and I can make them larger if needed via grip). I want more technology (better af, better iso performance, better evf’s, better in body stabilization, etc).

    I don’t want car with a stick anymore either, give me a dual clutch, twin turbo setup and track settings for the transmission.

    Judging by the comments though, I guess it’s just me.

  27. For me the Sigma DP Merrill cameras pretty much hits the spot.
    They’re really simple, yet well designed and very easy and comfortable to work with.
    They have their weaknesses but even now, 5 years after they were launched, they still “wow” me with the image quality, and I don’t see anything else to replace them on the market currently.

    • Such a good statement Steve, I agree to 100%! I went through some systems in the last years and they all were amazing in some way … Nikon, Sony or even Olympus … but the nice simplicity of my old 1960s or 1970s analogue cameras was just not there. Now I bought a Fuji X-E3 which I think is a really nice “reduced” body and for a fraction of the price of a Leica M10 or even an used M9. It’s far from perfect and still has a huge amount of menu items etc. But I do see that they are taking at least a first step to reducing feature overload, instead of adding and adding new stuff like in the years before that in the end no one really needs. Like you said. Regards, Thomas

  28. A while back I purchased a Canon EOS M3 body along with the DC1 electronic viewfinder. After a couple of weeks, I discovered that I really didn’t like much of anything about the camera except for its size and placement of the controls. Then, on a whim, I bought a Fotasy Minolta MD to EOS M adapter and installed my old MC Rokkor 58 mm f/1.4 lens. Setting the camera to monochrome, turning on focus peaking, and setting the ISO to 400 brought me back to the days of shooting Tri-X on my old Minolta SR-T 101. No image stabilization, manual focus and aperture – it was like 40 years ago when a was stationed in Europe and wandered around Paris with the old SR-T 101! The black & white images are very film like with a range that exceeds the camera’s color abilities. Of course, there is still the issue of battery life and Canon’s miserably expensive “chipped” batteries, but it is nice to be able to electronically “push” the “film” or flick on an electronic red filter. While not a Leica, I’ve come to think of it as my “poor man’s Monochrom”. Lovely that a 45 year old lens redeemed a camera I would have otherwise discarded.

  29. Well said Steve, I completely feel you on this. But I do think your comments on camera companies being greedy is misplaced. It’s a highly competitive market and if a company thought there was opportunity for a niche market like the camera you describe, it would jump on it or risk others profiting on it first. I think in reality camera companies, whether right or wrong, simply don’t see this as a good opportunity for them. I think another commentor has it right in that it will take a successful pitch by you or someone else at one of these companies to make them realize the value in it. Or, the pessimistic view is that despite the seemingly overwhelming consensus on your post from your readers, in reality we really are just too small a market and not worth it. Most people want more options not less.

  30. How about Hasselblad 503 CW-D mark something with 5,5 x 5,5cm Full frame medium format sony sensor with all new age features?
    So when You get enough of perfect digital just change your back and shot film again.

  31. +1000% to this: “I would LOVE To see a camera company like Sony with all of their knowledge and tech, create a bare bones, specially designed camera all metal dials outside, so we do not even need the menu after set up and give it an amazing EVF. Give it a solid feel, and create a trio of special old school primes to use with it.” and they even have those primes – its LOXIA line!

  32. Couldn’t agree more, apart maybe from having direct controls for everything. That’s how the Nikon Df became so cluttered (a missed attempt IMO). Tucking away less used features in the menu is a way to kee the physical UI clean, like on the Leica M (being MF only helps of course).

    For me, the closest attempt so far, apart from the M, is the Fuji X range of cameras (I know they are not FF). Importantly to me, they kept the aperture control to where it belongs: on the lens.

  33. I would love to see Pentax make one of these. Make a small full frame DSLR. No rear view screen. No jpg mode. I’d love a camera where the battery was only used to capture the image and save it to the SD card. The battery would last forever! A few features – such as turning on/off the light meter, turn on/off in body IS etc, so you capsule maximize battery life. Make the rest mechanical. Crank the camera to charge up the shutter, turn physical dials that mechanically adjust the aperture, shutter speed and ISO (obviously digitally controlled) and I’d love Pentax’s weather sealing. Initial release with 5 prime lens 23, 35, 50, 90, 135. If it’s absolutely necessary to review pictures add a flip up screen (like in Fuji x-100/pro series) in the viewfinder to review photos. I think a camera like this could be durable, long lasting battery and small (like SLRs we’re back before everything went wacko.

  34. This article resonated very deeply with me. I’ve had a very strong reaction to the box-ticking, uber-complex gadgets hitting the market lately. My own EM1 would have been vastly better if it had been simpler. It’s fantastically capable, which is why I keep it, but it’s not really inspiring.

    This is actually why I recently bought a Leica T. There are a couple of dumb things about that camera but, with a handful of pretty random old lens to use, I have been having a blast. Maybe the CL will prove to be close to that elusive beast?

    The only thing I would disagree on is abandoning in body stabilisation. Sure, I get away without it on the T but it is a very good thing and no need for any complexity. Plus, shaking the dust of the sensor saves some anguish!

  35. Fully agree with Steve’s observations – curious about the industries reaction.
    But I experienced that is is possible to also discipline myself and not use many of the options offered by the modern cameras. one of my favorite camera combinations:
    – my Sony A7R with my Leica M lenses (I inherited a selection) with the Novoflex adapter. Sometime even set to b&w only. Suddenly I am in a different world and create Bettker pictures. Favorite lens is the summarit 2.8/90 mm.
    – recently used my Sony with M42 Zeiss 50mm via Adapter to shoot a complete rock concert in dark environment, only stage lights. Wonderful pictures – no settings to be changed – just ´creating´ pictures… and the musicians were so happy!
    So part of the solution maybe in ourselves.
    (Yes, I do also have some of the feature loaded stuff like Canon DSLR, sports lenses etc…)

  36. In general you have a really good point. The Q is almost a perfect model upon which to design an ILC system that you’re after. 24Mpx is plenty – I’m quite happy with 16Mpx, but 24 would be a nice bonus.

    So – should the EVF be in the corner, like the Q, or in the centre, like the A7? And how about the aspect ratio? I think 4:3 is the best ‘universal’ aspect ratio. Maybe make it 32x24mm (or 36x27mm). Or make it square instead.

    And here’s a thing: one reason why menus have so many functions is because people want good JPEGs. So here is what has to happen:

    Either JPEGs have a tone curve applied so that highlights are saved as much as possible; or, a new file format replaces JPEGs completely, which keeps the DR of the RAW file and also lets shadows be recovered more cleanly.

    In fact one does not need JPEGs, really – everything you want can be done on the computer with the RAW files. Sports photographers of course do need JPEGs, but this camera is not going to be optimized for that application anyway.

  37. I simply want a digital film option for Leica M3 (yes, that’s my digital cam concept) I trained myself using infinity lock on 5cm / f2 to focus accurately without using rangefinder, means I never need to raise my camera to focus. That’s the only way I can keep up with my observation (Like Bob Munden shoots his gun, no sights & scope needed, faster than your eyes are capable).

  38. Isn’t that camera you’re asking already out though? I mean, I see people using M9’s for years now, and it’s as simple as it can get. I myself just got a Monochrom which is now 5 years old but is all you need from a camera and I can see it last 5 more years+. You can also get these two models today for around the price you’re mentioning.

    • NO, I have not. Mainly because it really is not made for M lenses, and yes, the adapter is out but reviews are mixed. I did order an adapter but for some reason, it has not arrived yet. When I get one, I will give it a go. Thank you.

  39. M9 ‘like’ sensor
    Ricoh Gxr form factor, weight, menu, buttons (add 2 func button) but with SL viewfinder on the side
    Ricoh size lenses
    An xpan panorama mode (ricoh has a square mode)
    Olympus speed and 5 axis
    Fully tiltable Lcd screen
    42 mega pixels to enable croping of xpan65x24?, 6×6, 6×7,6×17,3×2,4×3 and enough for tilt shift etc.
    No AA filter please
    Easy firmware update
    Dng raw
    ***a drone capability just in case I need it note no propeller hahaha.

  40. There is another way of producing camera bodies that stay with the user for a lot longer, but it looks like all but one manufacturer (Kodak – Do you remember their expensive converted Nikon/Canon SLR bodies with sensors in them?) has offered an alternative option, which is quite ‘common’ with MF cameras. I am of course referring to cameras where the sensors in the body can be upgraded, admittedly not as a ‘swap over’ item. Yes, Kodak did say that they were going to allow the owners of those cameras to have their sensors upgraded, but then Kodak decided to close down it’s non-specialist/scientific/ Military sensor fabrication plant …. As far as I am aware, no such upgrade actually surfaced.

    If manufacturers producing FF/35mm format and smaller sensor sizes, had upgradable backs/sensors, their body designers could spend far more time perfecting what a lot of people probably also want, which are far more ergonomically designed bodies, without having to worry about what the sensor fabrication plants they use, are going to be showing up with next, and the design of far better menuing layouts, as that would not also something they need to be involved in either.

    I certainly wouldn’t want one of these cameras to have a user-removable sensor though. One might actually find that by having far longer production runs on bodies, there could also be a reduction in the cost of each camera body because you don’t have the expense of designing and building a new production line every year.

    Will someone eventually take this up? – Well, that is going to depend on their shareholders and investors not demanding something ‘completely’ new or visually different every year. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether something like I have outlined above, does happen. However, if those backing companies saw the figures of producing things this way, maybe they might see the light.

    Leica and most of the MF camera manufacturers like Alpa and Hasselblad, seem to have managed to convince the people who finance them, that this strategy can work, so could the same thing happen to one/some of the sub-MF camera manufacturers?

  41. It has a fix (zoom) lens. It is not full frame.
    BUT, the menu is simple. The construction is as strong as camera were made in the previous times. The quality of the pictures is great (in day light).
    I love my Leica x-vario.

    • I agree X-Vario is my go to camera !!!!! Try a c-lux 3 —it will blow you away 20’x30′ prints with wow factor !!! John Young

  42. A simle firmware could do the trick. Take whatever body you like and simplify the menu. Call it basic mode. Or provide us the source code and we build a community to do it. I am sure that we could do magic to recent and or older cameras.

  43. Completely agree, was inspired by many of your reviews to go with manual lenses with my EM5 and just ignore most of the camera features, keep it simple, love it more

  44. Agreed, and it has been my photographic search for the past 15 years.

    I owned the x100, but didn’t like the focal length or feel. I owned an M9, but didn’t like the low light performance. I owned the DF, and disagree with you in that I think the Df sensor had a beautiful rendering and is still in the top 3 for low light. The only issue with the Df was that it was an F-mount DSLR, and so suffered from requiring big lenses. I owned an a7, but hated the interface and color profile OOC (I really don’t have time to mess about with RAW files). I own the SL, which is close to perfect, but the lenses are far too big. I also own the OM-D E-M1 (II), which is perhaps even closer to perfect, except it’s not FF, so not very good in low light.

    I have come to believe that “my” camera will never exist. It does not meet the interests of the various companies (Oly need to push m4/3, Leica need to protect the M, Sony need to preserve their tech-for-the-masses brand). In my wet dream, Nikon realizes that DSLR’s are dead (declining mass market relevance, and unprofitable at the pro level) and puts 100% of their development behind a single pro-level mirrorless body, similar to their old rangefinder design. I would trust them to produce what I want, because they came so close with the Df. If they could just be brave enough to abandon the F-mount. But doing so is tantamount to admitting the company is in decline.

    And, btw I would also add pro-level responsiveness (no shutter lag, and fast response-time for all actions) to your “essentials” list.

    • I fully agree with you. I have been shooting with Nikon since 1983 (F3 period), I like the brand, have many lenses, but it’s getting more and more tiring to carry my D800 and couple of lenses when traveling. I hesitated to upgrade for D850 but it wouldn’t solve my weight issue. The M10 is a dream for me, I’have tried it, the built quality and IQ is amazing but with my eye site (I’m 65) it doesn’t make sence converting to rangefinder system. So what else to do, I’m waiting for a high end mirrorless camera from Nikon and smaller size prime lenses.

  45. Nice you also like the M8. Still keep mine.
    But, perhaps the time of M system and mechanical rangefinder is over. You mention a need of a good evf. I love ovf, and leica ones are crisp clear, but technology is making marvels.
    By other side I agree infinte menus are fully annoying. But many features are interesting. Perhaps they’ll develop the programmable camera; once programmed it’ll work simply

  46. How minimalistic should this Olympus ZEN be? We need knobs for aperture, exposure time and ISO. Autofocus, white balance control and stabilization are no luxury so let’s not pinch pennies on that. A viewfinder is a must. A tilting LCD screen is welcome too, but do we really need menus at all?
    € 3500 is way over the top. The challenge should be to design the equivalent of a Volkswagen Beetle or a classic Mini Cooper. Basic, reliable and affordable. Not a Tesla the weighs 2 tons. And above all a camera for beginners to learn how photography really works. Like the Canon FTb’s and Nikkormats we started with 40 years ago.

      • Make it double. 2600$. To me, that would be very fair for an A7Riii, stripped from all debris. (But I think they COULD make it more expensive, marketing wise. I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment if it would cost 3000 Euro’s. The operation speed and joy of use would be enough reason to buy.)

  47. Scott wrote:

    “For all that Sony does well, they cannot seem to match industrial design with a pleasing aesthetic, at least not to my eyes.”

    +1, and this is the reason I would never own one of the modern Sonys, even though they have the best FF sensors on the market.

    Having owned numerous Fuji bodies, I cannot agree with Steve’s assessment that the lenses feel “hollow”; for sure they are not as dense as M lenses, but they AF, so that’s a necessary tradeoff.

    I would like to buy the camera Steve describes. For me, as an ex-M shooter from way back, the modern digital Ms are way too thick and not a hand-holdable shape, not without a dumb grip. Once I held one, I knew I could never own one.

    I am using a Panasonic GX8 with the 20/1.7 lens these days as my main still camera, and in square format, for discipline.

    A three-prime (24, 45, 90) would do the majority of what I need to shoot, and most other photographers, too.

    My suggestion, Steve, is for you to pitch this to Sony (or Nikon); it could be done.

  48. I totally agree Steve. For amater photography when speed is not important less is more.. That’s why I love my A7 mk1. It’s full frame, cheap, relatively simple, metal, sturdy, perfect size…. Add to that some manual lenses and there you have it, photography nirvana. All I need. All A7s after mk1 are a tad to big. Little bit to capable 🙂
    I hope there will be some special editions that go back to roots of photography..

  49. Hi Steve, simplicity is beauty. I am sure that the Nikon D850 and Sony A7r3 are magnificent cameras but the menu systems turn me off when compared with the Hasselblad X1D and the Leica M10. Following the theme of your post could you do an update of your experience with the X1D using the new firmware options as well as what you think the X1D can improve on for the way you use the camera. I for the life of me cannot see what is holding camera manufacturers back from providing an EVF that compares with the Leica SL. I am a SL and M246 user.

  50. I agree with you 1000%. Unfortunately it seems to be true that it would be “bad business” for anyone to give us a product that we can really bond with.

    I appreciate the invitation to dream with you!

    Here are my thoughts:
    – Form factor: smallest possible FF rangefinder-style (no grip… i.e. accessory)
    – EVF: large and no lag, blinkies (or whatever) for clipping
    – Rear screen: NONE!? (accessory, which could be articulating)
    – Sensor: good “grain” aesthetic with no banding (RGB pixels someday?), auto-cleaning
    – Mount: shorter flange distance than M-mount, for adapter
    – Great weather sealing, great resistance to knocks/bumps
    – Physical controls:
    – shutter speed dial (with auto)
    – iso dial (with auto)
    – shutter type switch (electronic vs focal plane vs auto)
    – MF auto-mag off/3x/6x switch) … lens setting determines MF vs AF
    – AF mode switch (point, tracking, zone?) … lens setting determines MF vs AF
    – focus peaking switch on/off
    – AF/mag point control joystick, press-hold to lock AF, click to re-center

    – System lenses weather sealed, and includes both AF and MF offerings
    – physical aperture ring with auto setting
    – AF lenses need to “feel like” MF lenses when used that way, no silly focus ring acceleration, about 1/4 turn focus throw… AF ring sensors should have the resolution to trust our fine motor skills… hard stop lenses with focus tabs would be nice
    – any lens IS needs to have a manual switch
    – physical AF/MF switch or clutch on AF lenses, and printed DOF scale on normal and wider lenses
    – lenses are not “thrown open” during composition… let the aperture be what it is set to at all times, even if we get a little grain in the EVF… EVF is always WYSIWYG (i.e. DOF preview)
    – never any onion ring bokeh
    – APO offerings, ultra premium offerings (in terms of design and build quality/tolerance)
    – 40mm no-compromise pancake offering

    – has cam for sensing focus movement, used with auto-mag feature

    • …also:
      – exposure comp thumb dial with markings (inactive in full manual, obviously)
      – love the locking diopter adjustment concept on the Leica CL

    • A welcome post, it’s good to pause and reflect. I often feel swept along with the tide of technological innovation. Buying in to successive upgrades feels a bit like I’m always on route to the next product refresh. I was recently advised my camera is not keeping up with the competition. I answered if you can’t shoot a saleable image with my old camera, a new one won’t save you.
      I find eligance in functional simplicity with cameras. The extra effort required on my part is more engaging and rewarding

  51. Too many features are killing creativity. My first digital was the Leica Digilux 2 and I still use it as an back up for my M240. For special jobs I’ve the GX8 with a Leica VarioElmar 100-400. I had a M8 for a year, but wasn’t satisfied. But the M240 brought me back to basic photography and is my main camera for press and concert jobs. Conclusion is: I agreee widely with your opinion.

  52. I can´t agree more with Steve. The simpler the better.
    My $ 600 amateur solution is a Panasonic LX100.
    Metal body, a proper aperture ring and two real dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation – all a photographer needed 30 years ago, and still valid.
    It is a micro 4 3rds with a fixed equivalent 24-75 mm Summilux F/1.7 –
    It feels and handles (almost) like a real film camera. It asks to be shot! That ‘s what it’s about.

  53. Hi!
    My Olympus PEN F half frame camera from 1963 has three controls (distance, opening and shutter time) a release and a cocking lever. I never had a manual.
    My Hasselblad Xpan has three controls (distance, opening and shutter time) a release and an on-off switch. the manual is three pages.
    The Nikon D850, if I count it right, has 30 buttons. I get nauseous when I think about having to photograph with that monstrosity. The manual must be 600 pages.
    I stopped photographing digital because it’s just too complicated.
    I went to San Francisco with the PEN for 16 days and I shot 280 photo’s, about 20 a day. i had a 20, 40 and 100mm (eq. to 28, 60 and 140mm) lens with me and that was sufficient to photograph everything.
    I went to Spain and did seven hour mountain walks with my Linhof, shot 8 photo’s a day. It made ma feel very deeply calm and in complete control.

    If the camera Steve describes would come up, I’d probably give digital another shot. I don’t have the money for a Leica or the Hasselblad.
    No one needs these ultra sharp ultra heavy lenses. One needs reasonable lenses which gather a lot of light.
    BTW bought a Fuji 6×9 rangefinder camera for $200. You should see the incredible, smooth negatives.


    • Ok Dirk, a camera as third eye with fixed focus to go back in time……I got a secondhand RX1R………that sometimes is looking at other things….

  54. Hi Steve. For me, it’s not the camera but the menus. My favorite camera for the last several years has been the Fuji X100 series. However, the menus are just jammed packed with so many options. I would love to see camera companies just simplify this part of the experience.

  55. For all that Sony does well, they cannot seem to match industrial design with a pleasing aesthetic, at least not to my eyes. Olympus on the hand excels at it IMO. I’d like to see the camera you describe designed by Olympus using a Sony Full Frame sensor. I mean if were gonna dream, may as well dream it the way I want it 😉

    • Nice camera yes but not what I am talking about. Doesn’t have IC lenses, has a jammed menu, EVF is average and the feel is hollow. I would like to see a larger body than that, feeling solid like old school analog cameras, interchangeable lenses, one page menu, LARGEST BEST EVF ever made and long battery life, mechanical MF option etc. X100 is nice though!

  56. Steve– I couldn’t agree more!!! I am a pretty dedicated M-shooter for just the reasons you mentioned above. However, the option for autofocus appealed to me. So, I jumped headlong into the Leica SL platform when it became available and of course piled on the lenses (24-90, 90-280 and 1.4/50 Summilux) and it IS capable of delivering great images on a brilliantly simple and intuitive camera body, but the SIZE… The size is just killing it for me. I keep trying to love it, but after more than two-years, I am about to throw in the towel and and divest from the platform entirely, and immerse myself into the M completely. The discretion I enjoy when shooting the M is amplified by recalling the recent experience of pulling out the SL to snap a photo at a recent social gathering. People respond as if I had pulled out a handgun. Should the camera you describe ever come to fruition–sign me up!!! I’ll add it to my Christmas wish list. Cheers–lt

  57. What you’re describing is not unreasonable. However, the manufacturers seem currently to be mimicking the software industries “bloatware”. I look at the numerous camera settings and programmability of buttons and dials the same way I looked at Microsoft Word when I was working. All I wanted was to be able to write a letter or memo, have spell check run in the background, a few format options, fonts, etc. 98% of Word’s features are seldom used but clutter up the menus and screens.

    The Leica M10 is a very good camera and relatively simple to pickup and work without spending much time or even any time with the manual. Apart from the M10 and maybe marginally Leica Q, there are not too many cameras today that come close to your ideal. Unless a camera company is willing to make a product that will sell in thousands of units or even tens-of-thousands of units (and not millions of units) I suspect you’ll be waiting a long time for your dream to come true.

    Have a good 2018!

  58. X-Pro2 ticks all the boxes for me. Yes, it has advanced features. But I rarely chose to use them. Everything you need is on one menu (the Q menu), metal dials, excellent small primes, and it’s way under $3500.

  59. Isn’t it what the Fuji XT-2 is about?
    ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture metal dials, One page menu, Solid feel and beatiful camera; Very good quality lenses and sensor.
    It sure misses your loved full-frame sensor, but it was because of the simplicity I ended up getting one.

    • No. It is not full frame. Uses X trans sensor which many out there do not like (me included), feels hollow not solid and brick like, it has gobs of menu items, much more than a page. The lenses also feel hollow. EVF is good but nowhere near best there is. Low light capabilities of Fuji are “meh” for really low light. I want a no compromise full frame, old school designed SOLID feeling camera with almost no menu, huge EVF, latest sensor tech, solid fast primes and real mechanical focus for when we want manual use.

      • I guess many of us love simplicity. IMO, X-T2 is one of the closest.
        Need “FF look”? All you need is pick lenses one F-Stop faster. For example, 23mmF1.4 on X-T2 will have a FF look of 35mmF2.0.

    • Well, not quite what I had in mind. I want to see a body designed like they used to be. Larger than an RX1, and with a simple one page menu. IC lenses, not fixed and a nice LARGE enjoyable EVF built in (RX1 EV is average). Fast AF or mechanical MF if desired. Latest sensor tech, responsive and quick. But something when you hold it, you feel like you are holding a real solid camera like they used to make them. Give me ISO dial, EV dial, Mode dial, and a button for MF/AF. Aperture selection on the lenses. That’s all! If the Nikon Df was mirrorless/thinner, had a large EVF and latest sensor tech along with a simple one page menu, it would be it ; ) I think Sony could pull that off though there is probably a 1% chance of them ever doing it.

      • Sorry, I meant nor physically like the RX1, but a fixed lens body with all your points 🙂

        Maybe a Leica Q is a better example

        • I see, but even the Q doesn’t tick those boxes. It doesn’t feel old school, it doesn’t allow you to change lenses, EVF is average, etc. Some cameras get close like the M and Q and RX1 but none get there. Only one does for me, and its the X1D but its price is way to high, and it’s slower due. to being a MF sensor. Let’s take an X1d body, make it a tad smaller but use a 35mm full frame sensor instead of a MF sensor. Make it faster, better EVF, and that is what I am talking about ; ) A modern day old school feeling camera that is simple yet has no compromise.

      • I was excited by the teaser campaign of the Nikon Df, and at the end I was extremely disappointed…

        But your proposal would be certainly very well welcomed 🙂

      • Using now and then my Minolta A1/A2………hoping for a Sony ‘replacement’ with fullframe…….got the RX1R……and now understand why they did not give us firmware updates……is there an A3 coming old ‘ Minoltaguys?

        • How far going back in time? Rolleiflex style or ?? Are we afraid of the ‘future’ where there will be a 3d- fullframe smartphone for us all….

        • Ok Dirk, a camera as third eye with fixed focus to go back in time……I got a secondhand RX1R………that sometimes is looking at other things….
          And RX1R users, read : http://www.thegoldensieve.com/the-golden-sieve/sony-rx1-a-user-report for using your RX1R another way with manual focus like dslr…..focuspeaking on-off and zoom with front mf ring …….mechanical mf with the macro ring all by just changing some buttonfunctions! Try it!

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