A Wish for Simplicity


Interesting statement from Wouter.
As I told in another post, the Ricoh GRDIII I had in my pocket last year is (in my eyes) a little black beast. OK, it's possible to sit down, get the f....manual and customize for my style of shooting.......but, I'm not the strategically thinking person in terms of menues, features etc. So contrary to Wouter, for me the GRD is the sample of an nearly overloaded little cam with very strong capabilities. In near future it's clear that I will buy this snapper but with full respect for the wheels at the front, the back, the FN buttons, and and...

BTW: Ricoh - or Wouter should offer a memory card with pre-setting to store as customs settings as Henri-Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams or Wouter, or Michel Comte......:)


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Thanks for a great post original post, Wouter. I also like the idea of a simple camera. I'd love to see some of the classic film compacts and 70's rangefinders faithfully reproduced but with an SD card instead of film.

Anyway aren't all us photographers supposed to have the IQ of a pencil? Isn't "Press the big button on the top" about the limit of our photographic expertise?

Last week, I was photographing Jazz singers in a club, handheld with light levels a stop or more lower than Barry Lyndon. I squeezed every last ounce of performance out of my X100. I was a about 1.3 stops under at ISO12800, f/2, 1/15s. A friend said, oh I'll take your photo and before I could object, he picked it up and pressed the "big button on top". He then shot some of the most appalling photos ever taken by a camera. "This camera's sh t!" No mate, the camera's great. It's the photographer behind it.

A camera doesn't become cheaper by remove scenic settings in a menu (that has to be developed for Joe average) but a serious compact camera does become more expensive and/or less compact by adding turning wheels especially if Joe average won't buy it any more.

What is needed is a camera that is easy to operate, but has further functions within the menu. All manufacturers do this. The trick is which functions should be controlled by a knob or button and which should be hidden. Ricoh (and now Fujifilm) are the only camera makers that have the balance where I like it.

BTW: Ricoh - or Wouter should offer a memory card with pre-setting to store as customs settings as Henri-Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams or Wouter, or Michel Comte......:)

I'm a big Ricoh fan. I'm active on ricohforum.com and I have just about every Ricoh compact camera in the GR, GRD and GX ranges.

I have been arguing for exactly this settings-on-the-card idea for ages. It's fabulous to have found an ally. Now if only Ricoh will listen.
Interesting how this tread pops up again. In my article I am not really implying an easier to operate camera, but a camera that is focused on the basics with dedicated dials for shutter speed, ISO speed and a proper aperture ring. Although the latter seems nowadays most unlikely. Therefore I can only applaud some manufacturers like Fuji and Leica for at least trying to keep the basics simple. Ricoh on the other hand is a manufacturer who took the effort to develop cameras that can easily be used while still giving the photographer full control.

In the meantime I try to keep my cameras simple. I used both my Ricoh GRDIII and Panasonic GF1 with an optical viewfinder and most of the time set the display off.


NYC metro are
Hi Wouter,

Your post -- and quoted article -- is taken to heart. Thanks.

Camera manufacturers are cramming more and more functions (bells and whistles) into their cameras, the vast majority of which never are used. This is just because the technology allows them to do this, features "competition" between manufacturers, and the "wow" factor for consumer amateurs. Friends and others constantly boast of what their cameras have and can do; I'm polite with responding how great that is; but, personally, I could care less -- it just doesn't mean anything to me.

Following a long hiatus from personal photography (except for recording family activities), I'm perplexed with the current offerings. Be advised, that I still often use a Canon F1-N with 3 prime lenses, and Tri-X and Kodak Porta films.

Last week, I purchased an Panasonic/Lumix LX5, and am looking forward to its portability factor (without being too small). It seems to have most of what I need (except a viewfinder) -- and is still usable by my wife! I can set custom settings for my normal use by a subsequent rotation of the dial on top of the camera. From a financial point of view, I can't justify something like the Leica X1 (practically, I don't think it's a completely thought-out camera at that price point), and the M9 is untouchable for us.

I don't like lots of buttons, nor do I wish to dig deep into menus just to set a simple function; just some immediate/handy control (exposure, size/quality), concentration on looking, and shoot. The subject is what I wish to focus on.



Ontario, Canada
Real Name
What is needed is a camera that is easy to operate, but has further functions within the menu. All manufacturers do this. The trick is which functions should be controlled by a knob or button and which should be hidden.

For me, this is the heart of the matter. I really don't mind all the extra features, but I do mind the priority and ease of access which is chosen by the manufacturer. The OP has it right - the key things need to be easily accessible and everything else should get out of the way.

The observation I would make is that the designers are obsessed with camera, when they should be obsessed with the end user. Mobile phones have been very similar in this regard. A long list of features, but inconsistent, unintuitive and bizarre thinking about how to access and use the features most often needed.

I am more tan happy to spend the time needed to get to know my gear. It helps me reach the goal of all changes being second nature. But too often, I have to pause from thinking about the image and think instead about the changes.


Well about a point and shoot? Some are quite simple. I think sometimes we (all of us) get caught up in things like IQ, noise and all the trappings of "serious compacts" and forget that the biggest factor in the quality of an image is the photographer. I have an old Panasonic ZS3 that I keep set to iA and if I want a simple experience I use that. It doesn't get too much simpler. It sits in my bag or coat pocket and it comes out if I see something interesting. For a while (when I was a grad student) it was my only camera and there are days that I wish it still was but not because my cameras are too complicated but because it forced me into really thinking about how to get the image I wanted. I had to work around it's limitations and that was really liberating.


I agree, I too find most current cameras too complicated for my liking. In fact while I have my sights firmly focused on the new Nikon D5100 DSLR, its complicated button arrangement is something I have not been able to digest!

Last year I purchased a Canon PowerShot A495 and enjoy shooting with it immensely. The camera actually has pretty good IQ and a poverty of features and buttons that I simply love, it's one of my favourite cameras!


I will say that an M8.2 or an M9 is a wonderfully simple design...but I don't ever see owning one.


I agree about the inherent simplicity in these cameras. I do still retain some ambition to own an M9 and a lens or two.

I prefer not to delude myself. I know that deep down that before I managed to spend the money on an M9 and a few lenses I would use it for a trip to Spain to run with the bulls (or perhaps an emu).


Hey All,

Simplicity - what is it? Is ones man's simplicity another's complicated?

With a G1 lets suppose I want to take a picture of a flower - well put the dial on the flower symbol point the camera turn the ring and push the button. Or suppose I want to take a picture of a person. Put the camera on the face symbol point the camera turn the ring and push the button. Or a landscape - put the setting on the mountain point the camera turn the ring and push the button. Now wasn't that simple? If you want simple that should do it - no need to mess around with aperture, shutter speed, focal length - none of that photography techno babble. Just focus on what you want to take a picture of and let the enormous wisdom and knowledge of the camera manufacturer's programmers do the rest. What could be simpler?

Now me I like it complicated. I want to control the camera's functions. I want to know something about photography and make the decisions - not rely on the manufacturer. That is complicated.

Now if your talking about how the camera controls and menus are laid out to access those controls well that is a different discussion entirely. It certainly isn't about simplicity but is about convienence and ways of thinking. Lets go back in time... Remember calculators? There was Texas Instruments in which you pushed 2 then + then 2 then = and the display showed 4. Of course Hewlett Packard came along and had to do it different. They went push 2 then push enter key then push 2 then push + and the display showed 4. Two very different ways of getting to the same answer. Well I hated Hewlett Packard and loved Texas Instruments cause they did 2 + 2 the way my mind worked but other people loved Hewlett Packard. Who was right? Well me of course! :biggrin:

Well it seems to me like with cameras just like with all computer software when you buy a product you buy the mentality and way of thinking of the programmer(s) involved. Some will think like you and some won't. The ones that think like you - well the camera will likely be simple - those that don't think like you well their cameras will be complicated. What is especially frustrating is when the camera and lenses are all you want them to be in terms of quality but the programmer(s) who did the menus - what planet were they from? Either you adapt and they win forcing their will on you or you go to - in your mind - a lesser product. Bummer.

But returning to the original post. The original poster wants the "control style" of cameras of 40 years ago.with the idea that that is simpler. With those cameras you needed to understand the fundamentals of exposure. You needed knowledge and understanding of a number of factors - you separated yourself from the minions - you were a photographer - understanding those controls made you one. Cameras today are designed with the goal of everybody being a photographer - without doing the work - so why the need for ready access to those controls? Fortunately - perhaps - good composition is always going to require some work.

To me it's no different than driving. I have never owned a car with an automatic transmission - never ever ever intend to. Why? A real driver can handle a clutch and a stickshift. If you can't well... Besides it's about the experience of driving - feeling and handling the machine - getting from A to B is secondary. And that is the way it should be for everybody. Right?



Hall of Famer
Brisbane, Australia
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I agree that a lot of modern cameras have a multitude of different menus to get lost in, but how often do you need to access them anyway? I might occasionally change the mode dial, or adjust the exposure compensation, but once I've got a camera set up how I want it the first time I'll rarely change anything. Surely the only reason that today's cameras can be more complex than their predecessors is because they allow us ways to customise their operation and output to an extent that didn't exist before digital. Certainly the level of automation makes up for a bit of rare menu surfing.

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