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Friends don’t let friends buy a digi point & shoot!

July 11, 2008

Okay, I’m breaking my cardinal rule of blogging and I’m going to post about a piece of equipment. There, I said it.

Today’s topic is the all powerful “digital point and shoot camera.” Now, at this point in time, most human beings on the planet seem to have one, two, ten of these things, and continue to buy them at an alarming rate.

For the camera companies this is a great thing, and for the consumer this is great because it seems to be one of the reasons why the general public is so excited about photography once again, a wonderful thing.

Now here is my problem. I think that all of these cameras are total junk.

Is that clear enough? I know this opinion is in the minority, like most of my photography opinions, but this one needed to be posted because of the sheer number of photographers who approach me, excited about buying one of these things only to approach me again, a few weeks later, cursing and explaining their return of the unsatisfactory product.

Okay, let me clarify.

If you are not a working photographer and are making what I call “happy snaps,” vacation pics, kids in pool, etc, or straight to web images, then this style of camera is probably fine. These point and shoots are small, stylish looking and are very easy to use. Or, if you love shooting small, mpeg video files I think these small cameras work well, and are far easier to use, and store, than a “real” video cam.

And on yet another side note, a friend recently said he had a seen a report that 70% of people using digital cameras did not know how to get the images out of the camera. Couple this with the fact that somewhere around 95% of all digital photographs are never printed and I can see why people “love their digital point and shoot.” Shoot, leave images on camera, erase, shoot again. This makes perfect sense to me.

However, if you are an advanced amateur or a pro and are looking for something “light” to carry on the side to compensate for your larger body, DO NOT BOTHER BUYING A DIGITAL POINT AND SHOOT. I think this is the biggest scam in the game at the moment.

Let us look back in our short photo-history.

A decade ago, long after the film point and shoot arrived on the planet, many of the camera companies made a somewhat secret batch of point and shoots that were targeted at the advanced amateur and the professional photographer. Nikon(35ti), Olympus(Stylus Epic), Ricoh(GR-1), Minolta, Contax(T3), Yashica(T4), etc.

These cameras were fitted with fixed lenses in the 28mm to 35mm range, many were 2.8 aperture and were high end stuff. Many of them would allow you to manually set aperture, etc. They were awesome cameras and a select group of pros began to use them for all kinds of things, including many editorial spreads. And several of these photographers, very famous ones in fact, are still using them today!!

Super small, super light, super simple and super sharp, these babies were the crux of what point and shoots were all about, or what point and shoots could be!

Enter the digital era.

Again the camera companies are trying, kinda, to make a higher-end point and shoot, but so far, nobody has come close to making a camera a tenth as good as the high-end film point and shoot. Now based on my photography history you might think I would not care about this, but my stance is quite the opposite.

I have been asking for a high-end, digital point and shoot for a decade. Fixed lens, full-frame real viewfinder, no shutter lag, RAW format. Ten years, I have been suggesting this, begging for this.

In essence what the pro is looking for is a smaller, simpler LEICA rangefinder type camera that shoots full-frame, doesn’t lag, provides RAW and either has a fixed lens or small interchangeable lenses. AKA, Contax G2, Leica M, etc.

So usher in the new wave of “pro” digital point and shoots, and once again, we are left hopelessly in the dark, groping our way around with junk cameras. Shutter lag, no viewfinder, or a viewfinder that is so small and blocked by the preview screen it feels like you are trying to compose through the eye of a needle. And since when did photographers make pictures with the camera at arms length???? Oh, let me continue….bad skin color, blocky images, no RAW capability, etc, etc, This is now considered great equipment? Huh?

These cameras might look nice, and you might really want them to work the way you are hoping they will work, but they don’t, and consequently, I have been bombarded by photographers complaining about their point and shoot cameras. (I’m lucky I guess.)

There are a few pros who are using digital point and shoot type cameras, but let me be the first to offer my opinion…it looks like you are using a point and shoot. Sorry, but it’s true. Why is everything in focus? Your depth of field starts at your lens hood and ends somewhere near Topeka. Also, why are all your images converted to black and white? Could it be…..bad color? Embalmed skin tone? Just a guess on my part! And when did your on camera flash suddenly become hip and okay as a primary light source? The question I have for these folks is, “Do you want your archive to be a bunch of tiny jpegs?”

I think at this point we are several generations away from anything, from anyone, who will actually make a camera like this. I don’t think this is a major camera company product, and I think it will only come from one of the smaller brands, which is more interested in the niche project or in a certain segment of the market. I also think that this camera will buck the horrendously wasteful trend of ultra-high turnover in the point and shoot market. Point and shoots are updated, it seems, about every eight minutes, and this high-end digital would be a camera that could last say….gasp….two years?? Three perhaps? Is that too much to ask? We simply cannot continue to use the amount of raw materials to introduce new equipment at such a rate. Totally unsustainable in my mind.

Could this new camera be labeled, the “green rangefinder?” No, probably not. Stupid thought, sorry.

Most consumers never even knew about the high-end film point and shoots, BUT, I think the consumer would be jazzed about a high-end digital point and shoot, and I think when the powers that be realize this, you will finally see a product.

Personally, I can’t wait. I think it would be a grand entry into the photography world, and I think, especially in the fields of documentary, photojournalism, street shooting, etc, you would see a quality level of images we have not yet seen in the digital era.

I realize I’m an oddball. I carry around a 35mm, rangefinder, film camera and shoot mostly black and white negative. This is my daily model. I would gladly trade immediate images for something that will last and look the way I need it to look.

And before you write me about a current model that is “really great” don’t even bother. I’ve seen them all.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Maryam in Marrakesh permalink
    July 14, 2008 9:55 am

    oooh, ouch.

  2. April 20, 2010 4:08 pm

    Agree 100%

    Just put some cash down for a Contax T3, and a Nikon 28Ti shortly in the future.

    Great blog btw! did some tag surfing earlier and found this!

    Cheers from Manila!

    • April 20, 2010 6:34 pm

      Hey Sonny,

      Thanks for the note. Both great choices for the camera. They are perhaps the easiest way to get great, simple images. I was looking at 35ti myself. blog overhaul coming soon

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