Keeping it simply simple

Most photographers would have heard or read about the new FinePix X100 camera by Fujifilm since it was announced a short time ago. It’s marketing slogan is “From Simplicity to the Extreme” which says little these days as all camera makers make some sort of claim about the ease of use of their equipment. Sadly though I find cameras today to be cumbersome. Not in their size or weight but in their use and interface design. Many years ago I used a Minolta XG1 and sadly I no longer have it but this camera was truly simplicity to the extreme. Another camera I remember using a few times was a Minolta XD11. With both cameras, a couple of dials on the top plate allowed me to shoot in aperture priority, shutter-speed priority or fully manual. I could select the ISO, set a self-timer and stop-down the lens to see the depth of field quickly and easily without even taking my eye away from the viewfinder. To put it simply, these cameras were truly simple.

My current camera, a Sony Alpha 700, is nowhere near so simple in its usability. It’s not too bad compared to a lot of other cameras out there but it’s not a XG1 or XD11. Of course I have to say that I am far more successful in capturing images with the Sony than I ever was with the Minoltas. I have far fewer misses (having said that, the original of the image on this post was one such miss). And I could possibly reduce the misses to near zero if I used the preview screen; I don’t because I like to be surprised, later —half the fun of photography for me was getting the film developed and seeing the results for the first time, always a bitter-sweet experience.

Anyway, Fujifilm is not telling us much about the X100 yet. There’s a lot of talk about the “hybrid” viewfinder but I don’t care about that. I have heard that there is no need to have the LCD screen turned on to shoot photos and that might mean no need for menus and I care about that. From the photos it looks like this camera has simple dials on the top plate and an aperture ring on the lens itself, I care about that. I like simplicity, I consider myself a simple man with simple tastes, I enjoy a simple life and I am grateful for having relatively simple needs. For me, simplicity is connected to perfection, not in the sense of achieving a technically perfect image but in the sense of having nothing getting in the way of seeing. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

I’m feeling a little hopeful that, maybe, there is a camera designer out there who remembers how worthwhile it is to keep photography simply simple.