Ever since Fuji originally introduced its X100, I’ve noticed more and more cameras with similar pseudo-retro designs. Initially, I was amazed with this “back to the roots” movement, I have nothing against buttons and thumb wheels for the most important settings, quite the contrary. Quick access to the most important settings is desirable, and there’s nothing faster than pushing a button or turning a wheel. Now that perceived every second camera comes in retro-design, whether it makes sense or not, it slowly but surely annoys me. I’ve realized how silly this old design is for modern, fully featured cameras. Especially if you try to make it even more “retro” than the old, analogue SLRs and rangefinders were.
Let’s take the Nikon Df as an example. The FE was allegedly the model for the new compact DSLR.
At a closer look, however, you’ll discover that the FE has a dial for ISO/exposure compensation, an additional one for exposure time and an aperture ring in the front. The Df has a PASM-dial, one for ISO on which there is a second one for exposure compensation, one for exposure time and two further ones in the front and the back that may be used for exposure time and aperture. So, a total of 6 dials. It’s a little bit like the TV-series “Pimp my Ride”, with the only difference that rapper Xzibit here might say „Yo dawg! We heard you like dials on yo camera, so we put a dial on yo dial on yo dial!” Modern cameras with auto-focus, stabilizer and many more features have too much functionality to place on wheels and dials. If you try it nonetheless, it’s going to end up in a handling catastrophe. The Df looks as if you couldn’t even touch it without changing the settings. This is the wrong way to go. It would be far better if manufacturers tried to combine old and new control elements (such as a touchscreen for focus-field-control). Optically and haptically, thumb wheels and buttons are tempting if well-dosed, but to be honest, all of us want to have a camera that can read our minds. Until this is the case, we need a better concept than 6 dials and a dozen buttons. 😉