My Canon 7 Rangefinder with custom red leatherette

My Idea of a Perfect Camera

Recently, the Leica M10 came out, along with the Sony A9. Both are freaking amazing cameras. Both are pricey. I’ve been unable to quench my insatiable appetite for gear, but I think it’s because I’m just not getting what I want yet; I’m playing the field. If I had to have a dream camera though, there are a few things I’d like to have…no, I must have to properly satisfy my craving for the perfect camera.

Full Frame

Full Frame Rangefinder
Full Frame Rangefinder

Screw the math. My 35mm f/1.4 prime is not “equiv” and when I lock it into my camera, I expect 35mm — not 52.5mm or 70mm. My beef with crop-sensors is conversions. For instance, I have a fairly decent Fujifilm X Pro 1 at home. With an adapter, I can snap my Leica M and Leica Screwmount (m39) lenses to it. However, if I want 50mm focal length, I have to use a 35mm prime. I don’t have any use for a 35mm prime outside of making a 50mm prime from it. Even worse, if I wanted a 35mm focal length, I’d have to buy a 23mm prime. Camera manufacturers know this. That’s why a 35mm prime is $900 and a 50mm prime is $400. If you want a real  35mm lens, you pay for it. This cost structure is not any different for full frame cameras, but with full frame I know my 50mm is 50mm no matter what full frame camera I use.

Interchangeable-Lens

All the parts needed to turn an X Pro into a Holga
Interchangeable Lenses

Not all focal lengths can be solved with a single prime lens. So my ideal camera has to have the ability to swap lenses. Even a kit lens doesn’t cover everything. That’s why so many new consumer DSLR purchases come with two lenses, an 18-55mm and 50-250mm. But there are so many neat lenses, and having an interchangeable-lens camera means I can try them all.

Rangefinder Focusing

1955 Leica M3 w/ Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5
1955 Leica M3 w/ Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5

It is true that modern cameras have peak focusing, and it it’s pretty nice. However, it’s still new. My experience with focus peaking has left me less than impressed, and I find myself in AF on my X100T lately.  With focus peaking, you use your eyes to catch the focus when bright lines start appearing in the areas you want to focus on. It’s reminiscent of over/under focusing to get peak focus on old SLRs. However, if you’ve used a rangefinder camera to focus, you know how amazing it is. It’s simple, fast, and accurate. No phase or contrast-detect auto-focus necessary. No waiting for bright lines to appear on your subject; just put the tiny box on the part you want in focus and line up the two images.

Mirrorless

Fujifilm X100T
Fujifilm X100T

Mirrorless isn’t any better or worse than SLRs. It’s simply a preference. Mirrorless cameras have a smaller form factor, so they’re less intimidating and easier to carry. This gap may eventually close with companies like Sony making their cameras more compact. To me, retro lenses look goofy on modern DSLRs. It’s much easier to get away with strapping that ugly old lens  on your shiny new camera when your shiny new camera looks like it came with the ugly old lens. And again, it really depends on what you like. I’m used to mirrorless cameras.

Full Control From Dials

Canon 7 Coupled Light Meter guage
Canon 7 Coupled Light Meter, ISO/Shutter Speed integrated dial (right), Lens Frame Line dial (left).

This is a pet peeve of mine, so I reserve the right to rant. Why create an amazing pro-series camera only to make the photographer dig around in menus to set ISO or shutter speed ? Even an LCD display on the top of the camera doesn’t mean much. You still have to fumble around with button-wheel combos to change these settings. Fujifilm gets it. Their latest X100F has everything at your fingertips. Their whole line of pro-level cameras mimic the simpler days of photography when you had to set your camera for the shot. Sure, it’s digital so it can — and should — utilize a fully automatic mode. I’m certainly a fan of auto-ISO. What I’m not a fan of is seeing icons on an adjustment wheel. I know that for a standard portrait I should open the lens wider and focus on the eyes. I don’t need a “mode” for that. I know that for kid photos, I need a higher shutter speed, stopped down aperture so I can capture the action and get the best focus. I don’t need a “sports” mode for this. This is my big complaint with newer digital non-Fuji cameras. I want my shutter speed on top, aperture on the front, and ISO either on top or adjustable through the jog wheel. I don’t need my camera to tell me how to make the best shot. I need it to tell me at-a-glance what my settings are.

I suppose my dream camera is a full-frame Fuji. Since Fuji isn’t making full-frame, I’m left with the Leica. Poor me. Literally, I don’t have that kind of green. But one can always dream!

 

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