Saturday, September 13, 2008

Eliminate the Mode dial...

This is the picture of the main mode dial of the new Panasonic G1. I post it not because of how special it is, but because of how common it is. Every serious camera has one similar.*

And it suddenly struck me, is this really a wise design? It seems to me that by far most photographers have a favorite mode (like Programmed or Aperture Priority), and leave it on that almost always.

I know that I change ISO far more frequently than I change Mode, and yet none of my cameras have ISO dials. And for cameras which have auto-ISO (becoming more common), I wouldn't need one of those either.

So I think camera manufacturers could make cameras cheaper and more durable and less intimidating to beginners simply by eliminating this dial and putting the functions on the screen.

And while we're at it, like I've said before, more money and bulk could be saved by also eliminating the viewfinder, whether EVF or SLR or rangefinder. My favorite composing device is is a tiltable LCD screen. It gives a more flexible viewpoint and a better overview of the composition as a whole. In a viewfinder you tend to look at details and forget the overall picture.

*Except the newer top pro cameras like the Nikon D3 and Canon 1D. So perhaps there's hope yet. Good feature changes often have a trickle-down effect.


BlankPhotog said...

I disagree. I like the ASMP stuff quite a bit, and switch settings frequently. If you're in the studio it's one thing, but out in the real world I often switch tracks to match my light and subject. Now the white balance stuff us RAW shooters can do without... The only reason that stuff's still on the dial is to maintain ergonomics as people graduate to more capable cameras. I also like the viewfinder, if it's big. If it's small, who needs it? I would like a tiltable (sturdy) LCD to become standard but not to replace the vf.

Gordon Buck Jr. said...

I disagree. My G9 has an ISO dial and I use it regularly. I also changes modes regularly although usually between Aperture priority, Manual exposure, a Custom mode and Program mode so there are many unused modes on the dial -- which I suspect is your point.

"Mama, don't take my mode dial away!" with apologies to Paul Simon.

zx said...

I agree because I use aperture priority most of the time and manual occasionally.
I suggest the do something like the exposure compensation. Press a little mode button and dial the commander to change mode. They can limit it to P,A,S,M or have them programmable. User can program the mode they want on the "quick mode"

Alex said...

I sometimes think back to the good old days of just AP and SP or auto (optimize depth, speed or normal). But in those days my camera had an aperture ring on the lens, and the speed setting above the winder. Now they are all multi mode thumbwheels and menu selections - quite a pain at times.

I got use to modes on my point and shoot digicam, but they were all soft buttons and reset with power cycling, so now I am always leaving the mode ring in the wrong position on my D80.

The mode wheel is at least obvious (visually accessible and intuitive), and they have standardized the icons, even if the sequence varies.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

My first camera was a Konica Autoreflex, designating automatic exposure!

Later came the first cameras to offer *both* shutter priority and aperture priority, that was huge.

DeltaCubed said...

"Mama, don't take my viewfinder away!" with apologies to Paul Simon and Gordon Buck Jr.