What's the big deal with the retro thing?

Started 7 months ago | Discussions thread
John Rausch
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Re: What's the big deal with the retro thing?
In reply to John Rausch, 7 months ago

I appreciate all of the replies. Taken as a whole, I think this thread gives a pretty clear picture of the dial versus "PASM buttons and wheels" interface. That the dials look "retro" is mostly coincidental on the X-T1, while not at all on the Nikon Df, so maybe "retro" was the wrong way to ask the question.

First, let me say that I'm flummoxed by those who like the Fujis for their appearance, especially the X-T1. Appearance is not a factor in my choice of any tool. I'll leave it at that.

The overwhelming number of replies in this thread and others asking a similar question, say the dials are more familiar and easier to use. I completely understand this position. Familiarity is important and I'm sure Fuji is well aware and taking advantage.

Fair enough, but one common view is that the dials were a well thought out design improved over time. Form follows function is a common statement. But let's not forget that function followed engineering possibilities of the time. Dials and levers were mechanically connected to the internal parts out of necessity, not design. Dials were on everything (televisions, radios, stoves, automobiles, you name it), not just cameras. They evolved as the best way to interface with a purely mechanical, then electro-mechanical, cameras and other things.

The transition from electro-mechanical to electronic has been a rough road for us users. The notorious VCR being the epitome of the problem. That 100s of "features" could be added at almost no additional cost may make products more attractive to some potential customers, but when this carries over into high-end products like the X-T1, it adds unnecessary complexity for features that most of us will never use. The features get in the way. One thing Canon has done to make this less of an issue is to let you add menu items to a custom menu page. Once done, you have only one short menu to look at to perform what you use. It turns a very complex camera into a very easy to use one. I almost never had to use the general menus.

External design of cameras (and many products) has maintained and then evolved the familiar interface to make it easier for us humans. Because I find it easier to adapt to new ways of using products doesn't mean everyone does or should. The the dials are not universally better or easier, they are better or easier for you.

There is one other very common comment, that PASM or cameras with buttons and wheels are nearly impossible to understand and use. I agree that most of them are. I thought I was going to be a Sony NEX person in November 2012. I sold all of my Canon DSLR gear and bought two NEX-7s, one for normal, one for infrared and several lenses. The interface was the most terrible interface to any electronic device I have ever owned. Two months later I bought a Sony RX-1 and almost never used the NEX-7s. The RX-1, with a PASM interface (and a real aperture ring, is very easy to use. I can hardly believe they came from the same company.

Being a little more careful, I rented an X-E2 and a couple of lenses. The X-E2 is easy to use. I have my gripe with the shutter speed requiring two controls in manual mode. Hey, PASM shows up on the LCD and Fuji calls these PASM modes, it just takes more dial turning and the aperture switch (menu on the XC lenses) to set. Not my favorite interface, but it, and the X-T1, are fine. Not too happy about setting shutter speed, but otherwise, very pleased with my X-T1 and my X-M1 (infrared), which, by the way, if you can live without a viewfinder is one bargain of an outstanding camera. I used it quite a bit before sending it for conversion and can see no real difference in image quality. The 16-50 XC kit lens is very nice. I'll gladly take the extra two at the wide end aas a trade for the 5 at the other.

The camera should be an extension of the photographer. If you find yourself fumbling around, taking the camera down from shooting to hunt for a common setting or because you cannot make the change without changing your grip, the interface needs work.

A little personal information so you know where I'm coming from. I am 69 years old, a serious, but not professional, photographer for 50 of those, and heavily involved in human-computer interface for more than 40 years. I do have experience with this and it's like chalk on a blackboard when I encounter interfaces that could easily be better.

This is ALL I have to say about retro, dials, PASM, etc. I will answer questions, but that's all.

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John Rausch

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