What's the big deal with the retro thing?

Started Mar 5, 2014 | Discussions thread
John Rausch
OP John Rausch Regular Member • Posts: 400
Re: What's the big deal with the retro thing?

Basically three categories:

A. I like the way it looks.

B. Why don't you go buy a black plastic blob. What looks better to you, a 1960s vintage muscle car or a Ford Fiesta? A somewhat hostile variation of A.

C. I like the controls that are like old film cameras because it is a long-established and well thought out camera interface. I equally like being able to glance at the top of the X-T1 and know the settings.

For categories A and B there is no argument or cogent response. They are what they are. For category C I have a few things to point out. Let's assume the following are the settings you would like to know by glancing at the body and lens:

1. Focus Mode (M, C or S)
2. OIS (On or Off)
3. Aperture (A or f/stop)
4. ISO
5. Drive
6. Shutter Speed
7. Metering Mode
8. Exposure Compensation

To see all takes more than a glance. You might have to tilt the camera forward if it's not hanging around you neck, and you will have to tilt it back and tip it to see 1-3. Let's take them one at a time.

1. Focus Mode. What you see is what you get.

2. OIS. What you see is what you get.

3. Aperture. There are two variations.

a) If you have a prime with aperture settings on the ring, you know the setting. There is an exception. If you are using the remote control app, the aperture can be changed in the app regardless of where the ring is set.

b) If you have an XF lens without markings on the aperture ring or an XC lens without an aperture ring, you cannot know the aperture by looking at the camera controls.

4. ISO. What you see is what you get with the same exception for when you set it with the remote control app. The app settings are forgotten when it's disconnected -- except for the focus area, that sticks.

5. Drive. What you see it what you get with one annoying bit. The self timer turns off when the camera turns off. Very annoying when shooting in a light tent. I turn auto power off to off.

6. Shutter Speed. This is very annoying! When set to other than auto, the speeds are in full stop clicks. I can't imagine any finer setting on the dial. The rear command dial adjusts the shutter speed further in 1/3 stop increments +/- 2/3 stop. So you see an approximate shutter speed setting. Settings in 1/3 stop increments are standard for digital cameras. When shooting in a light tent with aperture set where I want, making fine adjustments for different objects require going back and forth between the dial on top and the dial on the back when a 1/3 stop adjustment crosses a full stop increment. I imagine this would hold true for many outdoor situations in low light. Very clumsy!

7. Metering Mode. What you see is what you get.

8. Exposure compensation. What you see is what you get. But, of course it is ignored in manual mode.

I can understand the attraction of what look and act (almost) like familiar mechanical controls, but they are not that at all. All of the settings on the camera except the zoom (focus, aperture, everything) are effectively buttons in the form of dials. Making the physical dials with physical markings limits the flexibility of settings that can be made without totally confusing the photographer. There is no reason everything except zoom could not be set by a app or other control, but for the confusion it would present. I believe (hope?) the retro look and dials are purely a marketing thing and not a future direction. Incomprehensible menu settings for most digital cameras have sent people begging for the simplicity of the "old way". There is no reason a camera interface cannot be designed that makes important settings visible with the camera on or off and also intuitive, fast and simple to set. Wouldn't it be better to see these important settings in one high-contrast, small e-ink display on the top or back of the body instead of looking all around the camera? Someone said this would be expensive -- it would be much cheaper than machined dials.

I know many forum users react to "complaints". We tend to react to the negative far more than the positive. There is really no good or bad in what I have said here. It's just the way the X-T1 works and my reaction to it. Several things annoy me, some not so much, some a lot, like the shutter speed setting and the self timer turning off. But, I'm keeping my X-T1. There are too many things to like about it, especially when compared to other mirrorless cameras. I believe Fujifilm, more than any other manufacturer is committed to quality, easy-to-use cameras primarily aimed at still photography. That's why I'm sticking with them for the foreseeable future.

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John Rausch

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