Motorcycle gearshifts, camera design, controls and decisions -- long and rambling (you are warned)

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, May 10, 2014.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Lately I’ve been playing around with some larger sensor cameras, and the process has been playing with my head. It got me to thinking again about camera design.

    The process reminded me of some scenarios that I will never forget.

    Scenario one: a mountain meadow. A friend and I were running dirt motorcycles along a curvy section of tractor road. We would come roaring up to this one tight, banked turned, tap the brakes, select the next lower gear, and come flying out of the bend with as much throttle as we could comfortably control. We’re having a great time, and my friend suggests we try it with each other’s bikes. Fine, I said.

    Now, here’s a thing you need to know: On a motorcycle, generally the rear brake is on one side of the engine and the gearshift is on the other side; both are operated by foot. However, the brake/gearshift layout on my friend’s Spanish bike was the exact opposite of my Japanese bike. I mount my friend’s bike, wind it up, head for the turn, and as I reach with my foot to tap the brake, I find myself flying into the bend in the next higher gear! I live to tell the tale after a change of underwear.

    Scenario two: a corporate office. We switch from PCs to Macintosh computers. Within minutes, dark mutterings of “the #$%@ thing doesn’t work like a computer is supposed to!”
    The moral of the two scenarios above is: “What you are accustomed to defines normal.”

    Scenario three: a collaborative project. My colleague is making his case again: “Word Perfect is a much better word processor than Word.” My reply: “Yeah, but I have a black belt in Word.”
    Moral: Sometimes the change isn’t worth the hassle.

    Controls and decisions

    My film cameras had an aperture ring, a shutter knob, film (which required choosing ASA or ISO), a focusing knob or ring, and a means of composing the shot.

    My first digital camera, an Olympus D550, took away almost all of those decisions: auto focus, auto exposure; you could choose ISO (up to 400), image quality, and whether you wanted macro, infinity focus, or autofocus. I got more “keepers” with the D550 than I ever did with my film cameras. It was a bit of an ego-buster; maybe I do better when many of the decisions are taken out of my hands. But then again, with fewer decisions to make, I could argue that I spent more time trying to make interesting compositions.

    The Canon G12 was a big step forward. The rear screen was immense compared to the D550, and I love the color the G12 delivers. The Canon tries to take a knob-for-every-job approach but doesn’t quite get there. There is a knob for ISO which I rarely use; a knob for mode (PASM, etc., which is used fairly often, although I tend to stay in P mode when I am just wandering around) and a knob for exposure compensation which I use a lot. There are no knobs for aperture or shutter speed, those are accessible through software and the front wheel depending on what mode I am using. You can’t, however, tell what anything is set at just by looking at the camera when it is turned off. Manual focus is a mess – it’s very easy to activate things you didn’t want to activate – but autofocus works tolerably well.

    My two Panasonic superzooms were another big step forward, primarily because of the 24-600mm (equivalent) focal range. Zooming with your feet is for people who don’t live near water or mountains or gullies or . . . well, you get the idea. I mostly shoot in P mode, but use aperture priority or shutter priority when I want to control depth of field or freeze action. As with the Canon, you can’t tell what the settings are just by looking at the camera. Panasonic’s Q menu, however, makes it extremely convenient to change the settings that most often need to be changed. Autofocus is excellent. Manual focus is better than the G12, but can require a safe cracker’s touch to avoid overshoot. Fortunately, there is a button on the side of the lens barrel that I can use to “snap” the camera into focus once I’ve gotten close with the manual focus slider.

    In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been experimenting with some larger sensor cameras: a Canon G1X MkII, a Nikon D3200, and a Sony Nex6.

    My overall impression of the experience is that it is a pain to move from one camera “operating” system to another. It’s like changing from a Mac to a PC or vice versa, like learning a new language, like driving a motorcycle with the gearshift on the “wrong” side. It is, for me, a monumental ache in the posterior.

    The Canon G1X MkII was a familiar operating system, but it surprised me by doing some things in unfamiliar ways and doing them in ways that it wasn’t obvious to me what was going on (like activating Macro mode). Manual focus was far better than the G12, but it didn’t always respond in the way I expected, and it popped up an enlarged “manual focus assist” screen that was too grainy – to my way of thinking – for fine focusing.

    The Nikon had a foreign operating system and because I couldn’t seem to get really crisp images out of it, I gave up on it early.

    The Sony Nex6 – impressive build quality, another foreign operating system, and the best implementation of manual focusing I’ve seen – very smooth, very precise – but activating it requires diving into a menu (maybe it can be assigned to a function button).

    I was playing with all of these cameras because I was interested in their low light capabilities. All of them made a difference, but it wasn’t that big a difference, and the improvement in performance wasn’t worth the hassle of changing operating systems. With each of these cameras, I felt like I was rocketing into the next bend in the wrong gear. I totally get why pros pick one camera system and stick with it.

    Bottom line: I guess I will put up with the limitations of my current cameras until the pain of dealing with their limitations exceeds the pain of dealing with a new operating system.

    Cheers, Jock
    • Like Like x 3
  2. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    and then you will have to learn to put up with the limitations of the new camera(s) ... while you wait for the perfect camera to come along
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Please, say it ain't so.:biggrin:

    And I suppose you have some really bad news about Santa Clause . . .:rolleyes:

    Cheers, Jock
  4. john m flores

    john m flores All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Switch to Pentax. They've got the same operating system for small (Q), medium (APS-C DSLRs) and super-size (medium format)!
    • Like Like x 1