I’ve already talked about the perfect lens and how it doesn’t exist.
Now I’ve been thinking about the perfect camera which only exists in my head but I think is worth sharing.
The body would be an SLR as it’s my favourite form of camera. As much as I love rangefinders, TLRs, and mirror-less digital compacts, SLRs just make the most amount of sense to me. Having bought two of them, they’re that good, I would use the FM2 as the base.
Since I’m talking about a Nikon body, it would have to be the F
mount. I toyed with the idea of an interchangeable mount to allow the use of
Canon EF and FD, Nikon F, Pentax K, Olympus OM and, if possible, Leica M
lenses but although this is a fictional camera I just don’t think it would be
possible to do.
Light Capturing Medium
Sorry folks – it would be digital. I love it dearly but if I had this camera there would be no need for 35mm film ever again. The Leica M9 uses a Kodak 36x24mm, 18 megapixel sensor and I would use the same specs but get Sony to make it, considering the excellent job they did of the Nikon D700 and Pentax K7 sensors. Additionally I would refrain from including an anti-aliasing filter on the sensor. They’re only useful for preventing moiré patterns and you lose some sharpness in the process.
I’ve said above that I would have a Nikon F mount, so basically it would be compatible with virtually every Nikon lens ever made. That means non-AI, AI, AI-S, AI-P, AF-I, AF, AF-D, AF-S and even those odd ones that require mirror lock up.
Nikon made the leap to lenses with no aperture ring in the late ’90s/early ’00s and if this ultimate camera were to be just that, it couldn’t possibly restrict the use of G series (i.e. no aperture ring) lenses. Therefore I would add a control wheel on the back where your thumb would usually rest that allowed the changing of the aperture. A simple readout in the viewfinder would indicate the selected aperture.
All lenses attached regardless of features would operate as manual focus. Auto
focus requires too many extra electronics and if not using AF-S or AF-I would also necessitate a built-in screw focusing motor.
Since I love long exposures in daylight and handheld photography in low-light, I would set the base ISO at 25 and the upper limit to 6400. There would be no gimmicks to increase the ISO above 6400 into the HI-1 or HI-2 range. The ISO settings would be changed by a control wheel where the current film winder handle is on the FM2.
The camera would work in the same way as the Nikon FE does. Set the shutter speed dial to AUTO and it works as aperture priority. Otherwise it’s manual. I don’t need or want shutter speed priority.
The viewfinder would show 100% of the field of view with no unnecessary magnification. I would use a bright focusing screen configured for a maximum aperture of f/1.2. The surround of the viewfinder would display the aperture, the shutter speed, the ISO and a meter needle similar to that of the Nikon FE but lit up for night work.
Screen and Controls
I would use a 2 or 3-inch OLED screen depending on how well it would fit into the FM2 type body. On the back would be four buttons laid out vertically along the left hand side, for the menu,
reviewing and deleting photos, and for white balance. This is
the only setting I would have that uses the screen to alter. Whereas the
aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings are all physically on the body, I
find white balance is the thing I set the least on my digital cameras.
On the right hand side of the camera I would have a five-way button layout
similar to the Panasonic G1, where there is a set/ok button surrounded by
four directional buttons. On the Panasonic each one of these also acts as
a way of changing a setting when not in the menu, but since everything is set
physically on the lens or the ISO and shutter speed dials there would be no
need to add extra features to these buttons.
As this would be a digital camera, there has to be scope for storage of
the digital media. I considered a solid state hard drive of 64 or 128GB but I
think SD cards are the way to go. The iPad has a camera
connection kit to allow SD cards to be plugged in – it would be great to shoot on this type of camera and then review, edit and share photos using the iPad.
I would have dual SD card slots on the underside of the camera next to the
li-ion battery, under a removeable plate. Some modern DSLRs can use two cards,
one for raw images and the other for JPEGs or one as a backup. I would use one card as a backup to the other and only shoot JPEG.
These are massively important if the camera is going to
output JPEGs. Virtually all DSLRs have some form of picture style control but
rather than have a selection of modes with “Natural”, “Smooth”, “Vibrant” and
Dynamic”, for example, I would include real life films as templates. I love
the idea of being able to select “Fuji Velvia 50″ with one shot and
“Ilford Delta 3200″ with the next. The ISO rating of the camera could be
set automatically to allow the same sensitivity which could then be over-ridden
by setting the ISO control dial.
The camera would have a hot shoe but only configured to fire a flash
gun that’s mounted, i.e. using the center pin. I would want no i-TTL flash
metering, certainly no pop-up flash, but would have a PC sync socket for
PocketWizards etc. I know this makes it more complicated, but by having i-TTL
you have to include menu items or buttons for flash exposure compensation,
rear curtain/red eye reduction/slow sync modes, flash shutter speeds and the
The menu would be kept incredibly simple:
- Date and time
- SD card format
- Picture control selection
- File format selection
- Noise reduction toggle
These are all I could think of, though there are probably one or two others
that should be added.
To round things off, I would have no live view and no USB port. There’s no
need to have either as live view just drains a battery and a USB port requires
unnecessary extra electronics and a port on the side of the camera. Don’t
people have card readers anymore?
Finally I would love the option to limit the camera to 36 exposures with a set
picture control, i.e. film style, to make it feel like a film camera. After
the 36th exposure it would reset and allow the film style to be changed.
So there we have it. I would set a price of £1,000 (and since it’s my camera I
would have one for free!) and make millions.