Where’s my aperture ring?

It’s time camera manufacturers took a long hard look at their products and gave us back the manual controls we all want.

It was all so different back in the sixties and seventies, when I first became interested in photography. Back then cameras were a lot simpler than today, and of course used film. The main difference though was that all the controls you needed were readily to hand, on nice metal knobs and levers. It was possible to carry the camera already set up as you liked it, knowing that you could capture a shot at a moments notice, without having to fiddle about pressing multiple buttons and risking missing the shot.

By the sixties, 35mm camera design had settled down into the familiar shape we know today. Most cameras had a shutter speed dial on the top plate, along with the film wind on lever and rewind knob.

The aperture and focusing controls were usually on the lens. This made it easy to operate the camera using the two handed grip, left hand cradling the lens and operating the aperture and focus controls. The right hand supports the camera and operates the film wind on.

The shutter speed dial was never, into opinion, particularly usable, operating it with the camera to the eye was very difficult.

Things started to change in the seventies with the introduction of smaller cameras from Olympus and Pentax. Because of the size of these cameras, some of the controls had to be relocated. On the Olympus cameras this meant that the shutter speed dial was dropped, and replaced with a ring around the lens mount. This meant that all the exposure and focusing controls could be operated with the left hand, whilst the right hand gripped the camera and wound on the film.

Pentax somehow managed to find room for a conventional shutter speed dial on the MX, but dropped it altogether on the Auto only ME. This was later joined by the ME Super, an updated version of the ME with radical new shutter speed buttons. These were placed on top

Of the camera where the shutter dial would be on other cameras. One button increased the shutter speed, the other decreased it. This was a very practical and convenient system, and the ME super was my favourite camera for many years.

The modern camera control system of using multiple purpose buttons and control wheels is not logical or convenient to use. I sometimes wonder who modern cameras are designed for.I am sure they are not designed for photographers, but rather to make them easier and cheaper to build.

I now use a Fujifilm X100s, and find this an excellent camera to use. However, I feel it could be even better if Fuji dropped the shutter speed dial and replaced it with the push button system used on the Pentax ME Super.

Retro design isn’t enough, think of the user.