Opinion: Do we really need all those buttons and dials?

My first camera, back in the late 1970s, was an Olympus OM-10. The camera body had dials to adjust shutter speed and ISO/ASA, an exposure compensation dial, and an ‘Auto’ mode. A built-in light meter helped get the right exposure, and a self-timer allowed for group shots or self-portraits. The most prominent controls on that camera were for managing the film: the film advance lever, rewind knob, and crank. Its user manual makes the OM-10 look a lot more complicated than it really was, but, like all film cameras, its settings were comparatively limited.

Today’s cameras are computers with lenses, and like computers, they have a plethora of features, far more than any film camera. As with any computer, we need to be able to adjust these many settings. There are menus that allow us to enable, disable, and tweak the many features available, and buttons and dials give us quick access.

But with many modern cameras now offering a dozen or more control points – some customizable with no obvious markings – there’s a risk of overwhelming certain users. More importantly, the sheer complicatedness of digital cameras can get in the way of taking photos.

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5 thoughts on “Opinion: Do we really need all those buttons and dials?

  1. Hi Kirk. Good article and long overdue call for greater simplicity IMHO. Like all UI, I guess it is what you are familiar with and trained to use. I grew up with a rangefinder camera where I manually set aperture and sometimes shutter speed as well. I could focus manually on exactly the spot I wanted sharp. What else is needed?
    As my eyesight deteriorated I needed to swap to an autofocus camera and have been shocked how much additional ‘baggage’ comes with them all. Will check out the XE-4, although it still may have too many buttons for my taste!

  2. Slightly off point but but how come the quality of jpegs that you get from a phone because of the way the OS processes them has not been extended to ‘big’ cameras. I have a Canon 5D Mk III and a small mirrorless Canon M6. The jpegs from the M6 are better than the 5D but not a patch on my iPhone (8). So, I have to shoot RAW and edit in ACR and Photoshop… then they are stunning, but all that extra work! I recently ‘test drove’ a Canon mirrorless and they weren’t bad but still not caught up.

    No wonder half the time the camera that is with me (my iPhone) is the one I use most.Anyone else think the same?

    • Could it be that Canon jpegs just aren’t good? I shoot Fujifilm, and their jpegs are excellent ; Fuji is known for this.

  3. . . . but there are STILL those times when I really, really wish I had a proper camera. Like the other night during the pink Moon. An iPhone … no cell phone for that matter . . . can capture the scene as I saw it that night. I tried and tried. The next day there were posts of awesome shots of the event … all taken by real cameras with real lenses . . . that no cell phone will ever be able to duplicate.

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