Musings on Photography

Landscape Camera Wishlist

Posted in equipment by Paul Butzi on February 9, 2007

Just a few random things on my wishlist for a landscape camera:

  1. Low noise, even at higher ISO settings.  The EOS-5d is noiseless at ISO 100.  The difference between the results at ISO 100 and higher speeds is large enough that I still feel pressure to work at the lowest possible ISO setting, although Noise Ninja is my friend.
  2. I’d like a wireless remote.  Ideally, it would be about the size of a PDA, and it would let me set everything – shutter speed, f-stop, exposure compensation, sensitivity, etc.  And, I’d like to be able to see the chimping display (image, histogram, etc.) on the remote display after making an exposure.  I don’t care too much about range as long as it’s workable out to two meters or so.  (e.g. bluetooth sort of range would be fine).
  3. Weatherproof.  I’ve worked with my 4×5 in fairly hostile conditions, and I’ll admit that I get anxious about the 5d in anything more than a heavy fog.
  4. Small and light.  The 5d is good in this regard, but the Canon lenses weigh a ton.

I’m sure if I thought hard about it, I’d come up with more.  But I thought I’d get these ideas out there, just in case anybody’s listening.

Update:

  1. I want a 100% viewfinder.  Back when people used slides, an 85% finder made sense.  Now there’s no reason whatsoever that a $3000 camera should have a finder that shows less than 100% of the image that will be captures.  That’s just stupid.  In fact, I’ll go one better.  I’d like a viewfinder with framelines that shows an extra 5% all the way around, just so I can see what I’m cropping off.
  2. Yeah, what he said.  How about a metering system that’s not a holdover from film, so that it manages to get the exposure that comes just short of clipping the highlights.

12 Responses

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  1. Nicolai said, on February 9, 2007 at 11:33 am

    How about 2a: one-touch MLU/DoF preview with live histogram display, PRE-exposure.

    Even better: metering that was actually designed for digital (exposed to the right) rather than a film meter in a digital body. Or effective ISOs that actually match the labels.

  2. Tommy Williams said, on February 9, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    If you want weatherproof, look to the 1Ds Mk II although that goes the wrong way for weight.

    And you must be sensitive to noise if you’re not happy with the 5D. It’s the pinnacle of low-noise performance today.

  3. Ed Richards said, on February 9, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    > Lenses weigh a ton

    A kit of a 28 F2.8, 35 F2, 50 F1.8, and 100 F2 will give you the same range as you had on the view camera, will be extremely sharp, and is small and light.

    > Weatherproof

    Thin, flexible plastic bag, UV filter, and a rubber band to close the bag around the lens hood.

    I am not sure I understand why you want a short range remote. You still have to lie in the mud to focus and compose.:-)
    Could you use a micro PC and tethered software?

  4. Paul Butzi said, on February 10, 2007 at 8:33 am

    If you want weatherproof, look to the 1Ds Mk II although that goes the wrong way for weight.

    Yeah, and size as well. On occasion I’m tempted by the 1ds mkII but it always ends when I see the battery and charger. Crikey.

    A kit of a 28 F2.8, 35 F2, 50 F1.8, and 100 F2 will give you the same range as you had on the view camera, will be extremely sharp, and is small and light.

    Yeah, or just buy a 24-105mm f/4L IS zoom, and be done. That avoids other problems, too, such as dust getting in the camera during lens changes. The L series lenses are also considerably more likely to withstand rain than the lenses you mention, as well.

    It’s not just having the focal lengths; the lenses have to actually work in the conditions in the field.

    Thin, flexible plastic bag, UV filter, and a rubber band to close the bag around the lens hood.

    Yes. It does make the camera somewhat harder to use, and you have to anticipate the need, which isn’t always possible. The advantage of a weatherproofed camera is that it’s always weatherproofed. So when you get caught in a downpour, no worries.

  5. Rosie Perera said, on February 10, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    you have to anticipate the need, which isn’t always possible

    A plastic bag and a rubber band take up hardly any room. You could just keep them in your camera case at all times.

  6. Paul Butzi said, on February 10, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    A plastic bag and a rubber band take up hardly any room. You could just keep them in your camera case at all times.

    Sure. So it would be in the car when I’ve walked half a mile down the road with the camera on the tripod and the tripod over my shoulder.

    So next, you all will suggest that I could put it in my pocket. That’s true.

    It’s also true that if the camera was weatherproof, I wouldn’t have to bother.

    Sue me, for pity’s sake. It’s a wishlist. I wish my camera were weatherproof. Why?

    Because if I use a plastic bag, then I have to screw with the plastic bag when I’m working the camera. And it’s ugly, and annoying, and inevitably, the plastic bag I’ve been carrying around for two months will have a hole in it, and the rubber band will break and snap against my finger and hurt. On windy days, the bag will blow around and annoy me. Some small child will take the bag from my camera pack and suffocate in it. I can write a list of reasons why I don’t want to use a plastic bag that’s as long as the US tax code, for pity’s sake.

    Why the heck is everyone so resistant to the idea of a weatherproof camera? Weatherproof gear is not exactly a rocket science proposition, you know. I’ve got weatherproof GPS receivers. Weatherproof radios. Weatherproof binoculars. All of them seem very nice. And we could easily put our GPS receivers, radios, and binoculars inside little plastic bags to keep them dry. But somehow manufacturers seem to have been responsive to expressed desires for weatherproof items in those categories. Why not cameras?

  7. Paul Butzi said, on February 10, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    am not sure I understand why you want a short range remote. You still have to lie in the mud to focus and compose.:-)
    Could you use a micro PC and tethered software?

    I want a short range remote for the same reason people use cable releases. I want the display and control functions so that when I’m using the camera and it’s way up high on the tripod, and the controls and display are above eye level, I can use the display and controls on the remote.

  8. Ed Richards said, on February 10, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    I am with you on the wishing part – I would love a weather proof camera, and am tempted by the Olympus PS that is good down to 15 below water level. A perfect pocket camera. I was just proposing some real world alternatives.:-) I was not thinking about the zoom – I assumed you meant small on the camera. As in, are you thinking about that digital M8 with the new Lecia zoom?

    When I look through a 35mm SLR after working with 4×5, I am convinced that I could do a better job of framing landscapes with a 35mm rangefinder. I can do OK with the zoom finder on my Technika, and it is not nearly as accurate as a Lecia. How is the film Lecia as a landscape camera?

  9. Colin Jago said, on February 11, 2007 at 1:41 am

    Viewfinders: I had access to Leica R9 and DMR for a week or two. Whilst it doesn’t meet many of your wishes, it did convince me of the benefit of a more than 100% viewfinder. The camera has the old 35mm viewfinder and you drop in a new focus screen with the markings for the reduced frame DMR. In effect you end up with a 125% viewfinder. It actually changed the way that I used an SLR.

  10. Oren Grad said, on February 12, 2007 at 9:03 am

    Paul –

    I keep an old Pentax LX specifically as a “snow camera”. In addition to being weather-sealed, this particular one is well-worn cosmetically, so I don’t care if it gets beaten up even more. I’ve taken it out in the middle of heavy snowstorms, gotten the whole thing drenched more than once, but it comes out none the worse for wear. It’s great to have the freedom to take pictures under those conditions. Not a digital camera, but from this experience I heartily endorse that point on your wishlist.

    Also the point re reliable, highlight-pegged metering – without it, a digital camera is far too fussy in handling to be of any use to me in the field.

    Ed –

    IMO an M-Leica is not a great camera for tripod-mounted landscape work. The lenses are sublime, but framing is hit or miss, and the subconscious fudge factor that seems to compensate for that pretty well when one is “in the flow” with a hand-held camera somehow fails to work for me when I’m fussing with the camera on a tripod.

  11. QT Luong said, on February 15, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Given the LF gear that you used to have and the amount of traveling that you do, I am surprised that the weight and size of a Canon series 1 is even an issue for you. If you want full weathersealing and 100% viewfinder, remember that Canon has never released a body other than series 1 with those features, and I doubt they would do so soon to please landscape photographers.

  12. David Mantripp said, on February 21, 2007 at 2:10 am

    Well, for the weatherproof part, the Olympus E-1 fits the bill. Believe me, I’ve been under waterfalls in Iceland with it. Unfortunately, for the rest, it doesn’t (oh, except the 100% viewfinder).

    Based on my experience with the E-1, I’d add the wish to support long bulb times without excessive thermal noise. Let’s say 15 minutes, to be reasonable. The E-1 supports 8 minutes, but is pretty useless much over 4.


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