Musings on Photography

Camera Views

Posted in equipment by Paul Butzi on September 10, 2007


To borrow a phrase from the Car Talk guys, I’ve just squandered another perfectly good hour browsing camera manufacturer’s web sites.

One thing that I noticed: all manufacturer websites and nearly all reviews have, as the up front photo, a photo of the FRONT of the camera. The angle might be slightly different, but invariable the view is from the upper left (from the camera’s point of view), and the point of view is such that essentially none of the camera’s controls are easily distinguished, with the possible exception of the shutter release.

Now, maybe I’m unique in the world of photographers, but I spend exactly zero time examining my cameras from this particular viewpoint. When I look at the camera, I’m either looking at the top (while adjusting some setting) or I’m looking at the back (while adjusting some setting) or I’m looking at the ground glass/viewfinder. For a view camera, I often look at the lens to set shutter speed and aperture, but that’s it.

A photo of the back of the camera tells me a heck of a lot more about how desireable I’d find that camera than a photo from the front. And in particular, a view from the upper left (just like the ones they always give me, but with the camera rotated around the vertical axis 180 degrees) would let me see both the top deck controls and the rear controls, and that would give me a meaningful idea of the layout of the camera.

It reminds me of long ago, when I test drove a car, and the salesman had me drive past a building that had a reflective glass exterior, so that I could see what the car looked like as I drove past. At the time, I thought “Well, that’s stupid. Why would I care what it looks like as I drive past?” but apparently this is a highly effective technique for selling cars. So maybe people don’t want to buy cameras that will work well for them; they want to buy cameras that make them look good.

The weird thing is that I expect that the photos of cameras I have in my camera reviews on my website are the same way.

2 Responses

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  1. paul said, on September 11, 2007 at 3:20 am

    Paul, the sexiness is in the front as well as the name! 🙂 When you’re selling, you use desire, not utility.

  2. Frank Armstrong said, on September 11, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Well, maybe cars ARE like cameras. My wife says she can’t tell one modern car from another because they all look alike. To me, all dSLR’s look pretty much the same from the back, and if you can’t see a name, you have no idea what you’re looking at. On the front views, right up there in white lettering, it will tell us what it is — just like cars have their insigna right on the nose of their grills. Of course, the auto manufactures, unlike those who manufacture cameras, are smart enough to put their name and model on the back of the car, too. With the name embolden across the front of a camera, you are selling desire to own a such-in-such. Note that the model designation is always somewhere else on the front away from the brand name and is much smaller in size. Remember in the late 1960’s when we bought Canons and Nikons from Japanese camera stores via mail order and they would come in with the name plates either removed (Nikons) or the embossed name ground off (Canon) to get the past customs and trademark violations? In those days, there was only one Nikon and one Canon model, and everyone knew what they looked like front or back, name or no name…..sigh.


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