The last few weeks, and especially the last week, I’ve been drooling all over the latest digital camera announcements from Canon, namely the EOS 1D Mark III and the EOS 1Ds Mark III. The 10 FPS shutter speed on the 1D and the 21.1 megapixel resolution on the 1Ds are amazing. If you just look at the specifications and features of the cameras, and the amount of complexity that goes into their designs, it’s impossible not to be amazed. They’re like small supercomputers. However, I’ve been thinking about what it would be like when I would switch over to using one of those cameras, and there are a few things that I would really miss. Things that I think would add a lot of value to the cameras. I doubt engineers at Canon don’t know that people would love the features I’m going to mention below, I think it’s more a problem of getting these features working in an already very complex system. But in my opinion, the power and flexibility that these features can add to the cameras are worth considering to add them to the next version of their high end EOS camera, and even the lower end models.
I’m currently using a Sony DSC-R1 camera, and one of the things that I really love about it is the LCD screen. You can flip it up and twist it around and be able to look at it from various angles while holding the camera in very unusual positions. If you’re used to using the viewfinder, it might take some time to get used to it, but once you get used to it and see the advantages, it becomes a real handicap to not have it on a camera. The main advantage is that it enables the photographer to hold the camera at really weird positions, while still enabling him to see on the LCD screen what the camera is seeing. When the LCD screen is fixed on the back of the camera, holding the camera down or up and away at certain angles makes it impossible to see what’s on the screen especially in bright lighting conditions. With the screen on the DSC-R1, it’s easy to twist the screen so you can still hold the camera the way you want and be able to point the screen towards you. This allows you to see exactly what the camera is seeing and be able to compose your shot precisely the way you want it, instead of just blindly shooting and hoping you’re getting a good shot.
I can’t stress enough how much easier it makes taking pictures. You also get less tired during long shooting sessions because instead of you having to get down on your knees or bend over or sideways in really weird positions and still try to look through the viewfinder, you can simply hold the camera in any position you want to get the angle you’re looking for, and still be able to see on the LCD screen what you’re doing. An example is the shot below:
What you don’t see in that picture, is a big table less than a meter away from the model as high as her head in the direction of the photographer, and a 60cm lower floor just 50cm to the left. To take this picture, I had to lie on top of the table, hang over the left edge and hold the camera down almost at arms length, while the LCD screen was tilted and pointing upwards so I could compose the shot exactly the way I wanted. If the LCD screen was attached behind the camera, it would not have been possible to take this shot. I would have to find a way to get below the table and have to balance myself on the edge of the floor and risk falling down on the lower part of the floor. Or, I would still lie down on top of the table, hold the camera down, point it towards the model, not knowing what it’s seeing and hope I get lucky.
Another feature that’s also missing in the EOS 1D and 1Ds Mark III is the ability to autofocus in live view mode. The cameras do have live view mode, but autofocus is disabled when live view is turned on. As you can imagine, in the example above it would have been really difficult for me to manually focus the camera while lying on top of the table, holding the camera down at arms length with my body stretched out in such an uncomfortable position. But with the Sony DSC-R1, it was a piece of cake due to the fact that I was able to leave the focusing to the camera and concentrate on getting the angle and composition I wanted.
What I also would have loved to see on the EOS 1D and 1Ds Mark III cameras is the ability to get a 1:1 view of the image on the LCD screen, meaning that every pixel on the image would map to exactly 1 pixel on the LCD screen. This would make it much easier to get a really sharp focus when using the LCD screen. When this is not possible, things might look sharp and in focus on the LCD screen, when in reality they’re slightly or very much out of focus when viewed in actual size after you download the pictures to the computer. It’s very frustrating when this happens. And since you can only manually focus on these camera’s in live view mode, it’s essential to be able to see exactly what the camera is seeing at full size.
I realize the technical difficulties of getting these features working on such complex cameras, but from a user perspective, these would have been incredible to have. The LCD screen could also be attached to the back of the camera at the same location it is now on the EOS 1D and 1Ds Mark III cameras, but with the ability to flip it open and tilt it like the one on the Powershot S2. Not to mention the fact that when you have such a design, you could actually move the display and buttons which are currently below the LCD screen on the EOS 1D / 1Ds Mark III cameras to the space behind the LCD screen that becomes available when you would flip it open to the side, possibly making the camera smaller, which is also one of the things I’ve seen some professional photographers ask for.