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Designing the Perfect Camera – What Features are on Your Wish List?

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The perfect camera doesn’t exist, but if I were a camera designer, I know exactly what sort of camera I would make for myself, and how I’d improve on the one that I’ve already got. I’m not asking for the impossible either – all these ideas could be implemented using current technology. Really, what I would do is take the camera I already own – the Fujifilm X-T1 – and add the best bits from other cameras, to make a kind of super-camera, or at least one that is better tailored to my own needs.

1 – Sensor size

Let’s start with the sensor. The X-T1’s sensor uses the same 3:2 aspect ratio as other APS-C and medium format cameras. This often works well when taking photos in the landscape orientation. But it doesn’t work nearly so well when taking photos in the portrait orientation (with the camera turned on its side).

Aspect ratio

The portrait on the left has an aspect ratio of 2:3 (width always comes first), the same as the sensor on the X-T1. The portrait on the right shows how it would look if the sensor had a 4:5 aspect ratio. The area is the same, but the width and height are different.

It’s surprisingly hard to create a good composition that utilizes all the space in the frame well, especially for landscapes and portraits. It’s much easier with a shorter rectangle, such as those found in large format cameras (aspect ratio 5:4), some medium format film cameras (7:6) and Micro four-thirds cameras (4:3).

For example, check out the landscapes of Joe Cornish. He uses a large format camera for a lot of his work, and he uses the portrait orientation a lot. It works really well with the short rectangle.

 

My proposal is this. Ditch the 3:2 aspect ratio sensor and place it with one that uses the 5:4 aspect ratio. But keep the area of the sensor – don’t make it bigger or smaller. This would give you several benefits:

  • It’s easy to compose images within the 5:4 aspect ratio.
  • If you crop to a square (as I often do because I love the square format) you use more of the sensor than when you crop the current APS-C sensor.
  • You get a slight improvement in image quality, especially at wide apertures, because you are using the centre part of the lens to create the image.
Aspect ratio

The above two photos, cropped to a square. The dark grey area shows the unused part of the sensor. You lose less information captured from the 5:4 sensor than you do from the 3:2 one.

What I don’t want to see, is a full-frame camera introduced into the Fujifilm range. The problem with having two sensor sizes in the same range, is that it greatly complicates the process of making, and buying lenses. It’s far better, as Fujifilm has done so far, to use a single sensor size throughout the range (in my opinion).

2 – In-Camera Image Stabilization

I think this is a fantastic idea, and I’d like to see it in Fujifilm cameras. The advantage of having Image Stabilization in the camera is that you can use it with any lens. That includes wide-angles, which you can then potentially hand-hold at shutter speeds like 1/4 or 1/8 second, giving all sorts of interesting creative possibilities when it comes to recording movement. Sony and Olympus have got this one right.

Fast shutter speed

I took this photo with a 35mm lens at 1/180 second to freeze movement. This lens doesn’t have Image Stabilization, but if it were built into my camera, I could try taking the photo at a shutter speed as slow as 1/15 or 1/8 second. The man would be a blur, creating a different image entirely. Image Stabilization lets you try this with a hand-held camera, so you don’t have to use a tripod.

3 – Quick control dial

Mid-range and high-end Canon cameras have a quick control dial – a thumbwheel on the back of the camera, that you can move while looking through the viewfinder. The big advantage of the quick control dial is that you can adjust exposure compensation without removing your eye from the viewfinder.

Quick control dial

The quick control dial on the EOS 5D Mark II. Its position means that it’s easy to move with your thumb, while looking through the viewfinder.

The X-T1 can already display a histogram in the viewfinder. With a quick control dial you can adjust exposure compensation (when in an automatic mode like aperture priority, shutter priority or program) as you go, to get the histogram where you want it. All guesswork regarding exposure is gone. The current exposure compensation dial is too hard to move while looking through the viewfinder, and reduces the usability of the camera.

The joystick added to the X-Pro 2 for quick movement through the autofocus points would also be a welcome addition.

4 – Dual card slots

Probably coming in the XT-2, but essential for backing up photos. Good quality memory cards are virtually indestructible. If your camera saves a copy of each photo on two different cards this makes backing up photos much easier, especially while travelling.

So Fujifilm, if you’re listening, I know I’m only one user among many, but I’d love it if you could give some consideration to these ideas. Especially the one about sensor size, which I think could revolutionize the way we use cameras.

Your turn

If I could add just one feature to my X-T1 it would be the 5:4 aspect ratio sensor. So here’s a question for you – if you could add just one feature to your camera, which would it be and why? I’m looking forward to reading your answers, this should be interesting.


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Andrew S. Gibson is a writer and photographer living in New Zealand. He is the author of over twenty photography ebooks – please join his monthly newsletter to receive complimentary copies of The Creative Image and Use Lightroom Better.

  • 1 Sensor should be square.
    2 3×3 cm or even 4×4 cm.
    3 Professional camera but in a small form, like Canon 6D.
    4 Dioptric adjustment -3-+3 (instead of common -3-+1)
    5 Huge brighter and sharper viewfinder with levels inside.
    6 Magnification button to enlarge while viewing in viewfinder.
    … (so many more things actually).

  • Jeremy Christopher

    1. At least full frame, if not medium format. Bigger the sensor, better the light, less squeezing of the lens to the image.
    2. Room for multiple lens adapters. Even if the image plane is bigger than what the lens can shoot, it will still help to use any sort of lens. Possibly allow a tilt shift adapter, to mod any lens.
    3. 8k video. 120 fps. With a pro camera, it’s big anyway, why not get a bigger set of processors.
    4. I don’t mind losing the SLR, but give me enough direct out options for viewing.
    5. More than 100 MP, hey, why not.
    6. Better audio inputs and at least 4 of them, with digital inputs as well.
    7. Timecode. If you’re gonna throw a sensor around a computer, why not allow timecode on there.
    8. Panorama and 360 modes, like phones have, even if it’s RAW.
    9. Under $1,000, c’mon, the dame amount of plastic and silicon goes into the high end as it does the consumer grade; let’s stop this step-up game, when people can just go to CL or Ebay for used ones.
    10. Nightvision/heatvision/hyperspectral modes. Hey why not.

  • Everything the E-PL5 is with the addition of an updated sensor, wireless connectivity and an integrated Hybrid VF like that in the X-Pro2… For a cheaper price, Even if that means adios fun filters.

  • Tod Davis

    A flip/tilt LCD on the higher end models, it is amazing that the manufacturers think that only novices would use one. However it is a really handy feature when the camera is down low on a tripod and the photographer is really uncoordinated

  • Thor Doc

    My perfect camera would have some slight improvements to my 7D. 1) A native ISO of 100-25600 for obvious reasons. 2) A headphone jack. 3) a great dynamic range of 95 & image quality at about 18 as per DxO mark. 4) an alternative in-body stabilization system should i use a manual lens or one without IS. 5) a flash sync speed of 1/320. 6) a full frame sensor obviously, 7) and a better LCD screen maybe 8) and a 4K video. Ergonomically, i love my 7D. I can downgrade to a 5fps no problem since i don’t shoot sports often or ever. 🙂

  • The base would be X100, and I just need two additional feature: 1) dial for ISO (one-stop increment), 2) accurate DOF scale on the lens barrel — manual lens style.

  • theglockguy007

    An eye sensor to move your autofocus point by sensing what your eye (pupil) is looking at. Control activation with a back button. When back button is presses, AF point moves where you are looking. Release,the button and AF point remains at last position.

  • theglockguy007

    An eye sensor to move your autofocus point by sensing what your eye (pupil) is looking at. Control activation with a back button. When back button is presses, AF point moves where you are looking. Release,the button and AF point remains at last position.

  • Lik Baton Boot

    A preset for photographing stars

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  • os

    Option for installing a focussing screen to better allow using manual lenses

  • Mel B

    Many moons ago the likes of Canon,Nikon offered 35 mm cameras with removable backs to allow “reel to reel” 250 exposure film rolls. Knowing that that technology existed I’m amazed not one single manufacturer offers a digital equivalent but with the “sensor” mounted on the back. We could then open the backs and perform a 100% dust free cleaning of the sensor. Something I have been able to do for 20 years on my high end digital back camera.

  • Owen Phillips

    Menus can be slow and cumbersome. Control buttons help with common functions, but even they require momentarily taking your eye off the viewfinder/action while you adjust whatever.
    I would like a voice controlled function to change common settings.
    eg It would be great while shooting to just say “1000” to set a shutter speed of 1/1000th sec or “f8” or “ISO 6400” or “stop minus 1” or “bracket 5, 1/2 stop” or “flash on” or “continuous fast” or “spot” etc etc etc. Some cameras already have microphones.

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  • Thanks for commenting everybody, some great ideas there.

  • S.B. Schillings

    Durability, reasonably compact and simplicity. After all photography should be a relationship with the tool and not a gadget laden, market driven, quickly obsolete, overly complex consumer plaything.

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