If Apple decided to make a DSLR

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Doylem, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #1
    In the past couple of years I’ve run a lot of landscape photography workshops (I’ve stopped... for now), which means I’ve watched photographers - male, female, old, young, rich and not so rich - trying to get to grips with their insanely complicated cameras. Some knew what they were doing; others were baffled by technology. They’d push buttons, turn dials and scroll through menus, without having a clue what they were doing... or why. They had trouble doing the most basic things, such as changing apertures and shutter speeds. They’d try - in vain - to get rid of all the useless information that was cluttering up their viewfinders. Worst of all, they were so preoccupied with their cameras that they simply didn’t notice the light on the landscape.

    It wasn’t their fault. IMO, if a piece of kit is too complicated to use with ease, it’s generally the manufacturer at fault, not the end-user. And the camera manuals, written in techno-babble, only make matters worse. My response was to get them to put their camera on a tripod, switch to manual metering, set ISO 100 and f11, and leave the shutter speed as the only variable. For most people it seemed to work: the camera didn’t dominate their thinking, it stopped getting in the way. With fewer choices to make, they were able to concentrate instead on what’s ‘out there’. One guy said it was “like someone switching a light on”, and went home happy.

    On the day that Steve Jobs has died, I wonder what kind of camera Steve and Apple could have designed, to make the business of taking photographs more instinctive, intuitive, immersive... so the camera became a window to the world, not a door that needed to be unlocked. Even with all the new cameras - and formats - appearing, I’m sure that Apple could do for serious photography (ie not just camera-phones) what the company did for computers, music players and tablets: a total re-imagining.

    We’re accustomed to DSLRs that look like their predecessors: my Nikon D200 is really just my ancient film camera (Nikon FE) with more whistles and bells. But there’s no real need for DSLRs to look the way they do (it’s only old farts like me who spent more time with film than digital).

    Steve said Apple weren’t going into the phone business... then the iPhone appeared. He said there was no future in tablets... then the iPad came out. With Apple now so dominant in their chosen markets, it would be fascinating if they could partner a top-quality lens maker and come up with a revolutionary camera body that would facilitate good photography, rather than getting in the way. Maybe have all the whistles and bells, but have a simple way for users to personalise the interface to reflect the way they actually take pictures...

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. gyorpb macrumors member

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    #2
    A point 'n' shoot compact.

    Apple don't manufacture SLR cameras for the same reason they don't manufacture mainframe computers.
     
  3. Lone Deranger macrumors 65816

    Lone Deranger

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    #3
    I’d like to think that if Apple did produce a camera, it might look something like the old Fuji Finepix F601 model. I always thought the design (apparently credited to Porsche) was really cool and quite unique. The silver metal alloy body of course being reminiscent of the Unibody laptops.
    I also have no doubt that the GUI’s would be far more streamlined. Every single camera manufacturer to this day, from Canon to Nikon, Sony to Olympus, are producing pretty awful interfaces to their cameras. It’s improved a tiny bit over the years, but compared to what we see Apple do in iOS, the difference is shocking (and saddening). Just imagine iOS running on your Canon 7D or Leica M9! :eek:

    No, that’s not a good comparison. A better one would be P&S = iMac, MacMini, MBA. And a DSLR = Mac Pro.
    Then a HasselBlad Medium Format studio setup would be a better comparison to an XServe.
     
  4. fcortese macrumors demi-god

    fcortese

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    #4
    It would be streamlined with only a few buttons to push-probably touchscreen technology. Now with Siri, you'd tell the camera what you want out of the picture, "I want a shallow DOF and focus on the eyes" :eek:
     
  5. gyorpb, Oct 6, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011

    gyorpb macrumors member

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    #5
    You're over-complicating the analogy.

    A DSLR is a professional tool, with a steep learning curve. The OP's students picked the wrong tool for what they wanted to do (simply take pictures), or hadn't yet spent the time necessary to learn to operate their professional tool sufficiently in order to get the most out of it.

    Apple's design philosophy doesn't stop at "package it in pretty brushed aluminium," there's a lot more to it than that. A DSLR, almost by definition, does not fit into that philosophy. And neither does a mainframe. The Mac Pro is pushing it.
     
  6. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

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    #6
    This sounds like the same old argument for other markets that Apple has abandoned. Apple abandoned the Pippin, yet people make impassioned arguments for Apple to return the gaming console business. Apple abandoned the Macintosh TV, yet people stomp and scream for Apple to return to the TV set business. Apple did not pioneer digital cameras, but its two generations of the QuickTake family helped to settle the land. Now comes someone who wants Apple to return to the camera business. Well, Apple has done just that. They are called the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

    The phone analogy is particularly appropriate because it displays in sharp relief the lack of thought put into this idea. With the iPhone Apple reinvented the phone. Those of us old enough to remember what the rumors of what the Apple phone would look like also remember that the actual product was as far ahead of the rumors as the rumors were ahead of the first cell phones.

    An SLR is a specific form factor of camera. Apple could make a significant contribution to the menu-based controls on the back of the camera. The menu control pad and settings display can be integrated into an intuitive iOS-based multitouch system. However, SLR owners have very specific expectations of their device. The location and operation of the controls are standard. Interchangeable lens, speedlight flashes, and many other features of the camera must exhibit standard behavior. An Apple SLR would have to be a hybrid device to compete in its intended market.

    Meanwhile, Apple is dramatically improving the photographic abilities of its iPhone. This device has a growing throng of users for both stills and video. Given this fact, it makes no sense for Apple to compete with itself in producing a SLR.
     
  7. gyorpb, Oct 6, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011

    gyorpb macrumors member

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    #7
    Excellent point.
     
  8. TheReef, Oct 6, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011

    TheReef macrumors 68000

    TheReef

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    #8
    Interesting post Doylem.
    It's funny, I was thinking about the same thing today...

    I don't see Apple as the kind of company who'd produce such product though.

    They provide for the masses, dSLR owners or photographic enthusiasts/professionals are in the minority.
    Most people want to capture a memory, or take a new profile picture for Facebook, without much thought of artistic quality as a result of effort.


    What I can see them doing is bringing features or qualities that enthusiasts/professionals are accustomed to, to the average casual user - making things more accessible. But not providing a device for enthusiasts/professionals. (It only works one way).
    The difference being there should be little effort required on the casual users part to harness such feature/quality.
    This seems to be a common theme with Apple, bringing so called 'new ideas' to the masses.
    Take the HDR feature of camera as an example, that originated as a (relitively) advanced operation involving bracketing, and software (a few sliders :p).
    On the iPhone this is a touch away. Casual users love it, enthusiasts want more control. Apple isn't providing for enthusiasts, unfortunately.



    EDIT: who else here remembers this:

    [​IMG]

    This is my Quicktake 200, still working :)
    To download images I hook it up to my trusty PowerBook 1400cs, then localtalk to a Mac with both serial and ethernet, which then passes the images onto my modern machine.
    Once in Aperture, I'm greeted with a generously grainy high-resolution 640 x 480 image :p
     
  9. Joe King macrumors 6502

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    #9
    I suspect the :apple: iCamera would have two things:

    1. Apps: Want the camera to calculate and set hyperfocal distance? There'll be an app for that. Want the camera to calculate and set the correct shutter speed when you slap a 10-stop ND filter on the lens? There'll be an app for that. Want all your images to look like you shot them on a Holga, or on Velvia film? Yup, there's an app for that too. Having an apps platform might bridge the issue TheReef mentions - have apps with simple interfaces and minimal controls for the casual shooter and apps with complex levels of control and customisation for the enthusiasts.

    2. Connectivity: There's a Presidential election on here in Ireland at the moment. I was out last weekend and we met one of the candidates out canvassing. Took a photo of my other half with the candidate on my iPhone (didn't have the DSLR with me). Within 30 seconds I had the picture up on my Facebook page so I could share with friends and family. Why the hell can't I do this with my DSLR? You can bet your bottom dollar an iCamera would (and would back all the pictures up automatically onto iCloud).
     
  10. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #10
    Interesting post.

    Apple wouldn't do a DSLR as we know it. Interchangeable lenses are simply not in their business model, it's all about being easy to use and super intuitive.

    They would transform the act of seeing to the act of recording in digital format. Something like a sleek camera the size and shape of 1/2 a small pen that mounts to a frame kind of like glasses. A fold-out ultra thin LCD on a swing arm would let you preview the image you want. It would have a hands free voice command system based of the Siri Assistant included with the new phone. The next time you say "Where's my camera?" boom - there it is! The device itself would have no storage and would transfer the file wirelessly to whatever iDevice you have. It would also sync with the Cloud and be up in ApertureX when you get back to your Mac.

    We've seen stuff like this in syfi films and video games. Apple would make it real.

    Just my thoughts on this.

    Dale
     
  11. ChrisA, Oct 6, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011

    ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #11
    Apple does sell cameras. I think in the last presentation a few days ago it was stated that "for many people the iPhone will be the best quality camera or video camera they have ever owned." So if Apple built a camera it woud look just like the one in the iPhone 4S and have an Internet connection on it so the photo could be uploaded. Oh, wait, they already are building them.

    Apple used to build software and computers for professionals but as of late I think they discovered that that are more consumer, why not market to the larger crowd? Hence the glossy screens and re-designed Final Cut software.
     
  12. fpnc macrumors 68000

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    #12
    Those two things have already been done. It was called the Digita OS and it was a technology spinout from Apple during the 1990s. The Digita cameras could run apps, there was a software development kit for third-parties, and the cameras ran all kinds of applications. Games, photo "scripts" to automate photo sequences, photo editors, and even music playback (long before the iPod).

    Much of the technology came from the advanced camera group at Apple and there was an intellectual property sharing agreement between the company that developed Digita and Apple (i.e. patents and licensing). However, nothing really came of it although there were a number of Digita-based products that were marketed by the likes of Kodak, HP, and others.

    I still have a Digita-based camera and when I show it to my photography friends they are absolutely amazed at what it can do (in terms of things that aren't simply taking a picture).

    In any case, I agree with an earlier post. Apple's camera platform is the iPhone/iPod touch. IMO, there will eventually only be two classes of cameras and the one most people will use will be in their phones. The other camera "class" will be what is today's very high-end, strictly for professionals.
     
  13. fitshaced macrumors 68000

    fitshaced

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    #13
    If it made a DSLR that could mount Canon lenses, they might have something. I dont believe that DSLR photography is more about the body than the glass.

    If they merged with Canon, they would have an enormous opportunity but I think that might be the only way to do it and be on top of it. I have no interest in a DSLR that runs apps. Especially no interest in one that can be voice controlled :p
     
  14. Doylem thread starter macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #14
    Not even a camera that could say "smile"? :)

    We were content with just making phone calls until the smartphone came along. Apple do seem to have the knack of locating a gap in the market that nobody else can see. Five years ago, for example, 'conventional wisdom' had it that tablets wouldn't sell. Then the iPad came along.

    I'm convinced that Apple could create their own market in photography by making camera that were user-friendly, with smooth, simple interface and controls, and the kind of connectivity that "just works".
     
  15. fitshaced macrumors 68000

    fitshaced

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    #15
    I think they could definitely make a really good camera but I dont think they'd succeed in the DSLR market. Those things require less automatic modes and more camera innovation. But more importantly, the glass is where they'd lose.
     
  16. Doylem thread starter macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #16
    If Apple entered the photographic market, they'd look at camera design from scratch. So many aspects of camera design and ergonomics have been inherited from film cameras, to ensure that 'old school' snappers (like me) could make the transition from film to digital without too much trauma.

    A lot of design criteria don't make much sense (for example the 35mm film format, with 'sprocket holes', was derived from movie film, and appeared in the first Leica rangefinder cameras). The modern DSLR maintains many of the conventions of film photography... for no very good reason.

    I'd love to see Apple, unencumbered by this history, take a fresh look at photography (including the distribution and storage of imagery)...
     
  17. fpnc, Oct 6, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2011

    fpnc macrumors 68000

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    #17
    The Digita OS based PhotoSmart 912 which ran apps and photo scripts. This camera had an optical, through-the-lens viewfinder, a flip-up color LCD, a top-mount status LCD, flash hotshoe, full manual mode, and a Pentax-made 3X zoom lens that ran from f/2.5 to f/3.9 over its 34mm to 108mm effective zoom range.

    Since the Digita OS evolved from work started at Apple this is probably the closest you'll ever be to an application-enabled, "Apple" DSLR camera. It was introduced in the year 2000 and quickly flopped because of its in-between status (too expensive for the average consumer and not good enough for the pro).
     

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  18. Dogfood1 macrumors newbie

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    #18
    I really like this thread. The premise makes absolute sense from the "Apple Perspective" - take something that's inherently complicated and simplify it without materially sacrificing the functionality, and wrap it with awesome industrial design.

    What we all want (at least I want) is a DSLR quality camera that has:
    • Big Sensor
    • Low-light capability for party and night shooting,
    • Fast shutter speed,
    • High quality glass that can cover the range from ~10mm-300mm,
    • simple functions (like a touch screen that you can use to evaluate the scene and set the camera) - as stated above, camera menus suck, and suck badly - just like wireless phone used to suck...

    And the bottom line, the "wow" factor, and what will make this an amazing product, is its ability to fit in my pocket.

    So, who's going to work on this?
     
  19. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    I think they DID a total re-imagining of photography... and considering that the iphone is the most popular camera on Flickr in terms of usage (and has been since 2009) I would say they were pretty successful at fundamentally shifting the entire landscape of how we capture, manipulate, share, and consume pictures.

    sometimes i wonder if our concept of "serious photography" is just as outdated as the shape of our current DSLRs...
     
  20. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    I don't think that has been Apples perspective for the past seven years, probably longer. You are describing Apple as the hardware company they used to be.

    Today they are a service design company - building ecosystems that extend from consumer-level electronics to content, licensing and distribution. Think ipod/itunes, ipad/ibooks, and OSX/app store/icloud.

    Improving the user experience for professional-level hardware that has a relatively small market is not in their business model.
     
  21. tinman0 macrumors regular

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    #21
    Ironic, because that's exactly where NeXT came from and what OSX is built on.
     
  22. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

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    #22
    I disagree with with lucidmedia only in this respect. Whereas he said that you are looking at Apple as it was seven or more years ago, I contend that your view of Apple never existed--not seven years ago, not seventeen years ago, not ever. You presented a specification list and expressed the wish for Apple to add its great design prowess to your specification list. Apple products certainly have specifications. However, that is not what we think about when we think Apple. We think user experience. At its best, the Apple products become so intuitive that their users don't even realize that they are having a user experience.

    In your view, Apple can have a great impact on the DSLR. I have no doubt that you are correct. However, this is taking an existing product that works well and tweaking it on the margins. When was the last time that Apple did that? Apple has already made the iPhone into a small photography studio that fits in your pocket. Sure Apple can improve the DSLR. The question is: "What can the DSLR do for Apple?"
     
  23. avro707 macrumors 6502a

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    #23

    It just wouldn't work well like that. DSLRs have a lot of buttons on them, like my Nikon D3s for instance. But, the buttons are all very obvious - they are put there to make common functions very easy to change in a hurry. Sometimes, you may need to change certain settings right away, and you don't want to rely on a voice command to do that. Example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFYTyKYsI8w&feature=related

    I'm there at that point, and you can see me in that video. If a camera were voice-controlled, it'd never hear me over the noise of the engines on that Boeing 707-138B, or I'd have to shout at it. And in that case, I had two cameras with me, in that case, which one would be controlled by theoretical voice commands?

    It's more reliable and simple to control major functions with buttons, and anything I don't need to change regularly, I usually have set in advance in preset banks of functions that I can quickly swap between if I need to.

    Apple would never really get into that market anyhow, it's dominated by the two giants, Canon and Nikon with their long established systems, large user base. Even the might of Sony struggled - and that was with taking on the Minolta heritage.

    The DSLR, well, mine at least are already very good - they are simple to use, have great ergonomics and perform well. I don't think there is much Apple could do to improve on them. The DSLR is less a design piece and more a functional, rugged tool to get a job done. But, the D3s I use is a beautiful piece of design too - it is well shaped and the ergonomics are well thought through by Mr Giugiaro.

    Where the DSLR is always going to improve is in shutter speeds, image quality, light sensitivity and autofocus performance.
     
  24. Doylem thread starter macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #24
    My brother-in-law, a hot-shot designer before he retired, used to work for Minolta cameras. He was always working a few years ahead, on the next-but-one technology. He used to say that photographers wanted change to come gradually, not suddenly, which may explain why DSLRs still look very much like their film-based counterparts... even though, in 2011, most people are coming to DSLRs from p&s cameras, or phones, and have no grounding in film. So there’s really no need any more to make DSLRs look the way they do. Nikon, Canon and the other camera makers still cling to the idea that changes should come in small increments... but a company like Apple wouldn’t be hobbled by this design convention.

    One reason why Apple have had so much success with the iPhone is that it’s... the iPhone. Unlike some (most?) phone makers they don’t bring out dozens of phone models each year. With one phone, beautifully designed (I reckon the iPhone 4 is a small design classic), that does what it promises to do, Apple have taken a truly remarkable percentage of the smartphone market. They could do something similar with a 'serious' camera that could be tailored - quickly and intuitively - to the needs of each individual user.

    I love my Nikon D200, and I won't be looking to replace it until probably 2013. But it's not intuitive to use. I worked out a way to simplify the whole business of picture-taking (it's my first digital camera). It works for me. But the proliferation of buttons, dials and menus is misleading. The photographers on my photo workshops weren't stupid people; they were nevertheless so baffled by their camera functions that the camera itself was getting in the way.

    Apart from ISO (which, with film, was basically a roll-by-roll adjustment; now it's shot-by-shot), there are really only two variables: the size of the aperture, and how long it's open to the light. All the auto and programme modes ever do is replicate this simple equation; most of them are superfluous. Every new camera launch requires more 'features', most of them of dubious usefulness.

    A good Canon or Nikon DSLR is a brilliant piece of kit. I'm constantly amazed by the sheer amount of detail captured when I scrutinise my pix at 100% magnification. But there are many ways the DSLR could be improved... particularly in their user-friendliness. Imagine dispensing with all those numbers: a 50mm 1.8 lens is cheap, while the 1.4 version costs a week's wages. I don't think about numbers when I'm shooting; I think about light, composition, the telling moment, etc. Apple could reinvent the whole business. I'm not saying they should... only that they could. :)
     
  25. Adensmore macrumors newbie

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    #25
    Look at it differently...

    A lot of the DSLR's have a mode or accessory that allows for wireless tethered shooting, just collaborate with the camera manufacturers to make an app that will allow the DSLR to sync with the iPhone so you can upload the pictures:)
     

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