Annoyed by the car market, defensive of the camera market

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Lloyd Alter: How 'Skeuomorphism' Is Making U.S. Roads More Deadly — Streetsblog USA

The electric car revolution is a golden opportunity to redesign the vehicle from the ground up to make it smaller and safer. Instead, as Alissa Walker wrote in Curbed, [“]If “petro-masculinity” defined the past decade, as oversized, gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks came to make up more than 80 percent of all new vehicle purchases, we’re now heading into an age of “bro-lectrification.”[“]

Count me in the crowd that’s frustrated with modern car design. Just look at the just-released Cybertruck, which has a safety message of basically, “if you get in a crash, don’t worry, you’ll kill the other guy.” Add to this trucks that are bought for suburbia that have worse front visibility than an Abrams tank, and all of this giant-ifiction is also leading to more expensive cars (well played, car brands…). I’m not going to try and convince you here, it’s just how I feel, and as someone who is likely going to need to get a new car next year, it’s frustrating looking at the cars on offer now.

What also caught my eye in this post was a tangent on cameras being a product that has utterly failed due to an adherence to the past (extended quote, apologies).

My favorite example of how skeuomorphs hobble is the digital camera. Its predecessor, the film camera, was designed around film rolling out of one spool, across the back of the lens, and then rolled up again.
When the digital camera revolution hit, Nikon and other camera companies developed designs that took advantage of the freedom from film and light paths to make it more ergonomic and flexible, a camera that adapted to us. You could bend and rotate the Coolpix and look down, up or back at yourself. It bombed.
Look at the latest mirrorless Nikon, and it still has a stupid bump where the pentaprism was, still looks like there is film rolling from one side to the other, and still has the lousy ergonomics determined by film cameras. Apple gave up on skeuomorphs, but cameras are just getting worse.

I actually massively disagree here. Yes, digital cameras like the Coolpix bombed, but that’s because they sucked and weren’t actually more usable in ways people cared about. I shoot my YouTube videos on a mirrorless Canon camera, and the ergonomics are kind of excellent. It’s comfortable in the hand, is well built, and I would argue is more ergonomic than my phone which is a perfect rectangle which isn’t exactly ergonomic.

The problem for the camera market is that on the low end, those cameras (like the Coolpix) aren’t relevant anymore. Smartphones completely destroyed that market because the phone in your pocket is miles better than those cheap point and shoots in every single way except may be zoom in some cases. On the high end, we have large sensors and lenses to deal with, and there’s only so much you can do there. The whole mirrorless camera revolution of much larger sensors in much smaller form factors than before is enabled by moving to digital. But that sensor is still large and the glass in front of it is large as well. I’d love to see something wild and new in large camera formats, but I’m not sure what that would look like and when I look at what photographers think today about camera bodies, I just don’t see much anger about form factors clinging to “the old ways” basically anywhere, but maybe it’s more pronounced than I think 🤷‍♂️.

I would also call out action cameras and 360 cameras as examples of companies using newer technology to make cameras in form factors that were not possible in the film era, and those are awesome innovations. I just think complaining about mirrorless camera design is a bit misguided.