Time for a completely non-scientific, wholly subjective, not even remotely precise, but undeniably fun thought experiment for all to participate in.
Ignorance is bliss. Whoever said that was a prophet. It’s not so much that knowledge could ever be a negative. It’s that when you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s impossible to miss something you didn’t know existed.
As a photographer, and especially one who writes for this site, I have access and reason to use a variety of awesome cameras depending on what the job demands. And while I myself am primarily a Nikon man, each different manufacturer and model has its strengths and weaknesses. As I’ve said before, picking the perfect camera is a completely subjective decision based on each individual’s needs and shooting style. Trying to pick just one as the absolute best is a complete waste of time.
So I’m going to try it.
Well, sort of. Actually, I thought it’d be fun, rather than pick an existing camera, to try and cherry pick the best attributes of some of the cameras currently on the market to build my dream camera. A "Frankencamera" of sorts. What attributes would I take from each camera? Why? And exactly how strange would the final product actually look?
For sheer design and handling, I would look no further than Fuji. While, I don’t often use my Fuji cameras for professional work, they are always the first camera I reach for when shooting just for fun. There’s a reason for that. While other cameras may win the megapixel wars or score higher on standardized image quality tests, no other camera designer, in my humble opinion, has a better understanding of the joy of photography. Traditionally placed and easy-to-access dials are more than just a throwback to the film cameras of my long gone youth, they are also practical. I am a photographer. I am interacting with the real world. I don’t want to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary looking at a computer screen. If you bury the good stuff in menus, forcing me to constantly look at an LCD screen, you’ve already lost me. For the combination of ease of use plus sheer enjoyment of handling, I’ll chose my Fujifilm X-T2 as the starting design of my Frankencamera.
This next attribute could go a couple different ways. On one hand, I like the decreased weight of mirrorless cameras. As I get older, I think I appreciate this even more. On the other hand, most of the mirrorless cameras I’ve shot with have ended up feeling so small that the benefits of lightness are somewhat reduced by a lack of ergonomics. My DSLR may be heavy as a brick, but it fits very comfortably in my hand. Obviously this opinion is based solely on the size of my own hand. So it’s entirely possible that the smaller frames may be perfect for you. But for my giant lobster claws I like to have a camera big enough to hold onto and really fill my grip. Maybe they can make a camera with a bit of size, still mirrorless, but more hollow so that it’s not too small to hold but still weighs roughly the same amount as the smaller mirrorless cameras?
I am a commercial photographer and my work often needs to be printed very large while retaining detail. So, while the design of the Fuji wins the day, the crop-sized sensor does not. So, inside my Frankencamera, I’ll put the 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor from my Nikon D850. I wrote a few weeks ago about my love for the camera and that love only grows each time I get an image into Capture One and can marvel at the sheer technical quality of the image. True, I could have gone with one of the Phase One 100-megapixel sensors here. And I could make an argument for both. But specific to me, I like to shoot handheld and it’s very easy to lose sharpness on an image here or there when working with the largest sensor. So, instead, I’ll stick with the D850 sensor inside of the X-T2 body.
Autofocus and Video
Speaking of focus. My Nikon combined with my 24-70mm f/2.8 is incredibly fast when it comes to locking focus on a subject. But for the sake of mixing it up, let’s go with the Sony a7R III autofocusing system. As a Nikonian learning to shoot Sony, it may have taken me a moment to learn how to lock focus while testing the camera last year, but it didn’t take the camera any time at all. Even though I was a Sony novice that day, the images that I was able to capture of a constantly moving subject were all tack sharp and I found the focusing system to be thoroughly intuitive. Ditto to switching between still and video. I absolutely loved shooting video with the a7R III and would suck that entire system inside my Frankencamera for video recording as well. Or is it possible to fit an entire Arri Alexa Mini inside a DSLR? Asking too much? OK. I’ll stay with the Sony.
Further delving into the concept of motion, I’m going to take the in-body image stabilization from the Panasonic GH5 and put it into my camera. Full disclosure, I’ve never actually shot with a GH5. I usually mount my DSLR to a stabilizer when needing smooth camera movements in video. But I often need to shoot video run-and-gun and, from what I read from other reviewers, the added steadiness would be a major plus.
For this, I am going to merge two lenses. I want the 24-70mm focal range of my go-to lens with the weight and speed of my 50mm f/1.4. Is this even scientifically possible while maintaining focusing speed and image quality? Could you even make a sharp 24-70mm zoom without it weighing a ton? Probably not. But hey, I’m not designing the camera myself. I’m just making completely unreasonable demands and putting them out into the world for someone else to figure out.
So there you have it. I want a mirrorless camera designed like the Fuji, with the Nikon D850 sensor, with Sony’s video and autofocus, stabilized by the Panasonic GH5 IBIS, with a f/1.4 zoom lens with a range of 24-70mm that weights the same as a fast 50mm. Are my requests reasonable? I think so. Are they practical? Ummmmm.
Obviously, this thought experiment was not meant to be completely practical. It was meant to be fun. So what would you put into your dream camera? Why? Have fun in the comments below.