Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Proper weight

I had a chance to handle Matt Stuart's MP last weekend. The thing weighs a ton! Well, actually it's just a few pounds. But it was surprisingly hefty, more massive than my camera for example, which is already heavier than most others I've tried.

I think much of the extra mass is in his rather large f/1.4 lens. Or maybe he filled the film slot with lead. Regardless, it made me wonder about the ideal weight for a camera. I think the common supposition among manufacturers is that smaller is better. People get tired carrying some big tank around all day. They want a camera that they don't notice on the shoulder. Plastic, small, dense. Maybe pocketsized is the ultimate goal of all these camera lines. Eventually --if we haven't reached that point already-- we'll arrive at an age where size is no longer any type of constraint. By Moore's law within 5 or 6 years we'll have cameras the size of a matchbox which can shoot 20 megapixels. What then?
Matt holding the next generation Mini-MP (Photo by Brian Sparks)
We have the technology to make one-inch spoons. And we could make an axe out of titanium which is light and strong and swings like a feather. But we don't make those things. Why? Because those tools would be ridiculous and ineffective.

I think camera design should work by the same principle. A camera should be scaled to a human hand and to human strength. The ideal size and weight probably varies for everyone but I suspect it's at least a pound or two, and at least the size of a mid-range banana. Personally I like a camera with some weight to it and which fills my grip. I like one that could knock a pingpong ball 10 yards if needed. Not that I would, but you get the idea.

Maybe all of this is in my head. You tend to like what you're used to, and I've been using a heavy Leica for a while. But there are practical effects too. A heavy body has less camera shake. Try holding a ping pong ball motionless, then try it with a bowling ball and you'll see what I mean. A heavy camera reminds me it's there. I think I want to notice it on my shoulder. Not too heavy since I still want to swing it easily to my eye. But with some mass. In the Google Glass world will anyone even notice anymore when they are or aren't carrying a camera?

I guess what I'm saying is that technology may no longer be the key determining factor. Now the factor is What do we want? The size and weight I want is roughly the same as it was in 1925.


Hernan Zenteno said...

I don't know what is the thing in the photo (Appears more a tiny cassette play and recorder) but seriously, I have some doubts about the possibilities of the technology. Why then we can't have a small size m lens for the Fuji X pro 1? If you have a camera that is perfect size but you have a lens that is too long or thick I think all will be not balanced :)

Ben said...

Dumb question: What's an "MP"?

Blake Andrews said...

The MP stands for Mechanical Perfection. It's a Leica body with solid gold bottom plate, which makes it slightly less expensive than Leica's digital line.

Anonymous said...

Solid gold :D

Anonymous said...

Inner-eye implants will eliminate weight as a factor entirely. Humans can now control robots with their minds. Think about it people.

David Bennett said...

Not sure about the axe. Technology will make it so that the axe splits materials apart by some other force then just foot-pounds. And as Anonymous says - eye implants (Google glasses?) will remove the need for weight as a factor because we will _be_ the weight.

And similarly not sure about the weight of cameras - I suspect that is partly a love affair with the past.

Olivier Sylvestre said...

The only moments I prefer a small lightweight camera is when I drink to much.