Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Idiot-Proof Camera - does it exist?

C1901 'A Brownie at the Seaside'. 
National Media Museum Collection.
It would seem that just when camera manufacturers were getting close to producing an 'idiot-proof' camera the world goes out and produces a better class of idiot.

Does an idiot proof camera exist? Has an idiot-proof camera ever existed? Or do we need to go back to pen and ink sketches?

Historically, camera manufacturers have produced a few cameras that have been so simple that even a child could use them and produce great images.

Underwater disposable one-use camera

  • Kodak Box Brownie* - wind film, click button
  • Polaroid Instant - one click, wait one minute
  • Disposable cameras - shoot one roll, take camera back to shop. They develop film and throw camera in bin.

Polaroid instant camera
None of these cameras had adjustable apertures, shutter speeds or white balance. There were no buttons for  focus, image size or exposure modification. You could not delve into the menu and change tonal range, sharpness or aspect ratio. Most had no no batteries to go flat. These little beauties were truly point and shoot cameras -  photographier en toute simplicit√©
Kodak Box Brownie

*First made in 1900 the Kodak Brownie sold for $1. There were more than a hundred models of Brownies. They were affordable and democratised photography. Kodak targeted young people and kids with their advertising. Brownies were even endorsed by the Catholic Church. The Church may not have endorsed the Brownie if they had been aware of the joke that circulated
 'Q. What does a Kodak Box Brownie and a condom have in common. 
A. They both capture the moment'

Here are some enquiries  received from photographers wanting to buy a new camera:

Enquiry 1

We've only got a few criteria, which are:
  • Reasonably knock-proof construction, preferably beer-proof
  • Built-in flash
  • Decent battery life
  • Instruction manual of one page or less
  • Takes perfect pictures every time
Enquiry 2
I love point and shoot cameras - I am not good at cameras unfortunately. I am looking for a travel camera that is snow proof, shock-proof, water proof and husband-proof. 

Enquiry 3
My wife has a Canon ELPH APS camera that thankfully died recently. 
She liked the APS camera because  she thought it was cool looking. She doesn't need lots of features and options, just idiot proof point and shoot with zoom.

I've experienced first hand some of the brightest moments with photographers:

  • The lady who travelled with me for 3 weeks but left her battery charger at home
  • The man who stored his camera in a refrigertator in Borneo to keep it cool
  • The lady who went to the camera shop and would buy no other brand but 'DSLR'
  • The man who kept all his tour images on one card then formatted the card
  • The student who processed the roll of film in a tank with no spiral
  • The student whose dog swallowed the memory card
A camera that requires the photographer to think. Fuji S3 Pro - 1/125 f11 with 1000W Elimchrom soft box. (From Commercial shoot Old Mill Theatre - 'The Importance of Being Ernest')
Does an idiot-proof camera actually exist?
If you're an enthusiastic amateur my recommendations for the best idiot proof cameras are
Panasonic Lumix TZ60 set on iA  (a brilliant little camera and almost fool-proof). The TZ60 could be considered the 'Jodie Foster' of the camera brigade; good looking, deceptively smart and lots of hidden tricks. Failing that, for your next party go for a 6-pack of disposable waterproof cameras for $42 - they're beer proof as well!

And if you're a pro and looking for an idiot-proof camera, my suggestion is 
'Don't give up your day job.'

The secret is not trying to buy an 'idiot-proof' camera but to follow a simple check-list to get the very best out of your current camera.
Check HERE for my Photography Workshops.

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