Every consumer product grows bigger as it evolves with time. It’s a strange phenomenon that affects nearly everything and, ultimately, not necessarily positive for the end user.
Every new generation of a product will surely gain some weight. The Porsche 911 is a good example and the same is applicable to so many products.
It is perhaps the result of our insatiable hunger to get more. It doesn’t matter what we are talking about. We want more horsepower in our cars. We want more battery power in our cellphones. We want more resolution in our screens. We want more megapixels in our cameras.
But do we, as consumers, really want more? Do we need more? How much more is enough?
Or is this just an (obvious) case of brands convincing us we need more because, ultimately, their aim is just to sell more?
I started having these thoughts after bringing out my father’s Canon AE-1 Program and appreciating how small and elegant it is. It’s a film camera designed for standard 35mm film negative. So it’s a so-called full frame camera under current digital nomenclature.
What you see below is the camera with a fast prime: a native Canon ED mount, 28mm f/2.8 lens.
Look how small and graceful the whole thing is. And remember, this is a SLR, there’s a mirror box and a pentaprism inside the body. The viewfinder is large and bright.
Yet look how thin the body is. Side by side with the APS-C sensor Fuji X-E3, you can see they are basically the same size.
Full frame obesity
With the exception of Sony and Leica M cameras, why are all full frame cameras nowadays so big and heavy? The Nikon Z’s, the Canon R’s, the Leica SL’s and the Lumix S1’s… Why are these cameras so oversized?
And this is not only about the camera bodies. Lenses of these respective systems, all newly designed and engineered, are equally super-sized.
Several times I considered getting a Leica SL2 to use with my M lenses, but when I think of its size and weight I always end up abandoning the whole idea.
I fail to understand this. Full frame digital sensor size is exactly the same as a 35mm negative — hence the full frame designation — so in theory the image circle is the same, isn’t it? Why are lenses so big and heavy nowadays?
To further support my view:
Yes, this Olympus Trip 35 is also a full frame camera. It has a 40mm f/2.8 fixed lens and everything is as small as necessary. It’s truly pocketable and beautifully designed.
Side by side with the Sony RX1R II — both are full frame.
In terms of design, I don’t regard the Sony as a particularly beautiful camera. But it still is one of my favourites because of its underlying specs as a product: full frame; fast prime lens; superb image quality; small and light. Fundamental qualities for a winner, a true killer.
There’s enough manufacturing and engineering power nowadays to design small size full frame cameras. The Sony RX1R and the Leica Q are good examples — both with strong sales performance — and so are Leica M cameras and lenses.
Full frame camera bodies can be small and same for the lenses.
I hope brands like Canon, Nikon and Lumix would consider this. Create separate lines of products with no bells and whistles, focusing only on the essential. Back to basics, no -nonsense full frame cameras that are small and light.
I see no reason why small cameras should be limited to Micro 4/3 and APS-C cameras. And I see no benefit in growing in size, just for the sake of it.