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Banana Form Factor For Future Digital Cameras

Is that banana loaded?
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More and more increasingly, cameras of the digital persuasion are being arrived with screens on the back, and no other way of viewfinding. Admittedly these days it's not quite such a problem having to focus because technology has generally attained mostly good autofocus. The requirement to use the force, Luke, and rely on manual focus isn't such a predominant event as it used to be when I was a photographer for my job.

Nevertheless, it's useful to sort of see roughly where you're pointing the thing, so you might be able to get the subject in the frame somewhat, and with the lack of the viewfinder, all we've got now is a tiny patch of LCD which when held at normal viewing distance that you can actually focus on, represents a tiny tiddly bit of your field of view, not a huge dominating area of it like it would in a proper film SLR with a big chunky glass pentaprism (wistfully remembering my old Olympus OM-1 bodies).

The shape of the camera is wrong. It inherits from a box you'd probably hold near your face to look through with one eye. Now we don't do that, the box is inappropriate. And yet, people still hold the box at arms length and strain to see what the hell that screen has on it, peering through the bottoms of their varifocal glasses at a tiny rectangle fighting against the sunlight and surface shininess. And with the arms held out like that, there's no stability like there was when we pressed slabs against our faces.

I propose the future should be banana shaped. We should be able to carry a slim, protrusion-free elegantly shaped device around on our person, which we can quickly whip out whenever there's any action about to happen.

Form in this case will follow function (which is crap to begin with - all food is for eating, yet there's no 'eating shape', etc) - you'll hold the banana out at arms length, pointing the lens at the scene. You'll view the image on the back top surface by looking into a recess (shielding stray sunlight) inside which is an LCD panel, and in front of which is a set of corrective lenses (possibly fresnel) to embiggen the image seen from that distance. The handle of the banana contains the gubbins of the camera, the battery, the card, etc.

Ian Tindale, Oct 06 2009

Just like that. http://www.flickr.c...tindale/3987408454/
I've created a carefully constructed mock-up of what I mean. [Ian Tindale, Oct 06 2009]

FLIR http://www.aikencol...-thermal-imager.jpg
Banana-esque [tatterdemalion, Oct 06 2009]

Not yellow, but otherwise.. http://www.mobilewh...mcorder_review.html
[loonquawl, Oct 06 2009]

Yashica Samurai Z http://www.subclub....bjpegs/samuraiz.jpg
I believe this is a right handed one. [kaz, Oct 06 2009]

(?) Also a useful design for a mobile phone http://cache2.asset...5B31F6F6178A68B340C
Manufacured by Apple, perhaps. [tatterdemalion, Oct 06 2009]

[link]






       Sort of like a FLIR camera then?   

       That's either a small banana or a large left hand. I'm not judging, just an observation.
tatterdemalion, Oct 06 2009
  

       Yes, the FLIR thing is sort of more screen with a handle, than a banana, if you were to hold that and a real banana against each other. Obviously, if banana format cameras were adopted, many would be developed in that sort of FLIR shape you show, to cater for perceived demand in each person's head. But I suggest that the true and pure banana format is the shape of a banana - the lens at the end, the screen on the curve of the back-facing surface (or just under it, shielded by a slight recess under a transparent smooth banana curve) and devoid of any protrusions or unbananalike shapenesses at all. Otherwise it'll end up giving rise to 'sack of potatoes format' cameras.
Ian Tindale, Oct 06 2009
  

       Well the FLIR is close. It could have been a banana at some previous evolutionary cycle. I see your point however, that it is more of a transitional form, on the way to the shape of things to come.
tatterdemalion, Oct 06 2009
  

       It's a short step, I think, from banana-shaped cameras to handgun-shaped cameras which, of course, may bring their own problems...
hippo, Oct 06 2009
  

       of course, if they are bright yellow, then security folk may be more relaxed...
po, Oct 06 2009
  

       how about the xacti? [link]
loonquawl, Oct 06 2009
  

       I was playing with one a few months ago - the screen gets in the way of holding it. But yes, it's got lumps within the shape, and bits poking out, and it's a long way from a banana, but yes, this is really what contemporary digital cameras should be looking like (but with the screen moved out of the way so it can be actually used - their idiot designers have never heard of ergonomics, obviously).   

       And yes, I think there is/was a yellow one!
Ian Tindale, Oct 06 2009
  

       I support the banana-shaped cell phone movement.   

       It's a phone with appeal!
DrWorm, Oct 06 2009
  

       I used to have a Nokia 7110.
Ian Tindale, Oct 06 2009
  

       What would be really nice of course would be for camera manufacturers to just come out and say that their LCD screens aren't bright enough to see over sunlight.
As someone who works with cameras, it pisses me off that viewfinders are a feature to have all but vanished from cameras.
kaz, Oct 06 2009
  

       In fact, there's a lot of things that are just wrong shaped. And all of them are just slabs. I wonder if industrial designers have been just a little bit lazy over the past few decades? Phones - wrong shape for texting (thumbs - usability disaster); telly remote control - wrong shape for holding and actually pressing buttons at the same time (thumbs, as before, also I can't see the button tops if I hold it out, also, my wrist is bent badly if I hold it out pointing at the telly); cameras - slab, this time pointing the wrong way because the lens is on one flat side of it, not the thin edge of it. The list goes on. Probably.
Ian Tindale, Oct 06 2009
  

       The Yashica Samurai Z was quite a cool little APS camera, not only was it not essentially a brick that you pointed one of the large sides at, but it was also available in right and left handed versions. [link]
kaz, Oct 06 2009
  

       Also [Ian Tindale], if you dislike the dominance of the LCD screens on modern cameras, why was your prototype picture taken using an EP1? If it's because you've got old OM lenses, shirley a 4/3 SLR would be more your cup of tea?
kaz, Oct 06 2009
  

       I've been on the lookout for a good left-handed Samurai for the past few years. They almost never turn up, and when they do, they're too costly for what they are. But now I've pretty much finished with 135 film cameras - I've got too many, so a few have got to go (ie, my Nikon F4). I used to have OM lenses - 28mm, 135mm and a nice 50mm 1.4 - but sold them when I got my first Nikon in 1988 or 89 (they were pretty knacked by then anyway - 10 years of serious usage).   

       The E-P1 is the prompt for this idea. Maybe one day I'll learn to pick it up without bringing it all the way to my face. It really is a fantastically good camera with a hideous software user interface (typically modern Olympus). It's what I'd call a 'violin' UI. Apparently some people are good at violin usage, but I understand they didn't get there by reading the manual and then after half an hour, joining an orchestra. I think this E-P1 is like that - it is probably quite a fluid tool once you're an expert, but the first few times (weeks?) you use the menus and screens, nothing makes the slightest bit of sense.
Ian Tindale, Oct 06 2009
  

       Every time I use one of the suckers I keep trying to press it against my face. Maybe I should just go with the flow, and see what I get. It is lumbered with a terrible menu system though, but as you say, typical Olympus.
kaz, Oct 06 2009
  
      
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