Some tech gadgets have a space-age allure, and digital cameras are no exception. But photographic devices have been around for well over a century, and some camera companies are fusing more tried-and-true features and design elements with today's technology. This everything-old-is-new-again approach appears on some of our newly tested advanced and basic cameras.
Here are a couple of trends I'm seeing from some camera companies that are borrowing from the past:
Retro, tactile designs. One conspicuous and intelligent way some advanced and basic cameras stand out from other gadgets, particularly smart phones, are with designs that come straight from the 1950s. The Fujifilm XF1 compact, for one, has a synthetic leather covering, which is pleasant to hold and feels less likely to slip out of your hands when you're holding it.
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The Olympus Pen Mini E-PM2 SLR-like doesn't appear quite as aged, but it does include a hand grip like those found on film cameras. And the initial black-and-silver color scheme for the Pentax Q10 SLR-like camera looks almost like an old film rangefinder camera. But perhaps in an attempt to have it both ways, the company is also letting you order the Q10 in a variety of eye-popping color combinations.
Focus rings to rule them all. Years ago, you had to focus a film camera manually via a ring around the lens. When autofocus film cameras along, all you needed to do was hold down the shutter button halfway and wait to hear the beep, and your lens was in focus.—the same system digital cameras use today.
But cameras such as the Fujfilm XF1 are bringing the focus ring back. More advanced models are adding additional features to the focus ring as well: The Olympus XZ-2 has a "hybrid control ring" to which you can assign various digital or analog functions: For example, you can adjust the ring to control either focus or zoom, and you can also set it to make various exposure adjustments.
Of course, many new cameras are incorporating cutting-edge features too, such as Wi-Fi and integrated automation,face-detection, and focus tracking. A great example is Ricoh's recent announcement of an "omnidirectional camera prototype".