Friday, April 26, 2013

Am I the Only One Who Wants My Fixed Lens to be 50mm?

Nikon Coolpix A

Image Source:

I like where the digital camera leaders are going - almost. I love the idea of a dedicated, fixed lens compact camera with a large sensor and great image quality. The good news is that many camera manufacturers are making them now. My favorites so far are the Leica X2 and Fujifilm X100S. Others include offerings from Sigma, Sony, and now Nikon and Ricoh.
When I think of these types of cameras, my thoughts go to the excellent Olympus, Canon, and Konica fixed lens rangefinders of the past. I would really love to see something equivalent to an Olympus SP, for example.
(Click Here) to see what the Olympus SP film rangefinder camera was like on Andrew Yue's site.
Now here's the rub, for me. All of the new fixed lens cameras have wide angle lenses, 35mm equivalent field of view, or wider. For me, the 42mm lens on the old Olympus SP was a bit wide, but actually a very good compromise between what I think of as a "standard" focal length of 50mm, and the admittedely popular 35mm lens. In fact, my 40mm Minolta Rokkor lens for Leica M mount cameras is one of my favorites.
If I'm going to buy a fixed lens camera, the lens really needs to serve most of my purposes. For me, and yes, it's personal preference, a 50mm lens would be best. I'm willing to be open-minded and take something as wide as 40mm, and actually would embrace that focal length.
When I saw the first announcement of the Nikon Coolpix A, I was excited. In my experience, Nikon does a great job of handling sensor noise (my Nikon D700 DSLR is the best low light camera I have), and I'm familiar with the menus. When I read that the A has an APS-C sensor and 28mm f2.8 lens, I got excited. I thought, hmm - 28mm X ~1.5 crop factor = 42mm equivalent. Great! Then I saw that it's actually an 18.5mm lens, and 28mm equivalent field of view. Really? I remember when 28mm was a rather extreme wide angle lens, one that was probably in your bag but sure didn't get the usage that a 35mm or especially 50mm lens did. This is way too wide to be a general purpose, fixed lens camera, at least for me.
Ricoh has also just come out with a new GR digital model - again 28mm equivalent field of view.
I think part of what's driving this trend is lens size. While the camera companies are trying to provide large sensors for their compacts (which is great news), they want to keep the lens size as small as is practical. I understand that. I also think this may be why some are stopping at a maximum aperture of f2.8, which I think is a little slow for a fixed lens camera. But, I still really want a litle longer lens, and fast, please.
I mean, let's face it, I never could really fit that Konica S1.6 with 45mm f1.6 lens (a 1970s fixed lens film rangefinder that produces incredible images) in my pocket.