The Goldilocks Syndrome

Probably not the right title but it will work. This bed's too hard, and this bed's too soft, and this one is just right. Really? Was Golilocks that lucky? She really didn't want a bed right in between say Mamma Bear's bed and Baby Bear's bed? She got that lucky with the soup or porridge or whatever it was too? Highly unlikely.

That brings us to the topic of the day. Camera ergonomics. I hate that word, I hate all words that sound that contrived in a pseudo-intellectual way. I kinda remember when ergonomics was not in such common use. Now everyone uses that word on everything. Part of what's making us all so mamby-pamby. I'll bottom line this real quick so you can get on with your day prior to blathering on about what I happen to like and dislike or how hot I like my soup.

Bottom line: Other peoples comments regarding how a camera feels, handles, it's ergonomic properties, bigness, smallness, too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft are absolutely irrelevant to you. Even if they use words to somehow make them appear relevant to you like big hands, small hands, broken pinky, or the like they have no bearing on your own anatomy, how you hold the camera, what irks you, and what any particular thing feels like when it comes to your own kinesthetic experience. Sort of like sex. How about that word – kinesthetic – nice without being academically-pretentious, unlike how ergonomic used to sound. I kinda think some marketing dude picked that one up from a guy in a lab coat and thought it made something sound like a way bigger deal than it was so he used it in the copy at some point… Now all we've got is that word slathered over everything from potato chip bags to hemorrhoid creme dispensers.

So there you have it. Screw what other folks say or feel or like when it comes to how a camera works in your own hands. Unless of course you suffer from some sort of "I have no feeling in my hands" kind of thing where you need someone to tell you they are on a hot stove. I myself was born with some Maslow-deficiency combined with a tendency to need brain activity thinking about something deeply all the time. The Maslow part comes in where instead of thinking about things like if I'm hungry, or how to make more money, or any of those practical things, I'm always thinking about other stupid crap that has nothing to do with anything and in most cases I can't do much about anyway. The side-effect just happens to be a few things I've attempted to get to the bottom of just ending up the same place I started out. One of those irrelevant things is the why I like a particular camera or not in terms of that horrid contrived word ergonomically.

So here's my particular set of things and fetishes some real some not, some absolutely anatomical, some purely in my imagination and all stops along the way.

I have what might be considered large-ish hands, especially relative to the rest of my stature. They aren't like hams - as in ham-fisted. My palms are kinda small but my fingers are crazy long and on the slender side. I'm sure your hands are different. Doesn't matter, just wanted you to have a point of reference. Over decades I've figured out what feels good and not-so-good for my own hands, habits, and all the other stuff wrapped up in what makes something feel one way or another to me.

When it comes to my left hand I really couldn't give a hoot. It's a blunt force instrument. It supports 99.34719% of the camera weight and that's it. Unless the camera is designed in some way where it's impossible to support with my left hand when shooting or it has some sort of sharp spikes where you could it's fine. That brings us to the more delicate of instruments, the right hand. If something strange is going on in that department it's the overwhelming factor. Over more than two decades I have come to absolutely hate the form factor and ergonomics of modern camera design. You know the ubiquitous big blob on one side where your supposed to "hold it". Well not really except when the camera is not on a strap and you happen to be holding it at your side. That's how it goes for me, otherwise it's actually being held by my left hand under the lens/body joint other thereabouts.

So what's wrong with that blob thing where your hand is supposed to go? Well for the most part it's not there just to make the camera feel better - it's actually there to have somewhere to put the battery well in some cases it is. Let's not get too focused on that – irrelevant. For all of my stuff I find the big blob grips completely intolerable. Yep I can live with them but really rather not with only one exception. That exception is the case where they actually fit perfectly. Completely filling my hand and the angle they force the rest of my hand/fingers into happens to put the buttons exactly where then need to be. How often does that happen? It happened on exactly one camera and almost on one another. It's impossible for that to happen for everyone, impossible.

Now - since that is usually not the case I have my default less bad kind of thought process that came out of way more experience shooting all-day everyday than most people will. I rather that blob be a little too big than a little too small. If it's too small I want it to be so small it doesn't even think about limiting the angle or position of my right hand. In other words I don't want it to try to fill up my hand unless it actually does. If it's too small but doesn't fill it up I am left with a very limited range of where my hand actually is positioned relative to everything else.

If I were a mamby-pamby nancy-boy I would say that it "hurt" or "gave me cramps" after a long session… I've hit myself with a hammer, I've put a screwdriver clean through my hand, I've cut a finger tip off, among other horrors. Relative to those atrocities any words describing discomfort just don't seem to have relevance. Would I rather be more comfortable than less – sure. So given it's once in a few decades that a camera happens to fit my anatomy perfectly what do I like when they don't – specifically? Well that's interesting…

My favorite handling/feeling camera that didn't fit exactly happened to be the Nikon F3. That "fit perfectly" notion is a red herring it cannot possibly fit all hands perfectly. The F3 really didn't have a grip in any sense of the meaning relative to today's typical DSLR, more of a lip than a grip. Has nothing to do with holding the camera while you are actually shooting pictures but made it nice when – like me – you happened to lower it to your side while holding it with your right hand. The ONLY time I actually support the camera at all with my right hand. For me a far better default than "almost made just for me" is get that damn grip off my stinking hand.

Modern DSLR grip-bulges are just about worst case for me except for the one, maybe two that ever were in my Goldilocks zone. Would much prefer a camera that doen's strait-jacket my right hand and allows a freedom of motion and alignment.

There's more to come on this set of camera handling notions but enough for the day. Just want you to be a bit more critical of the boiler-plate bullshit that's pasted into 99% of all camera reviews – DSLR or otherwise – "and my hands/fingers fall exactly on all the controls". Yea, right, weren't you the guy that said that about a completely different camera that's a completely different size last week? Where the hell did you get those interchangeable hands? I want some.

Balancing the universe one post at a time.


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