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Digital camera that doesn't feel like a computer between you and taking a picture
Old 01-27-2014   #1
nightfly
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Digital camera that doesn't feel like a computer between you and taking a picture

As I was heading into the city on Saturday to do some street shooting with my GRD3, I was listening to an old On Taking Pictures podcast (#78 from October 22, 2013) and Bill Wadman was talking about how as much as he liked the image quality of the Fuji X100, he still felt like it didn't live up to his expectations of wanting a camera "that doesn't feel like a computer between you and taking the pictures".

Went through my day and got my shots (was shooting for a client) although was a bit angry that the GRD kept freezing up so that it would turn off and try to close itself but couldn't (I guess due to the cold) and then I'd go to shoot and not realize it was off and miss a shot.

It got me thinking that I'd really like a digital camera that was closer to my Leica M4-P. Basically, I could set everything with dedicated dials and just pick it up and shoot quickly with no more futzing. The GRD is good but in truth it still feels like shooting with a computer.

Which made me start thinking about a used M9, as much as I don't really want to spend $4K. Does anything else do this? In Bill Wadmans' words "not feel like a computer between you and taking the picture". Hell I've never used a digital M, does the digital M even do this?
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Old 01-27-2014   #2
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Perhaps.... X-T1?

Perhaps, we'll see tomorrow
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Old 01-27-2014   #3
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The digital M and R-D1 are the only cameras that comes close (due to true manual focus and lack of typical program modes / gimmicks)... it goes downhill from there if you expect a digital camera to feel and act like a mechanical camera. I love Fujifilm cameras, but they are certainly computers and act like it.
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Old 01-27-2014   #4
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I think digital can be almost as manual as mechanical cameras. I shoot primarily with my A7r now and the only "computerish" feature I use is live view. Manual focus with my M lenses and all settings to manual. Live view/focus peaking are a great addition to me. Mechanical cameras have all of their little foibles as well. My way of looking at things is you have to enjoy what you have in your hand at that point in time.
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Old 01-27-2014   #5
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All digital M-series that I've used up to the Typ 240 are close enough to film Leicas that I've never felt that there was a computer between me and the subject. I've used M8, M8.2, M9 for months or years; I've handled the MM and M-E; and I've been using a Typ 240 for a couple of months. The Typ 240 can be used like previous (and concurrent) M-digitals, but it's disputable whether it's worth buying a Typ 240 instead of an M-E or second-hand M9 if you don't want the extra features (live view, video, electronic viewfinder...). The extra pixels are welcome, but not (for me) decisive, and the same is true of the higher ISO. Barring mishap, my review of the Typ 240 will be in the next issue of American Photo, coming out shortly.

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Old 01-27-2014   #6
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What jsrockit said.

There really aren't any other digital cameras that offer a consummately satisfying manual focus experience like the dRFs.
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Old 01-27-2014   #7
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That's sorta where I'm out an ME or a second hand M9. Found a place that you can rent one from so might invest the money to use one first.
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Old 01-27-2014   #8
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All digital cameras use battery, issues in the cold could happen to the best of them......
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Old 01-27-2014   #9
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I got the X100 because I couldn't afford an M8! Oh the irony!
Someday...when prices dip a bit more!
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Old 01-27-2014   #10
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It's interesting to me, this perception of technological "intereference".

Every car today is a collection of computers. Some cars wear that proudly (Prius, GT-R), and that computer-ness is part of the appeal of the car. In most cars, when the computers get in the way, you hate them (ever been in snow, rocking a car to get it out, and the car won't let you spin the tires, which is exactly what you want to do?)

The most fun cars to drive, for me at least, and I think a lot of other people, are cars the do a good job of assisting you when you need it, and keeping out of the way the rest of the time. A car with ABS that kicks in late, or stability control that lets you get the back end out far enough that you can enjoy it, and recover yourself, before the car 'saves' you (but of course, it will save you if you mess up). Basically, a car that doesn't feel like it has computers until suddenly, you really want that computer (ie the split second before you end up backwards in a corn field doing 60 mph).

So, how does this relate to the OP's issue? Simple, I don't mind a digital camera that gets out of the way, even if it embraces it's digital-ness. The lousy ones are the ones that force their computer-ness on you in a way counter productive to taking a picture.

As an example, my EM-1 never lets you forget that you are using a digital camera. The VF is a screen. It felt really weird the first time I used it. But it embraces that, it lets you do things you simply can't do in a OVF. And once you do get over the oddity of it, it gets out of the way. The twin dials make manual mode easy and intuitive, if not traditional. The VF gives you a real time view of the light, as the camera will capture it (blown highlights are instantly visible, no need to chimp).

I expect the X-T1 will be much the same, because of the EVF you'll never forget your using a digital camera, but hopefully it'll get out of your way.

The worst cameras are the ones that hide the setting you want behind push buttons and menus (entry level Canons and Nikons are brutal for this imo). The camera never gets out of your way, everytime you want to do something other than full auto, you're navigating a screen, not focusing on your subject.

Interestingly, this fault isn't limited to digital cameras, it existed in film cameras just as much. In my dark room class most of us have old 70s or 80s cameras . One poor soul has an Elan 7. Maybe once you know your way around the camera it is nice, but for a student, it is brutal. No one in the class could figure out how to change his aperture in manual mode. The camera has so many bells and whistles it is totally unintuitive. Tonight will be his first week of using it, and I'm curious to hear if he's bonded with it, or ready to junk it. I've brought an old Chinon for him to use in case he hasn't bonded with it...
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Old 01-27-2014   #11
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Just buy the M9. You'll quickly decide if it's right - if not then sell it quickly.
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Old 01-27-2014   #12
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what does a computer feel like?

i turn on my fuji xe1 and i turn it off when i'm done shooting.
i decide if i want to focus manually (hardly ever) or use the af (almost always). i place the af box where i want it (focus & recompose, like my rf cams do)
i decide on spot or matrix metering…
the thing is even shaped like a rangefinder.
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Old 01-27-2014   #13
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As long as it has no electronic VF, it does not feel like a computer.f
Leica M is not perfect, but nice.
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Old 01-27-2014   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by defconfunk View Post
Interestingly, this fault isn't limited to digital cameras, it existed in film cameras just as much. In my dark room class most of us have old 70s or 80s cameras . One poor soul has an Elan 7. Maybe once you know your way around the camera it is nice, but for a student, it is brutal. No one in the class could figure out how to change his aperture in manual mode. The camera has so many bells and whistles it is totally unintuitive. Tonight will be his first week of using it, and I'm curious to hear if he's bonded with it, or ready to junk it. I've brought an old Chinon for him to use in case he hasn't bonded with it...
It isn't the camera, it is your class The wheel on the back of the camera controls the aperture....

My Sony A900 stays out of the way all the time. It is as intuitive as the venerable Minolta Dynax 9 (Maxxum 9) and it is the best digital camera I own.
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Old 01-27-2014   #15
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Should clarify. I use a camera like a caveman. I want to set the shutter speed and aperture and be able to see both those settings without looking at the display. I usually set the focus as well and then I shoot quickly with zero adjustment while shooting generally and quick flicks of the aperture or shutter speed as light changes and hyperfocus depending on situation I'm working in but usually around 2-3 meters with a 28 or a 35mm lens.

With the Ricoh this means, aperture priority pre-set to whatever aperture, screen off, external view finder and full press snap. But if I do need to change anything, screen on, make a adjustment etc. Pretty good. Still wants to turn itself off occasionally but good enough. However, I do miss the manual focus, manual everything Leica for this sort of shooting.

Question is do I miss it 4K worth.
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Old 01-27-2014   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightfly View Post
Should clarify. I use a camera like a caveman. I want to set the shutter speed and aperture ...

Question is do I miss it 4K worth.
Have you considered a used M8 already? You might be very happy with it, and I see them locally at very reduced prices (around €1000 euro) these days.
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Old 01-27-2014   #17
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I feel like if I'm going to make the investment, I might as well do it right the first time. I have 28mm and 35mm Leica mount lenses and want to retain the effective focal lengths.
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Old 01-27-2014   #18
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In my brief foray into digital, I used a D7000, and I didn't really find it felt like a computer in between me and a picture. I find cameras with EVFs do a little bit, as in the dark you'll see the noise, if you move fast it'll smear a bit.

I find digital with optical finders feels OK.
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Old 01-27-2014   #19
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M9.

Set it to DNG, ISO 160, auto WB, disable auto image review and set the sleep setting to something long, or turn it off (but bring enough batteries if you do). At this point, if you like, tape over the LCD display. On/off, shutter speed, aperture, focus, viewfinder... are all analog. The only digital you'll see is the red exposure LEDs in the viewfinder. Perhaps the only thing you'll want to check occasionally is battery status and card capacity, which must be done via the info button.

So long as you're within 2-3 stops of correct exposure, on the dark side, you can push the files for satisfactory image quality. Of course, the closer the better. Don't over expose (much)... the DNGs clip highlights quickly.

Last year there were discussions about this camera being "ISO-less" whereby you set it at base ISO (160) and just shoot the shutter speed and aperture value you want for the situation, then push the files in post, if necessary. The findings were that you can set it in-camera up to ISO 640 and results will be pretty much equal, whether in-camera or pushed in post. In darker environments, just leave it at 640 and push the DNGs as needed - the results will be better than setting the camera to higher ISOs.

If it's a sunny or bright day, I tend to use it with shutter/aperture combinations I know are the correct exposure. No need to meter. Just preset and shoot (though you can do this with any camera)

As for other cameras that get out of my way... the only other I've used are the Canon 1 series. I suspect other brands' top end pro cameras will function similarly. But with these, I've used them so long they're intuitive and extremely responsive... but because of AF, there is sometimes still a lag if it's set to focus priority over shutter release priority. In this respect, the digital M is the only currently available 'computer' in an analog body that I can think of... It's one potential flaw is wake from sleep time, if you let it sleep... it takes a couple seconds and you will miss images. Therefore, turn this off, or if you're on the prowl, remember to keep tapping the shutter release every so often to make sure it's ready.
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Old 01-27-2014   #20
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What?! Did you somehow miss the whole Nikon marketing campaign about Digital Fusion?! Its about slowing down, and taking time to enjoy photography and oh never mind I'm just kidding. I wish I weren't though! I bit the bullet and bought a Monochrom and it is about as close to shooting digital with my M6 as I can get. The X-Pro is pretty nice as well, and once you get the hang of it…and use the optical viewfinder..it's halfway there. At least you still have most of the settings on dials to check without turning it on. Set it on auto ISO, pick your shutter speed and aperture and away you go.
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Old 01-27-2014   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by defconfunk View Post
Interestingly, this fault isn't limited to digital cameras, it existed in film cameras just as much. In my dark room class most of us have old 70s or 80s cameras . One poor soul has an Elan 7. Maybe once you know your way around the camera it is nice, but for a student, it is brutal. No one in the class could figure out how to change his aperture in manual mode. The camera has so many bells and whistles it is totally unintuitive.
Interesting you should say this. Just for fun, I thought I would run some film through one of my old cameras. I originally intended to use the Oly OM-2S, but wound up loading one of my EOS-A2s instead because I have a much wider selection of Canon lenses. I had not used an A2 since 2003, and had to relearn it. I found the experience very similar to using my 6D and not at all what I was looking for. I think the next time I feel like shooting some film, I'll load up the Oly, or maybe a Pentax Spotmatic.
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Old 01-27-2014   #22
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presumably cost is no object here? Because the gap between a $200 GRD3 and a used digital M is quite wide. Can't imagine cold that would affect a GRD would spare an M9. And you have set up the GRD to behave as out-of-the-way as possible, sounds like, though a decent 28 VF might help with the screen-off approach, though theres no way to be sure the rocker wheels change your speed/aperture exactly in M mode without a screen-peek.

x100 though can be set to use optical vf while one sets speed/aperture, then fire away. Maybe manual focus is the real fulcrum of Mdesire here? nothing wrong with that of course! but inside that cost gap between grd/M9 I can see several medium format film cameras, for instance....
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Old 01-27-2014   #23
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who pays 4K for an m9?

they are all over the place for 3200
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Old 01-27-2014   #24
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There isn't any digital camera that suits your specifications. Simply use film. They make some pretty nice kinds of films now, and it should continue to be made longer than the lifespan of any of the next three or five generations of digital cameras you might potentially get.

If you want to make it easier on yourself perhaps upgrade your processing and scanning workflow or have the film sent out to a good lab and be patient. The money you save from not buying the latest and greatest digital camera can go a long way.

And if you need a digital camera for some sort of professional assignment, it sounds like a reasonably priced older mid-grade model would suit you just fine since you aren't taking advantage of the latest and greatest features anyway. I'll take a wild guess and assume you hate Photoshop and only shoot jpg and don't adjust your images all that much... so why invest in a camera that's overkill? Just get a D300 or a 5D, the basic zoom lens, keep it in the bag for when you need it. You can shoot the headshot, interior scene, or whatever and put it away, switching back to your film camera for your personal work.

Cold weather will kill the batteries in anything so get a camera that doesn't use batteries.
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Old 01-27-2014   #25
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Since you already own Leica lenses I assume you feel compelled to keep them. In this case the M9 is your only (least expensive) option if you desire the angle-of-view to remain constant. But I'm a little confused. The Leica lenses you mention above do not have the angle of view one would experience with 24x36 mm media when used with the GRD. So why not two M 8s? (One for a back up since you have clients).

If you are not wed to M lenses, then there are quite few cameras, many mentioned above, that have pseudo-analog dials that let you see what's going on. If you find menu settings that suit your needs, then changing those settings is not required (at least 8 rarely change mine).

The X-Pro 1 has an OVF but you do have to push a button and spin a control wheel (not an ISO dial) to to change ISO. I would prefer an ISO dial, but changing ISO does not annoy me. The Fujinon lenses are very good to excellent. My camera has never froze or crashed, but others have reported sporadic lens mount electronic connection errors. Some of these reports are out of date and some are more recent.
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Old 01-27-2014   #26
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Quote:
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The digital M and R-D1 are the only cameras that comes close
The Epson not only comes close. While I think it is important for a (digital) camera to not get in your way, a digital camera does not need to feel like a film camera to achieve that. Of course, for many people getting as close to certain film cameras as possible is the answer. The Epson R-D1 just goes the extra mile.
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Old 01-27-2014   #27
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what does a computer feel like?
Ask a computer.... sorry.
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Old 01-27-2014   #28
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who pays 4K for an m9?

they are all over the place for 3200
Sure, in the US. Over here they are still around $3700-3800 from private sellers and $4300-4600 from stores.
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Old 01-27-2014   #29
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The M9 is certainly the least digital of all the digital cameras I have used...but it is still digital.
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Old 01-27-2014   #30
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Old 01-27-2014   #31
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I have only handled a RD-1 once. Also got to see an M9 at a local get together. I agree that both are minimally digital. My digital minimalist camera is the GX7 (it also fits my budget). I typically use it in full manual mode (exposure and focus). We all seem to find our own gems.
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Old 01-28-2014   #32
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First world problems
Or... um... possibly photographic problems?

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Old 01-28-2014   #33
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First world problems
No question about it, but most of us in the first world only have that kind.
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Old 01-28-2014   #34
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Verily has it been said that many a true word is spoken in jest.

As is much thoughtless, cheap drivel. Anyone for a racist joke?

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Old 01-28-2014   #35
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It isn't the camera, it is your class The wheel on the back of the camera controls the aperture....
Absolutely. I'm totally unfamiliar with EOS film cameras. When I tried changing the aperture, I found one dial and began looking for either a second dial, or a button to change the dial's function. I never found the second dial.

The Elan 7 user downloaded a manual and got along fine with his camera.
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Old 01-28-2014   #36
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I don't think the Fuji X line is that camera. I don't see how looking at a screen is going to make you feel less like you're using a computer. The M9 however, the only thing you need the screen for is changing ISO.
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Old 01-28-2014   #37
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I don't think the Fuji X line is that camera. I don't see how looking at a screen is going to make you feel less like you're using a computer. The M9 however, the only thing you need the screen for is changing ISO.
Sometimes very handy as a "Polaroid" for exposure, though. I have mine set up to show the pic + histogram for as long as my finger is on the button.

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Old 01-28-2014   #38
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I started with an M8 because I wanted just that - a camera and not a computer.

Eventually, however, I grew tired of it's limitations and moved on to a Fuji X-Pro 1 as well as a X100S. To date, I still consider the X100S to be the best digital camera ever made.

However, the X100S is on eBay right now. While I love it, I just want to go back to shooting a camera and not a computer.

Currently, I am shooting an M9 and a Sony A7. The M9 is a camera - not a computer - and I love the way it shoots. However, it does have major limitations and that's where the A7 comes in... The A7 is a computer - no doubt. And it's not a fun camera to shoot... But it fills the gap with my m-glass and I think this duo really works well together.
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Old 01-28-2014   #39
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No question about it, but most of us in the first world only have that kind.
Which is definitely one of the major sources for "third world" problems
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Old 01-28-2014   #40
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Burn me on the stake as a heretic if you must, but I think a full frame dSLR comes the closest.

Before the flames get me, a few explanatory notes:

- Purely talking in terms of the equivalence of the experience between the film camera and the digital camera. I have in mind a Nikon d700/d800 compared to a F100.
- Full frame for the size of the viewfinder view and lens equivalence and the whole OVF experience.
- Not talking about which cameras are most satisfying to use
- The ergonomics and control system of the Dx00 and the F100 are very similar. All the basics (shutter speed, aperture, AF, frame advance) are easily changed without need for looking at the rear LCD or going into menus.
- I am not comparing the experience of a dSLR compared to an F3, FM2 etc.
- Battery life is long enough on those dSLR that it doesn't intrude on the experience too much
- Reliability and weather sealing mean you can treat the digital version much the same as the film version.

So basically most of the time can forget whether you are using a digital or film camera and get on with shooting.

In my opinion M8 comes close to the film experience, but it's digital presence intrudes more often. To its credit it does produce very nice files which need v little processing, I can imagine the M240 gets closer experience wise.
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