I saw Fast Company’s blurb on the new Leica that Jony Ive and friends designed for charity. It’s pretty, but as with most things that come from Ive, it occupies a realm of digital and surface idealism that doesn’t necessarily translate realistically into functionally ergonomic form. I love Apple products, and Ive’s post-Dieter Rams geometric forms work well for Apple, but computer interfaces don’t always require the tactile relationship that many other products do. I wrote about this once for Core77. And so I was going to write something about that on here relating to this camera. Meanwhile I sent the link to photographer, Custom Photo Lab owner and Leica aficionado, Stuart Richardson. (Full disclosure, the fine man is also my brother in law.) Stuart sent back his own take, doing the work for me:
I think it is terrible! It takes away every last vestige of ergonomics from the camera, and the design has totally crippled it from a functional standpoint. A number of components of the camera have been removed entirely in order to make it a cleaner, smoother design. There is no hotshoe; no EVF port; no cable release threading; no movie button on the top plate; no microphone and no possible opportunity for one, since the hotshoe is gone; and they have gone so far as to remove the main click wheel from the rear of the camera. Consequently, it will be much more difficult to navigate the images, menus or do any exposure compensation. It has non-standard strap lugs, so you would need a special strap to use it…one does not appear to be included. The lens has had the focusing tab removed, so there is no tactile differentiation between the aperture setting and the focusing. The lens appears to lack a lens hood, or even any filter threads that would allow the use of an add-on hood or filter. The shutter speed dial and on-off switch appear to be very difficult to use without looking at them directly from above. Again, they seem to have removed any tactility from them…they do not appear to be usable with the camera held up to one’s eye, which is their basic function.
As a whole, there does not appear to be a good way to keep the camera in the hand. Since everything has been smoothed, flattened and rounded, there is nowhere for the hand to rest. The lack of a grippy texture or moulding suggests that it will be either slippery and/or fatiguing to hold. If those are really holes in the aluminum, they would quickly clog with dust, dirt and grime…the last things you want near a camera sensor. The materials choice also seems questionable — aluminum is a very good conductor heat, which means this camera will be brutally cold to hold onto in cold weather. This is a problem, as there is no way that any of those buttons, dials or rings are going to turn by someone wearing gloves.
I know this camera is for charity, and will likely never be used, but it really bothers me as it seems to be the exact OPPOSITE purpose that design should strive for. It has taken a functional design and made it dramatically less functional to suit a particular aesthetic. It offers no new utility for the camera, and all it proves is that the designers can make a Leica look like a Mac Pro. So what? I think it diminishes the brand, the designers and the camera.
Well there you have it. I’ll stand by that.
National Geographic has a fantastic blog called Found. “FOUND is a curated collection of photography from the National Geographic archives.” The above image from 1957 of a replica of the Mayflower sailing into New York Harbour is wonderful. The mash up of historical air and sea technologies in a single frame is awesome. (via KR)
Photographs of the early American West by 19th century photographer Timothy O’Sullivan as featured in The Daily Mail. The caption for the above image reads:
“Industrial revolution: The mining town of Gold Hill, just south of Virginia City, Nevada, in 1867 was town whose prosperity was preserved by mining a rare silver ore called Comstock Lode. On the United States Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel, Clarence King insisted that his men dress for dinner every evening and speak French, and O’Sullivan had no difficulty fitting in.”
Polaroid prints from iPhone pix. Fun. But I question whether consumers will actually use it after they buy it. The urge to return to tangible prints from digital screen viewing is strong, as seen in instant photo printers from every printer brand, late Polaroid products and from the instagram camera. But I am not convinced that the prints get made and cherished the way they did and were in pre-digi-photo days. Furthermore from a pure design-crit perspective, the formal treatment of this product is not very distinguished or appealing, even in its simplicity. Frankly it looks like the Vitamix. (I still want one REALLY badly.)
I don’t usually blog about fashion. The apparel industry is a whole other can of worms. And while fashion should in my opinion be considered alongside product and architecture as parallel subsets under the modern rubric of industrial design, it is not yet, and so I leave it at that and stay largely away.
But today my wife sent me a Sartorialist post with a marvelous photo of a woman riding a bicycle. She so often sends photos of bikes and chic cycling that I almost missed what makes this photo shine– the woman’s right prothetic leg. It’s easy to miss graphically: the color seems an extension of the bag in the basket; the axis of the prosthesis coincides with the axis of the basket’s stay. I really thought her right leg must be out to the left preparing to dismount. Anyway, what makes this photo so special to me is the fluid connection between the subsets of human design and ingenuity. We augment our bodies in textiles and machines, mechanically concealing and gracing ourselves with protection and advantage over the earth and elements. And it’s hard in the information age particularly to tell where we stop and our tech starts. It’s a cliche of blurred lines often explored in allegory and fable. But I love that this photo explores those lines in color and line. Her vermillion dress is a part of her red bike. Her prosthetic leg is an extension of her chic purse. And of course the leg and bike collude to propel her with grace and efficiency inspite of her unique and common human handicaps. Clunky masculine mechanical fixes and colorful feminine grace. It’s a wonderful photo. And it’s getting a lot of attention.