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Leica à la Jony Ive

Posted on Oct 10, 2013 in Photography, Product, Tools

Jony Ive Leica

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.