12.02.2011

Pocketability? It's a bad word and a worse concept.

Must find more pockets.......  Must find bigger pockets......

What in the world is with the latest metrosexual camera obsession called pocketability?  I was reading some well reasoned discussions about Olympus Pen and Nikon series 1 cameras and when I started to scroll down through the comments I found entry after entry downgrading the cameras because they can't fit into someone's tight, slim fit, rocker jeans back pocket.  Since when was that a concern for real photographers?  Pathetic.

So, now a camera has to have fully interchangeable lenses, a complete selection of super fast prime lenses, a fully programmable wireless flash system, a battery that will last for 10,000 actuations+ chimping,  amazingly noise free and noise-reduction-artifact-free files up to 12,000 ISO and it must fit into a space smaller than a round can of smoke-less (Skoal?)  tobacco in someone's pants pocket in order to be considered anything less than a "fail"?  (And while we're at it let's stop with the achingly cliched: "total fail.")

Let's step back and set some ground rules for the family here at the Visual Science Lab.

1.  If you honestly feel that the ability to cram a camera into your Levi's pocket along with your car keys is a most vital stat, please don't tell me that or write that in your comments.  I will not be able to resist critiquing your education, your taste and your tenuous grasp on sanity and logic.

2.  You can have pocketability but you are relegated to cameras where that's the only design imperative.  The Canon s95 and s100 and a few of the candy colored Nikon Coolpix cameras come to mind.  But we don't really like to talk about cameras here on VSL that don't have, or can't be retrofitted with, a grown-up viewfinder.  " Stinky Diaper Hold" is a camera handling technique that's generally thought of derisively around here....

3.  Don't expect any serious camera manufacturer to make a workable, interchangeable lens camera that fits in something the size of your pack of cigarettes.  Besides, where will you relocate your pack of cigarettes?

4.  Let's stop insisting on mutually exclusive design parameters.  Are there "serious" pink camera and lens sets?  Can you have a camera you can stuff into your wallet WITH an 800mm f2.8 lens on it?  I didn't think so.  Neither would Einstein have thought so.

5.  Speaking of price/performance/size compromises,  please, immediately stop slagging the smaller cameras because they won't do noise free performance on par with a Nikon D3.  One is $250 the other is $5,000.    Don't expect your Fiat 500 to match top speeds with an Aston Martin Rapide either.  (almost hit a brand new Rapide today heading toward the coffee shop because I was trying to yank my Hasselblad 500 CM with the 150mm out of the pocket of my Kenneth Cole Slim Fit slacks so I could photograph it!!!!  (sounds stupid, doesn't it?)

6.  I don't want to hear stories of how you were cheated in the warranty repair process after you realized the crunch you heard as you were sitting down was the camera in your back pocket.

7.  If you need a special tool or aftermarket attachment to hold the camera properly then it is too small.  If it slips through your Metro shelving and falls onto the floor of your studio then it's too small.  If you confuse your iPhone with your camera then the camera is too small.  If it slips through the seat cushions of your sofa.....it is too small.  Like saving money by buying a Canon 5D mk2 for video and then adding $10,000 worth of Red Rock Micro stuff to it to make it all work....

8.  Every time you whine about a camera not fitting into your English rocker pants pockets   mystic wood spirits kill another puppy.

9.  It's a sickness if your weight hasn't changed but you've switched from buying pants with a waist size of 32 to pants with a waist size of 44 inches just to better carry your "arsenal" of "pocketable" mini-cams.

10.  If you insist on panta-looney photography people will make jokes that start with......"Is that a toy camera in your pocket or are you just glad to...........?"

This photo is the minimum assemblage of gear recommended for daily carrying 
by the American Association for More Profitable Chiropractors. (AAMPC).

Seriously.  I understand that it's great to not carry around a ton of gear in your day to day life but just let a little more testosterone flow into the system and use one of the unobtrusive camera straps that comes free in the camera box.  Your camera will be ready when you need it (and where you need it), you won't have to hear lectures from your bespoke tailor about the "bump that's ruining the sinuous line of your trousers."  No jokes about dressing "left" or dressing "right."  And then, since you saved a bundle getting a tiny camera instead of a reasonable camera, you'll have acres of pocket space left for that dramatic roll of banknotes.  If pocket dimensions are an overriding concern then skip the mini-cam and get an iPhone 4-something.  Join Jack Hollingsworth in his pursuit to redefine photograph.....one quarter inch sensor at a time.

Hard to believe that some of the same folks who pine for "pocketability" are the same people who rush to the other side of absurdity and put giant, militaristic, nihilist, Goth, Black Rapid Straps on their sane sized cameras......but that's a whole different discussion.

65 comments:

Stan de la Cruz said...

Funny... but oh so true....

kirk tuck said...

By the way, the above was intended to be a humorous look at changing tastes. I confess that I took the (vital and important) VF-2 finder off my xz-1 and shoved the camera in my pocket for some reason revently. Must have been the day I was fighting off rabid Wolverines with my Swiss Army knife and a can of pinto beans. I obviously needed both hands free......

IRA said...

I'm confused by the top photo. Why would you carry so many cameras around when you have a Holga? :-)

Jeff E Jensen said...

Thanks for the laugh, Kirk. The only think I'm looking for in my pocketable camera is the 8-800mm, f/1.2, wide angle, fisheye, macro, telephoto lens. Oh, and it had better be image stabilized as well.

Wayne said...

Outstanding! Love #7

rbsandor.com said...

Bravo!! Richard

Govis said...

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the S95 as a carry anywhere camera.

I have an old Olympus Stylus Epic, and the S95 has much more control offered, a faster (Zoom!) lens and is smaller.

mactheweb said...

Are you knocking the MegaDeath Black Rapid strap I put on my S90? ;-)

kirk tuck said...

Mactheweb, does it have loops for ammo? Do the buckles have skulls?

Govis, Nice camera. One of the few that might fit in a pocket. I've started having my clothes tailored so I don't have pockets. Then I will never has to worry that I might some day crater and act opposite of my own best interests. Sorry to hear about your Epic.

kirk tuck said...

When we shoot all strobist(tm) style I wear two pairs of pants so I can make my lights pocketable.....

Paul Glover said...

Too funny!

The photographs you used to illustrate this remind me of how I used to be before I wised up and realized I can make perfectly good photos with one average-sized 35mm SLR and one prime lens attached to it.

Contrary to my fears when I resolved to take this route, I haven't missed any opportunities I couldn't go back for another time with a different lens and I'm sure my photography has improved almost as much as my spinal posture.

Jeff Thompson said...

Hey, i resemble that remark!

I recently reject the V1 as too big. for me the inability to fit in ANY pocket was the issue.

If I can't stow it away it falls into the same trap as my DSLR - I'm either in 'photography mode' or it's left at home.

skiphunt said...

Ol' people be hatin'! lol

Naomi said...

Well, being a girl, I really like my Black Rapid strap for my DSLR. It fits and doesn't do my untestosteronic parts of my anatomy in.

Other than that, I have a pocket camera too.

And pockets.

skiphunt said...

Just caught the Hollingsworth comment. Nice! ;)

Mel said...

Please post picture of pocketable Hassy....or the pants it fits into!

christian davis said...

Kirk, what about a nice helmet camera and/or a nice helmet flash w/ softbox?

kirk tuck said...

Thinking more about Govis' comment.... I carried a Hasselblad everyday for a year, all day long. That makes it a carry everywhere camera. And I didn't have to settle for no viewfinder. I stick by the initial sentiment of the blog...

christian davis said...

My actual though on the topic is that I could not care less what someone else's criteria for a camera are. I am interested in what they create with whatever gear they settle on. If they want to apply fabric paint to their Canon 7D to make it look like a sprinkle-doughnut, good on them. If they want Hot-Topic style bubblegum-punk camera straps, more the better! As long as they shoot, and put their blood sweat and tears into their photography.

andrewt said...

Thank you Kirk!

Bold Photography said...

I want a black rapid for my batteries...

Jim A. said...

Speaking of "Stinky Diaper Hold", have you ever handed your DSLR to someone to get in a photo and had them try to work it with the "Stinky Diaper Hold" and wonder what's wrong? I have actually had to explain what a viewfinder is to people before...crazy times we live in.

Bill Beebe said...

I'm taking this as a personal challenge. I will find a way to stuff two E-1s, and E-3, and an E-P2 into something I can wear with pockets. And then I'm going to have someone down here in Orlando photograph it (if they can stop shaking with laughter long enough).

gerry dolphin said...

hi kirk,
i'm shooting DX for a lighter camera, but i were shooting full frame, i would seriously consider a leica M, not pocketable but by the smallest full frame cam available (if you are rich enough !). Not a universal cam but...you know the drill, you reviewed them and shot with them. Why nikon isn't making a digital FM3A, why do we have to lug around a 1 kg camera to shoot full frame ?
cheers

hugo solo said...

Well for me its important the pocketability mi last true camera was a eos1nhs in 2001 from this time to now the sized of my camers decrease with an exception the G7 an today ixus my ixus115hs28mm has the same size that my samsung youphone 480 I´m waiting for the S100 and for milimeters the temptation to buy the J1 or the x10 but they don´t slip in my pocket really its a very important thing for a lot of photographers maybe not pro but...

C. Kurt Holter said...

You really nailed it. I always get a kick out some of those forum posts where purchasers announce with glee how great that third part grip is on their once-tiny, once really pocket-able compact cameras are. Also, every time I see somebody shooting with one of those Black Rapid harnesses the image of Dog the Bounty Hunter is the first thing that enters my mind...

AlexG said...

I can fit a camera in to the pocket of one of my overcoats, an Olympus XA1 or the Mju1. Wearing a suit or suit trousers 99% of the time even a small camera won't fit in the pocket, besides it will ruin the line of the clothing. The camera never goes in to the coat though, I carry a bag with me and I hate clutter in my pockets. I detest all these so called super straps, they used to provide wonderful straps with cameras about 10cm (1?2 inch) thick with a rubber pad, wraps round the wrist and does not take up half your case.

Frank Grygier said...

I see an opportunity to create the next photographer vest for the "carry it all in my pocket" generation. The ensemble could include a pant and shirt vest for all thing photographic and maybe even your smartphone.

Wil said...

To borrow a phrase from another genre, "I go both ways".

I have a pocket camera, but that's all I expect of it -- to be able to fit into my pocket (and occasionally create a snapshot that I can view without cringing). That's all it's for.

And I have DSLRs that are for making nice images.

Sometimes one camera is right; sometimes the other. But I'll never expect my DSLRs to fit in a pocket, and I'll never expect the pocket camera to do what it's larger cousin can do.

Shadowfixer said...

My K5 with a 300MM lens attached fits in my pocket easily, I think you just need bigger pockets.... )

typingtalker said...

I wonder why all cellphones are pocketable. I wonder why all cellphones have cameras. I wonder why no cellphones have viewfinders.

I wonder why men's pants always develop a hole where the wallet goes.

I wonder why women carry purses.

kirk tuck said...

I bought an LX-5 online yesterday. Then I bought cargo shorts two sizes too big. I'm ready.

Juznobsrvr said...

Kirk, but what about McGyver? Didn't he capture the caves of Afghanistan with a makeshift camera out of a matchbox and some coffee grinds? Betcha that easily slip into his shoes so TSA wouldn't notice.

The Boatwriter said...

An SB-800 in the front pocket of your cargo pants, if arranged correctly, will get you a lot of dates.

It won't keep many of them, unfortunately.

Mike Shwarts said...

Funny. But, for full frame, pocketability with a genuine optical viewfinder, it is hard to beat and Olympus XA. It's not wallet slim, but will fit in many shirt pockets and loose pants pockets. If you aren't wearing casual clothes, so ruining the lining of your clothes is an issue, then get a slim camera container you can wear on your belt.

kirk tuck said...

Oh Mike, you had me with the logic until you mentioned clipping something to your belt. They we veered over to black socks with tennis shoes and shorts....

But the XA was a great little camera. And so full frame.

John Krumm said...

I live in coat country, so pocketability means being able to fit a lens in the coat pocket when I'm in a hurry. I wouldn't want to even carry my daughter's Canon Elph in my pants pockets. Maybe I ate too much stuffing over the holidays but my cell phone is annoying there too.

Björn said...

Screw you. I'm now taking my S95, putting it in my pocket and going out shooting!
:D

kirk tuck said...

Right back at you, Bjorn. But you're going to have a hard time shooting if you keep that camera IN your pocket. ;-)

kirk tuck said...

Important Note!!! All of the blog has to do with trousers and shirt configurations. Coats are another story entirely. Big coat pockets are defacto camera bags.

Jon said...

Very true and well written.

Josef said...

One word - or is it 2? Man Bags.... you will look cool, and European......and plenty of room for your V1, or X00, or......

kirk tuck said...

Reference: Jerry Seinfeld's "European Carry-all."

Alex Monro said...

I suppose a camera that fits in my jeans pocket might be convenient. But I have no problems with a camera (Fuji E900) that fits in a small pouch on my belt - with spare batteries and memory card. And it does have a viewfinder. I wouldn't buy a camera without one.

I had a play with a Fuji X10 last week. I think I know what my upgrade's going to be, when I can afford it. I might have to upgrade the pouch slightly as well.

hugo solo said...

Pocketability with slim comopact camera and cargo trouser only for the front pockets the side aren´t safe for the camera.

Unknown said...

Hilarious. And too true.

That's All said...

For all this people who desire a pocketable camera, may I suggest, a purse.

john r said...

What's with all the subtle innuendo? Why don't you just tell us what you really think?

ginsbu said...

Kirk, you should be cheering camera phones! By displacing low-end pocketable P&Ss from the market, camera manufacturers may actually have to focus on making tools that appeal to more dedicated photographers again. I think it's no accident that after some years of neglect, Olympus, Fujifilm, Samsung, and Nikon have joined Canon and Panasonic in offering non-pocketable "photographers'" compacts, or that mirrorless systems have been taking off. They're remembering that there's a market for competent photographic tools that are smaller than today's typically husky DSLRs. It's about time!

hugo solo said...

Ginsbu the S10 still pocketable.

hugo solo said...

Tuck its a new concept about photography compact slim pocketability and its serious isn´t about iso 9001 far from metrosexuality far from being cool and I have 7000 reason in flickr to proof them a new photographic way of life.

James said...

I think the "it's not pocketable" complaint isn't as incoherent as you make it out, and I know you're exaggerating for effect. I think the thought is, if I can't stick camera A in my pocket, I may as well just get an S100 for my every-day-carry-around camera, and if I have to carry it on my neck/in its own bag anyway, I may as well a big gun camera.

Pocketability is a real concern for true photographers' compacts like the LX5 once Canon put a true photographers' compact into a pocketable body. I know, that was years ago. But the LX5 is being squeezed from above by cameras like the V1. If I'm looking for a camera to slot between my smartphone and my big gun DSLR, why not a V1 instead of an LX5?

kirk tuck said...

Indeed, James. Why not?

Mike said...

But, Kirk, you said we couldn't wear cargo shorts/pants? How are we supposed to carry our cameras if they can't fit in our pockets? ;)

kirk tuck said...

Mike, Good point. I was thinking of starting a company that made pants with oversized pockets for photographers. The biggest set would be called the, "Noah's Ark" because the pockets would be big enough to carry back up gear and up to one Broncolor flash generator and three heads. Then, when we started looking at the aesthetics of it all I decided we might be better off if I just wrote a blog re-introducing the concept of demure and pleasing camera strap.

We don't carry our cameras in our pockets for the same reason we don't carry power tools in our pockets. Too dangerous.

Hardison said...

The only time I needed a pocket camera recently: Down at the mall, they would not let me take pictures of my kid (with Santa) using my D70.

Fair enough. I paid $35 for a picture that looked like Santa was putting my kid into a toy box.

The other four poeple in line all took pictures for free using their cell phones and pocket cameras.

I guess Santa and the photographer need to make money, but I long for the good old days when the store paid them by the hour instead of commission.

pinholecam said...

The Pentax Q fits many of the rules listed, don't see a queue for it though. :-)

There is just no satisfying the net entities.

James said...

Kirk,

It still needs to fit in my bike jersey pocket. Some of my best photographic opportunities are thataway on my road bike. The LX5 fits. (There's some room left, so maybe a V1+10mm will be a go). When I can carry a bigger camera than that, I think I want my M3.

mactheweb said...

I appreciate your post on practice and most of what you share. Your blog is one of two photo blogs I read daily. TOP is the other. But, such a charge. I'm sorry, if this was meant to sound humorous, then it missed. I'm 4 years older than you, but this sounds like an old grouch sounding off. I see your point for pros. A S-100 isn't a 1d or even a 7d. But different strokes and all that. The simple fact of the matter is that most people simply want snapshots and a snapshot camera, that's always handy is the best choice.

And, I don't understand your hate of Black Rapid straps at all. I injured my back and get serious cramps within an hour or two, lugging my dslr with a neck strap. BTW, I spend an hour a day, 5 days a week, in the gym, so it's not flabby muscles that cause the problem. I can carry the same camera around comfortably for close to 4 times as long with a cross-shoulder-sling Black Rapid strap. Sure it would look funny dangling an Olympus Pen or Canon G12, let alone a S100, off it, but if someone wants to look ridiculous, what's the beef?

kirk tuck said...

Since you asked: I am not today, nor in the last few weeks have I been angry or disgruntled about anything. I think it's silly to denounce perfectly good cameras because they don't fit in people's pockets. If you read camera reviews on Amazon or DPreview or hundreds of other sites you'll find people making pocketability a sticking point in discussing the relative merits of cameras. And I think that's silly. And it's my blog so I get to say stuff like, "That's silly." or "That's stupid." And it doesn't mean that anyone must agree with me or change their buying habits. It seems self obvious that a camera of XbyY dimensions is what it is.

I'm sad for you that you are having medical issues carrying a three to five pound camera on a neck strap. I am happy that you found a solution that works for you. Really. Sincerely so.

But I find the look of the BRS aesthetically offensive. I don't "hate" the straps I just think, for most people, it was a solution that's still looking for a problem to solve. And an excuse for people to spend money on their hobby. I also know of early users who experience catastrophic failure with the connection point and badly damaged their cameras.

But, again, it is just my opinion. I would never wear something that looked so militaristic around in the streets but then I would not casually wear a photographer's vest either.

When people read articles they like they tend to think that the writer is someone like themself. Most people reading a common sense article about politics tend to think the writer shares a party affiliation. They feeled betrayed when they find the writer is a member of the opposite party. I think, when I write stuff about BRS or photo vests people feel betrayed because they thought we shared similar values. We don't always and that's okay. But I like to be able to express my opinions without the free psycho-analysis.

"If someone what to look ridiculous, what's the beef?"?? Well we all share the same visual environment and it becomes visual pollution. Would you defend the guy in the car next to you playing music you couldn't stand at 130 decibels? Why should our visual environment be less important?

I don't think you've given the aesthetics of choices and how it impacts the rest of society as much thought as you might. What the hell's up with that?

Kirk Tuck said...

No. Ol people be smarter than young people. Called experience. And brain power. That's why we make much better pictures.

Kirk Tuck said...

Black rapids kill cameras.

Kirk Tuck said...

Jack is perhaps a nice guy. He does different photography than I'm interested in. And the phone thing is....schtick.

Kirk Tuck said...

Women are smarter and more practical than men.

Kirk Tuck said...

As I told my child while he was growing up: Biking is for people who can't swim...