If you could design your ultimate camera what would it look like? What would it do?

You probably know what I want in a camera. But it doesn't exist on the market right now. I'd like a camera that's set up like a Leica M. Simple controls and simple menus. I don't want an optical finder or rangefinder but I'd like that window on the top left to have a 4 million pixel element electronic viewfinder. I'd like a camera that only shoots raw. Not that I have anything against Jpegs but I'd gladly give them up if I could have an ultimately simple menu interface. Color balance, format, view options. That's about it. I don't need a screen on the back. With a great EVF I could do all the reviewing and menu setting I would ever want. And not having a screen on the back might give me better battery life and a more indestructible machine.

I want my camera to be black. Not shiny black but matte black with a slight texture over all.

In the guts of the camera I want a full frame Foveon style sensor, made by Sony. I like their sensors. And in my ultimate camera there would be four ISO settings: 25 ISO, 100 ISO, 400 ISO and some vague setting that would just be called, "High."

The camera would have built in image stabilization with all the bells and whistles that Olympus have wedged into their IS in the OMD EM5 and the new EP5.

Finally, the entire exterior body shell would be made of real, thick, glorious metal. The kind that shows as brass through the wear areas after years of hard use.

Final wish....fully electronic shutter. 

So-----what would your ultimate camera look like. What functions and features are important to you?


  1. Hm, actually thought about this too. I would want something that most ppl wouldnt probably.

    Leica R9 Digital

    Improvements over previous
    - bigger OVF (100% coverage)
    - FF sensor (Foveon if technology would be advanced enough, otherwise I would be ok with 24 mpix)
    - ISO settings similar to yours, I would like ISO 6/25/50/100 (and normal upwards), reasonably clean ISO 1600 would be enough for me, but I would focus on low ISO, not high
    - CFA designed by same guys which made SLR/N or DMR (colors to die for, DMR looks bit like digital Ektachrome)
    - 16 bit output
    - sensor tilt-shift (not IS)
    - regular shutter, ability to have lens with leaf shutters, and electronical shutter
    - for body, probably more composite materials to make it bit lighter
    - bit of heresy, but Zeiss lens for R (ZR could be shortcut) .. heck even Samyang could do some :)

    And it would be something I could never buy, cause it would be incredibly expensive. :D

    In reality most film cams with digital option would do it for me. My priorities are colors, low noise on base ISO, reasonable resolution and reasonable DR (12 eV is enough usually, we have filters, if needed or HDR). And I simply like manual focus.

    Tho I agree your idea of EVF with electronic shutter (mm.. 1/16000 shutter speed) is very nice.

    1. Love the tilt/shift sensor.

    2. corrections:

      - normal 24 mpix (Bayer)
      - JPG not needed for me either, honestly I had it on on some cams, but in 99,9% it ends just being deleted
      - BW/color film simulations - probably in special software for RAW - it should mimic colors/contrast curves of various BW/color films

      And yea I know there is DMR and yea I do have Alien Skin. DMR is nice, but far from comfortable or easy to use. And Alien Skin works only on very carefuly prepared files, which is why I mention those BW/color film simulations tailored especially for this specific camera.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Leica DMR - its pretty much like digital back for medium formats, this one is just made for Leica R8 and R9. APS-H (1.33x) and 10 mpix with 16-bit output. Simply it converts R8 or R9 (better compatibility with R9) to digital camera.

      Downsides are price, only usable up to ISO 400, weight and batteries usually need to be recelled. Yea and it doesnt have AA, so its pretty prone to moiré.

      Upsides are incredible image quality on base ISO, especially colors (thanks to Kodak). And of course ability to use Leica R lens in its native mount (ROM lens are best, as you get classical EXIF).

    5. Thanks. Thought that was it. Triangular bodies like old Exactas. I briefly used a friend's R*. Wonderful in the hand and so nice to focus. Shame Leica didn't stick with it.

  2. ideal camera is: "kirk tuck camera" + wifi + gps + full documented Software Development Kit to do my own camera apps

    but if that's not available I'll take the "kirk tuck camera"

  3. I just want an ultra-simple medium format digital camera with 22 megapixels (4:3 aspect ratio), native ISO 50, rotating back, and multiple mount adaptors (Canon, Nikon, Hasseblad, etc.). As small and light as possible.

    1. Closest would be Mamiya ZD22 I think.

      Otherwise, I think NEX-7 on steroids with 4:3 and MF sized sensor would be pretty much "it". We might see that in distant future I think.. I would certainly love to.

      Some technical backs (Arca) allow this things today, but its compromise and incredibly expensive.

    2. Something like a mamiya 7, digital? But probably with no rangefinder, just AF and EVF.

  4. Mostly like what you describe although I have no problem with having an LCD on the back. I've long thought my ideal camera would be a digital Mamiya 6 with a 5k x 5k sensor (yes, square) that was large enough so that you had decent sized photosites for minimal noise. My aging eyes would appreciate autofocus or at least indicators in the viewfinder that lit up when that spot was in focus.

  5. I agree with most of what you say. But I would like to have physical, analog style dials for exposure compensation, shutter speeds, aperture, distance scale, ISO and drive mode. A dedicated auto focus button would be great, so that when shooting portraits we do not have to refocus all the time. I would like to see the built in flash and all the stupid art filters and modes taken away. Give me a large square format sensor so that I would not have to rotate the camera for a portrait. I can crop the picture in the computer the way I want. I like high ISOs and cable release sockets. Is it too much to ask for standard size and shape batteries in all cameras? How many chargers and batteries do we have to have? If we can have standard SD cards why not batteries? I know it is impossible to convince the camera makers to have one standard, 'suits-all-cameras', universal lens mount. So I am not wishing for that. I prefer plastic body to keep the weight and cost down.
    I know I will not get that camera. Ranjit Grover India

  6. Hmmm ... start with the Fuji XE1 body, with its controls (including aperture rings on lenses). Replace the Fuji sensor with a Bayer sensor for solid 3rd party raw support. (FF would be nice). My approach to ISO is different from yours, though. What I want is to quickly be able to toggle between A or S at base ISO and M in Auto ISO. When there's sufficient lighting to shoot at base ISO, I'll do so in A or S mode. When there isn't, I'll shoot in M mode and I'll set the shutter speed and aperture such that I put as much light on the sensor as is feasible (given whatever constraints I'm under for shutter speed and aperture) and then the ISO will be whatever it needs to be. Exposure compensation and exposure lock to give me control over metering. There are also times when it's important to shoot with manual control over all settings (i.e. when NOT basing the exposure off the camera's meter ... this is probably where the significant difference in our approaches comes into play, because I don't do studio photography) so then I'd want a number of ISO settings. But I don't need fast access to those.

    - Dennis

  7. Oh - nearly forgot - start with the XE1 body, but with a tilting LCD and the option of an add-on grip that provides a vertical grip option as well as a more substantial regular grip, primarily for use with bigger lenses which, of course, the X system does not offer at this point in time.

    - Dennis

  8. I would basically like a giant ultrahigh quality chip with a great lens attached. 4x5 Foveon-style chip with the resolving power of the D800. The lens could be mounted with a standrad lensboard. The controls on the back would be touchscreen-based, so that, if needed, items could be added in the future with a software update.

  9. I continue to imagine a camera with an evf and a sensor that covers its image circle for numerous aspect ratios. 16:9, 3:2, 4:3, 5:4, 1:1, 4:5, and 3:4 would all be covered with this larger sensor. I imagine it for m43 format (an aps-c sensor would cover this, I think). Project that idea onto any format... Give me a camera that can shoot a 1:1 image that's not just a crop of the 3:2 or 4:3 frame. Give me a camera that switches from landscape to vertical without reorienting the camera. Silicon is cheap and glass is not; let me use my glass fully with larger silicon. That's all I want.


  10. I just bought a Canon G1X. My ideal camera would be G1X + fast PD focus + close macro.


  11. Basically, a Nikon (I have invested in the lenses already) with a FF sensor where ISO 120,000 is as good as the current ISO 200. I live in Britain where we don't have enough light to begin with; add in my proclivities for theatre, event and wedding photography and such a camera would be a godsend. I sure am getting a bit tired of trying to clean up ISO 2000 / 3200, f2.8, 1/30 second shots. Sure, I know ISO 2000 used to be unheard of and we're spoiled and blah, but we're talking dream cameras now aren't we? :)

  12. An "updated" Sony DSC-F828 design concept with:
    - square sensor
    - electronic viewfinder
    - viewscreen — 6x6cm or 3x3" for composing at waist-level, overhead . . .
    - easily selectable/adjustable aspect ratios coupled to EVF and viewscreen
    - mirrorless lens mount
    - tiltable body/lens a la Sony DSC-F828

  13. Think FM3a, similar external control. Full frame shoots raw no jpeg no video. Aperture controlled at the lens, manual focus. Just give me quick access to ISO and EV to make me happy. EVF would be nice but I'll take optical if need be as long as the VF is as nice as those old MF SLR's.

  14. Hi Kirk,

    Quick typo - their not there in 'I like there sensors'

    A small manual Nikon SLR with a full frame sensor would do fine - FE / FM3A style with a digital back (did I read somewhere that Nikon have patented digital backs for old SLR's?!)


  15. Digital equivalent of the Nikormat. Controls needed to make all changes without taking your eye from the EVF. No viewfinder on the back Histogram pops up in EVF after camera sense your thoughts. Individual buttons for shutter, fstop,ISO. A toggle switch for Black and White. No AA filter. 16 bit Raw only. Hotshoe DUH!. Built in ethernet. Smart phone control. USB port to tether to laptop/notebook. Large battery capacity DUH! External mic jack for Video. Never color it Pink My Wife a breast cancer survivor hates pink cameras. PNG output option with option to disable PNG and trigger an ongoing world wide shorting of Adobe stock if they continue to force subscription on consumers avalanche of sell orders available to any camera user any where anytime.

  16. Ultimate camera for what?
    My ultimate camera would be different depending on what I was shooting. I shoot lots of varied things so if I had to choose one camera, it would be a horrible compromise of sorts.

    I prefer to own many cameras that are each best suited to a specific task.

  17. I appreciate your block Kirk, thank you.

    The most important feature to me has become familiarity. A Canon AE-1 Program with a 50 1.4 is my favorite go to camera for this reason. There are times when I feel I need more or want less, and as a result have tried many other cameras. They get sold and I go back to the one I've shot with the most. I appreciate this camera and lens combo now more than ever.

  18. I appreciate your "blog" as well.

  19. Your Sony A99 is very close.... tape the rear LCD to the body with the dark side facing outside..... The only thing missing is the all-metal body, but you'll regret having such a body real soon... but heck, it's your preference, no one is going to dispute that....

  20. I am finally very in tune with my camera... for the first time since I switched to digital in 1999, I feel comfortable and back to normal (whatever that is or was)..I sincerely am in love with my Fuji XE-1. Small, but not too small and the aperture, shutter and exposure compensation dials, Heavenly!

  21. The folks in Sweden already invented it, before I was even born...

    I also like the sound of how the Pentax 645N operates (on paper anyway, I've never handled one) with the non-modal operation and single purpose controls.

  22. Sure am glad to see that you've eliminated all the gear-related posts here, Kirk ;-)

  23. My perfect camera would have a standard zoom range, a constant max aperture, a large sensor (APS-C or larger), and two control wheels for aperture, shutter speed, and/or exposure compensation, depending on the shooting mode. It also has to have either fast CDAF, or PDAF with micro adjust. Shutter lag should be near-zero. The camera doesn't have to be very small, but not so big that I'd hesitate to take it with me on vacation.

  24. As Neal said, "Ultimate camera for what?"

    I want a camera that can go anywhere with me, so that when I'm doing other things it can be ignored. This means that it needs to be rugged and shaped like a pocket. So it would be a flat, smooth shape, measuring no more than 40mm at the thickest point. It would be held a bit like a pair of binoculars so that the lens wouldn't have to motor in and out to keep the depth down, and to be more durable.

    It would have a four thirds size sensor, but made in the same 2:3 shape to match my DSLR. The zoom would be a 12-36mm, f/2.8-4 that would do me for most things.

    Other things:
    Electronic viewfinder.
    Pop up flash to avoid red eye, and a hot shoe.
    16 megapixels. This gives me leeway to crop.
    Shake reduction.
    A stripped down Pentax type control system to match my Pentax DSLR.
    Water resistant.
    Lens and v/f are shielded when the camera is not in use.
    I'm not too bothered about really high ISOs. A decent 1600 and a reasonable 3200 would be more than enough.

    1. Actually, the lens could be slower than f/2.8. For years I used a 35mm SLR with an f/3.5 constant aperture standard zoom. I seldom needed anything faster, and rarely used a film faster than 400 ASA. Most of the time it was 100 ASA. I would rather have sharpness and a flatter field than an extra 2/3 of a stop. I usually go for lots of depth of field anyway.

      What I don't like the idea of is a standard zoom that is only f/5.6 at the long end, perhap because when I started photography f/2 was a reasonable aperture for a fixed standard lens and f/1.4 was fast.

      A 12-36mm f/3.5-f/4.5 would do the trick.

  25. In 1997, I purchased the Canon Optura, a digital hybrid camera capable of both stills and video. This is the design style I would like. Lots of rounded edges—nothing sharp. It has a waist-level orientation, a swivel EVF, the lens mount makes up the one side of the camera so the left hand can hold the camera comfortably, the LCD is top mounted.

    You can have a look here:

  26. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 (silver and black) with these changes: 20 MegaPixels (I'd sacrifice a few high ISO settings), 14-bit RAW files, and a built-in GPS. I love the tilting LCD (which is actually an OLED) panel, the 5-axis IBIS is already incredible. Improve on the tracking autofocus a bit. The EVF is fine as is, but it might be nice if the next one could follow fast action without stuttering. And since we are just dreaming, have a flash system that can do what the current high-end Canon Speedlites can do (600EX-RT and ST-E3-RT).

  27. I'd like a slightly smaller and lighter version of my E5, just as rugged, with a new sensor perhaps a generation beyond the OMD (in other words, quite good). It would have no mirror, but an EVF that was so good it made me think it did, and that EVF would be upgradable in case they came out with a better one and the body was still good. It would have fast aperture, fast focusing, video friendly lenses, weatherproof and at least equivalent in quality to my current 4/3 lenses, without need for extreme software correction. It would have a mic jack on the side, unlike the EM5. It would take beautiful video even in raw if wanted. It would have even better IS than the EM5. Its batteries would last a long time. In short, it would be the ultimate do-all Alaska camera for me.

  28. An LX-7 with an APS-C sensor. Ah yes, and an EVF!

    1. Can't you already get an EVF for the LX-7?

    2. Indeed you can! Unfortunately, there goes your hot shoe. :(

  29. How about the ability to save and restore settings to an external device. I can't believe that no manufacturer has provided this yet. From that would follow the ability to apply mappings between models.


  30. A digital Mamiya 7 with a sensor good enough to resolve those delicious lenses and with an OVF for composition and an EVF or back display for focus peaking. Lightweight, rugged, sealed, and excellent battery life for hiking and backpacking or international travel. That's the most of it. To keep going, a Foveon-style true color sensor manufactured by Sony and tweaked by Nikon, with no AA filter. A tilt-shift sensor would be amazing...

    Failing that, I'll take a full-frame Sony mirrorless with a modern iteration of the NEX-7 sensor scaled to full frame that lets me use my (excellent) existing alpha lenses, so long as the ergonomics don't get in the way.

  31. It would have an inbuilt micro-espresso function. A pile of lightweight, recyclable paper cups would be in my camera bag....

  32. My ultimate camera would have a body made by the 'Transformers', so it could adapt its shape and button layout to fit anyone's hands. Plus it could change shape to fit whatever use I was putting it to and grow its own tripod legs when necessary. Not very likely I know...

    Failing that, I would really like to see more mirrorless camera systems with professional levels of weather sealing, a la the Olympus OM-D.

    And I love Fraser's coffee making function, as long as it could do tea for us Brits too...

  33. Awesome article Kirk!

    I'va actually been thinking about this lately. LOVE my OMD, but want a (digital) Leica M badly to replace my film rangefinders. So...

    Olympus M Rangefinder:

    M mount. FF Sony sensor. IBIS. Weather Resistant. Styled like one of the Olympus ACE or Superwide rangefinders from the 50s. ISO 50-3200. True Rangefinder/Viewfinder + LiveView on the (small, non tilting) back screen. And make 3 fantastic lenses in M mount. 35, 50, 90. $3000 body, $500-1000 lenses. NO ART FILTERS, NO VIDEO, NO EXTRA JUNK. Just pure photography. All R&D should go to a solid body with fantastic IQ and usability.

    This would also make a ton of sense for Olympus. They would have an affordable M with NO competition in the market, and 3 lenses that you can sell to M users (who tend to be high-end consumers.)


  34. I've come into photography pretty recently, the Sony A65 being my first "real" camera.
    I'd love to mash the A65 with an NEX.
    - Take the e-mount
    - Use an adapter for a-mount or whatever else you want, like the VG-900
    - Add the 5 axis stabilization from the OM-D
    - Body big enough to accomodate the stabilization and the fancy articulating LCD from the A77/A99
    Sony might be building this camera right now; certainly the technology is there as it's not much more than a stabilized NEX-6. The only thing I really want to add to the NEX-6 is stabilization and faster autofocus with longer telephoto lenses like a 70-300, and that can be added via the adapter if on chip still doesn't quite cut it.

  35. I want a camera that can do clean iso 3200, can focus on an erratically moving kid and can be dropped and exposed to rain, snow and maybe even shallow water.
    I want it to weigh less than a pound and have the equivalent to a 50mm and 85mm lens.
    I want built in stabilization.
    I want a dial for A and M and maybe S modes
    I want dials for controlling the aperture and shutter and a dial for ISO and I would accept a menu system if it did nothing when I was shooting except move the focus position around.
    I want the Kirk Tuck EVF and no LCD - it is going to get dropped after all.

  36. Nothing to add to your list Kirk, would be up for something like that. Have come very close to buying the XE-1 because it's the closest thing so far. I was very happy to note that the LCD can be turned off on that body....I'd go one step further and cover it with duct tape.

  37. My dream camera is simple yet complicated as it doesn't exist right now..to be specific ;
    It'll be the exact design of Fuji X20 yes with a fixed zoom lens! the body should be a little wider so it can take a mini improved IS system like in the E-P5 and to make the VF bigger(100% coverage) what if it had the sensor of RX1 that would be awesome for sure..and the sensor should does B&W like the Ricoh sensors.
    Fixed screen is just fine..no need to a touch screen as well, just improved LED screen with the white magic tech from Sony.


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