What digital camera offers mostly physical controls?
April 30, 2014 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to get my 9 year old daughter a new digital camera to call her own. She's had all my cast-offs from over the years but I noticed her favorite is a 2006-era Olympus with all physical controls. Are there any up-to-date pocket cameras with more physical dials than software menu systems?

After watching her take photos for years I think she likes the speed and ease of twisting a dial and immediately shooting. She hates having to dive into menus or use a touchscreen exclusively.

The old Olympis was great but used a weird battery and weirder XD memory card, so I'd like to get something newer and modern but I'm having trouble tracking down models and brands online that use more physical controls than software.
posted by mathowie to Technology (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
what about getting her a basic used dslr? I started out with a nikon d50 back in college (2008) and it was $250. I see it pop up on adorama in the used section for about $100ish.
posted by zw98105 at 9:05 AM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Would you happen to have a model number for the old Olympus? I use Olympus cameras, but most of the lower-end models I've encountered have only a mode dial, and a tragically complicated menu system.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:05 AM on April 30, 2014

Panasonic GF1? The micro 4/3 lenses have manual focus rings if you want to use them IIRC.
posted by pharm at 9:15 AM on April 30, 2014

The Fuji x100s has manual iso control. That's more than I've seen on any non-film camera. It's a bit pricey but I suspect anything with a lot of manual controls will be. It also looks to be a nice camera according to the review. I have a Sony RX100 that I love, they have figured out a way to make most of the adjustments in one step and it shoots in low light better than any camera I've shot with.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2014

i like zw98105's option, after thinking on this for a bit. Why not a "bargain" d40 for $130ish(or wow, this even cheaper d50), and a cheap great lens(or the cheap stock zoom which is actually decent)?

There's a lot more manual control, and potential fun to be had with that than most other cheap cameras. Most of which only have, as you said, like two buttons now at most. I can think of very few point and shoots with lots of buttons/manual control that aren't kinda pricey, or hard to find used now because they're older and would also have the same weird batteries/etc problem.

Note that both those cameras include the battery and charger, and the batteries and chargers for them are dirt cheap on ebay/amazon and available at any local camera shop for cheap as well. Normal cheap easy to find memory cards, all that jazz. The d40 even takes regular SD cards instead of CF.

My first good camera when i was younger was a piece of junk cheap DSLR(original canon rebel) i bought for $30 as "sorta works". Lots of fun there.

Something like an olympus e-volt might also be good, since those are REALLY cheap.
posted by emptythought at 11:45 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

After more brainthinking, this might also be a great cheap solution.
posted by emptythought at 11:52 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a Lumix LX7 and love it. Pics of the controls; there are menus but you navigate them with buttons not touchscreen. It has a small body but great ergonomics, nice weight (a little heavier than super-small cameras, but that helps to keep it steady when aiming IMO), nice grip on the right side. Does beautifully in low light.

And you can get this super cool lens cover (the lens pokes through when it opens, pushing its way out of the three triangular flaps in a satisfyingly sci-fi way).
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:20 PM on April 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could also look at the Canon G series -- maybe the G7 or G9 are in that sweet spot of old enough to be cheap but new enough to be solid cameras. I still use a G9 and really like it. It's built like a brick, uses SD cards, and several third party companies make batteries for it.
posted by cubby at 12:24 PM on April 30, 2014

My Pentax MX-1 is not exactly "pocket sized" but is smaller than a DSLR. In manual mode, a thumbwheel can be toggled between shutter and aperture mode with the touch of a button. Although the settings are displayed on the screen, they are adjusted by spinning the thumbwheel. There's also a handy exposure compensation dial which lets you adjust exposure when shooting in auto or shutter/aperture priority mode. Selecting ISO, macro made, flash mode, and self-timer is done by pressing the appropriate button on the back and using the thumbwheel to select from on-screen options.

I don't think you have to go into the menus for any normal shooting beyond initial setup. There's even an HDR (high dynamic range) mode selectable with the top dial.
posted by The Deej at 3:17 PM on April 30, 2014

I have a Fuji x100, it has more manual controls than you can poke a stick at and is the only digital camera I've ever really enjoyed using, my ultimate camera being a fully manual rangefinder. I use the menu to set white balance manually, that's all I use it for regularly and that can also be done after using the raw files.

The hybrid view finder is truly excellent as well. Image quality, including in low light is spot on.
posted by deadwax at 3:55 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get her a cheap used DSLR and a 50mm lens. Full-frame if your budget will stretch that far (e.g. a 5D mk 1).

BTW - I used a Canon G series compact on a long trip once and it was awful. The sensor was too small, the lens was too dim, the optical viewfinder was horrible. Also the internal non-replaceable battery failed the second the warranty expired so it now can't remember the date. Worst camera I've ever owned.
posted by w0mbat at 4:08 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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