Friday, May 14, 2010

Dave's idea of the week

So, I had this idea, and I've been playing with it in my head all day. Here it is:

Kodak (or someone) needs to sell a square format "waist-level" viewfinder digital camera. Really, when you think about how most people use digital cameras, looking at a two-inch (or so) screen rather than through a tiny viewfinder, it makes a certain amount of sense. Look, below, I've slightly altered an old Kodak Brownie Starlet.

Now, imagine that instead of a viewfinder window, that top lens was for a flash instead.
Oh, wait, maybe you've never seen a Brownie Starlet...
Okay, the Starlet was an old Kodak camera. It was built for the masses. It was cheap and easy to use. It shot photos in a square format. The lower lens exposed the film while the top lens bounced off a mirror and onto a viewing window in the top of the camera (which popped open, see below). If you've never used a waist level viewfinder, it's kind of nice (and you didnt have to use it at waist level, it worked just as well at chin level). I would suggest replacing the mirror/viewfinder arrangement with a simple screen showing what the lens sees, just like on any decent digital camera.

Really, I'm kind of surprised that someone hasnt come up with this idea already (well, someone has, sort of, but not for real use), because digital cameras as they are currently designed are kind of awkward, being a viewfinder-style design with a screen on the backside, forcing you to hold the thing in front of you (often rather precariously) while trying to compose your shot through the glare. A Starflex-style camera (with it's hood shading the screen from glare) would make more sense. If you really needed to have the screen visible from behind the camera, it seems like a easy job to simply make the screen pop up, rather like the hood does.
I think that if you marketed this thing right (say, first going after the retro crowd and old people) you could have a real winner on your hands. And the square format is terrific (ask anyone who loves their Hipstamatic app), especially for portraits and family photos. Find professionals who shot with medium format and hand out a few for free and watch the praise begin.
Yes, you can shoot with a regular camera and crop square, but it really is not the same. Believe me, I've done both.
Listen, Kodak needs this. They were once the kings of photography, but they've been beaten out by Fuji, by Canon, and by HP. This could be their chance to regain the consumer photography crown.
Bring Back The Brownie!


Natasha said...

I totally agree! I love the square format.

daveawayfromhome said...

I know, right? Wouldnt you love to have one of those beauties hanging around your neck. They could bundle it with software to put those old timey borders around your image, like Fox Photo used to (among others).

Shawn Holster said...

I can dig where you're coming from here. I gotta say I L-O-V-E the way the viewer on the side of my video camera rotates...super handy when I have the thing on my steel pipe homemade steadycam...spin the screen to where it points down and then hike the camera up over the crowd...

daveawayfromhome said...

When I've shot using my old Rollei twin-lens, I have, on occassion, held the thing upside down and looked up at the viewfinder to take a shot. Would work better if the damn viewfinder didnt reverse everything, which gets really confusing when you're looking at it the wrong way. A digital cameral like this wouldnt have that particular problem.