The standard typewriter keyboard was designed in the 1870s to minimize jams. The key layout had the unfortunate side effect of slowing down typists compared to alternative schemes. None of the alternative layouts are popular today, in spite of their demonstrated advantages to a typist trained in their use. The reason? People have gotten used to the qwerty keyboard, so used to it that they are unwilling to learn another layout.
What’s this got to do with photography? For many years I used 2 1/4 square reflex cameras, most of the time with the waist level finder. Because of the mirror in the light path, images in the finder are inverted right to left. I got used to that, but I had no idea how used to it I was until a day a couple weeks ago, when I started using the Sony NEX-5.
The NEX-5 is a small digital camera featuring an APS-C sensor and interchangeable lenses. The small camera combined with the big sensor yields a compelling package. The camera has an interesting quirk; the LCD screen folds out from the back of the camera until it is almost horizontal, so you can hold the camera at waist level like a Hasselblad or Rolleiflex. When I figured this out, I was excited; I had always liked the low angle that you got with a waist-level finder, and I find the waist-level position much more stable than trying to hold the camera at arm’s length and eye level.
As you would expect, the NEX-5 does not invert the image horizontally. This would seem like an advantage. However, for me, at my current level of familiarity with the camera, presenting the image in correct orientation slows me down. When holding the camera waist level, years and years of old habits kick in, and I keep wanting to move it as if I were looking at the ground glass of a Hasselblad. After two weeks of using the Sony, I still often move the camera in the wrong direction.
Habits are strong. The mind is truly more comfortable with the devil it knows.
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