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Why Can't We Have Beautiful Digital Cinema Cameras?

The very notion might be preposterous for many individuals. Cameras are tools, why should it matter what they look like? Does one choose a particular hammer over another because of its aesthetics? Not usually, often with any tool, style gives way to performance. For the longest time, personal computers were nothing more than grey boxes. Apple was a big part of the movement away from boring, grey boxes. Not to give them all of the credit, however, since there is a large modding community in the computer world that feels the same way — and they’ve been creating beautiful PC cases for years. But what about cameras, specifically the digital cinema kind? The Yolk Y2 Digital Cinema Camera aims to address that pesky function over form notion, and truly design a camera that is aesthetically pleasing and functional.

The Y2 was designed with equal parts power, aesthetics, and functionality. The project was originally supposed to be a 2/3″ 2K CMOS sensor camera with a mechanical shutter and optical viewfinder, that recorded RAW to Cinema DNG. When it was first announced, Super 35mm sensors weren’t nearly as abundant as they are now. According to Cinescopophilia, the camera might be resurrected and it’s possible that the project could be funded through Kickstarter (confirmed that this will not happen, but still interesting nonetheless):

During early design stages of a product like the Yolk Y2 2K camera a finite element analysis can be used to evaluate conditions and forces on products and their materials under certain environmental conditions. The drop test is an important process in determining the final strength required for a product. With this FEA testing are we seeing Yolk GmbH resurrecting the Yolk Y2 camera project?

Here are those videos:

Here are a few bigger photos of the camera:

Some may not appreciate the aesthetics or simply don’t understand why it matters, but for a tool that you’ll be spending so much time utilizing, why can’t it be beautiful and function exactly how you need it to be? This might be better explained with an analogy. When buying a new car, it’s often what the car looks like that attracts a buyer in the first place. It starts with the aesthetics of the vehicle, inside and out. Often the sticker price is enough to turn people away and not actually see how the car feels, but if they make it past the cost of the vehicle, the next step is to see how one might fit in the car, and then lastly how the car drives. There aren’t too many individuals who buy a car simply because they looked on a spec sheet and found that the engine could push out 400hp.

Cars are a little different than cameras, of course, but cameras are getting to a point where the actual internal specs won’t be greatly improved from the previous generation. We can arguably already produce images that are high-resolution and are as pleasing as the previously dominant format — film. Functionality, both internally and externally, often outweighs the look of these cameras. When something is made to last only a few years (the way many cameras are made), priority is given to just making the thing do its job — and do it well. 35mm film cameras, far more than digital cameras, required both form and function to be considered when they were designed. More care could be taken when designing the body, because these were tools meant to last a generation. They were built of metal parts, and their mechanical nature meant that if they broke down, they could be fixed far more easily than the cameras of today. I’ve heard plenty of cinematographers call certain film cameras works of art — but I’ve never truly heard that about any digital camera.

So does this really matter? Why should we care if digital cameras are works of art? Cameras don’t have to be beautiful, they just have to work and get out of our way when we’re trying to do our job. To answer that question though, we should consider the car analogy. Unless you’re a professional racer, why do you care what your car looks like as long as you can get from point A to point B. Honestly, some don’t care, and if you’re one of those people, you probably don’t understand why this is even a topic of discussion in the first place. If you’re like me, however, and you can appreciate all of the different facets of camera design — not just the internal specifications — you will understand that this is not a question of why, but why not?

We invest so much time, energy, and money into filmmaking, but manufacturers have been designing digital cameras the same way for years. Car enthusiasts don’t just appreciate certain cars for their performance (though they certainly could), they appreciate them for their style and the care with which they were designed. A good tool does not have to be a boring tool. Some might like the design of certain digital cinema cameras — many enjoy RED’s masculine design overtones, reflecting the high-performance nature within. Others genuinely like the Arri Alexa, and its subtle curves and overall functional nature (you can throw it on your shoulder if you need to). I personally have always been partial to Aaton, and their insistence on design and functionality, especially with a camera like the Penelope Delta. While it’s not beautiful, per se, it incorporates all of the facets of design that high-end automakers consider when they design their sports or luxury cars.

It’s nice to see camera designers beginning to appreciate that a $100,000 camera shouldn’t just be a sensor shoved into a grey box. Blackmagic is one of the first companies in a long time that has very carefully considered all of the these factors when they designed the Cinema Camera. Not only does it combine high-performance with beautiful aesthetics, but it also has been built in a way that allows it to be made cheaply. Some have argued that Blackmagic took form over function to the extreme by not creating a removable battery — but with any design — there are always concessions that have to be made in the name of other factors. In this case (according to what I’ve been told), the camera could be made considerably cheaper and smaller (not to mention stronger) by not having a battery compartment. Even if you disagree with their decisions, it’s just proof that digital cinema cameras don’t have to be ugly. Our tools can function, and we can appreciate them on another level.

If I’m spending thousands of dollars on a tool, I want to know that great care has been taken to make it function as best as possible. Fantastic external design is a perfect way to convey that idea. Sony, Canon, Nikon, and others, where are our beautiful cameras? Show us that cameras don’t have to be throwaway electronics — that you spent as much time carefully considering your design as much as we spend working on our films.

Link: Yolk Y2 Camera

[via Cinescopophilia]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 81 COMMENTS

  • As a graphic designer I understand, but honestly, I would rather have camera manufacturers to do whatever it takes to keep the cost down. What the camera looks like affects no one but me at the end of the day. What it produces is what matters.

    • Good design doesn’t have to cost more, it just takes forward thinking and a company that’s willing to experiment. Have you noticed how much care and design product packaging is being given these days in high-end electronics? That’s stuff people actually throw away. It’s not necessarily in any companies interest to keep costs down, they just want to keep costs competitive with other companies. Canon’s products are starting to cost more with lower technical specs than competitors — so one has to wonder about that.

      • It doesn’t have to cost more but unfortunately most of the time it does. And not due to parts but for things that you just mentioned like experimenting and designing. The time placed on thinking about the design and experimenting all costs money that gets passed on to the consumer to pay.

        The camera shown in this article looks good, but it gets in the way of how I would want to customize it. I hate the RED EPIC/SCARLET design, but it allows me to customize it pretty much anyway I want, and the usability of it outweighs design any day. When design comes in the way of functionality and customization, it’s not worth the time you put into making it look fancy.

        And as a designer who’s worked on product packaging, designing good packaging is a fraction of the price for designing a product, and for the most part, that is where you make up the slack for the generic design of a product.

      • A great industrial designer shouldn’t have to cost more, just like it shouldn’t have to cost more to get an A-list actor to serve as my lead for my indie film. Sadly, they both charge an arm and a leg for their intellectual propriety.

        What we first need to do is get quality to commodity level. Then, in the usual order of things, differentiation is done for political reasons. Computers are there, cinema cameras are not. Perhaps in 5-10 years when the cellphone shoots 4K RAW and media costs $1/hour, filmmakers will try to make a statement out of their camera choice, with the BTS coverage more impressive than the film.

        • Sensor research and development is ungodly expensive, and these companies have great designers – they just choose more conservative approaches to camera design. Mostly it is the Japanese companies that are more modest in their approach, not only in design, but in camera upgrades. I think it all goes hand in hand.

      • If a company designs a product that will have a higher demand due to its aesthetic, that company would be insane not to charge more for it. That’s why apple computers cost so much more than their PC counterparts. They know people will pay for for the design. If you had 2 cameras that were exactly the same on the inside but one looked great and the other looked like scrap metal, would it make sense for them to be the same price?

        • I was saying more that it didn’t have to cost them more — but you’re right in saying they might charge more. Blackmagic is the closest to your analogy though, interesting, higher-end design and it actually costs far less than it probably could have.

          To be fair, Apple also designs their own software, so you’re paying for the hardware and the software. Don’t you own a Mac?

          • Aesthetic design does cost more to design, manufacturer and sell. A “beautiful” camera is going to cost more and offer less function. it’s just physics, time and economics. the top designers are going to get top dollars. it going to take longer to design, require more compromise in function to preserve design, more compromises and time in manufacturing. More time, effort and money in advertising. But you can charge a nice premium and technical make more money.

            But at the end of the day you pay more to get less as a rule. Sure the occasional exception is out there – but almost only in simple items, not complex technology. Saturn V is not a beautiful rocket like in sci-fi art but it’s all about form following function. That’s what I want and want I want to pay for.

  • Well, clearly a multitude of other factors always come first – but that camera is absolutely gorgeous. At the risk of cheapening it, the first thing that comes to mind is the Portal gun.

  • I think it’d be nice to see Hollywood productions using pretty cameras-but if I can be brutal, I think this one looks ugly as hell. It’s weirdly sterile and industrial. The Blackmagic camera, on the other hand, is gorgeous. But yeah, when it comes to high-end cameras, I think it’s pretty much expected they’ll be bulky black plastic.

  • Wondering why the current trend seems to be that white is beautiful. Apart from the fact that a shiny/white/reflecting camera is a bad idea

  • I think fully rigged REDs are very aesthetically pleasing and interesting, yeah some what industrial but still sleek in a way.

  • Luis Villalon on 07.16.12 @ 12:45PM

    We have enough problems with people who believe pressing a record button in a digital camera qualifies them to be called “Film Makers”, just think what making pretty cameras would do for them… a real RED camera?. a Blue camera?, a Green camera?. Here we have a white prototype..can you imagine? 2 hours in the field and it would look like a kitchen towel at a greasy spoon restaurant. Now, if Ralph Lauren could design pretty film makers clothing, they would also look the part.

  • Rev. Benjamin on 07.16.12 @ 1:35PM

    I couldn’t agree more. Especially in this post-Jobs world, where aesthetics have been proven time and time again. If you walked onto a shoot with a y2, while everyone else was weilding a me-too black box, I think you’d be turning heads… so that’s an added utility of an attractively designed camera, I suppose… the “Apple look”, which always grabs positive attention. I know my macbook and iPad certainly grab client’s attention on set.

  • john jeffreys on 07.16.12 @ 1:40PM

    I actually customized my shoulder rig and it has leopard print all over it. Shit looks so cash.

  • It is not so much about a camera looking good but how it is design to function well. A square box and then adding on stuff to make it ergonomic is going to cost money. The user gets stuck with those costs. The Black Magic Design camera is so intriguing but how do you properly hold it? If you are using a camera day in and day out, it is more important to get the ergonomics right even more than some of the specs.

    • I’ll agree with that. Design is nice, but ergonomics are more important to me. That’s something I really miss in this trend of modular-design cameras; I miss a camera that is balanced for the shoulder, or at least capable of being shot on the shoulder (like the EX3 – such a wonderfully designed camera!) out of the box. I haaaate messing with Zacuto or off-brand rigs, mounting crap all over the place, just to make it semi-usable handheld.

      I know, I know – commenters on nofilmschool wouldn’t be caught dead shooting handheld – because “real filmmakers” never do that, right? ;-) Just kidding, you guys.

      • That’s what spurred this post – an impressive looking camera with ergonomics that actually make sense. Form as well as function.

      • Daniel Mimura on 07.24.12 @ 4:28AM

        That’s exactly what good design is! Ergonomics are a huge part of design.

        Good design is 100% about function…the “aesthetics” follow after that.

        American cars have a history of making the latest “look”…instead of making a good car, that winds up inherently looking good b/c it’s so perfect in its ability to do whatever the individual vehicle is designed to do. This can be seen in american cars typical 2-3 year cycles where they redo the appearances of their cars versus Mercedes who has a 7 year design cycle. Guess which car has higher resale value? (BMW did too…and there was a coherence about it until an American took over as the head designer a decade or more ago.)

        And the one big exception to design for American cars, one of the most iconic vehicles ever…is the Jeep, which was (initially) 100% about function. Jeep still has decade long generations, which has made it’s resale value high, as well as it’s enduring timeless look.

        The Penelope Delta, and to a lesser extent, the Yolk 2 (excluding the color—which I suspect, or at least hope, is just a prototype color, as is often done just to differentiate it from the actual working products) look good b/c they look like they will be comfortable on your shoulder.

        B/c modern cameras have so much AKS, this design may have a few flaws in a way that the box cameras like the Red don’t have…there is less customizability.

        A simple problem…if you have a big heavy zoom on the Y2, how do you balance it on your shoulder. With a black box and rails, that’s easy. Maybe if they made a telescoping rail in it like many modern assault rifles…then you would have the built in adaptability you need to rebalance, re-configure for various needs.

        On design: everyone talking about design or interested in it should read Dieter Rams’ 10 principles of good design. Jonny Ives of Apple (first and only VP for a major corporation I know who is a designer) is a fan of Rams, and vice versa. Rams’ Design principles can be found on the wikipedia page about him.

  • First, the time and development needed to put these 2k-4k camera guts into a container that’s non-boxed shaped will drive up the price, period.

    Second, why develop a pretty camera when the paint job and pretty accessories are going to get dinged up anyway? Have you ever seen a used, tried-and-true workhorse of a professional grade camera? And I’m not talking about the neat little HDSLR cameras out there…I’m talking about the high end ARRIs, REDs, Panasonics, etc that are $10k-20k+…these cameras take a beating, even when taken the best of care. Black boxes just hide dings and scratches better and still look good.

    Third, and Laurens is correct…anything other than black is distracting. Distractions on the set in any form is bad…

    Fourth, if you are even just a bit worried about how the camera itself looks…get out of the business please…you’re becoming a joke. Instead of worrying how the camera looks cosmetically, how about worrying more about how your footage looks? Listen, I get that a good looking camera can be impressive to the client…that’s why there are some cheapo manufacturers out there that sell these matte boxes that don’t do ANYTHING! They don’t hold filters, maybe minimal flagging…but that’s it. The main reason for some of these ‘accessories’ is just to let you pretend your HDSLR is more pro than not…I know, I get it. But really, a pretty little camera can momentarily impress your client and maybe get that 1st gig with them. But once they see your footage and realize your a hoax, that’s the end of the business they’ll have with you…

    I’ll drive a regular Ford Ranger anytime and still get the job done at the end of the day. If you want to piss around and get yourself an H3 Hummer or some other pretty little thing just to inflate your ego, then go right ahead and throw your money around. Same thing with these cameras…

    • Cameras never used to be shaped like boxes, you used to be able to throw many of them over your shoulder. That’s really the point I was getting at. Take a look at a camera like the FS100. Miserable design. The LCD is in a bad spot, and there are just buttons everywhere. You get what you pay for, I understand that, but once cameras have pretty much the same internals, why can’t we ask manufacturers to aspire to do a little better with their designs.

      The fact that you brought up black boxes hiding dings better just proves that you’re at least conscious of what the thing looks like. Battle scars are part of the game – they come with the territory. I’m actually not concerned with the camera getting dirty or getting marks – that’s going to happen.

      What a camera looks like should never be a chief concern in shooting, and I’m not saying or even pretending it should be. I’m simply saying why can’t we have well-designed, functioning, ergonomically-sensible cameras? At the very least, have a conversation about it. There are people who work incredibly hard on the designs of the cameras we already have, but most of them are up against large companies who don’t like changing too much from their previous designs. To use your client argument against you — what if you’ve got the pretty camera and your footage looks amazing. You don’t think that could be an advantage? It’s kind of a stupid reason, and you’re the one that brought it up, but it actually could very easily work the other way.

      I’m not sure I understand the Hummer comment – Hummer’s are ugly in my opinion, and they aren’t functional in the least. They aren’t aerodynamic, they use tons of gas, etc.

      My real point with this was to start a conversation. Many camera manufacturers seem to create cameras in a vacuum, they forget people actually have to use this stuff. So why can’t my camera be designed well and function well? That’s all I’m asking. I’m not putting camera design over the final product.

      • Daniel Mimura on 07.24.12 @ 4:42AM

        Hummers are fake function. The hood hoops on the HMMWV (Humvee) are designed to be airlifted into or out of battle…the hoops on the H2 are designed to look like they can be air lifted into our out of battle. (They will just rip off if you try to lift from it.)

        This gets back to what I was saying earlier about the Jeep when it comes to aesthetics vs function, and how with good design, the aesthetics are just a secondary consequence.

  • some of you might be too young to remember that the moviecam (before it was acquired by arri) was a very light gray, and the panavision cameras range from platinum to white. we had our reason to have a white housing.

  • I think the Canon DSLRs are beautifully designed. All of the controls I need while shooting are reachable with a finger on the right side, with the non-shooting functions on the left. I’m never more than a few clicks away from any function, and it fits in my hand perfectly.

    Aesthetics, well, that’s different. That’s the least important design element of a camera for me. I’d rather they not try to focus on that, since it might impede the important functional design or, worse, leave me walking around with a stupid toy like the Yolk on my shoulder when I’m trying to work. Why would I want to stand out looking stupid? With a traditional-looking camera, I blend in because people are used to them. With that on my shoulder my whole audio track is going to be people laughing.

    • Daniel Mimura on 07.24.12 @ 4:45AM

      Nikons and Canons both make incredibly ergonomically designed cameras…if you just shoot stills.

  • It’s hard for me to argue the merits of creating a beautiful design. I agree that I would like to have everything interact with look the greatest, except with cameras. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to pull up with a huge ugly brick, but here’s why design might actually be a bad idea.

    The idea of a camera is to capture the show, not be the show. The reason why a vast majority of cameras are a matte black isn’t by coincidence, it’s by design. Having a camera that ‘is’ the show is distracting for the talent or whomever is in front of the camera. It’s our job in production to be as invisible as possible (most of the time). This is especially true in documentary work where you have untrained talent beside you. So while I think leopard prints on handles are cut, they distract from what should be the focus. The crew should never stand out on purpose.

    Apple computers can have that luxury because they don’t capture the performance. Also the other practical side is very apparent, especially after working on set for the 24hrs this weekend, cleanliness.

    A white or other pattern camera would look like absolute crap after a tough weekend. Hands are dirty ( as they should be because we’re working), they get rested on less then ideal places, moved around all the time. Can you imagine how ugly it would get ? For my taste as a working professional, I’ll stick with the matte black.

    • Very valid points, but I’m not arguing they have to look like what I posted above. Cameras are either grey or black, but if you’ve been on enough film sets, you know that by the time a camera is rigged up it’s a monstrosity anyway. Documentaries are different, I’ll agree with you there. The camera should not distract — but that’s why I point out I really like the design of the Delta in all facets, and I could see better design using that as a starting point.

      • the white housing parts allowed the fan to run slower when the camera was exposed to direct sunlight. it was also a nod to the 60′s, early 70′s.

        our main focus was the camera’s ergonomics, simplicity and ruggedness. style was never a priority, we just went for a very minimal design. for one i prefer minimal design, but as every part was cnc machined, the machining time for each part is also shorter compared to an organic, swoopy shaped part. there is not one shape or feature on the Y2 that is not based on ergonomics, or the shape of the internal components themselves. the camera went through many iterations as the components got smaller. we now laugh when we open the very first solidworks assemblies and see the very first designs. yet some components we could not change, unless we’d order 1000 of them. so we had to make the best of the situation and design around them.

        • That’s what I figured, black (to a lesser extent, grey) runs hotter in sunlight, and therefore requires more cooling. Which is why black is actually a terrible color for many filmmaking related products.

          Either way, I personally like the design, or I wouldn’t have posted it. It’s got everything in the right place.

    • Randolph Sellars on 07.16.12 @ 9:30PM

      I have to agree with Tim on this one. I prefer black or very dark grey for one simple reason: reflections – windows, cars, trains, etc. That’s why I wear dark clothing when I know that I’ll be operating in these common situations. I realize that white is a cooler running color, but obviously can be designed around and resolved with engineering. The Canon C300 is extremely quiet! I have no problem with aesthetically pleasing form (it’s nice to look cool) as long as the ergonomics are considered foremost.

      • Daniel Mimura on 07.24.12 @ 4:54AM

        Yeah, if a camera overheats because it’s black…it’s the camera manufacturer’s fault for not making a robust enough design.

  • No reason why a camera can’t be good looking as long as it is reliable and works. I believe equipment needs to look good. The client needs to be impressed. Your talent needs to be impressed. I think everybody perks up a little when a camera with a mattebox on it makes it’s appearance so, it has it’s importance. You just need to be able to deliver the goods or none of it is worth anything to anybody.

    Not really much for the white. I prefer black or dark gray. Those colors are no nonsense, command a certain respect and they don’t get in the way. A fellow in a dark gray, pin-stripped suit is pretty impressive. Maybe put some pin stripes on it.

    It’s always interesting to see what people think is beautiful. I think that pic of the Aaton is stunning and I love that aesthetic. Anybody wielding that thing is going to command a lot of respect. Form over function has always been my choice. For me, that Penelope is gorgeous. The Reds have it and the Alexa, too. I’m surprised to hear people say they don’t care for it. That they like the BMC is funny, too. I don’t really care for it, at all. It looks like a toy. Even the FS100 is right up my alley as it looks a little like a Hasselblad I used to own… very compact with all those little buttons right at your fingertips. Guess that’s what makes the world go ’round… different strokes.

    • Exactly, I think the FS100 is actually a little toyish — Hasselblad, on the other hand, was a fantastically engineered piece of machinery. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for, film camera design but electronics inside. I really love the Penelope Delta design – I think it’s a great mix of all of the things I was talking about – and that’s before you get to the specs.

      • Haven’t actually handled the FS100 so, I may have a different opinion about it if I see it in the flesh.
        I agree on the Hasselblad. Beautiful piece of hardware! That’s why I think Red was the first to get it, design-wise and if you’re spending $10K+ for a camera, I wouldn’t think a metal body would be that cost prohibitive, even if it were stamped metal it would be better than plastic. Then again, composites what they are today, some of them are stronger than metal for their weight. The more I look at that white camera, the more I like it. Split the difference, make it gray and I think they’ll have a winner. If it takes good pictures, that is.

        • It will probably never see the light of day but who knows in the future if we’ll get something with a great sensor that shares similarities with it.

    • Sorry, I meant to say function over form. Sometimes I use the words, “purpose built”.

  • I agree with joe’s comment on ergonomics, it is something that is sorely lacking in today’s camera design, cant see how ne body can know this camera (except for the color) if look at this from the front end it looks a lot like a c300 the the streamline body is very reminiscent of what film camera use to look like i think with the right refinement and a great the one in the Apertus Axiom this can be a great camera.

  • I love RED’s modular just looks balanced and purposeful. The Blackmagic however took cinema camera design to a whole new level…first tume I saw it, reminded me of current Apple products…aluminum, sleek, new. I really really love it. If it had an s35 sensor and 1080p 60p it would have been perfect! But even without those it still is a fune piece of machinery…and they were able to do it at a price that seemed impossible from other camera manufacturers with those specs. I hope sony follows thry.


    The perfect form factor already exists in the digital camera realm.


  • This is total, total BS. Always has been, always will. Just look at the problems Mac Pro users have with form over function – very few choices, high prices, under powered, lack of upgrades. Making a sexy looking form factor will always result in higher prices and reduced performance vs. not.

    Designing a “beautiful camera” is for people that confuse tools with craft, tools with art. A well designed tool should function as best as possible, maximum performance for the price. That gives some a certain quality of solidity and elegance. But form should always follow function for creative tools, not the other way around. And it’s B.S that you can do both equally. A great tool is singularly focused on usability and price/performance. Trying to make it pretty for is for people that think a camera is going to make them a cinematographer.

    You need to take a long hard look at some the butt fugly cameras that have shot the greatest moments in film history. Thank God Kubrick didn’t bail on Barry Lyndon because the special Zeiss lenses were not sexy enough looking.

    • Except for the Blackmagic Camera – which many argue is exactly that, a sexy form factor with a low price and high performance. I’m not advocating that style should ever be the chief concern – function should. So many cameras are designed with none of those things in mind! Why is is so hard to find what you’re looking for on so many cameras? They’ve all got buttons everywhere and it’s never clear what does what.

      Why can’t the Arri Alexa (minus some of the performance obviously), exist on the lower end? Give me a camera I can throw over my shoulder — something that has extremely simple menu settings that I can get to in no time.

      • First, Blackmagic is not a shipping camera. Second, it’s ergonomics and features are clearly compromised by it’s form factor, menu design and aesthetic decisions. While I’m a fan, I clearly think a less sexy design would improve its overall performance and probably shave a few bucks of the price.

        And to be blunt, if a few camera buttons intimidate you, maybe hire a DP.

        • Sounds like you’re calling it vaporware? I’ve been told numerous times that the form factor actually shaved money off the price of the camera (one block of aluminum plus making the electronics more tightly packed saves on materials). So that argument doesn’t work. The camera looking like it does actually brought the cost down. So they made concessions, a different design would have raised the price and made the camera bigger. In this case I’ll take the tradeoffs they gave me.

          I’m not sure I recall insulting you, but buttons do not scare me. I’ve shot with a million different cameras, and they’ve all got different menu systems and different ways of actually getting there. Some cameras use a scroll wheel for the menu, and pressing it selects an option, while others use a scroll wheel, but you have to hit a set button to change options. Camera makers love hiding the display button that hides information on screen, which is an important function when you’re actually trying to use a camera. This is not good camera design to me, and the more buttons you have, the more they complicate these issues.

          Many of the everyday functions should be accessible from outside the camera, wouldn’t you agree?

          • I never said the BM was vaporware – my exact words were “not shipping yet”. So we don’t have hard data on performance, reliability, ergonomics, PQ etc. – so it’s not a good example to cite at this point.

            And yes, I was being blunt about buttons and controls and perhaps a bit insulting – but only because I think this post is really a terrible argument that if followed will only drive up prices and reduce performance. That’s the antithesis of what No Film School should be about.

            Let me put it this way. The primary purpose of a camera is to reliably deliver the best PQ in a ergonomic package. Secondarily it should be affordable for it’s intended market with a reasonable workflow.

            Asking for it beautiful is irrelevant BS for fetishists – what next, camera operators have to beautiful as well? Batteries have to be beautiful? Do you really think any great DP would hire for a job if you complained about how ugly.

            You really need to look here at this “ugly” webpage at these “ugly cameras” and “ugly lenses”.


            Please explain to me why how the camera looks matters even 1% in relation to the footage shot by that setup. You’ve avoided that which convinces me more that argument is fetish based with no actual reasoning, evidence, argument or really thought.

  • The aesthetics for me matter only in so much that I’m not embarrassed to bring a camera on set. I hope pro cameras dont go the route of trying to resemble consumer electronics. I think it creates a nice barrier from clients becoming overly familiar with your equipment. A good example, i used to do post sound. With the big mixing board clients never dreamed of touching anything. When everything went computer, suddenly clients decided they could start touching, maybe even doing themselves. A computer was something they were already familiar with and this was just another program. It doesnt matter that they were crap at it. I also don’t want to give clients any reason to wonder about where budgets going. I’m a firm believer that it’s all about the skills of the operator but a technical barrier to entry (industrial design, more buttons, etc) is a nice way of forcing people to learn the discipline for using your tools correctly.

    • Personally I don’t think it makes sense to overly complicate something just because we don’t want amateurs using it. The Arri Alexa is a $70,000 – $80,000 camera once you get done with it, and as long as you understand the concepts, literally anyone could use that camera. It’s got one of the most sensible menu systems I’ve ever used.

      You can’t stop amateurs from doing anything, but you can make better work. If clients can’t see it, there’s nothing you can do about it. Many industries face these problems.

  • I want a more fundamental re-design of the camera. I want a software-enabled camera – or ‘smart’ camera.

    It doesn’t take any great insight to say that software is going to enable any and all hardware that makes sense. Here you see a software-enabled light:
    Imagine the same thing with your camera. (Isn’t it weird the ‘lighting’ people made a smart-device before the ‘camera’ people. Who even knew we needed smart lights? The ‘fire’ demo is inspirational.)

    I would favour a configuration where the ‘extended’ brain of the camera was a mobile computer like an iPhone. This provides the development platform, the user interface, the touch viewer. It could either be slotted onto the camera as a touch viewfinder or be used mobile via WiFi.

    The big idea is that hardware/firmware has limited potential. Software, on the other hand, can be said to have infinite potential; there’s no limit on the number of possible apps.

    I would like remote control and remote viewing over multiple cameras. (GoPro are beginning to develop smart cameras. Still, there is the problem of user interface. Oops! No there isn’t. They are releasing an app to control their cameras with smart phones and tablets.)

    I feel this way because Magic Lantern transformed my HDSLR into 10 times the camera. (It makes it impossible to upgrade!) If the cameras are capable of 10 times more, you might as well build the hacking right into the system. Beside that, I realised that my iPhone is by far the best camera – it just doesn’t take the nicest pictures.

  • Forget the pleasing aesthetics of this camera, because it looks like the utilitarian camera body of my dreams (if it were black). I am sick of these tiny, modular cameras. Arri got it right with the Alexa. All I want is a comparatively inexpensive camera that I can throw on my shoulder (with a 4-perf, 35mm sensor, or S16).

  • konstantinosstag on 07.18.12 @ 5:24AM

    Totally agree with joe,the Yolk reminded me of the Aaton.The design seems to serve the functionality that a camera should have.Everything about it seems very logical and well thought out.Given that a proffesional camera costs as much as a car it makes perfect sense to expect that the manufacturers have given some attention to the ergonomics as well as the build quality. In modern camera business only Red and Arri seem to have this figured out. Each has a different approach but both have certainly put time and effort into their system.

    All that said, I do not understand what the film magazine part is besides a way to shoulder mount.

  • Thyl Engelhardt on 07.18.12 @ 11:17AM

    Frankly, I do not agree, quite to the contrary. At least in cinematography, to me, a lot of effort is put into camera disign, and this is clearly recognisable. Aside from the mentioned Ikonoskop, BMCC, Aaton (you can see the structured and thought-through design in the above image), and RED (a bit to military for me, but consistent design of cameras and accesories that really carries a message), there is also the Alexa and the Digital Bolex, which is very stylish.

    The problem really is mainly with Japanese cameras. But then, this also holds for cars, stills photography, consumer electronics etc. from Japanese companies. No idea why a culture that has such fantastic designs really fails in modern gadgets.

  • Solomon Wangera on 07.19.12 @ 5:34AM

    The Canon XL1 was a beautiful camera that combined aesthetics and functionality.

  • Cameras should be black so there is less of a chance of them reading in the reflections of glass and other shiny surfaces.

  • Monique Anair on 07.19.12 @ 3:14PM

    Agreed about the color….Clairmont went with Orange BL’s in the early 80′s which was a disaster…cameras need to be black (ever wonder why film crews wear black so much?)…sexy is a state of mind…and even the Russian Star systems looked good with a smashing cinematographer behind the lens.

  • OK I’m vain! I would not buy the Blackmagic camera for one reason, it looks like a toy. Sorry but I usually through a hood on my little 7d rig just to look the part. Trust me when I show up at shoots I’ve spent to much time trying to calm people down that my little camera can do the job.

    Out in the field shooting our new film, End Days, people want to see some equipment they think is special. It creates excitement and buzz and that’s something I need every ounce of. The proof is ultimately in the end product [the film] but while getting there I need to look the part.

  • Jacques E. Bouchard on 07.19.12 @ 3:32PM

    To reprise the computer analogy, I’d hate cameras to become hipster status symbols through design, like Apple. Besides, my camera is usually buried under accessories and cables. The only people I have to impress are the clients, and I achieve that through results, not fashion accessories.

    I say keep the prices low, skip the cosmetic design process.

  • The Penelope Delta looks like something that was cobbled together in outer space. The Sony fx100, now there is a clean design, if you skip ” kit” chromed lens. Why isn’t it black?

  • I think the comparison with the Mac and cars is well spot on. At some point people didn’t care about the look of their car because they just wanted to get to point B, but now some do. At some point people didn’t care about the look of their PC because they just wanted processing, but now some do. and it’s the same for fridges, and every other good on earth, regardless of their functionality. Suddenly you want a good looking fridge to match the aesthetic of your apartment.
    If enough people start to insist on the look of their camera (for the same “obscure” reason that they started insisting on the look of their cars etc.) design will get better.

  • “Good” looking cameras are for hipsters. I still think my canon looks sexy enough.

  • I remember the reaction I always got when I did all my shooting with my Canon XL2 SD Mini DV. I always got the “this has to be a serious shoot” wow factor. Would I shoot SD over HD these days, well, not really unless the project called for it. I think it really has to come down to how you feel about the results you’ve achieved for the good of the project.

    • john jeffreys on 07.20.12 @ 12:54AM

      Ugh, tell me about it. My film club at school used a terrible XL2 all the way until last year, when I finally forced them to use DSLR’s. Their reasoning was that the XL2 “looked more professional” and it impressed clients. Such narrow minded idiotic thinking. Its about the content, not the tool.

  • Daniel Mimura on 07.24.12 @ 5:13AM

    Has anyone every used a 16mm Canon Scoopic? Hands down it gets my vote as worst camera ergonomics for a motion picture camera EVER.

  • The Yolk Y 2 camera, combines ergonomics and technology with modern aesthetics. From my point of view a rigid piece of gear that I can hand hold, a camera that is an extension of my body and eye, a camera I can use in almost any situation and on top looks good, for sure will win me over other cameras in the market. For me product character is essential, congratulations to the design team.
    My only concern when I read the tech specs is the sensor size, the sensor should be at least s16, a s35 would be perfect.

  • Andreyiscool on 08.16.14 @ 12:31PM

    but this thing is ugly

  • Robert Johnson on 08.16.14 @ 12:36PM

    I’m surprised that the Digital Bolex was omitted from the article entirely. The pistol grip and side cranks give it a highly styled “retro” feel, but not at the expense of functionality or image.

  • What about professional viewfinders? I think they forgot to think about this part. For a professional cinematographer the viewfinder is most important and most usefull than field monitors. The viewfinder of this camera seens to be not professional, simple, small and it looks like they forgot to make it with the importance that it really deserve.

    • But, to the point of the article those are film cameras and there really aren’t many if any gorgeous digital cameras.

  • All I want is better ergonomics, period. It baffles me that we still have cameras shaped like they’re running film through them. I’d love to see more companies take a risk on unconventional designs with ergonomics and ease of use in mind. This concept is an interesting one for instance;

  • Go shoot wedding with your beautiful looking cameras… If you’re concerned about that on my set, go home.

  • This isn’t just a better looking camera it is a more functional form factor. It borrows heavily from the ARRI 416 which is one of the most versatile and maneuverable cameras I have worked with.

  • Cameras have to be black to avoid reflections!