The last few years have seen camera makers send their designers on divergent paths when it comes to the interface between the customer and the device.
In some cases nearly all the operating controls have been hidden inside the menu button, in others they have been spread out on a touch screen, and in a third instance have been relegated to levers. But nothing beats a good old fashioned dial - particularly if it is well-marked and a decent size. If it has firm click stops and a sturdy grip you can confidently fly the machine in all weathers.
Well, digital Pentax cameras have always been pretty good in this respect - their external knobs meet all the right criteria. The latest full-frame digital camera is the Pentax K-1 and here are a few of the control areas that illustrate how clearly Pentax see with the eyes of their buyers.
a. The main mode dial. Standard PASM and then Pentax's specialty - the variable ISO settings; Tav and Sv. Note as well the full Auto ( though why on a professional camera like this one...)*. But look at the wealth of options there are with 5 custom channels. For some photographers these would be all they ever changed for their different interests. Also note the lock button.
b. The fun specialty dial. Oh dear goodness what you could do with this one...
HDR explains itself, but you would still be well advised to look in the manual to see what they think you are going to do before you do it. Some love the look and some hate it, but it is actually useful for some technical illustration.
BKT is bracket. Again good for tricky light conditions.
CH and Cl are your continuous shot speeds
ISO is amazing as the camera goes up past the 200,000 mark. Bob Litchfield said he was notorious for always shooting at 100 ISO but would feel confident running to 800 with the Pentax K-1. Betcha it would go very well a long way higher - check out DP review's test shots.
+ and - are for when you can't decide...no, these are the exposure compensation factors you can dial in.
The white dot is right there and until I get a camera to play with it will stay right there.
WiFi is self explanatory. Or should that be selfie-explanatory...?
Crop controls the use of DX lenses on the FX camera - you can put 'em on but the camera only uses part of the sensor to record. It will automatically indicate what is live in the viewfinder.
Grid lets on a series of guide lines to scold you when you get your horizons crooked and your verticals divergent.
SR Shake Reduction. And in this camera there is a lot of that - 5 axes arecovered, including roll.
c. The Usual Suspects. This is the main under-thumb back panel with discrete button wheel and a joystick button above it. More and more cameras are giving the shooter this sort of tiny thumb navigator rather than compelling them to move AF points with the main wheel. They can shift while the camera is at their eye.
Pentax have recognised that with a camera of this size the grip of the user is going to have to be firm...which in its turn means that the tactile control available to thumb and forefinger to operate fore and aft wheels is necessarily a little rougher. Try it yourself gripping the mouse of your computer - as you tighten up you have less fine motor control. This in turn means that the control wheels must be larger and well-ribbed to engage with the fingers. Thankfully, they are, and adjustment when the camera is to the eye is easy.
Any way you look at it, the new Pentax K-1 is a DSLR for grown-ups.