The case for articulating viewing screens on digital cameras
Leaving image quality aside, digital photography has brought the photographer, particularly the amateur, many advantages. One of the most obvious is the facility to take almost unlimited shots, thus removing one past advantage of the professional. Together with the Internet, this had led to a massive proliferation in the number of pictures that we can view. There must be millions out there now, and anybody with access to the Internet can show off their pictures. The down side of this is that there are now so many pictures, getting any one to stand out has become increasingly difficult. Look though Flickr, Photobucket, etc, and you will have to wade through many quite average images before you find something that makes you stop to take a closer look. Even when you find a technically 'perfect' picture that is well composed, it may not stand out, simply because there are numerous pictures just like it. So how do we get pictures that stand out from the crowd? The answer is to find a point of view (POV) that changes the whole perception of the subject.
When I got serious about photography (30 years ago when film was the only option), I used to go out with the three other photographers, and we had a saying: 'if it wasn't uncomfortable to take, it probably isn't a good picture'. This was because we tried hard to take pictures from unusual angles, and this often meant lying on the ground, or contorting our bodies to get into position. But the philosophy worked well, and I have always tried to find unusual POV's ever since. My second digital camera, a Canon S3i bridge model came with a fully articulating screen, and I was delighted when I realised that in my fifties, I no longer had to lie on the ground, or attempt a position akin to an advanced yoga posture, to achieve a different POV. When I looked round for my next camera, the Samsung EX1 attracted me with its larger sensor and first-class articulating OLED screen.
But it's not just different POV's where an articulating screen is very useful. It allows the use of a smaller, lighter, tripod because you can still compose from above. It allows shots that we simply couldn't take without the articulating screen, for instance composing and shooting a shot over a high wall. I've taken candid shots round corners where the results have been better for me being out of sight. In fact you can take many candid shots because there is no need to bring the camera up to your eye, a sure sign that you are taking a picture, and loosing the spontaneity of the shot because people look at you and the camera. Articulated screens are far from gimmicks. I suggest that for the serious photographer, they are mandatory, and any serious camera should have one!
I now want to upgrade again, this time to a DSLR. I've always bought Pentax SLR's, and still own an ME Super, and an LX, together with a collection of lens. So not surprisingly, what I really want is a Pentax DSLR. I would have bought the K-R, or possibly K5 but they lacked articulating screens. So I waited for the announcement of the next Pentax DSLR only to be bitterly disappointed that it still didn't have one either. In all other respects, the K-30 is the perfect camera for me but I just can't give up the functionality of an articulating screen, and I don't want to buy a Canon or Nikon (inferior in many ways to the K-30), just because they do have them.
So how difficult can it be to add an articulating screen to the K-30? The technology is already available, and already in use on other cameras for several years now. Something like the Samsung screen, as on the EX1, surely couldn't be difficult to add to the K-30, thus making it nearly perfect (at least for many of us non-professionals).
From reading various photographic forums, many photographers feel the same about the benefits of articulating screens, and I have read many comments from Pentax fans, lamenting the lack of one on a the K-30. I would buy a K-30A today. I have the funds, and I'm sure that I am not alone. I hope that this plea will encourage the Ricoh-Pentax designers to realise what truly makes great photographs stand out from the rest but if they need some more persuasion, here are some examples of how an articulating screen helps make photos different!
This could be a 'nothing' shot if the wet cattle grid wasn't featured so strongly by the very low POV. Taken on a rainy afternoon when the last thing you want to do is kneel on the ground in a puddle!
Again, on a wet afternoon, a very low POV is required to pick up the reflected light in the puddle of water.
Same thing again. In this case, rather than sit or kneel on a grave, the camera was simply held out over the grave, and the shot composed by tilting the screen.
This is a shot from inside a tower that has locked gates to prevent access. But using the articulating screen, I pushed my hands though the bars of the gate, held the camera at arm's length, and composed this shot that I would have otherwisehave been unable to shoot
This yacht is in a boatyard behind a seven foot high wall. I was able to compose the shot by holding the camera at arm's length above my head, and still see what I was composing by tilting the screen downwards. Another shot I couldn't have composed without the articulating screen.
POV so low that you probably couldn't compose the shot without an articulating screen!
This lighthouse has been photographed so many times it is no longer taken by local photographers. But there are still shots that will make interesting pictures like this one taken through a bottomless rusty bucket. An articulating screen makes these types of shots easy, and actually encourages you to go for something 'different' rather than a standard shot.
This train was taken through an aperture in the bottom of the rusty bridge side. It involved a low POV that would have been very difficult and uncomfortable to have held while I waited for the train to come into view. But not so with the articulating screen!
HDR night shot done on mini-tripod because I could turn screen upwards and compose the shot. I take most of my pictures while walking or cycling, and don't want to be burdoned with a large tripod.
Overhead shot much easier to compose with the viewing screen tilted towards me.
Try this sort of shot without an articulating screen! By the time you get into position, the picture is gone.
Again, probably not possible to compose/take without the articulating screen!
Yes - possible without the articulating screen but you would almost certainly find your feet in the picture too!