Cameras of late have buttons galore. Knobs you can reconfigure. Menus to scroll through.

It hasn’t always been that way. Hell, it wasn’t that way even 20 years ago.

And before that you didn’t even need a manual to run a camera.

A camera — an advanced one like the venerable Minolta X-700 — even had a meter and you could set it to “auto” mode. You pick that from the top dial.

Ok, so you picked “P” for “Program.” “A” is for “Aperture priority.” The rest is all analog. You can set the film speed on the left (right now set to 400) and dial in the exposure compensation (I rarely use it). Then you have the shutter speed on the right. All that’s left is the aperture on the lens.

The back holds nothing else…

It’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to the Leicas of the world. You don’t need to read a manual to figure out how anything works for normal operation.

As it should be I think.

It lets one think for themselves and be creative without having the programming get in the way. Taking pictures has very, very, few variables. It’s not hard. You have the amount of light you’re passing through (aperture) and the length of time you’re exposing the film or sensor (shutter speed). With film the sensitivity of the emulsion is set; with digital you can vary shot-by-shot.

It’s so simple, you don’t need much!

Which begs the question why you get a lot of superfluous controls for something that’s simple?

Still photography now is no more complex than it was 50 years ago.