I am just wondering if there are any DSLR camera models that are implemented with hyper simplicity, where you are given only full manual control, and dials for those parameters only?

I think this would be very very cool from a user experience design perspective.

Basically a camera from 1960, but digital.


3 Answers 3



The incremental cost in actually providing modern features including priority and program modes is very, very small — but the reduction in potential market would be enormous. Because of this, such a camera would probably be more expensive than cameras with features made for the mass market — including higher-end models aimed at enthusiasts and working-professionals.

So, while it's fun to imagine such a thing, it's unlikely to ever exist.

Your best bet is to go for a camera which provides a large number of physical controls, put it in manual mode, and pretend the other options don't exist.


Not a DSLR, but you may be interested in hearing about the Epson R-D1 - the first digital rangefinder. It was (kind of!) just like a Voigtländer film rangefinder (which are manufactured by Cosina, who own the Voigtländer brand now), and oddly for a digital camera, even had a "film advance" lever. Of course there was no film to advance, but (as in a film camera), the lever also served the purpose of cocking the shutter for the next exposure. There were a few generations of this camera, but I believe it is now discontinued. See the brochure here:

  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe even this featured automatic exposure as an option. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Sep 30, 2017 at 12:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I felt was noteworthy about the R-D1 was that it was essentially a mechanical film camera re-engineered to be a digital camera. It differs from the likes of the Nikon Df and Fujifilm X Series, because they are built from the ground up as digital cameras, but just with a "retro" appearance. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Sep 30, 2017 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, it's not a bad thing to reference, but I think it's worth nothing that even this features automatic modes. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Sep 30, 2017 at 14:29

Is there an all manual digital camera, essentially a digital version of the rangefinders or early SLR’s of yore? The short answer is no.

Automatic exposure modes, followed by autofocus, allowed a larger market to take pictures more easily – and increasing the size of a market is rarely a bad business decision. Needless to say, camera manufacturers began automating things and haven’t looked back.

But, if you’re looking for something all manual with a flair for retro – you can get close with some modern and modern + classic offerings.

To start, the Nikon Df is a modern digital camera but it’s control layout is inspired by the Nikon’s of the 80’s. The shutter speed dial is prominent along with ISO and exposure compensation. This is definitely the most retro DSLR to date.

Leica’s M series of rangefinders also utilizes a minimalist approach that has evolved through the ages – but still gives one the ability to set shutter speed and aperture (if using the appropriate lens) the same way you would as with an old film rangefinder.

Finally, you could use a classic manual film camera like the Hasselblad 500c with a digital back. This would get you absolutely the closest to the request of an all manual digital SLR. [The linked article is old - there are newer digital backs]


  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ No . Nikon DF have Programmed auto with flexible program (P); shutter-priority auto (S); aperture-priority auto (A); manual (M) also \$\endgroup\$
    – user68793
    Sep 30, 2017 at 9:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes - just about every camera from the 80's on up has had auto modes. To answer Op's question by letter of the law - no, an only manual digital does not exist. To answer Op's question by spirit of the law, there are indeed some digital options that can get one closer to all manual functions. I mentioned the Df because of the manual control layout. One could also look to digital rangefinders for similar. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Oct 2, 2017 at 15:23

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