For everyone but a few die-hard photography buffs, digital cameras are the way to go. A digital camera actually makes you a better photographer, because of the instant feedback it provides via the LCD–and because you get much more practice taking digital shots, which are free, than you do with a film camera, where you know you’re paying twenty cents a picture for developing.

But once you’ve been bitten by the photography bug, you’ll realize that there’s a gap in the digital camera market. There are a lot of relatively inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras, and some of these even give you a fair amount of manual control over camera settings like aperture, exposure time, and so forth. The problem is that the lenses on these cameras are fairly limited—they’re small, slow (f2.8 is often the largest aperture you get—compared with f1.4 on a decent 35mm lens), and you can’t replace them if you want a wider angle, a more powerful telephoto, or a wider range of aperture settings.

When you’re ready to graduate to a camera with full manual control and replaceable lenses, though, you’ll find that you’ve got to spend $1,000 or more just to get started. What’s more, these cameras are large and bulky.

What’s missing here is a small, fairly portable rangefinder-style digital camera that doesn’t cost a fortune, offers fully manual control, and has an interchangable lens mount system.

Because digital camera use CCDs (image sensors) that are smaller than 35mm film, you could make a system like this using much smaller lenses than those used for 35mm SLRs. That small size would mean greater portability—and probably less expense, too.

What’s more, camera manufacturers’ dedication to SLR construction for high-end cameras is misguided. In film cameras, single-lens reflex technology is the only way you have of seeing exactly what your picture is going to look like. But with digital cameras, this complicated mirror-and-prism system is completely redundant, since you can use the LCD on the back to show exactly what is landing on the image sensor. Why add the bulk and the expense of an SLR system when it’s not needed? I’d much rather have a high-quality rangefinder-style camera with good, replaceable optics and a nice, large LCD on the back.

Why doesn’t this camera exist? Or if it does, tell me where to find it!