5 Jun 2013

Random thoughts on cameras

Sometime ago found this great post on the photography blog Visual Science.It's a few years old now but it holds more than ever and I certainly agree with it 100%.I can't recommend Visual Science as a read as the author nowadays has the most long winded writing style.He never hesitates to use 3 sentences where one would do.Back when he wrote this he was more sparing with his words.

The best fashion shooter I ever met just had one lens. It was a Hasselblad 150mm .She didn't own any other lens so she never had to think about which lens she would use or how she would work. She just did her work and it was stellar. No choices, just the right choice. No confusion just vision. Amazing. But now we're all so fearful we feel like we need to have "all of our bases covered" even when we're just doing this for fun.That's why it's not as much fun.  

Zooms are for sissies.I have a collection.I'm just a sissy.Show me the guy with one 50mm lens and no bag and I'll show you an artist. Or at least a guy without a back problem.....

You won't listen anyway.  Go ahead and buy whatever you like.

This is excellent advice-well apart from the last flippant remark- and one which I had unknowingly already followed.I used to have bags full of gear but about 5 years ago I was over it -- the weight and the hassle was just too much.So in a moment of decisiveness I sold the Leica outfit and all those beautiful lenses and sold as much of the Canon SLR gear that I could including the  70-200mm f2.8 lens.A brilliant lens but no lightweight.I bought myself the little Leica X1 and used a little Canon G9 as a backup.And then I bought a big,heavy vintage Hasselblad film camera outfit but that is a collectible and is not a day to day shooting piece of kit and doesn't count.

The Leica X1 has proved to be a superb tool but there are still times when I get feel pangs of gear acquisition syndrome -GAS.This condition afflicts millions of  photographers who believe that by buying the latest newly launched camera their photography will be miraculously transformed.I have manged to avoid these demons for 4 years now but last week in a Leica dealer in Sydney I nearly weakened and bought a Leica XVario when they offered me a $1000 discount.The XVario is like a grown up Leica X1 or X2 with a slow, short zoom lens but it is beautifully made and by all accounts the images it produces are beautiful quality.But it is not that small and it is heavy and it is expensive.Boy is it expensive.After a momentary hesitation I put the GAS demons behind me and the fact that the camera plus EVF was still going to cost $2750 made the demons banishing a no brainer.
However it would be nice to sometimes have an alternative to the fixed 35mm lens on the X1 and to have a wide angle lens and a long lens or a zoom.I was reminded of this when I found the photo below.It was taken in Zimbabwe (once one of the most beautiful and richest countries in Africa now completely trashed) in 1998 on my Leica M6 with a 135mm Elmarit lens.
I used to carry a Leica body with 5 lenses -28,35,50,90 and 135mm in my camera bag.I so rarely used the 135mm that I stopped carrying it around and then the 50mm was also taken out as I realised that lighter was better.But on this African trip I did find a use for that heavy 135mm lens.I took this photo from the passenger's seat of a Land Rover.I rested the lens on the sill of the open window and shot with the lens wide open to try and ensure that only the bird was in focus.Nailing the focus with the 135mm lens on the Leica was not easy -one of the reasons why I used the lens so infrequently.
The photo which was taken on Kodak Ektar 100 colour negative film has received very little tweaking -- this is almost as it came out of the camera.
In fifty plus years of taking photos I can only recollect taking two photos of birds and this is one of them.

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