Goodbye DSLR, Hello… Part II
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera” – Dorothea Lange
New cameras have become incredibly good at capturing all the details your eyes can see and are highly capable of creating photographs that mirror reality. Digital sensors actually see better in low light than our eyes do! For some people, these cameras are the right tool for capturing scenes as they saw it so they don’t have to say “this picture doesn’t do the place justice” when sharing their photographs. Because I’m not trying to show what a place looked like, these new cameras aren’t the right tool for me. In a previous post, I mentioned I was switching cameras. I recently sold my DSLR and purchased the camera I believe is the best fit for my style and vision. Before I get to the specifics, I’ll describe a few things I was looking for in a camera:
- It needs to be rugged and dependable
- It needs to not limit my creativity
- It needs to be capable of producing quality images
- It needs to have quality lenses available
- It needs great battery life
- It needs to be easy to use in the dark & cold weather
- It needs a mirror lock-up
- It needs to be light & small
- It needs to be able to perform multiple exposures
- It needs to be simple
These necessities eliminated medium and large format cameras, most P&S, and mirrorless cameras. There are a few smaller DSLR’s capable of producing high-quality images but they fail on the rugged/dependable requirement. For me, the choice was clear, a Nikon FM. This camera is extremely simple in appearance with fully mechanical (FM) operation. Two tiny batteries power the light meter and last for years. It’s solid, simple, proven and more than a camera, it’s a tool. The camera is smaller and lighter than my previous DSLR (Canon 7d mII) and the lenses are lighter than the big “L” lenses. The batteries are not even comparable with one battery weighing as much as a penny while the DSLR batteries were more like rocks.
I could have easily gone with several other Nikon’s, or even Canon/Minolta/Olympus etc. but later models began incorporating more electronics and weight. For me, this was the right fit. For many, many others, this camera is not the right tool. I have no doubt this camera will provide challenges and some setbacks, but I’m OK with this. I also don’t plan on this being my sole camera because I feel I have other forms of expression (think video). That will be for another post though:) For now, a majority of my work will be creative landscape art and a simple camera with slide film is perfect for this.
The drawbacks to this tool/approach are plentiful and I’ll mention a few:
- Instant image review – NONE.
- Sharing work via social media – Not instant
- High speed action – 1/1000 shutter speed max
- Low light/high ISO – ISO 50 film aka SLOW
- Not weather sealed
- Not practical for assignment work
- No auto-focus
- Primitive light meter
Sounds horrible;) On the bright side of things, this tool has advantages to cameras with a digital sensor, MF/LF cameras or new film cameras. So, here’s a few advantages to this tool:
- NO DIGITAL NOISE – so long, goodbye, farewell. Color banding, blotches, brownish blacks, pixel “junk”, dead spots…all gone.
- Lighter camera, more miles hiked. And hiking more miles makes me happy:)
- Less photos taken = more selective = better images. This formula works for me.
- Depth. Sorry digital lovers, film wins this one no contest.
- Slows the process. Same as #3, but from a technique perspective. Better focus, light, composition, subject are all attained by slowing down.
- Anticipation. Not for getting film back! Anticipation of moments instead of reacting to moments. Observing light and preparing build photography skills.
- No dead batteries, ever. If it did happen, the camera works without them.
- Simplicity. The camera becomes an extension of your eyes and mind, and not a roadblock. There are no menus, settings, switches and lights to distract you.
- Creating a physical product. You can’t hold a RAW file.
- Challenge. This won’t be easy. I will fail. I will miss moments. I won’t be able to share work as much. I won’t have as many images. But I like challenges:)
This blog post will be the last time I write about and discuss this camera. I hesitate even bringing cameras into discussion because EVERYONE has an opinion on them. That’s fine. I have mine too. I strongly believe that cameras don’t matter and they are strictly tools for expressing a vision. We all have different visions of what we choose to photograph and thus, have different needs for cameras. Moving on, I hope to share some work in the next month or so from an upcoming trip to Southern Utah. I look forward to sharing images, good ones and bad ones, to show some of the learning process. Regardless of the format of photography, the principles are all the same. Light, form & expression. It’s that simple.
Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US and thanks for reading along,