What is a camera?
We all fall prey of the camera and the strange yet powerful hold that it has on us. Whats this about? Its a lust, its one of the sins in the history of many religions... Dont get me wrong, Im not religious. I just know from experience that this is what drives the obsession with the camera. Its also what drives modern society to want better cars, bigger houses, better whats its, and so on. If its not lust then its greed, I dont know if one is better than the other, but I am going to say lust... I know this as its something that I need to fight to control myself as well. The answer to the question is quite simple really. The camera is a tool. The camera is the same sort of tool as a painters brush, a sculptors clay, and a woodworkers saws. It is however one that has been much abused by society, and has hence lost some of its bygone allure and mystery.
In the past just as there are still today many people that wouldnt know what to do with a blade to sculpt wood there were a lot of people that didnt know how to make an image with a camera. This process, in its automation has brought the still image to the masses. Everyone has a camera in their pocket and lots of people have very different ideas of appropriate ways to use it.
We will ask again though, what is a camera. Its a machine, that in a few different ways can make an image of things that you see with your eye. There is the traditional film method, and there is the modern digital.
Is one better than the other? No.
Can one make better images than the other? No.
Is one camera better than the other for the purpose that you want to use it for? Probably.
Will these differences be easily detected when sharing images on social media and the internet? No.
If you have a perfectly adequate camera at the moment, do you want a different one? Probably.
Before I started back with the camera I rode expensive carbon road bikes. I even sold them in a shop. There was a formula that was able to be applied to calculate the optimal number of bikes that one should own, and I think that this can also be applied to many peoples thinking in camera.
X + 1 = Optimal number of cameras one needs to own
X being equal to the number of cameras that you currently own.
I have a few cameras, and some of them do the same things as the others. I have 4 film cameras and a digital camera. Not a heap compared to some, but probably about 4 more than I would really need to be able to go out and enjoy taking photos.
And I will be honest with you here, I still love to look. I love to look at things that I would like. I would hate to think how much time I would be able to spend outside shooting if I didnt do this. Its an addiction, and its one that I am sure many suffer from with the whole world available at our fingertips.
I dont get caught up on the latest sensor, and I dont go looking at digital cameras at all really. I do like to know whats coming out, but I dont really have a need for one. I enjoy shooting film. I do like to look at old film cameras though. There are quite a few that if I had the money I would love to own. But I dont think this is for the same reason. I dont think that I am searching for a better camera to take a better picture, I think that I just like cameras. There are some classics that I would just like to own.
My addiction has also switched a little to lenses rather than bodies. I am lucky enough to own a Leica M6. I dont have Leica glass for it, and I dont know that is really where I am interested in spending money either. I think that there is much better value and performance that is still stellar in much cheaper lenses, like the Zeiss models.
And really there is only one other lens that I would like to own, and its a little obscure, but I think it would serve a great purpose. Though I may be a little silly in this assumption...
This little baby is the MS Optical Perar Super Triplet 28mm f4. Tiny little thing, but creates some great images as far as I can tell. Its the size that I like though really. At the moment I have stuck myself to the 35mm focal length, and think that this is a great focal length for a Leica with a 0.72 viewfinder. There is some very interesting information out there about how 50mm became the 'normal'length lens. This from Japan Camera Hunter sums it up really well.
For this reason, I dont think that I really want something longer than 35mm. If I want to shoot that focal length then a SLR will be a better option as the image through the viewfinder will just look more normal. But I have a little Leitz Minolta CL and it would slide into a pocket with the little 28mm lens fitted to it, and I think that this would be a great carry round camera.
I said I might be a little silly with the assumption. I could sell the CL, and get a little point and shoot, and this still might be a better option, but I dont like selling anything that I have come to get a little attached to. But I digress, and I have also likely muddied the water as far as this argument goes as well.
My point is likely this. Unlike modern digital cameras, there isnt a lot in a film body that will enable you to make better images. The sensors are interchangeable. I can put my favourite film in one or the other for as long as its being produced. A lens on the other hand will change the way an image looks. Some are better than others, and for very different reasons. One that is better than one for one reason, may be the wrong choice for a different application when choosing between the two, and this is even when you have two that are the same focal length. Lenses have their own special character, and each one has its own.
Lenses also do other things to a camera, like reduce its size in the the case of the little gem by MS Optical above.
So as I said above, shifting to film has resulted in a shift from the need to have a better sensor (though I do like to try different films), to a bit of an obsession with understanding how different lenses will change the look of an image. I dont have a heap of cash, and I have to save money to buy the things that I want to use, but I still recognise that I should get control of this situation. I am not a good enough technician to worry so much about technical qualities of lenses. Most lenses out there are far better than me. What I do have is a good eye. I know what I find aesthetically pleasing. I like contrast. Different lenses can have a big difference in contrast of images, both in colour as well as black and white.
Its a little different with black and white however, as you can bump contrast in many situations using filters, and different film combinations.
There is a very strong argument about settling on a single lens and camera combination. And I totally agree with this. The longer you spend with the one camera the more in tune you get with its controls settings. Where the speed and aperture controls are, making changing them second nature. This is not as important in many forms of photography, but in Street Photography its uber important. If you are slow, you miss things. Its that simple.
There are likely two things that drive this lust for new cameras. I think I have covered the first misconception that people getting caught in this loop are working to rectify. There is a thought that with a better camera you will take better photos. This is just not true. The masters of our time have work that stood the test of time and was taken using old gear.
The second is the one that I still get caught in sometimes. And this is that if I go and buy something new to use to take photos then I will be suddenly motivated to go out and shoot. Its really important under this situation to find a way to motivate without spending money. Without changing the gear that you use and having a short time of motivation, followed by a drop in motivation when your results get worse as you are having to learn to use a new tool.
You could use the money to buy books and find motivation by looking at great work.
You could find motivation by going to gallery shows and viewing a wide variety of other art.
You could use the money to attend events where you are allowed to use a camera that might present some great image opportunities.
I read somewhere recently that you could use the money to travel to places, even on day trips, where you might like to shoot and use the gear you have already.
So I am all for making sure that you get a camera that meets the basic needs of your intended use for it. Its important to enjoy the things that you have and enjoy using them to make images. What you need to take away from this is that buying a different camera that does one or two things better than your current one wont make your images any better. You are never going to find a camera that ticks all the boxes. With everything in life this is the same. Buy the one that meets the most important needs that you have, then enjoy figuring out how to use that thing to the best of its ability by increasing your own.
This post was as much about me getting out me thoughts about this issue that I need to follow myself as well.