Gear

Photography gear: reviews, lenses, cameras, film, etc.

On Compact, Fixed-Lens Cameras

Canon Canonet

Leave it to Eric Kim to beat me to a post I’ve been mulling over for months:

There is no perfect or ideal lens or focal length out there. Rather, it is about finding the lens or focal length which fits 80% of your needs. Psychologists call this “satisficing” (a mix between satisfying and sufficing). Rather than aiming for “perfect”, you aim for “good enough.” And by aiming for “good enough”, you are a lot happier and and satisfied than people who are “maximizers” and aim for “perfection.”

When I buy a Mac, I always go for the consumer, mid-range version. I bought an iBook, the consumer-grade notebook, and now I buy iMacs, the consumer-grade desktop. It’s nice to have a pro machine, but the combo of size, price, and capabilities make the mid-range Macs my go-to computers.

So it’s going to be with me and cameras. My Canon EOS M, the Canonet, the Olympus Trip 35, even the Fuji X100 I rented for a week – these are all consumer grade, small size, fixed lens (the 22mm never leaves my M) cameras, and they’re my favorite to take with me when I’m looking for ease of use and image quality.

Even with my Fuji X-E1, the 27mm pancake lens never left the front of that camera, and it was – in spirit – a fixed-lens compact camera, perfect for traveling.

As Kim says, these kinds of cameras (Sony makes one, as does Leica, Canon maybe be working on a full frame version, etc.) are good enough for most needs. Need to get closer? Move closer. Need a wider angle? Buy a 28mm version. For most people, 28-40mm is good enough for most situations, and most of the film compact cameras came with a 40-ish lens for a reason.

Also, you just can’t beat the size and portability. It’s the throw-it-in-the-front-seat-of-your-car situation: is the camera small enough to take with you on most daily commutes and travel? Will it fit in your commuter bag or purse? Is it unobtrusive, and is it easy to carry around?

Just as important: is it fun to use?

For these smaller, fixed-lens cameras, the answer is almost always “yes.”


We Need A Film Camera Revival, Too

Tomyko LT002

Think about it: there used to be a photo developing station in every grocery store. You could (and in some cases, still can) pick up film in a gas station. People would print photos and bind them together into books that became family heirlooms. Then it all went away.

Now it’s all making a comeback. You can get specialty film, professional films, and boutique revival films. We shot photos at our wedding and this weekend’s move using Fuji’s Instax camera. Me? I’m trying out a pack of Lomography’s new film for an upcoming project.

But the good news is all on the film side. The other side of the equation – new film cameras – isn’t returning at the same speed as film stock. Why is that?

Leica is doing their thing, but that’s out of the reach of most photographers. Nikon has the F6, still in production, and Lomo does a good business. But from there, medium- and large-format film cameras are the only ones still in production. Where are the new 35mm cameras to meet this growing film demand? Is the demand still not at a level for camera manufacturers to supply new gear?

Not that there’s any reason to worry; there are tons of used film cameras out there waiting to be rediscovered and refurbished (it’s coming up on yard sale season, after all). For the most part, buying a decent film camera is way more affordable than buying a new digital camera.

Maybe that’s when we’ll know film is back in a big way: Pentax, Canon, Fuji, and the rest fire up their film camera production machines again.


More Canon 5D Love

Hidden Corners - Ann Arbor, MI

From Tom W:

You Don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great image. If your main hope is for fantastic image quality outdoors and if your willing to settle for lower dynamic range or high ISO performance there are a number of fantastic choices for photographers looking to start out in the world of full frame cameras.

A modern classic indeed. Everything old is new again.

(Via Robert-Paul Jansen.)


Shopping Season

Shopping Season

This time each year, all the major camera and lens companies put their products on sale, along with the rest of our consumerist-crazy world. You can get some seriously great deals from Thanksgiving to the new year.

Rebates, bundles, sales – if you’ve waited all year, and you’ve been a good boy or girl, now is the time to grab your gear.

Six years ago, it’s exactly what I did. I bought an older-model Canon Rebel T1i with a lens bundle, and it changed my life. Here I am today, a hobbyist photographer, because I jumped on a great deal during the holidays.

Here’s a tip to help you feel better about your purchases: If you shop through Amazon, use their AmazonSmile program to help your shopping dollars give back to a charity or cause you care about (my dollars support our local nature center). Or shop through the affiliate links of an artist you enjoy.

Give back to others, and those in need. And then be good to yourself, if you really mean it.


Charm Or Economics

Embrace Imperfections

Chris Gampat at the Phoblographer on the unique look of older CCD camera sensors:

CCD sensors on the other hand were really a work of art. They delivered great images, but at high ISOs they just fell apart. Arguably though, you’d get even better colors with one when paired with more modern glass. CCD sensors also delivered images that simply just looked organic and film-like. You generally didn’t need to apply some filter from VSCO or RNI films, you just got it.

Embrace the old school – the flaws, the imperfections, the personality, the challenges. With film, it was easy: grab a camera and buy a pack of film. But with digital, there are only so many limitations, and one of those is the older-style digital sensor format.

Maybe CCD sensors will be the new Lomography for the digital crowd.


Lease Versus Own

Lease Vs Own

Michael Gartenberg on the iPhone 7:

All of sudden, customers like me, who prefer to buy once and hold on as long as well can become the outliers. There’s a whole new set of buyers to appeal to who will view a monthly charge for the latest phone as just another line item.

But can Apple get enough customers on the subscription model? Will the desire to always have the latest and greatest iPhone be enough of a driver?

I held on to my iPhone 3G probably a year too long. With my current iPhone 5S, it’s the same situation. And when I do upgrade, it will probably be to an iPhone SE, not a 7.

It’s the same with photography. Sony would love for you to buy the latest Alpha 7 model every year. Adobe wants you to “subscribe” to Photoshop.

Are you on the “lease” model Gartenberg talks about? Or do you purchase things for the long-haul?

I like owning things. I like relying on my purchases for the long term, and a lot of research and thought goes into each of those purchases. The same goes for music, for automobiles, for everything. It could be that I learned a lot from my grandparents, who grew up during the Depression, and invested in things that lasted. They took pride in the things they owned. And they treated those items with care and respect, and kept them running.

The problem comes when the software updates outlast the technology.

Then again, my Canon 5D is shooting just fine, 10 years later.

 


40mm and Go

40mm And Go

Everyone talks about 50mm being the focal length for 35mm photography. And I mostly agree.

But lately, my 40mm pancake lens is getting a lot of use – for good reason.

Five millimeters north of a 35mm lens, and just a hair wider than 50mm, 40mm sits in a sweet spot. It’s wide enough to get landscapes and cityscapes, and yet short enough to do people well, and get details.

I took a chance on my own Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens. Not that it’s not a good lens. It’s a great lens. And very affordable – especially when you buy it refurbished, like I did.

No, I took a chance because I thought, “I so love 50mm, why do I bother with 40mm?” It turns out that because of the lens’s size, weight, and utility, it’s now my most-used lens. It’s almost permanently strapped to my 5D. I just pick it up and go.

The 40mm doesn’t stick out from the camera, making it great for close-up shots of the kids at home, or of people out in the city. It’s a great front-seat lens that goes with me to and from work every day for the random landscape shot. It’s flexible for the kind of shooting I do, and I appreciate it more and more every day.

And now that I’ve had it for about a year, I’m getting to see the world in 40mm – just as I did with 50mm (both are natural, of course, being “normal” lenses). My Canonet probably helped warm me up to 40mm before that, as did my Fuji X-E1 with the 27mm (40mm equivalent) pancake lens.

While the 50mm gets all the creative credit in the photo world, it’s good to know there’s a handy, slightly-wider alternative in the 40mm lens.