Gear

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

On Camera Reviews

Waiting For Another

Om Malik, on the cruddy quality of camera reviews:

All I want to know from reviews is how it feels in hand, the pictures it makes and what is the actual performance from a daily usage stand point. The sensor size, the sensor type and what kind of processors mean absolutely nothing — what matters is the photos.

Even more helpful: give me a year-out view, after you’ve spent some quality time with the camera, and really tested its capabilities.

What would make me love it more than what I already have? What are the limits of its use? Where have you taken it, and what did you see?

A few of the big photo sites take a stab at this philosophy, but I value reviews from individual photographers more than any review-heavy site.

(via CJ Chilvers)


On Camera Resale Value

Higher Education

Chris Gampat at the Phoblographer breaks down the resale value of the major camera brands, both film and digital.

It’s such a strange way to think about buying a camera.

If I’m going to make an investment in a camera or lenses, I’m going to think about the lifespan of the equipment and how much work I can get done with it. Resale value doesn’t enter into the do-I-buy-it equation at all.

For me, I’d rather have a well-used camera that helps me make photographs than worry about selling it down the road.


Begging For Compact Cameras

Cortice

Bellamy Hunt at Japan Camera Hunter argues for a new compact film camera:

One of the large makers needs to step up to the plate and make a compact film camera. And I am not saying this on a whim or with a wistful idea of halcyon days. I get more requests for compact cameras than I could ever fulfill, even if I had the cameras. People are prepared to spend nearly $1000 for an old Contax or Ricoh, knowing full well that it could simply stop working at any point and there would be nothing they could do about it.

Hunt’s point – that the current stock of compact cameras is dwindling, and getting more expensive – tells me that there’s a market for a new film camera out there, if someone would just take a chance on making one. And with more and more companies investing in film again, photographers need new tools to take advantage of those film stocks.

Compact cameras are my favorite kind of camera, and I’m not alone. The company that stepped up and started making new film cameras again would gain more than money – they’d earn a whole bunch of goodwill.

(via On Taking Pictures)


Olympus Trip 35

Olympus Trip 35

If constraints help to fuel creativity, then consider the Olympus Trip 35 film camera my new constraint.

I picked up my copy on eBay from Light Burn Photo’s store last year – a great selection of re-skinned film cameras. The brown leather wrap is right up my alley.

Get this: You have four focusing zones. Close, near, far, and very far. That’s it. You have 1-6 meters to focus, or infinity.

And you can set the aperture, but the camera only has two shutter speeds: 1/200 and 1/40. The ISO dial goes from 25-400. Talk about constraints.

The results are pretty great, though, from what I’ve seen. I loaded a roll of Lomography 400 color film and picked away at it since the fall.

One niggle: the zone focusing is tricky to master. Quite a few of my shots had the wrong zone picked. I almost prefer full manual focus to this system.

It’s super small and light, and almost fully automatic, meaning I can take it anywhere and shoot. And boy, have I.

(Side note: film photography is saving my butt lately. It’s the one experiment that I can mess around with when I feel like it and not feel any pressure to post recent photos. It’s no-pressure photography, and I’m really digging it.)


Change of Pace

Ann Arbor, MI

John Carey at 50 Foot Shadows, after his X-Pro broke, picked up a classic Canon 5D after a long absence.

Funny thing happened in that, I found myself inspired by the change of pace. The original 5D has such a beautiful sensor, it’s like changing film. While I miss flexibility in ISO and dynamic range the photos I get from the 5D are moody, colorful, contrasty, they really have a life of their own, in fact, as some of you already know, the camera defined my style 10+ years ago when I started to shoot with it.

Carey took a look back to when he first put down his 5D. His feeling then matches my own now: “This is a still photo camera. There is no shame in that.”

No shame, indeed. In fact, I see it as a point of pride. When you want to take pictures, you pick up a picture-taking machine.


New Camera Strap

Gordy Camera Strap

Maybe it’s waking up out of winter, or maybe it’s just a little more sunshine affecting my brain – but I recently splurged on some photography gear.

This year, to kick off my project, I treated myself to a new camera strap from Gordy’s. It’s not going to make my photos better, and it’s not one of those $100 artisan leather products that get all the reviews. It’s a simple leather strap that holds my Canonet around my neck. And it’s dark brown, with red and burgundy accents.

It’s half fashion, half pragmatism. My old strap was a simple nylon affair, thin and unassuming. It did the job, sure, but not well, and it wouldn’t win any beauty contests. With this new leather strap, at least I feel like human beings made it with attention and care.

I also have this thing where all my camera straps need to be brown. Whatever.

Gordy’s does this nice thing where they feature photographers’ cameras on their photo gallery. A nice way to show off gear, and their product. They have a great Instagram account, too.


One Afternoon, One Roll of Film

Time to break out the Canonet.

After thinking about my favorite type of camera – small, single lens, 35-45mm range – I loaded a roll of Agfa Vista 400 and hit the streets for a just-starting-to-feel-like-spring afternoon in Ann Arbor.

From loading to dropping film off at the camera store took less than an hour. I had 24-ish chances to capture something walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood. And I had 40mm to express what I saw, with a rangefinder focusing mechanism to express it.

I also had a serious limitation: the bright, sunny afternoon was killer when the Canonet’s highest shutter speed was 1/500. That, combined with a 400 ISO film speed, meant having to pull the ISO down a bit, or else the camera refused to take a photo. Chalk it up to one big learning experience.

The point is, I took the Canonet for a spin, and blew through a 24 exposure roll of film. That old saying about potato chips, that you can’t eat just one? Same rule applied to that roll of Agfa Vista. It was easy to just keep visually snacking.


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.”