Taking something like low-end photography (much like low-end computing) seriously involves using classic gear to get your artistic goals accomplished.
The “classic” part is the key. It’s not enough to use any old retro digital camera. It still has to work well and produce good files.
That’s why I ended up grabbing a Canon 5D (mark I, natch) a few months ago off of fredmiranda.com. Many would agree that it’s a classic camera: sturdy, innovative at release, and capable of producing beautiful photos.
It’s also my first foray into the world of full-frame digital photography. My Canon Rebel T1i has done me well these past four years, but I’m prepping myself for a Canon 6D purchase this summer. Before I take that plunge, I wanted to test out a full frame camera, so I went shopping for a 5D.
It has not disappointed. It’s built like a tank, it produces sharp, beautiful photo files, and it’s not that much bigger or heavier than my T1i. And the reach! Those EF lenses are at their best when they showcase their maximum focal length.
What doesn’t it do? It doesn’t do movies. Or HDR (thank goodness). Or double exposures. Or even Auto ISO. The Canon 5D is closer to a photographer’s camera – purely focused on photography – that just about anything released these days. All you can do is make photos with it.
Grab a CF card (still available) and a card reader, and Lightroom has access to everything the 5D produces. In that way, it’s as relevant today as it was when it was released almost a decade ago.
No, the ISO isn’t as bump-able as today’s Mark III version. And the file size is smaller. But I share my photos mainly online, with a few 8×10″ prints here and there, and for those reasons the classic 5D is good enough. And I’m not alone – some of my favorite photographers working today still use the 5D (with one lens!).
I also saved a bunch of money on a full-frame camera.
Eventually the thing will wear out. The 100k shutter lifespan is quickly approaching. Even when it does die, I imagine I’ll have taken lots of photos with it. It will serve me well in, what, a few years? Maybe more?
It’s a low-end approach to photography: buy a classic camera that’s in good shape, save some money, and enjoy the benefits of Good Enough.