It could be stolen, or it could be lost. But it’s gone. The camera, and a roll of film with 20-ish exposures from my 365 project.
What a bummer.
That means most of September is missing. Maybe a bit of late August. Lots of sunrises and foggy mornings – those magical times when photography is so fun this time of year. The light changing, the leaves falling, the hot days and cool evenings.
It could be that I left my little rangefinder in my front seat, and then left the car unlocked overnight, a prime opportunity for a wayward thief. Or it could be that me, the absent-minded photographer, left the camera sitting somewhere out of sight, waiting to be discovered again.
The point is that I can’t leave the 365 half finished. No, I’ll load a roll of Lomo into my Olympus and keep going, and try not to pine for those lost photos from earlier this month.
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.
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.”
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.
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.