Why do we fall for certain cameras?
“The camera does not mater, it’s the photographer!”
“The camera is just a box with a lens!”
We all heard this, we all nodded wisely and went on arguing about one camera’s merits versus another. But why do we chose one specific camera over others. Where is the trigger that makes us shell out for a Leica, a Nikon, a Sony or another Fuji? For a fixed lens, an SLR….?
I think there are two levels of choice when you try to find the camera that’s right for you.
The first level is easy, it’s natural. It’s the choice of the right kind of tool. Just as the watchmaker won’t use a mechanic’s wrench or a stonemason won’t even think of using a cobbler’s hammer. Instead they use tools designed for their specific trade. Just as there’s cameras designed for landscape photography, for street photography etc.
This is not to say that in a pinch you won’t be able to use cameras for jobs they were not designed for, but it will be easier. The Mountaineer will hardly lug around a large format camera with a solid wooden tripod.
The second level of choice is where it starts to be interesting. It’s personal preference. This is a totally irrational choice, based on everyone’s intimate relation to his camera. You have to relate to your tool to be able to bring out the best (or worst) of your vision. If you don’t like your camera you will not be able to use it fully, to exploit it’s possibilities. And I’m not talking about all the technical knickknacks of the latest digital wondertoy. Even the most basic camera, or especially those, need to be understood in their abilities and limitations to serve as a photographer’s tool.
Agreed, for digital cameras there’s the fact that you might prefer a certain look of a certain sensor (Ironically you just have to change your roll of film in real cameras to get a different look, not the whole contraption).
Now basically, every camera that fits the first criteria of choice will do the job, and this is where it goes really under the skin. You take upo the camera and there’s a bond forming between you and the tool. Your hand fits it perfectly, your fingers fall precisely on the levers and switches (and those million buttons). You operate the camera without having to check what your fingers just did to the settings.
There a direct link from your vision to the index finger that presses the shutter. The rest is full auto mode – not on the camera but in your brain.
If you achieve this, you know that you use the right camera. Of course there’s a bit of learning involved, but you’ll get to this eventually.
For me the cameras that I operate intuitively (though there’s not much to operate, granted) are the Olympus XA2 and the Lomo LC-A+.
Extensions of my eyes….
My Canon A-1 s more of a mixed bag. I like it, love it’s looks, but my index finger keeps hunting for the tiny control wheel below the shutter…. I don’t really like the multiple auto and manual modes and the choices involved – too reminiscent of digital cameras.
So the A-1 might eventually go away. I’ll have to take a decision on that one soon. If only it wasn’t so damn beautiful….
What will replace it? I just know that I need a camera with more control than my small friends. I had a Leica CL that clicked with me 2 years ago – I might go that way again though I’ll be opening a mighty can of worms there. Say CL and I say M2, M3 M4…. and the lenses are gorgeous…. that might get costly. But it fits perfectly my first choice and the second one…..
To be continued.