All I Want is the Perfect Camera!
The title of this blog is from a song from one of my favorite YouTube vloggers, Kasey Stern of Camera Conspiracies. Check him out at the links below. He is sometimes a bit over the top with his use of "French", but his dry humor and wit keeps me coming back to his vlogs!
How many have thought about what would be the perfect camera? For me it was something that I could use to print a sharp, and beautiful, 20”x24” photograph. That was my criteria back when the camera was just a tool. Your main aim was a negative that you could work with. Today's cameras can do much more than create a digital negative, they can create a finished image that needs very little post processing, or darkroom work. I think the laziness of modern photographers has crippled many of their creativity. I just read a review about the new Luminar 4 software with Augmented AI, image replacement and addition features. Now everyone can become a Jerry Uelsmann (https://www.uelsmann.net/works.php) with a few clicks of the mouse. The next AI feature will be the “Great Photographer AI” mode on your digital camera, where you select the AA (Ansel Adams) mode and look through your live view till your camera locks on to an Ansel Adam’s composition! Since most cameras can connect to Wi-Fi you will be able to type in a famous photographer’s name, the camera will search the internet for images and compose your frame accordingly.
The beauty of Kodak Tri-X Pan film! I haven't found a software filter yet that really duplicates the Tri-X grain. Late-1980s with a Minolta XG-9 and the Minolta 85mm 1.7 lens.
Back to perfect cameras. I thought I had the perfect camera back in the 1970s! It was a Hasselblad 500C (I had two bodies), four manual film magazines and two, single coated 80mm f2.8 Zeiss Planars and a Zeiss 50mm T* Distagon. I shot landscapes, industrial, weddings and portraits professionally for years with that setup, only later adding a, 150mm, 350mm and prism. I also replaced one of the chrome single-coated 80mm planars with a black 80mm Zeiss T*. The photo below was taken in the early 80s with a Hasselblad 500C, 80mm Chrome non T* lens and the film was Agfapan 25. This was on a 40 mile backpack trip in the Sierra Nevadas. So besides my living essentials carried on my back for a week I also had 20lbs. of camera gear! Then, for some reason, I convinced myself I needed to replace my 500C bodies with a 500CM bodies and the manual film magazines to the automatic A12 magazines. As much as I liked the automatic film backs, I eventually sold them all and replaced them with the older manual backs. My main reason for that was that the old manual backs took 120 or 220 film. You just had to reset the film counter after the twelfth exposure. I chose Hasselblad for my medium format gear because of their dedication to “non-obsolescence”. From 1959 on, all the lenses and other components were interchangeable. Even today, you can buy a Hasselblad digital magazine designed to work with your 1959 500C body and lenses!
As you guessed, the new camera bodies did not improve my photography.
The photo below was taken with the Olympus C2500L, 2.5mm digital point and shoot. This was at Marstrand Castle in Sweden. The next day I visited Hasselblad in Gothenburg, Sweden and talked with an R&D engineer about digital magazines.
When it came to digital, the number one reason for buying a newer digital camera was more megapixels. I was happy with my Olympus C-2000 2.1Mp camera, even happier with the C2500L, and then the E-10, with a whopping 4Mp! Next was the E-1 (5.1Mp), followed by the E-3 (10.1Mp) and, after going crazy one day (which resulted in selling my entire Hasselblad outfit, my 35mm Minolta gear and my beloved Peter Gowland 4”x5” Pocket View to a camera dealer for $2,300 cash) I drove down to Chicago and bought the new Olympus E-5 with 12Mp. But wait, there’s more! The E-M5 came out, then the E-M1 and now I have the E-M1 Mark II.
When I look back at the images I created in my film days, I can honestly say that my compositions and exposures were never improved with a newer camera. Though the newer cameras did make it easier to get the image (and I don’t think I could live without autofocus) my photographs are still a product of composition and exposure.
The picture below is taken with a 5.1Mp Olympus E-1. It is in Southern California and called Cow Beach.
My newer cameras have helped me get the general exposure right, and in focus, but we still need to learn why a certain aperture or shutter speed is important. I think the best way to improve a photographer’s images would be a basic class on composition. Work on exposure and composition before buying a new camera and you may just save yourself a lot of money. At the least, put the camera purchase off for a few months and buy the new model used on eBay.
Below is a photograph taken in Tuolumne Meadows (in Yosemite National Park) and the camera I used was the 16Mp E-M5 Mark I and the 75-300mm Mark I zoom lens. This is Tenaya Lake.
Guess what came out two weeks ago? The Olympus E-M1 Mark III! The newer camera has the same megapixel count as the Mark II but with lots of features I would like. Will the new Mark III improve the images I took back in the 70s with my old Hasselblad? No. Will it make my photography a little less incumbering or easier to accomplish? Yes, and for that reason I would like the new camera.
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