Monday, July 18, 2011

The Retro-Virus

I must have a bug. Hi, welcome to my first official soul bearing rant here on P-C.

Lately, I've been of the mindset that most newer digital cameras aren't impressing me as much as camera's I've used in the past, nor are they as much fun to use or that they give me the same sense of satisfaction. Am I alone here? That's a tricky question because if you spent your hard earned money on something new and great, the last thing you want to think about is a nagging voice inside telling you that you like the camera you had before much more.

Well, that voice has been loud in my head lately.

Recently I've acquired a couple digital cameras that I used to use early on in my digital photography "career", the Sony V3 and Sony R1- both of which I bought and sold a couple of times. Why get them again, and why am I posting something about this here on my blog?

First answer is that they are not only sentimental tools of my past, they are exceptionally good tools even today. An even better answer is that I really enjoyed using them, quirks and shortcomings and all. Secondly, I wanted to share my thoughts with readers because I don't think I'm alone here and I do think the digital camera market has kinda suffered a sort of massive orgy of  the same ol' in a different suit kind. If you've never heard of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you'll never get that reference, btw. Moving on-

Today's digital camera market reminds me much of the personal computer boom, back when megahertz and ram were the popular talk and bragging rights among PC owners. At some point though, the increases in megahertz and ram memory began to become a near yawning news item. This is because computers basically plateaued in speed and performance. Sure, you could eek out a bit faster system than the next guy, but you had to spend a LOT of money to do so.

This is an interesting comparison I know, and I might have lost you. I tend to use crazy metaphors to explain events in life, and luckily I have a few good friends and a wife that get what I'm after. Hopefully you too will understand where I'm going with all this nonsense.

That said, back to digital cameras. Yes, digital cameras have changed a lot on the last 10 years, a decade of model after model, improvements in megapixels, shooting speed, noise/grain, and fancy schmancy digital filter modes and gimmickry. To be fair, some camera models have taken giant leaps forward, so when I generalize please know that I don't have my head stuck in the sand either.

I guess part of me is a bit tired of all the hype with little real practical payoff in real life circumstances. In essence I'm getting less and less impressed with "new" camera announcements. And I wonder why I was so fixated on all that anyways in the first place. A paradigm shift has occurred in my life and I realized one day that what I was missing is what I already had- cameras I truly enjoyed. Yet like many, I decided that I'd chase the elusive tail of the impossible "perfect camera" instead of shooting and enjoying the cameras I already had.

As such, I guess you could say I got caught in a marketing bear trap, and I recently had to gnaw off my leg in order to escape it. There I go with the metaphors again.

Now to the crux of this memo. I've come to realize looking back on my photography work over the last 6-7 years that many of the images I like the most were shot with cameras long sold for "better" ones. In essence, you could say that I was doing fine, it wasn't broke, so why fix it? Well I already painfully admitted why, no need to rehash it, looking back now I could say I made some stupid decisions.

So here I am, selling a bunch of stuff on Ebay over the next few weeks, keeping a couple of cameras I know myself and my wife will enjoy, and replacing others with cameras I've used that have so many fond memories, both in use and images produced from them that I know I'll enjoy using again and hopefully, produce some good work with.

I've arrived at a bit of a Y in my photographic quest right now in my life, and to my surprise, I'm choosing the trail lead that says "photographs" instead of "gear". Yes the gear is the means to the end, yes I enjoy using it, and yes I look fondly at the cameras I want to keep or replace. But in the end, I really have lost my lust for the new and wonderful tech. What I have, what I've used, is plenty up to the task for what I personally need from photographic tools and the kicker is that I really enjoy using them.

I'm no longer interested in trying to impress others with my latest buy or keep up with the tech Jones's. If your first thought is "that was stupid, why did you do that in the first place?" have some compassion. I'm being honest, and open. I've learned my lesson, and I wonder how many won't. I hope they all will.

I'm enjoying photography again, my way, with cameras I like to use that aren't the popular ones in the online forums, per se. Some are classics, so occasionally I'll chat with another fellow who "understands" and that's truly wonderful, however, the important thing to recount here is that I am happy. A camera should be a means to an end, not an end of all means. Duh, I knew that (palm to forehead).

My final thought is that I hope others do get the retro virus, this is a bug worth having sleepless nights over.

Thanks for listening,


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  1. At the end of the day; it's all about being as happy as possible. If you arrive at that point using more "vintage" tools, that's awesome, to each his own as they say. I am more delighted to see that the passion is there, and that you are expressing what I am sure many of us feel, not necessarily the gear for gear perspective, but the innate joy of the capturing experience regardless of the tool. I am currently in a bit of rut; feeling uninspired, and not shooting a whole lot, and I don't think for a second that it is gear related. A "new new" or "new old" camera would not fix this I think... The issue is deeper; but will hopefully work itself out over time.

    As usual; you are very good at translating your thoughts, impressions, and feelings on photography into some entertaining and thought provoking reading...

    Keep up the good work :)

  2. I would agree it is about the passion of photography rather than the newest gear... Been guilty myself looking at photographs... I could still enjoy the Minolta 5Dor Minolta A1 as a great tool today as well.

  3. Amen Brother! I read you loud and clear...In the past year, I have taken a bit of a hiatus from serious photography, while I am personally building a new kitchen for my wife. I worked from a home based studio for 22 years, and used Minolta Maxxum 9's and Mamiya RB67 cameras for my portrait and weddings. I have been watching the "progress" of SONY since they took over the Minolta brand, and for the most part I am not terribly impressed. Last week, I loaded some old film that I had in a little refrigerator into my Maxxum 9 and XE7 bodies. I had a blast! When I took the film for developing, the negs were fantastic. I found that I approach photography in a more serious fashion when shooting film as compared to digital. Film still has a loveliness that digital can't match. For what ever reason, I feel like I am just shooting junk when I use my digital cameras. I am using the KM 7D and a Fuji FinePix S20Pro. Both are 6 MP bodies, and do a decent pretty decent job for what they are. As soon as I finish the kitchen in our retirement home, I will be building another darkroom as my wife told me not long ago that I haven't taken any decent photos since I started shooting digitally. So, I am with you on this score. I can't wait to process my next roll of 220 Fuji Acros or Plus X. I need to feel the "BUZZ" again eh?

  4. Good post Carl. Kinda agree with you about all the endless updates kinda being overkill now. I'm still shooting a D3 and that is now a really old (in digital terms) camera. But, it still produces the goods, allowing me to complete my work. Added to which I know it like the back of my hand which is something you alluded to.

    Sure I could get the "latest, greatest" camera, but would I have to re-learn everything again - potentially getting in the way of taking images and doing my job?

    Anyway glad to see you're still enjoying your photography, and as Ed says, the joy of capturing the image, regardless of tool.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Good to see you Andrew :) glad to share, and glad to "see" you.


  6. But one would perk his ears if Sony had some secret lab exposed and the blue prints all detailed the coming of an R2