That's it...I've committed myself to dumping my EOS system, cuz I gave Stephen my credit card number. Simple.
Now don't get me wrong, I too am one of the roaming hoards of B&W idjits, yes, I was in "Night of The Living Tri-X Heads". Yes, I've had 10,000 feet of 2450ASA gun camera film in my refrigerator, and told the GF to get lost and put her pizza in the neighbor's fridge.
...but if you're gonna do color...could it at least not look like "Its A Wonderful Colorized Life"??? If Digital is so darned convenient, why do I feel like I work in a lab again when I shoot Digital? I didn't like twisting knobs (arbitrarily) and I don't like it now.
I am not a Photoshopographer.
Toward that end, a while ago I started looking at the Bessa system.
I told Stephen a part of this story, and he encouraged me to write about it. Here we go. First, let me give you some background about why I'm so excited and why this is so full circle!
I'm from Hollywood CA, and I'm 40. That means I grew up in the Silver Age of Hollywood, the post-studio-system "Mom there's a dead Hippy on the lawn again!"
era to the
nose-candy-Dorothy-Stratton-STAR-80 era. It was no big deal to see three short guys with DA's walk out of the auxillary A&M studio across the street from my High School (Hollywood) on Orange and Sunset and then go, "Oh, that's the Stray Cats", and get back to your spelling test, or to see Ray Manzarek walking around. Little Richard at Arturo's on Fountain buying a LOT of flowers, I mean, like ten dozen at a whack. Tom Selleck at Trader Joe's....etc.
In the late 60's my Dad worked at one of the most famous gun shops in the world, The Brass Rail. Later, Dad worked at Racecrafters, the world's biggest catalog of custom cycle parts, performance and style, for (dig it) 110+ brands of motorcycles.
During this time, many of my Mom/Dad's friends are photogs. You can imagine, there were many Contax/Leica/Nikon RF exposures made of us boys, often in Family Candid type situations (more later).
In that time, my Dad came across a lot of weird trade items. Lugers, Minox, Leica, Rolex, Solothurns, Boys' Rifles, grenades, Soligar, Nikon SP, Honeywell (Strobonar!), brackets, film, projectors, AK47's, editor stations, super-8 cameras, alllll kinds of stuff. He always took the gear as a substitute for money, so, it wasn't play time stuff...but, he did give me this HUGE SLR!
I started on Argus SLR, with just the 50 and the 80, Tri-X, and no flash. You know the one, it weighed about 30lbs (seemingly), and had a detachable light meter that sat on top of the pentaprism, and took over the exposure dial? Carry strap made of the same wire used in garrottes. Huge. Heavy. Took a class in Gifted Summer School, 5th grade, summer of 77. Mr. King, WW2 Vet of the Jungles of the Pacific, strict "Use Your Eyes!" guy, who randomly screamed at us, "SNIPER!" and we had to freeze. Old school, full darkroom skills.
At age 16, found some photos while rolling horseplaying with "Cathy" when my elbow goes through the sheetrock. Its nudes and model shots of Clark Gable, when he was young! Sold them for enough to get a Canon FD, and a 55 1.2! Yeah baby!
After I got to the making money thing at 18, in '84, I worked my way into the Canon FD system, two old F1's, one F1N, AE-finders, 55 1.2 ASC, 50 1.4's, 28 ASPH, data backs, F100 back, full bulk loading setup at home.
Shot a lot of music and street happenings...with some 183 flash. Never owned a true wide, never had a zoom or a tele. Just interested in people, mostly in dark and smokey places. 2.8 is not "Fast". Insane. LA, 80's, Gangs-n-Cops, the whole "Colors" bit. "Low Intensity Warfare".
SO, all that good gear gets stolen in '90, and I am bummed. In '91, I take a 9 month motorcycle-rough-camping trip all through the US, and Mexico.
Right after I get back, my Mom's house, where I stored over 100k frames of negs and some chromes and 8mm film while travelling, blows up and burns down. La Brea Tar Pit Gas. It cost me 30K$ to have someone figure that out. Damned heater was croisant shaped after the explosion, but, still worked at 5 BAR! No liability, no insurance (they rented), no check.
No film, no reel-2-reel recordings, no records, no chromes, no negs, no prints.
Great. I am bummed. I am titanically bummed.
I leave photography.
I haul around a video-8 Sony handcam for a while, swearing off of developing costs (key point later).
By the mid 90's, I get a little canon powershot 350*, a little square Klondike bar of a camera. I still have it. This camera starts to get me to chill out a bit. Takes crappy postcard colored pics, but its convenient. Takes AA's.
I make it big [enough] in software, CTO, then CEO a couple times, recycled my royalty/cash-out dollars through the company-to-new-company thing in the late 90's, then my company got bought by...tada, Lucent Technologies.
I'd tell you what I think of them, but, I have an agreement I signed that says I can't.
I guess at least I have proof I'm not superficial/materialistic. I was almost totally broke, but, not titanically bummed.
<Phew> I give up on the Cali thing. Off to Oklahoma.
I notice that Oklahoma has a lot of music, lots of serious musicians are from here...Reba, Cantrell from Alice in Chains, etc. I Start getting into the local Metal/Alternative scene. Nobody can shoot a pic to save their lives. Strangely, I take the AF plunge...and buy a Canon D2000**. This is the granddaddy of all digital SLR's, 1st camera with a preview LCD, 1st with removable storage that was not a SCSI hard-drive (like N2000). Its EOS-1N based, 5 AF, 3 FPS, sturdy, heavy.
It was originally 15k$, and was 550$ for me on Ebay. Wild.
I start to go through the lens merry-go-round. 28-105, trade for 28-135 IS, convenient but bogus...135 2.0L, WOW! 50 1.4 (not anything like the old FD ones), 85 1.8 (nice), Sigma 20 1.8 EX (decent, but, 1.6 crop factor...oh well). I upgrade to a really clean 1D mark 1.
Meanwhile, I start to go through the Noise merry-go-round, Noise Ninja, blue channel adjustment. Fun! "Workflow" used to mean "drop the film off at the lab on my account or the paper's" and call the girlfriend. Now I'm a full-time pixel pusher, a tint-tweaker, and I hate it. I really learn to hate Photoshop, esp that even though I am rootin' tootin' for-real serious computer programmer and techie, learning PS at the CS2 stage with alllll those years of progressive feature build-up, wow, what a drag, and what a pig! Aperture makes it better
but not good. I use a powerbook 17 with 2gig, and Aperture grinds it into dust. Dusty dust. Pathetic. I never get a work flow that really flows. Gotta go out of Aperture to do adjustments, gotta go back to deal with EXIF and sorting...boring.
Also, I start selling services again. I rent many lenses, 80-200L (nice!), 70-200L IS (fairly nice), 300L, 400L, etc. I buy the 28-300L IS. I now have a camera/lens combo that weighs more than a AR-15 with a full mag and a scope. I shoot news, music, some still-life product. The results are ohhhhh-kayyyy, but, wow, that black camera with the ittttty bittttty prism housing, is REALLY hard to focus manually!!! Put a right-angle finder on it, and wow, you're bumming! Its DARK! DIM! POORLY LIT! It especially punishes me doing some product shooting*** My eyes are 20/15 and 20/20...for now, and, its just muddy dark!
I complain, people invite me to check out other cameras...Hmm, seems pretty dark. Its like saying, "your dark isn't as good as my dark!"
2006, I am in a pawn shop in Dallas, see an old style dinged-up F1, with the 50 1.4. I ask to see it. My head falls off! Its painfully bright! I go buy a roll of Kodak BW400CN, and shoot it in the store. I get it developed, and, ITS AMAZING!
I move my Mom/Dad to Oklahoma. My Mom gets some photos from friends, family, and even my X-GF's, and one of them is a pic of me, 10mos, with a family dog. Its black-and-white, and really, really clear.
The back has the date on it, and, "Tri-X, Summicron 50". Wow!
I read tons of things about rangefinders, but still a system type I have no real "live with it" experience with. I am cautious, I am suspicious that this is the latest "trend", and having watched the whole "let's put CZ and Leica SLR lenses on Canon EOS bodies" baloney on Fred Miranda, and having read Stephen's pages on cheap RF's, I decide to find a clean QL17.
I find "hink2u", an ebay seller that converts/cleans/adjusts QL17's, puts new light seals in them, times them, and makes sure the meter works with modern non-mercury batteries. Even gives a warranty! I spend about 130$ on a realllly clean QL17, flash, strap, and cool vinyl flash case that goes on the strap. I am Jimmy Olsen! Its an all metal machine!
Fun! Astounding! Clear shots, almost all the time! I begrudingly use the BW400Cn stuff, as it has a magenta tint to it and surely is not "real" B&W film, but, hell, it works and processes C-41.
When using the QL17, people don't go "SPROING" like when I whip the HUGE 1D body with the HUGE 28-300L IS (WHITE WHITE WHITE!), the people stay natural. I get repeated comments of "its so cool you use that old little camera".
I begin to be suspect of the All-amazing All-powerful SLR.
2005...A guy I know gets all his Canon black-camera stuff stolen. He's an AP guy, he has layered insurance, but, they start niggling about bits and pieces, odds and ends. He has no time, and, chronically has no money...and he has an assignment to go down to New Orleans and cover Katrina NOW.
He buys 4 Canon S3 IS's, and two EWA-Marine bags (with the glove...) for them, and a pile of cards. His strategy, have cheap, stealable cameras, that run on AA's, that float in slime/hazmat/poop and are washable. Hint: no, your super-duper SLR's seals will not hold up to slime-water that has petroleum products in it. The o-rings will dissolve, the cameras and lenses especially (thinnest rings) will flood. No, you cannot HAZMAT decontaminate your super SLR. Yes, there are 1DZZZ bodies that get thrown away. Yes, the petro stuff will make the fake leather parts come off, and, no, they won't repair it. I discover that 1D bodies are sometimes so expensive to fix, they often don't get fixed. The minimum repair cost on the D2000 is 3000$!!!
Back to Katrina...This PJ has S3's sent to him, 6 in all, as 4 of them get stolen (at gunpoint), broken, or lent. He uses almost 50 memory cards, as he just sends the cards FedEx, and they send him stuff back in care packages with everything including the blank cards.
Also, his decision is also based on the fact that the video-cam guys keep getting video-type-scoops on him. Did you know that the S3/S5 IS's have a dedicated movie button next to the still button, and you can take stills and movies interchangeably in any mode? Hmm! Have you seen what stacked 250D and 500D diopters look on the "puny consumerzoom" 12x zoom lens looks like? Better than some dedicated macro lenses, no kidding****.
Bearing all this in mind, something starts to gel in my head.
Back to 2006, and I see the DA contest for the R3 + 40...hmm...there is a LOT of street photography going on still...huh...I look harder at the Bessa system. I buy that QL17 to see if I can "See" the RF way.
Its been 10 mos now that I've had the QL17, and the only thing I truly hate about it is that when you put in manual mode the meter turns off....well, and the "dummy safety shutter release" that will literally block the shutter release if the camera can't see the picture turning out right (under-exp'd)...., and, I realize something profound, and simple.
I really take pictures of persons, places and things. Those needs are not the same.
- Persons...small, light, inconspicuous, News means speed, but, JPEGs are just fine. All else looks better on film.
- Places...gosh, it would be nice to have an actual wide. How about some image quality shooting with tripod? (and let's have that tripod be TINY!!!)
- Things: I can hit this with a digicam, saaaaaame as everyone else, as long as it has a true manual mode, and manual focus. Use the RRS macro rail...use the nice big screen for live preview. Save the back, save the neck, save the eyesight, peering into the dim angle finder attached to the dim viewfinder.
Hmm!!! Sounds like I need a RF, with a fast normal, and a wide, both with signature and high IQ, and either a small SLR (K10D?) with a small lens or two (pancakes) and a product-capable macro zoom, or a digicam with super-zoom with macro mode ..hmm...S5 IS or two? One of those EWA bags (works on the R cameras as well!)
So, I've got that used R3M and the 40 1.4 SC and that 21 P coming...I'm jazzed!
No more Aperture if I don't want to, no more PS AT ALL. If its a news item, shoot it with the S5, and just send it to the paper/wire as-effin-as-is. If its people, "JUST SHOOT IT, ITS A CAMERA NOT A SNIPER RIFLE!" like Mr. King used to SCREAM. If its art, then spot meter it with the same cheap ol' Pentax spot meter they STILL make, and shoot it. OH yeah, gosh, 7 f-stops of latitude? No problem. 6-20MP? Wow, that film stuff sounds pretty good. Brandy-new 6400DPI Epson scanner for 250$ that can handle 6x12cm? Awesome. No batteries the size of instamatics that last 1hr of shooting? Charger the size of a decent camera? Backpack the size of a spacesuit pack with 45lbs of stuff in it? (Crumpler Karachi Outpost...nicely made and HUGE)....tripod with BH-55 HEAVY ball head that overall looks like a LAWS rocket?
We find out next week if I can beat my all-RAW-all-manual- all-photoshop-to-take-out- the-blue-backgrounds product stuff I did (my 1st ever, had to do it 3x to get it to that level.... We'll see this weekend if the R3 is the people cam I want it to be (Choctaw Labor Day Festival*****)
I have a funny feeling it'll turn out right.
I have a funny feeling its really the photographer.
I have a funny feeling that all I really care about are lenses.
I have a funny feeling that I don't care about line charts anymore at all.
There is some quote in a 1966 era photography magazine that I read years ago, about how "young men are more comfortable with parameters, numbers, scoring, and bench-racing than talking about creative attributes, and hence are drawn more to specifications, frames-per-second, lines-of-resolution, than they would be to 'beauty' and 'quality' and 'image'".
Does anyone know the exact quote? I heard it in the late 70's, and, boy-oh-boy, it sure applies now more than ever.
"USE YOUR EYES!" -- Mr. King
Thanks for reading and thanks for being an interesting community!
* 350: http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/c...l/f_index.html
** D2000: http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/c...l/f_index.html