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How do you deal with minimal gear? Serious question.
Old 09-24-2019   #1
Archiver
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How do you deal with minimal gear? Serious question.

There's a comment on an Ian Wong Digital Darkroom YouTube video which says something like, 'My only camera is my Contax T2. I just buy film and record all the best times of my life'.

There are times when I wish for this kind of simplicity, but I have self-imposed desires for my personal photography which include wide landscape, low light, tele action shooting, and these need multiple cameras or at least lenses to achieve.


Does anyone here have just one or two primary cameras, and if so, what is it, and how do you find a path between multiple shooting environments and minimal gear?
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Old 09-24-2019   #2
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Does anyone here have just one or two primary cameras, and if so, what is it, and how do you find a path between multiple shooting environments and minimal gear?
GAS means I have way too much gear... But when I actually go shooting, I tend to take a minimalist approach. Ie. if I'm travelling I will usually carry one body, and one or two primes (usually a 28mm and a 90mm).

In the past I've done several extended backpacking trips of weeks to months with a set up like that. Eg. this trip, where I walked across Iceland with a GR and EM5 + 45mm (which I should have left at home).

When I consider the work I actually like, it's almost always from photographers who use a simple and consistent kit, which in turn lends itself to a distinctive style and storytelling narrative visible through their work. On the other hand, I rarely see work I'm inspired by that was shot with a 'catch it all' approach.

Personally, I'd happily travel the world with a 28mm. I know I'd miss photos, but that's ok. I also know the photos I did capture would be better for it.
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Old 09-24-2019   #3
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To avoid the burden of everytime choosing the right gear I have always just one camera to do my photographic excursions.
In the summertime that is a compact superzoom and in winter, when light is rare, I put an APS-C in my bag.

Works fine for me.
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Old 09-24-2019   #4
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I mostly do street photography and for a few years only traveled with an SWC. My “style” was to walk right up to the subject maybe from 4 to 6 feet away and snap. I grew tired of it because the shots look more or less the same to me after a while. I got hooked on the Rolleiflex with the 75mm Planar and it is now my primary camera. With the Rollei I compose on the GG and my photos look more structured not the random off axis look with the SWC. I sent out 100 sheets of 6x6 negs for scanning and will post the shots. Going through and editing about 600 sheets of 6x6 negs I can say the SWC shots were most successful because I was able to get close. If I must choose one camera for the rest of my life it would be the SWC.
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Old 09-24-2019   #5
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4C1EAC6F-7708-4C3A-9B85-45B7D2BF42A3 by ray tai, on Flickr

This is just an iPhone scan off of a light table. I am otherwise low tech. Anyway the SWC is so versatile. It can do snaps it can do scenics if you are willing to use the viewfinder.
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Old 09-24-2019   #6
Michael Markey
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Digital cameras … four .
An A7R2 for general and sports and a GR2 for the times I need a compact.
The GR2 doesn`t get much use .
Two Merrills when I want that different look.
So day to day its just the A7R2 and two lenses(40 and 135).
If I`m doing sports stuff I`ll just have one lens , a 70-200 although if the venue is small it`s back to the two lens kit . The 135 will cover stuff at the longer end.

I have five film cameras but hope to reduce those to 3 .
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Old 09-24-2019   #7
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Consumerism. And not so much else.
Then I was young and consumerism steered by made in China was not existing, one camera one lens was norm. Film SLR with kit zoom was absolutely covering all the needs for family and travel pictures. Even P&S was enough.
Then we purchased DSLR, we put SLR in the drawer and used only DSLR with kit zoom.
I was taking hundreds of photos per day.
Then I joined P.O.T.N. to ask how to questions.
And then... all of those endless talks about FF. I need zoom for BIF, wide is so cool and so on.
Then filmsteria came. I took my family FED-2 again, these lead me to rangefinder forums.
But all of these talks about MF, LF. I went on buying, fixing, testing, trying spree.
And if you use FED, your next step is Bessa, but it is nothing but gate to Leicaphrenia.
Now I’m LUF and thinking which non M compact to buy. All Leica compacts are crap, but sexy.
Nothing, but G.A.S. My zooms are not in use, I go less on events, I read more Wongs and such...
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Old 09-24-2019   #8
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When you think of it, most people own just one camera, which is their smartphone. Until recently, they only came with one focal length, and digital zoom. Now they have up to three lenses and all manner of computational magic to make them more versatile. And that's the thing, phone manufacturers understand that many people want a bit more than just one focal length. If only phone came with built in photography lessons, we wouldn't be swamped with awful vertical composition, but anyway.

My main cameras are the Leica M9 and a pocket cam like the Panasonic LX10 or Sony RX0. In fact, I've tried stripping things down by only taking the RX0 with me for everyday stuff, which almost gives me 'missed shot anxiety'. But it's manageable. In theory, the LX10 is the most versatile because of the wide angle zoom and stabilized video, but the RX0 is just more pocketable and fun.
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Old 09-24-2019   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archiver View Post

Does anyone here have just one or two primary cameras, and if so, what is it, and how do you find a path between multiple shooting environments and minimal gear?
There is no path between multiple shooting environments and one or two cameras.

Owning only one camera can be very liberating, no more worrying about “what camera to take”, but one of the other things you get liberated from is the various possible “looks”, ways to render a scene, you won’t ever able to achieve. No matter which way you go, you will be giving up something to get something else. It’s always going to be a simple armamentarium versus a flexible one.

Sad to say. It’s a legitimate choice, but it’s still a choice. Convenience and simplicity has its own cost.

People who have chosen to have a photographic “style” and stick to it, can definitely get by with one camera, and even one lens. Think William Wegman and his Weimereiners. Or, frankly, HCB. An APS-c body is never going to render a scene in the same way a 4x5 camera will because it can’t, and that isn’t primarily a matter of crop shape or resolution.

I used only one body and a 50 for years, and was perfectly happy but it’s really limiting. I do think of going back, though, for the carefree nature of that, but know it will never happen.
Current compromise is to choose one camera and one or two lenses from the arsenal when I go out, as others have mentioned, depending on the task. But, this isn’t really simplifying my life, just a small nod in that direction.

And, it’s not consumerism, it’s legal polygamy.
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Old 09-24-2019   #10
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As an amateur, if I can't do it with one camera and one lens, then I'm just playing with gear. Playing with gear is a great hobby, but it isn't photography.
So I waffle between the two hobbies.
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Old 09-24-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archiver View Post
Does anyone here have just one or two primary cameras, and if so, what is it, and how do you find a path between multiple shooting environments and minimal gear?
I don't think you can. And why would you want to? Choose the right gear for the job.

I have been shooting for 30 years and know what I want to shoot and know what gear I need to help me get it. But this is me.
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Old 09-24-2019   #12
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I generally use only a 50mm lens. I have more equipment that this but I am comfortable with a 50mm. I know what will be in my frame before I bring the camera to my eye. That said, do not let other people’s preferences dictate your choices. There is no one right way to do photography. The guy with T2 found what works for what he wants to do. You don’t want to do what he wants to do so his equipment choices won’t translate to you.
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Old 09-24-2019   #13
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My experience has been that most of what I like to shoot whither it be, landscapes, models, street or just random crap can be done with one body and one to three lenses so for me its a simple matter of choosing which lens I want to use that day. Also I don't worry about missing a shot because I don't have the right gear with me and simply concentrate on shooting what I can with the gear I have with me.
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Old 09-24-2019   #14
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I have a lot of cameras because my particular take on the photographic hobby is that I enjoy the technology and like to explore it.

When I do Photography, I tend to use a small subset of the various cameras and such that I have, those that my experimentations and explorations have proven to produce the photographs I'm interested in at the moment of doing Photography.

My "always ready, grab and go" kit changes as time goes on and different memes are presenting themselves to my Photographic aims. At present, it's a Leica CL with ultra wide, normal, and portrait-tele lenses OR a Polaroid SLR670x by MiNT and four packs of film. At one time, it was just and only a Hasselblad SWC. At other times it has been any number of other setups.

Last trip it was the iPhone 8 Plus and the Polaroid. I'm about to leave on a four day road trip: I'll make the decision as I pick up my bags to go to the car.

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Old 09-24-2019   #15
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For a serious photo trip, I may take two or three cameras each, of Leicas, Nikons, Hasselblads. Six or seven cameras, then. I avoid confusion by carrying/using no more than two at a time, for instance a film Leica and a digital one, with four or five lenses in my bag. If shooting with Nikon, then it will probably be a film Nikon and a digital one, and only two or three lenses. Zoom lenses are now good enough that I may go out with the 17-35 and the 35-70 or 28-105, and, in good light, no primes at all. With the Hasselblad, all the gear except the one camera and lens I'm using, stays in the car. (I think Edward Weston said anything worth photographing, will be within 100 yards of the car.)

Just as I bring a big bag of clothes, but only wear one shirt and one pair of pants at a time, I bring a lot of gear, but at any given time I am only using a small amount of it.
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Old 09-24-2019   #16
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When I want to travel with minimal photographic gear, I carry the following:

Canon G15 with a fixed 28-140mm equivalent f/1.8 to f/2.8 zoom lens (Note: camera in image is the older Canon G11)
Battery charger
Extra Battery
Extra memory Cards
Polarizing Filter
Pocket-size tripod (not shown in image)

If I want to travel with even less, I just carry my cell phone.


Minimal Gear by Narsuitus, on Flickr
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Old 09-24-2019   #17
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Minimal gear dictates determination and resolve.

It also implies fundamental limitations.

One can not do action photography efficiently with if one owns 1 or 2 cameras that are not effective at action photography.

The "path between multiple shooting environments and minimal gear" requires patience and compromise. Obviously having a diverse set of lenses helps. You don't have to carry all of them all the time. A high-quality tripod and head helps.

Flexible cameras are complicated to set up. A Nikon D300 with the Nikon MB-D10 battery grip and one of Nikons best AF lenses is an effective way to do action photography. Selecting the most efficient AF system parameters for action photography in the menus is complicated. That same camera with a different lens on a sturdy tripod can produce lovely landscape photos. But a camera with a much higher pixel density can produce superior large landscape prints.

Sometimes gear rental makes sense.
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Old 09-24-2019   #18
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I currently use one digital camera. I have an Instax and a Kodak VR35 in a box somewhere. I used to have a lot of film cameras because I found them very interesting in an old tech and historical kind of way. Film results in a lot of residual equipment, and requires lots of time, that lost its lustre for me. I prefer colour so digital seems the way to go. I'm not really a photographer; no sports, portraits, or wildlife. Makes things easier! Once digital got to 16MP (I may go for a 24MP one day lol) and had incredible 3200 and had decent viewfinders the game was up. You can get these from most manufacturers these days.
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Old 09-24-2019   #19
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Learning to see is one thing.

Learning to see as notable photographers saw is entirely another (and, given their diverse plurality, at some point necessitates discipline and the decisiveness of personal taste in the viewer now practicing photography based in some part on their influence).

Learning to see with cameras and lenses is still another.

I envy photographers who chose or accepted limitations (tools, mediums, formats, development protocols, subject matter, genre, etc.) for whatever reason before proceeding with Lange's 'the camera is an instrument that teaches us how to see' injunction.

In the 1/6 of my life (2009-2019) so far devoted so far to photography, I've sampled a range of gear, emulsions, focal lengths, mostly in 35mm or its digital variants. Old Kid in the candy store, Old Auditor in the photography curriculum, exploratory, research-as-adventure.

I have at this point a sincere interest in limiting the range and scope of my How to See with Cameras and Lenses. Though I (like many here, I think) was once in danger of leaving an odd miniature camera store behind when I departed, that is no longer the case. Most of my work (most of which is BW, candid/people/environmental/landscape) is done with Leica M, Sony A7, and Sigma. Three Domke bags ready to go in the mud room, one a time, no more than 2 bodies/2 lenses.

But never say never. Part ways with digital? Go all color? Do one camera/one lens in large format? I know my tendencies and habits and best practices now, but the future is is not only unwritten, it's still unseen.
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Old 09-24-2019   #20
David Hughes
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An interesting question but minimalist to me means not having a RF or SLR and only a simple small (meaning minimum weight) camera with a minimum of controls and a prime lens. During my film days that was an Olympus XA or XA2 and - later on - a Contax Tix but the death of APS film knocked the Contax on the head.

Beside them I had a Leica CL and a Pentax ME Super meaning primes for the CL and a decent zoom on the SLR. There's no way I could manage with just one camera.

Then digital came along and got better and better and so I'd say the Panasonic LX5 is my small and simple carry everywhere camera with, again, a digital RF and a diital SLR.

The LX5 is a compact with a decent zoom; the nearest I can think of in the film line is the Olympus µ-V or the Nikon or Pentax 28 - 90-ish zooms.

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Old 09-24-2019   #21
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Although I collect cameras, and so have tons of oddities and rarities - I mostly just use two cameras, both of which are pretty basic. And though I also have plenty of lenses, I pretty much just stick with 35mm and 50mm.



The less you have - the less you have to go wrong.
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Old 09-24-2019   #22
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From a plethora of cameras and lenses, I choose just one camera to use for a month or two. Typically I will then use just one or two lenses at most.

This is, for me, a happy compromise between enjoying a wide variety of equipment and concentrating on a minimal kit.
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Old 09-24-2019   #23
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I mostly use 2 kits (one slr and one rangefinder), which consist of a wide angle (from 18 to 28, depending on the kit), normal and medium tele (from 80 to 90 depending on the kit). Over the years I've learn that I'm mostly covered with that kind of kit. They are small lens and cameras so no problem to carry them.

Of course there are times when I setup to use a specific camera for the joy of it (say a 6x9 folder camera, at TLR, a Technical camera, etc.).


Normally I limit myself to what I can comfortably carry on my shoulders/neck

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Old 09-24-2019   #24
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When I travel I use a Nikon FE with a 28mm f3.5 and a 105mm f2.5 Nikkor lenses. Simple by effective kit.
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Old 09-24-2019   #25
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When I was in business, I used 90+ percent of my photography, was with my full frame Canon Mark digital camera and a 24-70 f2.8 lens. #2 most used lens is a 50:f1.4.

I do have two other Canon digital cameras, some other lenses used for portraits, were mainly around as back up, just in case. Never had to use them as my Canon full frame always worked, still does, like a champ.
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Old 09-24-2019   #26
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In the past 6 months I have used 6 of my 16 cameras. I have the other ten because I can't ever seem to throw a camera (or computer, or book, or clock, or pen, ... you get the idea) away as long as they work.

The ones I use are: Nikon D850, Leica M4-P, Lytro Illum, Polaroid 600, Bessa-L (with 15mm), and my iPhone 7. There is not a lot of overlap in what they do, so I still consider myself a minimalist.
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Old 09-24-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archiver View Post
There's a comment on an Ian Wong Digital Darkroom YouTube video which says something like, 'My only camera is my Contax T2. I just buy film and record all the best times of my life'.

There are times when I wish for this kind of simplicity, but I have self-imposed desires for my personal photography which include wide landscape, low light, tele action shooting, and these need multiple cameras or at least lenses to achieve.


Does anyone here have just one or two primary cameras, and if so, what is it, and how do you find a path between multiple shooting environments and minimal gear?
I've stopped worrying about it. Cameras are small, unlike collecting, I don't know, horses let's say. So why sweat it?

I'm working on a project now that requires square medium format images so I have equipment to make that happen. But that equipment is a pain in the ass to use and carry, so I have other smaller-than-horses cameras at the ready when I'm working on something else.
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It depends
Old 09-24-2019   #28
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It depends

I try to choose based on what I think I am going to photograph and what I can physically can carry with me. A small 35mm for a long hard hike vs. a medium format for a day in the park vs. 4x5 for a landscape shot at dusk. I try to be flexible based on the situation. Most of the time I plan correctly, but occasionally not. So what, I try to enjoy the experience anyway.
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Old 09-24-2019   #29
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Aside from my iPhone that can act as my camera in a pinch (my most minimal setup), I have a single rangefinder body with three lenses (35mm f2.0, 50mm f2.0 and 90mm f2.0). These all fit easily inside of a small satchel bag along with a few rolls of film, some lens cleaning supplies, a small travel tripod, etc.. This is all easy enough to carry around with me. In actuality I find myself using the 35mm lens the majority of the time. So I can get away with just carrying the camera body / 35mm lens combo along with me (plus an extra role of film or two).

But it should be apparent by now that minimal means different things to different people. The person who dreads lugging around all of the gear that they've assembled could probably do with less. The person who constantly wishes that they had a different lens, camera body or whatever could probably do with more. The person that just enjoys the experience of shooting photos without worrying about this sort of thing probably has it just right.
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Old 09-24-2019   #30
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Amateurs are not required to have an identifiable and marketable style like most artists and professionals do. They have more permission to try out different gear and not settle on any one thing. That’s not to say that experimentation isn’t necessary for everyone at certain times, but hobbyists don’t have the bottom line of selling work hanging over their heads making them commit to a visual and technical franchise.
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Old 09-24-2019   #31
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Thank you to everyone for the very thoughtful responses. I'll get back to this when I've finished some work.
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Old 09-24-2019   #32
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Before going out, I spend a few moments pre-visualizing the subject(s) and the images I want to create. Then I select a single camera/lens combination that feels most suited to the task.
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Old 09-24-2019   #33
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Don't know what to say. Like the concept of minimal equipment, but the execution of that concept.....ah not so easy.
Unless of course you have talent or an artistic mind.
Alas, not me.
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Old 09-24-2019   #34
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Serious question: How do you deal with minimal gear?

Serious answer (really serious!): I own lots of it.

Of course, this needs some further comments.
I really like the concept of minimalism. Especially, as I don't like to be overwhelmed by choice - that's why I typically bring one camera, with maximum two lenses (primes, mostly a 21/50mm equivalent combo). And I bring it everywhere.

On the other hand, I like to be able to use all that lovely old stuff that is easy to get these days. This also matches well with a certain collecting tendency. Result: in my drybox, there are quite a number of cameras and lenses, which I can choose from. But still I choose a minimal kit - just not the same all the time.

Currently: Pentax ME super with mounted 50mm f/1.7 + 20mm f/4 in the bag (or pocket).
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Old 09-25-2019   #35
David Hughes
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It's looking as though a lot of us have a lot of cameras for a lot of fun and a couple for serious photography.

In my case, roughly speaking, the film ones are fun and the digital are serious.

I often wish the digital ones were as simple and straight forward as the old film ones.


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Old 09-25-2019   #36
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I wrote, above, about how I cope with a large amount of gear, by using them one at a time. There is another side to me. Sometimes I go back to the way things were when I only had one camera, and only one, two, or three lenses. I bring just my Leica M2 and a 35mm Summaron, 50mm Summicron, and a 90mm, either the chrome Elmarit, or the 90 Tele-Elmarit. I carry it in a Domke f-5xb. Or else, I just take my X100, or X20. I can do a lot with just the M2 and a 35; or with just the X20.
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Old 09-25-2019   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
...
I often wish the digital ones were as simple and straight forward as the old film ones...
I thought so for a long time until I discovered that it´s me who is not as simple and straight forward
to take a digital camera and make the photo
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Old 09-25-2019   #38
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Originally Posted by Axel View Post
I thought so for a long time until I discovered that it´s me who is not as simple and straight forward
to take a digital camera and make the photo

It's all those buttons, switches and the screen that complicate them. I can grab my film cameras quickly, wind on and be focussing easily. Grab a digital camera quickly and strange things can happen, like an icon* of a fish in water blowing a bubble appearing...

All my film cameras have plain uncluttered backs and the same at the front either side of the lens. So I can hold them firmly.

Regards, David


* And searching to find the icon to discover how to turn it back in the fat little manual is also a pita.
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Old 09-25-2019   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
It's all those buttons, switches and the screen that complicate them. I can grab my film cameras quickly, wind on and be focussing easily. Grab a digital camera quickly and strange things can happen, like an icon* of a fish in water blowing a bubble appearing...

Regards, David


* And searching to find the icon to discover how to turn it back in the fat little manual is also a pita.
Now, that I haven't seen yet. Which button would that be on my D700?
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Old 09-25-2019   #40
Axel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
It's all those buttons, switches and the screen that complicate them...
You mean just as actual phones, cars and kitchens?

Serious - the better way is dealing with lock-buttons and turnable screens and
have a look at the f*m* from time to time.

Knowing my (digital) tools prevents me from GAS additionally because I don´t
want to waste my decreasing lifetime with facing "new" bells and whistles also.
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