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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Do you remember? Or care?
Old 01-12-2011   #1
Roger Hicks
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Do you remember? Or care?

If you're old enough, look at some of your favourite pics from 20, 30 or 40 years ago. If you owned more than one camera at the time, do you remember exactly which camera or lens was used for all of them? Do you care? Either they're good pictures or they're not. Does this give you any clues about how important your cameras and lenses are today, as compared with content, composition, 'eye', technique?

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R.
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Old 01-12-2011   #2
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It helps place me back to the experience of taking the picture, the frame of mind, to remember what camera and lens was used.

So, yes. I do care to remember the setup. Especially when I have the camera 40 years later. Helps connect the memories.

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Old 01-12-2011   #3
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Hi Roger

Point taken! Thanks for the reminder

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Old 01-12-2011   #4
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney View Post
It helps place me back to the experience of taking the picture, the frame of mind, to remember what camera and lens was used.

So, yes. I do care to remember the setup. Especially when I have the camera 40 years later. Helps connect the memories.
Dear Brian,

Yes, it's nice to remember. But I have pics where I genuinely can't remember, and I can't say I care.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-12-2011   #5
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The camera is easy as i only had the one back then Most were shot at 50mm or 135mm but a couldn't tell which was which now.
Guess i don't really care what equipment they were taken with more interested in the subject matter, I do have some i took in Africa that i have no memory of taking at all ... must have been the heat.
With the benefit of hindsight I think the camera really means very little and the effort put into each shot is the important thing. Does make me wonder about why I seem to own so many unused cameras and why i keep getting GAS.
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Old 01-12-2011   #6
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You know, I've thought a lot about this lately, especially after sorting through some archives from 30-40 years ago. In most cases I can remember what camera I had at the time, but haven't a clue about what lenses I was using.

At that time the camera and lens for me were very much tools rather than objects of obsession. As the cameras got fancier (Canon A-1, F1-N for me), I think they actually started getting in the way. They still do - much more so now, I find. Maybe that's why the relentless search for the perfect, intuitive digital camera, with a lens like a window wiped clean. Something that just gets out of the way...
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Old 01-12-2011   #7
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I do remember, but I don't care and it doesn't much matter. It's be easy remember just because I kept the same minimal amount of gear for many years. The only gear that matters is nearsighted and has some astigmatism and is less steady of hand than it was thirty years ago.
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Old 01-12-2011   #8
Michiel Fokkema
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Im pretty sure I know it of any of my pictures. At least the camera, most of the times also the lens. not the film though.

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Old 01-12-2011   #9
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I do, but I have a near photographic memory so I remember a lot of things in precise detail that are probably irrelevant.
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Old 01-12-2011   #10
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Deinitely remember and care very much - A Nikkormat Ftn with H-C Auto Nikkor 50mm 1:2. A graduation gift in 1971 and stolen in 1977. Insured and replaced with an F2A. I never really clicked with that camera or the dozens of lenses I went through. Eighteen years later, I bought an M6 kit with 35/2-50/2-90/2.8 and photographic life was good again. I've recently repurchased a Nikkormat. Feels great in my hands. Gear matters to me. It is part of the gestalt. I don't go out to take pictures - I go out to take pictures with the gear I've chosen for that day. Strange, maybe, but works for me. It's not the print, it's the process.
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Old 01-12-2011   #11
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I tend to but mostly because I was, until relatively recently, mostly disappointed with my work. My displeasure with the photos I took with a Canon Rebel & kit lens when we were in Vietnam for our adoption lead me to look for something better.

9 years later, I'm starting to feel like I've got half a clue.

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Re. Do I remember? Or care?
Old 01-12-2011   #12
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Re. Do I remember? Or care?

Well actually, yes, and yes! Nikon, Canon, Bronica, Speed Graphic were all put to use, but it was an Olympus OM1 that went everywhere and seemed to produce the pictures that I've been most pleased with and consistently earned more than most of the others. Small and light and with an adequate lens, mechanical and easy to use (i.e. all manual!) it sat easily in the hand and fitted easily into a pocket.
It probably took better pictures because it took more pictures than any of the others and I could operate it with scarcely a thought.
Composition and technique can be more easily refined when the tool that you are using ceases to need thought to operate and becomes an extension of the hand and creative process.
Some writers prefer to use a pen to a typewriter or word processor. Some artists a pallete knife to a brush.
So can someone tell me where I can find a digital version of an OM1?
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Old 01-12-2011   #13
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I care, but don't necessarily remember everything. This was taken 24 years ago when I was 14 years old. I spent two weeks hiking across the Sierra Nevada mountains from west to east. I don't remember what film was used, what camera was used, what the name of the lake is and whatnot. However, the image invokes a feeling of longing to be back in that wide open space with not a care in the world and no responsibilities other than setting up a tent and possibly washing the dishes. It brings up memories that may otherwise have been lost or tucked into the nethers of my head.

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Old 01-12-2011   #14
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In some cases it can be pretty simple - just about all my daily PJ work was either done with a 80-200 f/2.8 on a FE or a 35 f/2 non-AI on a F2. Given that the 35mm did not work on the FE until I had it upgraded very late in that job (when I was given the lens and F2 to keep after they issued F3's even to the part-timers), and only had a 20mm as a wider lens at that time, it is so easy to see what I used that I really cannot tell whether I would know in the absence of these strong cues...
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Old 01-12-2011   #15
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I remember without really trying. I only care when the quality of the photo is adversely affected by the poor quality of the lens.
When I started I had a Canon AE-1 with three primes that I used through college and into my first photography gigs. I decided I need AF so I "moved up" to a Nikon system with crappy zoom lenses. I didn't know that the zooms weren't as sharp as primes and since my work was mostly published in newspapers I didn't really notice the quality difference until I wanted to make some nice large prints for my portfolio.
I really smartened up after reading an interview with Steve McCurry explaining why he only used primes.
When I look at my work from those days now the older stuff from the Canon is technically better and it kind of breaks my heart to see some of the great images I took later lacking on the technical side.
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Old 01-12-2011   #16
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20, 30, 40 years ago... if I took the time to choose and learn the equipment then that contributed to the fact that I have some "good" photos today. Likewise as I choose and lean the equipment of today I anticipate some good photos tomorrow. I don't care so much what the equipment was/is, it's the choosing and learning aspects (dedication) that gets the nod.

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Old 01-12-2011   #17
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1972-75 I was in the Army in Munich, and bought a pair each of Yashica TL Electro ITS with 50/1.4 and 124 Mat Gs. I used the 124s for an in-home photo business in the American community there, and made nice money for the time with my captive audience. Shipped all my Vericolor film via the APO mail system to ViviColor labs in FL and never lost a roll. The 35s I used on countless 10 and 20K Volksmarches and gatherings with our Bundeswehr Reserve counterparts. I loved that 1.4 lens. I still have one (the camera died) and just got an M42 to C/Y adapter and put it on an FRII I found. My 124 with soon be off to Mark Hama for its first CLA. It's now worth twice what I paid for it.

I recently scanned and printed some of my B&W negs from that period, all Plux-X done in Microdol-X, 1:13 if I recall correctly. It is hard to look at images of American and German friends from that period and realize that they, like me, are retirement age, or worse--dead! All the comely blondes and brunettes who now have grand-and great-grandchildren-if they're lucky.

I used to print lots of 5x7 prints for friends, and boy do I wish I had had a hybrid system then. Adjust levels, burn, dodge, and spot then print as many as I needed by pushing the print key.
My negs have kept well and it's hard to believe those memories can be resurrected so clearly after all these years. Now I need to start making more memories with that 1.4 lens and the 124. I wonder who will care to print them in 2051 and how they will do it?
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Old 01-13-2011   #18
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When I was younger I used to remember far more about all the details of a picture, but as I get older, I remember less. Partly, no doubt, it's old age, but also, I think, it's having taken tens of thousands more pictures and realizing that the picture is the thing. Of course, for 20 years or more I've had all kinds of review cameras and lenses, but even 30-35 years ago I had screw and bayonet Leicas, Nikon Fs, Nikkormats and a Pentax SV in 35mm alone. If you have only one camera, or only one or two lenses, it's a lot easier to remember!

Quite often I can remember the camera or lens or both with absolute clarity, but what prompted this thread was a few B+Ws from the 70s where I genuinely don't recall what camera I used, or even what system: I was just in one of the places I took pictures often, and in some cases it probably depended on what had film in it that day. From the 90s on (I was 40 in 1990), I cared less and less.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-13-2011   #19
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I remember as that time we have not lots of possibilities and I was shooting with the sole SLR camera Zenit E and some Industar on it. (It was gifted to my dad for his jubilee. That times in the USSR this cam cost an amount equal to the month salary of a well paid person.) Nikons were used only by TASS correspondents and cost like a Soviet car...
Also I had a first release of scale Smena, left from my grandpa.
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Old 01-13-2011   #20
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I guess in this day and age if you are using digital, EXIF data will tell you exactly what combo you used for the shot in 30 - 40 years time. If the data can be read then!

As for myself, over the years I have only had a handful of different bodies and even more limited lenses, so working out what I used is easy. Having said that, Roger is right in that as the years pass, it seems more and more irrelevant - at least for my own work. Other photographers work I do try to learn from, so knowing what lens they used, etc, can be useful.
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Old 01-13-2011   #21
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c.poulton View Post
I guess in this day and age if you are using digital, EXIF data will tell you exactly what combo you used for the shot in 30 - 40 years time. If the data can be read then!

As for myself, over the years I have only had a handful of different bodies and even more limited lenses, so working out what I used is easy. Having said that, Roger is right in that as the years pass, it seems more and more irrelevant - at least for my own work. Other photographers work I do try to learn from, so knowing what lens they used, etc, can be useful.
That's an interesting point too. I've just re-read 'My Leica And I' (1937) and there is what purports to be a list of the camera/ lens/ film/ stop/ shutter speed used for every single shot. There's one pic allegedly taken with a Thambar wide open, and quite honestly, I don't believe the data (I have a Thambar).

Quite often, in my books or on my web-site, I'll say something like "shot it in the early 70s, probably with an old Pentax SV..." because I don't really remember, but I know that a lot of photographers wouldn't add that 'probably': they'd state it as a flat fact, because the publisher insisted. There've been times when, as an editor, I've pointed out that (for example) a particular shot must have been Hasselblad instead of Rollei, from the shape of the border, only to be told, "Oh, yeah, you're right. Change it: it doesn't matter."

The worst I ever knew was a guy who used Pentax 67 and Mamiya 67, and always attributed his best shots to Mamiya, because they gave him free gear and Pentax didn't.

That's apart from wind-ups. Someone once remarked on the amazing quality of a Terence Donovan advertising shot. He'd shot it on 11x14 inch, but he just smiled and said, "Yeah, amazing lens, that Micro-Nikkor." Do not trust information in books, magazines and web-sites about which cameras/lenses were used.

As for EXIF data, well, not on an M8/9 unless the lenses were bar-coded, or you remembered to enter the right lens (assuming it was on the menu -- plenty of Leica lenses aren't, and no-one else's are).

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-13-2011   #22
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To answer your question, I don't really know what camera I used back in the old days, nor do I care. I'm all about the image.

When I do look at pictures taken 20, 30 and 40 years back, I'm struck by what a lousy photographer I was back then. On the plus side, I think I've gotten better.

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Old 01-13-2011   #23
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I remember OK, don't think I ever cared, as long looks good
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Old 01-13-2011   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mackinaw View Post
To answer your question, I don't really know what camera I used back in the old days, nor do I care. I'm all about the image.

When I do look at pictures taken 20, 30 and 40 years back, I'm struck by what a lousy photographer I was back then. On the plus side, I think I've gotten better.

Jim B.
Dear Jim,

That strikes me as the important bit too.

Cheers,

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Old 01-13-2011   #25
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I generally remember. I am glad to have a bank of information that might have gone along with the making of particular images, just as other bits of memory may help me reconstruct my general world view at a particular time.

During my first travels overseas, as an example, a lot of decision making went into the process - to leave my job and girlfriend, to fly one way to London and stay there and branch out, what clothes to take... I was stuck with the photo gear I had, which was a Canon AE1 and an F1, and a bunch of lenses, because I couldn't afford to finess the gear and by then I had pretty much what I wanted anyway.

The point is, all of those decisions went into the experience, and all affected what I got out of it. That was 41 years ago and I look back at the photos and can often remember exactly where I was and what I was thinking/doing in that context. The same goes for pretty much any other major thing I've done over the years.

So the little bits of information, be they the camera and lens I used for treasured shots, or what jeans I was wearing or the girlfriend of the time or what music I was listening to - if I can still remember, I'm really glad of it, because it meant something at the time and was a part in a series of decisions and experiences that got me here.

Does that info matter? Well, I think it does, and I don't think my photos are any worse because I might happen to remember the gear I used. These things aren't mutually exclusive. As someone else said, sometimes those things just stick there. Possibly that is because, as someone who is passionate about photography, the decision making process going into the making of pictures occupies a significant part of one's conscious thought.

I can't see that, for me, getting older has any significant affect on it, although I have noticed that when I come to caption and catalogue scans my recall of gear used last month is probably not really much better than that when I am looking at a photo taken 20 or 30 years ago. That sucks.
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Old 01-13-2011   #26
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I struggle to remember what I used six months ago but then I have a shocking memory, something I should try to remedy as we get older and not younger; especially as I watch my grandmother deteriorate into early dementia.

I think the camera is easy; either one of my M bodies or one of my D3 bodies but as to which lens...hhmm, a different matter I'm afraid. Whilst I care more about the final image I can understand the benefits of knowing what was used. That way you have the choice to ignore the information or use it. Thank goodness for Exif data!
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Old 01-13-2011   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phil.wright View Post
I generally remember. I am glad to have a bank of information that might have gone along with the making of particular images, just as other bits of memory may help me reconstruct my general world view at a particular time.

During my first travels overseas, as an example, a lot of decision making went into the process - to leave my job and girlfriend, to fly one way to London and stay there and branch out, what clothes to take... I was stuck with the photo gear I had, which was a Canon AE1 and an F1, and a bunch of lenses, because I couldn't afford to finess the gear and by then I had pretty much what I wanted anyway.

The point is, all of those decisions went into the experience, and all affected what I got out of it. That was 41 years ago and I look back at the photos and can often remember exactly where I was and what I was thinking/doing in that context. The same goes for pretty much any other major thing I've done over the years.

So the little bits of information, be they the camera and lens I used for treasured shots, or what jeans I was wearing or the girlfriend of the time or what music I was listening to - if I can still remember, I'm really glad of it, because it meant something at the time and was a part in a series of decisions and experiences that got me here.

Does that info matter? Well, I think it does, and I don't think my photos are any worse because I might happen to remember the gear I used. These things aren't mutually exclusive. As someone else said, sometimes those things just stick there. Possibly that is because, as someone who is passionate about photography, the decision making process going into the making of pictures occupies a significant part of one's conscious thought.

I can't see that, for me, getting older has any significant affect on it, although I have noticed that when I come to caption and catalogue scans my recall of gear used last month is probably not really much better than that when I am looking at a photo taken 20 or 30 years ago. That sucks.
Dear Phil,

Sorry, I never meant to imply that you shouldn't remember, and, as you say, there is often considerable pleasure in doing so. All I meant was that if you don't remember, it doesn't actually matter one iota, which does rather suggest that the camera/lens you used was rarely all that important then and ain't always that important now.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-13-2011   #28
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Hi Roger,

I am in turn sorry if what I said carried the implication that you should feel the need to apologise. I didn't mean to do that. A stimulating discussion which has got me thinking and perhaps I was a little untidy in my argument.
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Old 01-13-2011   #29
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I care, but don't always remember.
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Old 01-13-2011   #30
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That depends exactly when/ what period you are talking. For many years I had only one camera and one lens (helps a little) and even when I got to have three lenses its not that difficult to remember if it was the 28, 50 or 135mm. Ask me in another year or two about the time around now and I probably wont remember if it was the F100, F3 or any other of my nikons with the 50mm 1,4 or the 1,8 version.
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Old 01-13-2011   #31
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I pretty much always remember the camera I used for my pictures, less the lenses - but I remember best the shots I missed.

Over time, they keep getting better and better.
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Old 01-13-2011   #32
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I can remember which camera I used and (mostly) which lens I used for pictures taken 20 years ago.

However, I've never trusted information in books, magazines etc. detailing which camera / lens was used since Photography Year Book started listing this in 1969. Most pictures had the following information:

Camera, lens, shutter speed, aperture, film & developer used

Given the broad spectrum of pictures, circumstances under which they were taken and locations it seemed rather a stretch.

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Old 01-13-2011   #33
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Interesting to think about. About 1974 when I became really interested in photography, I had only my Yashica TL Super with its f/1.7 Yashinon. Before too long, I got the 28mm and 135mm kit Yashikors. Took a couple of prize winners with those not so good lenses. I have also been happy with some of the shots I got with an 18mm Spiratone I got next. I didn't worry so much about others saying Nikon, Canon, Minolta were supposed to be better. I couldn't afford them and liked the photos I was getting.

I got more proud of my Fujica and Fujinons, and later the Contax and its T* 50mm f/1.4. If I looked at any of those photos today, it would be difficult to tell which were which by the quality, with the exception of the Yashikors with flare.

I never did record gear, much less exposures, but could usually rember gear, until I got too many lenses. I actually learned to use flare in my photos to the best advantage possible since I couldn't get rid of it with the Yashikors into light.

Now I do appreciate the photo more than the gear. I guess that has been true for a longer time than I realized.
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Old 01-13-2011   #34
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30 some years ago, all i had was an M3 and elmar 50/2.8, so all of the photos extant from that time were shot with that kit, no remembering needed. i somehow lost the negatives. but the prints i made from them are still in very good shape, and hanging in my daughter's and my ex-wife's homes.
i suppose i care now about my gear because of the almost-two-year-long process of determining exactly what works for me as i returned to film photography, and that includes film and developer.
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Old 01-15-2011   #35
nikon_sam
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What I use/used is not as important as getting the most out of what I'm using...
I know that 30+ years ago it was one camera...That's too easy, also I don't have too many of those negs or prints left...
Around 25 years ago it would have been one of two Pentax MX's...
The last 15 years or so there were/are too many different bodies & lenses to be certain...
But that doesn't apply to the many Velvia 50 slides I shot with my first Nikon FE...
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Old 01-15-2011   #36
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I can pretty well tell you which camera I took a photo with, and often with which lens. It does depend on how long ago the picture was taken. Some pictures I took in my 20's, I can tell you were taken with an M2 and either a 35mm Summaron or my 90mm Elmarit. It's easy: they were all I had! Then I added a 50mm Collapsible Summicron, and a Nikkormat Ftn with 55mm Micro-Nikkor. Still no problem knowing which was which.

Over the years I've added a lot of stuff. Yet, I can usually tell which camera I took a shot with. To an extent, that's because I know what I was primarily using during a given time period. But it's also because my hands remember which camera I was holding as I took the shot. That's right: my hands remember if it was a Nikon, a Leica R, or Leica M. As a psychotherapist, I believe in body memories and muscle memories. Although the brain may not always know, the body remembers!

Do I care? I must. There is an intention factor in what we choose to remember.
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Old 01-15-2011   #37
zumbido
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I remember what I used, because I only had one camera. My sister broke her back in a freak playground accident. My mom told the story on a late-night radio show (her "hobby" as an insomniac was listening to overnight radio broadcasts from far away), and people started sending small gifts to my sister. One of them was a Kodak 110 camera, and the person included a second one for me so I wouldn't feel left out. So, we carried them all around (for a while I carried her around, too, until she could walk again). Have a bunch of pictures of friends from school and the neighborhood (a few of them no longer around) that everyone loves to see on Facebook now.
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Old 01-15-2011   #38
raid
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Images mean more to me than my cameras. There is no question about it.
Still, I remember the camera used or lens used for many of the older images.
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Old 01-15-2011   #39
Peter Klein
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Roger, I usually remember the camera and often lens, particularly with favorite or striking images. But it's easier than it might at first appear. I've been pretty much a "serial monogamist" with cameras, so only a particular camera was used during a particular period. I mostly shoot with a 35, 50 or 90, with the 50 my most-used lens for film and the 35 for digital. It's often easy to tell between them. And my "available dark" shots are usually with a particular lens or two, so again, it's easy to infer.

I am not of the "equipment doesn't matter" school of thought. But I also don't think it matters as much as many people think. Many (most?) shots could have been taken with any camera that is "good enough." Many shots would be just as good whether they were taken with any good-quality RF or SLR and matching lens.

BUT... and this is a big "but"... There are many RF shots that would not have been successful with an SLR or vice versa, because they depended on the RF's low-light focusing ability or lack of mirror slap, or the SLR's ability to use longer lenses or focus closer or view with no parallex.

And there are some shots that achieve their "look" because of a lens' unique signature. Since you are very partial to your Zeiss 50/1.5 Sonnar, I'm sure you understand. :-)

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Last edited by Peter Klein : 01-15-2011 at 20:30.
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Old 01-15-2011   #40
dyao
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I don't remember what lenses I used for rolls I shot last week.
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