A recent communication with a friend prompts me to write this story. She is thinking about buying a new camera in the future, to travel the world and to capture her impressions. That is, once free and easy travel is possible again.
But you don’t have to go far, your local surrounding also has many subjects, or as we say in German, ‘Motive’, to capture. Today I want to concentrate on your tool, the camera.
I have to admit that I am an ardent fan of Leica. Not only because I am German and Leica is the epitome of German engineering, precision and most important of all, photographic quality.
Of course there are other fine brands, some in the past and some right now. Starting with Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Hasselblad etc.. In the past other big brands, were Rollei, Voigtlaender, Carl Zeiss and more. I have used many of them. One of my early cameras was a Pentagon.
But is the camera brand really that important? A pinhole camera can achieve great results. Of course a better lens, will render better results and I personally like the render of the Leica lenses, which are not only knife sharp, but have a great combination of slightly warm colours and a great, as we say nowadays, bokeh.
I told my friend that a camera is a tool. A tool which in the hand of an artisan can help the creation of great results.
I started out with the Leica M3 and the Leicaflex SL and SL2. I still have the latter one and the M3 was replaced by a M6, which I also still have.
Both cameras which incorporate a great heritage. But they are also very simple. Simple, compared to the far more complex cameras which came from Japan even in those early days.
But, what is important to me is, that they feel good in the hand. Like any good tool, they are designed to be loved by the hand. The feel of quality is what transfers into the hand and thus the mind of the user.
You feel the care and experience which has been put into the engineering, design and manufacturing. This wants you to make the best what you can do with the tool. I think.
Don’t get me wrong. Great photographs have been achieved with cheap cameras. It is ultimately the eye of the photographer who sees the potential in the subject and presses the shutter release at the right moment.
Equally may great works have been created with cheap tools.
But maybe with more effort. A tool which does not perform as well, which wobbles and bends, is much less fun to use.
A camera, which feels cheap in the hand, which has too many buttons and menus and is not ergonomically and just does not feel good, is not so much fun to use. You do not have the pride in it.
It is the pride, which transfers to the result and the reward is, when the final picture appears in print or the projected image on the wall and looks and feels as good as at the time of shooting.
So, when you select a new camera, choose both separately. The body. Does it feel right in your hand and every hand is different, small or big. Long or short fingers. Dry or sweaty. Can you reach all the controls easily.
Would you like to hold the camera and take it to bed, because you fall in love with it. Then it is right.
But what are the menus. Are they easy to understand. Trust me, most modern cameras have more features than you ever will use.
Go for simplicity, because when you need it, you do not have time to work through menus.
Then the lens. Do you like the handling, the feel, the quality. Get to see some enlarged images from the lens. Really big pictures. Do you like the result, the sharpness, the edges, the colour?
If you buy a small system camera. like a Leica TL2, CL, Panasonic, Sigma or a Fujifilm X series, you can select your own lenses. Don’t go for a kit. Make the right choice for what you think is best for you.
Put the lens on to the camera. How is the weight. The balance. Does the camera tilt forward, because the lens is heavy? Consider this. It is you, who will have to carry and hold it. If your wrist hurst after two minutes, it is too heavy for you. But may be right for someone else.
I do not want to advise you which brand, which resolution, which feature to buy. I want to consider the idea that your camera, for snap shots or professional, is a tool, a tool you must love to use, because only then, you get the best results.
By the way, if you think your budget is to small, look at second hand. Take a newer camera body and an older lens, maybe. Most lenses can be easily refurbished.
I am using 50 year old lenses on a relatively new Leica CL body. Yes, they do not have autofocus or any other modern features. But they are sturdy, sharp and have a great colour rendition. And they can be much cheaper.
All of this I have written will be disputed by many. Many readers will say I write a plug for Leica. I am, just because I like their product. But I am not paid for it.
Finally one point to on-line purchase. Almost all products can be bought online, so can cameras. Often you get a good bargain there. But, I urge you to buy, if you can in a brick+mortar shop from experience people. I agree, there are not that may around anymore. I mean the ones which really know.
Take advantage of their knowledge and their understanding of the product. Once you selected what you want, buy it there. It may cost a little bit more, but….. But you can always go back, ask for advise, ask for help. These specialists need to be paid. They are not just there for show and tell.
you accept that, you will maintain an industry, which will be around to support you with your hobby or profession. You may even gain new friends.
I started in photographic retail many years ago. I am now in the AV industry, far away from retail. I have seen many good shops close and with it a great pool of knowledge got lost.
Is it really that important to save a few dollars for a tool which can give you, your family, your friends and may strangers much enjoyment? Just think about it.
Enjoy your photographic tool for the best results, regardless of brand or make.