Saturday, May 17, 2014

The older and fartier photographer

Days of summer tick past ever faster as we head toward the autumn of our lives. The great weights we used to carry during the spring just because we could now seem so ludicrous. Carting around a lens for every conceivable occasion and a body loaded with film for every conceivable occasion in the spring of our lives seemed so normal. We wondered why elders snorted in disapproval as we bounded around the countryside porting the massive weights with occasional visits to osteopaths, chiropractors and chiropodists.
In the days of our summer, we realize that our elders really did know best.  Thus, weighed down by the baggage of youth and quite possibly some war wounds due to our massive burdens, we learn wisdom from our errors. That wisdom, as taught from father to son and promptly ignored is that less is more. 
The goal of every aspiring photographer should be to carry the least possible weight. Indeed this is recommended by just about everybody that has ever carried a camera. Notice how the weight of every generation of camera is less yet the image size and quality is always better than before? This does not mean that because a camera and lens is now 5 ounces lighter that an extra lens can be crammed into the camera bag.

Back in the days of old, photographers carried a camera with a fixed lens. Usually this was an 80mm lens on a Rolleiflex or similar camera which gave the equivalent field of view of a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera or around the same angle of view as an iPhone camera. 

The key is in knowing why a camera is desired. Generally, most people take photographs within the 28 - 135mm range (based on 35mm). For an APSC sensor camera that would be about 17 - 85. Certainly it's possible to have longer and wider lenses but with today's technology it's possible to take several images of a scene using lenses that aren't wide enough and stitching them together.

Gone now is the need to carry multiple bodies with different types and speeds of film - this is all handled by in-camera settings adjustments. The whole camera kit can be handled by one body and one lens for the vast majority of situations. Unless a specially wide or specially long lens is needed, aside from a spare battery, lens wipe and spare memory card, nothing else need be carried. Why burden oneself down with extra junk?

Going further than the burdening oneself down, why even buy more than is needed. Now that lenses have image stabilization, the point of even having a tripod is negligible. With modern ultra-high ISOs that look more like telephone numbers, there's barely any point in having anything other than the on-camera flash. The on-camera flash on the Canon XT is more than enough at 1600 ISO to illuminate a very large area. Do the maths - It has a guide number of 13 metric. At full power at 1600 ISO with a lens at f2.8, the distance illuminated is 18.6 meters. That's a long way. If this was a camera with an ISO of 12800 then the distance would be 50+ meters. 

So, an external flash is not really necessary. A tripod is not really necessary. Multiple bodies are not necessary. Multiple lenses are not necessary. So buy just one body and one lens and be happy. Make your elders happy. Modern technology has made things lighter, better, easier. Embrace modernity instead of clinging to old farty roots and carrying a 50lb bag of camera gear while pretending it's light and considering carrying a daft weight makes more of a man of you.

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