Friday, August 29, 2014

The ideal camera for the ideal photographer?

Does such a thing really exist? Is there a Mr Perfect or a Miss Perfect? How about a Mr and Mrs Average with their 2.4 children. I've always wondered whether Mr & Mrs average should be prosecuted for having 0.4 of a child. What did they do with the rest? Is it perhaps the content of the mystery meat in McDonald's Big Mac? Perhaps the Big Mac is actually the McSoylent Green burger? Is the 0.4 of a child perhaps a time-share child that is shared out between various members of an unsavory group?

Nevertheless, this article is actually about the ideal camera. Increasingly, the ideal camera is a cellphone camera. This is actually a really good choice most of the time for most people. Let's face it - the images are uploaded automatically to cloud storage and can be sent via email, instant messengers and to websites or any form of social media. The downside is that posts with banal images appear. How much more banal can one get than this?
Without knowing the whole story behind the picture, it's another bizarrely angled image of an abandoned store, taken from a parking lot. In actual fact, this was an image sent to a friend when commenting that yet another dollar shop couldn't make ends meet in the empty heart of Lexington, South Carolina.

Since photography went digital, the number of photographs taken every year has rocketed. It's not possible to say anything about quality as that's subjective. This was an excellent image for its purpose which was illustrative.

Wedding photography has plummeted downhill in quality since digital came to the scene as people now take hundreds of photographs rather than a few dozen and making each picture count. Going back to the Mr and Miss Perfect, it doesn't really matter as by the time the couple get their pictures back, they're already considering divorce. Clearly there is no such thing as a Mr or Miss Perfect.

What about cameras? Well, there's no such thing as the ideal camera just as the ideal couple doesn't exist. There are, however, cameras that can be worked around. Just as a couple should work around their issues, camera owners should work around the issues of their cameras.

Constant desires to upgrade to a better model usually hide something else. The desire to get a different camera usually hides another problem. Now that any camera over 6 megapixels will produce an image that will print very nicely to the most common sizes, there's no reason to use resolution as a reason. That reason can be ruled out completely.

How about size and weight? Certainly a big, chunky DSLR is heavy and the lenses are big and heavy. Carrying several bodies and lenses make walking - particularly in the heat of the South - into an arduous task. It's not necessary to carry everything from 10mm wide-angle to 5,000mm telephoto. It's possible to use all of them in a single trip but it's just daft to try to carry it all for fear of missing out on that one "special" picture. Such "special" pictures are usually so fleeting that the right lens would have to be on the body with the camera primed and ready otherwise they're another gigantic fish that got away.
On a trip to Key West, the lens taken was a Tamron 17-35 which is more than adequate for seascapes and local scenery. Sadly, the boat in the background would have required a much longer lens. Having said that, the crowd jostling around when the picture was taken would have made a telephoto image quite blurry.
It would have been nice to zoom in on the ship and have it fill the frame but without carrying huge quantities of lenses and inflicting that weight one one's body in 40c/90F, it was not possible. This 100% crop is the best obtainable from the photograph.

So, clearly a DSLR isn't the ideal camera. It takes interchangeable lenses which are heavy and bulky. Whatever camera is in use - whether it's a cellphone with a single fixed focal length lens or a DSLR or something in between, there is no ideal camera. If there were, there wouldn't be so many manufacturers out there manufacturing contenders for the best camera crown.

During the days of film, many street photographers used to use the Leica M4P as it was fast into action and unobtrusive. The Leica M cameras made it to Vietnam for the war in Vietnam and up Everest due to their rugged nature, simplicity, compactness and light weight. Many photographers used solely one lens - the standard 50mm lens though some used the 35mm and the 90mm. This was probably the ideal camera of the 1940s to 1970s. 

Have things changed? Why do people now want lenses ranging from 10mm to 5,000mm? Really and truly, it's just birdwatchers and sports photographers that truly *need* longer lenses. Just about every other photographer that has one truly does not need it. Most are gadgeteers who buy gear with the intention of using it, use it a few times and then put it to one side for "future" use. In photography there are a lot of gadgeteers who buy things and swear by them but who rarely if ever actually use them.

When it comes to camera clubs and online groups, photography takes second place to gear bragging and wizzing contests about gear. Most people in online wizzing contests rarely if ever actually own the equipment that is claimed.

So, the ideal camera? The jury is out on that one though one would have to go a long way to beat the Leica M digital series. At $7,000 it is not as expensive as it first sounds. As was said years ago, what with changing systems and changing cameras, people pay the price of a Leica without ever actually owning one. 

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