Don’t want to turn into a moralizer, but here we go. To paraphrase a famous quote, “Ask not what your camera can do for you, but what you can do with your camera.” The difference at stake is whether you use your camera like a photographer, more like a scientist or — worst case — like a plain gear head. Are you zooming in 200% to detect imperfection? Right, photography is an art and a science. Yet a lot of photography today has little to do with photography. It often is the preoccupation with details that don’t matter.
How much more sharper is lens A over B? Oh my god, aberration. Circle of confusion?! Confused… Mammum, not mammary aperture. And so on. The idea of creating images appeals for many different reasons. With ever more complicated, computerized cameras competing for attention we nerds are easy prey. I would go as far and say: quite a few who buy shiny new camera toys don’t even use them. Once bought, interest wanes and research starts what’s next on the wish list.
A lot of the photography discussion these days is not about photography. It’s about science. Sure thing one needs to understand exposure, aperture and focal length to understand how photography works, in the same way that a painter needs to understand how to mix colors or use what kind of brush.
Much of photography these days though is about overly technical matters. No wonder. The constant discussion about what camera will come next, what features are missing and how everything is obsolete the moment it is invented, well, who wouldn’t feel depressed and blame, well, gear!
A simple means to an end becomes the center of attention while the end product, the image, gets lost in all the questioning about and yearning for the latest and greatest equipment.
Alright, I’m in a privileged position testing new cameras for a few days, only to give them back and get another new one for a few days. But that’s not what cures GAS affliction.
Relentlessly exposed to breaking news and rumors alerts (loving it!), I had to consciously cure myself of GAS. I waited. And waited. And waited until I felt a certain camera and lens are the right ones. No more gimmicks, no video, no clutter. Just what I need.
Doesn’t work for everyone, a one camera, one lens setup in this day and age of abundance. Certain jobs require different equipment, so I’ll use that equipment, but at the end of the day I’m coming back to my one camera, one lens, and gone is the lusting for more. At least for the moment…
In the end, none of the newest cameras allowed me to do spectacularly new things that older ones prevented me from doing. Images get cleaner, speed and responsiveness increase, yet it doesn’t mean that photography is so much better and more fun today than it was in the past.
Why reinvent the wheel. Even when technically the camera isn’t up to the task, say for sports that require lighting fast AF and a mighty zoom, most times one still manages to get nice images, even with an older smartphone.
Somehow this voluntary reductionism is a catalyst for creativity. Wait, another game changer approaching! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of new gear. It’s perfectly legitimate, if based on reason. A good friend of mine who works for a large glossy magazine makes it a habit to skip a generation of cameras. The company would pay for the fanciest gear. He still works with the D3. Ignores the D4S. Waits for the D5. And travels the world with his trusty old D3, two primes and two zooms, making good money.
He is a very good photographer. The D3 is a very good camera. Old, yes. My friend doesn’t depend on the camera. The camera depends on him.