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Tuesday, 07 April 2015


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I used 35mm for many years as the only thing I could afford. Getting the quality images I wanted was always a challenge and I was rather envious of those who could afford medium format, especially cameras like the Mamiya 6 (I still wish I had one of those).

I have an Android/Google phone with an 8 MP camera and I've had fun with it, especially the apps for modifying my phones in various ways. Dewitt Jones does a lot of phone photography and even published an ebook of some of his digital phone creations. That said, phone cameras do have their limits (like any camera) and my phone will never replace my DSLR or any of my other cameras. It's a tool and like any other there are times it is appropriate but other times it isn't.

Two thoughts:

1) I love the 35mm picture posted. Would love to see that as a TOP picture offering.

2) Go Rox! That's how to handle opening day!

Denver, CO :-)

Hey Mike, Remember, you can't please all of the people all of the time. Its just the way things are.

Pretty sure this kerfluffle is all about the photographer as photographer vs. the artist who happens to be a photographer. All photography is a plastic medium ingesting a 3-dimensional world onto a 2-dimensional "surface." Whatever tools you choose to use, it's a mostly solitary affair and seldom needs the approbation of others. Big word that, I know, but true to my intent which is, bug off you claimants of virtue, I (we) don't need you.

Hard to understand how anyone can be upset after reading a brief post that makes a few observations and basically encourages photographers to do what works for them.

Don't get it. As someone who still uses 35mm (exclusively), I fully understand its rewards, and its very real limitations (they are not to be denied).

For the record, I made no comment on Ctein's "35mm" note. To each his own.

But also "for the record" I am always impressed with talent and skill that can organize an interesting image with any image-making gadget regardless of its format or technical limitations. Mike's dental "selfie" is a good example. Despite being in a stressful situation with those dark glasses and with arms in front of his face he manages to organize a frame that encloses all of the essential information in just the right proportions and relationships. This is obviously a guy that's had some visual training. Impressive.

Contrary to extremists' proclamations, technology (i.e. the camera) does matter in photographic results. But only as an expediter of talent and visual ambitions. In my experience someone with talent, energy, and vision will ultimately succeed with any camera. Their success might come sooner or higher with a better tool. Conversely, someone lacking those attributes with fail with any camera.

you wrote, "This morning I'm rather astonished by some of the comments to Ctein's perfectly straightforward and innocent post of yesterday."

My question is why astonished. Surely you have encountered CDS (camera derangement syndrome) many times, probably too many to count, over the course of your camera toting life.

CDS is a tried and true fact of picture making life which the comments in question verify yet again.

I have often thought that, if I were the dictatorial king of the picture making world, I would limit the "serious" amateur faithful to just a single very competent camera. Maybe then CDS would fade into the garbage heap of useless tempest-in-teapot afflictions and drive picture makers to consider only the resultant pictures.

Since that ideal is not the case, I have chosen to look at pictures and, if they work (for me), I don't give a hoot how or by what means they came into existence.

I wondered what I missed, so I went back and re-read Ctein's article from yesterday. Try as I might, I could not get upset about anything he wrote. I hope I'm not missing something, I'd hate it for a day to go by and not get upset about something on the interweb.

Got a big chuckle out of this post Mike. Seems some folks just like to be contrary. It's the same with digital or film. Some folks who use digital (only a small percent I think) get bent out shape when anyone still prefers film. Seems they have to justify their choice of photographic tools. For crying out loud! Nobody cares! I still use an old Pen F and pack 2 or 3 of it's lenses in a small kit. With an 18X24mm negative my largest wet print is 6X8 inch on 8X10 paper. It's big enough to see when held at standard reading distance and doesn't stress the negative too much.

The internet seems to remove all context and exaggerate misperceptions.

I guess I know what you mean with the 24x36mm point & shoot cameras - we have one:

Hope this is recognizable - Flickr doesn't offer exactly 470px wide, so I had to take 320 instead. And of course, this isn't meant as an offence, for those who shoot 24x36mm "Kleinbildfilm" digitally...

(This Canon btw still works pretty good - as do our OM-1 and OM-2 cameras)

Remember Mike,
"You can please some of the people some of the time....." and don't sweat it. As someone who's career involved a number of times that I had to inform people that what they wanted wasn't feasible or desirable, I can tell you that I soon developed an cermet skin with teflon coating. I would shrug and say "here are the facts, tell me where I'm wrong". Sometimes they tried, but usually without success. In your case, you are dealing with personal preferences, which can be debated but no refuted. So if it sounds like fun, take them on. Otherwise just shrug and continue.

Wow Mike. This is why I checked out of the phot blog world for awhile. I got tired of all the anger and animosity. Now I've been exploring for about a week and in two days I get it hammered again. Yesterday on another blog a guy reviews the Fuji XT-1 and gets hate mail. Some of which seems to deliberately take what he says and twist it to demented forms. And now this. Wow. I wonder if I should just quit again, I mean if cameras and photography as a hobby is so important to act like this, I need to find a more sedate and friendly hobby like sword fighting me thinks.

I understand why people like and use their big cameras for a lot of things.

I understand that you and Ctein do not *personally* write off the phone cameras as something that can never be a useful tool.

I just pipe up once in a while when other people *do* say that. Or somehow believe that something you said implies that. Because that "needs" to be gently corrected.

Dear Mike,

Me, too!

It's like a lot of (well, too many) folks read the first two paragraphs, stopped right there and fired off a rebuttal...

... and never read the last three paragraphs! Most especially not the third and the fifth (last).

Because... well... really, people?


Richard, not to worry. I ain't upset or bothered, just astonished. I go to such effort to tell people this is stuff they should not feel defensive about or be made to defend themselves over. And, there it goes!

pax / Ctein

"selfie" - There's that word again. I've often wondered when we began using it, so I just googled it and found this at Wikipedia"

"The earliest usage of the word selfie has been traced to 2002, when it first appeared in an Australian internet forum (ABC Online) on 13 September in a comment written by Nathan Hope"

I remember people talking about how Galen Rowell compromised his pictures by shooting with 35mm gear. He talked about that himself, and as I remember it he we entirely in agreement that, technically, his pictures were inferior to what he could take with larger-format cameras.

However, the locations he hauled his cameras into penalized the weight of larger format gear so heavily that it would have limited him a lot on that end to use big cameras and big film. He was making a conscious choice to get technically less perfect photos of subject he couldn't photograph at all at higher levels of technical excellence. That choice seems to have worked out well for him, in that he's regarded as having been an important photographer of the subjects he pursued.

It occurs to me that a classic line about running cons may apply here—"A sucker is somebody who always wants to get the best of it." You can exploit them because they have an obssession to always get "the best". (I can't find sources for that quote online. I'm sure Heinlein had characters use it, but maybe it's not widespread after all.) This is one (and I'm sure not the only) source of camera anxiety, I think.

I'm not sure if I've said this here before, but I've certainly said this before a lot. I've never known a good photographer who had any "perfect" equipment. All the good photographers I know have collections of equipment each piece of which has points of greater and lesser excellence, and which they understand in considerable detail.

Hi Mike
I found your iPhone piece an interesting perspective, and Ctein's simply made sense - especially given the various caveats included.

What you appear to be up against is the win or lose / for us or against us tone that is so common online. Think of reviews, which are often headlined as featuring a camera that will be the 'killer' of another camera. Headlines are designed to create an atmosphere of winners and losers, thus driving some anger and fear rather than discussion or debate.

Like many good things our dear Web can bring out the best and worst in people who are usually pretty cool.

IDK, Mike...I think your observations on the iPhone-as-camera are right on the mark. Good for some applications, insufficient for others. I did some testing of my own about a year ago. Compared my 5S with a D90, a Coolpix S5300 and old Olympus my sister gave me that has essentially stopped working. The 5S took comparably good pictures outside in daylight conditions, although when printed at 8x11 you could see some limitations. The Coolpix was amazingly close to the D90. Shooting indoors in available light? No contest. The D90 took the only acceptable pictures in my highly unscientific test. But goes to your point - each technology has it's own use. Why any TOP reader can't accept that is mind-boggling. Keep up the good work.

Heh. I thought to myself, when I saw Ctein's article: "This is gonna cause blowback." I was almost tempted to write an entirely satirical comment myself, featuring language to the effect that Henri Cartier-Bresson used 35 mm, and it was good enough for him, etc., but I couldn't go far enough over the top to make it clear that I was un-serious.

I was a little more surprised by blowback to the iPhone article, but in retrospect, I should not have been. Any claim on the internet of, "This thing didn't really work for me," will be read by some small subset of people as, "This thing doesn't work. And anyone who thinks it does is wrong and stupid."

I'd say this kind of outlash bespeaks uncertainty, hmm? Certainly accomplished iphoneographers* wouldn't feel the need to defend their medium of choice? Or maybe it's not all moonlight and roses in the great world of mobile photography, and then there's this gnawing sensation that maybe, just maybe, there are jobs to which dedicated cameras are better suited than this wondrous multipurpose device? And this might actually mean most every photographic job there is?

*) even the fact that people give themselves this name is kinda significant - I have yet to see anyone call themself canonographer, nikonographer, or thirtyfivemillimetersographer, or even sixbysevenographer.

(note to the mighty censor - ok, this post is mean. I will not be at all surprised if you decide not to publish it. But, still. I always have this strange feeling when talking with someone who shoots mobile device, that they're trying to justify their tools of choice just a tad bit too much. A fleeting feeling, but it's there, and once felt, I can't unfeel it.)

This post made me laugh! I was travelling so I couldn't answer Ctein's original post, but I didn't expect that kind of reaction from the greater public. Just goes to say how vehemently some will defend their equipment choices (probably because it represents so much time and money spent!).

... says a 35mm ff digital user who is currently carrying around a small sensor compact this week, for fun to see if the results sing for me. Yes, your post did push me in the other direction. So far, mostly mumbling from this choir...


I have gone from thinking of phones as the electronic "holga" (nasty but explorative in an artsy way), to seeing them as the modern compact camera (handy but limited in controls), to soon becoming the future "super" compact (handy, not limited).
In the camera sales industry that I work, we see them as crowding out lower end compacts over the next 2 years, making the compact better (notice the huge growth in G16 style cameras) and even pushing them further over 5 years or so until their demise. This will leave SLR level cameras as the only upgrade path.
Lets face it, for most "takers of pictures" these days a computer screen, low res image is the end product, so the camera should suit the process.

I really like your picture of the fence.

Seems to me like you're doing something right when half the people who are offended have one extreme point of view and the other half of the offended people subscribe to the other extreme point of view, and both think you are some sort of apostate. Leaving the rest of us reasonable people.

I for the record never much liked 35mm still cameras other than the fact that they were cheap to use, easy to carry, hard to break, were good enough for clients, good for shooting in punk clubs, political breakfasts, riots, swimming pools, while skiing, while drunk*, while doing something else with my other hand, on roller skates and skateboards, standing in a moving vehicle and other stuff like that. Oh, and Kodachrome except for the couple years when you could get it in 120.

For the "just in case there is a combination of light and subject that will last for a minute or so" I always carried a roll film camera or even a speed graphic wrapped in plastic in the center of the spare tire in the trunk.

*most of the scenarios are mutually exclusive

You said something negative about Apple. If you do that in any context you will get blow-back. It's unfortunate but some treat this brand loyalty like a religion. Mine is the one true religion, end of discussion. Sad state. Every device has limitations and everyone has likes and dislikes.

[No, I don't think it was that. Furthermore, I don't believe in this particular shibboleth. I think this story is much more beloved of the anti-Apple crowd than it is true of the pro-Apple crowd. I know lots of Apple people and most of them have a healthy skepticism and are free with criticisms. --Mike]


How strange, I thought Ctein's comments re small and large formats were right on the button. 35mm was a small format, and in its day, had plenty of limitations.

I don't think I ever felt very confident printing my 35mm negatives much larger than about A3, and they only looked good in isolation. (Talking colour, note - B&W was more forgiving).

Oh, that Ctein is a rabble rouser.

Speaking of whom ... back around the time of the Lincoln print offer, do I recall correctly that you said that Ctein eschews custom printer profiles? (I tried to find the exact comment in your archives, but could not). Yet another example of his breaking away from the crowd, but that statement incited a few of us to ask for more information. If there is a way to make good printing easier, I am all ears.

By the way, back on topic: for photography, there's nothing like a camera.

I didn't comment on Ctein's post because apart from generally agreeing with the overall sentiment, it's Ctein's experience. I am flabbergasted (I know I shouldn't be by now as this is not uncommon on the internet) at how some people get so personally affronted when someone has a different opinion than they do and resort to such childish behaviour as you describe. C'mon people, it's an OPINION.

I also used 35mm equipment for 20 years for much the same reasons as Mike lists and coincidentally also use an X-T1 and dislike phone cameras, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with everything he writes.

I can get worked up about someone dissing my own choice of camera, but I can't bring myself to give a rodent's rear end about anyone else's. I have real respect for people who can create great images with any medium.

But just you wait. The day that an iPhone photo sells for six figures can't be that far away, and then you'll be sorry ... nyah nyah ...

(Before anyone gets offended, I'm just kidding, OK?)

ha ha, I kept looking at the dental picture thinking the patient was a lady with grey hair! then I realized I was adding the back of the headrest to the face! got it now !!!

I lika my old 35mm cameras.

The fence shot, I thought it was Portriga to, I can't trust the render of these damn screens.

I found absolutely nothing about Ctein's post or yours regarding the Iphone to be controversial. Every format has its trade-offs. Clearly the image quality from a large format camera is superior to 35mm or an Iphone. Clearly a 35mm camera or Iphone is more versatile than a large format camera and allows for photography that would be impossible with large format. It's the photographers' job to weigh the trade-offs and pick the best tool for your needs. Amazed, but not necessarily surprised, that some folks don't see it that way.

Dear Mike,
I have the same "not my camera" feeling towards smartphones. I like to use RZ67 or X-T1 and feel very confident about shooting with these devices. - A phone may get a shot or not. Yes, in most cases it works, but I am not happy in the same way, especially with the black and white as with the CAMERAS mentioned above.
In 35-mm territory I liked (and still like) very fine grained film (Ortho 25, Rollei ATP etc.) because it does not show the "24x36 mm effect" (grain, loss of details etc.)
Thank you for your clearings on the narrow-minded commentators: Photography is like cars: your mileage my be different from mine.

One data point: Back in my film days, when I vacationed with 35mm gear I photographed nice scenes I found as I traveled. When I went to the extra effort to lug medium format gear on a vacation, to justify the effort I seriously worked at finding better scenes to photograph. YMMV.

I don't shoot digital very much at all - except family photos - and don't really get on with it, so my comments are mostly concerned with film. It seems to me in many of these conversations about negative size (or, I suppose, sensor size) people forget that each format really is its own thing, and has its own distinctive look, capabilities, oddities, DOF characteristics, grain structure, and so on. This is why - contra net chatter which says the camera or format doesn't matter - most working photographers have very strong preferences for particular equipment and formats, because they know their choice of equipment does indeed directly affect the results they achieve. Although I mostly shoot medium and large format, when I do shoot 35mm as part of a project I choose it precisely because of the particular look it brings. (Because of its "limitations" if you must think about it that way, although I don't. Everything has limitations, and the particular limitations of any particular medium are part of what gives it its own unique and specific character, after all.)

It also seems to me that many of these issues only become properly apparent when you make prints (either in a darkroom or digitally). I print a lot in my home darkroom and making a print from a 35mm negative gives a very different result from enlarging a 4x5 sheet, particularly when you start to make larger prints (16x12 and bigger). Printing usually helps reveal what the "correct" format for an project is, to me at least. It strikes me a lot of internet photo talk is based on a version of photography which has little to do with printing, and it largely baffles me as a result.

I like your snapshot! Didn't you offer a couple of posts not to long ago about photographers often being unable to appreciate their own work?

For me, the shot works from the perspective that it illustrates the depth to which we are immersed in a narcissistic culture wherein technology empowers us to document every moment of our lives in the misguided belief that said infinitude of moments are of enduring, or even momentary, interest to everyone!

In that context, it's never going to be viewed as a print, it's going to be viewed in its native medium, likely a small-format LCD screen!

But, truthfully, that's not your vision, that's not the story you're trying to tell. (Or is it? Hmmmm...)

Anyway, I think it's all the use of the words "higher level." Those of us in the "lower levels" kind of resent that.

Your mileage may vary. :)

Gee. I kinda like snapshots. Much better than the calendar art many photographers aspire to creating.

It's all about insecurity, isn't it? Some people make choices that ultimately fail to meet their expectations, but invest a lot of time and effort on rationalizing their choices, which is a way not to admit they failed. Nobody likes to admit a failure: it is bad for self-esteem. They react quite acrimoniously when they believe their choices are under attack (even if they aren't), which is referred to as 'being defensive.' Deep down they don't really feel offended; they feel humiliated as they find themselves confronted with their mistake.
It could be a question of not having the means to get what one craves for, or it could be the opposite, i. e. having spent a lot on something that ultimately doesn't satisfy them. In either case people try hard to convince themselves what they have corresponds to their expectations. As it obviously doesn't, frustration settles in and induces aggressive behaviours.
Or it could be just fanboyism. Some people are prone to that. It is hard to explain the causes for this within the limits of a comment, so I won't even try to. (I ain't no shrink either!) Once I wrote a rather sardonic entry about the infamous Pentax K-01 on my blog; some guy decided the most constructive contribution he could have on the matter was to insult me. After some research I found out - surprise, surprise! - he was a Pentax user.
Add to this the fact that some people feel invisible and invulnerable behind a computer and allow themselves to slander and insult just about everyone who thinks differently. Here's your recipe for disaster: that's usually what you get when you criticize something on the internet. In this cmatter, if it were the other way around, i. e. if Ctein had stated he didn't see any reason to use medium format because 35mm was all he needed, there would be crying and grinding teeth too. After so many years of internet, we should be used to it by now.

No more dental selfies, OK? I don't care what camera you use for them.

[Deal. --Mike]

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