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Tuesday, 19 March 2019


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How does a 4x5 view camera rate for simplicity? In some ways it is tje simplest camera around. But it is also the most complex.
The key is to learn the basics amd tjen use what you need in your photography. Nobody needs all the features of a modern camera. Just like nobody needs all the movements in a view camera.

The paradox is that the only "serious" cameras today that have clean, simplified user interfaces and controls, with limited "feature sets", are from Leica, Hasselblad and Phase One, and are the MOST expensive cameras available. You have to pay more money to get less. Oh, and what else do they have in common? None were designed in Japan. That's not a coincidence.

My GX1 just turned seven. I've tried several cameras since but (thankfully?) its resale value is not worth checking. I think it's the right camera for me in several ways - the first 16Mpx 4thirds sensor, hackable firmware for higher video specs, small but with an optional VF, and simple ergonomics that make sense. Click the control wheel for EV±, press ISO and every single possibility is a screen-touch away, point to AF in stills or video. Every 'improvement' in later models came with a loss in simplicity for me. So the G85 is my 'do-everything' camera.. but the GX1 is my enjoy-shooting one.

Ansel Adams used to take a single shot and knew what he was getting. He was master of his craft and was close to genius at it. I try to emulate him with digital, take very few frames and most of them work out close to what I expected. But then I have been at it for sixty six years, so I know what I am doing.

Digital equipment is designed for profit only, aimed at people, often with a big pocket but no sense of what works in photography and what doesn't. They are impressed by technology, things like DPAF, even if focus with scientific precision is entirely unnecessary. But have a look at the pictures; most do not have a clue.

Of course equipment has become very complicated and like microwave cookers with all those totally unnecessary settings, it creates an unnecessary obstacle to many people. The first digital camera I bought on an experimental basis to overcome this, after which I was able to identify the micro-wave syndrome, sort out what I needed to know when I later made the move seriously from film.

I shoot landscapes with a Nikon D610. I set custom buttons for AF-ON to focus manually and lock it where I choose. I also set AE lock and hold, set exposure adjustment to +3 and take a spot reading and exposure set on the brightest part of the scene. So, I am using manual, subverting the automation to do it all more conveniently.

If you are shooting action then auto-focus obviously is a help. Cannot knock that but the extent to which it has been taken on top end cameras I think is useless, daft.

A few moments ago, I was reading a forum topic on the alleged magic of film. One comment referred to the fact that you could alter the results by changing developer. That made me remember a lot of painstaking work in my teenage years to get my technique spot on, the magic of when I got it right and the wonderful tonality when I did it with Ilford Pan F or Kodak Panatomic X in Neofin Blue.

That's the difference. Magic is possible with monochrome and colour on film. Photography is far easier with digital, no doubt about it but instead of the potential for magic all there is is poring over the manual to figure which few features actually are of use.

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