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Friday, 10 January 2020


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Hi Mike! On the topic of any camera being the perfect camera vs. an adequate camera, I happened to re-watch DigitalRevTV's episode of their "cheap camera challenge" with Sean Tucker the other day. It's a great exploration of the subject, and in the end it doesn't come down exactly on the side either of adequate or of perfect - which is perfectly adequate :-)

It's here:


The Bazooka Joe days I was more likely to buy a mail order Ant Farm or Sea Monkeys.
Did order and Ant Farm and had the wonderful experience of the package getting cracked open in the mail and the mailman on our route letting me know in no uncertain terms how unhappy he was about it.(the company replaced it for free)

MOMA had a large show of Stephen Shore's work last year - a photographer I respect immensely. Three of the cameras he used for the bulk of his work were on display. These were a Crown Graphic, a Rollei 35T and a Mickey Mouse toy camera.

There's a truism about management (and especially managing salesmen): you get what you measure.

The things you suggest are over-emphasized in lens reviews are things that can be measured objectively.

Bokeh may be the first quality not simply measurable to make any inroads into lens testing; at least I often see it commented on in reviews.

Older lens reviews often had subjective sections; I found those useful in some ways, but never about the lens imaging. I think it's because there isn't terminology, so mostly the writers described their reaction to how that lens drew things; if I'd spent enough time with various lenses various reviewers used I might possibly have learned what their subjective preferences were, but I never did (too much time and expense), so as a result those parts of the reviews, which ought to have been important, never actually communicated anything to me.

I'm left, as a many-decades-long photographer, hearing people talk about what they see as characteristic medium-format looks differing from 35mm, and occasionally about different lenses having characteristic looks. I even have some vague ideas of the technical differences often involved (at least there's the contrast of small-scale contrast vs. large-scale). But none of these things really means much to me—they're not things I've seen myself convincingly.

On the lens front—it's time, and far past time, for somebody with resources exceeding mine (and quite possibly exceeding yours, Mike), to use the relatively new ability to mount nearly any lens targeted for 35mm on a full-frame digital body, so that one can (with some effort) do comparison photos that differ only in the lens. Exact same scene and lighting and camera position and so forth, different lens. Then we can talk about differences in rendering at least in those lenses more meaningfully—and, I hope, learn to see that sort of thing better. Maybe some shots could be done outside, if the lighting wasn't changing fast; quick lens swaps with the body fixed on a tripod. You couldn't then get exactly comparable photos with the next set of lenses though. (I suppose you could come rather close by using cloudless skies with a fixed sun position—do the next set of lenses at the right time on a day of the same weather.)

It seems like in a number of ways Mike and I are opposite sorts of photographers, which I find interesting. Generally one learns more from discussion with people you don't entirely agree with.

For someone that is bored with the sharpness obsession this could be a lot of fun. Fujifilm made a 24mm bodycap lens sadly now OOP that was sold in Japan as a fun lens. It is f/8 only and has an uncoated plastic lens, a soft filter, a star filter and no electrical connections. I wish that the output was more Holgaish though.

https://petapixel.com/2015/02/06/fujis-new-xm-fl-x-mount-body-cap-lens-built-photo-filters/ https://www.macfilos.com/2016/02/10/2016-2-8-fuji-xm-fl-vs-xf23mm-the-most-fun-you-can-have-with-your-lenses-on/
Flicker samples here; https://www.flickr.com/groups/fujifilm_xm-fl/pool/
They are still sold on ebay; https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=fujifilm+xm-fl&_sacat=0&_sop=16

One can also buy a Holga lens for their digital or film camera. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=holga%20lens%20for%20dslr&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=

Thank you, Mike. I think the truth that any camera can be the right or even perfect camera can't be overstated. Nor the corollary, that any camera can be the wrong camera.

Of course, the criteria for "right" and "wrong" aren't always going to be completely photographic (access, environment, logistics, client preference etc., can factor).

So, Ming Thein, he of Hasselblad camera fame and employment, tried a pair of Nikon's cheapest lenses on one of their cheapest consumer grade cameras and his results astonished him: https://blog.mingthein.com/2019/06/22/nikon-af-p-70-300mm-f4-5-6-3-dx-vr-g-review/

Like you said, whatever works for you! It's not the best equipment, but the eye of the photographer that counts.

There are those of us who will still use technically imperfect gear, because we like the results. Pt/pd is still alive and well, and will draw
a lot of attention if you happen to show a print at a camera store or elsewhere. Not to mention b/w and IR work.

Bingo! That's why I subscribe.

Hear! Hear!

My guess is that we all can be a little condescending at times - on this site and elsewhere - our monkey minds being what they are. "Live and let live", someone once said. Wait, that was you, in this (and many other) posts.

I indeed remember Bazooka Joe, but hadn't thought of him in years, thanks for the nostalgia trip. You response to Julian definitely reaffirms what you have written several times, however, I believe that there is a contingent out there that is gear focused at the expense of the image itself... comments on DPR come immediately to mind... and hence iPhones can't be legitimate cameras. One has only go to Flickr and type in a particular camera to see excellent work from a variety of "light-capturing machines". Such examples should hopefully dispel the prejudice that a brand is synonymous with talent.

Speaking of the toy Diana, I received one as a Christmas gift in 1968 and it was my first camera, although before I sometimes used my mother's 620 film Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 that she got when she graduated from high school in 1951. Here is what I wrote about the Diana some years ago:

"For many years I have been traveling around the world and I combine that with the photography I have loved since the late 1960s. In particular, I am a fan of the National Geographic magazine and the old Life magazine style of photography. Sort of street/travel photography with a photojournalistic style or I sometimes call it Life Photography. My interest in photography started in 1968 when I received as a gift a "toy" 120 roll film camera, these days known as the Diana and popular with the art crowd. My recollection is that most of the photos I took with that camera were without film, but I was still fascinated by the idea of photography. Although I lived in Morocco for a couple of years as a small child, my first trip abroad as an adult was in 1985 when I traveled in Japan for a couple of weeks and then a week in Thailand. Those trips sure made a big impression on me and really taught me how much travel was going to be an important part of my life. The trip to Japan turned out to strengthen a life-long interest in the country and people and led me later to live there for several years. Since those trips I have traveled in dozens of countries, several of them multiple times, on five continents all over the globe, experienced many large and small kindnesses, dealt with many mishaps and misunderstandings, and met many wonderful (and not so wonderful) people. Photography is always an important part of my travels, but it is not the only thing. Seeing, doing, meeting are just as important. I believe the photography, rather than getting in the way of these things, has enhanced my ability to do them and they sort of create a sympathetic resonance that give each other more energy."

Ramblings about Travel and Photography


Amen. Well stated.

I waited till 2016 to jump on the digital bandwagon. One could see that what had taken nearly a century to achieve in analog, occurred in a decade with digital. So I waited till I felt I could get the tool(s) that I wouldn't need to sell, trade or be dissatisfied with in two years time. When the Fujifilm XT-4 comes out... I may just pick up a used XT-2 in VG Cond for $500, or not.

Yes and yes again.

Amen Mike. When the question of “Pro” gear comes up I often think of David Burnett or Michael Kenna and their very effective use of the Holga. They both know how and use “Professional” grade cameras but also get marvelous results from that simple plastic 120 toy camera.

Yes, exactly.

There's a deal I've love to see resurrected.

One of my biggest problems with phone photography (I have many) is that the phones do stuff that I should be doing, and they're doing it the way they want to do it, not necessarily the way I want to do it. It's like getting your film photos processed at K-Mart. I've got no problem with people taking photos any way they wish, but it seems odd to me that people celebrate the idea of getting adequate files with which they can't do much themselves. Right from the beginning of photography, it always seemed that people would go after a shot and then, in processing, try to enrich it with their own perceptions snd intelligence -- witness Ansel Adams' entire history with "Moonrise." Or imagine one of Alfred Stieglitz's intimate pictures of Georgia O'Keeffe taken with an iPhone, with the photo doing a really great job of bringing out the details of her face...

This extended conversation got me off my keister and grabbed a travel tripod today, I keep leaving my big ol' Gitzo or the wooden monster at home, and missing out of stars at night. Literally lashed a tripod together at Winter Camp. So yes, I really got that convenience can sometimes rob you of the shot you saw, or worse, keep you from shooting at all because you know that the one camera with you is not going to get what you want.

Thanks for the above on photographers who have used very basic cameras. As a long-standing user of a variety of Holga cameras I have always felt they produced my best images. However, with the increasing difficulties of finding film and anyone to proses it, not to mention the cost, I have recently been searching for some kind of affordable digital alternative - so far to no avail. The Ricoh GR looked a positive choice on paper but no photo shop near where I live in Germany has them and anyway they, like more or less all other affordable smaller cameras are so ridiculously small I can hardly get my fingers around them and I’m more or less of normal size. So, back to my Holgas.

Do you think the current apparent obsession with things like resolution, sharpness, pixels, vs the more traditional photographic values like composition, lighting, values, story... is the result of the camera makers (and all the internet "experts") pushing this to increase camera sales or maybe it has other causes, like perhaps people are getting used to the very sharp clinical look of digital images and they think thats important now?

I’m afraid I was more taken by the “Bazooka Joe” thing! I didn’t realize that a bubble gum manufacturer would have a post office box in my home town! (Westbury, Long Island)
I remember Bazooka gum, having chewed it myself, but as I perceive it today, I know the bazooka was a deadly weapon in use during the last world war! I wonder how many people know that today, among your readers?
Just strange!

A few years back I made a cardboard 8x10 pinhole camera for a friend.
A year later a box dropped onto the mat. In it were 52 pictures of Terry and Sharon's garden made on the same day of the week.
The original prints had been scanned and digitally printed at a smaller size, which enhanced their sharpness while showing the date they had been made.

Speaking of bazookas, I was out photographing late one night when a passing motorist mistook the tripod / camera combo slung over my shoulder for one and called the police to report me.

I was told they dispatched four cars to find me and as I recall, the officer who finally succeeded in doing so said they'd been looking for me for more than an hour.

Which isn't very encouraging in the event that someone, someday decides to carry a real bazooka around!

By the way, here is a photo I made with my Diana toy 120 film camera in 1968 (the one I mentioned in my comment above). My sisters and a boy from next door. :-) This was from the original roll of B&W Kodak 120 film that came with the camera (Plus-X, I think). Most of the photos everything was off on the right side despite being centered in the viewfinder. This was one of the few that the framing was okay. Apparently because I accidentally didn't center everything when I shot. :-)


Hello Mike
With all due respect: Not much disputation on your site. It usually is more a proposal from you followed by mostly polite comments. Studies say, that people gather on sites, which say what they want to hear. Therefore, your commenters are mostly favorable. Your site is better than say Bythom, which is wholehearted blast in one direction, without any discussion.
I understand you partly, comments on - say - dPreview or various Rumors -are more than often rude, but still... Sometimes I personally would like to go a bit more to the heart of the matter at hand than just read something followed by a couple of affirmations.
E.g. there is a comment with regard to Ming-Thein: One essay, pulled out of context of his site „proves“ something one WANTS to prove. It is not that simple, but over here it is „finished“ and stays so in the Net. Anyway, I still come to your site, sometimes it is fun to read. Take care and get better.

[Well, I think that's totally inaccurate and unfair--and somewhat galling, I have to admit, since I "Featured" mainly positive reactions to this post. But I often publish comments I don't agree with, and many readers don't agree with me—some rather thoroughly so. But you're entitled to your opinion. Just because we don't argue and get angry about it like a bunch of unruly teenagers doesn't mean we don't allow and even appreciate differences.

See there? You and I have just had a difference of opinion. :-) --Mike]

For the poster who lamented the lack of a Holga-like experience, I refer him to B&H or Amazon. There are genuine Holga lenses that fit on Nikon, Canon, Sony and micro 4/3 cameras. I use mine all the time. Just set the camera to aperture preferred and go out and shoot.

Speaking of cellphone photography my most faved photo on flickr was done with a Samusung S8. I like the photo but have no idea why anyone else would. https://www.flickr.com/photos/10025089@N05/49285067226/in/dateposted-public/

BTW, were you able to recommend a no-anti-halation film to Sally Mann?

[As I recall, yes. There was a manufacturer that would provide film with no AH backing to order, if you ordered a large amount. I forget now who it was. --Mike]

"The main blindness in modern amateur enthusiast photography as it is expressed and discussed online, in my opinion, is the conflation of "image quality" with good photographs."

Bronze that.

I could lay-out a set of, say, 20 of the world's most highly-prized and admired photographic prints...none of which would meet the Internet photo forum approval test.


Thanks for the Bazooka Joe comic image. It immediately trnasported me back to my childhood.

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