Is it possible for someone who’s bought and used (and mostly sold) hundreds of cameras and lenses in the last five years to spend a whole month with just one of each?
That’s the question I arrived at around a week ago.
In recent months (in fact most of 2017) I’ve started to finally settle on a core photography kit. Around 15 vintage M42 and Pentax K mount lenses, two film bodies, and three digital bodies.
My film fallout this year has meant that maybe 95% or more of the compositions I’ve seen through these old lenses have been captured on a digital sensor rather than a frame of film.
I still have a few other cameras and lenses, but not in regular circulation and worth counting.
There are still duplicates in the set up (still too many M42 135mm lenses, still too many 50/55mm options) but overall I’m pretty content with what I have.
I’ve been experimenting with zoom lenses recently, and the SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm f/3.5 and to a lesser extent its fellow A series sibling the 24-50/4 have opened my eyes to the possibility of having one zoom lens to cover two, three, even four primes, without a significant loss in quality.
Also, the need I seemed to have a month or two back to fill every focal length between 24 and 150mm with a quality prime lens has diminished.
In practice, for my needs, having, say, a 120/2.8 Takumar plus four or five 135/3.5 lenses is superfluous. The difference between 120 and 135mm is small, so the 120/2.8 Tak with its slightly faster speed and wonderful performance could quite easily be the only one of these half dozen I need.
The final nudge that’s lead me to consider a month with just one lens and one camera is my very recent holiday experience.
Knowing that family holidays don’t tend to offer many photographic opportunities (aside from the family and touristy shots my little Nikon Coolpix has handled flawlessly for the last six years) I packed the smallest of my DSLRs, the Samsung GX-1s, my Pentax-DA 35/2.4 (the lightest lens I have by far) and my newest lens, and the widest I have, a Miranda 24mm f/2.8 in Pentax KA mount.
I started out with the 35mm, but because most of the shots were either interior shots in tight spaces, or wide landscapes, the 24mm Miranda (equivalent 36mm field of view with the Samsung’s APS-C crop sensor) soon took over and lived on my camera for the rest of the week.
The Miranda is so humble (common consensus is it’s a Cosina made lens rebranded by UK electrical giant Dixons when they owned the Miranda name in the 80s, and more than capable) its former owner attached black tape across the Miranda name to hide his shame. Maybe his or her friends all had Leicas.
So far its close focus (< 0.2m), convenience to meter with (it’s A series), and sharp enough final images encourage me to use it further without concern.
On a deeper level I love the idea of having less (in all areas of life), and having even the 15 or so lenses I have makes me a bit uneasy.
I don’t entirely know why, other than maybe a feeling that the less you have, the less you have to lose, and in a way the more independent this makes you.
If our house was hit by a freak bolt of lightning or hurricane, there are very few possessions I would be too upset at losing, cameras included.
This part of me feels it’s not unfeasible or unreasonable to have a couple of digital bodies, a 24mm, 35mm, 55mm and 120mm lens and that be it. To stop the endless searching, if not for the perfect camera and lens (I don’t believe this exists), but the perfect collection of cameras and lenses.
Also, I feel in another way the more lenses you have, the more excuses you have to not face up to improving your understanding and use of the raw essentials of photography – composition and light.
Confronting the limitations of one’s ability and experience.
For too long I’ve felt like a camera tester rather than a photographer, because the camera and/or lenses I’ve been using most recently is always new to me.
Maybe another way of expressing this is rather than proving I can rise to the challenge of making a half decent image with virtually any camera or lens, I want to prove I can make much better images with very few cameras/lenses.
Do less, and do it better. Another mantra of sorts that’s been at the forefront of my life for some years now.
And what if I reached a point where I didn’t really care which camera/lens pairing I used to make image, as long as I liked using them, and those final images, rather than carefully noting the specific details each time I share a photo.
Anyway, it’s an interesting time and potentially something of a crossroads in my photography journey so far.
I’ll post an update and some more images taken with the Samsung GX-1s and Miranda 24/2.8 combo in due course.
Have you ever used just one camera and/or lens for a month, six months, a year? Please let us know about experience in the comments below.
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