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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12 thoughts on “One Month, One Camera, One Lens, One Step Too Far?”
I shot a Nikon F2 for all of 2014. I did on a couple occasions shoot other cameras, but 98% of my photographs in 2014 were from the F2. I wrapped up 2014 a much better photographer than I entered it.
I have had thoughts about shooting nothing but my No. 2 Kodak Brownie, Model D, for several months to see what happens.
But 2018 is likely going to be the year that I revisit as many of my existing cameras as I can. If I pick it up and I don’t feel intrigued, I will sell it. If I feel intrigued, I will put film through it. If I don’t feel joy shooting it, I will sell it. Only exceptions: a few cameras that have some special sentimental meaning.
I just read your post, and it answers most of my previous questions! I’m still curious about how much you use the F2 now though. Did you shoot it to death so much that year you’ve not returned much to it since, or build such a bond with it you revisit it often like a dear old friend?
I have put 4-5 rolls through the F2 since the end of 2014. I tend to use it for portrait work, as I have a 135mm AI Nikkor lens. It’s a great camera. It is also a heavy beast and that sometimes puts me off using it. I took my Spotmatic F and my ME to a car show on Saturday — both are much easier to carry for a full day of shooting. But every time I get the F2 out, it feels so good to shoot it again!
PS: look what I bought this week. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Pentax-K10D-10-MP-DSLR-Camera-Body-Only-Black-Excellent-Condition-Bonus/202030128639?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649
Sounds like a few cameras I’ve had that are brilliant to use but pretty heavy. The first three versions of the Konica Autoreflex comes to mind.
I’m really excited to hear what you think about the K10D. I reckon you’ll really like it, especially with your Takumars. Let me know if you need any advice setting it up – I know there are a couple of things in the custom menu you need to make sure are enabled to use manual aperture lenses etc.
Yeah, need to get a K-to-M42 adapter. But I’m going to start with my existing K-mount lenses. I’m thinking my 28/2.8 might be good. I’ll reach out should I need help with those menus!
I thought you already had the M42 > K adapter for your film bodies. When you do get one, get the official Asahi Pentax one. Saves potential hassle of cheap ones not quite fitting, focusing to infinity etc.
Good to know. I see several used on eBay.
Jim, what led you try shooting one camera for a year in the first place? Or did you just start out with a couple of rolls and enjoyed it so much you carried on and on for a year?
How often do you shoot with the F2 now?
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