I’ve always been a big fan of wishlists. They’ve been both a huge help and a headache of a hindrance at different times in my photography journey. Here’s how I’ve used them, and how to work out whether they might work for you (or not!).
In my early twenties when I was interested in a more diverse range of music than I am now, I had an extensive wishlist of the artists I wanted to explore, as well as specific records.
I have a fairly good memory, so whilst I had a scrappy paper wishlist in my wallet for some of the more obscure acts, it was usually enough to have read a review of a certain record, or a bio of a particular artist, to then remember them when I saw them in a record shop.
So when HMV or Virgin or Our Price (remember them?) had one of their sales, I would stock up on a few CDs to extend my collection.
I’ve used Amazon’s wishlist feature for as long as I can remember (it tells me the oldest items on there were added in 2002), again for music, but mostly for books.
More recently, since discovering film cameras in 2012, I’ve had an ongoing camera wishlist.
After major purging and simplification in the last year or so, my camera collection – as well as my wishlist – is drastically reduced.
So how has a wishlist helped my photography in the past?
I’ve never been interested in being a camera collector, having dozens of cameras in glass cabinets, and going for complete ranges of bodies or lenses.
My intention – since discovering film in 2012 – has been to have a small, working arsenal of cameras I use frequently, and love shooting with.
So my journey through hundreds of cameras in the last five or six years has been about trying to find these fabulous few.
Having a wishlist helped me assess what I had, and see what the next step might be to get ever closer to this core photography kit.
The problem was – and to an extent still is – that there is no one perfect camera.
When you find one that’s close enough to your ideal to make you think you’d never want to sell it, there’s always a similar camera out there too that might just be that tiny fraction more enjoyable, and add an extra edge to your images.
The wishlist just feeds and drives this literally endless quest, far beyond the point where it would be wise to stop.
To illustrate this practically, here’s my current wishlist, why each camera is on it, and why I probably don’t need it –
I have the original Pentax Q which is fantastic. This later model has a larger and improved sensor. I’m curious about how the images compare with the original. If I could pick up a Q7 with a lens I don’t have (eg the 08 Wide Zoom) it would give me more options with my current Q too.
I’m very happy with my original Q, and never think “I just wish I had a bigger sensor to get sharper, more detailed pictures for those 3m by 4m prints I want to make”. The funds would be better spent investing in a different lens for my existing Q, or saved for a few photography books.
Ricoh GRD (original)
My GRD III is an utter joy, as is its zoom lensed sibling, the GX100, the camera I’ve used more than any other in recent weeks. I’m curious about how the older, simpler, cruder and lower spec’d original GRD performs, especially given the grainy, moody pics I’ve seen others have made. Plus I’d like to pick one up before they’ve all died!
I have the other two Ricohs mentioned. If I want more mood and grain I can use the GRD III and increase the ISO to 400, 800, even 1600 and use the Hi Contrast BW mode. The beauty of these Ricohs is you can set them up to be as close to a pure point and shoot as you want and just ignore the wealth of options and menus available.
Ricoh GR (APS-C)
The later evolution of my GRD III, with a significantly larger APS-C sensor. By all accounts this would be an utter DSLR destroyer in my arsenal. I’ve seen some quite incredible pictures made with these. I’m familiar with – and love – the design, interface and handling of these Ricohs, so the transition should be smooth.
I’ve used my GX100 at 35mm more than anything else recently, because 28mm can sometimes be too limiting, and give too much distortion, especially up close. Also the price, being much newer it’s still hard to get one for less than around £400 new or £300 used. More than my GRD III, GX100 and Pentax Q cost combined.
Panasonic Lumix LX3
When I was looking for the definitive compact digital (a role now filled by all three of those cameras mentioned in the paragraph just above in slightly different ways) this Panasonic kept cropping up. The LX3, with its fast and highly regarded 24-60mm lens and a much vaunted Dynamic Monochrome mode similar to the GRD III that would likely allow me to use photographs straight out of camera, is still highly appealing.
I have those three superb little compacts already, it’s unlikely the Lumix could offer anything radically different in the final image, or in the enjoyment of use. Again, whilst not expensive (probably around £100 used) this is probably money better invested in a different lens for the Pentax Q, photography books and prints of my own images.
I’ve never owned or used a Leica before. With my interest in film all but evaporated, the obvious choice for a Leica would be a digital machine. Since I’ve shot about 95% in black and white for the last nine months, the Monochrom stands out.
Cost. I’ve never spent that much on anything, not even a car. Unless I win the lottery, it’s not going to happen. Plus, it’s a rangefinder, not my favourite kind of camera, and by all accounts the files need considerable post processing to get good results, again something I’m not really interested in. Furthermore, I understand that for much less I could use a DSLR or mirrorless and have the Bayer filter removed (or be brave and do it myself) so it’s a pure b/w sensor too.
Once you reach a certain point of contentment with what you have, a camera wishlist is an unnecessary catalyst for restlessness and unhappiness.
It’s like buying a new car you love, then every day driving to half a dozen other car showrooms to test drive their latest models.
Or ordering a favourite meal in a restaurant, taking one bite then ordering something different in case it’s even tastier. Over and over again.
Or settling with one amazing partner, but still visiting singles bars and clubs every weekend to see who else is there.
If you’re curious about different kinds of cameras, and aren’t happy with what you’ve tried already, a wishlist can be helpful to redirect you.
Better first to really consider what you enjoy and value about photography, how your current camera(s) serves this well, and how they don’t.
Then you can carry out some informed research in the most helpful directions, with a wishlist being a part of this.
But if you’re happy with at least one or two cameras you already have – which I’m guessing is far more likely (here’s a test, if you lost all your cameras in a freak accident today, what’s the first camera you’d go and buy tomorrow, the one you couldn’t live without?) – then a wishlist will only feed and amplify a dissatisfaction that’s not really there.
The very name – wishlist – tells us everything. “I wish I had this camera, then I’d finally be happy.”
Instead, appreciate, enjoy and learn to get the most from what you already have.
Because a deeper and longer term satisfaction can only really come once you commit to what you have, learn it inside out and back to front, and give it your full attention and devotion.
Do you have a camera wishlist? How has it helped or hindered your photography?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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