In the last year my collection of cameras has decreased to essentially two 35mm film SLRs, a DSLR, a few digital compacts and my Xperia phone.
In reality I haven’t shot any film in perhaps 18 months now, and in the last three months have only picked up three of the digitals, using my phone for everything else.
During the same time I’ve rediscovered cycling and am now using bikes as transportation to my photography explorations, rather than my car.
None of my digital compacts are large by any means, but the one I seem to reach for first is the smallest of them all, as it’s the only one that will completely disappear in my pocket whilst riding.
It’s the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-L1, from 2004, which makes it positively vintage in digital camera terms.
So why am I favouring the little L1 over other higher spec’d and greatly enjoyable compacts like my Pentax Q, Ricoh siblings the GX100 and GRD III, and Lumix pair the LX3 and GF1?
Put simply, less is more, and the Sony is plenty.
Looking at its capabilities first, it’s enough for my needs. The Sony’s 4MP images are ample quality for online use or 8 x 6 inch prints.
It doesn’t have unnecessary modes and functions, and in fact once I initially set up Program mode, Center AF [sic] and ISO400 and left everything else on Normal, the only setting I change is between colour (the default when you switch on) or b/w.
And this is mainly so I can cheat and see in black and white with the camera’s assistance rather than purely in my own imagination.
The Sony’s “enoughness” extends to its size too.
It’s big enough to handle very well. At the rear, the thumb rest has raised metal dots to aid grip, and the strap lug is positioned and angled so your thumb beds into it comfortably and aids handling further.
On the front, Sony intelligently positioned the lens at one end, leaving the rest of the small body for your fingers to close around.
Yet it remains tiny overall, measuring 95mm long, 26mm deep and 46mm high, and weighing a mere 145g.
My LX3 is one of the smallest compacts with such a capable lens and set of features, but even this feels bloated next to the Sony.
And as I said before, this means it’s really the only camera I have that truly disappears in a fleece or jacket pocket whilst I’m riding. I can’t see or feel it’s there, but when I see something interesting I want to photograph, I just stop and whip out the L1.
But all this compactness and simplicity wouldn’t account for much if the photos were rubbish.
Fortunately, and best of all, the Sony makes photographs I really like.
The black and white images are pretty good straight out of camera, but I usually add a little extra via my standard Snapseed 13 second process.
At multiple times in my photographic journey I’ve wondered whether I could be a one camera photographer.
It’s true I like a little variety, and my remaining handful of digital cameras give me that.
But all the time I’m walking or biking to camera shoots, and all the time it’s still working, I can’t see me needing to look beyond the cracking little Sony DSC-L1.
How about you? Is your camera collection – and the size of the cameras you’re using – shrinking, or expanding?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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