The Ugly 10Kg Monster DSLR Around Your Neck

Imagine you’re a photographer who enjoys a compact, simple, capable camera that you can slip in your pocket and carry anywhere, and easily set up to get the kind of photographs you like, without hours of post processing.

But then someone takes that special little camera away and instead throws an ugly 10kg monster DSLR around your neck. 

It’s huge, heavy, and cumbersome to use, baffling to navigate the menus, laborious to set up, and even then the images you end up with are RAW files that require extensive processing to get them looking anything close to how you want.

Plus you’re stuck on some machine gun aping burst mode so even a 15 minute photo shoot ends up with 500+ photographs to sort through.

It would be enough to make someone give up on photography entirely. 

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This, of course, is an extreme, exaggerated example.

But I suspect that most of us are already imposing a similar kind of limitation on our photography. 

If not literally a super sized DSLR, then a metaphorical equivalent, something that repeatedly gets in the way of us enjoying our photography as fully as we can, and making images we’re proud of.

Speaking for myself, in the past, the ugly 10kg monster DSLR around my neck was the inability to walk away from eBay, instead compulsively buying cameras, lenses and film I ended up never using.

This behaviour and pattern also meant I was rarely shooting the same kit in consecutive photowalks, and constantly felt more like a camera tester than an actual photographer, making pictures that were merely “good enough” to prove that the camera worked ok, rather than images I loved and was proud to share as my best work.

I ditched this monster DSLR by purging my collection (multiple times) so I now have only a handful of cameras left, and know each one very well.

And by far the easiest way to be restrained in using eBay is to never go on it, just remove any temptation entirely.

During another phase, my ugly 10kg monster DSLR was scanning film photos myself, in an effort to have more control, and save money. 

The process took so long, and with inconsistent results that needed repeated scanning, that I eventually realised I was shooting less and less film because I was pre-empting and dreading the hours each one would take to scan afterwards.

I decided that the few extra pounds it cost to have my film scanned by someone else each time was well worth the time and frustration it spared me, many times over. I sold my scanner and went back to my local supermarket lab. Liberating indeed.

A further ugly monster DLSR was having cameras and lenses in four, five, six different mounts.

Which meant not only that I was duplicating lens focal lengths across each mount, but it was taking me longer to decide which camera and lens to use than I was actually shooting the things.

This I overcame by honing down to just my favourite mount, M42, and only cameras that could use M42 lenses. Currently I have a native M42 Spotmatic F, a Contax 139 Quartz (via an adapter) and on the digital side a Lumix GF1, again with adapter, plus five M42 lenses.

As with the other metaphorical monster DLSRs I finally tossed aside, the experience was very freeing and energising, and I haven’t looked back. 

How about you?

What’s the ugly 10kg monster DSLR that’s hanging around your neck, the one thing that’s holding you back from enjoying your photography to the full? 

Have a think, be honest with yourself, then let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what I’m into right now.

22 thoughts on “The Ugly 10Kg Monster DSLR Around Your Neck”

  1. With apologies, Dan, and to play Devil’s Advocate – must there be a Monster?

    We talk about eBay, about staying away from eBay, about avoiding online listings, classified ads, shops, garage sales, all venues for used kit and the temptations of inexpensive treasure.

    But as a remedy for what?

    Because eBay is *how* it happens – unused, dormant, gear-sprawl. Not why.

    So what need has been served when we acquire things beyond our ability to effectively, cogently use or master them? Is any potential for actual use even relevant to the question?

    Fulfilling desire. Acquiring for acquisition’s sake, is what: the sheer pleasure of ownership, collecting.

    And that is quite aside from photography, which is about making images; one of the kindred satisfactions of art, of craft, like solid, pleasing writing, or sketching, or music well-played.

    I don’t know that my own unorganized, themeless, varied ‘collection’ of this-and-that *always* impedes or interferes with the satisfying pleasure of a well-made shot, but I have ruefully learned not to mix my pleasures: oh, I have been there, downtown in the capital at a large public event, wearing an N90s, an F3HP, and an FA around my neck, scrambling to keep the straps untangled and the bodies from bashing each other and the different protocols straight, and missed shots because of it.

    So if you are going to acquire, collect and to also actually use pieces from the collection from time to time, than deliberation is very important: “I am going to make some medium format images at the old mill today, and I will use only the Agfa Clack, and leave the Yashica 124g and the Rolleicord at home: this will be a Clack day, with Clack limitations and no regrets.”

    Is it really an either/or, zero-sum thing? Must ‘collecting’ lose if ‘using’ is to win? Or can the one encourage evolution, refinement in the other? I think about where I am, what I use today; my enjoyment in use is the greater maybe because I got here in a process. And the process will like continue, sometimes frustrating, often wasteful though it may be.

    1. William, I think you’ve nailed it, in that collecting cameras and making photographs are separate pursuits.

      Many of us do both, but the collector part of us could perhaps be just as easily satiated by collecting vintage watches or Star Wars Figures or Teddy bears. None of these are about the creative act, in the same way that a collector of vintage fountain pens is not necessarily a writer.

      Personally I set out with intention to be a photographer perhaps 12 years ago now, and got sidetracked by the collector and tester roles, especially after discovering film in 2012.

      Yes as you point out, this does help to hone the photography side, and I am the photographer I am today with the kit I use today, because of all the kit I’ve used in the past.

      I’m not saying I’ll never buy a camera or lens again, but I am very pleased to have reach a point where the appeal of collecting for collecting’s sake is pretty much zero for me.

      1. ( There may be a little tragic sub-note of sublimation here;l I have never encountered a person with a lot of varied cameras who did not insist that he or she was first and foremost a devout shooter.
        And most of the shooters of true talent encountered cared only about the kit to the extent that it worked acceptably or did not.)

        1. Yeh I think that may well be true, but most of us do like a little variety at least. I think this is definitely a symptom of the age we live in and the vast choice and availability of everything.

          In the 60s, 70s, 80s, the average amateur photographer could probably only afford one SLR and two or three lenses. These days that can he had for £100 or much less if you’re patient and lucky. The ease at which we can accumulate makes it all the more difficult to resist.

          With bikes, as a kid it didn’t ever occur to me to have more than one bike. But now it’s very easy and very affordable, for the same reasons.

          I do wonder though how much of an influence our parents are in this aspect of our behaviour. Whilst my mum has always been very frugal (coming from her parents being farm workers in a rural village and never having much), my dad had his fair share of toys, mostly cars and motorbikes, and I can recall very few times when he had only one.

          Both parents have influenced me, and indeed created an ongoing inner conflict between these two opposing states – make use of what you have versus I like collecting toys (and the cost is a secondary concern).

          1. Hmm…relative affordability…then (longings of impoverished youth) vs now (hoary git with a bent for immediate gratification), and the flood of decent vintagey digital P&Ss & M43s cheap as chips, crying out to be bought; that’s my bloody-mawed monster …

            On dpreview just now, an interview with a young designer/photographer and fellow hunter-gatherer in the Pacific Northwest made me clutch my pearls: she’s totally addicted to thrift store finds, focused on the CCD wonders produced between 2008 and 2010, none over 25 frogskins… she includes a link to a Wiki of all the surprising cams of yesteryear that can produce RAW files…this may never end, what with my hunt for the Panasonic Lumii of your own heart, Dan and the reinforcing score of the user-adjustable Canon S95 recommended by JIm, the scent of an S100 and the S120 on the air…

          2. William, can you give me the link to the DPReview article? Sounds interesting!

            There are a number of objects I longed for in my younger days that ended up getting in some form when I was older and had slightly more means!

          3. Thanks William she seems a girl after my own heart, this is pretty much the kit I’ve settled on too. Except she has one or two more than me!

          4. More amusing are the comments left about that piece (hadn’t read em earlier). My, folks do get het up…

          5. A bit further down that rabbit hole, she has a section on her old “upcycling”-themed tumblr (http://kinwav.tumblr.com/about) called “digital past projections” (http://powershotg2.tumblr.com/) with her work done using various models of the Canon Powershot series, and a pointer to the kindred Twitter (http://powershotg2.tumblr.com/).

            It doesn’t seem to me, btw, that she is under any particular disadvantage with the Powershots; Canon led the industry in excellent consumer P&Ss for a long time. I know of a wedding once shot entirely with a G5.

            Not much for me personally in the content – the models/people are all about the ages of my grandchildren and the cultural references opaque as they would be a couple of generations along; the interesting bit is the niche and its stance apart from the techno/commercio rat-race. That race is fine with me, btw; like WWII, it’s shocking expensive, but has brought us many many marvelous improvements in what we use. It’s just that you don’t *have* to sup at that trough to do interesting things.

          6. Thanks William, I’ve had a browse and saved it for more in due course. I really like seeing people experimenting with older digital cameras that most would consider useless these days. It flies in the face of the rampant consumerism and planned obsolescence we’re battered with daily, as well as following the spirit of the “make do and mend” mentality my grandparents grew up with.

            Must say it has tempted me to look at old Canons, a while back before I got the Lumix LX3 I was looking at older G series, and there are a few more compact ones with around 10MP CCD sensor that look appealing. Better make sure I stay away from eBay!

  2. I am sure that even after I finish thinning my herd I’ll still buy and try cameras. I do enjoy it. Maybe I’ll just always be a camera tester on some level. But I don’t see myself accumulating cameras anymore.

    The thing I intend to stop doing, my 10kg monster right now, is trying films. There are so many to try!

    Yet I find myself let down by new-to-me films so often. Especially in b/w. I’m realizing that I adore Kodak T-Max 400 and Fomapan 200 (aka Arista.EDU 200) and that I should just commit to those as my b/w stocks. Maybe with a little Kodak Tri-X thrown in sometimes for old time’s sake.

    And for color, as long as Fuji keeps making C200 and Superia 400 I’ll keep shooting it. I haven’t figured out which will be my “fancy” color film yet — Portra 400? Ektar? I shoot Ektar almost exclusively in my box cameras.

    1. Thanks Jim, yeh I’ve been there with films. I had amassed around 300 rolls at one point, and it was actually my wife asking why a whole drawer of our freezer was full of film but I hadn’t shot any for a year, that prompted me to have a reality check, then a clear out.

      Throw in the expired film factor and the range explodes even wider, as over the years dozens more emulsions were made than are available still today, and most of the time with some careful choosing, expired film can give very pleasing results.

  3. I’ve recently come to realize that the ugly 10Kg monster DSLR around _my_ neck is the 27″ screen of the iMac I have been using to post process my negative scans.

    Back in the ancient pre-digital days I had both 35mm and MF cameras. I developed my own film and made my own prints in a series of improvised darkrooms. I never printed MF larger than 10.5×10.5 which meant I never looked at the MF images at more than a 4x magnification. I printed 35mm at about twice that magnification. I switched back and forth between the two formats for a while but eventually decided that I preferred the prints I made from my 35mm negatives.

    After a brief fling with digital cameras I settled on my current hybrid process of shooting film, digitizing the negatives and making inkjet prints. And that meant I could look at my old 35mm and MF negatives at whatever magnification I wanted on the screen. And at high magnifications the MF images blew the 35mm images out of the water. But try as I might, I could not capture the magic in 11×11 prints of the MF images. I came to realize that the attraction of the MF images on the big screen was the sharp detail that I could only see in the prints with a loupe!

    A couple of weeks ago I decommissioned the big iMac and started working exclusively with a MacBook with a 13″ screen and it’s the 35mm images that stand out on the screen, just as they do in my prints. Who knew?

    1. Doug, this is a very interesting angle indeed, and has got me thinking again about the quality I need with my own photos.

      I had already perhaps a year ago given up with shooting RAW and using LightRoom to process. RAW takes longer to write (especially on the older cameras I use), the files are bigger and therefore slower to work with, and take up more storage space, and I realised that for my requirements I simply don’t need a huge file of super high quality. So I just use JPG with all my digital cameras now, and with some not even the highest resolution JPEG.

      I think we need to think carefully about what the final image we require will look like – how big, in what format etc. For my photographs I only need an image the size of my 15” laptop screen, which is bigger than the occasional 8×6” print I make anyway. Not many people will be surfing Flickr viewing every image at full size and pixel peeping. Most will likely be using a laptop, tablet or phone so the resolution/size can be smaller still. The highest MP camera I have is 12MP, so even the roughly 4000x3000px images that produces is over twice what I need.

      I think I might write a full post about this, thanks Doug!

  4. I got rid of the 10kg around my neck a while ago 🙂 I kept buying and trying different cameras and lenses, never really learning from them, always wanting that elusive “perfect” camera, and constantly trying to decide what to shoot with next. It was only when I made a conscious effort to reduce my gear that I found my ideal camera – the Nikon FM.

    I now own 6 cameras (down from 15), but I never use 3 of them now – Diana Mini, Superheadz and Nikon D50. They are destined either for a charity shop or to collect dust until I feel like using them again. I love my FM 🙂 my GX7 and my new-to-me Yashica Mat 124G. For the first time I am very content with my camera collection, and there is nothing missing that I *need* (although I still want an Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens!).

    Not only did I reduce my camera collection, but I have also started to stick to shooting only with my favourite films (i.e. Portra, Ektar, C200, Vista+ 200, Velvia 50, Lomo Purple, Reala 100) , as I now know how to get the best results with them. I bought some Provia to try though! And I have a few rolls of ColorPlus I either need to shoot or swap.

    1. Mel, do you find yourself tempted to look at similar Nikons though, like the FM2 and 3, FA, FE, FE2 etc?

      I found it fun to play with different film, but yes if you want to try get some consistency across your work, it pays to shoot consecutively with the same emulsions and get to know them better.

      1. I’ve thought about getting an FM3A or something similar, purely because they have a higher maximum shutter speed than 1/1000, but really I can get around that with ND filters! And there’s nothing else that I need that my current cameras don’t give me. In the past I probably would’ve bought one to try out, to see if it could improve upon the FM in some way, but honestly I’m so happy with the FM, I think I would find it hard to let it go anyway!

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