If You Can’t Be With The Camera You Love, Love The Camera You’re With

In the past we’ve talked about having a camera wish list, and whether it’s helpful or not. 

I lean towards thinking not.

The problem with a wish list is it outlines things you don’t yet have but would like to have.

Which by its very nature implies what you do have now isn’t enough.

That it’s lacking, incomplete, unsatisfying.

It also leads us into thinking that any “lesser” model than the one we desire, will be a compromise, with inevitable shortcomings and disappointment.

Ultimately we have two choices.

1. Just get that camera or lens on your wish list that you believe offers so much. 

What you’ll likely find – depending on how long it’s been on your wish list, how much it costs, how much you have to save/sacrifice to own it, and other factors – is either it’s a wonderful acquisition, or a major let down.

Whichever, at least you then know, and can get on with using what you have.

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2. Forget about the wish list, and love the camera(s) you have. 

All the time we’re looking at something we don’t have, we’re not focusing on the wonderful things we do have.

This reminds me of an old joke – “Life is like a self service restaurant. You go and get what you want, then see what your friend’s got and want that instead”.

Instead, focus on your own plate and all that’s on it. Whether it’s a camera, lens, life partner, or anything else.

You can’t fully appreciate it – and commit yourself wholeheartedly to all the potentially amazing experiences that await you – until you stop looking at other options.

Put another way, to paraphrase a classic song, if you can’t be with the camera you (think you’ll) love, then love the one you’re with.

How about you? Do you enjoy the cameras and lenses you already have, or always have one eye on something on your wish list? How has this affected how much you’ve enjoyed your photography? 

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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43 thoughts on “If You Can’t Be With The Camera You Love, Love The Camera You’re With”

  1. My camera purchases were always limited by my budget, so having a wish list made no sense. In my flim days I did have one “dream camera”, the Konica Hexar AF. Got one, filled one roll with it, and was very disappointed with the results – so I immediately sold again. That taught me that there are no “dream cameras”, only cameras that match your personal skills and let you shoot what you want to shoot.

      1. Robert – having just looked up ‘flim’ in the Urban Dictionary, I think you should tell us more about those days 🙂

    1. Ah yes many wax lyrical about the Hexars. What was it that disappointed you so much that you knew you didn’t want to use it again?

      Yeh I think the dream cameras are those that present the fewest obstacles to shooting the way you want to shoot. And sometimes the tag of “dream camera” or “wish list” can curse our adventures with unrealistic expectation before we even begin.

      I think some (in fact most) of the cameras I’ve enjoyed most are those I’ve had the lowest expectations of, because it’s such a pleasant surprise, whether in how they feel to use, or the final image (or both!)

      Expectation is nearly always the precursor to disappointment.

      1. Some people shoot great stuff with the Hexars, and in many ways it’s all you want from a camera. But I was driven crazy by the constant fiddling with the settings (the quirky, “secret” combinations for exposure compensation, critical speed, silent mode, etc.). Also, the 1/250 top shutter speed is very limiting. Maybe I should have given it more time, but for me the camera stood in the way of taking pictures too much.

      2. Ha, Robert, “constant fiddling” is something that quickly puts me off a camera too!

        Oh and 1/250s seem a very limited max shutters speed, unless you’re shooting very fast film!

  2. Hey Dan,

    I thoroughly enjoy the equipment I have, but admittedly there are cameras and lenses I don’t have that I wish I did. So I guess I do have a wishlist. But doesn’t everybody? That said, I’m not obsessed with buying more and more gear, or upgrading constantly. After all, I shoot film exclusively, so really, as long as the camera in use works correctly and the lens isn’t overtaken by fungus, I’m happy. All I need it to do is stop the lens down to the set aperture and move the shutter curtains at the right speeds. The real control over the image lies in the chosen film, developing method, and scanning/printing. The camera and attached lense just need to do their simple jobs. As long as they’re doing that, I’m content. I think my greater concern is that film stocks will be discontinued before I really have a chance to explore what each is capable of. This has sadly become the all-too-common reality film shooters have to deal with…

    Take care.

    1. P, from what I read there are more film stocks available today than in years I thought? Including quite a few from smaller independent companies, aside from the big players.

      1. If you include all the so-called experimental film stocks, then sure, there may be more available “types” of film on the market than there has been in a long time. But here’s the thing, I care nothing about such film, and I would venture to guess neither do most other “serious” film shooters. Do people really want to pay money to shoot deliberately ruined film that overlays lightning, rainbows, or tie-dye on their images? Or what about expired emulsions that have been re-labeled as something new, deceiving customers to pay for what is effectively old trash? Or how about the exact same emulsion that is sold under a million different brands (e.g. Fomapan)? The fact of the matter is that when you exclude all these experimental films along with the countless re-brands, there is very little variety left for film shooters today who are looking for consistency with the stocks they shoot. I’m thankful for what does exist, but it pales in comparison to days past. The selection from the “big players” is nothing like what it used to be, and a lot of the big players no longer even exist. Just look at what Kodak and Fuji have for offer today versus historically. Where are all the tungsten balanced color negative and slide films? How about true infrared emulsions? Very high speed color stocks? Very slow color stocks? The list goes on, and I think you get the point I’m trying to make. Again, I’m thankful for what still exists and for the reintroduction of some wonderful films, but I think the claims floating around that we have more options today than in years past is massively exaggerated. From smaller companies, only JCH Street Pan, Street Candy ATM, Ferrania P30, and a handful of other emulsions are of any interest to me. Another issue today is how absurdly overpriced a lot of the available film stocks are, which excludes me and many other non-pros from even being able to use them because they’re simply unaffordable.

      2. P, yes I think plenty of people are happy to pay money for experimental films! I didn’t get many myself, but certainly enjoyed cross processing slide film as C41, redscale, exposing both sides (EBS) of the film (so one is redscale, the other standard) and more. I rarely shot fresh film, most was 1-10 years expired. The unpredictability of film was a major draw for me, and is for many others.

        I was happy to get my hands dirty and make my own redscale and EBS film from existing emulsions (usually the cheapest consumer film, like Fuji C200 and its rebrandings), but many people just want to pop the film canister in with it all prepared and start shooting. They’re happy to pay more for someone else to customise the film for them for an extra couple of pounds.

        For the most “serious” film shooters, as you put it, no these types of film and processes don’t appeal. Which is of course fine, this is my film can have such a wide appeal for different photographers.

        I have no idea of the true cost of producing film, and so how much more we are paying. I would assume that the larger players like Kodak, Fuji and Ilford have much lower costs per roll because of the volumes they produce, but even the cheapest consumer colour film now seems very pricey. And yes, for me too, along with developing costs (which we’ve talked about before of course) it’s made film all but unaffordable for many. Which is a real shame when the equipment is so wonderful and the results can be so satisfying.

      3. Dan,

        I don’t have anything against shooting expired film as I shoot my fair share as well, but without expectations that it will behave like fresh stock. Nor do I have a problem with cross processing E-6 in C-41, if the aesthetic that produces is in line with a person’s artistic vision. But I’ll never understand paying exorbitant amounts of money on film that is not only totally unpredictable but also quite literally ruined on purpose. Most “experimental” stocks fall squarely in this category. Instead of having a market bloated with these sorts of films, I’d much prefer to have more real stocks available that can be relied upon to achieve consistent and repeatable results. After all, I’m looking to advance my abilities and my understanding of film. I can’t do that with anything but fresh, quality emulsions. I guess the current film market is good for people who just want to mess around, but for people trying to learn and master their process it’s honestly not helpful at all.

        Yes, everything related to film has gotten way too expensive. Regardless of all the ways people attempt to justify it, I think it’s rather obvious it’s fueled by greed, plain and simple. The math simply doesn’t add up. It’s truly sad, and I worry it’s going to eventually be the downfall of the industry after interest starts to level off and only those truly serious about film as a medium remain.

      4. P, I agree with all of your points, as always you have very reasoned arguments.

        Although I don’t have an issue with ruining/treating film for a different look, I think the problem comes when people perhaps don’t know what’s available to them, and that it’s quite easy for example to make your own redscale film by rolling a cheap consumer film back to front into a donor canister and it costing a fraction of the price of film that’s sold as redscale.

        I expect there’s a significant proportion of photographers who use “experimental” film that has been altered by someone else with not much effort and have paid through the nose for it. And not realised they could do it themselves, or the other options available. Still there is a proportion (like me, once I’d got a grasp of what film could look like shot “straight”) who enjoy the unpredictability of altered films. Though I absolutely agree it’s useless when you’re trying to learn and achieve a certain look of your own, and always using experimental film. It’s akin to taking a digital picture and running it through a randomly generated preset in Snapseed or Hipstamatic and been baffled about why the outcome is different every time.

        On the flipside, I wonder if more people who have only ever shot film “straight”, and have been curious about something like redscale or film soups but been put off by the price of the experimental films made and sold by others, would try them if they knew it was simple to do yourself (and much cheaper)?

        Again I guess it’s about people knowing what the options are, and if they want to experiment more, they don’t have to pay far more for someone else’s altered and repackaged film.

      5. Dan,

        I think I need to clarify my position with regards to experimental films. I don’t have any issue with people experimenting with film in any way they please, be it redscale, souping, etc. I do however have a major issue with experimental films being sold at a premium and the film market being saturated with these products. As you said, it’s cheap and easy to do this stuff yourself. While these sorts of experiments are not for me (I just see it as a waste of good film), I’m not saying other people shouldn’t try them out if they’re so inclined. My concern is just how much of the present film market is experimental film and how little variety there is in terms of traditional stocks. I just don’t think that’s good. Hopefully what I was trying to say didn’t get lost, and if it did hopefully this added clarity.

      6. Hi P, yeh I understand, I know you weren’t saying you were against experimenting – either yourself or other people. I’m not in touch with the current availability of film, so it’s probably biased far more to the experimental end than when I stopped buying film regularly perhaps three years ago now.

        I wonder if another factor is simply reflective of our society now, the old fashioned, simplified approaches aren’t favoured much because some marketing department or other are busy trying to some up with the next exciting angle to sell their wares. So with film, attributes like natural colour rendition aren’t promoted, instead it’s zany shifted colours, and so on.

        It takes a fair bit of discipline to shun modern advertising and just follow our own simple path, in all areas of our lives.

      7. Yes, modern marketing/advertising is just sad. It wasn’t always this way, but today, with probably 99.9% of all products, the marketing campaign behind them is designed to sell no/low quality junk for more money (outrageous profits) and to convince the consumer they’re getting a good deal in the process, when in reality they’re being ripped off. Like I said, I don’t think it was always this way (across the board, at least), but as far as I’m concerned modern marketing is a blatantly dishonest thing. I just ignore all advertising. If the value and usefulness of a product can’t stand on its own, it isn’t worth anything.

      8. I’ve really noticed this on Amazon. Not that long ago you could trust the reviews and get decent products. These days it just seems overloaded with cheap, inferior stuff, and a dozen versions of the same product all with slightly different brand names…

        This is another reason to enjoy older photography gear, and I don’t even mean just vintage film stuff. Early DSLRs and compacts from 10-15 years ago feel better made and more built to last than today.

      9. Yeah, it’s really gotten bad, Dan. Thankfully there is still plenty of quality old stuff floating around, which is just further evidence of how well made things used to be. Once upon a time everything was made to last. Now everything is disposable.

      10. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a work colleague, perhaps a decade ago. They were looking to get a new car, and could afford the basic spec. I said why didn’t they get a car that’s the same model, but the higher spec, with air con, more comfortable seats, electric windows etc, that’s a year old, and probably still be saving.

        They said “Oh I didn’t think of that, I just wanted a new car”.

        I continued – “but as soon as you drive the car away, it’s used. And two years down the line you’ll have been driving around in a used low end model for two years, when you could have been in the higher spec more comfortable model. At that point the higher end model will likely be worth more too, because its spec make it more desirable, despite being a year older.”

        “Oh. I’ve never thought about this” they replied, almost flabbergasted, “I just wanted a new car and the budget spec was all I can afford”…

        I wonder how many people, what significant proportion of our societies, think the same way, just brainwashed into buying the newest, just because it’s brand new, disregarding almost all other factors… It’s genuinely scary.

        Give me used higher quality over new tat any day of the week!

  3. I’m more of an opportunist when it comes to camera shopping. If one of my trusted sellers had something tasty I might buy it. But now several have passed, and I’m not buying any more anyway. Occasionally I went looking for a specific type of camera, like a point and shoot and it was quite a few weeks before I settled on my Panasonic. (Partly because it was discontinued and the price dropped dramatically) The only thing I am really wanting that I don’t have is a “Normal” lens for my Fuji, but that’s not in the cards right now, so I’m trying some adapted lenses.

    1. Hi Jon, which lenses are you trying with your Fuji?

      I do have a handful of searches for more unusual cameras or lenses set up on eBay, so if/when they do come up I get notified. It’s better this way than going on there every day to search, then get sidetracked by something else I don’t need!

      1. Hi Dan,
        I was out today with the Fuji and my Canon 35/2 (One of my all time favorite lenses) and it took very nice pictures, but it’s not going to work for me. That lens is huge to begin with, and heavy, so with the adapter it becomes an ergonomic disaster. At least the focus peaking works better for me than any other digital camera I have tried. Maybe this is my chance to learn more about the 28mm focal length which I’ve never come to terms with….

      2. Jon, you’ve summed up the ongoing dilemma I have, and what I plan to write about again too. Vintage lenses are lovely, and a joy to handle and use, but on a DSLR they can be fiddly to expose, difficult to focus and the overall combo is so bulky. With mirrorless many prayers are answered (reliable exposures, focus peaking and magnification to make focusing easy) but then there’s the front heavy “ergonomics disaster” you accurately describe. I’m coming to the conclusion the only way to shoot my favourite old M42 lenses without major compromise is stick them on my Spotmatic F, a camera they were made for, or just sell them and stick to modern AF lenses.

  4. I agree, especially as the ‘wish list’ tends to carry connotations of “this will make me a better photographer”. As Gershwin said, “it ain’t necessarily so.”
    It is better to determine if some piece of equipment that caught your eye really would be put to use, or if you’d play with it a few times and then leave it to collect dust. I have to plead guilty to that on a couple of recent buys, but mainly because I haven’t had the opportunities I was expecting this year. Another Summer down the tubes!

    1. Absolutely, yes, the wish is to become a better photographer, whatever that means (I don’t think we always know), rather than just a lust for a particular new piece of kit.

      Autumn, winter and spring all have plenty of photographic opportunities! For me I’d say summer was the least interesting season.

  5. I no longer have a camera wishlist. I learned the hard way, after many years of buying and selling lots of different cameras and lenses, and never really being happy with them. It was only when I bought my first manual, mechanical 35mm SLR – the Nikon FM – that I stopped searching. Before that, most of my cameras had some kind of electronic component and I always shot in aperture priority mode. I didn’t realise what I wanted until I started looking outside the box I’d put myself into. Also, shooting with just this camera for my Month of Film helped massively. I really learned how to use this camera properly, and it made me love it even more. It’s the camera I pick up 99% of the time and it’s my only SLR now. I even sold all my 120 film recently because I was not shooting it.

    1. Good to hear your adventure Mel, as you know mine is similar. The Spotmatic F for manual shooting, and Contax 139 Quartz for aperture priority became the only two film cameras I needed.

      Have you sold your Yashica Mat 120 film camera too?

      (PS, I clicked through the link in your name here and it says site deleted, mellonicoley one. Think you need to switch it to your current blog URL?)

      1. Nope, I still have the Yashica. For some reason I haven’t listed it for sale yet. I guess I’m kind of hoping that I’ll want to use it again in a few months! Also it’s a very pretty camera and looks great on my shelf 😀

      2. Brings to mind that classic William Morris quote –

        “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

  6. Hi Dan,

    No camera wishlist for me. I have two nice examples of the very best (for me) mechanical film camera that works with my favorite lens family of all time (ltm,m39). I included all of the qualifications in that sentence because my ltm/m39 lenses can be used with everything from the Leica Model I of 1930, to my two Leica IIIf RD ST’s of 1955-1957, to a borrowed brand new Fuji X-H1 (with an adaptor). Using my 135/3.5 canon lens with IBIS is impressive, but I just don’t get on with digital so there is no danger of my keeping the Fuji.

    I do have a short lens wishlist, but I already have the focal lengths and apertures on it covered so there is no urgency.

      1. I have two short telephoto lenses: an 85/1.9 Canon that makes beautiful portraits but weighs so much that I don’t like holding it for extended times like our granddaughter’s soccer games, and a 90/4 Elmar that balances very well on the IIIf and works well for outdoor sports, but with that focal length I like to use fast shutter speeds and the f/4 aperture can be limiting in dimmer light. Canon made a very small number of a lighter 85/1.8 lens just before they went out of the rangefinder business. I am sure I would like one but they are few and far between and _very_ expensive.

        Another lens I would like is a pre WWII uncoated 50/3.5 Elmar. I already have a collapsible 50mm, a 50/2.8 Elmar, the closest thing I have to an everyday lens. But there is something I really like about 35mm B&W images from the 1930’s and I don’t know how much of the look is due to the film stocks of the time and how much is due to the uncoated lenses. I’d like a lens with clean glass and good cosmetics because it will likely spend most of it’s time in my little display cabinet.

        And further down the list, I’d like a faster 35mm lens than my 35/3.5 Nikkor. Canon made 35’s in f/2.2, f/2, f/1.8 and f/1.4.

      2. Oh yes it would be great to try the 50/3.5 Elmar to see how closely it recreates the 1930s images you like.

        You still have quite a list then!

  7. I don’t have a camera wishlist. I have a number of digital cameras, the youngest is now six years old, and between them they meet my digital needs. Got back into film last year when I stumbled across my Contax 139 Quartz which I bought new in about 1984. My Samsung Galaxy 7 records most of life’s snapshots, and when I photograph with intent now it is usually with the Contax, but sometimes with my even older Ziess Ikon Ikoflex, or the Mamiya RZ67 I was recently given. All very capable cameras, with wonderful lenses. I am not bothered by the lack of some of the specialist film of former years, as digital sensors are very capable of filling those market niches. The film stocks that do remain available give me plenty of options for almost all the photography I want to do. None of my cameras is perfect, but they are all really good, and I am enjoying the journey of discovering all that they can do for me. I do confess however to having a small lens wishlist still!

    1. Thanks for your input Steve. We sound similar with the old(er) digital cameras. Think my newest is about six or seven years old too.

      I also love the Contax 139 Quartz. It’s one of only two film cameras I kept after going through hundreds between 2012-2017.

      What’s on your lens wish list? Yeh I confess too, the biggest danger with cameras with interchangeable lenses is not buying too many lenses…

      1. Dan you are right about the interchangeable lenses. I do quite a lot of landscape photography, and sometimes astrophotography as the Aurora Australis can be seen from here, so would love a fast Zeiss wide angle such as the Distagon 21mm or 25mm, a Tele Tessar 300mm, plus a portrait prime, either 85mm or 135mm to complement the Zeiss zooms I already have. Christmas and birthdays for at least three years taken care of I think!

      2. Yes, let your nearest and dearest know!

        The problem is when you have multiple compatible bodies and lenses, then the combinations become silly.

        At one point when I was shooting film I had seven Contax/Yashica bodies and probably 15 lenses, if you include the M42 lenses I was using via an adapter. 7 x 15 = 105 different combos. That’s before I chose the film and the location!!

      3. Ah yes… I have a couple of spare bodies but usually only shoot one at a time. Good to be able to run a couple of film stocks if I need higher iso on occasions, but usually I stick to my favourite film and then the only decision is focal length….

  8. I am coming around to a very similar school of thought.
    As I may have mentioned in a previous comment to one of your earlier posts this year, I am using a single camera for 12 months, which will finish on New Year’s Eve.

    I have been thinking for a lot of this year, which camera I may treat myself to next year, yet I have a Sony A7 II camera that I have used for any paid work I have done this year, which has been left behind on my fun trips.

    I also have a collection of legacy glass that has been dormant for the duration of the one camera project, which will give the Sony a whole new lease of life.

    Sony make some superb native lenses, but I really like the feel of using an old lens on a modern camera, some of the bargains I have acquired have turned out to be little gems, an Ashai 50mm f1.4, a Meyer Lydith 30mm f3.5 and my favourite Helios 44-2 58mm f2 to name just three.

    Yes, there are lenses that I would love to have but not before I spend time rediscovering what I already have

    1. Andy, thanks for your thoughts.

      I’m curious about your line “which camera I may treat myself to next year”. Just wondering why you see it as a treat, and why you need to treat yourself with something like this?

      (Guess I see a treat as a one off indulgence, like a chocolate cake, not an investment in a tool that will reward me time and time again.)

      1. Most of my cameras have been bought second hand, except my current X100F, so a brand new one is not something I splash out on often but my one camera project this year has given me a few pointers as to where I would like to go in the next couple of years with my photography, so my next investment may be a significant step closer to the Leica I have coveted but could not justify the cost of.

      2. Ah ok. I guess I don’t associate quality or desirability with “new”, because the best cameras I’ve had have been used, and I couldn’t have afforded them new, or even a year or two old! I’d rather have an older used camera at the top of the range, than a new one that’s mid range, for example. Quality trumps age!

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