For Each Camera, A Unique Purpose (And The Attraction Of Those We’ve Not Yet Met)

Most of us here don’t regularly make photographs of subjects ranging from plants to planets, high speed sports events to staged studio models, and wildlife roaming half a mile away down to insects at the end of your nose macro.

With a few weddings and family parties in between.

Which means we don’t need some highly sophisticated, versatile (and possibly non-existent) super camera with a 61MP sensor, ISO to 32000 plus, and a crazy 30x zoom lens to cover every possible photographic occasion.

Instead, we can settle on cameras that are far better suited to a much narrower purpose, and one that matches our favourite and mostly frequently explored forms of photography. 

To simply find and use the best tools for the job, and avoid any duplication.

In addition, this is perhaps a sound fundamental approach for those of us who don’t want an ever expanding collection of cameras, with dozens which are, in function and capability, near identical.

Would you really expect to have six near identical claw hammers or 10mm spanners in a household toolkit? No.

Do you have five toothbrushes, four hair brushes, six bath sponges? No, you just need one for each specific purpose.

So by the same token, we don’t need half a dozen cameras that are almost indistinguishable, both in use, and in the final output. 

Finding a set of best tools for the small set of photographic styles we favour, means more than just looking at spec sheet promises however.

It’s about discovering those that we just connect with most, love handling and using, and that encourage and implore us to get out and shoot at every opportunity.

I’ve been thinking about how I’ve tried to apply this “one camera for each purpose” philosophy to my own cameras.

When I want to shoot colour without any post processing, I reach first for my Pentax K100D DSLR.

For straightforward contrasty, inky black and white, with a wide fixed prime lens and compact body, up steps the Ricoh GRD III.

For pure pocketable lo-fi point and shoot action, where I don’t even need to focus, just compose and press the shutter, there’s the Pentax Q with 07 Mount Shield lens.

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Then, when considering which particular type of photography you’re up for today, based on the small range you enjoy best, the most suitable camera chooses itself.

Which, in theory, should make it easy to not only select the most suitable camera for each occasion, but to keep our overall arsenal down to a small handful.

Again, a unique camera for each photographic purpose.

But then, perhaps the opposite to this approach rears its head.

Put simply, a curiosity in how any one camera sees the world.

Or more specifically, the tiny nook of the world right here in front of us, right now.

The Ricoh GRD III doesn’t see the world like I do with my naked eye.

But I like how and what it sees, and know it well enough to capture the kind of photographs I want to keep and share.

Similar with the K100D.

I remember being in a fairly dark woodland with it this past autumn, ankle deep in leaves, but the colours looked fairly muted, because of the lack of available light.

A couple of shots with the K100D though somehow revealed a depth and richness in the autumnal colour that I just couldn’t register with my own eyes.

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Again, I love how this camera sees the world, and try to use it in situations where this is brought out to the optimum.

The trouble with this thinking is one can look at any camera (including the thousands you don’t (yet) own) and wonder exactly the same.

With this camera’s unique combination of lens, sensor, internal processing and the way I’ve set it up, how will it capture this scene before me, in a way I perhaps can’t even appreciate with my own eyes?

And so we’re torn between knuckling down with a small selection of cameras, using one at a time for a sustained period, and constantly exploring new (to us) cameras that might give a new view of the world we love just as much.

Or is this just me?

Do you get curious about other cameras, even though you have a collection of cameras for specific purposes that you love and use often? 

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).

Thanks for looking.

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16 thoughts on “For Each Camera, A Unique Purpose (And The Attraction Of Those We’ve Not Yet Met)”

  1. I think you’ve touched upon an aspect of human nature… The “just one more,” approach. Just one more camera, or lens, or gadget, and then I’ll have enough. As we know, it isn’t enough…

    1. Thanks Adam, yes it is such a fine balance, between relentless seeking rather than enjoying what we have, and exploring that genuine curiosity of the new that is so embedded in creative people.

      We’re interested in finding new cameras, people, hobbies, but if we tip the balance and have too many of any (or all!) of these things, we don’t have the time or focus or energy to enjoy any of them.

  2. A thousand times yes. There will be some cameras I keep for sentimental value or because I think they’re wicked cool. But for the most part I want my cameras to represent a toolbox, and I will use the right tool for the job.

    1. This works when you pick the tool then go seek out the appropriate jobs. The danger is wandering more aimlessly and always wishing you had a different “tool” than the one in your hand, because it would probably be better suited for the particular job in front of you.

      I hope that makes sense!

      1. Exactly. Like if you want to go round the house filling in a few dents in walls, you pick up a little filler knife and a tube of polyfilla, not a hammer, or a spanner.

        It’s finding that balance of subject matter that’s wide enough to keep you interested but not so wide you never settle on a style or buy too many cameras or lenses to cover every possible subject scenario.

  3. It depends on each person. I shoot on Fujix70 and iPhone7 and simply can’t afford more cameras. I don’t know if I need more to be honest. If I absolutely wanted to try a new one, think I’ll sell mine and use that money to buy a new one.
    I don’t really like have too many options and like the creative constraints as in the end I believe it’s all about a photographers vision and not his gear.
    Having said that, if you have the means and the passion for different cameras, why not?

    1. I really like your approach Yuri. Actually I envy your discipline!

      Yeh it’s the part of me that sees each new (old) camera as a new toy to play with that leads to buying more than I need or can reasonably use.

    1. Indeed, though I don’t know what a wahoonie is. We generally say “it’s all gone pear” (as in pear shaped) round these parts, or it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong (rhyming slang for “it’s all gone wrong”).

      That is a genuine, enjoyable purpose!

  4. I got into photography with the old 4 megapixels cameras, so I am biased to small plastic cameras with fixed lenses. I lush a bit about the modern full frame mirrorless Canon cameras, but I suspect that although the photos would be spectacular I would not have the joy to put a camera in my pocket and just go, I think my Fujifilm X100s is the bigger I would really want.
    (Said that my limitation in reference to cameras is not for a monk soul but my meager monetary resources hehe)

    1. Yes, for me, anything too new and expensive I’d be afraid of breaking! Much rather have something older and simpler I don’t mind shoving in a bag or pocket.

  5. I think I am like that with lenses more than with bodies… though I have to say that my dream camera is a Pentax 645D (medium format with a Kodak CCD sensor – what else could one want?)
    But I like my APS-C cameras… large enough sensor for what used to be possible only in medium format film in regards to image quality.
    Now in regards to lenses, I do always consider what I’m going to be doing, and take the lenses that I think will match my needs… and yes I do wonder about the character of some lenses I don’t own, but having acquired the SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 I might have the finest lens in terms of how beautifully a lens can see the world… artistically speaking. But of course when I’m at my sons basketball games the SMC-M 100mm f/2.8 is king, and at soccer games it’s the SMC-M 200mm f4… yes I do it all usually with manual focus lenses 🙂 I can’t afford the monster 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms and I’m probably better off with the smaller primes anyway.

    1. Even within Pentax K mount – and especially including M42 mount, in which there must have been hundreds of different lenses made – there is such variety we’ll never have them all, or even if we did could never get familiar enough with them all at once. Better to have a small set that you know and love I think.

      Some of the Pentax tele primes are more compact than you think aren’t they? I had, I think, a Pentax-M 135/3.5 which was surprisingly compact and a Takumar 105/2.8 which was very small and made stunning photos.

      Compare this with the bazooka like Pentax-A 35-105/3.5, which is a fantastic lens performance wise, but what a weight brute to lug around. Especially when I used to use it on my K10D!!

      1. I never had the A 35-105 3.5, I have so many great primes in that range that I haven’t felt the need.
        I have however been curious about the older K series 45-125mm f4 lens. It seems a bit smaller than the 35-105 and there’s something about the colors from that zoom – so saturated and lush looking, that just attracts my eye. Not a common lens, but if a cheap one appears I might have to grab it…
        And yes the primes are so small… what a joy. My M 200 f4 is unbelievably small compared to the SMC-A 70-210mm f4 that used to serve the same purpose (the 70-210 zoom is one of my favorites and isn’t going anywhere, but it hasn’t seen a lot of action lately….) The SMC-M 100mm f/2.8 is also very small, and the SMC-M 50mm f/1.7 is basically a pancake! And I don’t have to tell you about the SMC DA 35mm f/2.8… that thing almost floats in the air…
        So having an APS-C DSLR isn’t nearly as bad when I can put on a small prime and get such great quality being able to carry it around all day without ever feeling it’s too heavy…

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