Photography With A Point To Prove

For the last few years I’ve wondered why, despite having found an excellent core arsenal of cameras, I still get something different, something extra, from using a camera that’s new to me.

I feel I should be entirely happy with cameras I love like the Pentax K100D for colour, and the Ricoh GRD III for black and white.

And I am.

So what is the extra level of satisfaction I get using a new camera?

I think there’s an underlying factor of having a point to prove.

With my tried and tested cameras, I know I can create certain photographs with them, images I’m proud of and happy to share.

With unfamiliar gear, this is all yet unproven.

It’s the same person behind the camera of course, those most important 12 inches of Ansel Adams, but there’s the obstacle of the equipment itself that is not yet conquered.

Usually, the gear in question is something dead cheap I couldn’t resist from eBay.

Like the classy little Casio Exilim EX Z-1000 that cost me all of £6.

So the point becomes can I make a decent photograph with pocket money cameras?

I think this then proves two things to me.

First, that I can still make images I like with any camera, a variation of staying on top of that old saying about musical artists being only as good as their last record.

Second, that photography can be done on an absolute shoestring budget.

Which is something I have shown over and over again, and written about many of my experiments here on 35hunter.

How about you? Do you enjoy the challenge of making a photograph you’re proud of with a new (to you) camera?

Does it give you any more or less satisfaction when you make photographs you love with gear that cost you next to nothing?

Thanks for looking.

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20 thoughts on “Photography With A Point To Prove”

  1. This article reminds me of the many dozens of used rangefinders I bought and shot before finally abandoning film. Each had something unique to recommend it – lens speed, size, exposure accuracy, etc. – and each was a joy to use. I sold the last of these, a mint Yashica Lynx 5000 with manuals and leather case, about a year ago. It was a nostalgic moment.

    Digital photography hasn’t yet yielded quite the same sentimental affection for cameras that I experienced back then. One exception, however, might be the Canon 30D. I bought this body as a spare in preparation for a trip overseas, and I sold it immediately upon my return. The few shots I took with it, mostly for test purposes, are in retrospect crisp and vibrant, with color quality exceeding my then-primary camera, the Canon 40D. In fact, they may be superior to the output of the full frame 5D I acquired shortly afterward, and which I still shoot as my primary body.

    Based on this experience, I would have to agree that excellent photography can still be had on a shoestring. The 30D and a carefully selected, manual focus 28mm lens can probably be acquired for $100 or less in excellent condition. That’s enough to capture a ton of terrific images in the right hands.

      1. Every time I come across the old test shots, I’m tempted. But on the other hand, the much improved dynamic range of newer mirrorless bodies, such as the EOS R, has caught my attention. For all their good qualities, bodies from the 30D and 5D era simply fail at capturing the high DR scenes that used to be so effortless with print film. Also, I shoot with a number of older MF lenses adapted to the Canon mount. My “hit and run” shooting style doesn’t typically allow shooting those lenses stopped down, but I believe an EVF would resolve that. So, I’m in a holding pattern right now, waiting to see if prices come down a little. Much as I might like to have a 30D for certain types of photography (particularly macro), it’s more important at the moment to be patient and save the coins. 🙂

      2. I don’t tend to stay in those holding patterns for long. I’ve been waiting for a Sony RX100 III at a decent price (ie less than £150) but I’ve watched a dozen or so soar beyond that so I’m bored of watching. And I don’t want to spend that much on any camera again, however good it might be. I’ll probably just fall for something much cheaper (again) instead…

  2. Only having a few familiar options to shoot with I don’t have much room to comment specifically on what you’re driving at. However I’m still in preparations to experiment with my dad’s Minolta T101 and if that’s successful I’d be pretty curious about trying an old Nikon film slr. But that’s putting the cart before the horse for sure so I’ll conclude by saying that I love those leaded glass windows. That masonry is very interesting, too. I wonder if there’s a special name for that technique? Only very rarely will you see it around here, and in the countryside on the other side of the mountains at that.

    1. Thanks J. Most churches over here have some kind of stained glass windows, with lead between small panes, fusing it all together. I haven’t been inside this particular church, and of course the image is in b/w, but I would imagine it was a very colourful and detailed image when viewed from the interior.

      Whilst some stained glass windows look good from the outside, many are akin to a woven tapestry, beautifully neat on the front side but messy and scrappy if you turn them over. So their beauty is deceptive, and I’ve walked into many churches on a sunny day with the light streaming in and been quite breath-taken by the windows.

      What do you mean by “still in preparations” with your Minolta? Now I understand the air is clearing round your way maybe it’s a good time to take it out for a ramble?

  3. I do enjoy the challenge for sure! Every camera has its strengths and weaknesses so it’s always interesting to experiment and find out what you can actually produce in your (or new) photography genre.

  4. Well I’m not going to affirm that your blog somehow influences this…
    But in my case, I think if I wrote a blog on photography, it would cause me to get newer gear just to have something to write about. I mean, you’re basically finding things that can be useful to your audience, and the fact that you get to use them for a while, is the cherry on top.
    But since I don’t have such blog, I’m in no rush and sometimes can spend a year or two without any new gear (or rather, new-to-me gear) at all.

    1. That definitely happens with some blogs Chris. I read a post on one of the most popular film photography blogs where the author said he was so burned out constantly testing different cameras just to have new content for the blog. He stopped enjoying it, and never really used the camera he really wanted to, or photographed what he really wanted to. I don’t follow it any more, I hope he found a better approach, that gave him more satisfaction.

      I don’t really think I’m like that, although I have used a fair few cameras, and written about many of them! I don’t really think “what camera can I get and test next that would be popular on the blog?” I just kind of go with what interests me personally at any time, then share some of the journey here along the way.

  5. Hi Dan, this summer I’ve made two great deals, Panasonic TZ5 for ~10 pounds and LX2 for ~12 pounds. Both with cases and SD cards and in a great condition. Playing a lot with TZ5 gave me a lesson that I don’t really need RAW, optical viewfinder and different lenses to have a great fun, to get pictures I like, with quality I am satisfied. Trying something new (digital point & shoot for the first time in my life) makes me less strict about own habits.

    1. As I big fan of Lumix cameras, congrats on those deals! I’ve had a TZ2, and still have an LX3, so I’m pretty familiar with how the two you’ve picked up operate and what they can deliver. What I like about the slightly more sophisticated point and shoots like these is you can experiment a little to find how you like them set up best, then just leave the settings saved and point and shoot. Rather than them being so simple from the outset you have no – or very little control – over anything.

  6. At last! Someone else with a K100D! Not that I use mine anymore, but it’s there, if I want to. I love my K5ii coupled with the D-FA 50mm . . . I have other lenses, my favourite combo used to be the K100D or P50z with my 28-80mm (still going strong, even with a little electrical tape on it) – I’ve had that lens since 1993, I think. The best new-to-me deal I’m ever going to get will be when I inherit my Dad’s Rollie and his ME Super – I’ve coveted both since 1986 – but hopefully, I will be at least 65 before finally getting my grubby little hands on those.

  7. I didn’t know why at the time but every so often my Zenit would surprise me with a great portrait.I loved that thing.It was never the same after it fell from my motorbike!

    The Olympus AF10 Mini is much better than it ought to be.It’s so basic it only has 2 DX contacts for 400-everything else it treats as 100. Lovely vibe to quiet,atmospheric HP5 pics.

    Everyone should try a Holga portrait at minimum focusing distance (1m).Use a tape measure. Lots of twigs,flowers,willows etc for the background.A touch of flash (block off 2/3 with tape) just to lift the subject but not override ambient.IMHO Holgas respond well to slow,thoughtfully composed shots.

    Pinholes can be wonderful,especiallly if you use the long exposures to highlight a moving element in the composition.

    Not a cheap camera,but the Ricoh GR2 can work wonders in Tranny film simulation as well as B&W,if you really work on the image settings in the sub-menus.I feel a little soiled after nailing a keeper with it though-almost as if I’ve cheated. ATM I’m falling in love all over again with the Fujica ST 701 Mum gave me on my 17th.I’ve had it serviced and it’s beautiful. I alternate between the Fujinon 55/1.8 and the Helios off the wreckage of the old Zenit.Right now I’m loving the fuji more.It’s so smooth and a little more subtle in it’s effects.


    1. I think I had an AF-10 Mini, and a Super too which was similar, very simple but delivered lovely images. I recall I modified the flash on mine so it never came on, there’s a switch that’s activated when you slide open the cover, you can pop the cover off and file down the plastic that activates the switch.

      I also had a Fujica F701 which I agree are very elegant and understated, quietly beautiful cameras. Especially combined with the Fujinon 55/1.8.

  8. A pocket money camera, hmm. I had luck to get a Fujifilm DL MiniSuper at the equivalent of 2 pounds in a flea market, but this is a very capable point and shoot. Having made nice images with faulty equipment I guess the cameras in the old cellphones with plastic lenses and 2 megapixels were, a few of them, quite nice to me.

    1. Yes, I mentioned the Sony camera phones I started with in another reply to you just now. I think the first I had was 3.2MP, then 5MP. Still made great images!

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