The Yes Shot

It’s no secret I’ve used more than a few cameras in the last seven or eight years, both film and digital.

Over this period, I’ve developed an early litmus test for whether a camera is worth keeping to explore further.

I call it The Yes Shot.

Now, this is purely related to the pictures I can make with the camera.

There may be – and often are – numerous other factors that mean a camera doesn’t stay in my possession for very long.

Poor handling, being too heavy/awkward to use, too limited controls, an irritating feature like flash always being on auto, and more, are all reasons I’ve parted company with a camera so fast it’s been like a round of speed dating.

Back to The Yes Shot – what is it and how do I find it?

Usually I’ll set up the camera in a way I know it’s most likely to perform at or near its optimum.

For a digital camera this is most likely at its native ISO, without being zoomed in too far (or at all).

With all cameras I’ll wait for a day with great light, as I think this is the single most influential factor in how good the images turn out.

The most capable camera in the world won’t perform as well on a murky day compared with a bright one.

This is even more true for me with my penchant for older digital cameras – usually 10 years old or more – that particularly excel at low ISO in excellent natural lighting.

Usually I’ll pick a composition where the main subject is very close, and the background distant.

This contrast, combined with using a larger aperture, forces the background to blur and makes the main subject appear in sharper focus than it would do if the depth of field was greater.

With all this set up, what I’m seeking is a shot that makes me smile, and shows what the camera is capable of.

Something that sets the standard and gives me confidence going forward, a benchmark to aim for in future shots.

As I said, if I can’t get a satisfying image with these optimum conditions and settings, there seems little point continuing with the camera, when I already have a core arsenal of cameras I love and that do deliver.

Are there any exceptions to The Yes Shot rule?

Only really when the camera has a different feature or setting or ability that sets it apart, and doesn’t necessarily produce a textbook sharp, high quality image.

For example the Lumix FZ38 I’m currently using has an interesting film grain mode that makes high contrast black and white images at ISO1600.

This mode doesn’t deliver the absolute objective best images the camera’s sensor, lens and processing engine are capable of.

But it does give an interesting look and atmosphere I really like, and was instrumental in sealing this camera’s place in my arsenal for the foreseeable future.

How about you? When you have a new camera, do you try to create The Yes Shot, something that confirms what the camera can do and inspires you to want to use it more?

As always, 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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4 thoughts on “The Yes Shot”

  1. Hi Dan,

    Although I bought new “old” Pentax ES II and Minolta X-700 film cameras this year, I rarely buy new cameras. I already had a small set of M42 prime lenses and one zoom lens. The Minolta was an impulse buy after reading an old review on Casual Photophile. I had planned on keeping both cameras, and I didn’t have criteria for a “Yes Shot”. However, I found myself using the Minolta more than the X-700.

    Despite a thorough “clean, lube and adjust” by, I don’t feel confident using the ES II. The camera and lens combination is much heavier than the X-700. The ES II light meter draws a lot from the battery, and as I am not yet comfortable with the Sunny 16 rule, so I bought an external light meter. That makes the camera feel “kludgy”.

    After reading your post, I realise that I may have some hidden criteria for whether a camera meets my needs. I’ll describe them based on this morning’s post “35Hunter reading” and based on my experience with the Minolta X-700.

    The X-700 offers TT L centre-weighted averaging type metering with full-manual aperture and exposure, Aperture Priority auto-exposure, and Programmed auto-exposure for when I when all I want to do is compose, focus, and shoot. The X-700 looks and feels refined. I can turn it on and quickly get to composing my shots, setting aperture and exposure, verifying focus and pushing the shutter. And it delivers every time. I’ve ruined too many rolls in the ES II.

    The X-700 body weighs 505g, and the MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2 lens I bought adds just 124g. For comparison, my Fujifilm X-T2 body weighs 503.4 g, and my Fujinon XF27mm2.8 lens (41mm FF equivalent) adds just 78g. The X-T2 and X-700 “grab and do” kit are so close in weight that I quite often accidentally pick up the X-700 from my desk when I reach for the Fuji. The Pentax ES II body weighs 678g, but when I carry the extra 398g for a mounted SMC Takkumar 55mm f/2 lens, my right wrist starts to complain.

    I have been away from film photography for a very long time, developing my skill in the digital realm. My Fuji X-T2 makes me feel invincible. The Pentax ES II makes me feel like a notice. The X-700 is the 35mm film “confidence builder” that I need right now.

    I guess my criteria for keepers are similar to the reasons I bought the Fujifilm X-T2.

    * It feels great in the hand
    * I like the layout of the controls
    * It’s lightweight

    Once I have completed the 36 exposure roll in the Pentax ES II, I expect that I’ll release it for sale. Although, I admit I’ll want to keep some of the SMC Takkumar lenses to use on my Fujifilm X-T2.

    1. Thanks Khurt, I think you’re right, perhaps most of us have invisible checklists about what we do and don’t like that only come to life when we find something that we don’t like.

      I had and loved a Pentax ES, but yes they are heavy beasts! I had an X-700, but never really bonded with it like I did Pentax cameras. Excellent cameras, on paper. I preferred the stripped down X-300, but after going through three in as many weeks and them all failing electronically, I just lost trust in Minolta. Similarly with a Dynax 5D I had fairly recently and failed after only a handful of shots.

      I like that your checklist is all about the feel and handling of a camera. I think too many people are persuaded into using cameras which are technically excellent but lacking in inspiration in how they’re designed and how they handle. It’s too often a forgotten criteria, and essential for me personally.

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