Well, I hate to break it to you my friend, but if you didn’t know already, there is no single perfect camera or lens.
Once you get through the X number of cameras required to finally believe this yourself (for me X was around 80-100 with film cameras, and perhaps another 50 or 60 with digital cameras), you can settle down with the very best of the imperfect handful you’ve found and start to enjoy them, flaws and all.
By flaws, we can consider both perceived shortcomings in the design and use of the camera, and in the images it can produce.
Personally, I’d rather have a camera that is 95% amazing to use and produces 75% (or less) amazing pictures, then vice versa.
With my photography, I’m not pixel peeping, sharing with others to pixel peep, or making billboard sized prints, so I don’t need cutting edge image quality.
Plus I’d happily sacrifice some of the image quality over a more enjoyable and fluid user experience.
The other way around – highly accomplished images, but with equipment that has irritating and flow-breaking flaws – might impress the first few times. But I soon realised that the quality of the images is not enough of a payoff for how frustrating such a camera can be to use.
On occasion, I’ve landed a camera that’s been either really awkward to use, or plain faulty, and sometimes here a gritty determination kicks in, to overcome the faults and flaws to wrangle something worthwhile out of the rascally little machine.
For example a few years back I bought a Ricoh GX200 from the US, which turned out to be faulty in numerous ways.
However, because I’d invested a considerable amount by my usual camera standards (about £115!) I wasn’t going to just write it off, and managed to obtain some pleasing photographs with it, even if I did never use it again after that.
But back to cameras that are not actually broken, but have some kind of flaw that means they feel imperfect.
With these, I tend to lean into those imperfections, and almost make a feature of them.
For example, my Ricoh GRD III I find most fun using on the High Contrast B/W mode.
This means zero post processing for me, I can just kick back and enjoy the experience of using the GRD.
Which very satisfying indeed – it’s regularly my favourite camera and always in the top five.
The flaws in this particular mode especially, I would say are the smudging of details (literally, most images look like they’re made with wet ink somehow) the very black blacks and very bright whites, with not too many shades in between.
So I often seek out simple compositions where there isn’t a range of fine details to capture anyway, it’s more about shapes and textures.
And quite frequently I’ll deliberately include bright light sources that create a more overblown look that they appear to the naked eye, for dramatic and emotive effect.
The above images, all made with the Ricoh GRD III, are from perfect, but I’m very pleased with all of them, as they came out as I hoped they would, leaning in to the known “flaws” of the camera.
Plus it’s far more fun getting to know cameras more deeply, flaws and all, and making memorable images with them, than constantly switching to another new (used) camera in search of the perfect do it all device, which for me doesn’t exist anyway.
When I come across a new (to me) camera (which is increasingly rarely these days, it has to be said), I consider not only what is very good about it, but how I can put its flaws to interesting use.
But mostly I’m just focusing on the dozen or so cameras remaining, and enjoying each one’s imperfections to the full.
How about you? Which are you favourite flawed cameras, and why?
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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