I have been re-reading my last couple of posts. Oh, dear. Observing them from afar, I can now see how hopeless my advice has been!
“Vowed I’d Never Write” was a fever and exhaustion fuelled proselytising romp through why I thought that the Baldamatic I was unsurpassable. I offered nothing other than weak mitigation that it was ‘cute’ and had 'German glass’. I then undid everything by saying you had to buy a manual camera.
“Prepare for Constant Heartbreak” turned out to be a lament to my own inability and clumsiness; before swiftly veering into an exceptionally egotistical enumeration and erroneous explanation of exposure! All without any of my trademark alliteration, tsk, boob. Still, anything written after listening to Bats in the Attic, twelve times in one day is bound to be a bit odd.
In this post I will try and offer why I own, and why I covet, cameras. Expect that for some models, I shall offer no more or less a justification than: cool, too cool, not cool enough.
35mm Point and Shoots The Baldamatic I is effectively a point and shoot. As is my Olympus Trip. They have such limited settings, as to make shooting a reflex thought. My Baldamatic was free, and my Trip was less than a tenner. They are however, priceless: Load 35mm film, twiddle, fire, repeat. The Baldamatic offers character and exposure control, the Trip offers bombproof exposure (polished steel glare!) and beautiful, Zuiko, glass. Have at least one 35mm point and shoot in your collection and proximity at all times. Zeiss, Canon, Agfa, Balda, Olympus, et aliae, all offer a useable and inexpensive model. But don’t stop here… I mean own a couple, but, proceed to creative control.
35mm SLR The Olympus OM4ti is the most badass mother of SLRs on this planet. I don’t own one. I never will (they’re way too cool). And anyway, if I had that sort of money, I would buy a Nikon F anyway (coooool!). A lot of hepcats rock the Canon AE-1. Nikon, Canon and Olympus all offer stirling examples. I have never been brave enough to stroll over the border into Russian SLR land and there is also a raft of models and lenses that worship at the shrine of the Pentax K thread.
If I didn’t own and hadn’t already made my vow to the Olympus OM1, I wouldn’t buy a film SLR. Ignore the last five-hundred-and-seventy-nine characters.
35mm Rangefinders The Leica III will make you happy. The Leica III will complete you. The Leica III will give you beautiful, articulate, erudite, socially-conscious children. CelebritiesshootLeica.
I don’t actually own one. I bought a Russian clone of the Leica. I bought a Fed 1 with Jupiter 8 lens, and I find myself picking it up more often than anything else. I have only ever fondled a Leica III, once, on a tease desk in Map Camera, Tokyo. But, it is photography Nirvana, for me, at least.
Leica is renowned for not having a bad lens in their entire canon. Glass is everything, so they deserve the slathering praise I offer. There is a strong Anti-Leica-Snob movement though, and if I ever owned a Leica I would have nowhere to hide, and nothing to blame bad photographs on.
Don’t get a Leica, but do consider a coupleof35mmrangefinders (more complex than an Olympus Trip) in your oeuvre. You get the manual exposure and intrinsic nature of composure that follows good rangefinderers.
The Impossible Project v. Fuji Instax There is an insultingly cool group of photographers who can, and do, shoot Polaroid Cameras with Impossible film. I doth my cap to the passionate few who bought Polaroid factory equipment and are keeping Polaroid cameras and photographers going. It’s called the Impossible Project for a reason though: It is impossible to be cool or talented or patient or wherewithaled enough to make good of the nouveau Polaroid movement. I am sure you will soon be exhibiting for the Impossible Project, we will never speak again.
Now, the Fuji Instax? Buy one now. You need one. It is the most wonderful little gem of photography system. Instant memories in Technicolor (and no one in a photo lab ever need see (read: perve) at them).
Lomo Lomo was Russian camera maker. Their iconic LC-A is an absolute classic. It is also the exclusive domain of the coolest, of cool, of cool cats. (Read: Too cool for me.) The term Lomo has now been taken to be used for a vast array of Russian and other cameras that evoke radical colour shifts and aberrations to make really, very, interesting prints. It is now an entire culture and a worldwide network of stores. These cats are also the final word of cross-processing, that’s Operating Thetan IV territory, dive straight in.
Medium Format Is a catch all phrase for the 120 film size and the machines that use it. THere are many different Medium Format, erm, formats, from 6cm x 4.5cm to 9cm x 6cm. Medium Format is the place to party.
A normal 35mm negative is 864mm². 1.6 x crop digital sensors are 345mm² - PAH! A 6x9 medium format negative is 4,704mm²
Medium Format is 1,363% more awesomerer than a Canon 7D
The bigger negative means more detail, easier scanning and so many cool-points that post-math-rock-anti-apple-atheism-is-the-new-religion-evolved-hipsters will sing synth-folk-hop ballads about you.
You need medium format in your life.
Medium format is expensive though… Everything is larger and less prolific than the ubiquitous 35mm. You may be tempted by the prices to play with box and folding cameras. Ignore the temptation. Just, um, do.
If you lived in Gothenburg (“what would be the chances of that”, you scoff) you could try for the camera the late Neil Armstrong took to the moon?! Hassleblad’s home is Gothenburg, and in my dreams the locals there treat them like disposables, and there’s one in every rubbish bin, on every corner, just needing a hug and some film. If my (cheese) dreams are pure farce, and a Hassleblad 500 with a lens still costs £1,000 then we’ll move on. Or if you can afford that, then buy me my Leica too. Oh, yes, the Bronica is cool too, and any 2kg kitchen appliance sized camera is cool by my standards. If you end up with a Medium Format Hasselblad style camera, the world will smile with you.
You could try to shackle the beast that is the MEDIUM FORMAT SLR! The last time I played with a Pentax 6x7 I drooled a little. But then I got cramp in my right bicep and had to put it down. Still, it is a very sexy camera.
The TLR is a fine and worthy suitor to your camera needs! The Rolleiflex was the camera of its day. They command as prestigious a reputation for quality as the Leica. If you can’t stump for a Rolleiflex then the Rolleicord (same company, not quite as expensive) is a very sound camera. In fact, just ther other day I picked up a Rolleicord that hadn’t been shot for 30 years, huffed and polished the focus screen, brushed and blew the lenses and it was as sharp and crisp as one could hope for. TLRs were the press and professional goto camera of their time, there are a few about, Yashica do a lovely TLR which is beautiful and reliable, we’re getting closer at the Yashica MAT 124 for £250.
However, if you’re still reading and haven’t bought something yet, then consider the Mamiya 6… I mean, don’t run out and sell an organ for it. But, consider it.
I think in part IV we’ll talk about nurturing a relationship with a film, and a film lab. If anyone’s still awake?