Monday, February 12, 2007

More on my photography habit

As I've noted before, my photo habit reflects an already eccentric background. Most of my cameras are meterless rangefinders or folders from the 40's, 50's and 60's. If I had my way, I'd shoot everything on either a Leica III or early Leica M. The Contax II's are pretty awesome as well. Recently, however, I've done some reading on a few of the postwar Japanese rangefinders, and there are some pretty impressive cameras out there. Indeed, Canon put out some rangefinders that certainly rival Leica for mechanical quality and lens quality. And for those who know anything about camera collecting, the Nikon S-series rangefinders were phenomenal and continue to attract scores of bidders with deep pockets on ebay.

Alas, they're out of my league in terms of expense. Still, with practice, decent film and an accurate meter (I use a vintage Weston) you can get some excellent photos that will easily surpass the images produced by 90% of the digital cameras out there. Why? Optics. Even with as many megapixels as they cram into some of these plastic digital cameras, they're only as good as the optics up front. And frankly, the optics on your average digital camera just don't measure up to, say, the glass in a 40-year old Canon, Leica, Zeiss, or Contax shooter. Sure, if you're looking for convenience, cost savings, and ease of use, a digital camera is great for snapshots. So were the 110 format (think Kodak Instamatic) cameras of the 1970's. But if you want something that's going to give you a sharp, high-contrast image, either pick up a vintage camera, or drop around $1000 on a Canon or Nikon digital SLR that will allow you to manipulate image from their RAW format. (And by the way, for stellar examples of what a good digital - plus an excellent artistic eye - can do, check out the Chromasia site listed in my links. Shooting in Blackpool, UK, the creator of Chromasia produces some of the best digital images I've ever seen.)

Oh, and the image of my older son (top), was captured with a 60-year old Russian rangefinder. The depth of field was pretty narrow so he would stand out sharply from the busy background of the playground. And as usual, I really wanted to heighten the contrast between light and dark, so it's slightly underexposed. To the right, I snapped my younger son with a Czech-made TLR yielding the standard 6x6 negative. For portrait work, I love the square format. Both are viewable in a larger format if you click on each image.

1 comment:

One Wink at a Time said...

Both of these pictures are awesome, as is your knowledge of cameras, etc.
I checked out Chromasia awhile back and was completely impressed.