I’ve been making photographs since my teens and after nearly fifty years of the hobby I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not about what you use to make photographs but about how you feel when you’ve got a camera in hand. I’m currently thinking about what kit to pack for a few days on the coast and as ever it will be a mix of film and digital. One of my pinhole cameras will certainly make the cut as will my 35mm film swing-lens panoramic camera and my drone. But what about my “daily” camera? Film or digital? DSLR, SLR, compact, rangefinder?
I’ve got it down to two, both digital as it happens. My recent purchase, an elderly Canon 5DII DSLR is currently favourite despite the fact that the other, a mirrorless Fujifilm X-H1, is arguably the better of the two, particularly in terms of ergonomics. The Canon has a fixed screen and basic live-view compared to the tilting screen of the Fuji with its well thought through live view and EVF. The Fuji is lighter and smaller, has better low light performance and I love the JPEGs it produces. I also have a better choice of lenses for the Fuji.
So why am I dithering? Put simply it’s how the Canon feels in the hand.
I used exclusively Canon kit for many, many years starting with a Canon AE1 and so when I moved to digital it was logical to stay with them. I started with the diminutive 400D and progressed through various models until I was using a full-frame Canon 5DIII, which is what I used for the image above. Even though it’s a few years since I swapped systems, it turns out that I still retain a lot of muscle memory from so many years behind a Canon viewfinder. Picking up the 5DII a week or two ago just felt natural. I wanted to go out and make photographs. It fits my hand well, it is surprisingly familiar still despite it being several years since I last picked up a Canon DSLR.
How a camera feels in your hand, how it makes you feel when using it and the pleasure you get from using it are just as important as the camera specs in my view.
Yes, I enjoy using the X-H1. Yes, I really like the quality of images it produces. But, picking it up doesn’t make me want to immediately rush out and take some photographs. I’ve been using it this morning as it was the right tool for the job today, and whilst the images are exactly what I’d hoped for I didn’t get the same buzz from making them as the old Canon provides.
Whenever anyone asks me what camera they should get I do my best to ask questions and help them narrow the field BUT I always then recommend that if at all possible they should handle them before choosing. A few years back a very good friend of mine had narrowed his choice to a couple of Canon DSLR models, partly because he’d borrowed one of mine. He was however pretty certain which of the two he’d plump for having regard for their relative specs. However, when we visited a camera store together I encouraged him to handle several other models. He left the store with a Nikon D700 DSLR. When I asked why he went for that one he replied “it just felt right in my hand”. I’ve never forgotten that moment.
So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you are a first-time buyer or someone looking to upgrade, don’t be swayed purely by specs. Or by what others say about particular models. Pick it up and ask yourself the question … “does it feel right?”
As for my current decision … I’m taking both! Now, what film should I take for the pinhole?
This post first appeared in a slightly different form on my Ko-Fi pages. https://ko-fi.com/post/Its-all-about-the-feel-H2H8BHMCH