I seem to have acquired seven cameras in 2017. As the number of cameras I’ve had in my entire life until then had probably not been many more that that, it seems like a lot. But let me start at the beginning.
Camera no.1: At the end of 2016 I had decided to buy a camera, and I thought it best to wait for the new year sales to see what I could get. I had a budget of about £600. The first ‘proper’ camera I ever bought was a Canon EOS 300 and I have a few Canon lenses so I did think about getting a new Canon. I decided against it because of the size and weight of both camera and lenses. Research convinced me that an Olympus OMDII would be a good option, with two lenses it came in on budget and so that’s what I got. And I really like it, especially for the size and weight – it’s really easy to stick the lenses in my pocket and I don’t feel conspicuous with it which matters to me.
Cameras no.2 & no.3: I was in The Dorset Bookshop in Salisbury Street in Blandford. This is a great bookshop – downstairs there are a selection of new books, but behind a velvet curtain leading to a dark wooden staircase there are two extra floors of secondhand books on all sorts of subjects, along with some antiques. I was looking for something (anything) by or about Alvin Langdon Coburn in the secondhand section, and found the vintage cameras. So camera number 2 was an old Brownie, and camera number 3 an old bellows Kodak-type camera engraved by the war office. The brownie is usable – I have medium format film in it. The war office camera isn’t usable; I took it to a camera fair in London in May and several people had a look and told me not to bother. It’s now an ornament.
Camera no.4: Camera number 4 was something I’d been waiting several decades to buy; my first instant camera. It’s a Lomo’ Instant Wide, known in my house as ‘The Precious’, a nickname given to it by my son who fights me for it every time I take it out. We both love it.
Camera no.5: This is another Lomography camera; a Konstruktor. It was a birthday present that I’m looking forward to making.
Camera no.6: One of my favourites – a secondhand Polaroid. I’d never had one, I’d always wanted one and as I’m doing a photography degree I decided it was time to buy one as I’d never have a better excuse. I was frustrated with Fuji Instant Wide film. I felt I couldn’t do anything creative with it; I really wanted to try emulsion lifts, so a polaroid was my only choice really. I wish the film wasn’t so expensive, but every time I use the polaroid I really enjoy it so it feels well worth it. I am in love.
Camera no.7: Fujifilm XT-2. I had been dithering for a while about buying a proper camera. My Olympus was frustrating me as the colours weren’t quite right and the images often looked out-of-focus even when I knew I’d been using a fast enough shutter speed and ISO setting and that the lens had been focused. The images just weren’t ever really sharp enough. So when I got some money from a relative that was enough for a decent camera and lenses I decided to take a risk. I asked a friend who knows a lot about digital photography and whose opinion I trust (he said the Fujifilm or a Canon EOS 6D Mark II); I asked my tutor. I mourned the lack of a local Jessops and went to John Lewis’ and held different cameras to see how they felt (mostly much too big and too heavy and seemed to require a college course to learn how to use). What I really wanted was a simple film camera that took digital images. The Fujifilm XT-2 just seemed to fit really. It has dials on the top to set the ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation. The f-stop is on the lens. There are no ‘modes’ for me to deal with; it all feels very, very simple. Exactly like using a film camera actually, except I can change the ISO with each shot. I’m sure it does a lot of things that I haven’t even begun to explore, but the fact is that I don’t need to. I have access to the things that matter to me without going through any menus or having to remember what buttons do what. I’ve read so many times that the camera doesn’t matter, but now I actually have a decent camera I have to say I totally disagree with that, for certain types of image it matters a lot. I have two XF zoom lenses. I don’t know enough about lenses to offer any great insights into them, but they are so far beyond anything I’ve ever used before that to me the results look perfect. They’re quite big and heavy which is frustrating, but I’m going to get a prime lens too and when I need light, small and unobtrusive kit then it will be perfect.