Rants and discussions

Happiness and photography gear

Caught on a car boot sale camera (Kodak Retinette II) and poundland film.

An old gripe of mine.  Allow me to express it again, as a warning to others.

Don’t be sucked into spending money on gear that doesn’t have value in terms of your happiness.  Most of us are enthusiasts and amateurs.  There is nothing inferior about that.  Our enthusiasm can be based on either photographic technology, or on photographic images.  In truth, most of our enthusiasm lays somewhere between those two poles – some more by the technology, some more by photographs.  Either way, what really is important – or should be, to us enthusiasts, is happiness.

It is all so easy, and very common, for novices to be drawn towards spending more money, in the pursuit of happiness.  However, they do not always get what they wanted.  They may find, that their photography doesn’t really improve much.  They might find that spending another grand, allows them to capture some images in slightly poorer light, perhaps slightly closer, perhaps slightly further away, or perhaps with slightly more resolution.  No doubt there is a short lived gratification “I couldn’t have caught that on my last lens / body”.  Wow, look at that moon surface / macro of a bug / etc.  Cool images.  However, does this expensive imagery really enhance your creativity or skill base?  Once you’ve got closer to the moon, what is next?  How much did that image cost in monetary terms?  Has it been done before?  Is someone doing it better with even more expensive, or newer gear?

How much happiness do you think that I’ve had out of the 50p camera project?  Compare it to the purchase of a new upgrade DSLR camera.  The DSLR might have cost you around £500.00.  My XA2 snapshot camera cost £00.50.  Okay, I’ve also used film, but mainly budget or home developed.  Still, how much happiness do you think that the DSLR gives you in comparison?  I’m quite proud of some of the photographs that I’ve got out of the XA2.  They may be lo-fi but some are pretty cool and even unique.  I’ve tried to be creative.  Not always an easy thing for me.  There are no attachments or upgrades for it.  For the DSLR, you bet that you are going to desire new lenses, extensions, flashlights, bags, battery grips, etc.

That is the chief message of this blog.  Think, don’t just spend.

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Cameras and equipment

The Animistic Atheist

Anita and the lurcher. Portrait using the Agfa Isolette I, Agnar 85mm f/4.5 lens, Foma Fomapan Creative 200 film. Developed in ID11

I’m the crustiest old atheist imaginable.  I know that it annoys Anita sometimes, but I lack faith not only in the existence of any gods, goddesses, or godlings, but pretty much in any supernature or hocus pocus.  Mr Rational, the skeptic, that demands testable evidence.  Not that I think that is boring – the World, it’s Life, and the Universe, as scientific investigation is revealing them, is far more magical than any creation myth.  Still, you get the picture.

Yet, I have to confess to some pretty innate animistic tendencies.  Lots of us have them – we become fond of an inanimate object.  It might be our car, our home, our musical instrument – we invest it with personal feelings.  We might even refer to this object as “her” (or him maybe).  When we handle them, we do so with a care and reverence.  When we change the oil, we might wonder if the car is happier.  We sad atheistic animists.

I confess.  I see old cameras this way, especially when they have been long abandoned, and have ended up at the car boot sale, in a box with old cutlery and scary looking broken dolls (now, they have a Manitou).  You wonder how it feels for them to be cleaned, and carefully loaded with a new film.  To have it’s shutter open onto the 21st Century, a second chance to live.  Sixty year old cameras are not supposed to rise from the grave, are they?

I even imagine their life, if they could talk.  I developed a found film from one, and found photos of steam railway that dated to around 1961.  The camera was last used in 1961.  A different world.  Did they expose rolls of Kodak to happy family scenes from Butlins during the 1960s?

A few weeks ago, Anita, pleased with the results of the Kershaw Penguin, encouraged me to use another of my old folders that needed testing for light leak.  This time, it was a lovely condition Agfa Isolette I folding camera from around 1954.  I actually have two of these, and have previously used the other one – but it started to leak light.  Bellows age.  I still had a roll of Foma Fomapan Creative 200, from a batch that produced some poor quality images with dark blotches.  Perfect for a light test.

So the above and below images were born last week, of that Isolette and Fomapan 200.  The camera said hello to the 21st Century.  No light leaks.  The film did have some blemishes, but I’m pleased enough with the results.

As a post script, the Isolette had a post code and house number on it’s rear.  I took a look on Google Street View at a row of semi detached houses in the North of England.  I thought about that camera and it’s history.  If only it had a memory.

The Limes Farmhouse. Isolette I. As above.

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Internet

Knowledge

Wisbech car boot sale. Looking down. Olympus XA2 50p camera. Ilford HP5+ film. Scanned with a V500.

Online photography forums can be hazardous places.  Although you can find great advice and support there, you’ll also witness plenty of disagreements.  Indeed, those threads are usually the fattest, as different posters rip into each other over such merits as “is photography art?”.

I’m not that a good forumite, indeed, I’m a bit off them much of the time.  However, I think that I’ve observed a common root to many of the disagreements.  It’s simple.  There are many types of photography and photographer.  None are better or worse, however, their equipment, aspirations, and techniques are very dissimilar.  A nature photographer will be able to benefit from the longest and fastest of lenses for their bird shots, or incredibly expensive macro set ups for their micro-life.  A sports photographer will benefit from not only fast lenses, but from the latest cutting edge digital sensor with it’s low light performance – as would the concert or gig photographer.  The street photographer needs a small, un-threatening camera.  They might even be happy to use film for a medium.  The professional wedding photographer – well, they’ll need quite different gear.

The problem is that what is best for one type of photographer is not best for the next.  That’s where the arguments start, when they fail to appreciate that simple reality.

For myself.  I have little value of sharpness.  I don’t need the latest cutting edge gear.  I don’t need technical perfection.  My photographs are not (at least in my eyes) less valuable for lacking sharpness and detail in perfect exposure.  What suits my aspirations may not suit yours.

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Jessop Macro kit, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens

Something New from the Car Boot Sale

Jessop macro kit – 2 x tele-converter and three extension tubes with Sony DSLR mount. Taken with the Sony DSLR-A200 and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

Well, not as ancient as my usual purchases at the car boot sale.  I bought something for one of my digital cameras at yesterday’s sale!  What are the chances of bumping into something with a modern Sony DSLR mount at a local car boot sale?  Pretty slim I’d say.  I don’t see much modern gear for Canon or Nikon at the local sale, never mind for Sony / Minolta.  My usual purchases are classic film cameras.  But yesterday, I did just that.  A Jessops macro-kit, consisting of a Jessop MC 2x Mx/AF tele-converter, and three Jessop M-Xi extension tubes – 31mm, 21mm, and 13mm.  All with a Sony / Minolta Alpha-mount!

The seller explained that he had bought them for his Canon, not understanding the difference in mount.  He said that he had seen similar sold on Ebay for £60.  Well, I’ve checked them out, and I’d guess Ebay price for the kit might go £40 – £80.  The Tele-converter is still listed new on the Jessop website at £80.  How much did I pay?  I knocked him down to £23 (well, £25 with two movie DVDs in the price) for the whole kit.  A wee bit more than I’d spend on vintage camera equipment, but a nice buy still I feel.

Using them behind the Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens?  Focus has to be manual – even with just the tele-converter (although it gives me the option now to use the 50mm prime as a 100mm MF prime when I need it.).  The auto focus just doesn’t find it’s target with the tele-converter behind the nifty fifty, despite claims to be AF.

With the extension tubes added, it turns the 50mm into a macro lens.  I’ve not had time yet, to experiment with different extensions or the tele-converter, nor using them with my 35mm prime lens.  D0F is incredibly shallow at macro with all tubes and tele-converter, making hard to focus anything but a flat surface (see the 20p coin below).  I’ll try for better results when I have better light and more interesting subjects, but for now I achieved the below results.

Test One. The Feather. Jessops 2x tele-converter plus all three extension tubes behind a Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM prime lens

The 20p UK coin. As above, tele-converter, three extension tubes, 50mm prime lens on the A200.

The Pencil tip. As above. 2x tele-converter, three extension tubes, 50mm prime lens.

I’ll play more when I get time.  As I stated above, the tele-converter alone can double the focal lengths of my prime lenses should I need that.  I want to try the kit with my 35mm prime, and to experiment with and without the tele converter and various tubes to see if I can improve that DoF with less magnification.  I also need good light!

I don’t think that macro photography is going to be me, it’s done far better by others with better gear, but it’s worth £23 to play with that option.

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