Mine’s bigger than yours

Sometimes situations arise that restore your faith in human nature and confirm the inexorable progress of technology all at the same time.

Following a feature on local BBC radio a couple of days ago about the photography training courses I run, one of their listeners called the station to ask if I would be interested in having their collection of cameras a lenses. Not the sort of offer you get every day!

I duly called and spoke to lively 89 year old who proceeded to tell me the┬ástory of his photography passion stretching back 70 years and the mass of equipment he had acquired. He wasn’t able to get around anymore and just wanted all his gear to go a good home. When he heard the piece on the radio, he though I might be able to use it.

PentaxWhen I turned up at his house a few hours later, he opened a cupboard and started to pull out one camera bag after another, all in ‘as new’ condition. A Pentax ME Super and SFX bodies, three flash guns, more than a dozen lenses, box loads of filters, instruction manuals, remote cables, even a JVC VHS camcorder and a bunch of other stuff that I have yet to unpack.

Of course, none of it is compatible with anything I use (Canon) but it struck me just how much cameras have grown since the advent of the Digital SLR. I confess my knowledge of Pentax cameras is sketchy at best – practically non existent to be honest – but a quick google gave me a few pointers. The two bodies need servicing according to their owner and as far as I can tell the lenses will only fit a Pentax camera.

I’m sure the lens quality is fine but they look so tiny in comparison to modern stuff. It makes me wonder just why new lenses are so much bigger. When technology over the years has been so brilliant at getting more and more features into smaller and smaller spaces, why do pro spec cameras especially get bigger and heavier with each new model? Just look at the comparison picture between a Canon 7D and the Pentax.

Does it all come down to “Mine’s bigger than yours”.

The kind and very generous old gentleman was most anxious that all the equipment went to a good home – he thought I could use it in my training courses! – or if I sold it, any money would go to charity. So, if anyone out there is a Pentax fan, please get in touch

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Mine’s bigger than yours

Don’t believe the Hype

We’re all guilty – not just photographers but anyone who uses a ‘tool’ in their work. We are easily convinced that the latest, flashest, whizziest product on the market is essential. How can we possibly continue in business without the newest model?

Photographers must be worse than most – how else can you explain the regular upgrading of cameras, the introduction of new models with more megapixels, faster processors, more focus points, higher ISO capabilities and an even longer list of features that any self-respecting photographer should (according the blurb) be ashamed not to have.

If we believe the marketing hype, our rubbish old camera bodies that must be getting on for 2 or 3 years old, should be consigned to antique shops. How could we possibly hold our heads up in the company of our peers if we’re using an outdated model? How on earth did we manage to take any sort of picture with that old thing.

How quickly they forget the fanfare that greeted the arrival of our now outmoded kit. Somehow we fell for it then and have struggled on with a mere 20Mb and a processor that is positively pedestrian compared to the shiny new one. Somehow, we’ve managed to produce high quality images despite these terrible handicaps.

I’m writing this after digesting the news of the new Canon 5Ds – all 50.6 million pixels of it. Of course I want one, wouldn’t we all – OK so Nikon users may disagree but it won’t be long before the yellow label brings out something equally tempting.

But do I need one?

Will it improve the quality of my pictures?

Will it win me more business?

Sadly the answers are; no, no and no. I’d like one but I could spend the money more effectively elsewhere and I know it won’t be long before they are available to hire for those occasions when, for bragging rights alone, it’s worth having one for a high profile job.

We’ve all seen plenty of dodgy pictures taken with top-end cameras by people with “all the gear and no idea” and equally there are some cracking shots out there taken by talented creative photographers using fairly ordinary old gear – even smartphones!

Don’t believe the hype; what would manufacturers, retailers, distributors and marketing gurus do without a new model to shout about every six months. Great photography is all about creativity, timing, composition, perspective, lighting and experience; the camera is just a tool.

Don’t believe the Hype