It’s a lazy Saturday morning, the kind where you roll around in bed, read on your iPad, nap a little more, get some coffee, then read more meaty content after you wake up a bit. Before I had gone to sleep after watching to Royals beat the Yankees (no, I wasn’t dreaming, it really happened;), I had stumbled upon a thread about super gluing the exposure compensation lock button down on the Nikon DF to make it easier to use. I started looking for mods for the Nikon DF and came up with just that one.
I resumed my search, found Nikon Hacker, saw it was devoid of DF mods and searched more.
That’s when I stumbled upon an article in the New Yorker “Goodbye Cameras”. The article covered the ever familiar story of a person passionate about photography working their way from older manual cameras into Digital, then to Four Thirds.
Their next turn in the maze though led them to believe the iPhone was all they really needed, hence the Title of the article.
My thought was “Wow” and then some sadness for I all to well understand what it feels like for the passions of a bobby to die off. I also thought, wow, this person should have tried a Nikon DF! Back to that in a minute,
So many of us chase passions for the excitement. Often with cameras it becomes gear based and so we buy gear, test and use it, ride a wave of excitement and the wave starts to disperse at the shore and we crave a new wave which leads to more gear.
For a great many of us, new and the experiencing the learning of new gear is a great part of the ride! As photographers this loop is perpetuated by the perception that while we love photography, due to the static nature of our existence, few of us live somewhere or have access to an environment where we feel constantly inspired day in and day out to make new photos. So, we dream and lust after new gear to make those better photos that many will hardly ever make.
They will photograph familiar subjects, revel in the newness of technology, frequent gear forums and yes, blog about them. It doesn’t make us bad, lame or any other sort of label people want to put on it. It is a reality and small part of the cycle of life we exist in, for which many know of any way out.
Let’s level set that the cycle I describe above is one of the more extreme examples. Some cameras I have taken 10’s of thousands of images with and a few have seen 10,000 or less. Mind you, all were great cameras that coincided with different time periods of my life and my passion for photography!
My apologies for what must seem like a long side track! It is time to return to our photographer in the New Yorker article and his goodbye to cameras and my reference to the Nikon Df. My own take is he ran out of exciting technologies to explore and that is really the reason he felt his iPhone could cover his needs.
We all know an iPhone is not really going to match the capabilities of a modern DSLR. Sure, there is the possible challenge of getting great pictures from a limited device. It would be akin to making a pinhole camera and seeing how great of a picture one can make. And in some cases an iPhone cane make as great a photo as the most expensive camera, especially when we believe a photo is an image and not think in terms of its technical make up.
What if though we roll back time, go back to a time when the excitement was about making images and not so much about cameras? Do you remember those first images you made and the anticipation you experienced waiting to get your prints or slides back? The excitement was about the possibilities of what you could create and not much at all about what camera you created it with.
My first pictures came from a Kodak Instamatic 110. While I know many believe that the DF gets purchased because it looks cool, I contend a good many of them are purchased for nostalgia. And that’s where it all can come back together again as it takes the photographer who experienced more simple yet nice cameras back to a day when it was more about the images and less about the camera. In that time we gladly worked the controls, pondered making great images and strategically pressed the shutter button.
Sure, Pro Photographers live in a world where they must produce. The amateur though, they live in a world of choice, one of passion, and one where there is a desire to create what will be perceived as masterful and professional. It’s not to say Pro’s don’t experience some of these emotions and characteristics, it’s about a mindset behind the lens.
Putting a bow on these thoughts, I’d ask, are camera’s like the Nikon Df potential liberators and thus gateways back to it all being about the image, or just another piece of modern gear? If you ask most gear lovers, they’ll spew forth that these cameras are pointless expensive pieces of over hyped junk.
If you ask the owners that love them, you hear words to the former notion, that these camera take them back to the art of pure photography.
While my Blacklight run pictures were not all that great (I have lost a lot of ground in making great pictures) the DF has inspired me to try again and I find myself wanting to attend events, go places and yes, lug around a camera!
This is not some scientific point that buying a retro camera will make you love photography again.. for many almost any new camera will do that for a while. No, what I really wanted to conclude with was a point about passion for photography.
Don’t give up, don’t look to new cameras to rekindle your fires, it will be short lived if you do. Instead, I suggest you rediscover your love for photography, that excitement of seeing what you created. That mind set of thinking about what you want to achieve when you click the button. It’s not after all about the machine, it’s all about the images! And when you make a really nice one, reward yourself with a large print as well and rediscover that total satisfaction that comes with making and showing off a wall hanger!