Friday, May 25, 2018

I Don't Like Cameras

There it is. I don't like cameras.

Well that's not entirely true. I like fiddling around with precision equipment bristling with buttons and dials as much as the next fellow. I have in the past enjoyed testing these things, working out the challenges of how one might squeeze sharpness out of the lens and so on.

But as actual picture making tools, I don't like them much.

I find that I separate the two tasks of fiddling with the camera, and of taking a picture. The two are almost unrelated, and when they do collide, it's not fun, it's frustrating. On the best days, I am sufficiently competent to avoid having to do any conscious fiddling, so the camera is mostly not in the way. Other than physically. On the bad days, when some damned setting or another is in the wrong place, or I've forgotten which way the lens turns, or whatever, the camera and all its buttons and dials is merely an impediment.

I get the impression that for some people there is real pleasure in blending the two activities. Smoothly dialing in just the right set of parameters for the situation at hand with a swift sequence of motions, like a small boy solving a Rubik's Cube, and then BAM nailing that picture of the great blue heron taking off, I suppose I can imagine, kind of, the pleasure inherent in that. But in real life, I haven't much interest in Rubik's Cubes either.

I just don't like cameras very much.

Saves me a lot of money.


  1. Well, this bit of information certainly explains the background behind a lot of your blog posts. ;)

    As for me, I love cameras. Tinkering with them is my daytime hobby and using them is my nighttime hobby ... photography is two hobbies in one! :)

    All joking aside, it seems to me the basis of your issue with cameras is that you don't use yours often enough to be intimately familiar with it.

    Or at least that's been my observation about others I know who have complained similarly over the years.

    As another data point, I'm so familiar with my cameras that I can -- and frequently do -- operate them in pitch black and by feel alone!

    Whenever I take a photo, my cameras -- as complicated as some of them are -- usually cease to exist and require of me no conscious thought whatsoever to operate.

    Which, of course, means I have nowhere to hide and nothing to blame whenever my photos fail on an artistic level. :(

    1. While my preferred camera setup it remarkably idiosyncratic (three different lenses, varyingly crippled on the body, requiring three completely different patterns of usage) it is only rarely an issue. I do shoot with the thing pretty much daily.

      The point is that even at the peak, the camera is "barely there" which isn't any sort of pleasure to me.

      I think a lot of people get joy from that moment of mastery, the very invisibility of the thing, the perfect melding of machine and man, etc etc. I just don't.

  2. Yes, I sympathise with your feelings. My Sony 7riii bristles with unwanted and unlovable impedimenta. On the other hand, I love picking up my Mamiya RZ67 just for the feel and the engineering. I never actually take photos with it. And I enjoy looking at those prettily coloured Kodak vest pocket art deco cameras from the 30s without thinking of them as means of taking pictures at all.

  3. Hey, you definitely SHOULD get Thom Hogan's guide to your camera to make the most of it!

    Seriously, isn't there a certain irony in the fact that all this obtrusive fluff has been invented "to make photography easier"? For instance, I don't get how fiddling with autofocus settings is easier than bringing a rangefinder spot to coincidence, or zone focussing.

    But probably I should just get Thom Hogan's guide to my camera, too.

    Best, Thomas