Equipment tensions

20090925 FP4+ Rodinal Northumberland13mgs_1

After Olympus announced their new EP-2 only 5 months after the EP-1 there has been some comment on the rate of new camera releases around the net and it set me thinking about new purchases. Like every other man out there it seems, I’m always delighted to have the excuse to buy a new toy and I have lots of reasons that I should buy at least two at the moment. As much as I like the rangefinders they are not really the sort of camera that fits my pocket and gets taken to work – the Ricoh GX100 fitted that bill until my wife decided it was hers. Also, I would like a way to be free of scanning and so an M9 should clearly be on the purchase list(!).

But this time, when I started to think about the possiblities I found myself left with some real concerns. The Panasonic GF-1 and Oly’s both look like the right sort of thing, with their little prime lenses, to carry around all the time. But, in reality I don’t often get the chance to use a camera during my working day and usually I am working too hard to really get in the groove anyway. So they’re probably not really necessary. Also, I still sometimes like the small sensor aesthetic, with the huge depth of field and different way of drawing as well as the fact that a little Ricoh really is more pocketable.

The M9 is harder – it appears to be a very good camera, but I worry that it would stop me using film altogether. This might not be a bad thing, but there is something that I like about film, and for black and white especially. When I started thinking about why I would likely not shoot film after buuying an M9 there are a few reasons:

  • The M9 would certainly offer more real world resolution than any colour film I scan and more colour fidelity. This could be good sometimes.
  • Digital files look very different to film and sometimes that is more appropriate. Here for example I wanted a very clean file for the print I imagined.
  • Convenience – there is no doubt that digital is always more convenient than scanning film, even where it is not the first choice.

The last of these reasons is the biggest drawback for me at the moment. I suspect that I would sucumb to the convenience of an M9 and, more importantly, that would stop me exploring a rich seam of photography that I’m currently enjoying very much. This is very closely related to the need to use any tool sufficiently to get to know it and what it can achieve, and this usually takes quite a lot of time. So I am concerned that adding more layers would not necessarily help at the moment.

The counter argument is that it would allow me to get more done or to do the same in less time, but whether there would be a comensurate improvement in quality is less clear. I suspect that one day I will buy one, or something similar, but at the moment I have concerns about whether that is really a good idea!


PS As a sad side note, Nigel Allen on OPF has been told that Nikon has discontinued manufacture of all film scanners. That is bad news for film and makes a strong case for a digital rangefinder. Without the ability to home scan at a suitable quality, the days of 35mm are surely numbered even less than before. All at a time when there are some wonderful emulsions available.


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