A modern camera can have all the AI, megapixels, autofocus points, and weather sealing in the world and still not work for you. It can be the most expensive one on the market and still not be that sweet serenade to your heart. The best camera can be loved by so many photographers in groups, but not have any chemistry with you. The best camera shouldn’t ever get in the way of making pictures. And most importantly, it shouldn’t get in the way of letting you fully enjoy life.
A conversation I had with Arts and Culture Editor Dan Ginn for an upcoming episode of Inside the Photographer’s Mind really got me thinking. Dan asked if film is it for me. He wondered if digital just isn’t there for me. It took me some time to think about it. I was silent not because I was trying to ensure that manufacturers weren’t going to get angry. I was silent because I needed to reach deep down into my own emotions and experiences.
Let’s stop talking about good photography; let’s discuss the rarely reviewed idea of enjoyable photography. You might think that this is highly debatable, but in my years of working with cameras testers there’s a lot that is commonplace.
The more steps you have to take to get your photo, the more annoying the process is. We’re not talking about it being difficult. Anyone with a bit of know-how can use a camera. Instead, it’s all about the tedious nature. We’re told that we have to shoot in manual all the time. And then sometimes the cameras aren’t smart enough to lock onto faces or your dog running around. Getting to do all this with little to no work is fun. It helps you stay in the moment. More importantly, getting to do this while also not needing to edit a whole lot lets you continue making more of those moments.
We shouldn’t need to grind away when using the best camera to have a great and enjoyable photography experience. Similarly, no one should have to shoot for a few hours only to edit in post-production software for even longer.
Thing all brings me back to the conversation I had with Dan. Film cameras are wonderful. The Fujifilm Natura S lets me always stay in the moment. I can shoot a photo, accept that I won’t see it until the film develops, and just stick to enjoying and going about life. Turning off the LCD screen doesn’t do the same thing. We live in a society of addiction. It’s social media, the news, vices, etc. If you spend all day scrolling through images on a phone, you’re probably going to look at your camera’s LCD screen. If you shoot primarily with the LCD screen, you’re also probably going to do the same.
Certain cameras for me let me truly enjoy photography. There’s the X Pro 3, with its hidden LCD screen that forces me to just shoot and live in the moment. The Leica M10D always did something similar. Canon’s autofocus really helps me stay connected to the moment with creating. The other night I photographed some rambutans using the Canon EOS R5 and the Elinchrom One. Neither of those got in the way of creating.
Instead of megapixels, autofocus, etc., I think there isn’t enough emphasis put on how cameras can capture the moment and help us stay in it. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that everything can be gone tomorrow. So why not revel in it?