The One Minute Rant – Size Should Not Matter

1minrant

The fourth installment of the One Minute Rant. Each audio is one minute or less and focuses on a very specific topic to engage readers here on the FR to comment and start a dialogue! Just click on the RANT logo to listen.

8 thoughts on “The One Minute Rant – Size Should Not Matter

  1. Someone sold me a Minox 35mm camera back in 1988 and I carried it with me for years and used it to make dozens of beautiful black and white and color (slide) images. A lot of my favorite photos might never have been made had I not had that Minox in my pocket.

    Although for 35mm, I’m primarily Nikon user, I also love the Olympus line for their small size and portability and the fact that I can carry a whole complement of lenses with about half the weight and bulk of the Nikon system.

    I love my small cameras.

  2. the sizing up of ones camera happens even if you use a dslr. i use a pentax k20d with a few of the very small pentax prime lenses (35mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4, 77mm f1.8) and i get teased by canon and nikon dslr users often.

    i agree with you though, i would rather have a camera that i can take with me all the time.

    in addition to the pentax i have added a nikon em and a olympus xa4. now i have three choices to take with me anywhere.

  3. In general, the stigma against using small cameras is not necessarily unfounded. Small ‘point and shoot’ cameras evoke thoughts of poor optical quality, tiny negative formats such as aps and 110, and a complete lack of user control over the image. Also, a lot of photographers prefer a heavier camera, as they feel it is easier to hold steady. The weight also confers a (not entirely misguided) sense of sturdiness and durability.

    The Olympus XA series are the exceptions rather than the rule though, as they give the user more control over the image than pretty much any other ‘point and shoot’ camera. They also have good glass in them. Ninety nine percent of the rest of the point and shoot cameras ever made are essentially no good for creative work. I have no problem carrying my Leica every where I go, but I have been pondering putting together a rather unorthodox ultra compact kit. I am considering the purchase of a Leica CL with a dead meter, and then having the swinging meter stalk removed so I can mount a 50mm f/3.5 collapsible elmar on it. I can’t think of any way to produce a smaller package with a full range of camera controls, especially not with such good glass.

    How does your hit/miss ratio with your xa’s compare with other cameras you have used?

  4. Finley- I understand your point. Here are a few thoughts:

    Sure, the weight of a camera can be positive in many respects. However, in my opinion the size of many of the new DSLRs is quite insane… impratical for almost any photographer to carry for a full day of active shooting and not have back or shoulder problems or fatigue which can translate into a lack of engagement with the subject… if you shoot out of a car or use a killer carry solution like the Y Strap (had to get a plug in here somewhere) these super-sized systems may be managable, but not something I want to travel with for weeks on end, in and out of building and cars, at restaurants and night clubs, it just isn’t my way of working. Additionally, these SUV’s of the photographic world are near impossible to be stealthy with and draw additional attention to any would-be thief.

    Also, I feel that there are many good small camera systems beyond the XA line…for example: the Hexar, the Nikon 28 and 35ti, the Leica Minilux and the CM, the Contax T2 and T3 and the Yashica T4 to just name a few! The optical quality can be debated in some cases but to say that they are “essentially no good for creative work” is in my opinion the wrong way to look at it… rather from a creative stand point you use what works for the look you are going for… from a strict photographic technical standpoint you’d choose what gives you the best sharpness (in most cases). I’d argue that from a creative stand point everything from a Diana or Holga to an XA or T4 has as much creative expressive ability as the best Leica or Zeiss glass made… it is just different and it depends on what- again- you want the final image to look like.

    The quality of the glass in many of the cameras I listed above is actually better that some pro glass…yes even a Leica… look at a great neg from a T4 or an XA 4- it’s amazing!

    With regards to control, what are you really loosing?… on a Leica M7 for example (I have one) I have the ability to:

    Focus
    Set the Film ASA
    Set the F Stop and Shutter speed but in most cases I use aperture priority
    Compensate for back lit subjects using exposure comp
    Use a flash
    Use different lenses

    That is my way of working with the M7… on the Olympus XA the only thing I can’t do from the list above is switch lenses but the XA has a self timer and I love the 35mm focal length for general shooting. The Olympus XA 4 is my favorite camera and from the list above the only differences are that again I can’t switch lenses (the XA 4 has a 28mm lens that is quite amazing) and I have lost the ability to control the exposure with regards to my F Stop / Shutter speed but I consider that a good thing for my way of working… the XA 4 will also focus down to 1 foot!

    Your last question is a very good one and with full honesty I find that I do get more sucessful images with my XA 4 and XA and my Holga systems than I ever did with my Leica or Rollei or Linhof. My method of working with these cameras is very simple and transparent with regards to the technical and for me very natural… I can carry two of these cameras (XA 4) with film and misc supplies at a weight well under my M7 body alone which means I always have them with me and that I am always shooting. I just got back from Italy where I shot 17 rolls of the new Kodak Ektar 100…. I have just done my first edit and started scanning but my first round of editing produced over 40 images I want to work with… for me that is huge.

    Viva la Revolution-
    Stephen

  5. I agree wholeheartedly about the size issues with most DSLRs, and even a lot of film slrs.

    My basic point is that it isn’t really a surprise to get sideways looks from other photographers when you are seen using something like an XA as your main kit. Even though many know what great cameras XAs, Rollei 35s, and the others you mentioned are, they are all certainly in the minority as far as ‘point and shoot’ cameras go. As to the level of control over the camera, it is completely a matter of personal taste. I grew up shooting a K1000 pentax, and after a number of years of shooting it, I got a canon eos slr. My photography promptly went downhill (although I wasn’t conscious of it at the time) and I eventually quit shooting all together for a number of years. I don’t know for certain, but I am fairly sure that a large factor in this was the zoom lens and the various non-full manual modes on the camera. The more I became disconnected from the imagemaking process, the more I became disconnected from imagemaking. A couple years ago, I purchased a digital camera, but promptly went back to film. Not too long after that, I got in to holgas, but after a year or so, I found myself running in to the limitations of the holga way too much, so I found myself wanting full manual control on every shot again. I chose the Leica because of the small size, light weight, and spectacular optics (even though I shoot mostly with a voigtlander lens instead of a leica lens). Another bonus for me personally is the fact that I can shoot in lower light without a flash than I have ever been able to before, and it would take thousands upon thousands of dollars to be able to shoot in situations that are any darker. Also, for the first time in my photographic life, I have found myself as concerned about my shutter speed as I am about my aperture, which further rules out Av for me.
    With all of that said, I fully acknowledge that one’s method of making exposures, and the desired level of control over that method is an intensely personal decision, and I am certainly not one of those who thinks that everyone should do the same thing that I do. Your method is obviously working incredibly well for you, as two and a third keepers per roll is a fantastic ratio, especially on color film. If I average one and a half, I am thrilled.

    I think we would agree that the best camera system for any given individual is the one that gets used regularly, whether it is an 8×10 view camera, or a kodak APS camera (although i would probably still laugh to myself at someone seriously shooting APS ;)).

    As a quick aside, how does your Imacon handle scanning prints? One thing I have learned about myself is that I can produce much better darkroom prints than photoshop files, but I don’t necessarily want to always make a lot of darkroom fine prints due to the expense.

    Thanks for the site and the knowledge.

    1. Finley- I also love the manual controls a Leica or my view camera’s provide but again currently I am very engaged with my XA systems and love how the camera carry becomes part of my day. The Imacon is really a film scanner…it can scan small prints but no better than most flat bed scanners…film is another story. I can scan a dynamic range of a negative in black and white or color that would be very difficult to print in a traditional darkroom but with a good calibrated digital setup can be fully expressed. Leica negs made on a slow fine grain film with a good lens can use up to 6300 dpi 16bit in color which is around 300MB!…. most scans are done around 3000 dpi 16bit so around 75-80MB which is big enough for most of my clients.

      Cheers-
      Stephen

  6. I’m right with you on this Stephen. I’m always trying to minimise the bulk of the kit I carry. I still do most of my shooting with a DSLR, and a small body like one of the entry-level Canons with a 24mm or 28mm lens does make a reasonably compact package… but it’s still far from pocketable. Of course you can get some really tiny digital cameras, but I just don’t like the image quality you get out of digital compacts. This is what led me back to 35mm film really. The Olympus 35RC is a personal favourite of mine, nice quality glass in a very compact package.

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