My choice of cameras over the years has over the years been driven by the fact that I started my photography in the analogue days, back in the 1980:s. I have tried a variety of cameras during the years, but I have returned to the basics: physical dials for shutter speed, aperture and focus (and ISO).
My first camera was an East German Praktica BC 1. That was a great moment in my life. My own camera. There are some moments in life we never forget and they are different for all of us. This was one of my moments. Sadly I dropped the camera from my bike – but I bought one just like it again – which I still have on my shelf (in the middle of the highest row on the picture above) – and it is still working fine. It has the classic design; shutterspeed on top, manual focus and aperture ring on the lens. Thats about it. This is where I started in photography. The cameras to come were variants on this design; among them Nikon F301 and Nikon F4 .
There was a period around the year 2000 when everything went digital and LCD. Everything should be controlled by your thumb and finger, using small wheels. The weehls could be programmed to have many different functions. Gone were the physical dedicated dials for shutter speed, aperture and focus. For me it ment that I started to use the Auto-functions more, because I found it to complicated to shoot in manual modes. I didn’t care what shutterspeed or aperture I had. I just pointed the camera and took pictures. And they were just fine. The cameras did a great job. But the handcraft was gone – now everyone could use an advanced SLR (Single-Lens-Reflex), and more and more people bought SLR cameras. I was loosing my inspiration and my photography saga could have stopped there.
Then around 2011-12 something happened. The mobile phone started to be the camera of choice for many people. The SLR:s stayed at home and were forgotten. Another thing that happened was that Fujifilm released their X-series cameras. A row of cameras that combined the new technology with the old more analogue feeling. I jumped on the train in 2012 when I bought my first X100, then a year later I got the X-Pro1 which later was changed to the X-Pro2. Back were the physical dials for shutterspeed, aperture and focus (well – focus by wire – not the best feeling, but still). The XT-series took the dials to yet another level. The X-T2, that I still use today, has a very similar design to my Nikon FA from 1983. A winning concept…
But it is not only about the camera – the lens is just as important. To achieve the control of the camera that I seek – the lens needs to have a good design as well. The Fujinon lenses of the XF-series are great lenses. They are generally well built and are optically great. Most of them has an aperture ring that clearly show the aperture or if you have set it in an Automatic mode. However – the zoom lenses with variable aperture have aperture rings without markings which can be turned 360 degrees without a stop. I understand why there are no markings – but I feel that it would have been better if there had been stops in both ends. That would make it easier to get a feel for what aperture you have.
All in all, I believe that the entrance of the mobile phone cameras plus the more ”tactile” cameras and lenses made photography more of a handcraft again.
After five years with Fujifilm, I started to glance towards the Leica M-system. Here was a camera that had the same design since 1954. The basic design didn’t even change when the M became digital in 2006, when the Leica M8 was introduced. In 2016 I bought a shining Leica M6 TTL (analogue film camera) and wow did it shine. I was stuck in the M-system. Using the rangefinder in combination with the manual focus med photography even more of a handcraft for me. Of course I was not at all a better photographer – but the feeling I get when I use a Leica M is worth every penny.
I had the M6 for a year – soon together with a M8. Sadly I decided to sell the M6 to afford a M9 instead. It prooved to be a bad descition – today the M6 is worth more than twice as much, compared to 2017. What bothers me even more is that I bought a second M6TTL in 2018 – that I sold to buy a Leica Q (which I sold later on…). The lesson is; never sell an analogue Leica M. Keep it for life.
The rising price of the analogue Leicas show that it is not only me that is attracted to the simplicity of the Leica M-design. It is not only me that want to slow down and make deliberate choices in my photography and not always get that perfect result. I believe that if you feel that you can fail and make the wrong choice, you get more satisfied when you do succeed. That is the luxury about beeing an amateure photographer, who doesn’t have to make the perfect shot every time. If you miss one shot – the next will come to you soon enough.