If only I had a Leica has been a plea quietly sobbed into my short black expresso for more years than I can remember. It usually follows a visit to a gallery showing high quality black and white photographs – like a Cartier-Bresson retrospective; or it comes after getting images back from being entered in a competition bearing less than expected scores stamped on the back. Or in the midst of a bout of photographic depression brought on by a bad case of equipment envy. Whilst this well recognised clinical condition is usually associated with the male of the profession (boy’s toys), it is known to effect both genders of photographers.
Hang on – I do own a Leica! A IIIg – what an uncomfortable camera it is. Purchased by taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune, yours truly, the eternal single lens camera expert with many years of mostly Nikon professional experience behind him, then leaps into the world driving a range finder camera. Let’s ignore the convoluted, complex manner of inserting film into the Leica – the very nature of the range finder is to be able to both see the subject area as well as peripheral field – something that a SLR exponent has long learnt to either ignore or develop a work-around. The two methods of viewing, whilst perfectly workable, are not readily nor easily compatible. And we still will not go into the method of loading film…….
The object of my camera lust is now the master of my visual downfall! And I had desired this device for so long.
Camera lust stories are legend. In the days of large format film, to own a Sinar was to be at the top of your game. But then which format – 5×4” or 5×7” or 10×8”. Whilst the pragmatic Swiss elves creating Sinar in Shaffhausen would argue that the interchangeability of their product was the solution; that very versatility was a fraught debate. The 5×4” (10x12cm) is small in the large format arena, and 5×7” (12x18cm) is the perfect compromise for a 35mm film shooter; and the choices for a 10×8” (20x24cm) enlarger are very limited – unless you wish to only produce classic contact prints.
Dare I mention Canon and Nikon DSLRs in the same breath? It would be easier to settle the Holden versus Ford battle – although market forces and a new Australian Government may settle that one without too much long-held bias.
Moving rapidly back to cameras, I can re-enter this debate having owned both of the major DSLRs at various times. Lusting (and changing) camera brands has hidden trials and tribulations. All those carefully gathered filters and attachments rarely make the transfer easily, and there is a financial catch to succumbing to this disease. Unlike a very good friend of mine who currently owns a Nikon D4, but has carefully manipulated the dials so that his Nikon has the feel and operation of a Canon. Even the true pedant cannot be immune from this insidious disease of camera lust.This article first appeared in f11 Online Magazine – Issue 27