Old Debates, New Players

Sitting hunched over a computer keyboard on Saint Valentine’s Day speaks volumes about my underlying fear of the dreaded publisher of this august journal (f11 :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS AND AFICIONADOS), a looming deadline interfering with any romantic notions I might have of proffering undying love to my nearest and dearest. 

Tim Steele

Tim Steele; Creative Director f11 Magazine

As a noted, experienced and well-documented procrastinator, I am frequently under the whip of the ringmaster of this magazine.  The dark lord, as we refer to him, has patiently explained to me time and again that the lash is entirely optional, and that if I submit copy on time I will never hear its crack again.  I am not the silver tongued writer who regularly gets double page spreads (with a photograph and text littered with literary gems), nor the teacher’s favourite who is consistently two articles ahead at any given time, nor even one of the other golden haired correspondents who file their copy on-time, typo-free and without the need for constant editorial harassment. (Who the hell are these people? – ED)

As visions of rose petals and champagne flutes floated in my head I was reminded of the passion that photographers have traditionally shown towards their cameras and equipment.

Sometimes blind beyond all reason.


Poole in Warren Street Studio; Brisbane, c1985

Going back 40 or 50 years the bulk of professional photographers worked with medium format cameras.  I have personally owned both of the most preferred brands, being Hasselblad and Mamiya; with my bias leaning towards the Swedish camera.  Mind you, the 6x7cm format of the Mamiya RB outfit helped produce an uncropped 10×8” (25x20cm) print with great ease.  As small format 35mm cameras started to produce great results from lighter and less obtrusive equipment some of the most passionate debates were then staged.  I have strong memories of workshops and conventions dividing into Nikon and Canon camps with an intensity that was palpable. The idea of ignoring great manufacturers like Olympus, Minolta, Pentax or even Contax always intrigued and puzzled me.

As we moved into the digital age, we were left with the two great brands of Nikon and Canon to garner passionate interaction from photographers. Having very recently moved to one of the smaller competitors of these marques,  I am now in the middle of this very lively debate amongst my personal circle of photo friends.  Editing some files for possible award entries, I have been amazed at the detail being manifested from my insignificantly small Fujifilm X series cropped sensor camera.  (You’re a late arrival at this party… – ED)

The debate continues.

Balcar A2400

Balcar A2400

Other items of equipment have brought similar passions to the fore.  Let’s talk electronic flash for instance.  In my case, early passions were pragmatically driven by finance – hence an initial happy relationship with British Bowens equipment, but then I was seduced by the small size and huge output of the French Balcar.  Never mind the somewhat Gallic devil-may-care attitude to Australia’s considerably higher electric current compared to that of France.  Eventually I made a quantum leap to Swiss Broncolor – thanks to a kind and understanding bank manager.

You have probably noticed that I have completely skirted around marques like Leica and Sinar and Graflex and Toyoview; let alone Cambo and Arca-Swiss.  These all had, or still have, zealous devotees.

I’m about to run foul of the dark lord, this piece straying perilously close to pandering to ideas of brand zealotry and away from the process, brand and technology agnosticism this magazine has always stood for.

The winds of change are again redrawing the imaging technology landscape, making new, revived or outlier brands seductive and alluring, encouraging not only debate and comparison – but conversion, adoption and loyalties.

How much passion will be retained for the brands of old, and will these become generational rather than technological divides?

Old debates revived, but with new players holding new positions.

f11 issue 41  This essay first appeared in f11 :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p146, issue 41, March 2015.

One thought on “Old Debates, New Players

  1. Beautiful article: a masterpiece once more. One of these moments that have become rare when reading is like eating chocolate and when you even forget about the calories and content but simply drift off in enjoyment of words and hop with you from one snippet of idea to the next. And for once, I’d love to know who the references were to generate your writing style. May I assume that it was not Canon or Nikon manuals?


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