Why Gear Doesn’t Worry Me Anymore Whilst I’m Shooting Street Photography

The Leica M9-P Hermes Edition

I started off my photographic career with a my a Nikon D60 two years ago. I loved it and loathed it and wished that I had something that had video mode, so I looked into entry level DSLRs and thought the Nikon D3100 sounded like a pretty good shout. After about two months of using it I felt like I didn’t look professional enough, and people wouldn’t take me seriously enough unless I had a camera to match my ability.

So after a lot of working, saving up, working some more I decided to order a Nikon D7000 and a 17-55 f2.8 DX Pro lens. This satisfied me for a while and I definitely had a great case of G.A.S! Again I grew bored and felt like the big boy D7000 was just not up to it, and as I started moving towards street / documentary photography felt like it was to much of a “big black DSLR”, a very in your face camera.

(Copyright: Charlie Atkinson)

Moving on a couple of months, the hugely most eagerly anticipated camera of the decade (maybe) the Fuji X100 came out. Me being all G.A.S’ed up I dropped everything and HAD to have it! So me being me I sold all my gear to get hold of one of these beauties. Again, I guess I was satisfied and thought that everything I would ever need in photography the camera could give me. I grew bored of it and well… I was wrong…again.

My AE-1 Program In Chrome

So in comes my Dads Canon AE-1 Program. Wow. I hadn’t really shot film before this but I knew after my first couple of rolls that I wouldn’t want to or need to go back to digital. There’s something so smooth and fluid about shooting film. As Eric always says, It’s not about the gear, its what works for you, and film just seems to click for me. I don’t have to worry about the gear anymore as I’m totally happy with what I have at the moment, and can spend my money on books or film!

I much prefer shooting film as it allows me to slow down and actually think about what shots are good (rather then being excited and “mistaking my emotion” for a good picture) which really helps with the editing process. It’s also nice for me to be able to differentiate from shooting my own personal work, to shooting digital for my job.

If I could start photography again with the gear I have now I definitely would! Here’s a quick list of what I have now:

– 2x Canon AE-1 Program (one back up body)
– Ricoh GR1v (28mm f2.8)
– 35mm f2.8 FD Lens
– 50mm f1.2 FD Lens
– Speedlight 199a

This is all I need, of course I would like to get a Leica MP but at the moment, it can wait! I shoot Agfa APX 100 as well if anyone was wondering!

Let me know what your prefer shooting in the comments bellow!

78 thoughts on “Why Gear Doesn’t Worry Me Anymore Whilst I’m Shooting Street Photography”

  1. Hi Charlie, good article.
    I miss my old Minolta XE (=Leica R3).

    Using a F80 and D700 now (D200 currently at service, for sale). F80 is asking for service, now, too.
    That’s where the problem with film starts:
    – film is getting expensive
    – bad expensive development (low-rez scans, jpg-CD with high extra fee)
    – film sourcing okish (ilford, fujifilm, kodak)
    – Kamera Service rare and expensive, good service even more rare (1-2 per country).
    – Nikon NPS Service Frankfurt: We don’t do analog stuff, we don’t even look at the problem with the mirror. Not even work on F6.

    A fully restored or new F3 or Leica R7 would be great, but far too expensive in these days.

    So I’ll stick with the F80, or strictly digital.

    You can calm down and focus with digital as well. It’s a matter of ignoration of all these Leicamyass evangelists. ;-)

    Film is dead, long live Film.

  2. >”why gear doesnt worry me”
    >post what your gear is!
    for having so many posts about “not worrying about gear” this blog sure does have a lot of gear posts… not to mention eric talks about getting a new camera/lens/accessory every ~2-6 weeks.

    1. Just Wondering

      Eric talks about that because he’s running out of material.  He’ll also tell you his gear posts are his most popular.

    2. I think it is not that this blog is not consistent between each post. Look it as a cycle. G.A.S cannot be avoided for long time. We can only change the direction. If the gear is sufficient (for) now, you can change your desire for buying books, cars, houses, computers ,etcs. 

      At one point, when you have the power to change the camera and you cannot change the direction of your desire, the cycle comes back to the camera and so on.This is very normal I think. Desire is something that drives our life.

        1. the blog post is about how cheating charlie (sorry bro couldnt resist) jumped through all these cameras and then tried film and fell in love with it only to realize its not about the camera but about the photographer.

          i think the question “what do you shoot with” is just to incite a conversation because honestly while i went through a similar phase, it would be a short, dry blog post without it. i mean look, there’s like 14 comments of people posting what they shoot.

          1. i just re read your comment and realized you were talking about the blog as a whole.. my bad. in that case i agree to an extent.

            since eric is still a fresh faced photographer in comparison to many others i think its only natural for him to talk about gear and to show us which phases he goes through.. after all, this is a blog about his photography and gear does play a roll in it.

            i do think the content of other posts have been getting better though so no complaints from me yet.

          1. How about your thoughts on picking a subject, exposure, composition, post processing, to name a few.

        2. It has to be about gear because the photography is awful.  There is very little actual “street” photography here.

  3. Interesting that this post comes right as I am saving up for an X100 for much the same reasons as you; although my Pentax K-r is small and good, it’s still intimidating and loud for street photography. I’m keeping it for other uses, though.

    As much as I would love to use my Pentax K1000 more, or even my 50’s era Yashica 635 TLR, film costs too much for me right now to develop. Maybe one day when I settle down I’ll build my own dark room, but for now film is just much too inconvenient and expensive.

    1. I have an X100 and love it, you shouldn’t be disappointed. And btw this here Fuji X forum as a nice place to discuss the pros and cons http://www.fujixseries.com/

  4. Once Again….The Camera records what the photographer composes.  If your worried about what “people” think of your gear you maybe need to find something else to do.

    1. Hi Jim,

      I am very happy with my gear now, and don’t mind what people think about me using film / Canon / 35mm ect. This was when I was just starting out in photography, so starting a new hobby I felt very self conscious about how people would judge me, this is only natural as a teenager I think.  

  5. Nice article Charlie.  I experienced pretty much the same thing as you: starting with an entry-level DSLR, and later switching to a mid-level DSLR thinking that I needed something that makes me look “professional”. The ultimate “salvation” came when I started shooting film.  Interestingly my first film camera was also a Canon AE-1 (not the Program version though).  

    Just curious, how can you focus first (when shooting street photography) with your Canon AE-1?  I mean it is a fantastic camera in many aspects, but personally I found it difficult to focus fast.  You have to turn the focus ring by a lot (much longer distance than a typical rangefinder) to change the focal distance.  Is this not an issue to you? 

    1. I think charlie might be focusing first by using zone focusing techniques. You can do it a lot of different ways, if your lens has distance markers its even easier, otherwise heres a quick way to do it. 

      Focus on an object some distance away, like a lamp 5 or 6 feet from you. Further if you photograph from afar. You can now go around shooting knowing that your camera is in focus 5 or 6 feet, and if you have enough light to use an aperture like f8 or higher, you’ll have a reasonably deep depth of field to make up for the lack of focusing accuracy. You do have to think a lot about your subjects, maintaining a pretty set distance until you adjust your lens again. This is a very bare bones explanation, but hopefully i’ve described it well enough to give you the basic ideas. 

    2. Hi Xiaofan, cheers! haha thats class, the AE-1 / AE-1p are both awesome cameras! I defiantly find that you have to turn the lenses quite a bit for focusing. 

      As I know my style of street (not very close up) I tend to zone focus. I shoot at around f5.6 – f11 and pre focus the lens to 3-10m! Hope this helps! 

  6. ” ….and people wouldn’t take me seriously enough unless I had a camera to match my ability.”

    There are many stupid people on earth but very few can express their stupidity in such a lucid language.

  7. I have a Canon 60D at the moment, but i do almost all my street photography with my iPhone 4S and the Hipstamatic app (BlacKeys film, Lucifer lens). It works great for me.
    Example on my blog, a photo of the watertower landmark in my town: http://fotoreflektion.se/2012/03/12/orebro-10-landmarke/

    But I am heading the same way as you in the beginning: I recently bought a 50mm 1.8 lens, and I am planning for a 30mm Sigma 1.4. Lets see how it works…

    1. Hi Erik, the iPhone 4s’s camera is hugely underestimated, as Eric said that the world is seen through a 3 inch screen now days you don’t need millions of megapixels so if it works for you stick with it! 

      1. I totally agree. Great photos on your blog btw, I like your style. Will follow it from now on.

  8. If you’d started off with that set up, you wouldn’t have ended up with it now, thats just human nature.
    I love my X100 and would like an X-Pro1 – but NO!

      1. Id like an X-Pro1 and a cheapish (yea sheesh) Leica M-mount 35mm lens – but its really just for the sake of it.
        No way Id buy a Leica body that wasn’t film.

  9. Talking about all your gear and wanting to have a Leica MP next, is a not worrying about your gear post?

  10. Ey are you from chinese right?. Maybe from Beijing. I was living in Beijing 2 Years.  And the chinese people are really animals. animals uncivilized, bad education, ignorants. You should not go to civilized countries. You have no education to visit or live in them.

  11. Get yourself that Leica MP that you are secretly or unconsciously lusting for as soon as you can, because it’s inevitable. In less than 2 years you will have it, mark my words. And you will be kicking your ass that you didn’t get it earlier. Then after owning the MP for a year or two you will be back to digital. Mark my words again.

    I believe that you are very young, and film is new and cool and exciting, and you probably never used it before, so you are enamored with it. It’s OK, it happens to a lot of people. I shot film in the 90s so to me it wasn’t something unique or romantic or original, but I have noticed how cool some people think you are if you shoot film (“I didn’t know you could still buy that!”). Shooting film makes you feel good, it makes you a smarter photographer and it improves your technique. I shot 75% film and 25% digital for a couple of years too.

    Eventually you will start seeing some of the drawbacks of film. You will stop hanging out with a pro-film crowd, or you won’t have the hours that you need to properly clean, scan, adjust your negatives. Or you will realize how you are only happy with 1 out of every 100 pictures, and damn, that’s three rolls, at four quid a roll. You will have a job promotion that requires you to work more, and a girlfriend that wants something serious, and later maybe a baby and you won’t have the time or money to develop your own film anymore, and you’ll go back to digital as a “cost saving measure” or simply for the convenience of it.

    In a best case scenario you will shoot both film and digital. I have a M9/M6 combo and people think it’s funny that both cameras look the same.

    1. Hi Antonio – Sounds like you have a very nice combo! At the moment like you say I am very young, and of course I’m sure my views will change, not just in photography but life in general as well!

      At the moment however I am very satisfied and am lucky enough to be in a position to cope with the costs / drawbacks! 
       
      Cheers for taking the time to leave a comment as well mate! 

  12. Man, I don´t know what age people around here are, but i have come the opposite way and I don’t consider myself old!
    My first camera was a Zenit (when I was 21) but I was able to buy a second-hand Pentax SP1000 some months later. There were no digital cameras yet, so I was always shooting film (black and white, mostly). Years later (when digital became common thing) I bought an Olympus C730UZ but, not leaving film totally behind, I also bought an Yashica Electro 35 rangefinder.
    Now I own a Nikon D60 and can’t afford anything else, no matter how much I may wish, but you know what? I consider that I only started to really grow as a photographer since I started shooting with the D60, and you know why? Because now I don´t have to worry about how much money I am spending and if I will be able to get the film developed! Now I control everything in the process! I spent money in the camera, I have a 35mm f1.8 (which becomes a 50mm) and that’s it! I am back to the “classic” setup that I’ve started with, but now I don´t have to worry about the money to buy film, to develop film, to scan film!  
    Digital is much more democratic and less expensive if you resist to the GAS. I don´t get all that talk about “oh the analog cameras were more simple, oh the analog cameras this and that”… there were a lot of automatic analog cameras! I remember when the F3 was released and I was like “geez! what beast is that?!”
    If people like analog, fine! If people like digital, fine! Both have highs and lows, you just got to be honest about them!

    1. I agree, age and what you first starting shooting with might have something to do with how people think about film. I think some people who grew up with digital tend to look to film cameras as something that will enable them to get more in touch with photography.. and then I see people who started out with film, progressed to digital and never looked back. Still I think people in the digital age will benefit from learning the basics of exposure with a simple camera that forces you to think (you can do this with a digital camera too, but it’s all too easy to let the camera do the work for you). For more advanced stuff and for getting that particular look that fits your vision I truly believe digital will help you advance faster though.

      Personally I learned photography with a Nikon F2 and have progressed to dslrs (still Nikon), and for stuff when it is important to “get the job done” I wouldn’t use anything else. For street shooting I prefer film as this to me goes better with my mentally towards it. Love or hate Chris Weeks and his Leica fanaticism, but I really agree with him when he says “shooting street is my golf”. It’s about the process and for me that process involves my F2,  my M2.. and film. Romantic dreamer? You bet! I’ll be the first to admit it’s a choice made with the heart rather than the head.. but that doesn’t mean it wont affect how I work.

      1. I tend to use what I have on me whether it be an iphone , my D300S,  I would love to break out my hasselblad again. I don’t care the about the format be it film or digital, though when I was first starting off and doing only film, because that was the only option, I was a film nerd. I always had the massive dev. chart with me, and would have five boxes of graded fb paper with me. (usually contrasts of 2-3 maybe something lower for when I worked with tech pan and ortho film. )  I agree with you about people being able to learn the basics with a simple camera. I like to show people aperture setting a k mount lens because they can see it, as well as showing them the shutter. The camera I really lust after is the X-Pan.

  13. I’m curious about one thing, how did you edit your photos? Was it on a screen or in print? This sort of attitude makes me thankful I learnt on a K1000 with a nifty fifty. It’s was a lot easier to avoid all of this. Yet this attitude also sort of makes me upset I had a girl walk into a store I worked at who threw her rebel xti on the counter and said “I’ve done all I could do with this camera; I want a new one.” (I wanted to ask, “are you sure it isn’t you and not the camera?”) It’s funny how people first look at the gear as the problem instead of their own creativity.  I get the certain cameras may not fit with what your vision is and that it’s a process of trial and error for some: trying to find the one that feels the best; the one can work with our personal vision; the one that seems intuitive for the individual, etc. but in in all seriousness I wonder how did we survive with just a metal body and a 50mm in photo class?

    1. Awesome! I wish I could have just done this from the start. Love 50mm and love what I’m doing now. I agree to a certain point, myself included that it’s very easy to blame the gear! 

  14. Picture quality is all in the lens… A Zenit-E will take just as good photos as a Canon AE or a Leica if you can find a way to get the right lens on it…

    People need to stop worrying about looking cool with a Leica and start thinking about there ability, you are the photographer, not your camera.

    Leicas are nice… We get it… But I would much rather prefer a Voightlander body and a thousand rolls of film than spend more money than it’s worth on a brand name… End of it all that’s all you are paying for, you can get the same shooting experience with a old Russian Zorki for $60…

  15. all this tech conversation, come on. Let’s back to the soul of photograph, what about pinhole cameras to start to teach photography?, I think it’s nothing better than this for a newbie. Then in second they can explore the mobile camera and start to think “digital”, and in the end gears and so on. What about we create a wish list book on Amazon and share between us, let’s speak about photograph man. 

  16. Interesting post – I think we could all grow a little more by working within our limitations… I definitely agree there is a “gear whore” in all of us… and I do need to feed her every once in a while… It is our limits however which truly show our creativity and breed inspiration. Look forward to seeing more of your articles in the future.

  17. Shooting with my iPhone these days..
    Anything that I can be creative with and make cool pictures.

    I have the following:
    Nikon D300s with too many lenses
    Fuji X100
    Lomo LC-A
    Lomo Lubitel 166
    Lomo Smena
    Canon 300V

    Have been at the G.A.S myself ;-).
    Now I shoot primary with iPhone, X100 and D300s. Whatever fits the job :-).

  18. I agree with the comments below.  It is somewhat ironic.  Please don’t take this the wrong way, but why did you go to Berlin for the 5/5/12 event if gears do not interest you?!  It was a gear event as everyone knew, ahead of time.  People always say gear doesn’t make you a better photographer, and it is quite true.  But the opposite is also true, that having GAS doesn’t make you a letter photographer.  Am I right?  Can I get a Amen?!  =D 

  19. Hi Charlie.

    I go to be really critic with your words and I hope you don’t mind, but that is what happen when you write on a blog on internet, people can express their opinion regardless it agrees with you or not.

    So I see some things in your post that called my attention. The first one is that you title the post ”
    Why Gear Doesn’t Worry Me Anymore Whilst I’m Shooting Street Photography” but in the end of the post you write this:
    [… Here’s a quick list of what I have now:

    – 2x Canon AE-1 Program (one back up body)
    – Ricoh GR1v (28mm f2.8)
    – 35mm f2.8 FD Lens
    – 50mm f1.2 FD Lens
    – Speedlight 199a

    This is all I need, of course I would like to get a Leica MP but at the moment, it can wait!…]

    Well … for not beeing worried about the gear you gave us a list of yours …

    Another thing that called my attention is that in this post there are 3 photos, and 2 of them are gear photos and only one is a photo of a person (a portrait) and the focuss isn’t in the right place for a portrait (it should be in the eyes, specially in the one closer to the camera; but here in in her ear …).

    So why instead of having so many post about the gear (digital or not) we don’t let our photos do the talk????. Because ladies and gentelmen, don’t forget that the main point of this … is the photography!

    Personally I think you are just going through a phase, we all do or did that. Let me explain myself. When I was a kid I wanted so badly a bicicle, the same one than the coolest kid in my neighborhood had, I admired him, I wanted the same bike. Some people byt the same golf clubs than their favourite golf player, some others the same camera (or gear) than their favourite photographer … it’s normal, it’s in the human nature.

    Recently Erik posted here that he was moving to film and never comming back to digital (or something like that), almost ditching digital and almost saying than a true photographer has to shoot film … we all disqused about it in that post, so no point in talking about it again. But I guess you are close to Erik or you admire him … that is great (personally never met Erik but look like a nice guy) so I guess you are influenced by that decission he toke when you decided to move into film. I might be totally wrong … if so, my excuses.

    Anyways, I started shooting in the street with fil, years ago, when this term of “Street Photography” wasn’t known at all. Then I moved into digital and portraits (now I do it for living) and I kept allways shooting in the street just for fun, to relax … as Chris Weeks say “street photography is my golf” … I shoted street with all kind of cameras (or almost), and I know what I want for my street shooting (just can’t aford it) so, worried for the gear … allways. And you allways will be worried for the gear too, we all do in one way or another, the thing is to don’t get obsess with it. Now you are happy with your dad’s Canon, maybe soon you want a rangefinder, a M6 or M7, maybe they are too expensive, well … a Voightlander is half way … well maybe a Voightlander and this lens … well maybe …

    So as I said before, let’s stop to talk about gear and let’s show our work.

    I recently started my own street photography blog (4 post only) but all showing my photography and nothing about gear. Constructive criics are really wellcome so please feel free to stop by and let me know what you think.

    http://unshuttable.wordpress.com/

  20. Indeed beginner photographers, like the OP, shouldn’t worry about gear but about the basics of photography and learning how to take proper photos.

  21. Ähm yes…
    I have a
    Canon 7D (DSLR)
    Voigtländer VR1 (SLR)
    Leica M2 (rangefinder)
    and Sony Ericson W890i (my mobilphone) (dont like smartphones)

    I haven’t a  fav. camera. i know, i can take a good picture with all of them. You take the picture, the Camera is just a tool. Hell who cears what equipment you have. When you taking good pictures, they are good because you know what you have to do.
    With a DSLR i learned framing and composing.
    With a SLR i learned  the basics  zone focusing how to read a lightmeter and set up the right aperture and shutter speed
    The M2 is a  do it yourself camera. No lightmeter no help with shutter speed or aperture. Just feeling.

     I see a trend in the internet “Buy film not megapixel” and stuff like that. Hell don’t belive them. Think what you want and what you need and take it.
    You want to improve your framing and composing skills maybe a digital camera is the best choice for you.
    You want to understand the medium take an analog.

    Canon Nikon Leica what ever…
    Make your own experience

  22. Sorry man! but i’ll bet you 100 bucks that you will buy more stuff.

    actually…

    This is all I need, of course I would like to get a Leica MP but at the moment, it can wait!

    you already want to buy something ! how long you’ve been shooting with the canons ?

  23. shooting film is all well and good, i do enjoy it, but being cheaper??
    if i was to spend the day shooting i shoot maybe 3-4 rolls. thats £15-£20
    then processing £10-£15.
    Thats a potential £35 spent for one days shooting.
    Say you shoot 3-4 times a week, thats over £100 per week.
    £5200 a year.

    Thats a second hand M9 and lens.

    So there you go.

  24. It is good that you started to shoot with film! So that when you cheat again we can just look at the negatives to see if you are actually telling the truth or you hacked it on Photoshop.

    Look at this website to see Charlie Atkinson for who he really is!
    http://ellipseslove.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/the-hilarity-of-plagiarism/

    http://ellipseslove.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/the-hilarity-of-plagiarism/

    http://ellipseslove.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/the-hilarity-of-plagiarism/

    http://ellipseslove.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/the-hilarity-of-plagiarism/

    http://ellipseslove.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/the-hilarity-of-plagiarism/

  25. I completely understand when you say you love and loath your Nikon D60. I am currently using that camera myself and it just doesn’t seem up to par with everything else that is out there now. Now I’m back to film so I can try to recapture the graininess that seems to be coming back in style. But as film developers dwindle and I am without a darkroom, the hunt for DLSR’s is back on. It is nice to see that an established photographer has had the same struggle with their starter camera as myself. Any recommendations for one step up from the D60?

  26. That is so true, Charlie. It almost always feels like a never-ending chase for the ‘best-suited’ equipment. Often than not, it’s engaging in the photography without the bells and whistles which is most gratifying.

    I started with a friend’s Nikon FM10 and a roll of Illford B&W. And I still remember every (nice and ugly) shot I took. Since then, I have acquired too many equipment for the sake of photography (including a Fuji X100). But the incessant desire for ‘new and improved’ doesn’t do much for the mind’s eye.

    The gear reviews online doesn’t help either. The barrage of opinions on pixels, bokeh, vignettes, and what-not’s all have accomplished nothing but strip photography down to a science and a series of charts.

    Now, I gladly shoot with a Rolleicord.

  27. i know this is an older post but after i read it, i felt compelled to comment because my “flow” has been nearly identical to yours… D3000 > D7000 > Canon AE-1 with 50mm f/1.4 and I’ve recently had the same experience… film just feels right. it clicks for me as well (pun intended). so, you need not explain that feeling further; I’m right there with you. i’m only starting out with film. i haven’t shot too many rolls comparable to the number of digital shots i’ve created, but i know i will be exploring 35mm (med & large format) more. thanks for sharing your experiences and your work. cheers.

    dre

    http://www.drelynn.com

  28. Gregory Tselepidis

    I was a film photographer for many years but i had to turn to digital for profesional use. I use D700 & D7000 with fixed lenses, but the magic was gone. Until i took up my contax T2 & b/w film. Now i enjoy photography using film and leave the Nikons for profesional use only. Fun is back..

  29. I use a d90 with a 35mm 1.8 one lens one camera.I love making myself work and think for great images.It is harder but very rewarding.I dig the bog eric.keep up the good work.

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  31. I picked up a “box o’ camera” gear at the monthly outdoor market near where I live, from a nice lady who’d been selling her wares (photo-plates and other stuff like that) and had recently moved to digital. I got the box for $40, and it included an AE1, and AE1 Program, and a metric buttload of other gear including flashes, umbrellas, brackets… I’m still waiting for time to inventory the thing. I did find a battery and checked the two bodies, each of which have a 50/1.8 lens, and they seem to work fine, without a hint of squeal. Woot! Looking forward to shopping for some nice, undervalued FD glass.

  32. Hi Eric

    This post is all about your GAS and it has been very huge and you seems to have change in to so many equipments than anyone else. I think than a normal person you seemed to had very seriously . I have some cameras and they came to me with in 15years and there are few film cameras I am keeping and not going to get rid of as they have a certain sentimental values other than that i had very little GAS about camera gears. Thanks god My M6 had stopped me in a point.

    Cyril

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