The 1 Year, 1 Camera, 1 Lens Project

Erics’ Note: This guest blog post is by Christian Nilson, a street photographer based in Zurich. For this article he shares his experience (so far) of the 1 year, 1 camera, 1 lens project. You can also see his last article he wrote on the benefits of shooting a TLR for street photography here. Hope you enjoy the post! 

Christian: 3 down 9 to go!

Eric asked me if I could write something about the “project” that I’m currently working on. 1 year, 1 camera, 1 lens, 1 type of film or “Leica as a teacher”, this project is known under different names, the first I read about it was on The Online Photographer blog. It caused a bit of controversy there since it mentions that you have to use a Leica rangefinder and many comments were left saying that this is elitist etc. In my 3 months experience I don’t see using a Leica rangefinder as a necessity, I think it is important that you use a film camera and a simple one at that. With simple I mean, no automatic, aperture priority or shutter priority setting. To get the most out of this you need to shoot fully manual.

I admit that I do use a Leica myself, I just think it is a wonderful piece of craftsmanship and I just love holding it in my hand, but that is just me and I can understand people who say that Leicas are too expensive. On the other hand, if you buy a film Leica for this project and you sell it again after a year, you will most probably get your money back, so if you look at it like that it will cost you nothing.

Ok, here are the details of my personal choice of gear for the project. I’m using a Leica M6TTL BP, a 35mm Summicron ASPH and Tri-X 400. Tri-X is not too expensive and very easy to develop yourself. It’s also flexible and you can push it to ISO 1600. If you want some pointers on developing your own black and white film, I wrote a short article about it here.

The main “rules” of the project are:

For one whole year, shoot with 1 camera, 1 fixed focal length lens and 1 type of black and white film. Shoot a minimum of 2 rolls each week. Develop the rolls and make contact prints or scans and edit each roll down to the best 1 or 2 photos. Make prints of the selected photos.

Having completed the first 3 months, I have been looking back trying to figure out what has changed. Before I started this project I had very little experience with black and white photography, almost all of my previous photos are in colour, be it either film or digital, but I’m slowly but surely learning to see in black and white and I have to say I am beginning to really appreciate it.

For those of you that are interested in doing the same I have tried to complete a rewards list based on my own experience.

1. The ability to judge light

I find myself getting better and better at judging which combination of shutter speed and aperture is the correct one for various lighting conditions. Before looking through the viewfinder I’m able to set the correct speed for the selected aperture, this in turn lead to faster reaction times and less missed opportunities.

2. To see in the focal length you have chosen

Limiting yourself to one focal length only helps your ability to frame without looking through the viewfinder. Again this speeds up the process, cause you know before even putting the camera up to your eye what the framing should be like. Personally I shoot with a 35mm, fits my needs perfectly, but anything goes as long as you are happy with it.

3. Increase the editing ability

Forcing yourself to only choose the best one or two photos of a roll is really hard sometimes and I found that it makes you look at your own photos in a much more critical way.

4. Overall increase in the quality of the photos

Well this is the whole point of the project so it would suck if this were not the case. I think it has more to do with the time you actually spend shooting and editing than anything else. Let’s see what it looks like after a whole year, but I believe I see and improvement in my own photos. Practice makes perfect.

Working on this project does not hinder you in any way to do other projects as well. I try to look at it as kind of an umbrella project, where many other projects can fit underneath, provided you do them with the same camera, lens and film ;o)

Some projects I have planned to complete during the next 9 months:

–       Invasion

–       Wacken 2013

–       Beauty beasts

To follow my entire series, check out my set on Flickr here.

Follow Christian

If you would like to know more about my photography and me you can find me in the following places:

Blog –

Flickr –

Facebook –

Twitter –

I hope you found the post interesting and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to drop me a mail:

What are your thoughts about shooting with 1 camera and 1 lens and what have your experiences been? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below! 

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