Does a “timeless” camera truly exist?
I’ve seen it all.
As of writing this (in Kyoto in 2017) I am no longer the doe-eyed 22 year old, who first stared traveling the world (I first went to Tokyo in 2011). I’ve learned a lot the last 6 years.
I remember when the Leica M9 was all the rage in 2011. This hyper mania for the “full frame” was in full effect.
Now, the M9 seems like an odd antique… the M10 has taken all the attention. But to be frank, after the last 7 years… there hasn’t been that much of a change. The M10 is slimmer (good thing), has an ISO dial (cool, but more gimmicky), and has better image quality (I actually still prefer the CCD sensor of M9 over the CMOS sensor of M240 and M10).
Anyways, this is not meant to disparage any cameras. But, it is to say… none of these digital cameras are timeless. Never buy into the hype, of some revolutionary new camera, until you wait a few years.
All digital cameras will quickly get outdated.
I remember when the Fujifilm x100 first came out. Now there has been many iterations, and the older models are quickly outdated.
Same goes for the Fuji x-pro and x-t models. Quickly outdated.
The same for all Sony A7 series cameras, it seems there is a new version every 6 months or so.
HAPPINESS IS MAKING MORE PHOTOS!
The problem with all this camera mania is this：
We always make excuses about our cameras, instead of CREATING IMAGES with the cameras we already have. Therefore, we feel DISCOURAGED because we don’t have the latest, best camera.
For example, when I had a Canon 350D, I always felt like I “needed” a full-frame Canon 5D to “unlock my creative potential”. I took $1200 from a college loan, and bought one. It was a great camera, but to be honest… I wasn’t really any more “inspired” nor “creative” with a full frame camera.
The same when I got the Leica M9. It was a great camera, but I want any more motivated to shoot more. Even after a while, the M9 was a hassle to carry with me on a daily basis… even compared to the Canon 5D.
Fast forward, I’m currently shooting with a digital RICOH GR II, and it is starting to annoy me a bit with the slowness. But, I know it is a great camera… because it is small, easy to shoot with, and has encouraged me to shoot more (because it is a simple to use, point and shoot camera).
I realized this：
True joy and happiness in photography is CREATING MORE PHOTOS.
Anything that encourages you to CREATE MORE ART is a good thing (like listening to music, walking, collaborating with other artists, finding inspiration in the artwork of others, etc).
No such thing as a vintage digital camera
Taking it back to the idea of a timeless camera.
Bellamy Hunt (Japan Camera Hunter) told it best：
There is no such thing as an ”vintage” or “classic” digital camera.
Why? No digital camera increases in value as time advances. All digital technology (including phones, gadgets, devices, electric cars, digital cameras, tablets, laptops) will decrease in value and utility as time goes on.
Therefore, to feel less stress and choice anxiety when shooting, to use a film camera is good… because you already know that it is “outdated” and won’t change. And you can no longer blame your equipment, only yourself.
Why don’t you shoot more?
Let’s think about this some more.
Let’s say you have a digital camera or a phone. What prevents you from MAKING MORE PHOTOS? Is it really the fact that your camera isn’t “good enough” which prevents you from clicking the shutter more? Or something else?
I can buy a shitload of very good photo books to truly inspire me to CREATE MORE PHOTOS AND ART, than buying any new digital camera.
Not only that, the value of most of my photo books have GONE UP.
Buying photo books has been a better financial investment than the stock market. Therefore, there is a Two told advantage to buying photo books：
- A. Inspiration and knowledge from dead artists and photographers
- B. Increase of monetary value, better than buying gold.
If I want more inspiration to shoot more photos, and therefore make more art, and be happier… studying art is the best investment.
2. Think 5 years ahead
Consider the digital camera or device you want to buy. How “timeless” will it be 6 years from now?
Digital Leica cameras age pretty well, compared to other digital cameras. However, as shown via the “sensor rot” issues of old Leica M9 CCD cameras, every digital camera will eventually fall apart and stop working.
This is not meant to discourage you from buying new digital cameras. But it is just for you to be AWARE and not stupid.
For example, if I buy a (used) PENTAX 645Z digital medium format, it will probably be good for another 5 years. It has already gone through several versions and iterations, so most of the major bugs have been squashed out.
Any new digital camera with a letter or number suffix (like Canon 5D Mark “X” or Leica M ”X” or Fujifilm [Model] “X”) will get outdated soon.
Look at digital cameras that don’t get outdated so quickly.
The good thing about the iPhone, it holds up better and is more robust and resilient over time when compared to Android phones. Yet even the iPhone will get outdated (eventually), and then we start getting new Apple lust for the new new thing.
3. Never be satisfied with your photos, but settle with your equipment
Equipment will always get outdated. We will never be fully satisfied with our equipment. I can say from personal experience, even when I had the Leica M9 I wasn’t 100% satisfied. I hated the bad high iso performance, the inferior lcd screen, and the weak battery life.
Same goes with my film Leica MP. Phenomenal camera, but still quite heavy. And digital is obviously more convenient. And I am a slave to convenience.
So my suggestion：
Just settle with your ”shitty” equipment and gear. Be proud that you’re using inferior equipment. And rather, NEVER SETTLE WITH MAKING BETTER PHOTOS.
Nothing good lasts forever. Nothing forever is good.
We will die, that is what makes life sweet.
Photography will constantly change, evolve… in terms of equipment.
But, the reason why we shoot will not change. To document personally meaningful memories, to make art, to fulfill our impulse to make art, to explore more, and to be more (visually) adventurous.