2010 and thoughts of the decade.

Can I believe it! The start of a new decade. How has yours been?

When I started photography in the early ’80’s with the Praktica MTL5 things really didn’t change much for years. That all came to an abrupt end in 1999 with the launch of Nikon’s D1. I think the last decade has see more camera launches than the previous 3 at least. Perhaps more.

I bought my first digital in 1997, I think it was the Casio QV-10. I was hooked. The fact that I was also hooked on Macs made it even sweeter. I think the QV-10 had a resolution of 640 x 480  – something like that. The results were – well, pretty interesting. I have distinct memories of the camera getting really hot and draining the batteries very quickly. How things have changed! I purchased my first professional digital camera in 2003, the Canon EOS D60. Of course, it revolutionised my small photography business, even better, my beloved Mac became part of that business. I was in paradise. Computing, designing and photographing all day. It was a happy obsession – for a while.

I used the D60 for all my personal work as well. Following a discussion with a fellow wedding photographer I switched to a Fuji Finepix S2, mainly for the wonderful colour and skin tones so vital to wedding photography. Finally, the S2 was joined by a Nikon 1Dx and then later, an S5. I didn’t use film for quite a few years.

Yet, there was an intense dissatisfaction with digital. On the professional commercial side, yeah, no problems, very happy there. It was in my personal work where I was suffering. There I am a monochrome shooter and I was rather sick of ‘converting’ to monochrome, or people commenting “that’s a nice ‘conversion’ “. It felt ‘impure’. So I started shooting film again. Out came my favourite film cameras, my Leica, my Fujifilm GA 645Zi, my XA, my Canonet QL17 GIII, my Rolleiflex and my Yashica Mat 124G. Oh! and a few others recently added.

What I had missed was the gorgeous tones, the subtle way film renders light, that wonderful grain structure, the texture, the dymanic range, the bokeh, the incredible resolution and sharpness of medium format. So film has been fighting back over the past few years, especially in MF. I think I shoot more with film now than with digital. I have nothing against digital. It clearly doesn’t suit all applications and tastes.

It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed though. Amateurs are still obsessed with ‘tech specs’ and data charts ‘immediacy’ and all that crap. It is an insecurity fueled by amateur photography magazines and manipulated by the subtle language they use. It is a bit like a carpenter obsessing about his lathe or chisels. No! The carpenter focuses on the finished result. In our case it is the picture be it produced by a Box Brownie, a Holga, Pinhole, Large Format or a Nikon D3.

Another thought struck me as we ended the decade. And that thought is that I feel sorry for the Research and development departments of the camera companies. It must be an incredible pressure to come up with the next gimmick that will make you guys rush off to replace your month’s old camera. Remember how reviewers derided the first implementation of ‘Live View’ in the Olympus E330? OK, fledgling technology now De facto. What will they try to sell to you next? Remember! The purpose of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus etc. is to MAKE MONEY.

It makes me laugh when people say, as did a work colleague did recently “I can shoot all day and it doesn’t cost me a penny”. The fact is, I have spent more money on digital than I ever did on film. Take into the count of the cost of your computer (and its upgrades) the associated software (and their upgrades) the camera (and the upgrades). How much?

My Mac cost me (and I am rounding figures for ease) £1000 plus £250 for a 22″monitor, software £600, printer £300, camera £750, lenses (10-20mm, 24-70mm f2.8, 70-200mm f2.8 all Sigma) £1300. Total £3900. That doesn’t include the number of upgrades over the last ten years or consumables or my back-up bodies. OK, I’m a pro and I had to buy the kit that does the job (portrait, social, but mainly wedding), you are probably an amateur and probably have spent less. You may have bought a EOS 5D, in which case you may have spent a good deal more. Why not calculate your expenditure for the decade right now! I won’t tell your wife! We’ll keep that secret! For convenience we’ll use a contemporary figure of £3000. Neither can you say you don’t upgrade at some point. You all do. I do. I’ve spent like you wouldn’t believe. My income is less than £20,000.

So that £3000 equates to 600 rolls of colour film or 1000 rolls of B&W. Half that if you have, say 7×5 prints as well. 300 rolls of colour film is 10,800 prints. On just some very rough figures that is an incredible amount of film/prints for all your current digital ‘stuff’. Take into account that to manufacture your digital hardware is incredibly un-un-green. A computer has a huge carbon footprint to manufacture. Shockingly so in fact.

So, film is cheaper, greener and has better all round quality than digital.

So why digital? Yes, its very convenient. The hardware/software companies have you locked in a perpetual upgrade cycle. They are making more money than ever. This is not an argument against digital, I use it exclusively for all my commercial work. These are my thoughts of the decade. So, to conclude, I would like to leave you with the thought on the next 10 years. What cameras will we be taking about at the end of this new decade?

And finally. Despite the computerised control device (aka camera) you may be using, what goals have you set yourself. For me, it is to improve the portfolio, sell more prints, get more visitors, build up a reputation.

All the best.

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