If numerology has any intuitive value, surely #1234 has to be about growth, right? 😉
3-4 years ago, I purchased my X1D, thinking it would be the camera to end all camera-hunting.
Yeah, right. How deluded can you be? 😆 😆 😆
There’s good news about this subject. And there’s bad news.
The good news is that I still think the X1D is the best camera on the market. The bad news is that I think the X1D is still the best camera on the market for me. Grab the mkII for faster boot times, if you want.
But boys will be boys, and GAS will be GAS, right? 😉
3 forces can stop me from hunting for new cameras: health, bankruptcy, and wisdom. Here’s hoping for the 3rd option 😉
A tiny bit of wisdom has already come my way. The X1D is still the best digital photography camera on the market (for my needs).
So, without an actual solution to any potential need for gear betterment, my hunt has to turn to alternative solutions.
Of which I see only 3: phones, cine cameras, and film cameras.
#1. Smartphone cameras.
Before you click out, to illustrate the possibility of this, all the photographs on this page are made with a phone.
Specifically my Samsung Galaxy S9. Almost 5 years old, it will soon get replaced anyway, and photographic capabilities will weigh in on the replacement’s choice (though probably not as much as privacy and global feel and quality).
Why a phone? Mainly because the best camera is the camera you have with you, and because phone manufacturers are the only ones to take convenience seriously. Geo-tagging, backup, album facilitation, memories, sharing … all those features are built-in and superbly executed, even with older models. With “real” cameras, well, that’s still remote science-fiction, even almost into 2023.
Post-processing capabilities will be a determining factor.
Currently, all my images are processed in Google Photos, which takes up to 20 seconds to display a photograph and the tools panel (and this is for a paying customer, not on a free service), and offers nothing to deal with sharpening. All those photos are so oversharpened someone swiping one on their phone might slice fingers off. Bad Google.
So, we’re not there yet. Far from it. But the opportunities are interesting enough to start looking for a more favourable mobile environment. Suggestions welcome 🙂
#2. The Cine Camera
Let me give you the highlights.
The highlights are the highlights. See what I did, there? 😉
We all have our personal biases for what makes a photograph look pleasant. For me, realism of light is a major factor. And highlight management – including the rolloff to pure white – in even the most expensive digital cameras, is typically not good. To put it mildly.
To me, anything cliping to white with a noticeable step is unacceptable in an expensive camera.
And yet, to preserve highlights I systematically under-expose by about 1 stop with the X1D, and that’s not always enough. And other photographers I know go further to -2 or -3EV with other cameras. It’s nuts! I do wish manufacturers were less busy adding unnecessary pixels and ISO steps and instead finally gave us images that look like what our eyes perceive. But, of course, that’s a lot harder than just churning out sensors with ever smaller pixel pitches.
Compared to this, RED cameras offer greater true dynamic range plus with 5 rolloff options for highlight compression and quality. Other high-end brands are less known to me, but probably offer something similar. The fact is that, in order to maintain interest and suspension of disbelief for 2 or 3 hours in a movie, every precaution is taken to ensure the image looks natural (which is a whole other topic than neutral). That is where cine cameras beat photo cameras hands down, and that is what I’m after.
Sadly, there’s no free lunch. And cine cameras come at a price that makes Hasselblad look like a proletarian bonanza, and with an operational complexity that may not be compatible with my shooting habits and preferences.
Plus RED is natively compatible with Canon, and most of my non-Hassy lenses are Nikon mount. But an M-mount adapter may well be a solution.
RED is kindly giving me a demo in December. We’ll take it from there.
#3. Film cameras.
Let’s make this quick. Living in a rural area of Provence, far from any processing labs, makes film cameras non-runners.
But, for a secondary camera … why not?
The fact is that (medium or large format) film delivers what appeals to me, in spades. Well thought-out non-neutral looks, huuuuge dynamic range, and elegant highlight rolloff. Plus, typically a proper build quality and lovely handling (if you have big biceps 😉 ) They are the soothing equivalent of old 4×4 cars that you can bash back into shape in your garage, will take you anywhere, and will essentially last forever, in a sea of boring and soulless electronic cars. I love both for the freeing nature of their use. Not convenient for a fast-paced hectic life, but grounding and loveable to a much greater degree.
#4. The mystery medium-format sensor
In honour of the #1234 post number, let me add a bonus option that turned up just a few days ago.
The company Large Sense, provider of large format digital backs (including a 9×11 inch monochrome sensor !!) recently polled its subscribers about a 6×7 digital back for Mamiya RB67, 219Mp and an unannounced price point, and would I be interested?
Would I, indeed?!!!
In fact, I struggle to find anything more exciting a company could offer me, although my reply specified a strong preference for pixel-binning back resolution to a less delirious 54Mp, or less.
So, there you are. Those are the 3+1 options currently at the top of the leaderboard for pursuing a healthy GAS midlife crisis while not giving in to the perpetual hammering of the “more pixels” fixation of the market. Sorry, I mean 4 options for growth!
Maybe a #1 + #3 combo? Maybe a #1 + #2? A solo #4, maybe? 🙂 🙂 🙂
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