I wrote a little while ago about the pleasures of my new old camera, the Canon EOS 650. I have found myself in the meantime thinking rather more deeply about simplicity, or perhaps I should say, a less technologically involved life. Yesterday I took the 650 with me for a road trip around the St. Louis countryside. I also took my Canon 5D Mark III, a camera that cost me when I bought it two years ago (and it was a good price at the time) 172 times more than I paid for the aging EOS 650 last month.
172 times. That’s a lot of worth. Yet yesterday, I did not touch my 5D, concentrating entirely on using the older film camera. In terms of usable worth, I was getting a great deal more out of the older camera. This is a paradox that is so easy to lose sight of when falling for the seduction of new technology. It has brought me at last, and about time too, to a screeching halt. My gear acquisition syndrome has finally been overcome. When Canon (or anyone else for that matter) announce their latest upgrades to their digital equipment, I will be interested. But I won’t be running out to get those shiny new cameras. I have what I need now. Indeed, what I have now has too much technology. Far too much. It’s all been a trap. Using the 650 has demonstrated this to me. This very simple camera, with its single focus point and basic controls, produces (on film of course) images that are just as controllable and just as satisfying as anything the 5D III can put out, even if they are qualitatively different.
Now I’m not going to rid my digital camera just because of this revelation. The qualitative difference works to digital’s favor in many cases. But it has shown me that it is not necessary to track the path of technology’s progress to become a better photographer or a better artist. Those photographers (and there are still many) who continue to shoot film are not stuck in the past. Despite the uncomprehending comments of digital-only aficionados that fill the bulletin boards of the online digital photography sites, astonished that manufacturers are still producing film as much as the fact that anyone is still using it, film persists and now, in much the same way that the return to vinyl has reinvigorated music reproduction, may be expanding again.
It has certainly expanded again into my own photographic life. This continuing year of film has returned an excitement to my photography that mirrors that of my first digital camera (a Casio point-and-shoot, of ridiculously poor specifications compared to today’s marvels) fifteen years ago.
That’s lot to feel thankful for.