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The single most corrosive element that works against the enjoyment of photography is the never-ending cycle of camera and lens upgrades.

Why this happens is perfectly understandable – camera manufacturers need to sell product, and to do so they have to offer features that seem superior to what has come before.

However for all practical purposes no one needs to chase the upgrade cycle. A single camera, understood and used well, will always provide good photographs. Perhaps in the very, very earliest days of digital photography one could say it made sense to get a camera with a better sensor but by the time I started out with a 8 megapixel Canon Digital Rebel, sensor technology was good enough. I sometimes look back at those older images, smaller and at moderately high ISOs more digitally noisy than from today’s cameras, and they look just fine. They’ve printed well, even large prints, and the color and dynamic range look great. Everything that has come since has been a marginal improvement.

And I fell for it over and over again.

Suckered by the reviews and the specs into paying lots of money for new cameras, and having to obsessively pixel peep to see the improvements and somehow justify the outlay. It was a colossal waste of resources that could have been better applied to other things. As toys they entertained for a little while; as tools for art they functioned no better than what I began with.

No wonder I have taken up film again. Using cheap and ancient cameras with cheap and ancient lenses to produce photographs that satisfy my soul and bypass all the tech spec crap that occupies too many of my fellow photographers. The whole point of the film exercise was not so much to reclaim a lost look and a lost technique but more to shake myself free of the digital rat race and as such it has worked beyond my wildest hopes.

Today, I find myself in deep sympathy with the lo-fi Lomography school of photography even though I don’t really adhere that closely to the deliberately spontaneous aesthetic that underlies the true Lomographers. But they are always more concerned with the result – good or indifferent – than the equipment used and that is precisely the right attitude for a real photographer. Why has it taken me so long to get there myself?

I have been a spec sucker. That’s why.

 

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