Ones and Zeroes Don’t Last…

I have two shoeboxes stuffed with “love” letters between my grandmother and grandfather (my mother’s parents) before they married in 1916. The letters aren’t really romantic, but they provide insight into the lives of two people who lived hundreds of miles apart in the years prior to their marriage. This is a record of their thoughts, hopes, plans and opinions. Handwritten in pencil or ink on now faded paper, the letters provide a link to the past. As I read these letters, I know I hold in my hands the record they created over one hundred years ago. People wrote letters back then. Letters on paper that you can hold.

My other grandmother, my father’s mother, was an artist of sorts. Her mother taught art, and my grandmother inherited the ability to put paint on canvas. Her paintings still hang on the walls of our family. As I was growing up and until she gave up housekeeping, she kept an old Kodak Brownie camera on the shelf loaded with film. Often she would retrieve that camera and say “let me make a picture.” Everyone else would say “take a picture” but she would make a picture. She wasn’t taking anything; she was creating something to print and that would last into the future. People printed photos back then. Even the bad photos were usually kept.

Today more photographs are taken than ever before. Billions and billions are taken on cell phones, stored on the phone, uploaded to Instagram and Facebook, and maybe copied to a hard disk. Viewed once or twice, but frequently never looked at again. Eventually they are discarded, deleted. That moment, that historical record or remembrance is gone and won’t be passed on. These digital records are nothing more than ones and zeroes that don’t last, and aren’t preserved.

The Print

It is important to make prints of your photos. No, not every photo needs to be printed of course, but every photo that you care about and has some lasting value should be printed on paper and should be shared. You can print on your home printer (use good photo paper) to share with family members or friends. You can print photo albums and photo books through a variety of services. Print only one photo book for your personal records, or print multiple copies to share with friends and family. You can print a copy of a special photo and hang it on your wall. Putting photographs on paper adds permanence. You can touch it. You can share it. And you have it as long as you preserve it. 

Note: In addition to links to my monthly selected photos, I will occasionally provide a link to obtain prints of some of my photos. If you see a photo in any of my galleries or monthly selections that is not available in my Inprint Store, let me know and I’ll upload it to make it available.  And I’ll provide a discount code for your effort.

 

Goodbye Canon. It’s been fun. No regrets.

Way back in the 1980’s I enjoyed taking photos with a film camera, a Minolta Hi-Matic F rangefinder camera with a fixed lens. It was a great camera — a simple camera. You set your aperture, speed and set the film speed when you loaded the film. You advanced the film with the advance lever, focused, and took a picture. Simple to use, but sadly it broke. I put it in the drawer hoping to get it fixed one day, but that day never came. Digital cameras started replacing film, and I didn’t pursue photography because I was too busy at work and too busy with family.

My interest in photography was rekindled in 2007, and I bought a Canon DSLR camera. The camera was smart. It had lot of preset settings for landscapes, sports, close-ups, portraits, and other stuff. You didn’t need to learn about aperture, or shutter speed, or film speed, or how to expose for backlights. The camera was designed to do all of the thinking for you. (well, not really.) The camera did WAY more than I wanted it to do and I had the feeling that the camera wanted to control me instead of me controlling the camera. Nevertheless I stuck with the Canon format. After few years I bought a used digital full-frame Canon 5D when the Canon 5D Mark II was introduced. I really could not afford to get the latest model, but the old model was more than enough for me. It had even more advanced features – but they were features I didn’t use, didn’t want  and frequently could not find in a complicated menu system. Although I took some great photographs with it, I sometimes felt that I was “not one with the camera.” Even though I typically shot photos in manual mode, and occasionally in Aperture Priority mode, I still felt that the camera was in charge, not me. (I can swear that since 2009 I have NEVER touched a single automated setting on the settings dial for any special functions.)

While I continued to use my excellent digital Canon, I longed for the simplicity of that film rangefinder Minolta Hi-Matic I had in the 1980s. This got me back into film using the really, really old Pentax Spotmatic. That was a simple camera and a joy to use. Good lenses too. Unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble with the cameras breaking down. I had acquired over time some good lenses, but those lenses seemed to spend more time on my digital cameras (with adapter) than on the film cameras they were designed for. In frustration I finally decided to abandon the older Pentax cameras. Others have had excellent luck with them. I did not.

The Leica M6..and the Voigtlander Bessa R4M

I wanted a quality film camera, but Leica was not on my radar. They are pricey – very pricey. But over time I decided that through savings and selling off seldom used gear I could probably someday afford a used Leica M6 Classic film camera. The M6 was introduced in 1984 and discontinued in 1998, and had an excellent reputation as a very high quality piece of gear that if kept properly serviced would last a lifetime. The fact that this was the camera of choice of all the Kool Kids and hipsters had no bearing on my decision. (I’ve never been identified as a Kool Kid or a hipster.) So I sold off gear and saved money…only to find after two years that the popularity of the M6 had moved it even farther outside my price range. A twenty year old film camera now selling for far more more than its 1980’s price.

Frustrating. The Leica offered what I wanted in a film camera, but I wasn’t going to spend that kind of money. That’s when the Voigtlander Bessa R4M came into view. This is a Leica clone that actually offers a few more features than the Leica M6. Better yet, it was much newer. Brand new in fact. The Bessa R4M was introduced in 2006 and discontinued in 2015. I came across a new, old stock copy in 2020. This camera has been in languishing in a warehouse somewhere for five years – new, unused, unopened, unloved. The person who was selling it had bought some unsold warehouse items, and this being a film camera he assumed it wasn’t worth much. I pounced and got it for a price I feel guilty about. (well, not TOO guilty)

 

I love the Bessa R4M. It is a simple, fully manual rangefinder camera (I love rangerfinders) and the Voigtlander lenses I’ve acquired over the past few years work natively with the Leica M-mount system also used by Voigtlander. Simplicity.

What does this have to do with Canon?

At this point, I had three good but old Canon digital SLRs. Except for landscapes and macro photography, I wasn’t using them a lot and I was still frustrated with the over-design of digital cameras that now focus heavily on video. Then I found a Leica CL digital camera at a used camera dealer. The Leica CL was practically new, but the price was low because a new version is expected any time now. It was in outstanding condition – low shutter count and not a scratch on it. The used camera dealer offered me more than I expected trade-in on two of my Canon cameras. I bit and the Leica CL arrived in the mail a few days later. The Leica CL adopts Leica’s philosophy of simplicity. They know their audience and don’t try to provide every feature every other manufacturer provides. The system is simple. The body resembles classic film Leica cameras.

I sold almost all of my existing Canon lenses to fund more modern lenses for the Leica CL. They won’t be Leica lenses since those are WAY to expensive. Sigma and Voigtlander will provide the lenses I need. I will retain one Canon camera as a backup, but clearly my days as an on-going Canon customer are at an end.

Canon is a great company with outstanding cameras, and for the majority of photographers I highly recommend them. But being an old fuddy-duddy longing for a simpler camera experience, I’m moving in a different direction. Goodbye Canon. It’s been fun, and I have no regrets.