Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Best Camera

The best camera in the world is obviously the one that we always carry everywhere. According to the folks from National Geographic, the secret of making great photos is "f8 and be there". It's true to make some kind of photos we may need specific equipment. But the most important thing is to be there and capture the moment when something happens.

But if you asked me how to decide which camera, lens or brand to buy, I would tell you to do the following:

1. Ask yourself, why do you photograph. The reason of why you make photos may define which camera to buy

2. Define your style: do you like to take wedding photos, macro, landscape, B&W arts, street photo and so on. Different style may requires different equipment

3. Once you know the reason you photograph, and the style you want to follow, it's time to define the format and lens. Landscape photographer may want to go with medium size format that can provide a higher quality than normal 35 mm camera, and wide lens. If you like macro you will need to invest in special macro lens and may be close-up flash to lit the subject. Wedding photographer may like to have the famous 85 f1.4 lens, and so on

4. Define brand. You know which equipment you need, just need to decide which brand to go. So many websites offer the comparison between the camera from one brand to another, but sometime it's too technical and the info is not useful. To see the result of one camera you may want to check in Flickr and search using the tag. Try to find some photos that have only minimum post-processing. Sometime the decision to go to one brand is because you live near the community and many use that brand. It's not uncommon to borrow lens from your friend who has the same brand

5. Whatever brand you choose, invest in lens not the body. Especially in digital era, the price of the camera body can sink really fast. Six megapixels camera may worth really high few years ago but today it costs nothing to get one. The lens on the other hand can stay and be used for generations since it's just optical inside

Just to give an example, recently I sold my Canon EOS 5D complete with all the lens because I felt that the camera doesn't suit my need and photography style. I'm very certain of what I want to do in photography, I have my answer for all the five questions above, and finally I decided to buy: Leica M6 range finder film camera with 35 Summicron ASPH lens!

Leica M6 won't cover my face

Why I decided to go back to film? Well, the argument between Digital vs. Analog has been around for many years I will not discuss it here. My only reason is because I want Leica M range finder, but I can't afford to buy the new digital M9, so I decided to use all the money I got from selling the 5D to buy a brand new 35 f2 Summicron ASPH lens. A single lens that can suit 90% of photos I want to make. For the body I just bought a 20-years old M6 camera. It's full manual, the battery is required only to use the light meter, good looking and very tough, and it gives me full control as the photographer.

What is going on?

I like range finder because the size is quite small compare to SLR. It won't cover my face so I'm not hiding behind the camera. The prime lens with f2 like Summicron is very small compare to the lens for the SLR. The view finder in range finder allow me to see the 35 frame, and outside the frame, so when I look inside the view finder I know what is going on outside the frame and this makes me able to fix the composition or waiting for a better moment before I press the shutter. And with range finder camera there is no mirror flap like in SLR, it means everytime I press the shutter I know exactly the moment that I capture because I won't experience any black out just like in SLR.

Ayesha curious

Obviously once I got my Leica M6 from ebay and my brand new Summicron lens from Adorama, the first roll I spent to make photos of my family, my cat, things that happen in my home and so on. I have tried and fallen in love with the new Kodak Ektar 100 due to the color it can produce. For BW I use Ilford XP2 Super 400, a C41 film. To get a very natural skin tone and portrait, it looks like Kodak Portra 160NC is the best option.

I want to play outside

Film camera is not dead, indeed. I still can buy films easily, even to get professional films I have to order from B&H or Adorama. And the cost to process and scan the C41 film here in Dubai is around 5 USD per roll. I would be really happy if I can find a real BW lab so I can use the real BW film such as Ilford Delta or Kodak Tri-X, but for time being I'm fine with the options that I have. I carry my Leica M6 everywhere and I'm a happier photographer.

She likes to take nap

I like to capture life around me as it happens. Using natural light. Handheld. Full manual that can give me all the control. And a prime lens. As simple as life itself.

Why daddy always follow me with that black thingy?

All the pictures here are taken with Leica M6, 35 f2 Summicron ASPH lens, Ilford XP2 Super 400 film, Kodak Ektar 100 film, Kodak Portra 160NC film, developed and scanned at one-hour service lab, no digital post processing, no cropping.

That's how I remember what photography is all about.


Hershel K. Waldner said...

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Hershel K. Waldner
B&H Photo, Video, Pro Audio

px said...

Thank you for your interesting comments on using a Leica and, particularly on the film types that you find useful.

I made a similar experience when going back to film this spring, see my blog

My approach is to use slide film and convert it to b&w after scanning (details to be found in my blog).

I will follow your future blogs with great interest.

With my best regards


Himawan Nugroho said...

Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. From your blog I can see you enjoy the M6 as much as I do :)
I would like to try slide films (when I was much younger I used to dream to shoot Velvia with my SLR but couldn't afford it at that time) and the true BW film like Tri-X, Delta etc. My only problem is to find the lab in Dubai that can process both slide and BW film. That's why for time being I'm stuck with Kodak Ektar for color and Ilford XP2 for BW. Something is better than nothing

lowfijunkie said...

hi, nice blog,,
i'm also based here in dubai.
Me and my friend also shoots Leica Film Rangefinder. Regularly do weekend photowalks in the street of dubai.

You mentioned that you are interested in shooting real B&W film. We used Ilford Delta from Salam Store Wafi Mall and my friend processed and developed the roll in his flat.
Just yesterday, he was able to purchase an enlarger which will enable him to experience the true workflow of film photography.

It is always nice to see and meet people here in dubai sharing the same passion (film photography).

If you are interested and have free time, you are most welcome to join us.

again, nice article..

Himawan Nugroho said...

Hi lowfijunkie,
thanks for your comments. It's good to know there is somebody else here in Dubai shooting Leica film camera! Wow, my dream is someday to process my own BW roll and scan it myself. I don't have issue to get the film since I order from B&H regularly, but right now I don't have time to learn how to do the real darkroom like you guys do, that's why for time being it's only Ilford XP2 processed by the 1-hour service lab :( I'm not complaining about the processing quality of the roll, but their scanner is awful can give me only 6 megapixel max if I'm lucky. I'd be very happy to join you, but with 3 kids it's getting more difficult to get free time during the weekend to shoot my M6 :) But if we plan ahead and accordingly I may be able to skip family to shoot film with you guys. My email is Let me know. Thanks