So here is my street photography set up – scary isn’t it. A five year old camera body – although mine is around 3 years old and a lens that is over forty years old. Those of you who might have been aware of this blog over the past few weeks will know that I have been trying to get to grips with this set up for a few very important reasons: firstly it is incredibly light – just 600g; it is remarkably robust – the lenses is bomb proof and so is the camera – it was raining quite heavily on Sunday and and the body never missed a beat and finally it is cheap. The quality of the images I have started to produce with this set up are starting be very interesting indeed and I have started to master the problems associated with using an old manual lens on a mirrorless digital body.
The biggest problem I have had is mastering focus. (Exposure can be sorted out in post – not ideal but it works.) I uses the focus peaking system which has been problematic but finally I think I have got the hang of it. Last weekend was the first time that my ancient muscle memory started to kick in which has helped a great deal.
The benefits of the set up, apart from the cost, really started to come into its own on Sunday. As I wandered the streets of central London I came across photographers using much heavier cameras which seem to be over kill compared to my lightweight set up. Using the camera does have a feel of the old Leicas about it (I know that is sacrilegious in many quarters for very good reasons) and I know have some understanding why many photographers over the generations have sworn by this set up. Having the lightweight set up seemed to allow me to stay in the crowd without being too obtrusive – a real bonus when working in the street.
As for the lenses I have discovered that either the 28mm F2.8 or the 35mm F2.8 are best used at two settings – fully open or F8. Beyond F8 the images start to become very soft indeed and I have no doubt if I had better quality FD lens much of this problem would disappear. But I have to make the most of what I have got and that is actually a really useful constraint to have which got to start thinking about the state of photography in general.
I am as guilty as the next gearhead – I love buying new equipment whether I have really needed it or not. Perhaps the most pointless piece of kit I have ever is the Canon 24mm tilt and shift. It was a fantastic lens but required a lot of setting up to work correctly – something I never quite got around to. Gear was king. Then it wasn’t. I have now reached the point in my photographic journey where lightness and simplicity is what I seek. Out have gone heavy lenses and cameras to be replaced by two set ups: Firstly a Sony A7 mk 2 and three primes and one telephoto zoom. I can easily fit all of this into a small shoulder bag; Secondly my travel set up above which can be carried over my shoulder with an extra lens stuffed in a pocket if needs be. This is about as simple and yet powerful as you could wish for.
Of late I have watched an awful lot of vloggers on YouTube banging on about how this camera is crap or that lens isn’t worth it. It does seem so adversarial and not really getting to the point we all capture photographs and try and make images out of them. The image is king. You might not think my photographs are as good as yours and that is fine but photography isn’t about the latest gear and I think my travel set up has clearly demonstrated that point.
Enough of me banging on about what I think about photography and back to the camera and lens set up. After this weekend I think it is starting to gell. I suspect there will be a long way still to go but I am making real progress and finally producing the images I find rewarding with my very inexpensive but light travel set up. Click Click.