TMP

Landscape photography with a difference!

No Batteries Included.

I think I have out ranted myself on this subject over the last few posts and I think you know my feelings.

Just to briefly re-cap, at some point you become totally sick of the whole digital photography ecosystem and mentality. As you well know I have reached that point. I have become totally disillusioned with how software and technology has come to dominate photography. Not to mention my increasing abhorrence at digital manipulations that often take the original exposure into the realms of fantasy. You may be interested in having a read of my previous post HERE.

At some point, the digital gadget-camera delusion and obsession, for some, will burn out. To use a metaphor, the bubble will burst. It’s not the answer to better photography. It is a mistake to continually throw good money on new gear, software and technology when it’s you (and I) which is the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of great photographs. You want to read that again: It is YOU that is the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of great photographs. Your equipment is innocent of all charges.

So what do I do now!

Where will I go in this post-digital era?

You may remember in the latter stages of one of my recent posts my plan of photographing exclusively with the Leica for a whole year.

That began on Saturday the 1st of August.

Why the Leica! As much as I would love to make those amazing landscape previously mentioned I can’t afford it. Also, I don’t have the time, the money, the commitment, the determination or the sacrifice that would be inevitable. Besides, why do what millions of photographers are doing! In a trough of photographic despair three weekends ago I threw all my gear on the bed and started using my iPhone taking pictures in preparation of posting the whole lot on the bay of e.

My frame of mind was that of walking away from photography. I have had enough of many things previously discussed. In a future post I will cover the issues and mental state of my personal voyage in photography, depression, dissatisfaction, obsession and Aspergers.

There I was dejectedly snapping away, being agitated by the faux shutter sound, when I picked up my Leica M2. I paused and held it in my hand. I admired the aesthetic of its classic lines, the reassuring weight, my thumb caressed the texture of the vulcanite. I put down my iPhone and held the Leica in both hands running my fingers over the metal work, enjoying the tactile sensation of the milled metal knobs. Advancing the mechanism and releasing the shutter is silky smooth and is mechanical bliss. I did this several times. I found it calming. I then knew in that instant the Leica had to stay. I could NEVER sell it. From out of the darkness a little flicker of photographic light waxed, a beacon in the black.

It was then I hatched my plot. To be photographically digital free. To go back to basics, not even using a meter. No electronics, no batteries, just a plain mechanical camera. A machine! To photograph exclusively with the Leica for a whole year. So, starting the weekend just gone that is what I have initiated. My only expense - film and developing sundries, and I will keep a tally of the costs involved.

Electronics, computers and software will only enter the picture (Haha! Pun!) when the negatives are developed. There are a few problems to be overcome! The negatives often have drying stains despite the use of a wetting agent. The negatives often have a number of small white specks - dust! Worse still, the negatives often exhibit grainy skies despite the grain being smooth elsewhere. As the sadly late and great Barry Thornton once said “you can’t make a fine print from a course negative”. Technique needs to be improved.

Already from using the Leica for a short period I have found that you quickly learn to pre-visualise the print, you become more aware of the subject, a deeper impression is made on your memory, by using a prime lens you begin to “see” the lens. Further benefits discussed later… The below pictures exposed practising the Sunny 16 method and developed in Adox FX-39 and are Kodak Tmax 100 unless otherwise stated.

Farm Lane 1

Farm Lane 2

Bottle, Elmar 9cm f/4.

Cribyn, Brecon Beacons. 1958 Leica M2, 5cm Elmar f/2.8 Ilford FP4+ in FX-39

Waiting...

Passing by.

Bit of a blur.

The SSC.

I just love my garden.

The best Fell walkers...

When in Wales...

Shadow Selfie (you hear it here first...)

Sunny 16 and the Leica.

As part of the recovery process as explained in the next post I have been out with the Leica. My Leica is an M2 with a 5cm Elmar f/2.8 lens and a 9cm Elmar f/4. Both the M2 and 5cm date to 1957 whilst the 9cm although from the 1950’s is an updated design from the 1930’s. Both lenses are four element Tessar based designs.

The weather was nice, my wife was away visiting her parents in Portugal so I took the opportunity, grabbed a couple rolls of film and, among other places, visited Hay-on Wye.

The films I used were Ilford Delta 400, Ilford HP5+, Ilford FP4+ and Rollei Retro 80S. All of the Ilford films were developed in Adox (formerly Patterson) FX39 and the Rollei in dilute Rodinal. The films were all exposed without a meter using the Sunny16 “rule”. Every single frame has good exposure unlike a typical Zone V (18% grey)  meter whether hand held or in-camera.

You may think “GASP!!!! HORROR!!!! Exposing without a meter! I bet the negs are crap!” That is exactly what I thought when I found out about the Sunny 16 “rule”. How can you get good exposures just by GUESSING the exposure? A couple of years ago, for a laugh, I tried it.

The results were actually a revelation!

Not only were the exposures good, they were better than what a meter would have done in some of the cases. In fact, the four rolls of various films recently exposed by S16 not one frame is lost or even bad.

Furthermore, not having a meter is a liberating experience especially with purely mechanical cameras such as the Leica. Here, mechanical cameras really do come into their own and you can shoot unencumbered and unfettered by electronics of any sort. It is pure photography and  using miniature cameras (35mm for those who are not that old) your photography is fast and fluid and the camera really does become an extension of the self. A free artistic tool instead of a tool trying to become artistic.

I would absolutely recommend using the S16 “rule”. It takes only a little practise and you have to develop the nerve and conviction in your own exposure calculation. The confidence it gives you is amazing!  Soon, you’ll be going beyond the S16 rule, tweaking and making modifications to suit your own shooting style.

That is enough of the blab. Here are the photos to prove it. In a near-future post I will outline the S16 “rule’ in conjunction with the most popular black and white films, how to develop them and how to scan them. I will also talk you through a few tricky exposures and how a meter would have totally failed. Until then, I hope you like these snapshots…

HP5+ in FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39

Enjoying a coffee in the Italian Cafe in Hay-on-Wye

Ilford Delta at EI200 in FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39 after the dev tank broke open.

HP5+ in FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

Rollei Retro 80S at EI60 in Adox FX-39

Rollei Retro 80S at EI60 in Adox FX-39

The Lake District, late April 2015

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It has been almost three months since I last posted on my blog. What has happened? I don’t know! I’m still struggling with motivation. I still have 12 rolls of film that are in need of developing. Photographically I have not actually done much since my last post. Motivation gone. From about mid-March I set about preparing for my Lake District trip.

If you are in the UK, did you love the ‘Summer’ we had in the early weeks of April. Glorious or what! Of course! The weather broke as soon as I set off for the Lake District on the 24th. Still, I consoled myself with the thought that as beautiful as it is clear blue skies makes for boring landscapes photography. Yeah, I know, pretty, but that big blue expanse needs some of that white fluffy stuff in it. Big bright blue clear skies especially doesn’t make for thrilling black and white pictures. Besides, being on a mountain in great weather is physically very hard. You de-hydrate like nobody's business and the risk of Sun stroke increases dramatically. You’ll be very surprised that at even 1000m you catch the Sun very, very quickly. Soon, dehydration and Sunstroke can become serious problems. This means you have to carry much more fluid, Sun screen and clothing which increases the physical effort of climbing the mountain. I need not have worried!

Let me just back-track a couple of months to when I last climbed a mountain. I had with me my Fujifilm Fixepix S5 Pro and 17-70mm lens. Clawing my up this particular Welsh mountain reminded me of a few years previous when I was going over Crib Goch on Snowdon and thinking “why on Earth am I carrying all this heavy gear?” upon reaching home I decided to sell my beloved S5 , it is just too big and heavy and very cumbersome when it is going in and out of your rucksack when trying to catch the fleeting light of intermittent Welsh weather. You’re faffing about with all the camera stuff and so focussed on watching the weather and light that the enjoyment of the climb just disappears into a cloud of frustration. So, the wonderful S5 was sold. I risked purchasing the Samsung NX300 and a 16-50mm power zoom lens. The NX300 is an amazingly small and light mirrorless camera that I can hide under my Gore-Tex jacket in inclement weather. It also means that I don’t feel the weight and I can have the camera ready for action much, much quicker. It’s ready to shoot at a moments notice. No more faffing about with getting the rucksack off, opening rucksack, getting camera out… etc. etc. etc.

On the gear list was my new iPhone 6 Plus. The Rolleiflex 2.8C, the Yashica Mat 124G and a small Canon MC (Micro Compact) 35mm film camera with its very sharp 35mm f/2.8 lens. Together with a handful of 35mm and 120 roll film I was all set. The untried NX300 and iPhone 6 Plus were concerning unknown factors. But I thought “what the Hell” and took the risk. I was going to the Lake District for the Fell walking and good pictures are a bonus not the object.

The day before I set off, as I have mentioned, the weather changed. From that wonderful glorious Sun the forecast for my Lake District week was overcast, some Sunny intervals and heavy rain showers. Great!

The first Fell walk was Pike O’Blisco and Crinkle Crags. Seven miles in the gloom and amazingly much to my surprise, it started to snow. SNOW! It’s almost May and there’s SNOW! I had the NX300 tucked safely under the Gore-Tex and the Rolleiflex in the rucksack. Too heavy! That was the last time I took the Rolleiflex over a mountain.

The following day was an early start, glorious Sun and a long trip to Sca Fell via the amazing Lord’s Rake (google it). I decided to get to Wasdale Head via  Wrynose Pass and Hardnott Pass which is an adventure in its own right. The approach to the Sca Fell summit is straight forward. Up Lingmell and summit Lingmell, cut across and below Pikes Crag and Pulpit Rock of Sca Fell Pikes. From there a light scramble up to Mickledore which is the sharp narrow col between Sca Fell Pike and Sca Fell before scrambling down to begin the accent of Lord’s Rake and then on to the summit. A round trip of just over seven miles. For this trip I had the NX300 around my neck and under the protection of the Gore-Tex performance shell. In the pocket I had the Canon MC loaded with HP5+ film. I minimise everything in the rucksack and travelled as light as possible. What a relief that was! Much more enjoyable as well. No more digging around in the rucksack. Cameras at hand and ready to go into action in a few seconds. It was just wonderful to travel so light. The Sca Fell trip proved to be the pattern for the rest of my stay. I did shoot with both the Rolleiflex and the Yashica 124G when not on a mountain.

During the week I managed to do the Fairfield Horseshore, the Helvellyn ridge plus a couple of smaller fells. A total of 14 Wainwrights and a little over 37 miles in six days. Phew! I am still knackered!

Altogether I shot 721 ‘frames’ on the NX300, 183 on the iPhone 6 Plus, 3 rolls of HP5+ in 35mm and 4 rolls of HP5+ in 120 format. At some time I will actually develop those films.

What about the iPhone, well, I am going to deal with that in a separate post. …and the NX300? I am very surprised at how good this practically weightless mirrorless camera is! I am very pleased with the results, certainly not competition winners by any means, but I am pleased. Out of the 700 odd (yeah! I got a little carried away - that’s what digital does to you) I have culled them to this selection. I hope you think they are OK.

IMG 0797

SAM 7269

SAM 7421

SAM 7525

SAM 7639

SAM 7652

SAM 7653

SAM 7654

SAM 7669

SAM 7672

SAM 7836

SAM 7875

SAM 7877

SAM 7893 Pano

SAM 7921

Pen y Fal - Sugar Loaf

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Saturday afternoon’s jaunt was yet another trip to Pen y Fal, Sugar Loaf to the English speaking world. A shapely peak that seems to tower above Abergavenny as one travels the A40 approach road. Abergavenny is surrounded by three “big” hills, Sugar Loaf (596m), The Blorens (561) and Ysgyryd Fawr (486). For a hill of this stature the ascent is easy and pleasant. The rewards far outweigh any pain with excellent views all around. If you have a couple of hours to spare I would highly recommend this little hill with a lot of Welsh character.

However this trip was made on a biting winter’s afternoon late in December when the weather can be bitter. If you have the visibility the dark and dank cloud cover can make the landscape ominous and brooding. Ideal for atmospheric photography. Wrap up warm with adequate winter clothing as a bare hand will be rendered immobile in a matter of minutes. Not good if you need to operate a camera. The wind ripping across the exposed summit can cut and chill to the bone so take care.

I had with me the Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro and the Rolleiflex. I had the 1953 Rollei loaded with HP5+ which I exposed at EI200. On this day the conditions were pretty cold and with intermittent bright clear patches which seemed to make the darkness darker. Then, thankfully, the weather deteriorated rapidly until one experience a short but sweet blizzard of heavy snow. This is what I call fun! I managed to expose a full roll of HP5+ and this awaits development which I will do during the week. For now, some of the pictures from the S5.

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Rolleiflex 2.8C

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The last few Sundays I have been out and about with my Rolleiflex 2.8C. This particular copy was hand made in 1953 to Rollei’s exacting standards. 61 years old and still going strong! The taking lens is the awesome 80mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Planar. It’s one of the best lenses I have used on any camera film or digital. In my opinion and experience it’s only pipped by the Hasselblad Carl Zeiss 120mm f/4 Makro. The Planar is sharp wide open then just gets better as you close down. There isn’t that much difference in sharpness at f/2.8 when compared with the sharpest apertures of f/5.6 or f/8. There are two other desirable qualities that I have to mention with this lens, 1) The bokeh, it’s very, very smooth and 2) its “feel”, that ineffable quality that sets this lens apart from others that I have used. Believe me, I have had so many lenses and cameras over the years that to recount the tale would be extremely embarrassing. Of all of them only three lenses stand head-and-shoulders above the others, two I have mentioned here, and the third is the lens in the Fujifilm GA645 Zi. That, however, is quite an entirely different story. In short, the lens of the 2.8C is awesome. The lens is one part of the whole. The rest is the experience of the box in which the lens lives. The Rolleiflex like my Leica M2 is pure German engineering at its best. A pleasure to use, super smooth mechanics and deathly quiet. It’s not as tactile as the Leica but fits neatly in the hands and with all the controls in the right place, importantly, the Rolleiflex is about 400g or so heavier.

My main purpose for buying this camera in the first place is because I love the square format, I love the unique rendition of film, I love being in control with me making the decisions, I love making the picture (or destroying it), I love the experience. Secretly though, I would love to tread in the footsteps of my all time favourite photographers, Barry Thornton and Fay Godwin.

Amazing lens, pleasurable to use, fantastic smooth mechanics, no plastics, no electronics, no computer. Just you and the camera. What more could you ask!

The following pictures are made using Ilford HP5+ and developed in Rodinal.

 

Impressions of Portugal

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Last December 2013 was my forth visit to Portugal. The first two to Madeira and the second two to the Western Algarve. On these trips I just took a compact camera for tourist snaps. It was a holiday. This last trip however,  I decided to take the Contax G1 with 28mm, 45mm and 90mm Carl Zeiss lenses. The G1 is a superb piece of equipment that comes with the best 35mm lenses in the world. I had no excuse. The thing I would say about Portugal is that the coffee is simply AMAZING! Fantastic! I could drink gallons of it. Oh, I did! The food too, superb! Eating outside at night is just wonderful. So relaxing, natural and just wonderful. I just love it! Why people want to come to the UK, that damp, wet and  miserable country full of damp, wet and miserable people. I just do not know! You Southern Europeans don’t know how good you have it!

What I didn’t like, and this is no ones fault except mine, is I felt completely out of place. All that was green and familiar was gone. The terrain is just so completely different. Semi-arid scrub, irregular, undulating, lacking cohesion, chaotic. The familiar lines of the British landscape are completely absent. No wonder, I was in Portugal. I was out of my photographic comfort zone and to be honest I would need a month or two just wandering around before I would be able to “see” the landscape. More suited to monochrome I think as the Portuguese winter landscape is barren with a minimal colour palette.

I did enjoy my stay though. The coffee, the food, and the few native people I met were nice enough. I would have liked to had more interaction with the locals, to get a feel for them and to determine their character.

I like Portugal! With a population of 10 million or so people in an area about 80% the size of England. Portugal is also Britain’s oldest ally. The agreement between the two nations signed in 1373 is the worlds oldest agreement still in effect. It was this agreement that England became involved in the Peninsular War. I am ashamed to say the Portuguese have been much more faithful to the agreement than the British. For that, the whole Portuguese nation and people get my utmost respect. Portugal is also home to the finest Moorish castles in the Peninsular. The Spanish want to obliterate the Moors from their history, the Portuguese embrace it. More respect there.

Now onto the photos. Basically, I am not happy with them. I can do better. They are basically little more than snap shots. I wasn’t trying that hard either and will rectify this next time when I take the Rolleiflex and shoot monochrome medium format. These photos made on a Contax G1 with Carl Zeiss 28mm, 45mm and 90mm lenses. Kodak Tmax100 semi-stand developed in Rodinal 1:120, water wash, alkali fix.

 

Leitz, Camera, Action!

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Last weekend I decided to dust off the old 1958 Leica M2 and 5cm f/2.8 Elmar and take it for a spin. The Leica as if you didn’t know is a 35mm beautifully built rangefinder camera. Why do I love it? As soon as you pick up the Leica the weight is the first thing you notice, then the texture of the vulcanite and the hand machined milled knobs. It’s tactile paradise. It’s the way you hold it to your face, its the way you advance the film, that silky buttery smooth mechanism. The way the focus effortlessly glides into place. The reassuring “schutt” as you trip the shutter. It mechanically imitates the word. No electronics, no plastics (to speak of), no “modes”, no controlling computer, no light meter. It’s just you and mechanical perfection. Together with Sunny 16 it is the most liberating photographic experience one can possibly have! Raw photography, true photography, total control. Bliss!

Here is a selection of Leica M2 photographs that I have made over the last few years. Sunny 16 exposure, Tri-X and Plus-X stand developed in Rodinal. I should do more of this! Not because the pictures are any good, but because I enjoyed the experience so much!

PS. You have to roll your mouse over the pictures then they go to their correct levels.

 

Pleasant Surprise

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Over the last couple of months I have been researching new films, mainly because my standard film stock is creeping up in price. Its not at the point yet where I am going to abandon film, but buying 10 rolls of certain films hurts the pocket. So, being prudent and parsimonious to a fault and looking to the day when a roll of film cost £7, I began my search for a medium speed film. At the low end of the price scale I looked at Fomapan 100, AGFA APX and Rollei Retro 80S. Now I already have experience of the APX films and like them very much. Very toneful and responsive in Rodinal. No surprise there as both are AGFA products. I decided to purchase a few rolls of Fomapan 100 in 135 and Rollei Retro 80S in 120. I didn’t want to spend that much. The Fomapan 100 is still working its way through my RTS II and Olympus Pen F. The Rollei went into my beloved Yashica 124G. Last Sunday I popped out to one of my favourite local hunting grounds the Pierce field Manor. Much to my disdain I found that some idiots have now fenced off the entire site. Not very pleased about that. Still, I had an enjoyable time exposing the film. On arrival home I developed the Rollei film in my usual way using my old time favourite developer Rodinal. Using a dilution of 1:120, 30 seconds agitation followed by five invertions every 15 minutes for 1 hour-ish. With a semi-stand development ten minutes here or there doesn’t matter. The temperature? About 22 degrees. With dilute Rodinal the temperature doesn’t really matter (Yes, I have done the tests) anything from 18 to 24 degrees will do just fine. After development was a plain water wash, again, the developer is so weak that you’re wasting money using a chemical stop. Then a four minute fix in an alkaline fixer.

I wasn’t expecting much to be honest. What I saw in the scan was pretty amazing. The grain was very low, the scan very sharp, great resolution, lovely tone. Apparently Rollei Retro 80S is a derivative of AGFA’s Aviphot Pan 80 aerial film. So that explains the great tone. I have already ordered some more. See what you think of these test shots.

Pen y Fan

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Last Saturday, the 4th of October 2014 saw me take the opportunity to pop up Pen y Fan. In the preceeding week, as always, I was intently watching the weather forecast. Rain in the morning followed by Sunny intervals in the afternoon. That was good enough and come that very afternoon, I was off. For once, the forecast was good and I was rewarded with good warm light and a low Sun. As I gained height the wind was pretty biting, good job I had my Polartec fleece. Generally, the Sun brings out the crowds, you know, all those ill-equiped working class type walkers with their entourage of kids. I think the morning rain must have put them off. Pen y Fan is a small mountain by all accounts but is still subject to changing conditions and one must be properly prepared. This means good boots, warms and waterproofs. Often I have started a mountain with a big blue sky and twenty degrees only for it to change on the way to the top to a high speed shearing cold wind and temperatures not that much above 5 degrees. Being in those conditions without suitable attire is not a joy. Anyway moving on and upwards after one and a half hours I was on the summit and admiring the grand view. The light was good with low haze, you could see for miles. Truly lovely. I just wish Pen y Fan was another 500m higher! With me I had my venerable Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro and my Fujifilm GA645 Zi. The latter is a medium format film camera and on this trip it was loaded with Kodak Portra 400. I will have the film developed in a few weeks. I’ll post the results then! The S5 uses a dual sensor array so the dynamic range is just huge. I don’t worry about blowing the highlights as they are just nailed. The same with Portra 400, this very scan-able (I know that isn’t a true word) colour negative film has the most incredible dynamic range making it ideal for landscape photography. The amount of detail you can get from the highlights of Portra is just far superior to digital, and will be for some time to come. I have only been using Portra for a short time and I am just staggered by its DR.

On to the pictures, I took 14 on film and 98 on digital. Often I was watching for cloud formations and later back at base chose the picture with the better cloud shadows. Here they are...

Bigsweir Bridge

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Saturday the 31st of August. The last day of August already! Where does it all go! The weather steadily improved during the day and come early evening there was some pretty good light. Trying to take advantage of it I grabbed my camera and headed to Bigsweir Bridge, Llandogo, Monmouthshire, Wales. Built in 1827 its 50m single span is a quite picturesque location. The bridge crosses the Wye and joins the Welsh and English side. The Bridge is often best photographed early in the morning from the Welsh side. As I can’t haul my fat lazy but out of bed at Satanic times of the morning I am left to catch what light I can. On this particular day I was on the English South side. Here are my meagre and humble offerings.

Equipment used

Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro, Sigma 17-70mm. Yes I know its seven or eight years old, it’s all I can afford.

Don't believe it!

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Perhaps some of you watched the recent Channel 5 programme 'How to take stunning photographs'. You may have notice one of the show's catch phrases 'your gear doesn't matter' or words to that effect. You may have read on other web sites similar statement such as at www.kenrockwell.com especially on THIS page. The question you may ask yourselves is, 'is it true?'.

Well, the answer is both 'yes' and 'no'. As I am naturally not that communicable I'm just going to come to the points in my usual laconic style. Let's take the 'yes' first. Yes! You can take great photos with totally crap cameras, for example look at this site here all taken on the iPhone. No doubt you have all seen great photos taken with pre-war Leica IIs, Holgas, Dianas, FEDs, Zorkis etc. The camera is not the problem, it's the person behind the camera, now, that IS the problem. And don't I know that. Beyond doubt, you can take great photos with, what is considered, a crap camera. No doubt at all! Your camera is not the problem. You don't need to upgrade it. Buying the latest kit is not going to make a blind bit of difference if the person behind the camera is a crap photographer. FULL STOP.

Now, lets deal with the 'no' answer. In the aforementioned programme, when it was discussing wedding photography, one of the guests, I am sure, was using a Panasonic Lumix G1. A great camera. No doubt you can come away from a wedding with some great shots. But, no professional in his right mind would want to shoot a complete wedding with one. Why? Well...

1) Mainly because the camera is just too slow, way too slow. Not just in auto-focus speed, but also in frames-per-second and in lens 'speed'. You'll miss no end of shots. For a wedding shoot you'll need a camera with a real fast autofocus, like my EOS 1Ds for example.

2) Then, the small sensor on APS-C and four-thirds cameras have such large depth-of-field that it does often preclude those wonderful pictures with soft out-of-focus backgrounds.

3) Image quality. By this I mean the basic off-the-camera files qualities such as sharpness, resolution, tonality, smoothness and colour rendition. When I compare my 11 megapixel EOS 1Ds with my 10 megapixel EOS 40D, I find the 1Ds is much sharper, with superior resolution and superior colour rendition. Even when I trial the latest semi-pro cameras I find the same thing. I would rather buy a second hand EOS 1Ds for £600 than a brand new EOS 60D for £800. At some point I'll do a side-by-side comparison, a 60D versus my 1Ds to show you what I mean. 2010 semi-pro cameras are not as good as 2002 professional cameras in terms of sharpness, resolution and, especially colour. No non-professional (I don't like using the term 'amateur') needs more than 10 megapixels. Generally, not much beyond this point your camera will exceed the resolution capacity of your lenses anyway. It's the colour, tonality and smoothness which does it for me, I think this is the most important factor. The Professional cameras are a big step up in this regard. Don't believe anything else!

4) The kit lenses are generally rubbish! For serious work they are rubbish! Too slow! They are just plastic low-grade rubbish. Throw it away now! Buy some decent glass! Quality stuff. You know at least Sigma EX grade or Canon L if you can afford it. It WILL make a difference. At least you'll end up with high quality crap photos, if you see what I mean.

5) Don't read amateur magazines. These just get you obsessing about megapixels and resolution and all those features that detract from shooting. Amateur magazines just 'train' your thinking to think like an amateur. At least buy a few issues of Professional Photographer, this will show you how many professionals think.

6) Buying second hand is probably best. NO! You don't need 16 bloody megapixels. NO! YOU DON'T! In fact most casual shooters will do with 6. Yes! I said SIX! Six good quality megapixels will do brilliant A3 prints (when viewed at normal viewing distance). Buy a professional 6 - 11 megapixel body such as the EOS 1Ds or the Nikon 1Dx. See, I've saved you hundreds of pounds already.

Professionals don't want you, the non-professional masses to use, or have access to, professional quality kit. Because it will mean more competition for them as it is their living at stake.  Why do you think most professionals (including me) use the kit they do? Simple. It delivers the quality and the 'am' cams don't. It's not just the kit. It's also the experience, the mind-set, the technique, the tricks etc. Do you think the great Charlie Waite uses an EOS D1000? This does not mean you can't get professional/quality results from amateur cameras. You can! In many situations your camera doesn't matter. In certain applications it's critical.

If you are thinking of upgrading your gear. DON'T! Consider the most important upgrade. YOU! Work at improving your skill and ability, develop your own style, look at things in different ways. If you are unhappy with the body of your work now, upgrading your camera isn't going to change anything except improve the profits of PenOlymNikCanon.

I have to add a few pics just for fun.

When is a Landscape not a Landscape?

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As a rule I do not enter competitions. Let me tell you why.

1) I don't need to have my work validated by anyone. If people like it, well, that's fantastic, in fact, it's a privilege. If they don't, Oh well! That's just too bad. I have a particular vision in mind, and selfish as it may seem, I want to pursue that vision, I photograph for me. It's a deeply personal affair. Intimate even. It's something in-built. I just have to do it. I need to express myself creatively. Always have done, always will. (Perhaps this paragraph should say 'I'm not really good enough').

2) For me, photography finishes as soon as the shutter button is pressed. It seems, for many, that's where it begins. I would like to class myself as a photographer and not a photoshopper (please forgive the invented word). Now coming back to competitions, I was looking at the results of the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. What struck me was the amount of winning entries that are obviously photoshopped beyond the real. It seems more time is spent working on an image than was actually spent taking the bloody photo. The hours spent making these pseudo faux images is not photography. Now I have no objection to people producing imagery and calling it digital art (or whatever), I do object it being passed off as 'photography'. Have a look at www.1x.com and see what I mean. It's a land of make-believe and pseudo intellectualism.

Perhaps you don't care!

Perhaps you don't give a toss at seeing images that really don't belong on this planet because they are so fake they could not possibly be taken on this planet. Perhaps you don't care at seeing virtual, unreal images that really beggar belief (I'm still talking landscapes here).

I think that this is totally destructive to photography in the long term. I think this computer and gadget driven fetish will wear off one day. I think people will become sick of pretend imagery and sick being sold new gimmicks such as blink detection, smile detection etc. How about having a gimmick on your shiny new 20 mega pixel camera called 'crap photo detection'. Now THAT will be worth having!

I just wonder what Photoshop CS 7 will offer YOU! and how Adobe will flog it to you. Instead of the 'magic removal tool' how about a 'crap photo detection' filter. Now THAT will be worth having! Cameras and Photoshop can only be developed to a finite degree. They must, at some time come to a point where they can not be developed further. This must give the R&D teams at Adobe and the camera companies sheer NIGHTMARES.

Do I photoshop my images. Yes I do. But I do so with restraint. Levels, contrast, sharpening, toning, exposure, de-spotting, dodging, burning and that is it. I am only prepared to spend 20 minutes on a picture. A bad picture is a bad picture is a bad picture regardless of relentless photoshopping. I would like to see an end to photography competitions that are also photoshop competitions. I would like to see an image judged on the basis of the RAW file as well as the finished picture. That way the photographer's photoshop skills can be judged independently from his/her photography skills. The finished result should still look realistic - and that's the point.

Now coming back to the original start point, one of the judges of the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition (UK) is Charlie Waite. I admire Mr. Waite's work. I have a couple of his books. He is the standard to which I aspire. A man who shoots largely on film using 6x6 Hasselblads (I believe). I am quite shocked that he accepts the degree of photoshopped entries to the competition. Brilliant images they are, without doubt. Photographs they are not.

When is a Landscape not a Landscape? -When its not photoshopped into being unreal. It's the extent to which Photoshop is used.

Canon Powershot G11 review

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A couple of years ago I was approaching the summit of Crib Goch, one of the Snowdon sub-peaks. The asthma was kicking-in and I had a well packed rucksack that included a DSLR, a 24-70mm f2.8 lens and a 70-200mm f2.8 lens. By the time I had reached the summit, I was fighting for breath and every step a battle of will. Well, that's what it felt like. I looked at my colleagues who disappearing into the distance on the ridge. I thought to myself "sod this for a laugh". Upon my return home I started to think about the possibility of a small light weight solution that could deliver superb results when printed at A3.

Research lead me to the Ricoh GX100, a ten megapixel camera with a 24-70mm lens. As I have a rather tight budget I took the risk and purchased one second-hand. The GX100 ticked many boxes, light, small, superb lens, live histogram, easy exposure compensation, good battery life, great handling and more important, RAW shooting. High ISO performance isn't an issue for landscape photography which is usually the crippling feature of the small compact cameras and for quite understandable technical and commercial reasons.

It was last September that the GX100 saw real action when I took it and my DSLR gear for another jaunt up Snowdon via Crib Goch. The rucksack still weighed a tonne and the DSLR gear stayed out of sight. I took the DSLR gear mainly out of paranoia. The weather was just fantastic and the GX100 performed excellently with only a few caveats. This being the RAW files had a distinct red cast to them. OK, that can be easily rectified by Photoshopping. More importantly the RAW write-to-card speed was pedestrian to say the least. A good 20 seconds or so. OK, you may say, that isn't too bad. Well, when you take a few hundred pictures you find yourself falling behind your climbing buddies. I found this rather frustrating, or rather you frustrate your mates because they end up saying "Where's Chris - Oh! There he is, taking another blummin photo". I do stop and take quite often. Besides that, the performance of the GX100 is quite superb. Really excellent sharpness and resolution from the RAW files. And having a 24mm lens is a real boon for some excellent panoramas. If you can live with the slow RAW write speeds and shoot low ISO stationery subjects, the GX100 may be for you. The Second hand price is good too.

On to the Canon Powershot G11. A few weeks before that particular Snowdon trip I was at an education trade show and there to my surprise was a Canon stand packed with all sorts of goodies. I could not resist having a play with all sorts of nice things. A Canon EOS 5D, a G10 and a few HD camcorders. It was the G10 that caught my attention and I managed to give it a good go. I was impressed by the design, handling, speed, live histogram, those milled metal knobs (so reminiscent if my Leica IIIc), the exposure compensation dial. As I did happen to have an SD card and took a number of RAW pictures at various ISO with the intent of processing these when I returned home. Upon doing so I was really impressed with the resolution of the G10 and put off by the apparent lack of dynamic range and noise, which was present even at the base ISO. So, understandably, I lost interest in the G10.

Forward to early 2010. With the GX100 sold on eBay it was time to purchase the replacement. The only real choice was the Canon Powershot G11 and the Panasonic LX3 With the latter having a better review on dpreview.com I decided to go for the G11. What swung it was the aesthetics actually. Fickle, I know! I just loved the strong and powerful design. Also, there is some compatibility with my EOS 40D in terms of colour rendition and accessories.

The Canon Powershot G11 in use. OK, no anal resolution charts or 100% crops for those rather sad 'pixel peepers'. Just a 'normal' users use. If there is such thing as one. Although I have had the G11 for a few months I bought the thing as a hiking and mountaineering camera. So, when I went to Snowdonia (again) in April, it was the ideal opportunity to put the G11 through it's paces. Then it was Snowdonia again in July. In fact, on this trip, I was going to take my DSLR gear as well as my Leica M2. As it happens, the weather forecast was, essentially, inclement so say the least. Baptism by Welsh weather then. See below pictures.

Conclusion. I really enjoyed using the G11. I love its design and handling. I really love those rather tactile knobs. The speed is excellent for a compact. It focusses well and the exposure is good. This is what I love about these kinds of camera - the live view histogram. This means you can quickly adjust and maximise exposure BEFORE you take the shot, instead of taking a shot, previewing, adjusting compensation, then taking 'the' shot, and so on. Back home on the computer an analysis of the colour, dynamic range and sharpness was very pleasing for a compact. No complaints in that area either. About half of one stop can be recovered from the highlights when shooting in RAW. More data can be recovered from the shadows than from the top end. I did a day's shooting on one battery, almost 300 RAW files. In comparison with my EOS 40D I would say that ISO800 on the G11 is equivalent to ISO2000 on the EOS 40D. Colour rendition is the same and dynamic range quite close. The G11 does have the advantage of having corner to corner sharpness at f4, and you won't achieve that with any DSLR. So for landscape photogs it's ideal. I found the menu system intuitive and easy to use with all the important major functions accessible from the various buttons. Briefly I would like to mention the three features I did not like, the view finder, the rear dial and the size. The view finder really needs to be 100%. I don't care if it's small, but, 100% it MUST be (come on Canon, you can do it, you know you really want too). The rear dial is a little too small and plasticy, even for my small fingers. My third slight complaint is that the camera is just about pocketable. I can live with that. But for a camera that I can easily slip into my pocket and go anywhere the G11 is a little clumsy, that is why I have just bought the Canon Powershot S90. All in all, I love my G11 and I would recommend it to anyone who prefers static or slow moving subjects.

The G12! My wish list for the G12 would be a 100% view finder. I'm one of these old types who like to have the camera to my face instead of at arms length. I feel more engaged with my subject when the camera is at my eye, whereas I feel removed from my subject when holding the camera at arms length. Of course I would like to see a greater dynamic range and lower noise. A full metal and weather sealed body would be nice and so would a faster auto-focus system. We'll see. Thanks for reading.

Y Garn from Tryfan - Canon Powershot G11
Y Gribin from Y Garn - Canon Powershot G11

Second Severn Crossing

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Well, its 11pm Sunday evening and time for a quick update. I was hoping to have finished my review of the Canon Powershot G11, but words and samples failed me. I've never been one to express myself verbally. So, I was thinking 'what shall I do for this weekends article?'. Then, when reviewing some pictures I took a few weeks back and that had laid quite dormant on my Mac, I decided to process a few. I recalled the journey down to the Second Severn Crossing, it was a Sunday afternoon and the Sun had actually decided to show its face. I just jumped into the car and bidding my wife farewell with the words 'I won't be long' I was off to the first place that came into my mind. I really should plan locations in advance. Twenty minutes later I was wandering on a path that takes you under the bridge. I had mixed feelings about being here, but, after a few sterile months of shooting, creative frustration was making me a little stir crazy. Like the first crossing I find both bridges quite bland, lacking texture and contrast with that expanse of mud that is often on ugly display. I had with me my EOS 40D and my Tokina 20-35mm lens. Now, this is quite a nice lens, twenty years old (probably more) full metal body, nice rubber grips, internal focussing of sorts and real glass. None of that polycarbonate rubbish. I took about ten frames and selected the below three. I'm not too sure about the finished result though. I never am. Never satisfied with my own work. Even when I shoot a wedding and the clients squeal with delight when browsing their album for the first time. Still not satisfied, always restless, always thinking 'how could I do that better'. OK, there are some with which I am happy, but, generally, not. I guess that what drives me on perhaps, the drive to improve.

Return from Tryfan

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Time for another update as I attempt to do this every week AND make it interesting. After looking at the Met Office forecast on the Thursday I decided to take my Canon Powershot G11 only. It was going to be bad, and I wasn't disappointed. My usual Snowdonia routine is travel up Friday, climb Saturday, return Sunday, or climb Sunday as well and return home on Monday. From where I live in South Wales, Snowdonia is a 5hr (or so) drive. Stopping at BK in Builth Wells, coffee (and a bite) in Dolgeddlau (DON'T use the Public Convenience - it's awful), coffee in Betws Y Coed (the Alpine Coffeee shop - the best coffee in Betws). Yes, there is a lot of coffee involved. And after a climb it's a stop at Cafe Gwynnant (the best coffee in Snowdonia). After a lot of coffee and pee breaks, we arrive at Ogwen Bank Holiday Park. Unload, and into the pub for a bevvy and food (it's very good as well). So the plan was Tryfan North ridge on Saturday followed by Y Garn and Elidir Fawr on Sunday. The plan went swimmingly. Drizzle and light rain above 600m or so with a steady 20mph wind increasing to 30mph on Sunday. Visibility above 600m was about 100m on average for the Saturday decreasing to 20 - 50m on Sunday. Rubbish for photography excellent walk/climb. 15hrs of it over the two days. Not bad for a fat, unfit, forties chap like myself (OK. I exaggerate that bit, I'm not that fat, not that unfit, but definitely 40's). I love it, I love Tryfan. Try it! here's a few snap shots of the day.

Snowdon - Again!

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I'm drawn to Snowdonia like the provebial moth to light. I don't quite know what it is about these lumps of rock, there certainly is something very special about them. Snowdon and especially Tryfan have an alluring character and views of which I will never tire. So, off I am again this weekend. This time to climb Tryfan with a few friends on Saturday followed by Y Garn and Elidir Fawr on the Sunday. I'll be taking my EOS 40D with it's Sigma 15-30mm and Sigma 50mm f1.4, my Canon G11 and my Leica M2. That's some load. I'll make the final decision on the day and maybe take just one. I'll be trying out my new Lowepro Slingshot 302AW and see how this is suited to lugging gear up mountains. Most mountain photography, as you know, is taken from a nice safe position at the bottom, looking up. The view looking down affords you a different perspective, especially if the weather is good. At least, I'll come back with the typical tourist photos. I'm happy with that! Part of the satisfaction is making it to the top, fear of heights and all. Making a few good exposures is icing on the cake. Part of my motive is inspired by Mr. Poucher's book 'Welsh Peaks', of which I would like to emulate and produce a more up-to-date version in colour. Part of my mission is to photograph the route up the mountain and to produce a guide of safe Snowdonia walking. Too many people are needlessly killed or injured because of ignorance and sheer stupidity.

Here's to a good weekend!  Yours as well as mine.

Morris

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This year, so far, has been a little thin on the ground when it comes to work output. My output can not be described as prolific anyway. I have to be in the right mood, the light has to be right and the subject right. Everything has to be right. Right! That can be frustrating waiting for those factors to come together. Often I just find myself wandering in the hopes of something interesting appearing in the front of the lens. On one of those wanderings I just happen to be wandering around the Morris Dance event in Chepstow on Saturday the 3rd of July. I had this event in mind for a couple of weeks. Now photographing people is not my favourite past time, that's something to do with my highly aspergic persona. It's the face thing. Facial expressions and Human interaction. I avoid it like the plague. One of the reasons I love photography is that it affords me the salubrious solace that is solitude. So I had to approach the dancers from a different perspective. Now before I move on to some actual photos, perhaps a little history may be of interest. Morris is often viewed as one of those quintessential British occupations. Dressed in white, bells, sticks (or kerchiefs), music of sorts and with the the occasional ululation. Often it is viewed as quaint, queer and with pagan over tones. In fact, the origins are Spanish and the dance originated from when the Spanish kicked the Moors from out of the Iberian peninsula. The original was called the Moresco and still survives in some parts of Spain. The dance was exported to France, Italy and, of course, to Britain where, in the late 15th century, it was known as the Moorish. Moorish became Morris. It's a war dance where swords were used in stead of today's sticks and kerchiefs. Over time it has developed into a small number of distinct styles and perhaps the blackened faces of some dancers represents the dark skin of those very cultured Moors.

So, here's the pix, and if you're interested I used my EOS 40D with the Sigma 50mm f1.4 in aperture priority at f1.8 or f2.8.

Update: The 18th of May, 2010.

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WOW! where has the year gone. Its almost half done. You may have noticed that I have not added much to the site over recent months. I think this is a combination of weather, work commitments and illness. I have never been able to get out when the weather actually has been suitable. Mucho frustration there. What I have done is added some relaxing music to the slide show. So, go HERE, select a slideshow, dim the lights, use a decent sound system on your PC/Mac and relax with a glass of wine. In the background I have been quite busy, what with the work commitments work as well. I have trundled over the Carneddau (Snowdonia, North Wales) taking in four of the fourteen Welsh 3000 peaks. The legs hated me. I am still processing the pix, the light was good for scrambling/hiking, not good for photography. It was very diffuse and hazy, there is also a strange reflectance from the rock. Its hard to explain, but it does effect the quality of light. On the Snowdon massif itself there's no problem, that's a different sort of rock. On the Glyders and the Carneddau which share the same kind of glaciation erosion the light can have this certain quality. I don't like it myself. Anyway, I'll process a few and see what happens. Incidentally, on the 13hr hike (yes! That's a long story) I took my Canon G11 and EOS 40D.

I am still working on the wedding and portrait gallery, I hope to have that completed in the next few months. And finally, cyanotypes. Yes, I have been producing some of these quite fascinating easy-to-do prints. This is part of my long term plan to bring 'everything' in-house, just in case film goes the way of the Dodo, or becomes more expensive than I think is economically viable.

Right, my finger aches (I'm a one fingered touch typist, with an amazing rate of ten words per minute), it needs a rest and a coffee.

All the best and ciao for now.

Update 13th of April 2010

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Heck! Where does the time go! Well into spring, April already. And what's happening on the photography front? Well, not much really. Here in South East Wales, UK, we have actually had quite a few nice days. You know, Sun, blue skies, bitter cold wind. Brrrr!!! Not my thing at all, I've had the lurgi three time this year and that has contributed to me not actually doing much. When the weather becomes clement, THEN, will I venture forth. I have committed the cardinal Sin of every monochrome photographer, I have decided to start a colour gallery. I feel like a heretic. Unclean. I don't really see things in colour and the new gallery consists of photos taken from my trips to Snowdonia over the last four years. In fact, I have found that a good number of the pictures taken lend themselves to colour. I am quite pleased with result, but the acid test is knowing what you think, please take a few minutes and let me know.

To go to the Gallery. http://wyephotography.zenfolio.com/thecword

Leica Lust?

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The name of Leica is synonymous with the histrory of the miniature 35mm or small format. The Leica is many things to many people. Almost worshipped by some, denigrated as an elitist rich man's toy by others. I have two Leica cameras, a 1946 IIIc and a 1959 M2. Leica M2. I had to flog some gear, but, finally, I bought an M2. I love it. The smooth film advance, the solid feel, the bright rangefinder, easy to use with glasses and that wonderful shutter sound. Heaven! So superior to the Barnack cameras but many of the sentiments are the same. I do love the finder. It feels as if you are looking right through the camera and directly at the subject. In fact, the camera melts away and become an extension of the eye. It is, without doubt, the best rangefinder I have used. Like the IIIc mention below, the M2 is so tactile, the milled metal, the vulcanite. Love it! The M2 is a huge leap from the Barnack cameras. One word of caution, the 50mm frame on the M3 and the 35mm frame on the M2 are difficult to use if you have, what Leica succinctly calls, 'defective eye sight' (1950's manual). To the rest of us that means you are a genetically inferior glasses or spectacle wearing specimen who should not really be using a Leica in the first place. Can I conclude that only perfect Human specimens can use the perfect camera? Sorry, Adolf, I didn't quite catch that...

Leica IIIc I have wanted one of these cameras for years and when one was offered at a very good price, well, mine it became, and disappointed I am not. It came with a 1936 un-coated heavily scratched and slightly hazy f2 5cm Summar. It just had to be replaced and this was with the f2 5cm Summitar (1949). The venerable Summar still has its place, it's soft and it flares. Some would call it the Leica glow, and yes, the lens has character. It has low contrast (Hello photoshop), but, even so, the sharpness and resolution isn't that far behind the Canonet (below). I just love it. The IIIc is so tactile, the milled metal knobs, the satisfying weight, the feel in the hands, it's so right. It says shoot with me. Even the separate VF and RF is just brill. No light meter, no plastic, no battery, no electronics, no controlling micro computers. REAL PHOTOGRAPHY - YOU in control. It's slow, it forces you to THINK, to STOP, to ANTICIPATE.

Of course, both have no light meter so either an external meter or the use of the Sunny 16 (or Overcast 5.6 if living in the UK) rule will have to do. I would recommend becoming practised at the Sunny 16 rule as it does liberate you from inherently misleading light meters.

So, briefly, how does it compare. I can only make a comparison with my Canon Canonet GIII QL17 and Fed 3 rangefinders and quite a number of Japanese and Russian SLR cameras. Mechanically, the Leica is way ahead. Solidly built with very smooth gearing. You can not only tell by the physically smooth action but also by the sound. The Leica just sounds indescribably smooth. On the other hand, the Japanese and Russian cameras just do the job. Inherently, the horrid and ratchet sound to their mechanism is indicative of an inferior design, build, materials and mass production. My Yashica Mat 124G sounds like its about to make an espresso.  The Japanese and Russian cameras feel functional in the hand, whilst the Leica (and to the same degree the Rolleiflex) feel reassuringly pleasurable.  The Japanese and Russian cameras just get the job done, the Leica adds to the pleasure and experience.

Optically the same thing applies. I have had 5 Leica lenses, 4 from the R system and 1M. All superb, especially the 50mm f2 that was on my R camera. The bokeh was so good it gave some images an almost 3D like quality that seemed to pop from the print. My M Summarit is a 1949 screw lens with an M adapter, it performs slightly behind the exceptional lens on the canonet. I put this down to the fact that the Summarit, being a 1949 vintage is showing its age with some internal markings. I think when I have a more recent lens on the M2 I will be able to produce a better comparison. One characteristic I find among my Japanese lenses is the fact that they commonly have a very sharp centre and a soft edge (which improves until you reach equilibrium at f11). The Leica lenses on the other hand are much, much more consistent in sharpness across the frame. I actually prefer this.

To conclude I would say that the Leica is a status symbol, its an elitist trade mark, you buy into the culture and the elitism, the feeling. The cameras are better quality than the 'compitition' beyond doubt and together with the best lenses available for the 35mm format make an irresistible allure. BUT, their price point, even second hand, is BEYOND their worth. It is this fact that makes the Leica the afore mentioned elitist rich man's toy. Should you buy one? Perhaps! I suppose it depends for what reason you want to buy. Is it to own a piece of camera history? or the simple pleasure of use? or to join that exclusive club? or is your ego so weak you need to feel better than everyone else by the power of camera bling? or perhaps you feel your photography is so inadequate that owning a make used by Cartier-Bresson or Salgado will somehow make you feel better? One thing for sure, no matter how good a camera it won't make you a better photographer!