The Camera Conundrum


I've always wanted a nice camera, but I've always wanted one that is easily pocketable as well. For a long time I looked at the mirrorless SLR's but the good ones were never really released in India, and the really good ones which were eventually released in India, were in the same price bracket as small second hand cars. The really good mirrorless cameras in my opinion are the Olympus PEN E-P5, and the Fujifilm X-E2. Both are reasonably small, have all the proper manual controls, and are really quite good. Another unique thing about both these cameras are the way they are designed. Both mimic the look and feel of the old manual film cameras. The user experience of both these cameras is quite different from that of the current crop of DSLRs. Made of high quality plastic and aluminium, they are also very well built. The PEN E-P5 was never quite released in India, and frankly Olympus itself hasn't really quite made an effort to launch itself as a brand either. A lot of shops and resellers eventually stopped stocking on Olympus cameras due to the lack of effort on the companies part. Its very strange, how this company functions. The Fuji X-E2 is an even better camera, with superb build quality, manual controls, great lenses, and fantastic image quality. But you can also buy a small car with that sort of money, and that doesn't really work on many levels.

When I went to Europe, I chose not to take a camera with me as I felt that a camera would simply detract me from the whole experience. However, the iPhone 5S with its superb camera, and slow-motion video capability was more accomplished enough to deal with the 5 month trip. I was genuinely surprised with what one can do with such a small but capable camera. You can see the results for yourself here, on my VSCO page. With a bit of post processing on the phone itself, the results are really quite good. I didn't have to lug around a camera and its electronic peripherals, and that weight saving is worth ever gram I saved on my trip. The trick to travelling, is travelling light. My exposure to Formula 1 paid off here. It's not only the weight either. Electricity is also an issue. It was stressful enough to manage a mobile phones battery, with all the different plugs, and the headache making sure I had enough charge on my phone, and battery pack to make throughout the day with enough charge for calls, and for taking photos and videos. Theres also the issue of memory. With a couple of navigation apps and offline maps, there simply isn't enough storage space for all the photos and slow motion videos. Managing all this was bothersome enough.

Now I know that a standard run-of-the-mill crop sensor DSLR has decent enough battery life, and with a large enough memory card, storage wouldn't be an issue either. But the flip-side of all that great image quality, is the inconvenient size and weight of the very thing. The body also has to be protected with a pouch of sorts, and with its fragile lenses it needs to be handled with as much care as a lightly clothed new born baby. Sure, some of the full-frame pro-body DSLRs are quite strong and weather proof, but then I could also get a medium size car with sort of money so that doesn't really work either. Another peril of carrying a nice DSLR around? Crime. These things are very viable to getting nicked.

After much thought and internal conflict, I finally thought of a compromise. The iPhone, or any other mobile phone camera is already very good. In fact, you really can't do much better for that image quality to size ration. They're so good, that I dont really see why would you buy a compact point-and-shoot camera anymore. Anything smaller than a APS-C sized crop sensor doesn't really make sense anymore, as even budget Android and Windows mobile phones have really good cameras. Canon and Nikon aren't going to shift away from the traditional DSLRs of today, as their business of selling lenses would completely collapse of they shifted to a new system. Only mobile phone manufacturers are willing to experiment and try new technologies, so you can probably expect to see digital photography advance in leaps and bounds in mobile phones. So investing in a proper digital camera doesn't really make sense for someone who occasionally likes to take pictures, but also likes to click lots of strange angles and shoot slow-motion videos(the new iPhones with their 240 frames per second video capability is the future, trust me). There's nothing in the modern digital world which would suit my needs(apart from the iPhone), so I looked back at the origins of photography to try and find something there.

After quite a lot of time on the internet, and I must stress on the amount of time I spent on the internet, I was completely convinced that film photography is the way to go. I don't take a lot of photos, and my photography is also quite terrible. Someone once told me that I "shoot like a tourist", and that I think is quite accurate. So it made perfect sense for me to switch to film photography. Film photography is punishingly expensive(literally) if you make mistakes, so its the perfect tool to learn photography. That is of course one of the many reasons why switching to film makes a lot of sense:

  1. The cameras are a lot cheaper, and there are a lot more options to choose from. 
  2. Every single good SLR is a full frame, so the image quality is going to really quite good. 
  3. Film(depending on what you buy) is usually more sensitive than digital sensors, so you can capture greater details and get better low light shots. 
  4. Each roll has 36 shots. No less, no more. That dictates what you shoot, and more importantly how you shoot.
  5. Film cameras are usually built to a very high standard, so most of them will outlast you, and will keep on working.
  6. There were a lot of interesting cameras with some ground breaking ideas made, most of which were never translated into the digital era.
  7. You can use the "real" versions of the popular Instagram and VSCO filters, and experiment with various other strange films.
  8. Really good lenses. The old lenses were built to last a lifetime, and the various rings are perfectly damped to give that oh-just-so-right feel. Not to mention they're also extremely beautiful to look at.
  9. The list goes on and on, and its just about what you take away from the experience really.

There are many, many different types of film SLRs, from the fully manual ones to the latest fully automatic versions. I decided to get a tried and tested fully manual one. It's a 35mm film camera manufactured by Pentax from 1979-1997. Over 30,00,000 million units were produced of this particular model.

Pentax K1000

The Pentax K1000 has been the mainstay of students and photographers world over. With little to no assistance, this has been the go-to tool for anyone wishing to learn photography. The camera body itself has very functions. It has a film winding lever, a shutter button, a dial to set the shutter speed, ISO, film rewind knob, and a light meter. The aperture controls are on the lens itself. The light meter in this camera is very temperamental so I don't think I'll be using it at all. One key feature that makes this particular model shine in the real world is its ability to work without electricity. To make the light meter work you do need a small LR44 button cell, but this camera will still take photos without it. This is such a simple camera, its almost surprising, not to mention refreshing as well.

I also got a smc Pentax-M 50mm f/2 lens for this setup and luckily I got a good lens. It's a clean lens, with smooth controls, and a Hoya 1B filter on top of it. The Hoya filter has a pinkish tinge to it, so it'll be interesting to see that will affect the images. Once I get a few niggles sorted, I'll share the photos I take with it.

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what do you think?