Not every camera you own needs to do everything!

Joy and I were discussing gear purchases. See, he's been selling some of his cameras and trying not to make the same camera purchase mistakes a second time. He read my article about how I'm not usually subject to gearlust like everybody else, which is why I haven't sprung for a full-frame digital SLR, like the D700 or the 5D Mk II. We were talking about the Mamiya 6 & 7 rangefinder cameras, which is pretty much a lust object for me.

So, starting out, the thing to remember about a rangefinder... no matter if it's from Mamiya or Leica or Nikon or anybody else... is that there are some kinds of pictures you simply cannot take with one. Things like macro shots and extreme telephoto shots. This is why SLR cameras hit the scene.

There is a good reason why the 35mm-sized SLR camera is so popular. It doesn't do anything especially poorly. Sure, a rangefinder is lighter. Sure a view camera makes movements easier. Sure a medium format camera of any sort will have higher resolution. But the 35mm-sized SLR (either an APS-C or full-frame dSLR or a 35mm film camera) is something that most anybody can afford, carry, and make sense out of.

I'm trying to talk him into looking at a Mamiya 6 or 7... or maybe a Fuji fixed-lens rangefinder... instead of trying to get a 35mm film or medium format SLR camera. It's handy to have one camera that can do most anything, even if it's not actually the highest resolution. But not all of your cameras have to follow this model. Start thinking of your various cameras as being very different complements to each other.

I tend not to think that, if you've got one of the fancy full-frame digital SLR cameras that a film 35mm camera is going to be that much fun. Sure it uses the same accessories most of the time, but you really have to start splitting hairs and making questionable arguments to insist that it's really worth carrying around two bodies. Even if your goal in film is not to get ultimate image quality for a reasonable price but to be able to have the feel of film, I still think this advice holds. So, either way, there are other options that are more fun, let you do more, and may actually fit better into your lifestyle.

Take, for example, my personal lust objects: Medium format rangefinders, like the Mamiya 6 or 7 and the fixed-lens Fuji rangefinders. Without a big mirror flopping around and with leaf shutters in the lens, you get a camera that's lightweight and lets you shoot at shockingly slow shutter speeds. Some of the Fuji rangefinders even have automatic modes and zoom lenses.

Especially if you have a fancy digital SLR, these rangefinders make a lot of sense. I have a RB67, largely because it's less expensive but also because I don't have a digital SLR. I am also content with toting fairly heavy cameras. The problem is that getting a RB67/RZ67 or Pentax 67 system.. or even a Hasselblad... is that they are designed to be a heavier equivalent to the 35mm-sized SLR camera.

Similarly, if you have a decent SLR of any sort, getting a serious compact like the G-series makes a lot of sense. It doesn't matter that it doesn't look good at ISO 1600. If it mattered, you'd bring the SLR. And, given that Joy and I both like long two wheeled treks (I have a mountain bike and Joy rides a Honda Goldwing) it's always handy to have a more compact and lighter weight option.

Pair a serious compact with a medium format rangefinder and you get more options. The serious compact can do macro better, plus it can double as a light meter.

There are even farther-from-normal cameras to try. Like panoramic cameras or large format view cameras. Once you accept that not all cameras must be the be-all, do-all bodies, you start to have a more rational set of gear instead of having several cameras that basically do the same thing and you tend to not waste money on cameras that work exactly alike.

What did Joy end up doing? He got himself an RB67 like mine. It was a screaming deal with two telephoto lenses and a normal lens that makes me jealous. His main concern is that he would like to give slideshows and finding a 6x7 projector used for cheap is awfully hard.

Me? I'm too cheap to get a slide projector and I'm even too cheap to get a proper light table.

Posted by Richard :
Great post, as it's about exactly what's been rattling around in my head recently. I love my 35mm rangefinder and I swoon constantly over my Mamiya 7, and even though the thought of primarily using an SLR on the street and a digital one at that kills me inside, the 5D, feels too hard to ignore. Recently the process of getting film, processing and scanning it has been a real photography turn off, not to mention the cumulative cost of shooting film. I even looked into maybe just processing all my stuff myself, but it didn't work out any cheaper, especially when you factor in the time spent actually developing films.

I hadn't really considered your suggestion of a small compact paired with the MF rangefinder. Something like that could be a really good option. One of my main problems is that I'm a complete film snob. If it's digital, I turn my nose up at it. It's a horrible attitude to have and recently it's something I've been trying to get rid of. This whole idea that I've somehow sold out if I start using digital.

I wish the Leica M8 was a "better" camera for what it cost.
Posted by Wirehead Arts :
I don't tend to think of the Leica M8 as a camera for serious photographers. It's really just a camera solely intended for Leica collectors.

Thing about the G7/G9/G10 is that it's not your good camera. For "good" shots, you pull out your Mamiya. Or your 35mm camera. But when you are going to be shooting a little more aimlessly with a little less of a demand on quality, then the G-series comes into play.
Posted by Joy Dutta :
Nah, I am too cheap to buy a bulky MF projector as well. After I saw my 6x6 slides out of the rented hasselblad, the sheer pleasure to look at those is enough to run rolls of velvia through the RB67. The D700 acts as my main camera for people and landscapes, also as a light meter. The RB67 is only for bw pics I would love to print in the darkroom and slides of selected scenes I would cherish handholding. Scanning is not a priority since it is royal pain, and I usually shoot a digital copy as well.

The really funny side story is when a mutual friend of Reese and myself showed off his new Mamiya 6 to me. I said, "Oh, Reese is going to be jealous of that." He told me that she had seen it yesterday and was, in fact, jealous.

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