Imagine starting over. Suddenly, you’ve got no gear but all the money in the world to buy anything you want. What do you get ?
The sad premise for this through process was co-author Philippe’s gear being stolen. Not that he can spare any amount to rebuild his system, mind you. That imaginary clause is just there to eliminate false obstacles and force me to think deeply about what I’d truly desire from my own gear, given no financial limitations.
My default goto system is the lens we like to call Audrey (Hepburn) for its saucy delicacy, attached to whatever forgettable body will hold her close to a decent sensor.
That’s step one for me : the system starts with lenses. It’s no secret that, over my digital career, camera bodies have been more of an irritation than a source of pleasure. They have added complexity instead of removing it (which is usually what progress does) only for the sake of really crappy marketing. So, glass.
There are other lenses in my setup, namely the stunningly underestimated C-Sonnar 50/1.5 ZM, an absolute gem of a lens in a tiny affordable package, a Distagon 25/2 ZF.2 and an Otus 85/1.4 (a.k.a. Hubert, because it was the first of the über lenses in my lineup). Plus a slew of older Leica lenses such as the superb Elmarit 90/2.8, which I own in R and M mount and some exotica from Nikon, Hasselblad, Fujica … None of these see the light of day very much because Audrey is so captivating to me.
So, if I had to start over from scratch, the choice is pretty obvious : Audrey and a silicon bodyguard. Right ?
Thankfully, my guardian angel Philippe is ever watchful and pointed out to me that this was lazy me talking. Painfully, he’s right. Two lenses are better than one. And maybe I’m becoming too comfortable with Audrey and should seek tension in a widely spaced duo such as the 25/85 combo I occasionally take on holiday. It’s heavy and forces lens changes, dust on sensor, running after a distinctly non-photographic-oriented family unwilling to wait while I shoot … But it’s brilliant spacing with zero overlap, two great lenses and a huge range of situations by either cropping the 85 to a 135 or stitching two 25 frames into a 21. Many angles covered.
And that’s the issue with that combo.
And that’s the issue with how we choose lenses altogether. Who cares about what angles are covered ? FOMO me is just as bad an advisor as lazy me.
Hands up if you can honestly say that you haven’t chosen your lenses to cover all situations (and remember, I read all your comments, even if I take a long time to reply 😉 , so I know) ! That long lens for portraits, that wide lens for architecture, that small 35 for street, that 90 Macro for … erm, I don’t even know the answer to that one, that old Russian lens for crazy bokeh, that low distortion lens for stitching, that 50 for … well, how can you own a camera and not own at least 4 50mm lenses, c’mon, that 10mm for those incredible perspectives, … it goes on.
Just typing that list is exhausting, so imagine lugging it around. Really, it’s laziness, but let me pretend I’m a Zen master for a minute (what is the sound of photons fulfilling their karma by turning into electrons ?)
Are you really going to use all this creatively ?
If so, you’re a far better photographer than me. Juggling lenses is like juggling clients when you’re a consultant it requires you to swap mindsets in an instant. So many things happen in the brain when you do so that you can literally hear the blood rush from one lobe to another as I reach for a new lens in my bag.
Seriously, though, if you were to answer that question at the very top of the page, maybe it would be wise to ask yourself this one beforehand : why do you photograph at all ?
That’s a tough one to answer. And even if you do feel like you’ve found an answer, you might not want to reveal it.
But, with great power comes great responsibility, so let me explain why a lazy French bloke would buy gear, set a blog in motion, constantly nag others into publishing on it and vitriolate relentlessly on clumsy gear.
The fact is that I photograph to become a better artist. Subconsciously, I think the photograph doesn’t really matter to me. Which is probably why I don’t back up, store or bother with any of the security side of our hobby. All that matters to me probably is to make better photographs. Selfish ? Insecure ? Wise ? None of these ? I don’t really know. But Audrey and Hubert most certainly help me with that goal.
But we’re all mostly amateurs writing and reading DS. Pros have an obligation to deliver quality photographs. Amateurs have an obligation to fulfill themselves. It’s in the name. It’s in our biology. For those who believe in higher realms, it’s in our spirituality.
Back to gear.
Reading forums can be as amusing as watching youtube videos of kittens jumping off tables. Realising how much gear choices divide us and destroy creativity can be as sad as realising you’ve lost an afternoon of your life on youtube videos of kittens jumping off tables. Irreversible loss, in both cases.
Not even going into clan wars, or hilariously silly tech specs, I think covering all angles is the lazy way out of actually choosing gear. It is every bit as lazy as using a single lens 90% of the time. It’s letting maths do the job for you, just like others let forum clans or brand ego influence their decision. In all cases, it is an escape from really thinking about why you are doing photography and finding out what your vision is.
That’s actually how most companies run their marketing. Plenty of tools for every situation, zero vision, positioning or usp. In the long run, it rarely works out well for the owner. Whereas tools naturally follow from corporate vision just like lenses naturally follow from personal vision.
Imagine starting over. Suddenly, you’ve got no gear but all the money in the world to buy anything you want. What’s your vision ?
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