It’s coming to the end of 2015, around this time theres a flurry of new cameras coming on the market that we all want to get our hands on. For most of us that means upgrading our gear to stay ahead of the curve. For me personally I decided to take a step back. Instead of getting that new dream camera, I went back 10 years, and picked up an obsolete vintage digital camera. It’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my career.
I made the decision to downgrade my photography gear from a Canon 5D markIII to the 10-year-old cropped CCD sensor of the Leica M8. My main reason for choosing the Leica M8 camera over my Canon 5D Mark III was the completely manual camera functions. When I’m taking a picture with this old obsolete camera, its all on me to get the focus and exposure right. This camera doesn’t have any autofocus lenses. Relying on the onboard computer to calculate the proper exposure isn’t an option. The only flexibility I have is adjusting the RAW files in post, which even then is very limiting with its dynamic range. I have to get the exposure bang on otherwise the photo becomes useless. I can’t crop my images without sacrificing a major amount of detail and quality, so I have to get the framing right in camera. Limitations like this make me think and compose my frame, forcing me to get better at my craft which requires a lot of focus. This camera will never forgive even the smallest mistake.
Why would I make the decision to downgrade my gear, making my job harder. Isn’t the reason we have new technology to make our lives easier. This is true, with all the leaps and bounds of modern digital cameras, our jobs have become easier. Anyone can pick up a camera, set it to Auto mode and capture a great photo. I got the Leica M8 camera because I wanted to get better at my trade. I got tired from being a camera operator, instead of being a creative. I no longer wanted my camera making decisions for me, or moving my style in a direction of its choosing.
In the end, the Leica M8 is perfect for me. There is something magical about picking up just one camera before walking out the door. Knowing that all you need is over my shoulder, it sets me apart from other local photographers. I get full control over the camera functions with dials at my finger tips, just like its analogue predecessor. These simple elements help me spend less time looking at the screen, freeing me up to focus on my lighting and my subject matter. Having exposure dials and aperture adjustments all at my finger tips, knowing I don’t need to go through menus, is so freeing.
Getting the newest camera is great don’t get me wrong but If you’re getting it just because it focus that little bit faster or has more dynamic range, are you truly a photographer or are you making yourself just another technician that fixes it in post. This coming year if your choosing to upgrade your camera gear, remember not to make yourself so easily replaceable, so that anyone can come along and replace you by just turning on the Auto functions.