Camera choices are personal and you will choice the one you use for a variety of reasons and I have been having quite an adventure in cameras in the past year or so with me using some rather excellent camera, which I could have only dreamed of just a few years earlier. When you find a camera that works for you and the type of images you want to make it just works for you and your type of images become easier to make. Not all cameras do what you need and sometimes it takes practice with a camera system to get the most out of it for your needs.
As some of you may know for the past few years I have been using both a range of Sony and Leica cameras. I originally got my start with Sony when they came out with the excellent a900 camera and I loved it but then something happened my photography changed. When I got the a900, I was mostly making fashion/beauty and portrait images, as I completed my MA in Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths College, I started doing more street photography and eventually becoming more interested in making social documentary images. This changed how I wanted to use my cameras and I started to look around for something that would suit my needs more in line with this new to me kind of photography. While I really liked using the Sony cameras that I had, they were not doing what I wanted from them. I wanted something smaller and lighter, full frame, and quiet no noise from the SLR mirror. In other words, I was after a discrete camera that would allow me to make images without overly drawing attention to myself. I ended up buying a Leica M9 and a 35 MM lens, which did suit my needs. That lens was then followed by a second-hand 40 mm Summicron lens, as this is my favourite focal length which remains so to this day for documentary and street photography. I then added a 75 mm as I wanted something for portraiture, which was then followed by a 50 mm and then to round out the set I got a 28mm lens. Finally thinking that I had a great set up and my quest for camera perfection was done. Then Sony contacted me again about the a7R which I got and while it is a wonderful camera and it does all that I like, it is small light, autofocuses, is accurate with the framing, something that I found the Leica was not always. What I really loved was the electronic viewfinder and the live view histogram always on in the viewfinder, this meant that I was no longer chimping (i.e. taking an image and then checking exposure) this has implications as it took me away from the scene that I am photographing and into the camera. The only down side was the shutter sound it is loud then to my surprise I get a a7S and it has a silent shutter mode, down side is that it is 12megapixels but the upside is that I no longer worry about lighting conditions and it has this wonderful absolutely silent shutter. Within two weeks I am sold and have taken my much loved Leica M (type240) of to Red Dot to sell.
I decided to sell my Leica M it was a difficult decision, as I have loved using the Leica camera, I have loved being a part of the whole “I use a Leica so I am a good photographer heritage” thingy that surrounds the camera system. I have got used to people spotting the camera and going oh what a lovely camera or as happened to me more than I expected in China recently was that people really spotted an expensive camera. I want to use a camera that people just ignore and I have found that in the Sony a7 series. It is liberating and the three things that have finally tipped the scales for my are the news of new lenses by Zeiss (those Loxia lenses), the fact that I have a highly capable camera that is totally silent, and third I have got to the point that I love working with a live histogram in the corner of the viewfinder. It is liberating as I have basically stopped chimping after the initial exposure, checking that I got the exposure right on the first frame slows me down and make sky subject know I am photographing them.
I have taken to using the folding screen to set my camera settings (shutter, iso and aperture), which I have to do as the are not visible without the camera being turned on. I liked on the Leica that I could look at the light and guess the exposure and then set the camera to what I wanted without having to raise the camera to my eye. This is still liberating and something that the Sony or most current DSLR cameras cannot do. Yet I found that it still took me time to adjust the exposure with the internal light meter so and if I was using the internal light meter I do not see what the camera is set to anyway. So I have grown used to the electronic viewfinder and developed a real love for the live histogram in the viewfinder.
What I want to end up with is a system that will consist of:
Sony a7S Camera, low light and silent, small files great for multimedia usage.
Sony a7R Camera, large file sizes and great for large prints.
16-35mm f4 Zeiss AF lens
24-70mm f4 Zeiss AF lens
70-200mm f4 Sony G AF lens
This covers all the focal length that I ever use in a flexible form by being zoom lens.
Then I want a collection of fixed lens that also cover my needs when I have the time I prefer to use fixed lens and they are smaller for the focal length, lighter and have wider apertures. So I want these
28mm f2 Sony G AF lens
35mm f1.4 Zeiss AF lens
55mm f1.8 Zeiss AF lens
35mm f2 Zeiss Loxia MF lens
40mm f2 Leica MF lens with Novaflex M-mount Adaptor
90mm f2.8 Sony Macro AF lens
Zoom H4n Recorder,
I came to the conclusion that despite the’ joy’ of ownership that is involved in an expensive object like a Leica camera I found that I can use the new a7S anywhere and absolutely silently and with a flip out screen that lets me use it like an old TLR camera in a similar manner to how I imaging Diane Arbus or Viven Maier did. Which is liberating as it has let me make images that would not have been possible with the Leica. This is a powerful reason to keep using the Sony a7 cameras that I have.
I just want Sony to update the a7R to one that has a silent shutter and a slightly faster auto focusing system, more akin to the a7S, which I am loving apart from the low megapixel count. I also want the focus zoom function to work when I put non Sony lens with adaptors onto the camera, I have found I can use it as I have now dedicated the function button next to the shutter release button for this, which works for me.
I have found that when I am using the Sony a7 series of cameras I am not so worried about the history of photography thingy and more interested in the image that I am making right in front of me, I am more concerned with actual seeing and recording of the subject itself that is in front of my camera. Not the fact that I am using a serious camera with it history (i.e. Leica) of having made serious photography. This is a mind set thing that is quite liberating as I have reached a point where I want to make images and not carry a camera, or be seen to be owning an expensive object. Not that the Sony is cheap either and by the time I have the full kit that I have in the list above I will be carrying in good few thousand pounds worth of camera gear around with me. That is if I am not leaving most of it at home which is knowing me, what will happen more than I care to admit. I have taken to being able to use the camera and lens that I have with me and not miss the rest, because these days I am trying to concentrate more on the subject, less on the camera and photographic tools that I have.