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Is it time for a new camera?

Chandelier @ Waco Hippodrome Chandelier in the Waco, TX Hippodrome taken with a Nikon D70s

Is it time for you to get a new camera?  Have you done your research?  Make sure you spend time considering key specifications like resolution (megapixels), noise control (ISO capabilities), and price.  Once you've done your research and have finally made the decision on what you need, leave it at the store.  That's right, I'm suggesting you postpone the purchase until the very last possible minute.

Don't get me wrong, I love my gadgets as much as anyone else.  I've even bought new speakers just because I had been around some new equipment and couldn't get the smell of new electronics our of my head.  As much as it pains me to upgrade this way, it has definitely been valuable.

You see, I was talking to a friend the other day about his camera and he made sure to discuss its limitations.  He expressed an immediate desire to upgrade (though admitted that he was financially unable.).  That's when I finally realized how I felt about it.  I told him that when a camera becomes frustrating is precisely when it becomes useful.

In the course of my photographic experience I have, for various reasons (well. mostly money), been unable to upgrade my cameras to keep up with technology.  I really believe that most photographers are in the same situation.  Regardless of your ability to upgrade, I still maintain that waiting is the best policy.

Baby portrait from Sigma SA-9 Baby portrait from Sigma SA-9

Indulge me while I sound like an old man.  When I started out with my first "real" camera, it was a hand-me-down thatwas already about 15 years old.  My dad gave me his old manual film  camera (though it did have a light meter in it) with two lenses, the longer of which did not hold its focal length and would slide along the barrel.  Shooting this way really made me take my time shooting and consider each and every one of my choices.  Is that the right f/stop and shutter speed combination?  How about my focal length?  Is it the same I had originally selected?  Is everything ready?  Now shoot!

Shooting this way was most definitely frustrating.  I had no idea what I was doing with that camera when I started.  With no automatic setting, I was forced to set all of my shots manually and left me no choice but to learn more about exposure.  I missed some shots because of the migrating lens barre, but it taught me to hold my camera steady.  I mis-loaded film, too, and that had to have been the most frustrating part, but it showed me how important it is to ensure that my camera is ready to shoot.

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland Dingle Peninsula, Ireland taken on Chinon CE-5

I was finally able to buy a brand new camera a couple years later.  It was still a film camera in the last days of film's dominance of the market place.  I probably should have waited a little longer to upgrade and get a digital body, but the shutter on the old one had seized up and I needed one now.  While the new camera, a newly introduced Sigma SA-9, had all of the automatic settings available, I still shot mostly in the more manual modes.  At the time I was shooting with this, everyone was talking up the advantages of shooting digitally: the freedom of shooting without film costs, the instantaneous feedback, the cont

Mom Daughter Waco, TX Mom and Daughter taken with Nikon D700

rol of post-processing.  Sure, I pined for one of those new gadgets, but I did learnmany things from that experience.  I learned to shoot judiciously.  With the extra cost o

f film and processing, I couldn't afford to shoot machine gun-style. (My motto on a trip to Ireland: Film's cheap! My motto upon my return: Developing's not!)  I learned to shoot in a

ppropriate light.  With almost no control over processing, I was at the mercy of the lab.  I had to ensure that the image had spot on exposure.  I learned that I had to pay attention to my images while I was making them.  You see, the biggest advantage to digital at the time was the ability to see the results and settings immediately after shooting.  Instead, I made sure to have a notebook with me at all times where I would record all of the camera information to compare it to the final image.  I still carry a small notebook with me to this day.

I know this seemed like a long, rambling post and it probably is, but please take away the idea that frustrating cameras provide the best learning experiences.  Having to work around the deficiencies of your camera forces you to learn more about making photos.

Scott Everett