Monday, June 30, 2008

Thank You Analogue, Hello Digital

I bought a new camera recently. A Canon 40D with battery grip. It's my first real venture into serious digital photography. I absolutely love it. I won't harp on about it because you can read myriad 40D reviews online.

Why have I waited so long? The main reason is that I have never been able to afford what I want. Add to that the fact that I have never been prepared to settle on a bottom of the range digital SLR. However, nowadays for a very small price, the Canon 40D is a fantastic, affordable piece of kit.

The other significant reason for not making the move to digital is because I simply love my old analogue kit. With the exceptions of things like digital rangefinders and digital backed medium format cameras, there isn't a lot in the digital realm that forces you think about what you're doing like analogue gear can (does this sentence make sense)? You simply cannot get consistently good results if you don't know what you are doing.

I cut my teeth on analogue photography in 1996 when, as a pimply teenager, I was given a Braun Paxette. I had no idea what I was doing back then. Whereas, now I'm much better because I don't know what I am doing, but in a very structured way. When I'm out and about and I see a shot or a moment, I automatically start thinking about composition, ISO, shutter speed and aperture. You're either thinking that's fraikin sad or cool or WTF? Thankfully, I usually have a camera on me. * gesch-likt! *

Whilst quality analogue photography has a warmth you just can't get with regular digital set-ups, any good Photoshop operator can easily bang out imagery to match.

When I use my analogue gear, it's the tangible qualities that hit me. There's the smell of leather, oil and metal. Comforting, old smells that instantly bring forth childhood memories of old record players, old TVs... my grandmother's 1950's Austin of England - used in the procession for Queen Elizabeth's first visit to New Zealand, with wood, leather and chrome scents.

Then there's the weight - everything's metal. If it's not metal it's leather. If it's not either, it's glass. How many sore shoulders have I endured, sometimes for weeks between decent exposures? I daren't count... no, in fact I don't care.

And finally, there's the look, sound and feel. Cold, machined aluminium and black enameled brass. Dials, knobs, switches, slides, levers, catches and buttons. Shiny bits and bits that go click. Yes, new cameras have buttons (more of them) but they're plastic and they work far too efficiently until their inbuilt-obsolescence is due.

I wonder if film will go the way of the vinyl record. Once the compact disc hit the shelves 20 years ago, everyone said vinyl was dead. And for a while, as far as I could see, it was! However, now vinyl is going strong. Whilst it's certainly not a volume seller, there's so much good (and bad) material available on the format. With Polaroid announcing the cessation of instant film production and other film companies diversifying their businesses to stay afloat and with world affairs turning to shit - will film turn niche soon? Who knows!?

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