Are you ‘at one’ with your camera gear?

I don’t know if it is a positive or a negative that I’m not a ‘gear head’ when it comes to camera equipment. I suppose this blog would have a much bigger audience if I spent my time doing numerous reviews of camera bodies and lenses. No doubt these kinds of technical insights are extremely important to a large portion of the photographic community. But…that’s just not me. I think a bigger and more important question is, “Are you ‘at one’ with your camera gear?”

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 49mm, efov 132mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-3200, 16mm extension tube used

To me being ‘at one’ with a camera means that you have a special connection, a bond with it. In essence the camera has become an extension of you and your creativity. It forms a seamless bridge between you and the wonders you see in the world around you. It enables you.  It is a spark that ignites your creativity.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-800

I’ve used a number of cameras over the years and many folks would argue that I’ve used a lot ‘better’ gear in the past than I do currently. From a purely technical standpoint they would be absolutely correct!

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 14mm, efov 38mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-160

The full frame D800 I used to own was an incredible camera. The dynamic range and colour depth were superb. I could point it at just about anything and I knew I’d get images that my clients would approve without hesitation.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720

My problem was that I was never able to connect with it. All my D800 ever was to me was a tool to do a job. A means to an end. At times it felt that it simply got in the way of my creative urges. It was an impediment.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 37mm, efov 100mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-160, -0.7 step

If you asked me why that was the case I don’t think I could give you a logical answer. Perhaps logic doesn’t enter into this at all. At the heart of being ‘at one’ is a visceral thing. An emotion. A feeling of calmness that is created every time you hold it in your hands.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 201mm, efov 543mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-3200

The camera transports you to another realm. Another vantage point that allows you to see and experience the world around you differently. More completely.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 74mm, efov 200mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-2200

Like many people I used to get caught up in the technical specifications of camera gear. I chased after ‘better’ gear, erroneously thinking it would somehow make me a ‘better’ photographer because of its technical superiority.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 32mm, efov 86mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-3200

Whether my work today is ‘better’ than it was in the past is a subjective assessment. I think the best way of knowing whether you own and use the right equipment is how you feel when you use it.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, efov 297mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-3200

When you ask yourself if you are ‘at one’ with your camera, what answer do you get?

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10 thoughts on “Are you ‘at one’ with your camera gear?”

  1. Agree with you Thomas. It takes time to get in sync with the camera one has. But once you know the nuances, it becomes difficult to imagine parting with it. In fact it becomes a joy to take photos with it !

  2. Hi Tom
    I like my Nikon FFs very much. They simply sit well in my hands, I need and like the optical viewer, use new and old lenses etc. 36mp are wellcome for blow ups, but my Df is simply the camera which feels best. So 36mp for large landscapes, 16mp for walkabouts. I do not use all those technological electronical features they provide and use them the same way like I used my F2 and Fm in the film days. With AF-lenses AF gets used too, but that is essentially all. So perhaps I am (still) connected, because I use them like manual film cameras before.
    Once I tried a Fuji, and yes, I gave it away (to my daughter, who is naturally younger than me and never used a film camera). She likes her Fuji. I missed the aperture ring, manual usage was too complicated, two essential things to me. I could “learn the camera”, but I did not want to. What would I do, if they moved the manual mode from one menu or button to another? Something like this would make me very angry 😉
    Since a couple of weeks I am traveling in Italy and use Nikon 1 system. My wife, my dog and me are walking about, meeting people, looking at things and for this Nikon 1 is unprecedented. Three bodies with “Tom’s Holy Trinity” (Do not want change lenses in windy weather) have place in one shoulder bag and those cameras are lovely to use. Even the sound of the shutter (especially V3) is music to my ears and reminds me of Fm. I do not like EVFs, but the quick and precise AF, large DOF are more than compensation. For me, Nikon 1 is perfect for “running and gunning”. Just point/compose and klick. Occasionally, I return to a spot with my D810 and a macro or a PC lens and a tripod.
    There were times I was thinking about a change, but then I realised, that all those “independent” blogs just have to live and are simply forced to write about new cameras, otherwise there would be less klicks for them. I suspect, that more often than not they simply like all technical things. This is, of course, perfectly OK, but one has to take this possibility into account. How can it be otherwise, that all over internet one week it is Sony A9, next Hasselblad, etc.!
    Secondly, I still am only learning to grasp and use (all?) the possibilities of PS and cannot say, that my cameras are not good enough for me. On the contrary, a friend of mine, who changed his gear more than once (Pentax, Minolta, Canon) lost a lot of money and above all, time to get used to different cameras. Only after he became one with his last camera I got chance to see his photographs.
    So that’s all. Sorry for writing so much, but over here we have very nice evening at the seaside…, oh well, good night 🙂

    (sorry for my english)

    1. Hi Robert,
      Thank you very much for your detailed comment, which I certainly enjoyed reading. It sounds like you have struck a nice balance with the various camera formats you are using, and that you seamlessly move from one to another depending on your photographic needs. Keep shooting and keep smiling!
      Tom

  3. Hopefully a lot of people will read this article to put “expensive” gear vs. “less expensive gear” in perspective. Besides Nikon 1 cameras, I can also relate to the Sony Nex-7 body I have in spite of the somewhat strange Sony menus. I have some also “expensive” Nikon gear that I cannot relate to very well. Cheers.

    1. Hi Robert,
      I don’t necessarily think that the cost of camera equipment determines whether a photographer is ‘at one’ with it or not. It really depends on how a person feels when they use the camera, and if that camera enhances or impedes their creativity. Some folks may have that feeling when using expensive full frame gear or even larger format cameras, while others may not. For whatever reason I am ‘at one’ with my Nikon one kit. I have a friend who owns a D4 and absolutely feels ‘at one’ with it.
      Tom

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