Again, why the Sony? Minolta was always known as the camera manufacturer for serious amateurs. I could never afford the professional Nikons and Canons. I was never in a position to be that kind of professional. Nevertheless, my Minolta photographs were getting published. Many years ago, renowned Canadian photographer, Sherman Hines gave a presentation at Whistler, British Columbia. He showed a collection of slides which impressed his audience. Then he told them that all the photographs had been captured with a compact camera. The magic was not entirely in the camera but in the photographer’s ability to shoot and his/her understanding of the camera. If you know how to use your camera, know what it can do for you and what it can’t, you will be able to produce great images. With the 350’s 14.2 megapix I knew the file size was large enough. The reviews gave a lot of praise to this camera, and my experience with a good compact digital camera had already taught me a lot about histograms and white balance. I figured that if I was later going to be in a position where I could afford something much higher up the line then it wouldn’t be much of a waste to spend the 22,980 yen now, a small price to pay (in comparison) for acquiring DSLR freedom for the time being. The one nagging fact that remained was that I was buying a camera that was already four years old. My camera was obsolete before I ever held it. And yet is it really? If I can produce publishable images with it, then I see no problem.
So, where does this leave my film camera collection? The Maxxum 7000 has been in retirement for 11 years now. The 807 is 12 years old and still working. The medium format cameras have given me a bit of grief from time to time (same exposure as with the 35mm but the 120 slide is darker – shutter speeds need adjustment; maximum depth-of-field employed but the middle is out of focus – film not sitting flat over the plate). These two I have often considered selling, but what I really want is the Pentax 645 NII – a film camera! The 4×5 is still the beast producing either stunning works or failed images with the focus not quite right (an image from Oku Nikko that I had great hopes for sending to Yama-to-Keikoku for the 2013 calendar submission call has turned out to have focusing issues).
In a way, it would be easy to leave this gang on the shelf for now and just concentrate on getting good digital captures. As I stuffed my remaining film stock – 35mm, 120 format, 4×5 sheet film – into the freezer to protect it from the rising temperatures of April, I thought that it might be better if I still tried to use it during the next two or three outings. But knowing me, I might very well just expose it without proper care just to get it out of the way and spend more time working the DSLR. That wouldn’t be right. As a serious photographer I should consider any film exposure in a professional manner, with the idea that each exposure might just be worthy of a magazine, book, or calendar page. Just as the 4×5 has joined the 35mm on outings and received due care and attention, so should any of these cameras when they join the DSLR. Or it’s also possible that I might concentrate on the film cameras and neglect the digital camera. It’s up to me to be sure that I use my equipment to its best potential no matter how frequently or infrequently I intend to use it.
One idea is to take a film camera along on any outings and use the digital one for exploring subjects and compositions and once a really pleasing one has been found, bring out the film camera to capture it too. I have done this with my compact digital camera on a couple of occasions where I found inspiration to shoot with film while seeing what was possible with the compact camera. Another thing I have already been doing is taking the camera with me to work and shooting when I have time. Wednesdays are best because I have a 3-hour break during which time I make the 50-minute walk from a kindergarten through a rural area to my main school. I could always have brought my 35mm film camera for shooting; however, since I almost always shoot Velvia 50 that would mean bringing the tripod and adding bulk to my load to carry around for the day. One big advantage to using the DSLR is that I can make hand-held exposures more easily since I not only have the image stabilizer built in but I can also adjust the ISO at any time to 200 or 400 and still get very good results. That means on a bright day I can easily pass my walk back by leisurely shooting macro shots of roadside and field-side nature. There is also a marshy area along the way with turtles, frogs and waterfowl. I may still yet be able to produce material for my stock agency.
Now I am looking forward to my first hike with this camera. You can bet the film cameras – at least one if not two – will be part of the fun. But I want to try using the Sony alpha 350 on a tripod and with filters, just like my film cameras.