I doubt there is one human in the Western World who has not coveted a particular object. A customer at Lizzy’s stall commented last Wednesday ‘I cannot wait until I get my iPhone 7’. Some Chap’s dream Porsche and Gals need the Chanel disguise. Strange how the desire to attire overwhelms common sense.
I have steadied down a few notches from the early days. There is no desire to own ‘surplus’ anything. I have this MacBook, great field recorder and microphone and I’ve downsized from full frame to M3 Canon cameras. These are the possessions I’d grab in a fire. With these four objects, I can earn a living anywhere in the world; it’s an amazing feeling, real freedom.
My pleasure is tapping keys, recording interviews and taking a few snaps. The one indulgence is running a roll of 35mm film through a camera. For professional work I used, Hasselblads, Bronica’s, Nikon and Leica, my favourite 35mm has always been Pentax. Pentax, the underdog, the also-ran, the ‘not really professional’ camera. The fact is they can produce exceptional images. The press and camera critics had their say, and the enthusiasts took the bait. Nothing changes, reviewers set the standards, and excellent products are damned by experts.
If I were only to own one film camera, it would be the Hasselblad Super Wide. I used one exclusively for two years and regret to this day selling it. I liked my Leica M3 and did not regret its sale; I’ve never felt a pang of loss for its passing. Two weeks ago I purchased another Leica, a 1950 screw thread IIIf. I toyed with the idea of keeping it until I used it. Although I was impressed with its undoubted potential, it could not impress my soul.
Those who can be bothered to trawl the internet will discover, the ample information about these cameras is a little one sided. ‘The most beautiful camera every made’ ‘Bresson’s workhorse’ ‘The supreme optics surpass many of today’s lenses’. The little Leica is indeed a celebrity. And it is easy to be captivated by the hype and reputation. It will produce incredible images, but nothing as good as my M3 Canon. It is not capable of outperforming a humble Nikkormat. The Leica Elmar lens would be shamed by my Pentax 50mm eight element f1.4 Takumar.
The Leica buffs will don their KKK robes, light the torches and collect me for the lynching. They do not like any who blaspheme their icons. Sorry fellas your rangefinder doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s a pain in the neck to load with film. The focus spot is the size of a pencil and operation is pitifully slow. When people talk about Bresson’s definitive moment, I’m surprised he got any ‘moments’ using this tool. I believe what he did was zone focus it and walk up to his subjects, once within the focus zone, he’d lift the camera to his eye and take the shot. There is no way he stood and focussed the composition, by the time the rangefinder images were in collusion the subject would be on the bus and half way home.
So I tested the theory. I loaded Kodak Tri-X into the film chamber. Set the shutter speed to 1/200 of a second and the aperture between f5.6 – f8.0 and went out into the city. The lens was zone focussed to two, four and seven metres. I took 36 images in less than an hour, walking, look for a subject, zone focus, stop, take the snap and move on. I did not stop walking for more than a three seconds.
The results are poor, although, with practice, I could sharpen up the composition to a higher standard. After twenty minutes I became sure a cheaper camera could do a better job. No wonder the rangefinder was all but dead by the early 1960’s. I remember now why I sold the Leica M3.
Let us move away from the Leica and think about the prestige of certain objects. A friend is informed by her jeweller ‘You do not buy a Rolex to keep accurate time Madam’ (Thanks for that insight Sue). It does not make any difference if you drive an Audi or a ten-year-old Nissan, you’re as safe as the worst driver on the road. It is debatable if Arm & Hammer toothpaste whitens teeth better than Tescos own brand.
People buy diamonds because of the perception of rarity. Next time you are in the city take a look-see in the jeweller’s window. Count the sparkling gems. Two or three hundred rings in each display window. Ten or more jewellers in each city, hundreds of towns and cities, in every country. Plus we have to think of the rings in boxes, bank vaults and on people fingers. Is the diamond rare?
Leica, Rolex, Audi, Arm & Hammer, Diamonds and other objects of prestige. Do you know what they mean to the Critical Thinker? The answer is nothing. There are million of people who are impressed by celebrity and believe possessing the objects prove to other they are in some way successful. The Philosophy of Selfness teaches the prestige of integrity is unseen, although those who understand its potential will impress far more than any possession.
I remember first learning about other people’s obsessions with brand names at school….I didn’t have a labelled my little pony and was laughed at. I couldn’t understand why? I loved my pony. I had waited a long time for it! It’s ingrained thinking from society that tries to tell you what you should, and shouldn’t have.