I’m not a Team Player.

Too often I find that a brand or a ‘team theme’ is applied by photographers to railway photography. Their intent may be good spirited, but the results can be limiting.

Specifically in regards to equipment: Cameras and lenses are tools. (As are digital sensors and film emulsions). While each camera system has advantages and disadvantages, obsessive loyalty to one brand or another may stand between a photographer and their ability to make better photographs.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of different cameras. Most have had their strengths, but also limitations.

30 years ago, I worked largely with Leicas. The lenses were very sharp, and when I loaded them with Kodachrome 25 or Kodak Panatomic X, I often produced very acceptable results.

20 years ago, Nikons were my primary tools. I was fussy about my selection of lenses, and I experimented with a variety of films.

10 years ago, I carried a Contax G2 range finder loaded with Fujichrome with me everywhere, yet exposed many images with Canon EOS3s.

New England Central southbound 611 crosses the Millers Falls high bridge. For this image I used one of my old Canon EOS3s fitted with a 100mm Canon lens and loaded with Ilford HP5. I processed the film according to my custom tailored recipe. (See yesterday's post for details). Why Canon? Why black & white film? Because it these combinations worked for me.
New England Central southbound 611 crosses the Millers Falls high bridge. For this image I used one of my old Canon EOS3s fitted with a 100mm Canon lens and loaded with Ilford HP5. I processed the film according to my custom tailored recipe. (See yesterday’s post for details). Why Canon? Why black & white film? Because it these combinations worked for me.
Moments after I exposed the black & white photo above, I made a burst of digital images with my FujiFilm X-T1. In this situation I have the best of film and digital photography, while working with two different camera systems. Standing next to me Mike Gardner exposed photos using his digital Leica M.
Moments after I exposed the black & white photo above, I made a burst of digital images with my FujiFilm X-T1. In this situation I have the best of film and digital photography, while working with two different camera systems. Standing next to me Mike Gardner exposed photos using his digital Leica M.

Today, I work with a Lumix LX7 and Fuji X-T1 digital cameras, as well as my old Canons and Nikons loaded with film. Occasionally, I borrow my dad’s Leica M rangefinders. Depending on the circumstances I’ll use digital or film, sometimes working with both at the same time.

Over the years I’ve made photos with Rollei 120 camera, and Hasselblads, Sinars and Linhofs, Pentax SLRs, along with a host of other equipment.

Why do I choose one camera over another?

Not because of loyalty to one brand or another. Not because one uses film and other is digital. But, because I’ve learned the strengths and weaknesses of individual camera systems and specific camera models. No two camera systems work the same way, and thus in similar situations no two cameras perform the same.

I’m not a team player. I won’t use a Canon because it’s a Canon, or grab my Lumix LX7 simply because it is a digital camera. I work with these tools because of the results they can produce in different circumstances.

Optical quality is always important, as is ease of use and relative affordability. But these days camera weight is often a deciding condition when I choose which tools to carry. My camera bag of the 1990s weighed about 4 times what my bag does today.

My Lumix LX7 is a great tool for making grab shots. Here Mike Gardner and I were pacing a New England Central freight. I unrolled the window, set the aperture to its smallest hole to force the camera to use a slow shutter speed (I had the Lumix in 'A' mode which allows me to select the aperture while the camera picks the shutter speed based on its internal meter). At the time I had three cameras to chose from, and I instantly opted for the Lumix.
My Lumix LX7 is a great tool for making grab shots. Here Mike Gardner and I were pacing a New England Central freight. I rolled the window down, set the aperture to its smallest hole to force the camera to use a slow shutter speed (I had the Lumix in ‘A’ mode which allows me to select the aperture while the camera picks the shutter speed based on its internal meter). At the time I had three cameras to chose from, and I instantly opted for the Lumix.

I’m always on the lookout to see what a new piece of equipment can do. And, I’m always interested in finding ways to make old equipment work for me.

In the end, my camera selection is about the result and not the camera.

Tracking the Light Takes a New Look Every Day!

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