Mirrorless-less : less really is more, buy a DSLR.

An enthusiasm for dumpster diving in the used camera shops of Tokyo if left unrestrained may result in every camera ever made eventually coming into ones possession. This may or not be a bad thing, depending upon how much free space you have under your bed.

I really did try them ALL ! Nikon FE, FA, FM2, FG, F4, F5, F80, N80, F90, F100 Nikonos IV, Nikonos V … just the film Nikons. Probably missed some. Olympus Mju, Mju II, Mju zoom, XA, AF-1, Trip 35, Pen EE … just the film Olympus. Epson, Pentax, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, Fuji, Canon, Contax, Minolta, Ricoh, Sanyo, Rollei film and digitals. 35mm, medium format, half-format, digital “full frame”, crop frame, micro 4/3, small sensor, 1″ sensor, CCD, CMOS, manual, auto, rangefinder, camera phones, pro models or junk – I took them all in.

I honestly can’t remember how many I went through.

I took some pictures, too. Film I usually develop myself. Often Tri-X but Fuji stuff from time to time. Scanned on an old Minolta Dualscan. I still find sitting in the dark loading a reel quite relaxing. It reminds me of when, as a very poor teenager, I used to do the same with my cheap Orwo film, hand loaded from a 10m spool, trying not to break the film cartridge as I’d need to re-use it. I still feel that magic of seeing what I’d managed to capture on my second-hand OM-10 with dented 50/1.8 Zuiko, bought from my earnings as the Jet garage / VHS rental shop attendant. The worn-through Olympus catalogue, with its breathtaking arrangement of lenses and accessories on the front cover, was the closest I got to anything better. The riches-for-no-money in today’s used camera shops perhaps understandably irresistible.

So now you know what a hopeless case I am ( was ? ). Digital I still use Apple Aperture until it stops working or I find something else other than Lightroom. Endless messing with photos on my computer though isn’t really my hobby. To that point, I don’t care about “macro dynamics”, “that Leica look”, “sub-pixel sharpness” or any of that other stuff that occupies so many. I find the large photography forums full of tribal equipment measurebators forever trying to triangulate specs and price into a definitive winner each month completely alien. Whatever the equipment or media, I print all the time.

After all that gorging and trying ( and I do mean trying – I used all the cameras I purchased, including buying lenses and accessories for each system ) here is what I have now. The ones that survived. More will go, but this is a significant reduction already :

Film –

Nikonos V
Nikon FA
Nikon F80
Leica CL
Leica M2
Olympus XA
Olympus Mju
Olympus Pen EE

Digital –

Nikon D750

I had kept my beloved Nikon 1 V1 until very recently. It’s a fine camera, and no other compact ILC really did it for me ( including later iterations of the same model ) but I reached the point where the iPhone was close enough in quality that it became redundant for most cases. If I am to sling anything digital around my neck now it might as well be a full frame thing, and the D750 takes care of that.

I’ve owned a million DSLRs, well, literally dozens, and covering all brands. Yet I’ve owned more mirrorless. I kept getting pulled into the “lighter and smaller” trap. Despite the fact that a 24MP Nikon D3300 is lighter than many a mirror less camera, or that my rugged Pentax K7 with 40mm prime actually fit in the same case as my Fuji X100 – yet was an infinitely superior tool.

I still see people ditching their DSLRs and I do wonder. I have a theory : our measurebating friends end up convincing themselves that they “need” a f2.8 20-70mm zoom on a heavy pro DSLR because of its “robustness”, “corner sharpness” or “really low chromatic aberration” or whatever else they have read online. Whereas I just use some old primes. Mainly an Ai50mm/1.4 and an Ai-converted 20mm/3.5 dating from the 1960s. Both together fit easily into one hand. I also have a 100mm/f2.8 which really is only marginally bigger, and sometimes gets tossed in a bag or coat pocket. All are 52mm filter thread, which gives some idea of size. None makes for a heavy load. The very occasional sports event I attend, I may bring out the 80-200/f2.8 but that’s the only time the setup becomes heavy.

So hopefully I won’t need to write that famous line regularly used by our avid measurebators with their pro-model DSLR and monstrous F2.8 20-70mm zooms to justify their latest acquisition : “tired of lugging ( it’s always lugging, there is no other verb allowed ) a DSLR” !

Manual focus is just fine. There is the focus confirmation dot ( and the Nikon arrows to show you which way to rotate the lens ) for those that need it. But I just focus using the matte screen. Optical viewfinder, so no lag nor tearing nor gaining nor pixelation and the image moves at the speed of light, not the speed of electronics. Battery that lasts for weeks. Camera feels the lens aperture so you get full matrix metering, aperture priority, and EXIF. Beautiful prime lenses with proper feel, and no second-guessing the autofocus. In fact, manual focus is more than just fine. It’s possibly why I’ve stopped acquiring digital cameras. If you haven’t tried an old Ai or AiS lens on a modern full frame Nikon, and you recall film SLR photography with fondness, give it a go. The lenses are cheap, optically excellent, and the cameras are not that expensive now – and you don’t need a recent one.

The D750 with manual lens is my old OM-10 / 50.18 updated for the 21st century.

I’m as happy now as I was then. A pleasure forever denied to those forever chasing specs. Less really is more with cameras.


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