The diminishing camera market.
I've read a lot of articles over the last few years about why fewer people buy cameras. This one, which I read today, seems the most concise: "Real reasons why the camera market is shrinking" by Robin Wong. His takes affirm my own inferences: the market for cameras stagnated with their affordability and ubiquity, and they lost their purpose to the everyday user. Wong writes,
Look at the legends Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Martin Parr and Ansel Adams, they redefined what photography was during their age. They reshaped the history of photography. They challenged the norm, they dared to push boundaries, they went the distance and provoked what was deemed right. They were visionaries and they successfully made photography truly meaningful. In stark contrast, today all we do are merely imitating what has been done before over and over again, a million times. What's new today? Look at the Instagram feed - sunrise, sunsets, long exposure photography, portraits of beautiful lady, more model shots, these are good photography yes, but they have been done to death and there is nothing new anymore. I don't see anything truly thought provoking and revolutionary from the work of today's photographers.
Fair enough. Photography can;t go much further than it already has. Photographers can make any image we want with older equipment. The market for new equipment no longer needs to exist.
I'm not a professional photographer. I like my cameras and I like shooting film, but I'm not being paid for it; I'm a hobbyist and I don't know if I'd want to pursue the craft beyond the level of hobby. However, last week a trade publication approached me to do a local shoot. Although I didn't "get" the shoot, it lead me down the rabbit-hole to upgrade my DSLR for times when I'm approached for gigs like that. In my search for an upgrade, it became abundantly clear almost immediately that I didn't need to get a super-duper, brand-new camera; there were plenty of people selling decade-old cameras with more features than I would ever need, and more megapixels than I'd ever need. The newest cameras seemed redundant and unnecessarily expensive.
For my casual hobby-work, I enjoy using older cameras. That's part of the joy of it for me. Lately, I've found joy in buying a cheap used camera, shooting a roll or two with it, and then selling the camera again. If I've been asked to do something slightly more professional, I have a couple cameras that I can use on a more trustworthy basis, but I've never had to use a really-fast shutter speed, so what I already own has always been enough. If I need crisp medium format photos, I have the Mamiya C3 and the Kowa Six; if I need crisp 35mm photos, I have the Konica T3 and T4 and a slew of lenses for them; if I need something more lo-fi, I have the classic Lomography cameras, or the Konica S2, and a bunch of other little cameras; I have a bunch of Cokin filters for added fun and effects. And for my purposes, that's ok.
But I do find it a little sad, even though it doesn't affect me, that the camera market has diminished as much as it has. As a fan of photography, I want people taking photos. And yet, admittedly, there isn't much "new" that photographers can do with the medium. Myself included.
A couple days ago, my girlfriend posted a professional portrait that she had done for her. It was a really excellent photo. In the photo, I could see the lighting setup in the reflection on her cornea: two softboxes, much like a school photo. And I was a little envious of this. But then again, if I didn't have all these pros to compare with, I'd probably be very happy with what I'm doing. I have enough as it is and I'm still improving.
And I guess that's a good place to be, no matter what's happening to the "industry."
Hexanon 57mm F1.4
The Hexanon 57mm F1.4 lens has been my main lens for the last year. It's almost always attached to one of my Konica SLRs and I trust it. It's taken a while to get used to its focus range, but overall it's a consistent, solid lens that. Since I will likely never be able to afford the 57mm F1.2, chances are it will be my main compact portrait lens for a while.
Here are some scenic/object photos I've taken with it. See how much light it gathers, even in low-light circumstances, even with rather expired film.
Mainly, however, the 57mm F1.4 is a portrait lens. This lens is intended for people, intended to be the most compact means to get a photo of somebody without distorting their features. Here are a few portraits it has taken recently.
Hexanon 24mm F2.8.
For the first in my series showcasing the the Konica Hexanon lenses at my disposal, here's the 24mm F2.8. It's a basic wide angle lens that came with the Konica T3 I picked up from a 2nd hand store in Chilliwack.
Funny thing: when I opened the camera cover, I discovered that the camera had been owned by Brian Minter, local gardener extraordinaire. His name was inside the case, and the film inside the camera had a bunch of photos from Minter Gardens in the early 90s, I estimate.
I've loved this camera since I got it and it's had film in it on a near-constant basis since then. It doesn't have a flash shoe, but a couple days ago I found a big handle for mounting a flash, so now I can use the camera in all levels of light.
I like the 24mm lens a lot. It's compact and crisp. The photos I take with it seem to have a good appeal to many viewers. At the beginning it seemed lacklustre, but I feel like it has redeemed itself.
I haven't used it for quite a few months, but here are a few photos I've taken with it over the last couple years.
Been really enjoying the old Konica Hexanon lenses lately. There's something about them that's building my loyalty to the brand. There's a sharpness to them, no matter the camera used.
âHere's a selection of photos I've taken over the last couple years, using a few specific lenses. And I think I'll post a few lens-specific posts later on.
Here's the 57mm F1.4:
Here's the 50mm F1.4:
The 24mm F2.8
The 52mm 1.8
The Konica S2 Auto's 45mm F1.8:
Tim Wu's recent New York Times article, "In Praise of Mediocrity," kinda' hit home for me. In it, he praises the practice of having a hobby, of doing something for the joy of it. I can appreciate that.
I may have a list of things on my profiles that describe the different things I do "Teacher, Musician, Photographer, etc...," but am I really good at any of them? Not really. And do I make money from any of them but being a teacher? Nope. Do I do any of them to the degree that people seek em out to hire me to do them? Nope.
[T]here’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time. Our “hobbies,” if that’s even the word for them anymore, have become too serious, too demanding, too much an occasion to become anxious about whether you are really the person you claim to be.
I've experienced this before. Many people seem to expect me to be a super-professional of sorts with my music and photography. They ask when I'm going to put together a gallery show, finish my album, or start a band.
And, to a point, that makes sense. I should get a band going and I'm sure I'd find joy in it; I should learn how to do all the darkroom stuff in order to justify all my darkroom equipment; I've written a bunch of songs, so I should release them to the public. And I feel that sort of pressure... to publicize my skills in a way that I can gain acknowledgement and deserve the titles I put on my business card, or in the right column of this website, or on all of my social media profiles.
However, I don't seem to have that drive. I've tried making the music more professional before, but I keep putting it off and I'm kinda' ok with it. The older I get, the less I feel like I need to share my emotions with people; my drive to share my music in a professional context has faded with that. I've been enjoying making photographs as of late, but I'm not out there hiring models in order to show off my skills. I'm quite happy to keep my photos "in-house." The article mentions running. I like running, enough that I push myself to run kinda' far now and then, but I'm not "in training." Lately I've been going down to the weight room and trying to stay fit, but I'm not really bodybuilding.
In all these things, I'm a hobbyist. I don't do any of them with a passion that creates cash for myself, and cash is the only real currency of capitalism. I don't have much desire to mix Capitalism with my hobbies. So I keep them with myself.
It makes me wonder how I'd even jump on anything if I had the chance. How would I jump on a bona fide music career? Or photography gig? I have no idea. And with the need to pay for child support, lawyers, and all that separation-related stuff, I can't really abandon my job these days.
So I'll keep up with my hobbying and maybe I can bring in a few bucks as some hobbyist side hustle.
And I'll take more pride in keeping "Musician" and "Photographer" in my profiles, even if they are just a hobby, and even if Capital doesn't recognize my accomplishments.
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