There was a thread on DPR’s Medium Format board (full disclosure: I’m a moderator there) that started out the way a lot of threads there do. An MF-curious poster said that he was using FF gear and wondered what buying an MF camera would do for him. I asked what he didn’t like about his present gear. He said that he was totally satisfied with it, but just wanted to know if there was something that could make his pictures better. I pressed the point. He reiterated his satisfaction. I told him I couldn’t help him. We explored some use cases that happened to all favor the FF solution, and there it ended.
Today, I asked myself if I had ever been completely happy with any piece of gear. I decided the answer was no. I’ll just run through some cameras in chronological order.
My first camera, which was given to me when I was 6 or 7, was a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. After using it for a few years, I decided the fixed-focus, fixed-aperture nature of the camera was too limiting.
Then I borrowed my father’s folding Zeiss Ikon 645 (although we didn’t call them 645s in those days). The biggest problem was no rangefinder, which made using wider apertures a crap shoot. I also didn’t like the fact that the normal orientation was portrait instead of landscape.
Next up was an Argus C3. It was awkward to hold, had a limited supply of interchangeable lenses, and no X synch.
I then splurged on a used Nikon S2. It had a lot of good features (I still have it), but my biggest issue with it was parallax errors when using the rangefinder.
I got a Speed Graphic 3 1/4 x 4 1/4. I then realized that hardly any equipment in the darkrooms I was using were compatible with that size negative.
I quickly traded it in on a Speed Graphic 4×5. I didn’t like the limited view camera movements, and the fact that you couldn’t conveniently swap lenses and still use the rangefinder. The focal plane shutter was also a bad joke.
I got a Nikon F. Parallax problems solved. But I yearned for greater print quality in my B&W prints, and I knew I wasn’t going to get it in a 35mm camera.
I bought a Hasselblad 501c. Now I could get 10×10 inch prints I really liked, and 15×15 inch ones that weren’t bad at all. But the ergonomics were poor, and it was a slow camera to use. Nevertheless, I bought a succession of V-series ‘blads, and used them for more than 30 years.
Seeking more portability for travel, I got a Plaubel Makina 67. Parallax issues returned.
I got a Sinar F 4×5. It took forever to set up, to the point where I would watch the light change over my shoulder as I struggled with the camera.
I got a Linhof Master Technika. It was quicker to set up, but was difficult to use with short lenses. With a 47 mm lens, you had to do all the focusing by sliding the back of the camera on four skinny, ungeared posts.
I bought Arca Swiss 4×5 and 8×10 cameras (really one set of components that could be put together to handle either format). It was fine for studio use, but too heavy and fiddly for the field
I got an Arca Swiss folding-monorail 6×9 camera. I used it for part of this series. I needed a low point of view, and the reflex finder made that possible. However, the reflex finder proved to be too fragile for a travel camera.
That’s just a partial history, and only for film cameras. There was no perfect camera for me. In fact, there was no perfect camera for the range of tasks I was doing at any given time.
I was never satisfied with my camera gear. I was always looking for something better. Hence my inability to understand how anyone could be happy with their gear and still want to change. Boredom?
How about you? Are you completely satisfied with your gear?