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  • Writer's pictureIgal Schneider

What is a “serious” camera?

Shot with Zorki and Industar 50/3.5 on Kodak Portra 400

I think it’s the one that allows you to choose what you are doing. To control the shutter speed, the aperture, maybe allow you to change lenses, and to focus where you choose. That’s what I learned, while spending time on the photo websites. And everybody were talking either Canon or Nikon (I don’t have a preference, just put them in alphabetical order).

Shot with Zorki and Industar 50/3.5 on Kodak Portra 400

There were some people that talked about film photography back then, but the craze was about going digital, and SLR. SLR stands for single lens reflex, with a mirror and a prism, where you see what you are actually capturing. There are other camera systems, where you have the viewfinder and the lens not connected, but I will talk about them in other posts.

So, I decided that I needed a serious camera, that would allow me more control over what I want to be displayed. My then dying Canon a60 - it cracked and got too much water in it - was a cool pocketable camera, with decent zoom, but i couldn’t make bokeh shots, or focus where I wanted to. These were the perks of SLR. I wanted SLR.

Shot with Zorki and Industar 50/3.5 on Kodak Portra 400

As I mentioned already in previous post, I bought a second-hand Canon EOS 300, with a kit lens (18-50). Pretty quickly I bought a 50/1.8 lens, and I was happy for a while. But GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome, a known term photographers use to describe the rush to purchase more lenses and cameras) came in with the ability to change lenses, and soon I changed my Canon EOS 300 to a used but upgrade for me Canon EOS 20.

Zenit with 4 additional lenses was given to me as a gift by a friend of friend the next day I bought the upgraded Canon. I bought a roll of film, shoot it throughout two days, got it developed and scanned, and didn’t touch the digital camera for half a year. I fell in love with film, with its colours and its grain. I started buying other film cameras, trying the different formats, but I always came back to SLR. Mostly because of the focus control.

Shot with Zorki and Industar 50/3.5 on Kodak Portra 400

I settled down with Zenit and Minolta X-700. Zenit was fully manual, while Minolta allowed me to shoot in Aperture priority mode, where I choose how wide the lens is opened, controlling the depth of field (DoF). The depth of field determines the closest and farthest object in an image, when both are in focus. The wider you open the diaphragm, the shallower is the depth of field, meaning less of the photo would be in focus. Opening the lens all the way is how you create the bokeh effect.

Shot with Zorki and Industar 50/3.5 on Kodak Portra 400

Minolta also allows fully manual, or full program autoexposure, meaning it will set the aperture and shutter speed automatically. It’s perfect for street photography, where you want to be able to capture something quickly, allowing rapid control over the focus and the aperture. The camera is also very comfortable to hold. Recently I bought a Nikon FG, which has the same features as Minolta, but is a bit smaller and allows you to set ISO up to 3200 instead of a maximum of 1600.

Shot with Zorki and Industar 50/3.5 on Kodak Portra 400

In the next post I will talk about scale focus cameras, and how useful they can be on a street.

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