Me or the Camera?


The age old quest is to find the “Perfect Camera”.

And each generation has had their picks from the available brands and models. In the 30-50’s… it was a choice from the Leica, Zeiss, Nikon, Contax, Canon.

Contax IIIa

The Contax was the most expensive (Pre Leica M), the Contax IIIA was the top dog with a built in meter, while the Contax IIa was the meter-less model. The Contax IIIA with a Zeiss 5cm f/1.5 Sonnar sold for over $450.00 in the early 1950’s. (That would be a camera well in the $1500-2000 range in today’s dollars). The Leica’s were selling for around $350.00, still not cheap in their dollars. Nikon and Canon were considered a little lower in stature, until Nikon in the 50’s introduced the Nikon S, The last Nikon to have a 24×34 format, and the standard lens was the Nikkor 5cm f/1.4 (the fasted lens to date). Nikon also shared the same mount as the Contax, but with the focusing done in the opposite direction.  Plus, it priced closer to the Leica, all this helped Nikon gain a wider pool of users. The 8.5cm f/1.5 and a 2.8cm f/4 were also introduced with the Nikon S in 1951. So, Nikon had a strategy to make more Nikon users in the world.  A new RF camera with all an all new 3 lens kit: 28mm/50mm/85mm. By making the 50mm and 85mm “Fast” lenses, it became an instant selling point.

But, was the Nikon S any [BETTER] than a Leica IIIf BD of 1950-52, or a Canon IV of 1951, Well, it was a bit bigger, and offered a new body form that Contax had also used, and the smaller screw mount Leica’s and Canon’s, that were in many ways, look a likes. But, they still weren’t geared towards the Professional. The size was limiting factor, they were small. And offered many advantages of being small. But, the lens selection was limited to 135mm without a Mirror Housing. There was a mirror housing for the LTM Leica’s, and a few lenses over 135mm. But, it wasn’t until the Leica M3 was introduced that longer lenses were made. The body was bigger, and handled the heavier lenses better than the LTM bodies.

Nikon S

The Nikon offered a camera that was placed to be marketed to the Professional Photographer. (the larger camera has always seemed to be the Form Factor marketed to the Pro’s. Still true today, BUT, Mirror-Less cameras are changing that too). The Nikon Form  Factor was not new at all, 2 earlier Nikon’s used the same body. So many were already accustomed to the model S in many ways.. The biggest factor was that it still had a 24×34 format. (It should have been 24×36 in the “S” model IMO). That didn’t happen until the Nikon S2 of 1954 (The Same Year Leica M3 and the Canon IVS2 was introduced… (The Canon VT  was 2 years late IMO, The 1st Canon that departed from the smaller LTM form factor).

So Leica and Nikon were in full compete mode, and Contax RF was, by the late 50’s, on its way out…(Zeiss was developing an SLR Line that had some success up to the 70’s) Canon was slow in development to match newer trends. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Slow adopters, to make sure they don’t dump RD $$ in a deep hole. But, the down side is that when they did adopt, Leica and Nikon had a 2 year head start. And you all know that once you commit to a brand financially, you tend to stay put. Risk taking at the right time is a part of running a business… Wait too long, and you lose potentially new customers.

So, why share a little history? Because, Marketing is a big key to sell cameras, and in order to look better, you have to [almost] look similar, but with feature sets that you believe are better, so you can take better pictures.

The Lenses from Leica and Nikon where all very good, and the build of the cameras were also very good. So, now, it is down to personal tastes. But, as marketing is, they try to convince you that having the latest model will improve your photography. Mainly, it just depletes your bank account, and your photography doesn’t improve at all.

Leica IIIg

If, you really look at today’s cameras, the IQ difference is very small for most of us. And you probably won’t see much change in IQ until ISO 1600 or above. So, the only other factor is THE PERSON behind the camera. How well do you know your cameras strong points? Do you know how to exploit them? Many times, for pure IQ, the Lens is a huge factor. Most makers have 2 or 3 lines of quality you can pick from, the 2nd or 3rd line is to get a higher IQ in a pure sense. It still won’t improve your “Eye” to create a better composed photograph.

No amount of new gear can achieve that. Only, you can improve that by studying Photographers that you want to emulate. Read books on technique, practice, practice, practice. That is how to improve your photography. So, before buying the “latest and greatest Camera”, make sure it has features YOU want that are lacking in your current camera. Pixel count IS NOT on this list. 12mp-16mp is more than enough with larger sensor cameras, (at the time of this writing) to offer plenty of IQ and Detail with a decent lens.

It [is] me, that makes the biggest difference, Not the make and model of the camera. Many of us old timers have learned this the hard way!

It took going through a few dozen great cameras to finally realize that it is the person behind the camera that effects the image more than the camera.

2 thoughts on “Me or the Camera?”

  1. My older sister used to take pictures with an old Balda camera that I would have been proud to have taken with my much more expensive Nikon equipment. I’ve said many times in the past that it is easier to teach someone who has a creative eye how to take good pictures than it is to teach someone who has all the technical abilities to use every feature of their camera to take aesthetically pleasing photos.

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