Thanks Thomas - for such an excellent question! I'd actually been thinking about this and similar issues in recent years. Who cares if you've got the most impressive camera/lens combo if you really can't function properly with it??
This is actually one of the reasons I'd standardized on the faster grandagon lenses, too. I figure one would work faster - and you'd be more likely to catch compositional and other errors.
At any rate - I'm not sure if I'm answering prematurely - but it may well be a dead letter before I actually thought substantially about it. I'll tell you one thing for sure. I can't compose to save my life on 8x10. I've tried it too many times! It seems to have a LOT to do with the optimal size for me to do hand drawings at. Yes, that's right. Hand drawings. I think everyone's got an ideal format in this sense. Each person composes at some particular size better than at others. That's my theory. Anyway - mine seems to be somewhere between 6x6 and 4x5 I seem to work with both of them quite well, compositionally speaking. Though perhaps 6x6 or 6x7 tends to edge out 4x5 insofar as the image tends to be quite a lot brighter with a 2.8 lens over a 5.6. There's just something so precious and jewel-like about a medium format viewing screen. It's amazing. Kind of like looking at an animated photograph. This being said, I guess my canidates for a 'flow camera' would be SLX, 500C/M, my old Yashica TLR, and pretty much any 4x5. But the sinar really wins out for work-flow. That is, working SPEED! Crazy. Anyway - I'm going to think on this and maybe get back to the conversation if I have any stunning revelations.
Particularly bad flow--Nikon CoolPix 990. I'm always going through some menu to do things. I usually use it in all manual mode, but I've given up on manual focus with that camera, because even if I use the custom settings to reassign the controls, you still have to hold down a button while turning a wheel to focus.
Nikon F80 - I've been using it for almost five years now, but it felt right as soon as I picked it up. All the controls are just where I would have put them. I can forget all about the little black box in my hands and concentrate on making a photograph.
I've used Canons and Minoltas that my friends eulogise over. After five minutes I generally want to hurl them over the horizon. (Top tip - If you're shopping for a 35mm and don't want a Nikon, do check the camera body for its aerodynamic properties, just in case...!)
Others... Well, I have an old Pentax S1a, which isn't bad where speed of use isn't essential (and when the mirror doesn't stick in the up position!), an Olympus Mju II (PAS, film in, brain out... ...but no control ), a Lubitel II (which I really don't like) and have just acquired a Mamiya C330S (feels pretty good on a tripod, but early days and I have a very steep learning curve ahead).
The destination is important, but so is the journey
For purely “flow” I cannot improve on my Koni Omega Rapid. Its bright, parallax compensated viewfinder, ease of focus, quick change lens system, and lastly the kick-start film advance. However, even though the negative almost has the quality of a 4x5, it cannot perform the tasks requiring the movements of the view camera.
Notwithstanding the “flow” advantage of the KO, I employ a Mamiya TLR for about 80% of my work. Flexibility wins over flow in most cases.
I love the smell of fixer in the morning. It smells like...creativity!
Truly, dr bob.
Funny, that's exactly why one of us really likes the Bessa. Pehaps your left hand is the strong one and the right one more adapted for finer mechanic operations?
Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
Right hand normally gripped around the body to stabilize the camera, middle left hand finger used to lightly trip the shutter trigger, seems to do the job just fine. When camera is in portrait position, the only difference is that the thumb is used to trip the trigger. Hand-held shots up to 1/25 sec are possible, sometimes even 1/10 sec.
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My left hand is strong from playing the guitar, but weak from a cycling accident. It may just do strange things.
EOS Elan 7E
A great SLR with nice usable features and great manual and semi-automatic programs. It just works!
I find that most any 35mm slr is second nature to use -- like an eye/hand appendage. I have used one for most of my life. The sadness for me is that I just don't like the size of the format.
For the last 10+ years I have been shooting with a Mamiya 6. For what I use it most for (street photography, portraiture) it is the equivalent in flow to a 35mm. This flow begins to fall apart when I use it for other things.
Although my first MF was an SLR, I never felt fluid with one. The weight is a problem the shutter/mirrors too heavy and the ergonomics are nothing like the Mamiya 6 or 35mm slr. Later after I got a LF I realized that the MF SLR was only slightly easier to use and lacked the benefits of LF.
Studio, composed or non-spontaneous shooting I find the Sinar is a joy. It neatly fills the gaps created by the RF. I am not in love with the 4x5 proportions. Composing in 4x5 is not as intuitive as the sq or 35mm's 3 by 2 proportions. I find myself often switching to a 6x9 rfh. The rfh has one big benefit and that is it basically doubles my lf lens inventory (a 75mm goes from a very wide to a moderate wide, normals become long etc..) The downside is that I have far more camera than what is needed for the formate.
I suspect that with time any well thought out camera will give you flow if used appropriately.
Perhaps that's why these guys are wearing helmets? I sure wouldn't want a Speed Graphic hurled at my head.
Originally Posted by FrankB
Norm, which camera works most easily depends on what I'm doing.
When shooting flowers and the like, a Nikon, for preference my FM2n with B2 screen, with 105/2.8 MicroNikkor, Spiratone MacroDapter, and two little flashes is as easy to use as anything I can imagine. Dial magnification, set aperture according to the calibration table taped to the flashes, focus/compose, shoot. Quick, easy, gives good results.
For general "walking around" photography, which I hardly do anymore, a Nikkormat FTN with 105/2.5 Nikkor. Love having the shutter speed control concentric with the lens mount, that seems the right place.
All I use that's larger is a pair of 2x3 Graphics. I'd rather shoot scenics with them than with a Nikon, still use a Nikon for that for economy. The Graphics give quick and easy shooting from tripod when I've put the tripod in the right place. When I haven't picked a good viewpoint, not too heavy ... But since I have little else to compare them with, they're favorite by default. I do feel much more secure with a Graphic and a normal lens, even using the RF and composing through the VF, than with my Selfix 820. Not sure why this is, the Selfix is solid enough.