The Test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed. The test of the machine's always your own mind. There isn't any other test.
-Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
I've got my dog-eared copy of Pirsig's ZAMM in front of me. Last night I came across the above passage, which when reading I had marked in the margin with the words "view cameras." It again strikes me that this sort of thing has a lot to do with why we choose the particular tools we choose for the creation of our images. How many of us stick with equipment that we dislike any longer than we have to? I would venture to say that, if we have the means to adopt change, most of us are likely to ultimately use the tools that we are most comfortable with.
As Pirsig says, whether or not a tool (or machine, as he puts it) is good is the result of whether or not it fits us. If it doesn't, it will never be comfortable until either it or ourselves are changed. If something fits us, it's good, if not then not.
Of course, we have a lot of different reasons for choosing the equipment that we use, but what else but this is the ultimate deciding factor in why we prefer particular cameras, lenses, films, etc over others?
Dave, I think this is right to a certain extent. However to be comfortable with, say a view camera it often takes discipline to get to where it is the right tool.
If a person wishes to take, I'll use the word, "superior" picture quatilty (I'm talking technical not impact) he has to have a larger negative. Hence the view camera. He/she has to take a lot of time to get comfortable with this equipment to perhaps get to the "zen" level. I'm not sure if many people think this camera "fits" early on. As for satisfaction, sometimes this particular tool can be quite frustrating.
But given time, I think most photographers get very comfortable and "zen like" with their equipment.
Much the same as a Harley can take some time to get used to.
about the superiority of the format... there are thousends ways to classify prints. one of the ways in my opinion is... prints that tend towards contact prints and prints that tend to look like enlarged ones. i dont say which one is better of course cause i dont have the answer for that. i can say that my preferance goes to the enlarged ones. as view camera i use 69 format, not only because of the roll film etc (i love to treat the negatives superetly) but because of the magnification ratios. the 45 looses the apearance on 20/24" enlargement as enlarged one. im not talking here about the "impact", but about the relationship of one to the negative and its textures. for me it is very important that the texture of my negative will be viewable.
for me, the texture of the negative is like the brush strocks of Gogen or the hand motion of vangouh - this is my concept towards the negative, i look at it as something of its own and very important in creating a photo, and not only as a medium between the reality and the paper.
dave, first of all i defenetly agree with u.. by the way a great book a masterpiece.
but, there is some interesting point...
u talk as if u know the final outcome (what is the best for u). but "what fits u" is something that comes with the development in practice. once i worked with the slr's both on 35mm and medium. during my development as a photographer i felt that i "couldnt breath" with them, though they were a very good stuff. the 35mm became rangefinder and the mdium became a view camera. after some time, every thing that i wanted from those systems worked. things that i was imagining i would do with the newer stuff looked beyound what i could imagine first. it also opened a new fields to me in terms of creativity etc. now i know that my dicissions were critically good for me, bit i know it as a result of my development while that equipment took a very serious place in the development and "fitting" itself.
There is, of course, a learning cuve, but I think early in the learning process when you're getting used to a new piece of equipment, there are often signs that tell you a fair amount about how you'll get along with it in the long run. For example, even with all sorts of initial dificulties, I took to large format from the start. Meanwhile, some of my classmates at OU couldn't stand to be in the same room with a view camera after three years of shooting with one. They hated it at the start, hate it now.
And of course when you're starting out in photography in general, its harder to know what works for you because you're still learning the technical aspects of everything. I guess I'm thinking more in terms of the things we choose to work with once we've gotten fairly well established in our work, technique, etc.
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i guees u rite dave.
i will put it like this...
u have to be in a mutual relations with your stuff. that means.. when u visualize something, "the camera is able to produce it" and when u see something, "u see it through the eyes of your camera.
well, the same can apply with choosing the lense.
There's a lot to be said for the instant, intuitive connection, but there's also something to the process of adapting yourself to a new piece of equipment.
8x10" had an immediate appeal for me in a way that 4x5" didn't, but after shooting 8x10" for a few years, I got a 4x5" camera for when I want to be more quick and flexible and I really enjoy using it. Nothing beats a large contact print, but on the other hand, my 4x5" Technika is the most versatile camera I have.
I think that a great deal of what you are addressing here has to do with the temperament of the individual. If one is of a more spontaneous temperament then the view camera will not easily become an extension of themselves. I think that if at the outset a person would inventory their preferences insofar as a deliberation/spontaneity index then a better choice could be made.
Originally Posted by Fugazi Dave
There is also another factor that I have observed in individuals. They want the better resolution and tonal scale of the larger negative but become intimidated/frightened by the view camera movements...they would like the results if only someone else did the adjusting of the camera for them. For these individuals, if they are easily frustrated, often return to a camera without movements.
To learn to see what the lens sees (without setting up the camera) took me many years. I have gotten the 210, 120, and 90 down well in 4X5. I have the 210 and 450 down pretty well in 8X10, though not as well as my 4X5 lenses. I am still working on the 450 on the 12X20 although it closely resembles the 210 in 8X10.
I think that when we are able to say to ourselves "this is what this will look like with this lens" without setting up the camera and not have to move the camera a dozen feet when we set up then we come closer to the "zen like" act of photographing.
Well, the way I see it, temperament of the individual is half of why some equipment "fits" us better than other equipment. There's got to be something on both sides of the equation. If you're of a particular temperament, one piece of equipment might never fit you, but it might fit someone else perfectly. I see it as being a balance of temperament of the individual and characteristics of the tools. If one is off, it doesn't work.
I think that is what I said. Are you agreeing with what I originally stated...or are you saying there is another factor that I failed to identify to your ability to understand? Or are you saying there is another factor entirely? If so please identify what that is and how it differs from my original post.
Originally Posted by Fugazi Dave