So some things are happening (I really should just stop right there, for all the difference it would make to any readers I have left). BME, the photography collective I’ve belonged to since it was founded in 2011, is preparing for a new show and adding three promising new members. Closer to home, I’ve finally, after eight years, gotten a new computer. It’s an iMac, like my old one, but obviously (I should hope so, at least) bigger, more resolution, more power, etc. I did consider going back to PC world and its maddening error messages and virus updates, but when I looked at what I could get for the money, and calculated in other factors, I still felt that Apple was the way to go. For now, anyway. Of course if I want to get a VR rig in the future, be it either the Rift or the Vive, I’ll be screwed, but I’ll gaze at the empty space where that long-burned bridge used to be when I come to it.
So, now that I have a shiny new computer, now I need a shiny new external hard drive to go with it. This is mostly my fault, because I’ve been using a Sony A7r for over two years now, and damn but those files pile up. I could go with a Thunderbolt drive, but the large SSD drives that could take advantage of the Thunderbolt2 connection are expensive; for a spinning disk system, I might as well go with USB3.0. If I get into 4k video, I might look for a dedicated Thunderbolt2 drive. For now, USB, while still expensive, is doable. As it is, I haven’t really looked at anything I’ve shot in over a year, except for travel stuff and film shots. Kind of turns the whole “digital is instant, film takes time” theory on its head. Film I can scan and get uploaded the next day, while most of the digital shots I’ve taken over the last year I have yet to look at.
While we’re on the onerous subject of gear, I’d like to address some deficiencies of the A7R, because to this day, it’s still the best option for a small full-frame digital camera. The A7RII is too big and heavy, the RX1RII runs out of juice before you can finish reading this sentence, the Leica M is the size and cost of a gold brick, and the Leica Q, while a reasonable size (aka, the size of an M3), Leica just HAD to include a macro function in its otherwise-nice 28mm lens, making it a rather ungainly combination that would be tempting if it weren’t so damn expensive.
So Sony, are you listening? I thought not.
Anyway: Sure, the shutter is loud and sounds like a coin-changing machine, the “VIDEO BUTTON YOU ACCIDENTALLY PRESSED DOESN’T WORK IN THIS MODE WHICH YOU KNEW BUT WE THOUGHT WE’D ANNOY YOU WITH THIS MESSAGE AND MAKE YOU LOSE ANOTHER SHOT BECAUSE WE’RE MORONS AND THINK YOU ARE TOO,” message is furstrating, and it took me a while to figure out just when during the long blackout time the actual photo will be taken.
But the thing that irritates me the most is the awful power management. I know, I know…battery life sucks on almost every small mirrorless camera these days, and that’s because the companies listen to the techie nerds at dpreview.com more than to actual photographers, and subsequently, useful things like battery life are tossed aside in favor of useless things like wifi and endless menus. Yes, I realize that you can turn wifi off, and the camera can sleep and wake up in a second or so. “How could this be a problem?” the techie camera-owners ask. “You used to have to change film every 36 pictures!” 1) Yes I did, and 2) that was the state of the art in 1985. I still shoot film, but honestly, would it be that difficult to make a modern, decently sized digital camera that is responsive and didn’t have you constantly wondering if it was actually working or not? Techie camera owners aren’t worried about this because they tend to “go shoot,” which means they occasionally pack up their camera in a bag, take it to some scenic place with flowers and uniform brick walls for lens tests, shoot video of their kids being obnoxious to various small animals for an hour or two, and then pack up the camera to go home. “What could possibly be the problem? I got 900 shots of Little Xander stomping squirrels in one charge!”
But think about how things used to be: You had a camera on you. You knew how many frames you had left. You could see the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. You could see where your focus was set. None of those were a concern as you went about your day; you could concentrate on seeing and responding to the world around you. all. damn. day.
With most of today’s reasonably sized and priced digital cameras, you have to switch the camera on when you step out the door, check to see if it’s working, and spend the rest of the day wondering if it’s still on, if the battery’s run out yet, and what the shutter speed, aperture or ISO are…Fuck it, use P mode, whatever. Then you see a potential shot, raise the camera, not really sure what the settings are because none are marked on the body (except for some APSC-sensor Fujis and exorbitantly priced Leicas, sure), and find that the battery’s run out, even though it was at 34% only a few minutes ago when you checked it last, missing another shot then as well. Sure, a battery change only takes a few seconds, but it’s the constant nagging that it might not work that keeps you checking it, again and again. It’s like a ticking time bomb, except your fear is that when the moment comes, it won’t go off.
Would it be so hard to have a proper power management system, an instant wake-up time? Fixed-lens, single focal length cameras don’t even really need EVFs. The Fuji X100/s/t would have wonderful battery life if the EVF weren’t always on, even when you’re not using it. If you’re not into dials, a simple passive screen on top of the cameras could show battery levels, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. Shades of Mike Johnston’s DMD, but it never quite happened.
Because people want wifi. They want to chimp. They want to go take macro videos of kittens for half an hour before forgetting again that the world exists, because, by god, those kitten videos have been uploaded with wifi to Facebook and Instagram.
Ok, I should stop ranting. I realize that most photographers don’t shoot the way I do, they’re after things that have been carefully placed and made pretty, and making photos of actual life simply isn’t an issues for them. Fair enough. I also have a perfectly good Leica M6. So I’m good, thanks. Just need to stop and take a breath. And change my battery.