Me and my cameras

Ięve been photographing for more than forty years now. Starting with 35 mm, I switched to medium format about fifteen years ago. My gear grew, both in weight and bulk, and my travels and excursions were mainly seen as photographic expeditions.

Some of the images I made were fairly satisfactory, but far more went into the waste basket (or should have...). Too often I found my work too stiff and dull, even when technically good. I felt straitjacketed by the self-imposed demand that everything had to be thought out and controlled before I was allowed to touch that shutter button.

Besides, growing older, I found the task of carrying everything around increasingly demanding; I needed some energy left to actually MAKE pictures. I tried to return to 35 mm, but was dissatisfied. Medium format does spoil you...

Then, several years ago, I bought myself a digicam and a modest photo printer. Suddenly, making a lot of exposures was for free; the costs came only when actually printing out an image. To top it off, it was possible to see the results immediately. The camera was small, light, and automatic; very different from a Hasselblad on a tripod. I discovered an entirely different way of making photographs, walking with a camera in a coat pocket instead of lugging a big camera case and a heavy wooden tripod.

Technically, the pictures were still a notch below medium format, but I was intrigued by this new, flexible method of image-making. I felt photography was much more fun again, and my images had more "life" in them. Eventually, I sold all my MF gear (I did keep most of the Leicas). For me, the era of film based photography was over.

It gave me a remarkable feeling of freedom: I could manage well with a camera of the size, weight, and cost, of a single film back for my old Hasselblad, and yet I felt I had more possibilities than all my heavy gear afforded me. Besides, Photoshop enabled me to fine tune the image in ways nobody could match in a wet darkroom.

A number of digicams later, I made the "mistake" of handling the then new Leica Digilux 2 in a shop - and was overwhelmed. I bought it immediately, and stopped using all the others. The Digilux images really were something special! It remained my preferred camera for four years.

Eventually, I did get a Leica D-lux 4 that I use it when I cannot carry a camera bag. Also, I tried a Nikon dSLR (too heavy and noisy), and a micro-4/3 Panasonic G1 (better, but still a bit too fiddly).

And then, finally (I do hope…) I did come home again, photographically speaking. I took a deep breath and bought the new, horribly expensive Leica M9 (I could still use my trusty old Leica lenses that had waited patiently in a cupboard for twenty years). Back to a light, small and simple, extremely competent camera! No autofocus, no zooms, just an extension of my eyes and hands, just as in the good old days when using film Leicas. Only, now I had the convenience and flexibility of digital that I had come to take for granted, and that had kept me from returning to film.

It is pure joy to use it, and I carry it almost everywhere, every day; with just two tiny lenses, itęs that small and light. And the images from the M9 are simply out of this world….

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