Mirrorless / CSC or Smartphone? A journey into downsizing - Part 1

View / plate large format film cameras > Medium Format film cameras  > Rangefinder film cameras > 35mm SLR film cameras > DSLR's > Mirrorless / CSC > Smartphones. The history of photography and cameras is littered with 'format wars' with the owners and users of the larger format stating catergorically that the newer, smaller upstart can't possibly compete. And yet, in time, the smaller / newer format gains overwhelming acceptance with the picture-taking public and it's predecessors are left calling out in vain as the marketplace winner runs off with the spoils of victory. i.e. the hard-earned cash of those who want to take pictures. From 1983 to 2001 I used Medium-Format and 35mm film cameras. Yesterday I didn't even take a camera out with me to take pictures for my stock photography business. I used a smartphone instead. 

 All images - Blackberry Q10

I've been 'DSLR free' for some time now. I have eight mirrorless / CSC cameras ranging from a Panasonic GM1 to a Sony A7r, with more lenses than I dare to count. And yet yesterday I left them all on the shelf and went out, quite deliberately, with my Blackberry Q10 6MP, fixed lens, micro sensor camera phone. Which is, lets be honest, a not particularly well-regarded camera phone at that. This is far from an iPhone in terms of specification and options and 'coolness'. 

And yet I loved every minute of the picture creating experience and for the first time that I can remember I returned home, edited, captioned, keyworded, stored and uploaded the images to the picture libraries that sell my work in less time that I actually took to go out and take them. I was also pleased aesthetically with the images I created and satisfied technically with the quality of the files. No, they aren't as good as my Sony A7r can produce and my Blackberry Q10 is certainly the worst camera I own in terms of image quality, but I did it just the same. And what's more I'm planning to do it again.

So why this complete turnaround from a died-in-the wool 'real' camera user to an advocate for the picture-taking devices that I've gone to great lengths to criticise, castigate and take every opportunity to denigrate? Well, crazy as it might seem, because to me this is what photography is all about. An interaction between my eyes, my brain and the device that captures what I want it to in the simplest way possible. Where composition is more important than technique, lens choice is eliminated, options are restricted and I can focus on what's important, what area of the reality unfolding before me I want to preserve, record and place before the people who are possibly looking to buy an image that I've created. 

For some time now I've been disenchanted with the whole gear centric nature of the photographic internet. The creation and appreciation of well crafted images is definitely secondary to the brand loyalty and the abuse showered on those who don't share that, the exaggeration of marginal differences and the worship of the cliched dogma that I've seen and heard repeated again and again ever since I decided to take photography seriously and take pictures for the sake of it rather than as a pictorial document of my life's experiences. I've had enough. I've had enough of the endless obsessing about test results, the arguments about which is better when pixel-peeped at 100% and the proliferation of the banal, the ordinary and the unoriginal as justification for spending vast sums of money on minimal improvements to what we own. And yes I'm guilty as charged on all those counts. 

So, my journey into downsizing has begun. And I'm not going to badger you with some kind of 'road to Damascus' conversion and attempt to persuade you that my phone is just as good as my other cameras.....really. It's not, I know that and you know that, so let's not pretend it is. It is however something that I want to use at the moment in preference to everything else I currently own. These articles will document why I feel that way and what I'm gaining from the experience. And also about what I'm prepared to loose as well. 

It's not going to be a manifesto for how I'm going to proceed in the future and it shouldn't be taken as something that will be what I will be doing in perpetuity. In practical terms it probably means that I will shed even more readers than I've shed already by taking smartphones seriously. But this is something I want to do and in many ways need to do as well, since I've been dissatisfied by how I'm working and what I'm using to earn my living for some time now. 

And I've realised that just throwing money at some new lens or camera isn't really helping. Judging from the smile on my face and the satisfaction I'm getting when I'm out making pictures with the most minimalist piece of gear I can remember using since the Kodak Instamatic I had in my teens, I know that I'm making the right choice at this time in my photographic life. It's small, it's cheap and I can order a pizza as well. But my camera phone is doing more than that, it's letting me reconnect with what made me want to be a photographer in the first place, the joy I get from taking pictures and looking at them.

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