2018: The Year of Shooting With Old Iron

Part of my collection of heavy metal, screw-mount SLR cameras.

I’ve never been a photo-project kind of guy. There’s obviously nothing wrong with focusing one’s creative energy that way, it’s just never been my thing. At the same time, I find myself falling victim to the tyranny of choice and muse about joining the one-camera/one-lens brigade. But I know I never will. I just have too many cameras that I like to shoot to ever really be happy in that box. So here’s my compromise—a year using one type of camera and one type of lens.

Okanagan Lake

From the KVR trail, northeast of Penticton, B.C.
(Camera: Praktica LTL 3; Lens: Pentacon 50mm f/1.8; Film: Ilford XP2 Super 400)

The cameras? Big, chunky heavy metal SLRs that take M42 screw-mount lenses. “Old iron” as I call ‘em. Through luck more than design, lately I’ve acquired quite a few cameras that fall into this category—certainly enough to keep shooting with for a year even if I don’t pick up one or two more (a highly unlikely turn of events).

So how did I get here? Trial and error, error and trial, and still more trials. I’ve used a lot of different kinds of camera and have lately have once again come to appreciate the many, many virtues of the single-lens reflex design. You’ll hear people rhapsodically singing the praises of rangefinders (especially Leica fans) or waxing poetic about the wonders of pocketable point-and-shoots (including me), but how often do SLRs get the love they deserve? Rarely, in my estimation. And that’s surprising—as a type, they have very few shortcomings and (in my opinion) the HUGE advantage of a through-the-lens viewfinder and (often) metering.

I know some rangefinder fans will jump on me for that. “But the viewfinder blacks out when you take the picture—you never know if you’ve captured the decisive moment!” To which I say, rubbish! That line of thinking never made much sense to me. After all, the dreaded “black out” doesn’t happen until after you’ve made the decision to take the picture.

With a SLR, you never have to worry about goofy frame lines that may or may not match the actual view—what you see is what you get. You can shoot any lens from fish-eye to super-telephoto without messing with auxiliary finders. And, you can shoot macro without a whole bunch of muss and fuss. Anyway…

So SLRs it is. But why screw-mount? No real reason apart from the fact that it’s one lens mount that works with the widest range of manufacturers. I don’t have to be tied to a particular system this way. I can (and will) shoot Pentax (of course!), Fujica, Mamiya/Sekor, Praktica and even work in a little Russian magic with a newly acquired Zenit.

Just watch me!

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2 Responses to 2018: The Year of Shooting With Old Iron

  1. Jim Grey says:

    I’m with you: the benefits of an SLR outweigh the perceived negatives. Good luck with your non-project project!

  2. Gary says:

    Thanks Jim. Looking forward to seeing what you do in 2018 too.

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