Help me spend my money (or talk me off this cliff)

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mtnbkr

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I've had a bit of an anti-gas attack with one of my other hobbies which has left me with a tidy pile of cash. As a result, I'm thinking about turning some of that into a new (to me) camera. Thing is, I don't want this to be just another accumulation, but a purchase that has meaning and will have a meaningful effect on my photography (improvement in output, improvement in visceral enjoyment of the act of making photographs, etc).

Currently I have:
Canon VT rangefinder with 3 LTM lenses (Voigtlander 154.5, Voigtlander 35/2, Canon 50/1.8). The camera and lenses work great.
Canon FT SLR with 2 FL lenses (50/1.4 and 28/3.5). This camera was CLA'd last year and also works great though I'm less than thrilled with focusing via microprism these days.
Brownie Hawkeye 620 box camera that I use for lo-fi pics. It's my only "medium format" camera and belonged to my grandparents. It's fun to use, but I feel like I'm not getting the most out of my film with it (or maybe I am, just in a different way...). I've gotten some interesting results and need to spend more time with it.
Rollei A110. This one is just for funsies.

Ok, with my ill-gotten gains, I'm thinking of:
A Leica M2 body to replace the Canon VT (and adapters for the LTM lenses). With the same lenses it won't result in a net improvement to my photography, but the visceral enjoyment of making photographs might increase. I could see it replacing the VT and FT, reducing my 35mm count by 1. It also give me access to M-mount glass, though I probably won't be in a position to buy any substantially better lenses for quite some time.

A "real" medium format camera (interchangeable lenses, not a folder) in 6x6 format. I like the square format and it would represent a real differentiation in my photographs. But, the size of these cameras is a problem as I would no longer be able to just bring it along as an afterthought. Photography with this would turn into its own thing and remove some of the spontaneity I get when I merely "bring the camera along".

Or keep the money and spend it on film and processing with the gear I have. I seldom print bigger than 8x10, and never exceed 12x16, so I don't think I'll get full benefit out of the MF kit (or maybe I will at 8x8, 10x10, or 12x12, happy to be corrected). Dropping upwards of 2k into a new "toy" (I don't make money with photography, this is for my own satisfaction and for family) seems a bit materialistic. I'm not opposed to it, but I need to see the ROI.

Thoughts?

ETA: I don't develop my own prints. I sometimes develop the film and do crude scans with a digital camera for eval purposes, but I mostly send everything to thedarkroom.com for development and printing, including any enlargements.

Chris
 

Hvesterlos

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You could also spend some of it on getting into home developing, that would save you some money in the long run. MF seems like it would be a lot of extra expense for not much benefit, at those print sizes.
 

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Large format is more of an issue of time than money. If you have both, then consider it. If you mainly have money, forget LF -- and buy a Minolta CLE with lenses. You'll love it.

(1981) When Leica ceased the production of the CL in 1975 (which was actually made in Minolta's factories), Minolta was free to change the CL, and so they improved it to make the CLE. And this time they completely dropped the Leitz from the name. It was slightly larger than the CL, but boasted TTL metering with both automatic and manual exposure modes. The nifty metering arm of Leica CL was replaced by rearward-facing, silicon metering sensors that measure the light falling on the film, a bit like one of the Olympus OM cameras did it. The other clever bit is that the shutter curtain has a silver/black pattern on it so it reflects like the film does, so the camera can meter before and during the image exposure -- should the light change! The addition of automatic exposure was a major improvement to the design, although the shutter is now battery dependent. In addition, because it was now a silicon metering cell, the camera was able to offer TTL flash mode -- an incredible breakthrough in camera features at that time. This feature would appear on later cameras -- both Minolta and not. The interchangeable lenses are basically the same, but a 28mm (f2.8) lens was added to the line-up. The camera also has a self-timer and hot shoe. Most cameras were in black, but a limited edition gold version was made to celebrate Minolta 3,000,000th camera. At the time, people thought of it as a miniature Minolta XE-7. It has the same basic features -- more or less -- and the same beautiful feel of XE-7. Nowadays, people think of it as a miniature Minolta X-570. It has the same basic features -- more or less. While it lacks the SLR design, it has the same TTL flash.
 
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mtnbkr

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You could also spend some of it on getting into home developing, that would save you some money in the long run. MF seems like it would be a lot of extra expense for not much benefit, at those print sizes.

I considered that, but I don't have a space to set up and I'm not interested in doing the "temporary darkroom" thing. I did that years ago and found it more tedious than productive.

But your comment about MF does mirror my own thoughts given my typical print sizes.

Chris
 
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mtnbkr

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Large format is more of an issue of time than money. If you have both, then consider it. If you mainly have money, forget LF -- and buy a Minolta CLE with lenses. You'll love it.

Large format isn't on the table. I tried that out a few years ago with a Graflex Crown Graphic. Too bulky, too much stuff, not able to integrate it into other activities, etc.

I thought about a CL/CLE, but I kind of want a "real" Leica if I'm going to go down that path. It's not a horrible suggestion, but I'm not sure it'll scratch the itch properly.

Chris
 

momus

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You need more gear like I need another hole in the head :>}

I understand GAS, been there a LOT. Now I spend money on film, chemicals, and paper. It took me a long time to learn darkroom printing, I'm great at putting things off. But that's where the fun is, and any manner that one gets a print of any kind on the wall, is great.

Someone here mentioned that they had an instructor who said it was important to make photographs and show them, get them out there to be seen. My previous scheme was to get things to a gallery level first, but that was just plain dumb. Too much pressure. Now I fool around a bit and celebrate the mistakes (which are not really mistakes).

As soon as I can figure out a way to economically get some stuff matted and/or framed, out the door it will go to anyplace it can be seen. Coffee house, bank, bar, restroom, bus, I don't care. Just get it out there. Why not? What possible good are they just sitting in the Ilford box that they came in?
 
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mtnbkr

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You need more gear like I need another hole in the head :>}

I understand GAS, been there a LOT. Now I spend money on film, chemicals, and paper. It took me a long time to learn darkroom printing, I'm great at putting things off. But that's where the fun is, and any manner that one gets a print of any kind on the wall, is great.

Someone here mentioned that they had an instructor who said it was important to make photographs and show them, get them out there to be seen. My previous scheme was to get things to a gallery level first, but that was just plain dumb. Too much pressure. Now I fool around a bit and celebrate the mistakes (which are not really mistakes).

As soon as I can figure out a way to economically get some stuff matted and/or framed, out the door it will go to anyplace it can be seen. Coffee house, bank, bar, restroom, bus, I don't care. Just get it out there. Why not? What possible good are they just sitting in the Ilford box that they came in?
Funny thing is, 20+ years ago I would be trying to justify such a purchase when I didn't have the money. Now, I try to justify NOT making the purchase when I have the money in hand. Maturity maybe? Dunno... :D

I've made a point to print at least a few things here and there to put up on the wall. From our vacation in the US SW desert this year, I've printed nearly 20 shots (half from B&W film, half from digital) and have started putting them up on the walls in our home. My wife says it looks like our vacation vomited all over the walls (but she and the kids like the shots, so a net win?). My oldest daughter says I need to sell my work, but I keep reminding her I do it for myself and don't want the distraction/stress/completely-honest-feedback of trying to sell my photography. :smile:

Chris
 

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I thought about a CL/CLE, but I kind of want a "real" Leica if I'm going to go down that path. It's not a horrible suggestion, but I'm not sure it'll scratch the itch properly.

Chris

I don't know what qualifies as a "real Leica" for you, but from what I've read there are lots of non-Leica alternatives that are better in some ways. But if you want a real Leica, I guess it comes down to what mount you want to use -- and film or digital -- and either way there are lots of (new and old) options to choose from.
 

runswithsizzers

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If you want a Leica (and can afford it), then buy a Leica.

But in my opinion, your hope that ...
...a purchase that has meaning and will have a meaningful effect on my photography (improvement in output, improvement in visceral enjoyment of the act of making photographs, etc...
... may be wishful thinking. I don't believe you can buy happiness, or that owning things adds meaning to our lives. I do believe some cameras are more fun to use than others, so if you hate the one you have, by all means, replace it. But hoping that artistic inspiration and personal fulfillment will come from buying new gear ...? Not sure about that.

It sounds to me like you need inspiration more than a new camera. Maybe enrolling in a photography class would help? Or check out an armload of photography books at the library, or force yourself to photograph in an environment you have never photographed before? If you have been shooting only b&w, try a few rolls of color (if you can find some). Personally, I would rather go to the dentist than join a photography club, but that might work some people(?)
 
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mtnbkr

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I don't know what qualifies as a "real Leica" for you, but from what I've read there are lots of non-Leica alternatives that are better in some ways. But if you want a real Leica, I guess it comes down to what mount you want to use -- and film or digital -- and either way there are lots of (new and old) options to choose from.

A "real Leica" would be a German-made M series, probably M2 due to the 35mm frame lines and semi-affordable nature. I did look at Voigtlanders, but the M-mount versions are edging into Leica territory price-wise. I'm not a snob about it, I just want something semi-heirloom quality.

Chris
 
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mtnbkr

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If you want a Leica (and can afford it), then buy a Leica.

But in my opinion, your hope that ...

... may be wishful thinking. I don't believe you can buy happiness, or that owning things adds meaning to our lives. I do believe some cameras are more fun to use than others, so if you hate the one you have, by all means, replace it. But hoping that artistic inspiration and personal fulfillment will come from buying new gear ...? Not sure about that.

It sounds to me like you need a new perspective on life more than a new camera. Maybe enrolling in a photography class would help? Or check out an armload of photography books at the library, or force yourself to photograph in an environment you have never photographed before? If you have been shooting only b&w, try a few rolls of color (if you can find some). Personally, I would rather go to the dentist than join a photography club, but that might work some people(?)

I might not have been clear. I appreciate finely made mechanical things (also a geek about mechanical watches, vintage revolvers, old cars, etc), so part of my enjoyment of photography is using older mechanical cameras to create the photograph. That's all I'm referring to.

I've taken photography classes in the distant past, tried the club thing, and read/accumulated photography books at one time (no longer, don't have the space). I also shoot a mix of B&W and color (and enjoy experimenting with unusual emulsions). I'm not bored or dissatisfied with photography, I just have an opportunity to acquire a piece of kit I generally couldn't justify previously and am now unsure if I should go for it or spend that money on other things that would have more of an impact (ie 6x6 medium format or simply film and processing for the cameras I have).

Chris
 

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Have you used a Leica before? They have their quirks like anything. I'm unfamiliar with the Canon you currently have. It too is a rangefinder, so you are used to that aspect of the shooting experience, and can discount any slr vs. rangefinder talk at least. How much more would processing 120 cost at your current lab vs. 35mm. heck, given the difference in number of frames per roll, how does basic film cost wash out? I'd love to advocate for medium format here, but I too think it may not be the answer based upon other things you've said.
I've done a quick scan of prices, and like I suspected, Leica "M" glass made me spit out my coffee. What is the most recent M2 body? I might head towards Voightlander in your position, and save as much cash as I could for that first lens. I certainly can't judge anyone for kicking money around at gear without looking in the mirror.
 
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mtnbkr

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Have you used a Leica before? They have their quirks like anything. I'm unfamiliar with the Canon you currently have. It too is a rangefinder, so you are used to that aspect of the shooting experience, and can discount any slr vs. rangefinder talk at least. How much more would processing 120 cost at your current lab vs. 35mm. heck, given the difference in number of frames per roll, how does basic film cost wash out? I'd love to advocate for medium format here, but I too think it may not be the answer based upon other things you've said.
I've done a quick scan of prices, and like I suspected, Leica "M" glass made me spit out my coffee. What is the most recent M2 body? I might head towards Voightlander in your position, and save as much cash as I could for that first lens. I certainly can't judge anyone for kicking money around at gear without looking in the mirror.

No, I haven't used a Leica before, but I fondled one in a shop a few months ago. It was actually smoother and more precise-feeling than I expected. My Canon VT is an LTM rangefinder that kind of straddles the line between the Leica III series and early M series cameras. It's actually not a bad camera except for the nearly impossible to read shutter speed dials (a factor of aging eyes more than anything).

Film processing...120 would definitely be more expensive, but not so much that I would shoot less. The larger concern with MF is that I generally don't print very large, so am I going to get any benefit from the larger negative? Probably not...

Yup, M glass is stupid expensive in many cases, so I would be using my existing LTM glass with adapters for the foreseeable future. Voigtlander M-mount cameras really aren't any cheaper than the older Leica M cameras, so there isn't much saving to be had there (especially since I'd probably want the R4M).

Chris
 

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"I might not have been clear. I appreciate finely made mechanical things (also a geek about mechanical watches, vintage revolvers, old cars, etc), so part of my enjoyment of photography is using older mechanical cameras to create the photograph. That's all I'm referring to."

Might be outside of your budget, Swiss Alpa, 10 or 11, with Kern Swiss 50 1.7 Macro, then add a 28 and 100. Alpa were handmade, started making parts for watches, started during WWII when Leica and Context were unavailable. Downside that you need to send the camera to Germany for servicing. A friend of mine wife got an 11E when her uncle passed away. He sent it to me to looke it over before he had it sold at auction. I've shot with Nikon, Leica screw mount and M, Canon RF, Konica, Miranda to name just a few, the Alpa was like a watch, smooth, the lens, best 50mm I've ever used. Need to get use to the strange film advance, otherwise, for someone who wants the best machinal 35mm camera, hard to beat. If the Kern 50mm is out of reach Schneider made a 50 1.8 in Alpa mount. And don't be fooled, Chinon rebranded a 35mm with Alpa name in M42 and K mount, nothing remotely like the Swiss Alpa.
 

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I don't want this to be just another accumulation
Now, I try to justify NOT making the purchase when I have the money in hand.
opportunity to acquire a piece of kit I generally couldn't justify previously
When it comes to GAS, my advice is, "When in doubt, don't."

It is amazing how many times I've thought I really wanted or needed someting - put it in my Amazon shopping cart - and after waiting a week or two, I realized I didn't really care that much about it. Wait a month before spending the money and see how bad you still want that Leica.

Forget about medium format. Unless you start printing larger, the very small gain in technical quality will improve your photography less than using a tripod with the gear you already have. And far less than choosing your subject and lighting more carefully.
or simply film and processing for the cameras I have
Hard to go wrong with that last one.

As a younger man, I had a compulsion to collect things - to put together the perfect camera kit - build the perfect bicycle, or camping kit - to own fine woodworking tools - whatever. (I have a ridiculous collection of Japanese water stones.) At some point in my life I realized that there are two ways to get what I want - to get more, or to want less. Sorry if that sounds all preachy, but you did ask to be talked down from the cliff. ;-)
 

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The smallest and lightest 6x6 camera is the Hasselblad which still has parts, lenses and service. You will have to wait longer between buying lenses, but you will not regret making the leap.
 

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"GAS resist cannot. To the pressure of GAS give in must." Yoda Star Wars DCLXXXVIII
 

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Weighing in here as I feel like I’ve been in a similar situation. I used my high school’s M2 in photo class. It was heaven, kinda defined 35mm photography for me. Buying one was totally out of the question. So I settled for a long time with an Olympus OM1. Great camera and optics, but not a Leica. Along the way I tried a Contax IIa and a Contax G1. Finally got the M2 a few years ago. Should have buckled down and saved for one years ago- I enjoy using it so much. Comfort with your tools is a real thing. I would encourage you to get what you really want. Use the lenses you have now and try some others later if you feel like it. MF slr is a whole other thing and if you’re not going beyond 8x10 enlargement the main difference is going to be slowing down and the more shallow DOF at a given aperture.
 

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Nothing feels like a Leica camera to fire and wind, but I still greatly prefer an slr for all the standard given reasons. So I while I earlier could have afford buying one with multiple lenses in the past and often thought about it, I never did. Overall for myself I am happier with the path that I took. YMMV Hint: Buy Hasselblad [/Hint]
 
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mtnbkr

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"I might not have been clear. I appreciate finely made mechanical things (also a geek about mechanical watches, vintage revolvers, old cars, etc), so part of my enjoyment of photography is using older mechanical cameras to create the photograph. That's all I'm referring to."

Might be outside of your budget, Swiss Alpa, 10 or 11, with Kern Swiss 50 1.7 Macro, then add a 28 and 100. Alpa were handmade, started making parts for watches, started during WWII when Leica and Context were unavailable. Downside that you need to send the camera to Germany for servicing. A friend of mine wife got an 11E when her uncle passed away. He sent it to me to looke it over before he had it sold at auction. I've shot with Nikon, Leica screw mount and M, Canon RF, Konica, Miranda to name just a few, the Alpa was like a watch, smooth, the lens, best 50mm I've ever used. Need to get use to the strange film advance, otherwise, for someone who wants the best machinal 35mm camera, hard to beat. If the Kern 50mm is out of reach Schneider made a 50 1.8 in Alpa mount. And don't be fooled, Chinon rebranded a 35mm with Alpa name in M42 and K mount, nothing remotely like the Swiss Alpa.
Woof. Yeah, a bit out of my price range. What little I read does imply they are finely made, but the support issue is a concern (as is price!).

Chris
 

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Woof. Yeah, a bit out of my price range. What little I read does imply they are finely made, but the support issue is a concern (as is price!).

Chris

Whatever you choose, support is a big concern. That was the reason I chose Hasselblad over Rollei SLR, which was preferred.
 
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mtnbkr

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When it comes to GAS, my advice is, "When in doubt, don't."

It is amazing how many times I've thought I really wanted or needed someting - put it in my Amazon shopping cart - and after waiting a week or two, I realized I didn't really care that much about it. Wait a month before spending the money and see how bad you still want that Leica.

Forget about medium format. Unless you start printing larger, the very small gain in technical quality will improve your photography less than using a tripod with the gear you already have. And far less than choosing your subject and lighting more carefully.

Hard to go wrong with that last one.

As a younger man, I had a compulsion to collect things - to put together the perfect camera kit - build the perfect bicycle, or camping kit - to own fine woodworking tools - whatever. (I have a ridiculous collection of Japanese water stones.) At some point in my life I realized that there are two ways to get what I want - to get more, or to want less. Sorry if that sounds all preachy, but you did ask to be talked down from the cliff. ;-)

Yeah, I've gotten better about that these last couple years (have offset my other hobby by substituting training instead of buying more stuff).

I'm not sure waiting will do much since I've wanted one for years, but now I have un-allocated cash in hand. :D

Chris
 
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mtnbkr

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The smallest and lightest 6x6 camera is the Hasselblad which still has parts, lenses and service. You will have to wait longer between buying lenses, but you will not regret making the leap.

I only need one lens. :smile:

Chris
 

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Yeah, I've gotten better about that these last couple years (have offset my other hobby by substituting training instead of buying more stuff).

I'm not sure waiting will do much since I've wanted one for years, but now I have un-allocated cash in hand. :D

Chris

If you have waited for years, then you have your answer. Go for it. If not you will kick yourself because you will have missed using it and the price will go above your means. Do it now.
 
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mtnbkr

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Nothing feels like a Leica camera to fire and wind, but I still greatly prefer an slr for all the standard given reasons. So I while I earlier could have afford buying one with multiple lenses in the past and often thought about it, I never did. Overall for myself I am happier with the path that I took. YMMV Hint: Buy Hasselblad [/Hint]

I've spent most of my life shooting SLRs and only got into rangefinders a couple years ago. The rangefinder is edging out the SLR for a number of reasons, but I still like both. I've never shot with a proper MF camera, so this would be an excursion in to the unknown.

Chris
 
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