…is the one you have with you. And no, I don’t mean your cell phone camera. Megapixels be damned, that itty bitty, teeny tiny sensor behind that little piece of plastic just doesn’t cut the mustard. Those ill fated apps to make your images interesting by turning your image into something from a light leaking camera with expired film, well, I can just do the real thing with one of my old light leaking cameras from 40 years ago and some expired film out of the drawer. Now to move on.
The best (real) camera is the one you have with you. Now I don’t care if you shoot digital, film or both (I shoot both), but I make it a point to keep one handy. Practically speaking, it does no good to keep a big DSLR with me at all times. Too bulky. Not going to leave one in my car either, too expensive. That is why I troll the flea markets, thrift stores and goodwill stores for old film cameras. For example, in my glove box sits a Nikon L35AF. Back in 1983, this was THE camera to have as a (semi) compact, auto-focus point and shoot. It came with a real lens, a nice 35mm f2.8 aperture sonnar designed lens. It is reasonably fast, very sharp and takes filters (what compact P&S in the last 30 years has done that?). It has a nice, big and bright view finder, takes 35mm film (full frame goodness for you folks brought up in the digital relm) and runs on AA batteries that can be found ANYWHERE (no chargers needed here). Plus, it cost less than 5 dollars at the thrift store. Who cares if it gets stolen? Hence why it lives in my glove box. So to illustrate my point of the best camera is the one with you, I will relate the story of a recent roll of film.
So, I just happened at some point to toss a roll of consumer Fuji 200 speed film into this camera, placed it in my glove box and do what I do, forget about it until it is needed. So one day I am driving home from work and at 75mph crossing Nickajack Lake, I notice the sun parting through the clouds illuminating the lake in a most beautiful manner. Quickly I reached in my glove box, grabbed the L35AF, flipped the on switch and pointed it out my window as I fly across the bridge. This is what I captured:
Sometime this winter, my wife and I decided to go for a hike at the local state park. As we go there, I grabbed this camera out of my glove box for the “just in case” I ran into something interesting. Well, that is what happened. Towards the end of the hike, I looked over my left shoulder and noticed something somewhat unnatural related to the landscape and went to investigate. This is what I saw:
Last month I was driving home from work when, after talking with my father whom was out of town, asked me to check on his house (it is on the mountain) due to the recent ice storm. While there I drove out to the bluff quickly as I knew the light was fading. I captured this:
None of these images would have normally been captured. I had not planned these images. I just happened upon them and happened to have a easy to use, simple to operate, quick to grab camera with me in my car. Often, I have 2 or 3 in my car but I always have at least one camera with me. If I am going somewhere where lugging a camera around my shoulder/neck is not convenient or appropriate, I will grab my Olympus stylus epic or Olympus XA and stick it in my pocket. Better to have something than nothing and both of these cameras are super compact and sport a great 35/2.8 lens. Both Olympus cameras are getting a little pricey but the stylus epic can still be found for under $5 at Goodwill all the time (millions were made and sold).
Point being, if you are passionate about capturing moments, be prepared or those moments will come and go, fading into memory to be gone forever.