From the past few months. Konica big mini and olympus om2n.
From the past few months. Konica big mini and olympus om2n.
I’ve wanted another Ricoh GR series camera for a long time now. I bought a Gr1 a few years ago and after a couple of rolls the camera succumbed to the common shutter issue. After a £200 repair quote I abandoned the camera, putting it down to experience and bought the rather nifty Konica Big Mini for a fraction of the repair cost. The Big Mini’s a great little compact film camera for a lot less but it’s lens is 35mm rather than the Ricoh’s 28mm and it’s also a little clunky to use. Despite being burnt I’ve still desired another Ricoh for ages and over the christmas period I snagged a GR1s as an undeserved present to self. Just taking a few photos with it and I’m reminded of just how well thought out the camera is. It’s a joy to use.
In the 90s, when film was still king, there was a premium compact camera battle between the big companies resulting in a handful of brilliant cameras. The olympus mju-ii, Yaschica T series, Contax t2, and many more are all highly sought after on eBay. All have varying levels of manual control, great glass, and are primarily fixed focus though there are exceptions. These cameras were aimed at the top end of the market and were not cheap to buy when they came out. The all round quality is one of the reasons they are still widely used. If you’re interested in buying a premium compact, there’s a good overview on Japanese Camera Hunter.
Besides the ergonomics, ease of use, and great 28mm lens the camera holds, I’m looking forwarding to using the SNAP feature. It pre-sets the camera a fixed focal length and allows you to shoot with no af lag or anything, ideal for street photography. Shooting only a couple of rolls with this camera and it’s so nice to use, it almost wills you to take a shot. If you want to turn the flash off, there’s an easy switch on the back of the camera. Change the aperture and there’s a simple dial, no faffing. The main thing I love about this camera is that it allows you to focus on the shot rather than the camera. That is the sign of great design.
A lot of premium compacts, the Ricoh included, are difficult to fix. Ricoh no longer service this camera so if it breaks your pretty much dependent on either a camera repair shop or trying to repair it yourself. The problem is things like the circuit board are not made anymore, so you’re either cannibalising other cameras or hoping that a repair shop still has the parts. if you’re thinking, why waste your money on something that will break and you can’t repair? It’s a bit of a gamble but digital cameras depreciate massively very quickly and if I can get some great photos out of the Ricoh before it dies then it’s worth it.
The Konica Big Mini, a 35mm point and shoot, has a cult following in Japan but in the UK it is not as well known as something like the Yaschica t5, Ricoh GR1 or the Contax G2. Admittedly, the t5 has its Terry Richardson association, the Ricoh has Daido Moriyama but the Konica Big Mini has its fans too – Araki, Hiromix, Robert Frank. It’s not in the same class as the Ricoh or the Contax but also it doesn’t have the same price tag.
I recently purchased 2 big minis of ebay. One of the reasons was because I got badly burnt on Ricoh Gr1 purchase. 1 roll of film and the thing conked out with the dreaded shutter box issue. Luckily I found somewhere which would fix it, however at nearly 200 quid it seemed like throwing good money away. Instead I bought 2 Konica Big Mini’s for under fifty quid. Bargain. They’re not as good as the Ricoh but the lens is decent, especially for the price, and as a walk around camera, it’s great.
I’ve just read Goodbye, Camera by Craig Mod on the New Yorker website. To summarise, it’s an article about how the author has grown tired of cameras. That his phone is as good in most cases as a camera for taking photos and in some ways better. The networked photographer has different needs to the traditional photographer. He is not only concerned with image making, he’s also concerned with the metadata, the sharing and the online conversation that follows. Craig Mod’s someone I’ve followed over the past few years as he often writes about books and technology. Publishing’s another industry where technology has altered the consumers physical relationship with the product.
It feels to me like the networked photographer – not a term I’m fond of to be honest – is for a younger generation, a new type of photography. A fusion of image and words and then feedback. It works well as single images, posted like diary entries. This is why something like instagram was such a hit. It’s not working at just an image level, it’s a snapshot diary of whatever you want. The one thing I really like about something like instagram is that a phone allows people to capture anything they want and not feel too self-conscious. So you get the strangest of moments, the weirdest of obsessions and also great formal compositions. It frees people up, but it’s not mutually exclusive. Alec Soth is a photographer who’s embraced the online but this hasn’t meant he’s thrown his cameras out. It’s something different. I don’t think cameras will die in the foreseeable future, nor do I believe Craig Mod does either. TVs are getting larger, resolutions higher, and people want to photograph a broad range of subjects that phones don’t lend themselves to like street, sports, young kids running around. Phones are limited in size and thus ergonomics, optics, frame size are all major hurdles. Also, add wifi to a camera, tether to your phone and you’re networked (this would be a great feature on my Fuji X100).
I’m also not 100% convinced that data attached to photos is revolutionary. For snapshots, some photojournalism, it’s very useful as you can catalogue photos with names of people, when it was taken and whatever else takes your fancy. It’s useful for documenting. But would a William Eggleston be improved by having the weather forecast data attached? No, I can see with my own eyes whether it’s sunny or not. Advertisers would love extensive metadata on each photo, I can see the potential there, but how much use is it for us? I’m not convinced it’s a massive jump that hasn’t been around for a while already. We’ve been sharing photos online for quite a while now, I don’t think the urgency to share at an instance is relevant to all types of photography,
The article’s worth a read but what I found most interesting was the comments. At times, it’s pure insanity. Technology clearly worries people a great deal. Some are horrified by the idea that anyone could just pick up an iPhone and take a great picture. Others think he’s some spokesperson for the selfie generation. A consumer junky not willing to learn how to use a camera. Of course, he can use a camera, he’s just saying that for the vast bulk of the time he’s more interested in capturing an image and posting it on the internet than he is with playing around with a camera. It’s an interesting topic though. By wielding a Leica do you feel like more of a photographer than someone with a cheap point and click? Probably. Are your photo’s any better? They’ll look like they were taken with a Leica, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re any better.
It’s not bye bye cameras just yet for me but as soon as they make a phone with the ergonomics of a Ricoh GR1, and image quality of a 5d then I’ll happily consider it. Until then, it’ll be a mixture of cameras and that includes a phone as well.
I’ll admit it, for a brief period of time, a few years ago, I was seduced by the idea of owning an espresso coffee machine. A fancy one. One which would make a great cup of coffee but also had lots of steam, was all chrome and would require a small crane to lift it. The only problem was the price. As soon as I started doing some research, the reality hit me. They were insanely expensive and unless you’re willing to shell out insane amounts of money, forget about it, they were useless. On top of that you’ve then got the maintenance. It seemed a bit much for a cup of coffee every morning. It was around this time that I discovered the Hario V60 dripper and the pour over method.
My early memories of filter coffee, pre-V60 are bad. Every place serving filter coffee in the UK would leave the pot sitting for an hour or more on a metal plate to keep it warm. This is something I have done myself. Drinking coffee which has been sat for a period of time is a brutal experience on the mind as well as the stomach and it’s not something I recommend. Thankfully the pour over has little in common. Each cup is individually brewed by pouring under boiling point water slowly into the cone. After a few minutes you have a great cup of coffee and you simply throw the paper filter and coffee in the bin.
There are numerous reasons to love pour over. It’s difficult to make a bad cup of coffee with it. It’s cheap, all you need is the cup, some paper filters and hot water. It’s portable, I have one in work, at home, and it also travels with me abroad. It’s clean – no washing grains from the sink, this is a big plus for me. Also, it’s pretty difficult to get a bitter cup from it and the taste is generally a bit more nuanced than an espresso. Ideal for that first coffee when you get out of bed.
Over the past few years, somewhere along the way, my tastes changed. When I buy a cup of coffee now and they use their fancy big machines I no longer feel envy. The coffee taste’s good but I’m always relieved to get back to the trusty V60.
Whatever you do, do not scrimp on the coffee – I did this once and never again. Beans supposedly have a month and grounds have two weeks before they starts to lose flavour. If you buy ground you’ll need it for paper filter (roasters are happy to do this). In the UK, £7 for 250 grams will get you a very good coffee. Many roasters run mail order operations now as well. The lighter beans work better with a dripper but in truth I’ve put espresso through and it’s tasted great. For 20 quid you can get a plastic cup, 100 filters, and some great coffee which will make 15 to 20 odd cups of great coffee coffee that will be tastier than most coffee shops can deliver. If you want a flat white then it’s not going to make that but if it’s a straight coffee you’re after then you won’t be disappointed.
What do I need?
V60 dripper (there’s a ceramic and a metal version, too)
Coffee – Climpsons UK
Coffee – Has Bean UK
Coffee – Square Mile UK
Coffee – Blue Bottle US
Just under boiling water