Time to learn how to actually use that camera you insisted on buying in high school

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/12/time-to-learn-how-to-actually.html

You’re calling your readers dweebs?


That would be the camera that I sold a long time ago?


Time to learn how to actually use that camera you insisted on buying in high school

I did. It was fully manual.


(thinks for a moment) Well, judging from the first three-of-three comments here so far, that advertising pitch certainly reached its target audience on the BBS :wink:


The camera I bought in high school was one of these, and I still have it.

It has three great features:

A dial on the top that you click to set shutter speed - can be done without taking your eye off the eyepiece.
A ring around the lens that you click to set the aperture - can be done without taking your eye off the eyepiece.
A dial on the top that you lift up and click to set the ISO.

And because I learned this on my Minolta, I was able to use my brother’s Pentax, my roommate’s Canon, and my wife to be’s Nikon F2 (was the marriage entirely for love? well…) within a minute or two of first picking them up.

I’m having a hard time taking any of the three digital cameras I own out of fully dumbed down mode because every time I try it, I have to take my eye off the subject and futz through (different for each camera) menus to separately set all the Big Three items above.


OK, it’s a LITTLE funny that the photo for a photography course shows someone holding a camera the “wrong” way. Try supporting that lens with the palm of your left hand-you’ll be much more stable.


Well, I mean… look at us? :wink:



Yup. With analogue film. I carted it around for years through several moves before admitting to myself that I was never going to take pictures on film again, or ever use anything more expensive than a cheap digital point and shoot (or phone). So I sold it for ten or fifteen bucks on ebay. Film SLRs have not held their value well.


I still have my Canon AE-1, over on the shelf there. Dusty as hell, hasn’t taken a shot this century. I also have a 60D, which I know how to use on M because of the AE-1, and I do. Digital cameras were not analagous to film until recently. I can now see phone camera and point and shoots as analogues to ‘Polaroids’.

There is something lost in not having to develop and print images manually. Lightroom™ and a darkroom are quite different. I logged many hundreds of hours of darkroom time in the 90s, but I’ve given up on post production, since the darkroom was where I could fix small problems in composition or metering - and now I can see those in real-time.


I still have mine. (Actually, after its mechanics finally failed through much use, I have its replacement. And then the Aperture-priority replacement model.) There’s a smell that’s a unique combination of leather, lubricant and film stock.

All a matter of horses for courses, of course - there’s a reason why automatic cameras sell well. It’s the assumption in the pitch above that I chafed at, not at people getting (and enjoying) different things from their photography.


That of course is the huge advantage digital has as a learning aid - take a photo, check the preview, adjust accordingly, retake and repeat. It’s the same reason that’s medium format camera systems included Polaroid backs - but even better!


Hmm, this topic closes in five days - wonder if it’s works forking-off a ‘geeky photography discussion’ file?

Guess we’ll know in a few days. :smile:

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Ah, but the lenses. I’ve still got a box of Nikkor glass that are waiting for a new digital body.


My point is quite the opposite. It used to take hours/days/weeks, and the use of hands and tools in multiple settings, which I think led to a deeper comprehension. It wasn’t -move this dial- and get the result, it was learning the hard way what having the sun in the wrong place can do - very much because it wasted your time and anticipation before you learned of your error. Intentionality comes to mind as a word. It’s nice to not have to do that, but I am glad I had to.

Maybe I am making a distinction between learning how to take a picture/operate a camera and how to take a photograph.


And regarding digital cameras’ UIs, requiring you to dive into menus, or take eye from viewfinder to adjust aperture
and shutter with one dial, well there have been cameras that prioritise minimising that - the reason I use the Olympus E-1 so damn much is the focus on ‘physical controls’ - two dials, that you can configure to aperture, shutter, or what have you, exposure lock and focus lock right under the thumb, with EV adjust - and everything signalled in the viewfinder once you adjust it. (That’s in addition to the camera-mode dial, which mostly sits on aperture priority 'round here, but does occasionally get exercised.)

As for downsides? Well the sensor is APS sized (hello four-thirds) and the pixel count isn’t huge for nowadays - and the preview screen is small, as a product of its time.

But it’s all there on the body - and it’s built like a tank, which also helps. :wink:

Now, what we have to work out is why even the later models in the same range shrank back from the physical controls & viewfinder UX back to driving-by-screen. It’s just not the same.


That’s interesting - I know my learning curve improved though a shorter feedback loop, and I recall, with film, carefully marking notebooks so that I could log the settings used in each shot so that I could retain the details of the shot so that I could learn anything when I got the at the results.

The enforced lag for development didn’t add anything to learning the art of taking a photograph and actually interfered with learning due to fallible human memory.

This was (and still is - the day I’m perfect is the day I’m done, box me and burn me) both regarding camera operation and the art of the photography - how that sunset was captured, for example, and balancing the exposure for both sky and ground?

Well, while I know the rules of thumb, and have a grey grad to hand, it’s still better to check, and often irrepeatable if you do get it wrong (realising that I fluffed by - perhaps a stop, maybe one and a half?).

In those circumstances it didn’t help me much if I didn’t then get to go round the loop again and see what difference the extra stop makes.

Perhaps the key thing is that we’re both talking about learning, and meaningful practice, not random experimentation without method - but are differing on how that’s achieved?


That is EXACTLY the camera I bought in high school, both for photo class and to shoot photos for the school paper. I spent a lot of time in the darkroom developing both film and photos, and it served me well through college photo classes as well. My only accessories were a daylight filter and a second-hand zoom.

I’ve been sometimes tempted by DSLRs, but then I think “when do I use cameras these days? Travel, and moments where I want a camera at hand.” And the last thing I want when traveling is another big bulky thing to tote around.