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Complicated cameras are tricky business…

August 13, 2009

If you’ve visited this site before you probably know that I have an affinity for crappy plastic cameras that take great photos.  I love the simplicity of cameras like the Holga, there are no knobs to worry about, no exposure settings.  Recently, however, I have been getting into glass lenses and relatively more fancy camera.

As the title of this post suggests, I am going to talk about these complicated cameras, specifically the Yashica Minister D in which all the shots here were taken with.  It is a rangefinder camera, my first camera like it, and it was made in Japan around 1963.  I got mine from an antique store with a great leather case for a bit over what you should expect to pay for it but that should be expected when buying from such a store.  Besides, it is literally in like new condition.

The Minister D is what I like to call manually automatic.  You set your film speed then press a button that turns on the light meter.  A needle then points to a number that corresponds with a dial on the lens.  Turning that dial then sets the shutter speed and aperture for you with the ability to adjust it within a certain range.  This really is great for someone like me who really hates making exposure calculations.

But there is downside to such a fancy camera.  I may be used to no features on a camera at all but I do know the theories behind photography so it is not hard to get used to all the bells and whistles.  In fact I found it quite easy.  The problem is that my style has always been dictated by the flaws of my tools.  Light leaks, dark corners, accidental double exposures and the like are the things that I built my style on.  I found it very difficult to get photographs out of this camera and others like it that had a soul, had style.  Its a lot easier to make an artistic photograph with a camera that distorts reality like my Holga but when the camera is so flawless like the Minister D it takes a bit more work.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though.  It is a challenge for me, to train my eye better, to advance my skills.  The reality is that the Minister D is a great camera with a wonderful lens and is incredibly easy to use.  I can see this camera becoming part of my regular arsenal.  I have fallen in love with the rangefinder aspect, the aesthetics of it and the possibilities it presents.  Its nice to have more control over the exposure but it does take more effort to get the aesthetic that I want.  I highly recommend picking up a camera like this if you ever come across one, you won’t be disappointed.

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