I’ve been on the cusp of it so many times. I’ve certainly talked about it enough. As of today, it’s official. I sold all the rest of my gear, save for one point and shoot camera. I’ve been selling off the camera equipment I’ve amassed for a year now, but never had the courage to literally get rid of it all. Knowing I’d take a loss was part of the reason I’ve held onto it for so long, and instead of clearing things out, I kept adding more, trying desperately to make it all work for me.
I think it might sound ridiculous, but I have no other way to describe it. I truly felt like my gear was an anvil around my neck, dragging me down, keeping me from lifting my head to see and photograph the world around me. Too many tools, not enough vision. Too much time spent on acquisition, not enough time spent on creation. Once upon a time, I was passionate about photography. I had one camera and a 50mm lens, only I didn’t understand crop factors so had no idea for years that my nifty 50 was actually more like 80mm. I didn’t know, but I didn’t care. I just took photos. Gosh, I miss that.
Truth be told, I’m in serious danger of no longer photographing my own life in a meaningful way. I get stuck just choosing what camera and lens to use! My kids HATE having their pictures taken now. I’ve ruined them. I’ve been in need of a complete reset for such a long time, but never fully committed myself to it. Kind of like an alcoholic who keeps a bottle of whiskey in a drawer at work. It was time to pour it down the drain. No more contingencies.
And so, it’s all gone. The bodies, the lenses…all sold. And I feel so relieved. Now it’s just me, an iPhone, and my Ricoh GRII (“Squirt”). It shouldn’t take so much work to get back to where I was ten years ago, photographing for the love of it, instinctually, not over thinking everything.
I decluttered my house, my garage, my gear…maybe what I needed all along was to declutter myself. There was a tempest within, and now, in its place you’ll find a resolute calm. The kind that lets you breathe deeply and exhale fully. It’s exactly where I need to be.
It’s hard to believe it’s April. The end of April. The weather is warmer, everything is green, the light is amazing, and my ankle is healing. Life feels a little more normal this year, and I appreciate that. For the first time in what feels like ages, I’m able to slow down, decompress and enjoy living in the moment.
I haven’t ventured much from home this month, but I’ve found new ways to look at old things and that has sparked at least a little creativity.
I like to record my first impressions of a camera so when I opened the box from lensrentals.com, I was prepared to jot down a few notes. I rented the Ricoh GRiiix for a week and to be honest, it looks at feels just like the GRiii I rented last fall. Small, compact, lightweight. It’s quite astounding to me how they’re able to get such a large sensor and IBIS (or as Ricoh calls it, “3-axis shake reduction) into such a tiny camera.
Anyone with a bit of camera and photography knowledge will find this camera pretty user friendly. It took about 30 seconds to change some of my preferences in the menu and get shooting. The menu system is very well laid out and simple to use. Things are where you’d expect them to be. (Fujifilm should take note…they have the most overly complicated menus). The touch screen is plenty responsive and makes navigating the menu even easier.
I’ve said before that a Fujifilm X80 (an update to the cult classic X70) with at least a 24mp sensor, better autofocus, and a few tweaks to the ergonomics would be my perfect camera. However, the more time goes by, the more obvious it seems that Fuji has no intention of producing such a camera, opting instead to invest R&D into the continued improvement of the X100 series. Sad.
I’ve been a Fuji shooter for nearly seven years but I am growing increasingly disillusioned with the company. Oh, their products are still amazing, don’t get me wrong, and I appreciate the continued firmware updates. But like other companies before them, they too have succumbed to over production. New cameras every year with only marginal updates. Not only does this devalue the older gear, but it’s this constant chase (granted, I could have more self control, but I know my own weaknesses) for the latest and greatest.
Compare that with Leica. A company that has been producing cameras with nearly the exact same body styling and lens mount for many decades. A company that is synonymous with quality and longevity. Ricoh isn’t Leica, but I get a similar vibe. They don’t seem interested in mass production, but rather, making the best tool they can for what their niche market wants. In my opinion, that’s where Fujifilm started, but they wound up going the direction of Canon and Nikon rather than Leica and Ricoh. Feel free to disagree of course. That’s just my viewpoint. I’ve grown really tired of the complicated use case of my Fuji gear. Sometimes, you just want to go out and shoot quickly and without a fuss.
Back to first impressions. I love the 40mm equivalent focal length. I mean, really love it. It’s one that has grown on me. When I first tried it with my Fuji system, I wasn’t a fan and actually sent the lens back. But it always nagged at me and I wound up buying it again because I didn’t feel I gave it a fair shake. It took a bit of time to get used to it because I was so used to shooting at either 28mm or 50mm, but I gradually came to really enjoy it and count it among my favorites. Which made picking up the Ricoh GRiiix feel familiar. It’s a very versatile focal length for my life and what I shoot.
One of my favorite things about the tiny Ricoh (a trait it shares with Leica) is the RAW file format: good ‘ol DNG. I love working with DNG files. They are so easy to process and they can be read by every software I’ve ever used. With my Fuji gear, there is certain software and apps that cannot even generate a JPEG preview of compressed Fuji files, which means I have to shoot uncompressed and that generates massive file sizes. It’s a small thing but one of my biggest pet peeves. Everything about my photography workflow has gone fully mobile and I don’t have the patience for things that don’t work well within those parameters.
I actually ordered – and cancelled – the Ricoh GRiiix twice back in the fall. I talked myself out of it because I already had a really good camera system in my iPhone and did I really need another expensive point and shoot? I enjoy having a camera with me at all times and my iPhone is just that. But shooting with my iPhone isn’t as tactile or as quick as shooting with a standalone camera. That gives the little Ricoh a clear advantage. It’s far above a typical point and shoot camera.
In fact, I find myself increasingly fascinated by the point and shoot camera in general and now have a desire to try out as many as I can get my hands on… but that’s a post for another day.
Ultimately, I wanted this camera and knew the “itch” wouldn’t go away until I devoted some serious time to it. (After all, my desire hasn’t abated at all in the eight months since I first heard about it). So, I ordered it renewed – aka “refurbished” – from Amazon in an effort to save at least a little bit of money and I’ll continue playing with the rented version until it arrives.
On a beautiful sunny day in early February, I went hiking with my family and ended up fracturing my ankle. I spent seven weeks in one of those clunky medical boots, except mine was marginally cooler because it pumped up like Air Jordans. It was annoying, but at least it was successful. My second X-ray showed that the fractures had healed. Unfortunately, I’m still experiencing so much pain and swelling that my doctor is sending me to see an orthopedic surgeon.
As you would imagine, this has significantly impacted my photography. I haven’t been nearly as mobile as I was before the injury. My photo walks are a thing of the past. I’ve been photographing my home more and more, which I actually love, but I have no idea when I’ll be able to do more than that.
I’m not going to lie. I’m embarrassed to share this next part after all I’ve posted about gear and the many, many mistakes I’ve made in that regard. But I know I’m not the only one who has struggled in this area so I think it’s important to be honest. Even when it makes me look like an idiot. Maybe especially then.
I have very much regretted not going with my gut last August and buying the Ricoh GR IIIx. I thought it would be the perfect companion to my life. But I talked myself out of it because I didn’t think it would be practical enough or versatile enough, and frankly, because I think it’s too expensive for what it is. What if I decided to get back into professional photography? I have always love the idea of fixed lens cameras while at the same time being terrified to commit to only one focal length. Silly, right? Who knows, maybe I’ll still pick up a Ricoh at some point.
But now here I sit, not really getting much use out of my interchangeable lens gear, mostly because I can’t seem to manage carrying around even that small amount of extra weight. I’m in near constant pain as it is. The tiny little Ricoh would be perfect right about now.
So, why am I telling you all this? Simple. I do it in the hope that you won’t make my mistakes. Stop filling your head with dozens of reviews, including mine. It’s impossible not to be swayed by the opinions of others. When you’re considering a purchase, rent it. Form your own opinions. You have a gut for a reason. Use the photographic tool that makes you the most happy and brings you the most joy, even if it’s the most impractical tool of all. Maybe especially then.