It's a cliché by now but I'm making a list of all the stuff I want for Christmas. Surprisingly, the list is fairly short. Perhaps I'm not being strategic enough.

 It should come as no surprise to anyone here but I do like my cameras and lenses. When December rolls around, and the consensus is that I've been better not worse, I like to think about acquiring just a few more things to tuck in around the corners of what I already have. 

The first thought is always that it would be an exciting holiday if I just did a full system change. That would keep me busy for a while but it's definitely not going to happen this year. I keep playing with the new "toys" my more advantaged photography peers buy and parade in front of me and, to be frank, with the exception of a Leica SL2 there's not much out in the market that piques my interest. The SL2 itself is only interesting to me because of what I think is a very beautiful implementation of industrial design coupled with a minimalist operating menu. That's the long and short of it. Because underneath I believe that the SL2 is really a re-bodied Panasonic S1R. Sure, the colors and tones are tweaked with Germanic special sauce but after playing with raw files from an SL2 I'm pretty sure, if I spend hard time in PhotoShop, I can make some profiles that will get the differences in looks between the two cameras pretty close.

Then there are the stand alone cameras, like the Sigma fp and the Fuji X-100 V. The X-100 V is tempting. And after reading through a torrent of comments in response to Michael Johnston's article about the monochrome Leicas I went so far as to reserve the last new Fuji X-100 V (in black) at Precision Camera. I thought it might be interesting to work with the monochrome profiles represented in that camera's menu. I stopped myself when I remembered my low level distaste for the 35mm equivalent focal length. I quickly texted my guy and cancelled the hold on that one. Much to his relief as he had someone standing right in front of him ready to buy it. The Fuji camera was the group collated choice for "poor man's Leica Monochrome" in the comments at MJ's blog.

Paul (photographer and friend) texted me this morning to tell me that Precision Camera had just taken in trade a minty Leica S2 (007) and what is reported to be a fantastic Leica S zoom lens; the 30-90mm. I could have the pair for the paltry sum of only $12,000. I knew better than to consider dropping $12K on a camera and lens from a company that is legendary for taking its time to repair their ailing medium format cameras and I also realized that without access to a functional warranty that camera might just break me financially. And, of course, I'd want to supplement that zoom lens with some faster and longer optics; all at breathtakingly high prices. Pass. 

But that put me in the mindset of getting something medium format-ish. Being cheap and frugal I started researching the Fuji MF line and nearly settled on the 50R and a 110mm f2.0 lens to go with it. About half the price of the Leica stuff and with a much more Kirk like lens. I thought about this combination while I took a brief nap on the couch in the living room. And, by the way, the light coming through the doors in the dining room and reflecting off the Saltillo tile floor onto the high ceiling in the living room was just gorgeous today.

When I regained consciousness, surprisingly, the Fuji medium format lust had passed. Too many systems and too many rabbit holes to burrow down. While those pixie format MF cameras might seem "medium format" to most digital camera users I would always know that it could never compare to a "real" 2.25 inch by 2.25 inch negative or sensor. Just not the same thing. Plus, I'd done a few comparisons with files from the 50R and the S1R I own and found very, very little advantage to make grasping for mild sensor size upgrades even a thing.

I looked around the studio and thought about lighting. Hard to argue that one can ever have too much lighting gear. Hard but not impossible. That's why I've given away five or six big flashes and four or five smaller flashes this year. I also keep throwing out tattered light modifiers and crippled light stands. No, I'll have to look elsewhere for a satisfying addition to the pile this season. It's not going to be in the lighting field. Not unless someone invents something so exciting and new that we all have to have one.

And believe me, it won't be a flash.

In short I've looked and thought about the rich assortment of stuff in the market place and I've come up with only two things that I really think I want this year. Happily neither is pricy or prestigious. In fact, they are both kind of anti-prestigious in the current age of photography. 

Both are lenses. Both are from Sigma. And both are infinitely interesting to me. In this moment.

I've already mentioned the Sigma Contemporary 65mm f2.0 lens. I like the focal length very much and would love a lens that's engineered more to be good than to be fast. I don't mind carrying the fat Lumix S-Pro 24-70mm f2.8 around with me for work, or hoisting the ample 70-200mm around just to get close to that focal length but for my own jovial and relaxed personal work I think it would be really nice to have a lens that's slightly portrait-ish, smaller and lighter, while also highly corrected and ready to replace any number of 50 and 55mm lenses. So, that's my first choice and it's already on order. I hope I get one from the first delivered batch.

I know most of you would rush to get the matching 35mm f2.0 Sigma lens but I can hold off on that. It's so close to the 45mm and in a contest for my admiration the 45mm would always win. No, the other lens I want from the newly announced Sigma i line would be that delightful 24mm f3.5. It seems just right. No heroic measures taken to make it super fast! I'm happily surprised to see a wide lens like this enter the market with such a slow aperture became I interpret that to mean that Sigma compromised on f-stop and not on image quality. It's reasonably small and three or four copies of this would tilt the scales about as much as the one copy of my Sigma Art series 20mm lens (which I always find to be just a touch too wide for me...).

There are two configurations I imagine for the new batch of lenses. For work, where appropriate, I could arrive with an S1R body along with the 24mm, the 45mm, and the 85mm f1.4 (a recent purchase) and be ready for the kind of projects I really enjoy. The second configuration would be my "artistic" travel system which would include a solitary Sigma fp camera, the 24mm f3.5 and the 65mm f2.0. Those and a little plastic bag filled with additional camera batteries. 

All small enough to fit in a very small shoulder bag and all competent enough to make me look like a better photographer than I may be. 

I thought about buying a sports car instead and I drove two of the ones that interested me from Subaru. One was the WRX and the other a BRZ. But as I was test driving each in turn I kept imagining how frustrating it would be to actually own an exciting performance car in a city with one of the worst cases of traffic congestion in the country. A heavy clutch and a responsive six speed manual transmission might be a joy on winding country roads but in stop and go traffic, with the required cup of coffee in one hand, it's a recipe for nightmarish scenarios and disappointment. And, sadly, as a very practical person every time I exited the sports car/driving experience and re-entered my pedestrian Subaru Forester I found my comfort and joy level rise. I think I found the appropriately sorted vehicle for me already.

Truth be told I feel unsettled buying anything for myself this year. We've been fortunate in this economic down period and pandemic but I watch the (real) news and see so many suffering and I can only imagine how desperate things will get for people when the rent moratorium ends and the last of the money runs out. 

Something tells me it would be karmically a bit wiser to save some dry powder and be ready to help out. At least locally. There are bound to be people I know in the arts who will need a helping hand. Not sure how I'll feel trotting out new gear knowing a friend or acquaintance is grappling with profound need. 

Maybe I'll just get that set of replacement inks for the printer and call it a day. Hmmm. Somehow that seems better than yet another lens. 

I know almost all of you would love to donate to me this year. That's why I've established here on the blog a Patreon account, created numerous affiliate links to online retailers, started to accept PayPal and Venmo donations and am begging for you to send me hard cash so I can pay for and write about more photography gear. 

Oh....wait....none of that is true. I don't need any donations. But if you feel overwhelmed by your own good luck and wonderful personal situation perhaps I could suggest a donation to your local food bank instead. The people who benefit will likely never know you did it but I don't think that's really the point. 

Me, I'll suffer along with the meager gear I've managed to accrue so far. Hope you have a happy holiday season and I hope you take a moment in these rough times to make the holidays a little happier for someone less well off. 

End of soapbox.

Sorry, that's it for the "must have holiday gear listings."


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be cool if someone wrote a blog without an attached profit motive? Oh look! They did. Thanks.

SW Rick said...

As G. K Chesterton once wrote:

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

Augie said...

Stumbled upon your blog, looking to learn more about the fp and lo and behold I was illuminated but even better I came away with a sense of joy that has me smiling to no end. Thank you. Enjoy the day! August

Roger Jones said...

Well here I am again. I swore I'd stay away, but after reading about your issues looking for excellent B&W cameras I had to respond. All my Sigma's have a black and white mode. All the way back to my SD9. My SD1 thru my SDQ-H shoot B&W in Raw Mode. My SD14 and SD15 shoot B&W in the fine JPEG mode. When using Sigma's software Sigma Photo Pro it has a B&W setting, it's really a great very usable program once you lean to use it, and it's free. The Sigma produces excellent B&W, they match Leica. I agree the cameras are a little different, but once you get use to using them, their very simple, and easy to use.
Stay Safe

StephanU said...

Hi Kirk,
there is currently a minty Rolleiflex 6008 integral 2 (the very last model of the, in my opinion, best ever medium format film camera) available at the Italian iteration of the big auction site, with a very 'Kirky' 150 mm Zeiss Sonnar included. Would this trigger your GAS?
Happy holiday season from a long-term fan of your work from Germany

Michael Matthews said...

Sports car? The answer is Miata. I drove a 2012 Miata for five years. The best of everything the British tried to do with two-seater roadsters in the 1950-1960’s, but done right. Plus, mechanical perfection. I had to have an automatic rather than manual shift (nerve damage in left foot) and found the sequential-shift, manually controlled electronic transmission a delight. Faster than a stick shift, positive, nearly instantaneous, much like a motorcycle shifter. Or just put it in full automatic and drink your coffee in the traffic jam.

If Texans still sneer down at Miatas from their jacked up pickup trucks, consider the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan. Whether it’s the 505 horsepower QF or the mere 280 hp basic sedan it’s the same car. Transmission, handling, options...all available at a lease cost of slightly under $300/month. Yes, it’s a car to lease. Kiss it goodbye three years into its four-year warranty.

Raymond Charette said...

From way up North - Gatineau, across the river from Canada's capital, Ottawa.
Things are slow up here. There is a strict confinement rule in effect, trying to suppress, or at least curb, the spread of this G**damned virus.
I guess all we can truthfully wish each other this Holiday season is Health, mental resilience and Peace.
My very best wishes to you, Kirk, and to your family ... to all Austinites and to all reasonable people in the U.S.

Travis said...

I'm a Subaru guy, and I've loved my WRX every day of the last six years. For real-world traffic driving, the CVT auto is very good. But that Forester is a very nice ride, and I suspect - as you say - you're already in the right one.

Anonymous said...

X100: 1 Mile, 1 Year, 1 Lens on Youtube

I have been lucky to travel the world as a photographer and producer working for National Geographic. In this project, I decided to challenge myself and prove that interesting photographs can be made close to home. In this case, the mile of shoreline from my home to a lighthouse down the coast in Groton, CT. I was inspired by the lovely Fuji X100 with its fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens and wonderful B&W JPEGs. The camera, with its EVF that lets me see B&W as I look though it, rekindled my love of B&W after 40 years of shooting color.

Greg Heins said...

One of the highlights (and yes, they are indeed few) of this year was that within a couple of weeks after the many, many layoffs at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston, a fund was set up to help those affected and raised over $125K, well over the original goal. To be sure, it’s not enough and that institution is only one of many here that left many people to fend for themselves, but still...

Jon Maxim said...

Donate to food bank. Check.