Over the last months my first Nikon camera, the D800 started to fade away. There were issues with the metering, then pixel damage to the sensor and eventually autofocus was not working anymore. Well, actually focusing didn’t work at all, with none of my lenses and the Nikon specialized service in Brisbane that I left the camera with, could not fix this.
So I had to decide to buy a new camera. This was an expense I had not been expecting and I think that after five years one of those “modern” cameras should not fail. But maybe my expectations are a little bit old fashioned in that way.
Confronted with the need to make a decision my mind veered off into the direction of buying this wonderful minimalistic Leica SL camera. Amazing performance, most wonderful lenses, clear and easy to understand menus. Leica have been producing my dream cameras for a long time. If only I had the money for this...
So I had to say farewell to the amazing viewfinder, the 3D rendering and the minimalist form language of the body and focus on what is achievable. And achievable was to buy the successor camera of the D800.
If you compare the outside appearance of the D850 to the Leica SL you clearly see huge differences. Where you see on the one the sophistication of a minimalist form language you find on the other side a mass product. The shapes of the Nikon are complaisant but not more than that.
And like all modern cameras the rear, top and even front of the D850 are covered with buttons and dials that give you the choice of a plethora of functions that you will never ever need in your life as a photographer.
Mind you - a camera is supposed to collect light and to transfer it to a sensor chip or film. Full stop. I don’t need a million processing apps inside of my camera, I don’t need shooting banks (what the hell is that supposed to be anyway?), I probably don’t even need automated metering. The only thing that I find really useful is autofocus although even that is not really needed supposed you have a good viewfinder with reliable focusing aids, which is regrettably not the case in most modern cameras anymore. For that reason I also don’t need focus peeking.
So with a sigh and the feeling of un-acquaintance (if such a word exists) I decided to order a D850 from eBay. I would certainly prefer buying my camera from a local camera dealer but the price difference between eBay or Amazon and local shops is so significant (in my case it was a thousand British pounds) that I could not resist.
A few weeks ago I received my new camera. I opened the box to unpacked it, nothing spectacular, Nikon clearly have not joined the Apple induced unpacking hype yet. After charging, inserting a card and reading parts of the manual (over 300 ! difficult to understand pages) I took some probatory shots. And surprisingly holding the camera felt different. My hands liked it, it gave me the feeling as if this camera belonged there, something I had never experienced with my old D800. The camera just felt right in my hands.
And this feeling continued when I took the camera out for a shooting session for the first time. I thoroughly enjoyed holding this thing and shooting it. Even using he buttons and dials was a nice haptic experience.
That I hadn’t expected. I loved my new camera. And it encouraged me to use it. Just the way it sits in my hands gives me the feeling that I want to make pictures with it.
I have read about this phenomenon before, about the ability of certain cameras to make the photographer use it. But this in a Nikon? But it actually happened. And even when I added a relatively heavy 70-200mm f/4.0 lens which makes handling the camera more difficult, the feeling of having a nice tool persisted.
And the results have surprised me too. The pictures that I can create are of great technical quality. The files are easy to use and to process on the computer. They can take a lot of processing without falling apart. And the overall picture quality is clearly better than that of my D800.
And so when I go out now, I take my camera with me with the knowledge that taking pictures has become a more sensual process for me that I enjoy even more and that I enjoy watching and processing my pictures. What more can you expect from a camera? And the Leica dream? Yes, of course it is still there and unfulfilled. However, it has become a little less haunting.