Inspiration, issues & comment

Focus – lessons from a vintage camera

FocusAt one point all my photos were taken with a vintage Pentax from the 1970’s.  It was on loan to me from a family member and when I bought a Nikon film SLR back in 2001, I handed the Pentax back, thinking I wouldn’t miss it now I had my shiny new camera.

How wrong I was.

I not only missed the feel and smell of the camera, the sound of the shutter, the thumb action of the manual wind.  But also the clarity of the photos.  The sharpness.  The colours.

I recently found out the camera was sold for $10 in a garage sale during a house move.  I inwardly cringed when I thought of it going to someone who may not have cherished it as much as I did.  Hopefully that was not the case.

At the time I persisted with my new camera, trying to get to grips with it and produce the quality of photos I was used to.  Somehow I never quite got the hang of it and it was eventually relegated to the back of the cupboard and replaced by a small digital camera (Sony Cybershot) and more recently a digital SLR (Nikon D3200).

It turns out I would have been better paying $10 to keep the Pentax rather than the $1,000 or so I shelled out for the shiny new SLR and zoom lens which I hardly used on account of the space it took up.  But that’s not really the point.  The point is that when I think about using the Pentax, what I really miss most of all is the moment of focus.

Yes, I know, I can use manual focus on a digital SLR too but for some reason it’s just not the same.  Why is that?  I think it may be something to do with the simplicity of the old Pentax.  It was so easy to focus yet if you messed it up it could ruin your shot.  There was something about those few seconds of holding ones breath, looking once more at the shot through the lens, and slowly getting the perfect focus before finally pressing down on the shutter button.

It’s all so easy nowadays, isn’t it?  Just stick the camera on autofocus and away you go.  Looking through the lens but at the same time not really looking.  You can take as many shots as you like until you get a good one.  It’s the same with computers, smartphones and social media where we are reading everything but not really reading anything at all.  How can we?  It’s impossible to take in all the information we are bombarded with.

Our focus has become splattered in a million directions and we, as a result, have become splattered in a million pieces.  Knowing a little about everything, doing a little of everything.  Without any real focus or depth.

Obviously some people have an amazing ability to focus and get things done.  Me?  Not so much.  Which is why I’m going back to basics and reminding myself of the vintage Pentax and the point of focus.  It never let me down when I was taking a photo.  Maybe it could help me now.

Pause.  Reflect.  Focus.  Act.

It’s time to turn off autofocus and see if I can make this my motto for 2015.

Oh, and if you know of a 1970’s Pentax that needs a good home, please give me a shout ♥

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