GEAR matters ! 7

I’ve been talking about Gear in my articles for several Blogs now. The thing is, I’ve written so much about Street Photography since 2016 that I sometimes feel like I’m repeating myself. A bit normal, you might say, for a Blog that is essentially focused on Street Photography. If I’ve written a lot on this subject, it’s because this Blog was a bit of a diary about my journey and my beginnings in the practice. For several years now, long before I left Aix-en-Provence, I hadn’t had much to say about Street Photography. I’ve reached a stage where I don’t really ask myself any more questions. I just take photos and that’s that. That’s probably why I talk more about Gear now.

John Harper also said in one of his replies to my previous Blog, that even though I deny it, I must be suffering a little from GAS (GEAR Acquisition Syndrome) because I keep talking about the X-E4, the X100, … . I’ve also done quite a few articles on new lenses: the 7Artisan 35 mm f0.95, the TTArtisan 23 mm f1.4 . In short, for a guy who keeps saying he’s not into Gear, it’s suspicious!

I recently shared a slideshow on YouTube with a selection of photos taken in Thailand. I’m posting the link below.

One of the comments said that I was “an example that vision is important, not gear! ” I’d been writing a blog about this for a while. This comment prompted me to expand on my thoughts. Contrary to what you may think, I seriously believe that GEAR matters! The Gear is important. It’s not because I shoot almost exclusively with an old camera like the Ricoh GRD IV that I wanted to send the message that Gear isn’t important and that you can do Street Photography with just a 10 MP camera from 2013 !

No, it has nothing to do with that. I chose this camera because it suited my needs perfectly. Here’s why the Ricoh GRD IV is the ultimate camera for me:

  • 28mm f1.9
  • Small 1/1.7″ sensor
  • Camera format (size and weight)
  • Ergonomics
  • IQ
  • Leaf shutter

For the way I use it and also for the way I take photos in the street, the Ricoh GRD IV suits me perfectly and it’s for these qualities that I love this camera. Other people will have different criteria than me and this camera won’t suit them. For example, the lack of a viewfinder would put a lot of people off, I’m sure. The size of the sensor too. Some people swear by the 24×36, or even the APS-C format. There are no rules here. Everyone chooses the gear that suits them best.

That’s why I think GEAR matters, not in the sense that you have to have the latest model with all the MPs and useless fancy stuff that manufacturers want to sell us for a thousand euros. It’s just that for each photographer, you need to find the equipment that suits you. You have to be careful not to fall into the giant traps set by the manufacturers, who are constantly pushing you to upgrade your gear. They all have their brand ambassador programmes to promote their flagship models. This is very true in Street Photography. Whether it’s Pentax/Ricoh, Fujifilm or Leica, to name but a few. Their ambassadors are pretty good street photographers who have a big presence on social networks to promote their Leica Q3, Ricoh GRIII(x) or Fujifilm X100V.

Let’s get back to me, bearing in mind that this is about Street Photography, but it’s also MY photographic diary, so it’s also about me! Do I suffer from GAS (GEAR Acquisition Syndrome) ? If you look at what I’ve bought in the last 8 years, you might wonder. Let’s take stock:

  • A Fujifilm X-E2 with the 18mm f2
  • Lots of Ricoh GRD IVs (not my fault if I broke them … Well frankly might be)
  • Ricoh GR (I bought 2 because I broke them too …)
  • Different lenses for my X-E2 : 27 mm (resold), 18/55 mm (resold), 70/200 mm (bought for South Africa trip), 35 mm f0.95, 23 mm f1.4
  • Ricoh GR III (gift from friends)
  • Fujifilm XF10

That’s not bad in 8 years, is it? All this to end up using the Ricoh GRD IV 90% of the time. My one and only interchangeable lens camera is the Fujifilm X-E2. The only camera that wasn’t really useful was the Fujifilm XF10, because it has all the features of the Ricoh GR (D). I just wanted to have a bit of fun with something different. In fact, I don’t use it any more. I remember paying a pittance for it (€250). I may have to sell it for someone else to play with.

In any case, considering the equipment I’ve acquired over the years, my purchases have been guided by very specific needs and not because I’ve given in to the sirens of the manufacturers! I bought the Ricoh GR second-hand when the GR II was already out. Not to mention the Ricoh GRD IV ! The Fujifilm XF10 was an attempt to get out of the GR sphere, because I was fed up with piling up dead GRD IVs at home that didn’t work any more. Only the GR III was new, but as I said, it was a gift and as you know very well, I don’t like this camera… So I used it very little. I could resell it, but as it was a gift, I’m reluctant to do so.

So no, I don’t think I suffer from GAS. Or else I’ve got my head in the sand! I told you that I really enjoyed shooting with 35mm in my previous blog. I only spent 3 weeks in Thailand with the Fujifilm X-E2 | TTArtisan 23 mm f1.4, but that was enough to see a growing interest in doing more with this focal length. I’ve been using the 28mm in the street for 8 years now. Yes, I could go on like this indefinitely. But change is good, even if I’m not in a phase where I need a boost to find interest in photography that I’ve had in recent years. No, these days I’m pretty comfortable in my shoes and I don’t worry about anything, I just go out with my camera and document the streets of Saint-Denis. But I’m interested in the 35mm because it’s certainly the attraction of the novelty and also of using the focal length that a lot of street photographers have used. GEAR matters! I asked myself what was important to me today:

  • A compact camera
  • A fixed 35 mm focal length, of course! No zoom.
  • The Leaf shutter
  • IQ

Very few cameras ticked these boxes. Cameras with interchangeable lenses are a little bulky. This is the case with the Fujifilm X-E2 | 23 mm combo. Leica cameras are out of the question for me. The Leica Q3 looks great on paper, with the ability to shoot 28mm, 35mm, 50mm … But it’s too expensive and there’s a size problem too. Jean Perenet suggested the Olympus Micro 4/3 with a 17mm (which corresponds to a 35mm). But even then, I didn’t think it wasn’t compact enough and I didn’t want a new camera with interchangeable lenses. I already have the Fujfilm X-E2 for that. The Ricoh GRIIIx could have done the job, but the focal length is 40mm. That leaves Fujifilm’s X100 series.

A manufacturer I know well. The X100 ticks all the boxes that are important to me. I won’t hide it from you any longer. I bought a second-hand Fujifilm X100 IV. It’s not the latest iteration, but I’ll settle for it. It still cost me €860. That’s very expensive for a second-hand camera. I’ll try to take better care of it than my Ricoh GRD IV. They’re both IV iterations. I don’t know if that’s a good sign… I hope to receive it soon. So to conclude this Blog, GEARS matters! I’ve found the camera that ticks all the boxes that are important to me. We’ll see how it goes on the streets of Saint-Denis. Even though I had the time of my life with this lens in Thailand, I consider these 3 weeks as an enchanted interlude. Like my trips to Roma, Paris and Bristol in 2019. The work done in these cities has nothing to do with the daily routine of Saint-Denis. Documenting the streets of my city is much more laborious than doing Street Photography in ‘exotic’ places. But it’s much more rewarding to come out with interesting photos!

All the photos were made with the Ricoh GRD IV.

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7 thoughts on “GEAR matters !

  • Deborah Swain

    This post really resonates with me! Gear really DOES matter! The camera I’ve loved most and has truly become an extension of my arm is the Ricoh GR II. I’ve used it almost exclusively for five years now, which is quite an achievement. And yet, and yet … I still spend more hours than I’m prepared to admit scrolling through MPB! The Olympus Micro 4/3 with a 17mm is in my “Saved” list as it happens, as am looking for something just to shake things up a bit, till I inevitably head back to my Ricoh! Great shots as always!

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      It’s comfortable to keep shooting with the same camera. It helps to build some consistent body of work. I ‘m pretty sure that you’re like me with your GR. You know perfectly your camera. You operate blindly. You know the 28mm. No surprises. That’s why GEAR mattters. Of course I could shoot with any camera. But would I be in symbiosis with any camera to free my mind to shoot? Don’t think so…
      With the GR, it was like dancing in the streets. I don’t know how it’s going to be with the x100f… We’ll see.
      The olympus was interesting but I didn’t want another system in my GEAR. I ‘ve already the X-E2 and some lenses so it does not make any sense to have an olympus camera. I should have to switch to olympus system…
      I’ ve always said that routine was good. Anyway change is good as well!

  • John Harper

    Well, well well…You bought another camera and finally confessed! Who’d have imagined that ????.

    I’ve always said to you that the camera won’t make any difference, you’re always going to produce top quality work regardless of gear. I’ll be interested to see how you get on with the X100 though. I bought one about 8 years ago, it’s a great tool, but I couldn’t quite get used to it. No real idea why, just couldn’t get comfortable, and sold it after six months. Gear is important, for that very point. We have to be at ease and comfortable with our cameras. There’s enough to concern ourselves with on the street without adding to it with worrying or fiddling with a camera that we haven’t bonded with.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      As I said. I hope that “IV” iteration is just a coincidence… The GR were quite cheap on the second hand market. Well that’s not why I kept on breaking them… The x100 are more expensive… I think that the x100 seems more solid that the GRD IV. Well it’s still a camera. Should not get too close to water 🙂
      I think that I’ve read in a comment on your last blog that you used to have a x100s. You mean that I’m likely to sell it in 6 months and finish selling a kidney to put my hands on a M11. !!!!

      • John Harper

        You might sell it after six months, depends whether it’s broken by then! You’ll end up with Leica, I can see where this is heading! At one time I was shooting with a Canon 5D (Weddings/Portrait shoots) and I had a Fujifilm X100. The X100 wasn’t as good as the Canon and the Canon was too big for street, sold it all and got a Leica, that solved everything.