“I had just discovered the Leica. It became the extension of my eye, and I have never been separated from it since I found it.”
By Garet Field-Sells
Henri Cartier-Bresson exclaimed about the camera system he used to aid in his intuition, sensibility, and understanding of his subjects. Developing as a young cinematography artist, I was inspired to attend film school where I held massive rocks of technology and scientifically augmented glassware in my hands. Trained to idolise the newest innovation in camera culture, I found a specific boasting flair in my vernacular when I talked about these objects I trusted so much. The unspecific product names like XL2, F900, Genesis, and Red rolled off my tongue in every creative meeting. With my technologically savvy self and my portfolio of high end, rather incredibly useful, arsenal of imaging machines- I dropped everything the second I picked up the Canon 5D Mark II. I could do more with that camera than I had the creative energy for. With every shutter snap, and smooth vibration of the focusing lens- the camera was intuitively connected to my thought process.
“For us the camera is a tool, the extension of our eye, not a pretty little mechanical toy.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
For years I trusted this pretty little mechanical tool, however when I co-founded Installation Magazine two years ago, I temporarily replaced my camera for a new Mac along with several testing iPads and iPhones. Rather than capturing, I am curating. I see the creative world change daily with striking images rolling down my social feeds every second, most of which are captured on tools like the iPhone’s 8 mega-pixel camera, which is in turn technically powered by an app.
As I walk into galleries and artist’s studios to capture their intimate work spaces, I need to react on my intuition, be sensitive to the space, and listen to my subjects. Suddenly, this shiny black Canon 5D followed by a camera bag filled with a cacophony of lenses seems like an overwhelming burden that builds a barrier with my subjects before I even can set in on the ground. What I really need is a camera that simply captures the moment in a way that I and my subject feel comfortable with. As I hesitantly grab my iPhone to record the scene in view- I realize that the image is sharp and perfect to print in our digital pages – but I’m not at all comfortable with the tool in my hands.
Inspired by the words of Cartier-Bresson, I head over to my local camera mega-store with the intention to purchase a Leica. I didn’t care which Leica – as long as it was under $800, digital and smaller than my 5D. I thought, ‘people will take me seriously with a Leica point-and-shoot camera, it’s a Leica!’ As enamoring the red wall with black and titanium-silver sculptures held behind glass light-boxes were, I was left unimpressed with the cameras within my budget. Not wanting to trade all of what I loved about my current camera, I perused the countertops of various makes and models and stopped at the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100. Admittedly still marked with an unspecific product name, I was more shocked that I was even considering buying a Sony point-and-shoot to use professionally on assignments. Before I continue, let’s just break-down what this camera technically is.
Digital Photography Review:
“The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is an enthusiast compact camera based around a 20MP 1″ CMOS sensor. It features a Zeiss-branded 28-100mm equivalent F1.8-4.9 stabilized lens featuring Zeiss T* coatings to minimize internal reflection. The rest of its specification is pretty impressive too – a 1.2 million dot 3.0″ LCD (VGA resolution but using Sony’s WhiteMagic technology to offer greater brightness or improved battery life), and 1080p60 video capture or 1080i with the ability to shoot 17MP stills without interrupting movie recording. The camera can even boast a respectable 330 shots from a charge, according to CIPA tests.”
This little mechanical tool exists in a shape that is recognizable and respected while having the characteristics of a mobile device. I’m not raising my cell phone to Instagram my subjects, livecasting my every moment, as if disrespectful to the actual enjoyment of the space in time. I’m solely recording that moment I’m present in, so I can continue the enjoyment of processing the meaning later. My photographer’s ego and my high-brow tech nose met in the middle and found an extention of my eye that works for me. No matter if I’m shooting on celluloid’s beasts or capturing on digital’s workhorses, I learned that I can express the same message and emotion, as long as I’m comfortable and masterful with the tools I make available to myself.
Meanwhile my Canon is on Craigslist, and I’m shooting the way I want to more everyday.
All images courtesy of Sony