Modern cameras have evolved towards a uniform set of ergonomics. If you are looking for a new, high-end, mass-market camera, there’s a good chance the one you get will be covered in black plastic, have a hand grip on the right side, and place the majority of controls within the reach of your right thumb and forefinger. And there is nothing wrong with this uniformity; these cameras are like this because the layout works. Vintage film cameras, on the other hand, are what evolved into this form, so they come in a larger variety of shapes, sizes, and layouts. The layout of film cameras is also influenced by the type of film and the functionality that was available when the camera was produced. Film cameras simply have more diversity with regards to form and function.
Since I dropped back into the world of film photography, and my eyes were opened to the number of choices available, I have been searching for the kit that works for me. I tried a lot of cameras. After an obligatory TLR phase, I briefly thought that mid-century rangefinders would be the camera for me. I eventually realized that I was looking for two different cameras. When I go out with the intention to take photos, I like a medium format camera with a large aperture manual focus lens. When I just go out, I like a small, capable point-and-shoot; I’m looking for an alternative to the fine-in-their-own-right iPhone cameras.
As time moves forward, preferences change and get refined. This is how my camera choices have evolved over the past year.
This chart only shows frames that were scanned in, so the numbers are not correct in absolute terms. For example, I shot more than 8 shots on my view camera; I just didn’t scan them in. Regardless, the ratios are for the most part close to actual usage. The only exception is that the Polaroid SX-70 is underrepresented. I frequently skip scanning Polaroids, and when I do, the exif data normally doesn’t get added properly.
I stuck with my two-camera system for 2023, but I upgraded the parts. In both cases, I moved from pricey workhorses to expensive show horses. Since I was doubling down on working with two main cameras, I sold off many of the other cameras which were laying around unused. In addition to decluttering my closet, it helped finance the upgrades.
In 2023, I traded my Hasselblad 503cx for a 203FE. The 503cx was originally selected as a more reliable alternative to my old favorite Bronica EC-II. This upgrade gave me back the functionality I lost when switching off of the Bronica. The Hasselblad 203FE also allowed me to get a 110 f/2 lens, which I am still learning how to use effectively. A Pentax 67 with the 105 f/2.4 was the competitor for this upgrade. I opted to stick with Hasselblad, at least for now. My goal for 2024 is to take full advantage of the f/2 lens, which means evaluating the scene more like I would with a large format camera and dialing down the aperture more frequently.
I also traded the absolutely amazing Nikon 35Ti for a wonderful Minolta TC-1. The role of this spot in my lineup is to be an iPhone camera alternative. The 35Ti is still my personal pick for the absolute best point-and-shoot, but it is very noticeable when toting it around in a pocket. The TC-1 is about as small as the very nice Olympus XA; it trades in the f2.8 out the lens for an in-built flash and autofocus system. I take the TC-1 along much more frequently, but the number of bangers it produces has been noticeably lower than the 35Ti. I am training myself to use the spot meter on the TC-1 and am looking forward to getting more keepers out of it in 2024.
There were a few additional changes down the list. The Canon Rebel T3i dropped 2 spots, and the Canon ELAN 7e went to a new home in 2023. No longer taking soccer photos accounted for those changes. The iPhone moved back into third place. The Bronica EC-II also jumped up 3 spots, but that was just one last attempt to make it work before selling the camera off and jumping to the Hasselblad 203FE. Finally, the Minolta AF-Sv, the Talker, saw some action on a backpacking trip and popped back on the list.