Around the time that I sent my Leica Q in for service (there was a smudge on the sensor of unknown provenance), I sold my Nikon D4. Thus, I’ve been camera-less for two months.
Before you correct me by declaring that my phone is a camera (I acknowledge that it is), let me clarify that I’m talking about a dedicated camera. A camera that has easily accessible manual controls. A camera that is ergonomic. A camera that has no shutter delay. Not a wafer-thin phone with a virtual shutter button that is apt to slip from my fingers. The output might be the same, but the process is not. And the process matters to me.
I am not a professional photographer, but I am a photographer. I love to document my life through photography, and I can’t remember the last time I effectively had no camera. So let me convey to you the sensation.
First, I don’t miss the weight on my shoulders. In the past 5 years, I’ve downsized from a DSLR to a point-and-shoot for day-to-day photography. I previously owned the Sony RX1, which I loved. But the contrast-based focusing mechanism was painfully slow in low light, so I switched to the Leica Q. The Q weighs in at a paltry 640 grams, but I can still feel the weight bearing down after a several hours.
Given the state of technology, there’s no excuse to not take great photos on a phone. Indeed, I’ve observed National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson shoot the hell out of a scene with his iPhone at the Photography at the Summit Nature Workshop. But I am no Jim Richardson. I have taken some nice photos on my phone, but it doesn’t inspire me the way a dedicated camera does. As much as the camera is a tool, it is also a crutch and excuse for taking bad photos – at least for me. Blame it on the camera, not my lack of talent, right?
Armed with just my phone, I don’t feel the urge to photograph everything. Consequently, I’ve taken far fewer photos than I would normally take, and I’m far less inclined to “work a scene.” But there have been many times when I wished I had my camera.
I supposed having no camera is akin to having no WiFi. Life without it is torture for a few weeks, and then the malleable brain adjusts to the new normal. Civilizations have survived without cameras and internet access. I suppose I can do without for a while too.
That said, I am looking forward to my reunion. Leica’s notoriously slow service department promises that it will happen soon, but until that day comes, I’ll try to enjoy real life without the cover of my camera.