Photography for Dummies, 17 February 2011


No, I’m not implying that y’all’re dummies…just appropriating the title of those popular how-to guides for my own purposes…and to illustrate a point: you don’t need a great camera to take great photos. Just take a look:

KodakDuaflexIV CHI Acros100 LakeShoreTrust01B

Photo Information:

Location: Chicago, Illinois; Streeterville Neighborhood
Camera: Kodak Duaflex IV
Lens: Integral Kodak Kodar 72mm f/8
Film: Fuji Neopan Acros 100 (120 respooled onto 620)

While I do own a number of sophisticated cameras, I intentionally used one that is much simpler so that I could illustrate this point. Think I’m kidding? Check out the camera I used to take this photo:


If you scoot over to the Flickr page for the image, you’ll see that the camera is quite simple indeed. It has only one shutter speed and only three aperture settings – most modern digital cameras (and film system cameras, for that matter) have over a dozen of each. As with many of Kodak’s cameras, operating this one is simplicity itself: you quite literally point it at what you want to photograph, and shoot. That’s about it.

Now, to be fair, the photo above does benefit from the many years of photographic experience that I have, so I did apply some of those tricks in post-processing after I scanned the negative. Also, given that I scanned the 6cm x 6 cm negative frame at 4800 dpi, the resulting original gets imported into my computer at an effective resolution of 115 megapixels (for reference, my D80 has a resolution of 10 megapixels) [1] – and that’s not even the highest resolution I can scan. [2] Of course, image resolution and post-processing are all for nought if the image you capture isn’t worth all that effort – and that’s the one thing that can’t easily be taught…if at all.

My point here is that for the most part, it isn’t the “quality” of your equipment that matters, but how you use what you do have. [3] You can take great photos with a cheap point-and-shoot camera, and you can take some truly abominable photos with the fanciest DSLR if you’re not careful. It’s better to learn how to exploit your equipment to the fullest extent possible, rather than waste money on equipment that you may never use to its fullest potential. I’ll be posting additional photos from this and other simple cameras in the near future, so that you can see just what can be done with these “low-tech” gems.



[1]: Scanned at 4800 dpi, a 6cm x 6cm (2.25″ x 2.25″) results in an image that has a resolution of approximately 115 MP (2.25″ x 4800 pixels/inch = 10800 pixels; 10800 x 10800 = 116,640,000 pixels).

[2]: My scanner can technically handle up to 12,800 dpi scans…which would result in an effective image resolution of just under 830 MP; I found out the hard way that my computer can’t really handle these, though. When I scanned the same negatives at 6400 dpi, my computer choked, so I had to set the scan resolution a bit lower. I don’t even want to know what would happen if I tried to scan ’em at 12800 dpi!

[3]: That said, you don’t want to go too far into the low-quality realm, though. At the very least, you should try to use a camera that is designed to be a camera, and not a toy…but that’s a discussion for another time. Soon.

  [4]: Oh, in case you’re wondering about the building itself, it is the former Lake Shore Trust Building (1922, designed by Marshall & Fox) on North Michigan Avenue at Ohio. Point of personal trivia: I briefly worked with Lucien Lagrange Architects, whose office was located on the fourth floor. I say “was” because LLA closed their doors late last year. Even though I was only briefly employed there, it was a nice office in which to work, and the location was great. I miss that place.


3 Responses to “Photography for Dummies, 17 February 2011”

  1. […] actually something to that title WRT the camera I used to take this and the photo in my previous post, but I’ll get to that in a minute. For right now, here’s another photo, fresh from […]

  2. toemailer Says:

    Interesting. And I agree that equipment is not the answer in itself, it’s the eye that saw the moment…

  3. […] Despite its appearance (see my original post a couple weeks back), the Duaflex series of cameras are not true twin-lens cameras, even though […]

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