A New Film Camera: Contax 645
I recently added a new camera to my *very* sparse camera kit. It's so sparse, at times I feel like I could be setting myself up for dissaster by only having ONE singular camera with ONE singular lense as my go-to piece of equipment. Of course I always take a back-up camera and body and many film backs for my Hasselblad 500C- but up until now the Hassie with the 80mm lens was all I ever shot with. It is an incredibly simple set up, and an incredibly magical and powerful system. The Hasselblad 500 was the camera that first went into space in 1962 to document the American space stations. It's the camera favorited by Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe. The Hasselblad 500C is simply one of the most advanced, yet simplistic, cameras out there. Mine was made in 1970, and carries a rich history with it. I've relied on it to articulate my vision every day for the past 7yrs. Finally deciding to bring a new camera into the mix was a very difficult decision. There wasn't much competition over which new medium format film camera I'd settle on. The answer was always very clear- the Contax 645. This is an equally gorgeous, massive, clunky and powerful camera system. Instead of square negatives (like the Hasselblad), the Contax 645 creates a fat rectangular negative - similar to 35mm but much much larger. I love it, and though my camera bag is now massively heavy- it is stocked with the perfect pairing of medium format film cameras to create the best, most emotive, sharpest, stunning fine art dog photographs possible.
As I've been getting used to my new Contax 645, I've realized how much I enjoy getting perfect exposures. It is a science. It is an art. A perfect exposure must be seen and felt before it is even realized in camera. The Contax 645 has a wonderful in-camera metering system (unlike the Hasselblad which requires an incident meter) that I've been having a lot of fun with- and is giving me creamy smooth exposures.
But- this makes me think of so many other photographers of all sorts who don't even know how to use an incident meter, or how to properly expose their subjects, or use natural light. Instead- what they rely on is their camera's AUTO settings to give them a poorly executed general exposure- which results in flat light, blocked up shadows, and blown out highlights. Then, these poorly exposed images get pushed even farther on the computer- by adding 'actions' and 'filters' which automatically coat the digital image in a generic set of color adjustments and tonal range. There is no thinking required in this approach, no originality, and certainly no understanding of photographic concepts or desire to take control of one's images. I look at some imagery online and simply see Photoshopping tricks, NOT the actual image. The composition, mood, and texture all get abandoned - the importance becomes poorly executed post-processing. When digital post-processing becomes more imporant than creating the image in-camera -- your work is no longer photography, it is digital art. Also- it's bad.
Shooting with the Contax 645 fills me with an excitement about photography- it is mine, and I can do with it what I please. I would never sacrifice my power to make creative decisions for a quick digital shortcut.