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How good is good enough?


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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How good is good enough?

6 Feb 2022 11:57AM   Views : 378 Unique : 250


We all want to ‘improve’ in what we do, don’t we? (I except a very small number of people who I met during my working life, who were happy with things exactly as they were – I found it rather hard, in a brief spell as a union rep, to understand a couple of members who didn’t want a pay rise in exchange for what looked to me like a minimal, and probably interesting change in their duties.


My own work, at that time, was largely concerned with producing audit reports that were impeccably based on facts, precisely and accurately argued, and polished like a Leica front lens element. A few years later, having learned, from hard experience, that a roughly-right answer in good time always has the legs of a perfect report that’s a month too late to be any good, I adopted ‘good enough is… Good enough’ as my work motto. UK regulatory agencies, please note. It’s better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.


And so to cameras and lenses. My ‘good enough’ is my Alpha 900: when bought in 2008, it was in many ways state of the art, though it lacked live view, mirror lock, and the lightning autofocus of the best Canon and Nikon models. But for the first time in my experience, digital challenged film for sheer quality, and the 900 filled all the deficits of cameras I’d owned before.

The herald of Sony’s move to full frame was the Planar 85mm f/1.4 lens, released a year before the camera: why else would you sell such a lens than as a portrait lens for full frame? In 2014, I bought one, and it was duly a little sharper than the Minolta equivalent it replaced.


Do I want to go back to using it as my main camera? No – because an Alpha 7 is smaller, lighter, faster to use, and quieter: these days, the 900 feels like a big lump in my hand, and makes me question who anyone would remain wedded to the Heftosauruses that Nikon and Canon sell for news and sports photography if they didn’t actually NEED an incredibly high level of weatherproofing and tank-like solidity. Cameras don’t need Chobham armour for most purposes!

But if push came to shove, the 900 does things almost as well as the 7: and I’d certainly get fitter, given that it’s 50% heavier as well as bigger… Heading towards 2 kilos with the 85mm… Can you tell which is which in the comparison pictures I shot this morning?


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
6 Feb 2022 12:00PM
And while comparative tests are a great idea before you buy, once you've made your choice, remember that little section in Desiderata, that which is to be desired:

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

It's the same with cameras ,lenses, and cars.
Imageryonly Avatar
Imageryonly Plus
3 203 11 United Kingdom
6 Feb 2022 12:35PM
7 on the right, John Smile

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
6 Feb 2022 2:31PM
Yes indeed. But of the pairs of images, is the 7 above or below?
Imageryonly Avatar
Imageryonly Plus
3 203 11 United Kingdom
6 Feb 2022 2:35PM
Above the strap, below the weight Smile
JuBarney Avatar
JuBarney Plus
12 36 7 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2022 12:45PM
Quote: If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Unquote

My suggestion that I had hidden away: Don’t compare yourself to others. Be like the sun and the moon and shine when it’s your time.
Robert51 Avatar
Robert51 14 12 147 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2022 1:50PM
I think the one thing your missing here John is when your camera becomes like an old friend. You both know what you want and how to achieve it. Thus when it comes to change, letting go is such a hard thing to do. Most camera and lenses do somethings better than others and as they get better we long for that look we used to produce way back.
I know you love old lenses and I'm sure there are many you would never let go. At this present time I'm am working with all my old lenses from different size formats and seeing how the work on a four thirds EM1. So I'm sure that rather than moving on I will be buy a lot more older lenses. This is not because they will do but to bring something more to my photography. I know I can do most things in PS but a certain look can only be produced by that special lens.

I don't feel any of us settle for "that we do" in our photography as our best image has not been taken yet.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
8 Feb 2022 4:32PM
The question of not letting go is entirely open, Robert - and my own tendency is shown by the fact that i still own the big, heavy lump as well as the newer camera.

My point, though, is that if i had a limited budget that precluded the A7, I am well aware that the 900 is good enough. and there may be a day when it has a chance to shine again (nice quote, Ju!)
GwB Avatar
GwB Plus
3 119 United Kingdom
8 Feb 2022 7:58PM
That will have to do has been the story of my life until I paid off our mortgage, but even now I think do I really need that super duper does everything kit,
having spent most of my working life setting up, auditing & measuring quality control systems one of the golden rules of design is based around fit for purpose,
Anything more is a waste and anything less leads to customer dissatisfaction. My passion is bird watching, as I don't drive I normally walk or cycle to locations
so portability is the biggest factor so now settled on a used fuji xt20 mirrorless with a new 70-300mm and a 1.4 TC and loving it. was sitting in a hide next to a guy
who had a top cannon DSLR with a lens the size of a anti tank missile launcher, I mentioned to him I was struggling in the low light he said me too, we compared
shots and they were just as grainy as mine.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
8 Feb 2022 9:15PM
My big professional lesson was when I learned that my auditees wanted to know what they could do to improve their processes and outcomes. They weren't concerned with the perfection of the audit process - just that the outcomes were useful, and accurate. And, of course, timely.

The Audit Commission - a name dreaded by UK public sector people - never 'got' that. They had to have the last word, and never be wrong. They were, therefore, often irrelevant. I knew a lot of good and competent people who worked for the Audit Commission, but it was often poorly managed.

I'd back a good photographer with one lens and a ten year old camera who understands how to use it against an 'all the gear and no idea' tog with the most expensive kit available...

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