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The art of downgrading


Andrew Reid
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It's the difference between Canon simple UI vs. Nikon complicated UI vs. Sony's broken UI. Too many buttons, little menus inside hidden menus packing hundreds of ''features'' and not organised cleanly, not even in colour. It's also the difference between iOS vs Android. Canon & apple approach is neat, functional, pleasing and FAST.

I just wish both companies have other major let-downs compared to the competition, like the 70D's video quality and iOS restrictiveness! 
 

​Given that I tear my hair out when using a Canon I'd think this is mostly subjective.

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It's the difference between Canon simple UI vs. Nikon complicated UI vs. Sony's broken UI. Too many buttons, little menus inside hidden menus packing hundreds of ''features'' and not organised cleanly, not even in colour. It's also the difference between iOS vs Android. Canon & apple approach is neat, functional, pleasing and FAST.

I just wish both companies have other major let-downs compared to the competition, like the 70D's video quality and iOS restrictiveness! 
 

​Yes Sony menus are the worst. I just used an FS7 on a project and was actually considering buying one till i spent time with the menus. It reboots when you make significant changes to the settings. The wheel is hard to scroll, etc. Bah.

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I recently had to give my laptop in for repair. It's going to take about two to three weeks. I had been working on a feature film screenplay at the time, and had started on a second draft, but the work was proceeding very slowly. Browsing the web and watching stuff was what was taking up the majority of my free time. I don't have cable in my house, do not have a smartphone, and my computer was also my DVD player. Without it, I have essentially been sent back to the 1950s. So I order to stay productive, I decided to continue working on my script....longhand. And writing it out on paper without the benefit of instant rewrites or having the first draft in front of me has really boosted my productivity. I write more pages per day, and think about things very carefully before putting them down on paper. Because if I want to rewrite something, I have to remove the page, and rewrite all of the stuff on it. I have a growing stack of rejected pages in the folder of my binder.

Then, after I finish writing, I go to the gym (something else I was loath to do with a Netflix Instant account constantly in front of me), then I retire with one of the many books I have on my shelf that I was meaning to read but never bothered to before I lost my computer. It's a true creative's life.

That said, I will hug and kiss my laptop when I get it back from repair. This little vacation from the world of electronic devices was fun, but eight hours of web-surfing is one of the few things that makes me forget about my stresses. It's like a bottle of liquor or a joint. It helps you escape reality. I just hope that I maintain at least part of the discipline I have developed.

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Bought a Panasonic LX100 about 3 months ago. I've been taking it EVERYWHERE and shooting stills and video that I wouldn't have taken the lens cap off the 5D Mark III.

Can't remember having this much fun shooting! More importantly . . . taking risks with the smaller camera. Isn't that what being creative is about?

​It is a nice little camera, isn't it?  The video looks great and it takes pretty good stills too.  I've sold off most of my micro 4/3 cameras and lenses in that range and keep a GX7 and a couple of longer primes and zooms if I need more range or for portraits.

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I can't agree more with this article. I was at a wrap party for a show I work on when one of the camera assistants broke out his Fuji XT. I was intrigued by the design so I asked if I could  borrow it for a bit to get some candid moments of the cast and crew celebrating and getting drunk. I found the layout and functions so arcane and frustrating that even after playing with it for an hour I couldn't resolve its usefulness and gave it back. When the AC asked what I thought? I said, "too complicated". Meanwhile, the DP is running around getting amazing shots on a tiny but simple leica with fixed 35mm and Tri X. 

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This thread doesn't address one of the greatest issues of choice vs. creativity - which is partnership vs. control.

For the last year or so, I work work work with macs and digital... but my creative work, my play? Film, 60's era metal cameras, an enlarger and lith developer.

Every step of that process means working within the confines of the medium. Particularly lith printing, which is very hard to replicate across 2 prints, and is packed with "ghost-in-the-machine" oddities based on chemistry and temperature and the fact that every print you make changes the chemical composition of the developer. You simply can't "control" any step of the process with any sort of totality, from exposure to final print, like you can with a digital camera and Photoshop.

But once you decide you are a "partner" with the media, the game changes. Why do we make partnerships? Usually to add unique strengths which we don't possess or aren't remarkable at, to our creative, business, romantic, or fun pursuits. When you allow chance and surprise into the process, its like being handed a very active and very able muse.

I shot about 200 frames, digital, of a nude for a friend who wanted to get a sense of "how she looked" in that scenario. I shot 3 or 4 frames with an old Minolta rangefinder, and one of those just had lots of the mojo I want from a shot. Printing it was work - to get those tools to sculpt the print into what I wanted, while making room for the oddities of the process and making them work together. It's probably my favorite bit of creative output this year. And those things inform my "controlled" work as well.

scan2.jpg

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​It is a nice little camera, isn't it?  The video looks great and it takes pretty good stills too.  I've sold off most of my micro 4/3 cameras and lenses in that range and keep a GX7 and a couple of longer primes and zooms if I need more range or for portraits.

​Same here, I actually downgraded from a GH4 + lenses to the LX100 and I don't regret it one bit. At first I had to get used to the smaller controls, and some things are a bit unpractical, like setting the camera to 1/50th shutter speed by first setting it to 1/60th and then turning the control wheel to set it to 1/50th. But I love the exposure compensation dial and the smaller form factor. Also I'm a fan of the retro look. It makes the people in front of the camera totally unaware of that I'm actually holding a state-of-the art 4K capable camera.

Today in a camera store I tried out the cheaper Canon and Nikon DSLR's. Although I find the plastic fantastic intriguing, it felt a bit too plastic to me. I don't know, maybe it would take a bit getting used to. What I imagine that could be great though, is that with a camera that actually feels cheap I'd be willing to take more risks and thus be more creative then with something that I know is expensive. I would be able to throw the camera in the air and smash the 50mm f1.8 on it to tiny little bits and pieces and still be able to afford a new one. Maybe it's a bit excessive, but just imagining that does feel like freedom.

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What's wrong with the Canon menus? You can do your own menu plus everything is quite neatly layed out left-to-right. Compared to Sony menus on the A7s, Canon is considerably better.

​Can't explain it. I just don't like using Canons in general. However you are right; Sony has taken place overall as the brand I get the most frustrated at. Not sure how that happened, I used to love using Minolta cameras!

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Taking this a step further, I have been thinking a lot about taking on what I'm calling the "1450 Challenge": for my next personal shoot, all camera dept. gear (including lenses) must fit into one Pelican 1450 case. 

​This right here. I have a few Pelicans and I find it's more troublesome to pack it and get ready to transport it. Now I keep my camera in a bag that's ready to go. 

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Andrew Reid, November 20, 2014:

“The glory of technology” (Samsung NX1 Review)

. . .”However the world would be a very dull place without them and I do think all this technology is leading somewhere”

Does it mean more technology is better?

 

Andrew Reid, March 23, 2015:

“The art of downgrading”  (from Fuji X-T1 to Canon 70D)

. . . “It felt like a direct extension of me somehow”

Does it mean “less technology is more”?

 

???

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Andrew Reid, November 20, 2014:

“The glory of technology” (Samsung NX1 Review)

. . .”However the world would be a very dull place without them and I do think all this technology is leading somewhere”

Does it mean more technology is better?

 

Andrew Reid, March 23, 2015:

“The art of downgrading”  (from Fuji X-T1 to Canon 70D)

. . . “It felt like a direct extension of me somehow”

Does it mean “less technology is more”?

 

???

Let me translate:

More technology IS better unless less technology is more..  It's like pie.. Have too many different types of pies, you get sick of pies in general and like the basic pies better.. however, when there are very few pies, or pies of the same type, you yearn for different types of pies -  exotic pies, etc... People are strange that way. 

I think Hugh Hefner once said he misses having JUST ONE girlfriend.  At the time, he was dating 5 different girls.  For the regular average joe, I think dating 5 different girls would be a godsend.  I guess it's kinda like the "pasture is always better on the other side" mentality...   For the record, I think Hugh is right -- dating five gorgeous women at once would get boring.....  yeah, right!!!! sign me up!! hahahahaha... That would never get boring.  Cameras and video equipment -- perhaps; but not attractive women. .hahhaha

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but my creative work, my play? Film, 60's era metal cameras, an enlarger and lith developer.

​Almost the same here, but I don't print. I shoot a mixture of film cameras, some really oddball ones, and just scan using a flatbed. My current favourite is a Franka Solida I from the US occupied zone of West Germany in 1956. Love it. Zorki, Zenit, Canon AE, Holgas, too...love them all.

10172732_10152101552342449_6240667630127

Recently added a 120 Consul Coronet too.

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I’m sorry, Eleison, I’m afraid I didn’t get the point from your “pies and girls” examples.

The question here is not whether too many pies or too many girls spoil the fun. Andrew asked a valuable question:

“Does downgrading your equipment to simpler, more basic models make you more creative?”

Creativity is the key here. Assumption: Less technology, more minimalism inspires creativity - this is the art of downgrading.

But, is it really true? A lot of talks on modern minimalism discuss whether minimalists should avoid technology.

How to achieve minimalism? With or without technology in order to become more creative?

 

Andrew, you have given some examples why “technology is a drug”, which blocks your  creativity.

The “hypnotic Galaxy Edge” blocks you from writing lyrics, the old iPhone doesn’t.

Neither of these smart phones would block my creativity of writing lyrics. (I’m not a poet anyway)

Sitting in the Berlin U-Bahn is not a romantic and inspiring environment at all, regardless of the writing tool.

(I know what I’m talking about).  

 

Is minimalism and technology compatible? Does minimalism inspire creativity?

A creative artist will find his way to frame and create his art work, regardless of tools and quality of the tools.

Should an art painter use more simple brushes or extra cheap paint just to increase his creativity?

Would I become a more creative photographer just because I exhume my old EOS 300D and retire my 5DIII and new GH4?

Why not downgrading even deeper and going back to analog film. The good old film has a DR of about 14 - 15 stops.

Not many of our today’s digital cams can yet keep up here.

 

“A myriad of choices presents a mountain of distractions.” Andrew says.

Yes, it’s true, when being in Disney Land or in a shopping mall. The numerous choices of my GH4 settings doesn’t prevent me

from creating the imaging task as wanted. In manual mode I can freely pick the basic settings, the crammed full menu doesn’t

block my creativity - provided I have some. But when I want to frame an extra touch to the images, e.g. HDR, slow mo or a time laps,

I’m glad that my trusty new camera helps me with its latest technology - going creative.

 

“The downgrade (. .from a class leading EVF . . to a boring old mirror box. .) worked by giving me a more responsive way

to capture moments and less choices to consider whilst doing so.” Andrew says.

Less choices give more responsiveness? Why then critisize Canon of being slow in their technology development?

Canon delivers “last era” equipment - already downgraded to less choices ex-factory.   

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I can relate with that sentiment. I've recently decided to force myself to be more thoughtful in my photography by downgrading to a simpler camera.

And I bought Sigma DP2 Merrill. One, standard focal length, not much in bokehliciousness, can shoot maybe 90 photos per battery, can't really go over ISO 200, unless I want B&W, must wait 12 seconds before I can review the photo I've taken (so I just don't do that now), can't shoot bursts (unless you call shooting 3 photos a burst). And each RAW file weights 50 megabytes and is a bit pain to process. With all this, you better make every shot count. Now, that is a serious downgrade, even from my modest E-M10 with a humble set of lenses.

Surprisingly, it's been a true joy to shoot with this little bugger, and I haven't really used my E-M10 for weeks now, except for night photography. And I also found that I shoot much more often, much less (in terms of shots fired), and have a lot more keepers. And I actually enjoy taking photos more. And now I'm starting to have an urge to print some of my photos...

So I can fully relate. Sometimes less is better.

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Sometimes less is better.

​Yes but of course not if quality is concerned. That's why I absolutely love my Sony RX1R for stills - only 35mm but gorgeous files. If the D810 video quality existed in the same body I would probably buy it on the spot.

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I thought I was the big man when I hired the RED Epic. I thought my shoot was going to be amazing. To be honest, it went absolutely fine. 

The major downside was that because my little crew was so excited about using it, pretty much all the attention went on making sure the camera was working. Very little time was spent on the spontaneous ideas that usually crop up on my shoots. The RED was distracting us. Nothing to do with the camera - just the presence of the device was brainwashing. 

That said, I think a few of us out there    can be a bit lazy. The tools you use should come from the idea you have. For instance, would it be more creative to bring emotion out of a film noir night scene by using hard lights and a smoke machine to create shadows, or does the effort of this setup put people off to the point of just putting the actor under a street lamp and hope for the best with an a7S? Of course this is all subjective, and depends on your style. I think there can be a lazy subconscious in some of us not to go the extra mile, or the tools are so limited you have to REALLY think to make it creative - that would be equally as impressive. 

I think the nerdy obsession with new cameras etc DOES indeed take you mind off being creative. There's a lot of hype with gear. That's fair enough. Toys are exciting. but I would never be afraid to go the extra mile. In some cases, up-sizing brings more creative possibilities and scope for ideas... but general obsession and hoarding of gear, buying cameras over and over, constantly upgrading your gadgets and so on is more of a mental disorder. The money can be saved to enjoy yourself and take a break, think things over and spend time on understanding yourself, your ideas and the craft to make it happen. Don't be lazy and do whatever it takes, every time. It might mean spending an entire week and designing lighting for a scene so the message/tone is strong, or it might mean picking up your smartphone and REALLY going for it because you are broke but NEED to make this idea as its fresh. The smartphone might not be ideal so you live on instant noodles and water for 2 months to save money and buy a suitable, capable device with a little LED light and your homemade foil reflector. 

To me, greater creativity is all about "waking up", knowing your ideas inside out and just bloody well going for it no matter what! ;) 

 

 

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