This is a derivative of a comment I made on reddit a few days back.

A complete dork, holding his Nikon D40 and 50mm f/1.8. Circa. 2010.

Back in like 2008, when I was Form 3 (9th Grade in US terms I think), I was reading a gadget magazine call e-zone, and the feature of that week is a competition of the low-end camera across all brands. And because of my impulse control (or lack there of), I “decided” that I need a camera. To be fair, I have been interested in gadgets and camera since I was a kid, and our family has a camera that is almost a toy that I played with quite a lot. And for some magical reason, I somehow managed to convinced my parents, take them to the store, and bought (I think) the cheapest DSLR in the lineup: Nikon D40. This is how I start my photography life.

Since I jumped into photography as pretty much 100% noob, I have no idea what I was doing at the beginning. I asked my PE teacher and they allow me to walk around the arena during the Sports Day, and I pretty much just randomly press the shutter button. The photos are very badly composite, the lighting the often wrong, and not knowing what shutter speed can do to a photo means that all of them looks boring and static. And a few months later, I do it again for the Joint Sports Day that is organized by the organization that founded the school. Since I have at least a little bit of experience, plus the fact that it is a bigger event, I got a little bit better at it. Not a lot, but enough.

I keep doing sports event for the school until I graduate, and over the years I kinda become the OG camera guy in my secondary school. I got 4 other people to get together and form kinda like a small camera nerd group in my grade. We used to take our camera to school almost everyday, and we just take a shit ton of random pictures of the school, our friends, even teachers. It was really fun.

I started with the D40 w/ Kit lens, and slowly I got a few more piece of cheap gear: 50mm f/1.8, 70–300mm, and a Nissan flash (if I remember correctly). I really enjoy the 50mm, and the fact that it becomes a manual focus lens is actually pretty good, because it force me to slow down and think about everything else before I press the shutter button. But I never really like the 70–300mm, and trying to focus and zoom and hold your hands super still is just too much for me.

And after like 2/3 years with the camera, I started looking into other camera as well: D90 sounds amazing, and then D7000 comes out. Meanwhile Sony also start making not exactly DSLR, you know, the one without a small sensor on top and a semi-transparent mirror thing? And one of my friend jumped into A-mount, and he really liked the in-body stabilization as well. Later they also created the NEX line of mirrorless camera, and they look super cool! My math teacher, who is also a photography enthusiastic, got himself one and let me try it out. I was really amazed by the size of the camera and the photos that it took.

And then life happens, we all have to prepare for the public exam, and we put our cameras down, and it was never the same again.

After the public exam, I somehow start really getting into water sports: I swim almost everyday, I joined a sea scout group and kayak quite a bit, and when I join the university I signed myself up for both Rowing and Dragon boat clubs. And obviously, since I am now the participant, I don’t really have the change nor the interest to take photos with my camera. And one day, again because of (the lack of) impulse control, I convinced my mum (again) to get me a new camera: Nikon D7000, because I though the limitation of D40 and my frustration towards it is the reason why I took less photo.

And then life continues to happen: I got busy with school work, organizing activities (I was a committee of an outdoor activity club), I row, I intern, etc. I did took the camera out with me when I was doing my exchange program in Istanbul, and take some pictures in Europe, but overall I still didn’t take a lot of photos. D7000 is a very good camera, and the image it took is definitely a lot better than what the 6 MP CCD sensor can output. And then I graduated, got a job here in Berlin, and I moved half of my stuff over here, including D7000.

One of the thing that I didn’t realized when I move into the workforce is that how bad I am at the act of work-life balance. I am too lazy to plan trips, and the daily life is just not really interesting anymore. Life of working in a not really successful startup means that it becomes very routine and very boring in so many ways. And it means I am taking even less photos with the cameras. Again I start to blame the camera, but this time I blamed the weight and size of D7000 + the 18–105 kit lens. In my defense, the girth of the camera is definitely one of the reason why I just don’t take the camera out that often, but even when I take the camera outside, I often just left it in the bag, and use my phone’s camera to get the job done instead. It probably have something to do with the fact that social network like Instagram has become part of my life. Taking photos has slowly become more of a chore and less of a thing that I enjoy doing.

None the less, I got my eyes on the Sony a6000: it’s light, it’s small, it’s pretty cheap (I was waiting for the kit to hit 550€, and I got it when it goes down to 555€), and it also has a bunch of cool stuff: slightly adjustable screen, Wi-Fi that allows me to share it with my phone easily, and higher pixel count. One of my college was also interested in gadgets and cameras as well, and we got our camera at similar time. I also got a second hand Sigma 30mm f/2.8 a few months later, trying to recreate my fond memory of my D40 + 50mm f/1.8.

I took the camera out for a some day trips, and it was kinda fun. I remember the first time I use it to take photos of building, and the fact that the auto focus in “Live View” mode is just as fast as when I am using the view finder, that’s amazing. I also really like the ability to send photos to my phone easily. It makes some pretty decent Instagram stories and posts. But when comparing to the D7000, the image quality is actually not that different. It is definitely an achievement for a camera that much smaller to get similar image quality (especially in the noise department) when it has 50% more pixels to handle, and it all comes in such a low price. I also don’t really like the control of the camera, especially since I already have some specific workflow with my existing Nikon cameras. Changing some settings always take a while to find, and the not stellar responsiveness of the system also does not help either. It always feels like it takes forever to turn on and off the camera, menu takes time to load, and it also takes a while for pictures to finish writing to card and everything just grinds to a halt. I think there is a small part of me know that this is probably not gonna work out at the end.

A few months later, when I travel back to Hong Kong, I decided to take D7000 back home and leave it there, and just let my family to use it whenever they want. And what happens in the next few months? Nothing. Almost literally nothing. a6000 and the lenses have been sitting on the shelf collecting dust, especially after I got Pixel 2, which has an amazing camera. It has been cleared to me that a6000 is not what I am looking for, because I didn’t even realized what the problem is. I spend less time doing photography because I don’t have people around me to share my joy with, and there is no magic camera that can solve this problem. I still like taking photos, but it has gone into a more invisible and social path. I take photos of my surrounding when I find it interesting, and share it on social media. I take pictures with the camera that I have, and I share it with people that I (mostly) care about. My Pixel 2 is the next step of my “evolution” of photography, and now when I looked back to it, the moment I got the Pixel 2 would be an end to the chapter of “Louis taking pictures with huge camera gear”.

Will I buy another camera at some point? I think so. I still enjoy photography, and there are still a lot of limitation on what a smartphone camera can do (because physics). I have a gut feeling that someday, I will have a super long trip or something, and I will want to have a good camera to take good pictures. I might want better low light performance, or I might want much better resolution and image quality. And since smartphone camera is starting to be able to rival APS-C in some specific scenarios, Full Frame camera seems to be the only option left. Plus, 2018 is shaping up to be a year of the rise of Full Frame mirrorless war, so I will definitely wait for it to settle down a bit first. And right now, I need to start getting rid of some excessive gears that I have, and that includes a6000. For now, I would prefer to have a camera that I enjoy using when I am using it, instead of a camera that I might take out more, but ultimately not enjoying the experience of using it.

Photography and me, from start to end

This is a derivative of a comment I made on reddit a few days back.