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One year with Sony Alpha cameras and ZEISS E-mount lenses. Developing my own photographic eye in a in a scratch book manner. Hunting the stream of inspiration and sharing it through a popular blog platform.
This is what 'Days of Zeiss' is all about.




Perfect setup – part three

Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 – f/1.8, 1/40sec, ISO320, raw Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 – f/1.8, 1/40sec, ISO320, raw
Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

When it comes to building a perfect camera setup I find myself having conflicting thoughts. One way to think about it is to lean back on traditional thinking where every photographer should search for a perfect camera setup with a trustworthy camera body and carefully chosen focal lengths with lenses that also have interesting rendering for his envisioned aesthetics. I dream of a quite compact setup that I could use for decades and which would add to my vision with its consistent drawing style. Something that I would know from inside-to-out and would define my style in years to come. This is a sort of traditional dream which implicitly connects one's inner vision of tools to classic photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and such. Nothing wrong with that and perfectly justifiable approach to perfect camera setup. The only problem being that today's digital consumer culture doesn't exactly support this kind of idea of persistence and longevity. The Loxias with their full metal bodies are quite close to being perfect, but they also are dependent of the Sony camera bodies which don't last forever. And on the other hand I see many photographers to become stuck in 'everlasting upgrade continuum' where the best thing is replaced with the next best thing. In short, it's a difficult path to follow as our current consumer culture doesn't support it, but my current Sony/Zeiss setup would certainly be that setup no question about it – though I might cut it a bit smaller for this kind of purpose.

The other way to think about the perfect setup would be to intentionally keep on changing it, and doing it completely every year. I'm fascinated by the idea that I would replace my whole camera setup with different brand and lenses for every year. One year could be about the top end interchangeable setup – a sort of setup that I'm using right now. Then the next year could be, for example, a fixed 35mm lens compact camera. And the next with the analogue film camera, and so on. This kind of radical change of tools would force one to refresh and take a stand separately for every year. Sort of like reimaging your photographic eye regularly and being on the move. Again, a lovely idea but also a very expensive one, though I might find myself trying it out if I had the chips for it – and I am currently doing something like that with my Sony/Zeiss setup considering that my project is coming to its end soon and I need to figure out the next move.

The interesting thing with 'the perfect camera setup' is that always also an image of me there as a photographer and how I connect with the photography – even if I don't recognize it at first. The idea of the perfect camera setup is a kind of reflection of this inner need inside of me where I want to succeed with my photography. And here's the thing: the perfection doesn't happen in a worldview where 'the perfect camera setup' is approached from the perspective of instrumental rationality (rationally pursued and calculated). There will always be something that could be better and one is locked into upgrade path for not reaching the inner goal behind the original idea of the perfect setup. 'The perfect camera setup' is a value/belief-oriented thing that doesn't rest on technological choices but in ability to put your soul into your photography. One of course needs to be satisfied, even inspired, by his setup but it isn't as much about 'performance' and certainly not about having the best nor the certain brand. This is definitely something I've learned during this year when I've had a pretty amazing setup for my use – and ironically it's the fact that I haven't felt the need to be worried about the performance (I leave that to Zeiss optical engineers) has ultimately freed me from this kind of instrumental rationality. A kind of 'hello world' moment here!