It sits there on your shelf, looking at you: that old camera that you were so excited about a few years back. Now, it's not even worth the trouble of listing it on eBay or Craigslist. Or is it? Recently I picked up my old Fuji X-E1 and put it through its paces. I was surprised to find out that it's still an enjoyable camera, but not for the reasons that it originally was. Sometimes, a camera's flaws hold a certain charm that can only be appreciated with some distance.
When I first purchased my XE1, I was lured by the promise of mirrorless. The technology, though still in its early adolescence, was intriguing! This amazing sensor was surrounded by a classic feeling body, lightweight, pretty to look at, and reasonably quick in operation. Fuji's present bodies, however, are faster, with even better sensors, and have more bells and whistles than you could possibly need in a camera. I moved on to the X-T1, then X-Pro2 before switching back to Nikon a bit ago. Those new and shiny cameras came and went, but the little X-E1 still sat on my shelf, no doubt because it's not worth much on the market, and it was never a priority of mine to sell it.
Last week, I picked it up, attached an old Canon 24mm FD manual focus lens to it, and went out to do some night shooting. The camera was slow. Really slow. The EVF pales in comparison to the ones that I was used to. It wasn't nearly as responsive as my old cameras, and not even in the same ballpark as my Nikon. But, much to my surprise, I was enjoying the hell out of shooting with it. Because I couldn't move quickly, I was taking my time. Because I had to manual focus, I was taking more time composing and shooting for the joy of it. There are so few features on the body that all I was doing was composing, zooming in to manual focus, getting one, maybe two shots, and moving on.
The shots aren't magnificent by any stretch of the imagination, except that it reminded me of when I was first starting out. It reminded me of walking around town with an old 35mm, trying to make heads or tails of composition and exposure. Most importantly, it reminded me of why I love photography. It's a different way of looking at the world. Since that first dusting-off, when I'm up late working, I've made a point of taking out my camera and snapping some night photos, just for myself. As a portrait photographer, I usually shoot with an entourage of lighting, large cameras, stacks of film, and maybe my laptop. It's refreshing to be able to get in my Jeep and snap some photos, just for the pleasure of doing so.
Of course, this can be done with any camera, not just an old one. But the great thing about old gear is that the bells and whistles don't get in the way for me. The slowness of the camera's automatic features annoy me so much that I use it completely manually. I don't spend time chimping because the response time of the LCD is a hindrance. Rather, I have a small camera with a beautiful sensor that just works. If you have an old piece of gear lying around, don't be afraid to take it out once in a while. You may find that it's not only capable, but can give you a fresh outlook on your art.