Long serving committee and honorary member Cat Humphries is kindly writing a blog series on her camera gear experiences. First instalment below – enjoy!
The Last Pentaxian in Croxley
There comes a time in every relationship where you have to assess whether you stay or you go. This is true for camera gear as much as it is for marriages. When you first decide on which camera manufacturer you go steady with, it’s all new and exciting. You’re amazed by the clarity of the images the relationship produces and you go on to add to your family of camera gear.
Suddenly you find yourself 20 years down the line, with a bag (or in my case cupboard) full of lenses, but the manufacturer you supported just isn’t keeping up their part of the bargain. You don’t get excited by them anymore, you know their flaws inside out, and you start to wonder whether they care about what they’re giving back to you. Are you worth more than they’re giving you?
This is how I feel about my relationship with Pentax cameras. They were the first SLR I got my grubby 5 year olds hands on, and I spent my formative years completely in love with my Pentax MX. We travelled the world (well, to Canada anyway), spent hours people watching, going to museums or the occasional Wimbledon final, and we took our first steps into the world of theatre photography together.
Later on, as both of us grew older, the world around us changed. Photography was going digital and in 2007 I took the plunge and bought a K100D. A new world of possibilities opened up. No longer was our relationship constrained to 36 exposures and processing fees. We had the freedom of a 1GB SD card and an A4 printer!
Slowly we evolved together, with new features drawing me deeper into the Pentax DSLR world, the K100D became a K20D and then, as the theatre beckoned me back, the K5II was so alluring with it’s low light processing and faster auto-focus. One body became two, and my collection of lenses grew to ten as I explored new genres and hoped that I could find photographic utopia. My evangelism knew no bounds – the two most popular religions in the imaging world held no allure for me. I would not be a slave to the tribes of Nikon or Canon like those I saw around me.
But like most utopian visions things became dystopian after a few years. The cracks started to show and what was once a great idea had started to turn sour. I searched around for a new body to replace my ever aging K5II, but alas Pentax removed the features I had relied on so much. They raved about their new full-frame cameras, but they were not what I wanted in a relationship. Too big, too heavy and with the same level of focussing options – they couldn’t satisfy my evolving creativity.
All around me lens manufacturers were abandoning the long-established third way. Limiting what was available to loyal Pentaxians like me. We saw our future stretched out before us, not the utopian vision we’d hoped for, but now a dystopian nightmare. Stuck in the past, hampered by unsupported gear and old fashioned lighting kit.
Despair surrounded me like a dark and stormy night, but after a while, the realisation struck me like a ray of light through the clouds. I didn’t have to stay in this sort of relationship. I was worth more than Pentax was giving me. I could be free to choose my future, unchained from the restrictions of the brand I had been loyal to for so long.
I could rebuild my camera gear collection. I could evolve.
Next time: Finding a New Way: From Pentax to What?
Left – Cat’s beloved Pentax MX – which still contained film at the time of writing!
Right – Selection of MX prints – clockwise from top left: Venus Williams serving for the Championship at Wimbledon in 2007, couple on Lady Godiva Plinth 1998, Nuneaton Man (whole area was demolished to make way for a shopping centre), Strange Times at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1998, Swamp Donkey at the Godiva Festival 1998