"Visual Quotations"
                  Photographs by Richard Freeman


From left to right: Canon FTb, Olympus XAII, Leica M-6, Lumix GF1, Fuji X-E2. Front: Canon Powershot S70
From left to right: Canon FTb, Olympus XAII, Leica M-6, Lumix GF1, Fuji X-E2. Front: Canon Powershot S70

I am trying to post what equipment I used for most of the portfolios with the portfolios, but here in one place is a little about the cameras I have used and when. The photo of the cameras is actually extremely accurate. The only camera I don't still own (I gave it to a friend) is my Canon Powershot S70 that I bought in 2005, my first digital camera. So I cut and pasted an ad image of it.

Here is a brief timeline of the cameras I have used and when (a summing up, if you will):

1975-1985, a Canon FTb with a 50mm f1.4 Canon FD lens (and occasionally using a Canon FD 135mm f2.5 lens)

1981-2005, an Olympus XAII with a fixed 35mm f2.8 lens. Only used with Black & White film.

1985-July 2005, a Leica M-6 with a 50mm f1.4 Leitz lens.

July 2005-March 2010, Canon Powershot S70.

April 2010-March 2014, Lumix GF1.

April 2014-Present, Fujifilm X-E2.

April 2016-Present, Canon G9 X. (Not sure what happens to me in April!)

As a teenager in the mid-seventies I bought a Canon FTb with a 50mm F1.4 Canon FD lens. I paid $250.00. I later purchased a Canon 135mm f2.5 lens, which is a remarkable lens, but I pretty much only used it at concerts. I studied photography in the early 1980s and this was the camera I used, although at some point I purchased a tiny Olympus XAII as a portable pocket camera. It was no bigger than a cigarette package (when the flash was not attached). It was also "semi-automatic" which meant I set the f-stop and the camera set the shutter speed. It was a remarkable little camera. One thing, however, is the lens coating was terrible for color and I only loaded it with black & white film. The Olympus has a fixed 35mm lens, thus its images show a slightly wider angel than does my Canon 50mm lens (the same with the Leica). With the negative scans, I do not always remember which camera I used, although with some studying one can tell. So, it is up to you to figure that out.

I used the Canon, a rather large and heavy all metal manual camera until 1985. I became what is commonly referred to as a "street photographer" and before I was about to embark on a long trip, I decided to use some of the money I saved to purchase a Leica. I wanted a Leica for its quality and its size. It is a 35mm rangefinder camera, not an SLR and a fraction of the size (although its body being made of a single piece of cast brass is surprisingly weighty, but not like the Canon). Also, all my photographic heroes used a Leica, specifically Henri Cartier-Bresson.* Just before I embarked on my journey the Leica M-6 was released. I had purchased the Leica MP-4 months earlier, which meant I was prepared to carry with me a hand-held light meter. The M-6 had the same body dimensions, but with a built in light meter. This was a successful attempt at the poorly received M-5 model, which was a larger, awkward camera, and was not warmly embraced. I purchased a used Leitz 50mm f1.4 lens for around $800.00, and a new M-6 body (it was literally just released and there were no used ones on the market). I paid $1200.00 for it. I purchased the used MP-4 for around $550.00 and I sold it easily for around $500.00 I was happy to take a slight loss. I continued to use the Olympus, but did not take it with me on my travels, which turned into a nearly two year adventure throughout North, Central, and South America (from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego). Also, I continued to use the Canon FTb with the 135mm lens at concerts.

I continued to shoot film while the digital photography world was overtaking us "traditionalists." It wasn't until around 2005 that I began to see prints from digital images looking as good as I could print from film (and at a reasonable cost) (I used to be a custom photographic printer, in the film days). So, in 2005 I purchased a Canon Powershot S70. It was an expensive 7 megapixel point and shoot camera ($400.00). It had the small processor chip, which I never even thought about, but it was a Canon, and it had a lot of manual overrides. I was not interested in a "digital" SLR anymore than I wanted to continue carrying around a film SLR, too big to travel, too conspicuous, too heavy to carry all day on the streets (though I have nothing but praise for my Canon FTb and Canon FD lenses). I took the Canon with me teaching overseas that fall. I loved it for about a year, when its limitations as a tool began to overtake the newness and novelty. Although, I do have some remarkable images taken with it, and at a very acceptable quality, I exhibited images from China enlarged to 16X20 (as I tell my students, it is the photographer, not the camera) (you can also see the images in my "China" and "New Zealand" (in "Nature's Way") portfolios). There was no digital camera that I wanted! I was looking for a kind of digital rangefinder. Leica did make one, but it was $7,000.00 or so, a bit too rich for my blood. And I kind of didn't shoot very much for the next several years.

Then, in 2010 I read about the Olympus E-P1, a micro 4/3 system. Its processor was about 9 times larger than the point and shoot models (though 60% smaller than an APS-C). It had a retro design, harkening back to the old Olympus film rangefinders. Here was a camera whose design philosophy matched my desires. I was ecstatic until I realized there was no viewfinder, one had to strictly use the LCD screen. Holding a camera with your arms outstretched is NOT how to hold a camera, nor compose an image. This was a deal breaker for me. Then, I read about the 12 megapixel Lumix GF1, a similar camera and system to the Olympus, but available was an attachable live electronic viewfinder (EVF), something Olympus did not have (at that time). It was a video feed, like used in digital video camcorders, and it showed 100% of what you were shooting. As soon as I received my tax rebate in 2010, I bought it! I love it! Never mind that the quality of the image in the viewfinder was not very good. I can see live what colors things are, I need the viewfinder to compose, and for that it is brilliant. It brought me back to shooting again, and with much joy! This camera was purchased while I was working at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In that portfolio are mixed images taken with the Lumix and the Canon. I can see differences. Can you?

In 2013, after several false "improvements" (or, missteps), Panasonic introduced the 16 megapixel Lumix GX7, a worthy successor to my GF1. I was ready to upgrade. But, while looking into reviews and general discussions, I landed on a review about Fuji cameras. Specifically the 16 megapixel X-E2, which was introduced about the same time as the GX7. It has a larger APS-C processor than the Lumix, and the camera body is not much bigger (its lenses are, however, quite a bit larger). But what really intrigued me is its retro style that put a shutter speed dial on the top of the camera and an f-stop ring on many of its lenses (as well as the quality of the lenses themselves). It took me six months to make a decision. Part of the issue was I could not find a store that carried these cameras. I really wanted to hold them and see how they feel. Without this, the reviews of the quality of the Fuji's with the larger processor won me over (even though I hadn't complained much about the quality of the GF1 and the GX7 was said to be even better). Also, the low light capabilities of the Fuji with the larger processor was a nice enticement. So, since March 2014, just when I returned from a month in Argentina I purchased the Fuji X-E2. (Again, the quality of the Lumix was excellent, all the images in the Argentina portfolio from 2014 were taken with the Lumix, along with others scattered around.) It came with a very high quality medium wide angle to medium telephoto zoom lens, but I purchased a slightly wide angle prime lens (a 35mm film equivalent to a 40mm lens), and have used it regularly. I also purchased a larger telephoto lens because I live in Florida and I find myself at a lot of wildlife preserves, so I bought an appropriate lens (even though this is not my favorite subject, but hey, this is where I am now living). I have too many shots of Alligators! I just returned from a conference in Las Vegas, it was the first time I took the Fuji out on the road. While there are features that I just can't understand why they designed it the way they did (they must have been high), overall I am pleased. Especially with the quality of the image, its low light capabilities, and the pleasure of using it in a completely manual mode, handling it like my old Leica (OK, I let it focus automatically) (which is actually one of its worse features!!!).[note 1-year later: I shoot using manual focus most of the time. It is not the best, but better than the auto.] Important reasons why I chose it over the Lumix (not to say I wouldn't have been happy with the GX7, but I still have not even seen one).

Spring 2016: Almost two years later Fuji came out with a new top-of-the-line camera (X-Pro 2) with a completely new focus system. They also released an X-E2s with the new system. But, they issued an update for the X-E2 with the new focus system!!! AND they updated the function buttons. Before the only buttons programmable were ones that had things worthwhile. Also two of the buttons that were not programmable did nothing in several modes, and repeated functions available in the other modes when they did do something. These are now all programmable!!!! Plus a new button function that toggles between LCD view and viewfinder view, something that previously could only be done by going into the menu. I guess the acid the original designers were on finally wore off! ; ) Seriously, I never saw a company that listens to, and takes care of, their customers so well. So, after two years I have an almost new camera!!! Thanks Fuji! Now, please, an X-E3 with that new processor!

Sometime later that spring (2016): As much as I love the Fuji, it is still too much to carry everyday to work and out everywhere. I kinda was jonesin' for a quality pocket camera. In the film days I had my Olympus XAII. Since it was all 35mm film, the quality just depended on the lens. I scouted around the web and stumbled upon the Canon 1-inch sensor cameras (there are also the Sony's with a built in EVF, but they were way too expensive for a "toy.") Canon had several models, I settled for the smallest, since that was what got me started. The G9 X. I carry it with me, and find it is sometimes nice to have when I have my big lens on the Fuji. Very cool little toy to have. As I write this in February 2017, I just recently discovered the Leica Q. WOW!!! And a bargain for only $4,500.00!!!!

On a final note, and explained elsewhere as well, beginning in 2008 I had access to a very high quality negative scanner, a Nikon 9000. I began a project of scanning my important 35mm negatives (a 30 year archive!) which continued on and off for several years. The files were saved as TIFF files. They were scanned at the machine's highest value of 4000dpi and each file is 135mb. I continued to have access to this machine for several years (although for 18 months I was living in another state and could not use it). Finally, in 2012, as I was getting ready for my new job and a permanent move, I finished combing through my archive of negatives. Several times. I scanned just over 4,000 negatives, at an average rate of 12 negatives/hour! While I still may find some missing negatives, I am confident that I have covered the archive pretty thoroughly.

* For more about my philosophy and musings on photography (including an early diatribe against the state of digital cameras pre-Lumix), go to "About the Artist."