The bigger picture

Since writing What if Flickr fails? six months ago, my photography has dropped way off. I still shoot, but not as much. And I don’t upload as much to Flickr as I used to.

It’s not one thing, but in a way it comes down to that.

First, I’ve been writing a book, which I’ve never done before, and which takes a lot of time. When I have a choice of what to do, the book comes ahead of anything that’s not also top priority. Sorting, improving and uploading photos was never top priority, but it used to be closer than it is now.

Second, my old camera, a Canon 30D, has been upstaged by my new camera, a well-used and equally old Canon 5D. The 5D is a much better camera. The look, feel and UI are nearly identical. Alas, both are crapping out. The 30D was pretty much worn out anyway, and no longer reads light properly. Now the 5D has begun to fail in shutter (Tv) or aperature (Av) priority (or, in Canon parlance, value) modes. It still works in other modes, but shooting is trickier. In any case, I’m due for a new camera. Or, more likely, a new old one, such as another used 5D.

Third, all my old lenses for the 30D suck on the 5D, because they aren’t designed for full-frame sensors. They vignette on the edges, even at narrow aperatures. For many shots this doesn’t matter (or adds an interesting effect); but lack of lenses also discourages shooting.

Fourth, all my wish list lenses…


… are north of $1k apiece. For now that’s an indulgence. So, I’m coping on my current trip (in Italy) with the 5D and compensating for the failings of both the camera and the lenses.

If I’d had more time before this trip I would have rented a lens or two. (Here’s’s price list for the first of the lenses listed above. A lot cheaper than a new lens. Right now I’m really regretting not doing that.)

But what it comes down to is what I want to do with the results. While I like Flickr as a place to post large numbers of shots that I’d like to see in the public domain (CC licensed for the most permissive use, which is why there are now 231 of them on Wikimedia Commons), I’d rather post the shots I care most about on my own server, in my own ways. For example, I’d love to do photo esssays like the ones Tony Pierce used to do, but without the heavy html work. (And if there’s an easy way, tell me.)

So, what I’m dealing with is a lack of tools. Which is cool. Shooting pictures is just one thing I do. Other things matter more. Especially, right now, that book.


  1. Roland Tanglao’s avatar

    hi doc!

    I also can’t afford the “L glass of destiny” 🙂 i’d just get two cheapie primes like the 50mm f1.4 and another one like the 100mm f/2 and be done with it 🙂 I am hopefully also getting a 5D Mk I and look forward to a year or two of full frame shooting before it dies! And I am saving my pennies for a 100mm f/2

    and if you want to get really radical pick up an nokia n8, not so easy to use but the pictures are phenomenal:

  2. Alan Polinsky’s avatar

    Being more than slightly idiosyncratic, I have but one comment. I own two Nikon F cameras with a battery of prime lenses. They continue to function perfectly. I purchased a few Kiev cameras on the internet (Russian copies of the Contax) which continue to perform marvelously. Sometimes simplicity works for you. Yes film is not what it used to be, but my pictures tend to be fine.


  3. Michael Stern’s avatar


    Send your 5d to Canon Factor Service. The mirror on mine popped out a couple of weeks ago and, even though the camera was out of warranty, they fixed it in a day and Fedexed it back to me for free.

    And, for what it’s worth, the 135mm f/2 is the best lens I have ever used. I paid about $600 for mine, so shop around. I haven’t bought any other high-end glass; relying on LensRentals instead a few times a year.


    p.s. are you *sure* you want the EF 50mm f / 1.2L? From what I hear, it typically produces worse images than the $400 f/1.4 version, except obviously in very very low light situations.

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Hi, Michael.

    I plan to send the 5D to Canon soon as I get back. The sensor is also overdue for a professional cleaning.

    Also like the 135mm f/2, and will probably go for that at some point.

    I’ve had mixed reports on the 50mm f1.2L. I used one once and found it amazingly sharp. On the other hand, many swear by the f1.4, which is a load cheaper. So maybe, when I’m ready, those two lenses plus LensRentals.

  5. michael stern’s avatar


    Ask Canon to do an adjust/clean/lubricate on the 5D while they have it.

    I am going to be in the Alps in a week for the Tour de France, sporting a second generation Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L, courtesy of LensRenals (

    I actually sold half my lenses on eBay last year, hanging on only to the ones I like the best and find most useful, and relying on LensRentals to fill any gaps. I am pleased to own less stuff, and it’s hard to develop any kind of attachment to something as clinical as an SLR lens. More interesting, in my opinion, are older cameras that demand more accommodation by the user. To get the best results from them, we must learn their strengths and weaknesses, and time our photos, and position ourselves relative to the subject accordingly.

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