“My job as an editor has been the reason I started taking photographs”
Hi, I’m Yoshiaki Takei. I work as an editor for an online site called Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (lit. “Itoi Almost Daily Newspaper”), an online paper supervised by Shigesato Itoi. We publish articles on many topics, from food and lifestyle to fashion, interviews with musicians and more.
I’ve always liked books and magazines. My very first job was at a small publishing-related company, long before the days of online media. We mostly produced travel guide books for overseas destinations. The job had me travel to locations together with a photographer, and then, when I had returned, create articles on my own – I was writer and editor. If I include my private journeys as well, I’ve already traveled to 30 countries and 150 cities so far in my life.
My job as an editor has also been the reason I started taking photographs.
“I enjoy cameras for themselves, as objects”
It was a small company, and it almost goes without saying that I was told to learn how to design, write and take photos, so I bought myself a camera. I chose a mirror-reflex film camera: a Contax ST with a Planar 50mm lens. I also owned a 28mm, a 50mm and a 35-70mm zoom lens. Back then, all photos used in publications were taken on positive film, and I learned quite a lot.
I didn’t photograph people very often; my subjects mostly were landscapes and buildings, and I did food photography and billboards as well. I also shot photos that acted as memos, and I shot some of the landscape photos in a few books as well.
I enjoy cameras for themselves, as objects. That’s why I chose the Contax back then – I simply thought it looked cool. It was an era when Nikon dominated the market and Canon had begun to storm the world. All the veteran editors were using Nikon cameras then. But I loved the Contax’ cool design, and so it became my first own camera. And then, step by step… (laughs)
“Ichigo Sugawara, told me ‘it’s a great camera. I think this could be something for you’”
When I travel on my own, I always take a camera with me. To me, the camera is almost like a good friend. When I travel in a group, I tend to shoot with an iPhone or some other mobile phone. But when I’m on my own, photography is one of the main reasons why I travel in the first place, so I always take a camera with me. I usually choose a camera like the Leica M8 or Q, or a Fujifilm X-Pro2 or the SIGMA DP1. There’s something very peculiar about cameras – when you leave them lying around, eventually someone will ask you, “should I take a photo of you?” and snap away. I’m happy to say there are more photos of me than you might expect.
I have only started using the fp recently. I’ve liked the Foveon sensor ever since I used the SIGMA SD14. I heard SIGMA was trying to specialize in video, so I decided to wait and see. Then my friend, the photographer Ichigo Sugawara, told me “it’s a great camera. I think this could be something for you”, and that’s how I began using the fp.
“The fp is incredibly helpful when I want to document that part of my travels”
I tried using it, and it was a straightforward, honest experience. Also, it’s great that I can continue using my SIGMA-mount first-party lenses with the converter. I must admit it felt a bit overkill to use the camera with my Art F1.4 series lenses on trips with friends. But if you use it with a smaller lens, I think you can use it like a normal snapshot camera. It’s also great when you cant to take good pictures of food. The colors come out very true-to-life. I love food and cooking, and even when I travel overseas I usually live in apartments and cook for myself. The fp is incredibly helpful when I want to document that part of my travels as well.
“Every day only happens once, and photographs capture moments and impressions as they are”
It is okay to not be too particular. Cameras all have their own distinct personalities, and to use a trend word, there are many cameras that “do everything for me.” SIGMA cameras, though, capture things as they are. I shoot in RAW mode, then load the files into the computer and develop them to my preferences. I enjoy this, and it’s all part of the process.
The “feeling of the moment,” something like that does exist, doesn’t it? It changes moment by moment, it’s different each day. Whether you’re in Tokyo or somewhere else in the world, every day only happens once, and photographs capture moments and impressions as they are. It’s fun to look back at your photos after a while. I like cameras that capture a lot of information like that – through the lens, they capture the atmosphere and warmth of a place, sometimes even your thoughts. I think that is something I look for in cameras.
“The courage to trim things that would be nice to have is one of the reasons SIGMA is interesting”
Portability is another important point. The Leica Q is tiny, and while you can’t change its lens, the camera is an allrounder that’s great to use. However, when you try to shoot macro, the image warps a little. In those situations, you’d want something like the SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM |Art that lens has considerably less distortion. Lenses do have their own personalities as well, after all.
Now, the fp doesn’t have a viewfinder, right? (laughs) Anyone who got into cameras via SLR cameras will want to take a peek through the finder, I guess. Because of that, it’s quite rare for me to use cameras without viewfinders. But I must say I got used to it quickly. I got used to it, but if I could get a viewfinder, then yes, I’d really like to have a viewfinder. (laughs) A lot of people have asked for a viewfinder, but I think the courage to trim things that would be nice to have is also one of the reasons SIGMA is interesting.
“SIGMA only do what they find interesting”
SIGMA only do what they find interesting. I guess the reason they don’t trade their stock publicly is that they want to continue making the products they want without hindrance. Each year, there’s something new from them that piques my interest. They are a manufacturer you can’t take your eyes off. I have a lot of trust in them. A long time ago, I thought of them as a manufacturer of cheap lenses but that impression has changed completely. I’d say they actually are a high-end brand now. I love that they cleared all the challenges involved in that transformation.
It’s amazing that a brand can change that much. I keep following them with surprise. Their flexibility and boldness is great, isn’t it? Some time ago, I visited the factory together with Ichigo Sugahara, for a feature in “Hobo Nikkan.” As expected, their manufacturing set-up seems brilliant, and people actually seemed to enjoy their work. They really are a good company, I thought.
“As long as you have good tools and good ingredients, you’ll end up with something tasty”
I can’t claim to have many hobbies, but I do enjoy cooking – and not just for its practical value. I also enjoy eating, of course. I also like traveling, books, and music. I don’t play an instrument, though, and I’m not writing novels either. But I enjoy them passively, as a consumer.
When it comes to tools, I’d say there’s something that cooking and cameras have in common. Choosing the Contax as my first camera or using the SIGMA now is not too different, feeling-wise, from having a favorite knife or using a certain frying pan for cooking. First of all, they must look cool. Secondly, they must provide you with desired results. I often buy things I’m going to use only if I believe these two points are fulfilled.
When it comes to cooking, as long as you have good tools and good ingredients, you’ll end up with something tasty even if you mess up a little. I have a feeling the same is probably true for cameras as well.
“I just want everyone to use it. Anyone can enjoy this camera”
The fp is a friendly device. I’ve liked the Foveon sensor for many years, but truth be told, the dp wasn’t an easy camera to recommend. (laughs) No, I really love it; the photos you get from it are stellar. But – how should I put it… it is too moody, too stubborn a friend to go on holidays together. The fp is very flexible. It is the friend that says “yes, let’s grab a bite! Where should we go?” when you ask them out for lunch. The dp, on the other hand, asks “but where would we go? And what would we eat?” and then “actually, let’s go next week instead, I’m kind of busy.” (laughs) But it’s still an interesting character, no doubt.
Actually, it is interesting that the same company would produce two brothers that are the complete opposite of each other. At any rate, isn’t the fp great? I just want everyone to use it. Anyone can enjoy this camera. It’s not difficult to pick up. I think it’d be great if everyone tried using it.