Ctein made a comment yesterday that got me thinking. Talking about the Ricoh GX100 after I posted a link to a review of it, he said,
Too much money, too little image quality for me. Ergonomics count, fer shure. But, if the pix don't look good enough to begin with, it ain't gonna be a pleasure to use even if the controls feel like velvet.
Not an earth-shaking revelation, granted, but it made me reflect again that I am personally very strongly motivated by results. Most of my interest in cameras and techniques is directed at results. I only care about viewfinders so much because I've found that I take better pictures when I can better see what the camera is seeing. I only care about small, light cameras because I find myself taking pictures in situations where unobtrusiveness helps me avoid unwanted attention (and that I find I take better pictures when I have a camera with me). I like pigment inkjet printers—but that's because I like the look of pigment inkjet prints. And so on.
Paul Butzi got me interested in cameras with higher megapixel counts. Why? Because he made some really big prints for me—biggest by far that I've ever seen of anything taken by me—and they look really nice. If you want to make big prints, you've got to use equipment that will yield big prints. I was never interested in megapixels for megapixels' sake, and still am not.
In fact, I would say that almost everything I get interested in, photographically speaking, starts from results and works backwards. I once spent a summer photographing with a field view camera and Polaroid Type 55 Positive/Negative film (I might actually do something with all those negatives now, too, because my new scanner came with a 4x5 film holder). But I can tell you exactly why: it's because I was enamored, at the time—and still—of the work of Mark Klett, and that's what he used. (Of course, as so often seems to be the case, my pictures didn't turn out looking like his—even technically—why, I'm not sure—but that's beside the point.)
The corollary is also true. Nothing can turn off my interest in a product more completely than if I decide I just don't like the results, or if for some reason I decide that I can't use the product to take the kind of pictures I like. View cameras, for instance, have to be tied to solid ground at three points, and that limitation keeps them from being usable for maybe half the pictures I take and want to take. On the other hand, image stabilization and high ISO capability in digital cameras have made it possible for me to take pictures I couldn't take before.
I have a friend who is motivated by contact prints. He loves contact prints. Craves them, I think, although I'm not sure "craves" is a word of which he would approve (he's on vacation, so I might sneak this past his radar). He loves view cameras, naturally, and has little interest in digital and only a residual interest in 35mm, with which he "slums" from time to time. But the motivating principle behind most of what he does is a love of the contact print. (One of the few ways of working in photography I've never tried myself.)
I know other people who primarily love platinum/palladium prints. With them, the "contact print" isn't the focus of their obsession—they only like contact prints because that's what most pt/pd prints have to be.
Right now I find myself interested especially in the latest Olympus DSLRs, the E-410 and E-510. For some reason, pictures from Olympus cameras look better than their specs would predict. I'm not prepared to pass judgment yet. No verdict. But the few results I've seen from these two little cameras so far just look good, that's all. Good enough to make me want to learn more, see more, find out more.
It's the results that count—the rest is just diversion.
Addendum: Allan Janus has more on the duck.