I've been reading up on the Fuji X100 and the Sigma SD1 this morning, in various places, and I have to say (again—I've said this before) that peoples' tendency to want to make up their minds without sufficient data is very persistent and very annoying. In both cases I am tempted to use a stronger intensifier than "very."
Just because I've said something before doesn't mean I shouldn't say it again: there's no imperative in this particular field that dictates that we have to make up our minds about things that don't even exist quite yet. Photography is an optional activity. It's not critical to survival. When Trog the caveman heard a shriek in the bushes, he had to make up his mind very quickly as to a course of action. Trog most likely had a fear response, and ran for cover—even if the noise turned out to be two tree-trunks rubbing together in the wind. He had a fear response because he was descended from ancestors who had fear responses; all the potential caveman ancestors who didn't have fear responses got eaten by tigers, you see, and were less likely to reproduce. Where cameras are concerned, by contrast, we have the luxury of allowing the cerebrum to take over. We do not need to respond with our hindbrains. Immediate decisiveness is not required. We can wait and see.
This requires restraint, and restraint is a characteristic of maturity, and maturity, I'll grant you, is no fun. Time and time again, however, I've had to re-learn a basic lesson of reviewing, which is that you need to actually see and experience the device, product, book, or artwork before making up your mind about it. These days especially, people are constantly tempted to make up their minds too early. We decide in the first minute of a video whether we're going to watch the other eight minutes; we decide after seeing 19 tiny online JPEGs that we're familiar with that particular artist's work. Et cetera.
The main factor militating against this sort of maturity in modern mankind might not be simple adaptive overshoot (Trog running away from the noise of the wind in the trees) but what might be called the skimming imperative—there is too much information, too many things to experience, so we have to sort through large amounts of possibilities and make our selections carefully as to what we're going to spend our time with.
The only news magazine I currently subscribe to—it's called The Week—is a digest, giving the most possible current news in the shortest possible space and offering things like paragraph-long synopses of opinion columns I don't have time to seek out and read in their entirety. In other words, it's a news magazine for people who don't have time to read news magazines. I like it very much. It was recommended to me by my brother Scott, who has been an excellent source of recommendations for reading material over the years—he has the best track record of anyone I know in that regard. But when the renewal notice for The Week came this week, I realized, sheepishly, that I often don't get around to reading it. In much the same way, I admit that I dismiss lots of cameras—I simply don't have time to read up on all of them, even though it's arguably part of my job description. Even, sometimes, ones I really should write about here. I certainly don't get to see and hold them and spend quality time making pictures with all of them. I haven't even really used my new K-5 much yet.*
So why the annoyance? I think it arises because of the disjunct between people a) absolutely not having adequate data and simultaneously b) wanting to discuss the inadequate data to death and come to hard, definitive conclusions even though they demonstrably can't possibly know what the hell they're talking about. Those two things don't go together very well. It's just not necessary to come to hard-and-fast conclusions about cameras that haven't been released for sale yet—and one could make the case that it's actively counterproductive to do so, since it makes it harder to keep an open mind. It's good to have an open mind just in case you ever do get a chance to see, hold, hear, and/or get to know the thing in question.
About all I can personally say about any future camera is "wait and see," sometimes with a "looks interesting" added on. The X100 and the SD1 and several other not-yet-for-sale cameras sure look interesting. Beyond that, I think we should wait and see.
*It's cold out. I'm middle aged. Sue me.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
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