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Tuesday, 05 April 2011


I'll offer another that sort of spans 5, 4, and 2.

You've got a really kickass (and expensive) lens that works well for whatever it is you do, and out comes a new camera that fits that lens and has some extremely useful advantages (like, say, a two-stop increase in useable ISO and expanded dynamic range) over the camera you are now using.

Speaking hypothetically, of course, that could be kind of compelling.

(I still can't believe I bought a car without a stick shift.)

That was a real dumbass move, in a climate that includes snow and fourth of july.

Reason 1.... that's exactly why after years of dithering I bought a Rolleiflex!

I've done some real nice work with my Mamiya C330 (and for colour it's probably better anyway), but I _needed_ a Rollei.

Needed it, man, like you need lids or 'ludes!

I especially like your Reason No. 1, Mike! Kind of like, "We wants it, yes, Precious, and we means to have it, gollum, gollum!"

With best regards,


Size, ergonomics, simplicity and quietness? Are these considered "features" on your list? Seems there's a difference between features as "add-ons" (e.g., IS) and inherent camera characteristics. Or not.

I'm such a smartie, that back when I was a senior manager of an advertising photo department for a retailer, I fully researched the top 35mm film models when we needed to get more involved in shooting 'lifestyle' look fashion work. Although I felt the Nikon's had superior construction, the Canon technology was really superior when it came to auto-focus, auto-exposure, and of course, the whole lens mount thing: i.e. Canon really made the right decision changing the lens mount around to take into account a lot of future needs, compared to the cobbled together Nikon thing with old pre-AIS lenses not really fitting new bodies, etc. etc.

So being the smartie I think I am, when it came time to buy my digital camera, I checked out a bunch of stuff, read all the reviews, and went with a Nikon in my price range because I felt that the actual 'look' of the digital file was more 'film-like' than the Canon 20D-30D's I had been borrowing and renting. This was very important to me as I wanted to do as little post processing (read: unpaid work), on files as I could.

So here I sit as Mr. Smartie, with a Nikon who's auto-focus system really doesn't seem very intuitive, and never seems to "pick' the right spot to focus, unless I hand set it to the very spot I need, and the auto-exposure bracketing system never seems to get one of the brackets right on the money, and the prime lenses I can afford, with the old 'drive shaft' system don't really focus very fast, and, and, well, I could go on and on. And sure, I think the files are pretty great, but the camera seems to be a chore to use. So much so that I really don't want to use it much...

So much for being Mr. Smartie!

I would add one more... You get along with it. It allows you to just do your photographic thing.

"I...went with a Nikon in my price range because I felt that the actual 'look' of the digital file was more 'film-like' than the Canon 20D-30D's I had been borrowing and renting."

"One the reasons I like Canon and put up with their quirks is that the images have the near-reality look that I desire."

I just thought it was kinda funny that these two comments came in within 20 minutes of each other.


Most recently: #4. Historically, #1.

"So here I sit as Mr. Smartie, with a Nikon who's auto-focus system really doesn't seem very intuitive, and never seems to "pick' the right spot to focus, unless I hand set it to the very spot I need"

If by "intuitive" you mean "based on what one feels to be true without reasoning" then yes, maybe the Canon is more intuitive. My experience was that 10d and the 1Ds had sort of useful autofocus, but only in comparison to the 5D2, which truly seems to be possessed by poltergeists taking a wild guess and calling it a day.
Anyway, that greener grass on the other side of the fence probably isn't even grass at all but merely some other greenish stuff.

The Sony NEX consistently nails the focus, it's just too bad about the 2 lenses that it can focus.

Speaking of entrenched habits, I'm so wedded to the idea of having aperture rings on lenses and shutter speed dials on the top plate that I skipped several generations of film SLRs from the mid-80s to the late '90s and wouldn't buy my first digital camera until Panasonic released the DMC-LC1 in 2004.

Even today, I'm using a Contax 645-based outfit, as much for those two reasons as for its wonderful ergonomics and the quality of its lenses, and while I can afford to "upgrade" to a system that is still in production, I have no desire to do so.

Wait ... we only live once?

5. The system in question has certain accessories you really need
3. It's what all your friends use.
2. The lenses you want or need fit that camera body.

There's a snowball effect here. People buy Nikon & Canon because they satisfy the needs, or prospective needs, or imagined needs, of more photographers. Since more photographers buy Nikon and Canon, they demand more from those companies (and also give those companies lots more money) which leads to those companies broadening their lineups. That extends to 3rd party support. There are more 3rd party lenses, more flash accessories, quick release plates, better software support, lens profiles, availability of rentals and so on. So more people choose those brands. So there are more websites dedicated to their use; more in-depth technical reviews of their lenses; more field guides.

They're like Photoshop. Nobody needs all of it. But their smaller competitors are like ... I dunno ... Corel Paint Shop PhotoPro or something. Sure, it does all that most people need. Nobody else you know uses it, so you have to find other users online for help. Nobody produces plug-ins for it. (I apologize for the poor analogy if it uses PS plug-ins; I didn't research it to make my point). It's kind of cool to be anti-Adobe. For a while. And then one day, you start doing something new and need something that you can't get for it (not without some kludge anyway) and realize why everyone else is using Photoshop.

Or you could be like that crazy photographer in Austin and change systems every year. What's he shooting with now? Nikon? Olympus? No, it's an odd numbered year....he must be shooting with Canon. But didn't he dump his Canon lenses and buy Zeiss lenses? Insane?
How insane? Well I'm talking about myself in the third person aren't I?

Guilty as charged. After years of RF preference I find I need reflex viewing to do what I need to do right now. An accumulation of Nikon lenses steered me in that direction. I tried one of their half frame cameras, fully as useless as my old and hated Oly Pen F. So I am the proud owner of a D700. Smaller and almost as light-weight as a Speed Graphic. But it does some nice things.
There might be much better cameras out there for what I want to do, though the 5D fails to impress.
But as you say, I bought into Nikon for those reasons of borrow, support and standardization, and I am still there.
And I can make the images look like something shot on Portra or other color neg films I like. I'd like to claim this is something like reality, but not really, it's just color neg film. Reality is not as reliable.

Numbers 1, 2, 5 and 7 explain my wanting the Fuji X100. But really, stripped away of all pretext, reason no. 1 covers all other reasons--I simply want it, and that's enough reason.

I basically restrict myself to full-frame cameras because I don't want to learn to love zooms.

The D7000/K-5/etc. suit my needs in just about every way, but no one has put out a full line of fast, high-quality prime lenses that cover the equivalent of 24-50mm at f/2. The Sigma 30mm/Canon 28mm/etc. are just okay lenses, from there you have to step up to the 24G/24L at $1600-2000 a pop.

Of course, it worked out for Nikon since they sold me a D700 instead, so maybe I understand why they're not rushing out to introduce a 24mm version of the 35/1.8.

#3, #4 in the late 1960's. I used Pentax, my friends also photographing railways had Nikon F's. Had friends then in the retail trade who could obtain "any" Nikon lens for a weekend or weekday free. Including a
massive mirror telephoto one day. So I traded my Pentax Spotmatic or whatever it was then for a $75.00 Nikon F body with massive 55mm lens.
These days? Well work demanded brand name devices, so Hasselblads, a Mamiya C330 and the Nikon, again. Forced redundancy due to political pressure, sold all my own gear and of course the work gear was left behind. Started again, late 1990's with sidewalk sale Pentax. Should have stayed there. The brand nothing wrong however after having three different K1000's commit suicide in one winter it was time for Nikon. Why not Canon?
Canon was electrostatic copiers and as a camera importer were very late into Canada. Today find my world has changed so a Nikon F100, Fuji film for slides,
and a D40 cause somehow for my existence digital is like a quickie; over before it starts.

There was and is no line to join in Ireland for Pentax, a couple of interesting articles by a certain former editor did help me form an opinion on their lenses though :)

hello Mike,

I have another reason to add and probably fits in well with your list: choose the camera YOU find easiest to use. I.e. If you like the way it fits in your hand and you can navigate the menus easily then it's the perfect camera for you. These days, it's almost impossible to say that one camera's image quality is better than another. YES, there are _differences_, but that's all they are: differences. Not better's and worse's, just differences. If you can use it easily, you've got a much, much better chance of getting the picture you're trying to achieve.

I switched from a Nikon F90x {N90s} complete set with four lenses and a great flash to the Pentax K20D since the body fit me like a glove and was _for me_ completely intuitive to use.

with highest regards from another of your humble readers,


I think "really wanting" is a meta-reason that potentially encompasses some of the more rational reasons given. Sometimes a camera just sparks a techno-lust, possibly through a genuine innovation that you see as matching your style or desires. That's no bad thing, as long as you can afford it :)

One reason for me is: to try a format or a type of camera that you have not used before.

I know this is the main reason why I bought my Leica M6 (rangefinder) and my GF1 (digital mirrorless relatively large sensor thing). I was getting bored of the old SLR way of life I suppose...


I use Olympus because David Bailey uses one.


You nailed it with #1, Mike. I've always believed that choosing a camera, like choosing a car, is a lot more subjective than most people want to admit. I've never understood why most photographers feel the need to justify their choice to others with the "facts and figures". Who cares what anyone else thinks of your choice? Buy the one you want and be happy!

Hi Hugh!

...as regards to auto-focus, let me say that I used Canon equipment for years, and for how I shoot, I used to leave all the focus spots on, and damn if the Canon didn't just always seem to automatically pick the person closest to the front, or whatever I seemed to want; like it was reading my mind.

Conversely, the Nikon used the same way picks inexplicable focus points! The latest example? I was photographing a group of people on the street, and the group filled up virtually the whole frame. The Nikon picked focus point? A bridge abutment four blocks behind them and in the far upper outside corner of the camera frame! It's wasn't brighter than anything else, or darker, or anything. If you had to pick a spot least likely to be the focus I wanted, that would have been it! I kept hitting the button and it kept picking it! Had to reset the spots...

Interesting to note, I ran across a photo-journalist I know that recently changed papers, and went from Canon equipment to Nikon equipment, and I mentioned this, and he started laughing and said: "...I thought It was me and I just hadn't got to the point in the camera manual where I learned what I was doing wrong!".

Big deal you say, BUT, I never had any problems focusing myself, until they started using only lightly ground screens, where nothing pops in and out of focus very easily, just so everything seems 'brighter" for the auto-focus mechanism. If auto-focus doesn't work like the Canon I mentioned above, then it's slower and stupider than me just focusing a camera with a decent ground glass!

The Nikon screen is so small and weak, it's a drag to hand focus...whata mess for me!

There is a concept called "visceral design" which means something is appealing despite being less than the most practical. Check out former Apple fellow and design Schofield at the link below.

We will often fall in love with the aesthetics and design of something then we later add on why it is right for us.

The best way would be to first, work out our minimum requirements, then decide which of these is most/least important to us, then look for the camera that suits us. Unfortunately humans are emotional creatures and things are never so simple.


"With Nikons auto focus system that never seems to pick the right spot"......He's never used a Nikon D300 I suspect!

I gave up the stick shift two cars ago, surprised the hell out of me. But now I can eat an ice cream cone while driving home from the DQ.

K. Harrington,

...oh, but I have, and better!

How about: You can afford it (or can afford to go into debt for it)

Mike, you left out the main cause for switching brands - the rebound.

When you get frustrated with a camera or company for one reason or another, and fall out of love, you go looking for the diametric opposite thinking it will solve all the problems.

Like with relationships, you first have to decide which part of the problem is you rather than the camera because you inevitably find a whole list of new issues and start missing some of the positives of your previous "love". ;)


I genuinely cannot recall why I chose a Nikon SLR in 1994, but I did. Nothing at all in my mind against any other brand. Now I'm on my fourth one, and I cannot imagine changing brand not out of loyalty, but because I know how they work, and I don't want to re-learn for some other brand. My own meagre talents as a photographer are not capable of exceeding any limitation of my D200 or 3 lenses, so there's little reason to switch anyway.

If I were to buy another camera, it would be of a different format. I love the square format, and have always hankered after a Hasselblad SWC. It has constantly been in the queue to purchase just one month after next month, once I've paid the school fees, repaired the car, bought the family holiday, paid my taxes...

I detest the Canon Eos ergonomics and always have done but when I really wanted a digital camera only Canon had full frame bodies and Tilt/Shift lenses.

First camera I picked was a Miranda Sensorex. I picked it because Consumer Reports rated it highest. (I like Consumer Reports still, but I've learned not to use their consumer ratings for products I'm a fanatical rather than ordinary user of.)

Then a friend turned me on to a Leica M3; the quiet, and the fast lenses (I ended up in a year or two with 35, 50, and 90mm Summicron lenses), were huge for me. I traded the Miranda for a Pentax system with a wider range of lenses (28mm-400mm) (and I didn't care as much about lens changing speed; the things I shot fast were mostly shot with the M3).

Then it was all stolen. After a break I first bought a Canon AF35m (I think it was; an early auto-focus 35mm snapshot camera), and then a Nikon FM (which was an amazing price-point for a very very solid body with a first-rate lens system available). Somehow I missed knowing that an 85mm lens existed, and I got the 105/2.5; a classic lens in many reports, but I never liked it, and would have been infinitely happier with the 85.

Olympus got to me with the OM-4T; the multi-spot metering held out the promise of near-zone-system results at near-photojournalistic speed. So I used two OM-4Ts for a couple of trips to England and my life in between.

Nikon got me back with autofocus; I still had some of the old Nikon gear, and a weekend of testing showed me that AF was definitely a win for me. I got an N90 and two AF lenses, and continued to use my various MF lenses that I hadn't sold, and an old FM2 body I hadn't sold.

Then digital, and the Fuji S2 kept me in the fold.

Just recently I added an Olumpus EPL-2; with the 20/1.7 Panasonic lens it replaces my Panasonic LX3 (it's a BIG improvement in image quality in low light, which is where the LX3 never satisfied me) as my P&S. But I haven't resisted buying other lenses for it.

So...#4. I'm shooting a D700 because I picked a Nikon FM in 1980. That didn't inevitably lead to this, but it was a major, major factor.

Friend of mine (pro shooter in Nashville) now shooting a Canon 5D and a 5DII continues to complain about the build and the user interface. But he gets the results he needs for magazine covers and big spreads, and he's got lots invested in lenses (the tilt-shift are big for him); and he shoots mostly products or with models and often in the studio, so a slow user interface isn't fatal the way it would be for a photojournalist or sports photographer; he's concluded he just has to live with it.


"The rebound". I like that ! Sort of like political elections, when everyone is screaming for change. (Doesn't matter to what, just something else).

That's me. Half fed up with Sony, so looking at Canon & Nikon. I'm mid-bounce (have been for a while; I might do something rash, but I'm going to take my time doing it). I could come back boomerang-style to Sony. (I'm only half fed up, after all).

David Dyer-Bennet

Sniff, me too for the Miranda Sensorex as my first Japanese precision 35mm (not because I read it in Consumer Reports, tho, I think it was the price point), and I loved it...moved on because Miranda just wasn't upgrading to new features fast enough and their lens line was truncated (someone wrote a story of how that company was totally mismanaged into destruction by the American owners AIC; it used to be on-line, but now I can't find it, I guess it was so bad, that the Japanese passed a law banning foreign ownership of their companies after that).

Always loved that camera tho, and recently bought another one on-line for nothing, had it refurbished at Essex, and ran a roll of film through it and still delighted (and amazed at the quality of the 35mm, 50mm, and 105mm I bought as well)! It's 'bottom weighted' light meter on the mirror was the only meter I followed exactly because it was rarely off and really eliminated the influence of overcast skies on non-sunny days.

Plus one on the 85mm vs. the 105mm as well, realized after years I really appreciated the 85mm as a portrait lens and was 'over-sold' on the 105mm by all the Nikon photographers raving about the 105 for portraits at the time (this would have been the 70's).

#1. "If you really want something, lucky for you—how much better is that than indecision, or not having a basis to choose, or, worst of all, "purchase paralysis"? It's worse to not know. So if you really want something, save your money and get it."

I know what I really want. A Nikon body and two Canon lenses. Maybe it's better to not know.

Mike said: "Why not? It's a very good reason, if you ask me. We only live once."

Well, you've just alienated a billion Hindus < G >


Crabby, the Sensorex certainly had good features, and the bottom-weighted meter was definitely one of them! The meter (sensor) was actually ON the mirror, as I remember it; that's how they managed to have interchangeable finders that all metered, the meter wasn't in the finder at all. And I didn't have any of the alternate finders, but I could just take off the prism finder and look straight down onto the focusing screen and frame without bringing the camera to eye level. I also really appreciated the front shutter release -- it wasn't hard to use for horizontal shots, and it was MUCH easier to use for vertical shots than the conventional location. (Having that set up to make verticals much easier, with the bottom-weighted metering that got a little weird in verticals, was a strange combination).

As Mike said, a camera I regard largely as a mistake for me definitely had good features that I noticed and appreciated, even at the time.

I bought that camera with a 50/1.4 lens from Century Camera in Minneapolis in 1969. December, I think; I got my first part-time job in October (I was 15), and basically spent the first two months of paychecks on my first real camera. Previously I'd been shooting with a Bolsey 35 that was a hand-me-down from my mother. I was already doing a little darkroom work in a friend's darkroom. I "built" my own (2x4 frame with black plastic stapled over it, no running water) in 1970; Durst M35 enlarger with pretty generic lens.

David, I love your story! I love to hear those affirmations of those little jewels of the camera business that fell by the wayside! FWIW, when I rebought the Sensorex recently and had it refurbished, I realized right away when using it everything I liked about it, and how when it 'went off', it was also more like a fine mechanical watch than the 'ka-chunk' of the big boys I ended up replacing it with. I read somewhere that in the early days of Miranda, their engineers really felt they were trying to make a Japanese camera of Leica quality, and even today, the shutter sure sounds like it!

I recently upgraded my camera and the main reason for my choice was the lenses I already had. I probably would have chosen a different camera but it is too expensive to change all your kit !!

I followed my fathers foot steps with Nikon 39 years ago. Had many chances to change but always found it superior to Canon and others. Shot with a D3 last year and couldn't believe how good it was. I purchased a D3s and became even more amazed at the quality.

Canon has taken the lead in video in 5D and 7D, but I expect that to change soon.

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