Time for a poll. I had a friend, an accomplished photographer, who hated cameras. He had no end of trouble with them, and he only put up with them because of the results he got. If you'll grant me that many people choose cameras for reasons other than the results they yield—because of the system that's available for them, the selection of lenses and accessories that you might buy one day, the way they handle, their technology, their recency (they want the latest thing), their capabilities (for instance, they want a camera with a certain package of features), their prestige, their looks, their history, who else used them, how handy they are, how pocketable they are, how pleasant or easy they are to use, how much their friends admire them—what's most important to you? Just the results in the file or on the wall? Or other factors?
If you had to pick one or the other. (Which you do, in this poll at least.) I know many people consider both, so no need to scold on that account. I'm asking which overrides the other for you. (If they're in balance, I guess you just shouldn't answer the poll question at all.)
Another way to ask the question: would you put up with a camera you hated using because it was the only way to achieve the results you wanted?
"Results trump everything else"
46% (1,436 votes)
"Results are important, but other things are as important or more so"
54% (1,699 votes)
My own answer: I would kinda like to be the type who cares only about results and would do whatever is necessary to achieve them, but I'm not. I'm a camera aesthete, and I also count on the camera to help me get the shot. You know what they say: Oh well.
P.S. This is the first time I've used this type of poll widget. Anybody having any trouble seeing or using it? Let me know in a comment or by email. Thanks.
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
A book of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Colin Work: "Certainly since the advent (and cost!) of DSLRs my mantra has been 'and just how will this improve my images?' But I will confess that I can rather too easily make such a case!"
Softie: "I think Mike's poll hit it perfectly on the head for me, or, as Jeeves would say, rem acu tetisgisti.
"I both love and hate my 8x10. (To stay with the theme, as Catullus would say, odi et amo, Peter Gowland.) I do stupid things with it all the time to mess up photographs. But I shoot a ridiculous proportion of keepers with it, so I use it when feasible.
"Unfortunately, the 8x10 doesn't work very well on moveable objects, and film is now $9 a sheet. So I have other cameras. And despite my love of lovely mechanical dials and levers, I've learned from experience that cameras like that don't work for me, so I use electronic cameras. Ditto for rangefinders: they just don't produce the results for me (with the exception of an M3/90 Summicron that has made some worthwhile negs), so I don't use them.
"And I spend vastly more on printing than I do on taking equipment: I think I actually just spent more to print a picture from a GF3 than the camera and lens cost combined. (Odi et amo, Eric Luden.)
"It's about the results, frankly. No one cares how cool your camera looks when they're looking at a print."
Eolake Stobblehouse (partial comment): "To me, a Pentax Spotmatic is a sculpture."
Robert L.: "I don't know about anyone else, but I like the shots from the cameras I love more. A craftsperson is greater than their tools, but part of mastering a craft is finding what works best for you."
Caleb Courteau: "This is a topic that I've given much thought to ever since mirrorless cameras have reached maturity. I own an aging nikon D80. The rubber grip is peeling off the back, high ISO's aren't super clean, and Nikon has neglected their DX lens line (just ask Thom Hogan). I've held some of Olympus's new Pens and they're fine pieces of equipment, and the video function is something that I would actually use. Despite all that, the D80 fits my hand like a glove, I'm very familiar with its controls, and its image quality is good enough. With a nice ƒ/2.8 17–50 and the el cheapo 50mm ƒ/1.8 I'm good to go for the small photojournalism stories I like to work on.
"Last month I met a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who had a Tamron zoom attached to his 5D Mark II and it was working for him. In my opinion cameras and lenses of every brand are over-delivering these days. My needs are being met, and anything beyond that falls into the realm of want. What I need is the 500+ dollars that I'm saving by not gratuitously upgrading."
Bernard: "If results were the only thing that mattered, we would all be shooting 8x10 view cameras, at least for slow-moving subjects."
Mike replies: Why?!? You're about the fifth person to say something like that. I think you're conflating "the results you want" with conventional notions of image quality. 8x10 view camera results are not the results that everyone wants. They're not the results Daido Moriyama wants, for example.
Is it really true that everyone shooting digital really wants 8x10 film results, but are putting up with results they don't like as well for some reason? I very much doubt that. I think lots of digital photographers (and smaller-format film photographers, for that matter) are getting exactly the results they want.
Geoff Wittig: "Results certainly trump aesthetic and ergonomic perfection, at least for me. I'm willing to heave 40 lbs. of gear including a pair of full frame D-SLR bodies, multiple lenses and a big tripod, because I've used all of it at one time or another to capture a treasured image a half mile hike from the car. This is not to say I enjoy being a pack mule, but the results are well worth it. On the other hand, I confess an unseemly affection for the brutish weight and solidity of the Eos-1Ds Mark III. It fits my large hands, that huge bright viewfinder suits my middle-aged eyes, and the graceless lumpishness has grown on me. Those cute little mirror-less cameras seem too dainty."
Daniel S.: "Ergonomics above all. Most cameras (digital or otherwise) are more than capable of giving me acceptable results when it comes to the technical aspects; what's important to me is how well a camera fits with the way I see and work in order to make the process as enjoyable and natural as possible. Discomfort is, in my experience, the worst enemy of inspiration."
Rod Graham: "I just can't imagine using any camera for very long if I didn't like the images I was getting from it."
Bill Pearce: "I find that a camera with great ergonomocs gives me better pictures than one with poor ergonomics. Unfortunately, ergonomics is a word and study absent from digital camera designers. Oddly, my old Sony R1, my first digital camera, handled beter than my Nikons or Leica. None handled better than my Hasselblads."