A few years ago I bought a "nice" toaster. It was an attempt to replace the super-cheap $11 Venture special I'd been using and genially hating for a decade. The new toaster had everything—it was well built, it was stylish, it had several nifty features including a "bagel mode" that only toasted one side of whatever it was toasting. You could even pick it up when it was in operation without scorching your hands.
...And I hate it even more than the old one. The reason: it does everything well except toast. It leaves stripes on bread, toasts the top of the bread more than the bottom, and only three of its ten settings are useful—the rest might as well be called "don't toast at all" and "turn the outer layers to carbon and start the bread on fire."
My toaster illustrates part of the utility of Amazon. Even though I didn't buy it from Amazon, I wrote not one but two scathing indictments (several months apart) of my awful new toaster, to warn future innocents about to be duped by its perfidious enticements. It was satisfying to express the depth of my disdain.
But I live with it. Know why? Because it's a toaster. And toast isn't that important to me. I consider myself stuck with it. The $42 is gone, the bad choice is made, and I'm not throwing any more cabbage at that problem.
I wish I had a better toaster, but I'll have to wait until this toaster breaks before I get to try again.
I stand corrected
I said a couple of days ago that the image quality of the OM-D is extra-nice. I didn't expect this to be a disputable statement. I thought anybody—in fact, the way I unfortunately chose to phrase it, "anybody with a brain"—would agree.
Not so. I heard from one TOP reader who decidedly does not like the image quality of the OM-D. He considers it poor. We explored the issue at adequate length, and it seems he's done due diligence—he uses it on the right settings, uses it with good lenses, and has compared his camera to other OM-D's to make sure he doesn't have a faulty sample. And he has a brain. He just thinks the image quality is lousy.
I told him he should sell his OM-D and move on.
Here's my take on that. When something is important to you, it's worthwhile getting it right. And getting it right sometimes involves missteps and mistakes. With these important things, that's part of shopping.
I'm sure a lot of civilians out there in the world have the same relationship to cameras as I have to toasters. They do a little research, buy the one that turns their head, and then they're stuck with it for a while. Like it? Don't like it? Whatever. It's just a camera. They've spent the money. The deed is done. Deal with it until it breaks.
With things that are important to us, though (for me, that includes music-reproducing equipment, cameras, and cars, although that doesn't matter...whatever is most important to you is what I'm talking about, whether it be your riding mower or the color of your living room walls or your fly-fishing rod), sometimes you have to do two things: 1) try a few different options to get a feel for what's out there; and 2) make a false start or two.
It's not wasted money. If you buy the wrong thing, you've learned something. It's just part of your journey to the right thing.
It doesn't register as a true loss to me if I buy the wrong amplifier for my new speakers and have to sell it again...even if I have to lose a little money. That's still money well spent. I learned all about that amplifier firsthand. That it falls short was something I needed to know. And now I know. What's important to me is that I end up with an amp that pleases me. I want to get to the end of that particular road. Whatever helps get me there is good.
I find it somehow amusing but wholly appropriate and completely understandable that my neighbor is the same way with the decor of her house. She keeps trying new things, keeps tweaking even little things. That's because she's an interior decorator. She's really good at it, too. Her house is like her laboratory. It would have been fine for me about four iterations ago. Somehow she keeps making it look better and better. It's hardly recognizable as the house my former neighbors lived in, the old couple she bought the house from. And she's still not done. The money she spent doing something she later replaced has absolutely not been wasted, I would argue. Yes, it's expensive to keep changing the decor around. But it's her thing. It's what's important to her.
I don't pretend to understand why that one reader doesn't like the IQ of the OM-D. But that doesn't matter. The important thing is, he doesn't. And in that case, my advice is: bail out, and try again. Bottom line, he should have a camera that pleases him. It's not important what I think of its image quality, and it's not important whether the whole rest of the world agrees with me: it's important what he thinks.
Cameras might be like toasters to some people. Not if it's your thing.
The magic of reacquaintance
There's a corollary to this that I would be remiss not to mention, too: if something works for you—if you get along with it and it pleases you—stick with it. Don't be fickle. Don't keep shopping after the shopping is finished, after the quest has been successful. There's no reason to shop just to shop.
Granted, I don't take my own advice here, but I'm a special case...I make my living writing about cameras, so I don't have the option of sticking with one thing for a long time. (I wish I did, sometimes.) I have to try new things as part of my job. So unless you're a camera reviewer too, don't use me as a role model here.
And if you think you're largely happy with your existing camera, but you're getting your head turned by new products? If little nagging doubts are creeping in?
That's simple: reacquaint. Do some concerted shooting with your old baby. Go through the IB again and see if there are any settings you don't quite understand.
The reasoning here is something Mark Power taught me long ago. When his students complained, he realized, it was just because their work was in the doldrums. When they were engaged with their work and enthusiastic about their pictures, the complaints disappeared. It really does work that way: if you find yourself feeling petulant about your previously much-loved camera, the cure is not to start reading reviews and thinking about replacing it; the cure is to get out and use it.
That's how we really get to love our cameras.
But don't think the false steps and false starts are something you have to live with. That's only true if you don't really care. Life's too short: as soon as you become convinced you really don't like something, it doesn't matter whether you "should" like it: it's time to move on.
(Thanks to ZZ)
Original contents copyright 2013 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.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
John Krill: "About toasters: I recently saw an 'America's Test Kitchen' show that reviewed several toasters and not one was worth anything. Like your experience they just didn't toast very well. Turns out the best of the worst was a toaster that had an insulator on the outside of the toaster that protected you from the extreme temps that can be achieved on the exterior of the toasters. Turns out toasters are good at burning you, not the toast."
Mike replies: That's funny. Maybe toasters really are the engineering equivalent of what the common cold is to medicine: the unsolvable problem. We almost have the opposite problem with cameras: so many, many of which are so good.
Ken James: "Ha! Toasters seem to be emblematic of the, let's say situation, in our country. Toasters do matter to me; I like toast. Several years ago my old toaster died, so I went to buy another. I thought I got a bad one so I bought another.
"I ended up buying six, each more expensive than the last. None of them worked. Finally I bought one for over $100. I still have it because it kinda works, but just kinda. As long as one is not choosy about toast, it is okay.
"My mother had the same toaster for 40 years and it worked, and probably still does, perfectly. Oh well. Hey wait! I thought you were on a wheat-free diet!"
Mike replies: Nope. But I am happy to report that after three years of concerted and extensive self-experimentation, I have completely solved the diet problem. However, I need to wait until I've lost 50 or 60 lbs. before I write about it—I'm afraid I might lack credibility otherwise. Stay tuned.
Joe B (partial comment): "Now—for the don't live with something that does not work to your standards? Easy to say if your budget can support your experimentation."
Mike replies: Very true. It's one reason why I've always assumed that this attitude makes more sense with just those few things which are most important to you. I accepted 25 years ago that photography was just something that was going to soak up a certain amount of my money—$5,000 annually was my old number, in the days of film and photo paper expenses.
I suppose that the "depth" to which you can afford to be picky reflects both your attitudes and your means. I do have a relative who appears to treat every decision as though it were of infinite importance...she's an extraordinarily careful shopper who does lots and lots of research. It seems to me I also know people to whom nothing is important—they make purchases very casually and impulsively, even ones you would think should be important.
And where you fall is definitely tied to your means, it's true. I do understand that. I guess what I'm saying is that means are also tied to priorities....
Rob L: "This condenses my buying habits with cameras—sometimes I've bought something that I'm pretty sure isn't the right answer, just to figure out what the question is. It took going to Disney with just a Canon G12 to realize that tiny sensors and low light are not going to make me happy, and several Micro 4/3 cameras (three? four?) lead me to my beloved Fuji X100.
"But cameras are easier to do this with—if you buy used to begin with, you can generally not pay too high a learning fee as you rotate stock. But whatever it is—there is nothing more expensive than something that makes you hate what you love."
Mike replies: Your last statement is inscrutable to me. What do you mean by that?
Rob L responds: "I should have said—a $5 camera that makes you hate photography is a very expensive camera. A $2,500 camera that makes photography more enjoyable is cheap."
Zalman Stern: "The Toaster Rant is a favorite improvisational bit among myself and friends. ('When Generalissimo Francisco Franco was in power, the toasters worked.') There's also this now almost venerable piece of Computer Science humor.
"It does not seem that toasters are that difficult a technical problem or that the issue is gratuitous complexity. (Though I do support a lifetime ban from product design for the person who decided that what a toaster really needs is a series of shrill electronic beeps immediately after the loud "sproing" that pops up the toast.)
"I joke that my next project will be to build the Nest Thermostat of toasters. Might not be as silly an idea as it seems...."
Remi: "There's apparently one giant factory in China that makes toasters for most everybody under the sun. The outside changes, but the guts don't, hence they're all equally bad...."
Mathew Hargreaves: "I know the history of toasters in the USA, expecially the popup types. Got a lot of the them to prove it. The reason the modern toasters do lousy toast is the slots are designed for bagels or thicker Texas Toast. So when normal bread is inserted and centered it is too far away from the elements. I found it takes two passes of toasting for this type of toaster to do its job. They may be energy efficient and cool-walled but doing toast with regular bread is not efficient. For regular toast, get a Toastmaster 1B-14 from the 1947–63 period. they are common and generally in good working order. Analyze a toaster just like a camera and the problem is revealed."