Not long ago, I got rid of my 2012 Toyota RAV4 V6. It was not only the first SUV I've ever owned, it was the first SUV I'd ever driven. I bought it in an effort to be practical, and because my other car (since sold) was an older Mazda Miata, which is great fun but close to the most impractical car you can buy. The RAV4 had only 16,000 miles on it when I said goodbye.
I'm still kind of shocked that I traded it in. I had set up everything to run for five years (service contract, warranty) and I could easily have kept it for that long. The RAV4 did everything well. Great freeway car; easy to drive; good ergonomics; extremely practical; four-wheel drive. The dealer was the best dealer I've ever worked with and the dealer's service department was almost surreally efficient. If the RAV4 was a taste of how far "the automobile as appliance" has come, then it's come a long, long way from my boyhood, when my father would have his Oldsmobile "checked" by the mechanic at the corner gas station prior to a trip from Milwaukee to Indianapolis "just in case."
Here's a comment Gordon Cahill wrote in response to the Canon 6D post the other day:
The Canon 6D seems to be an extremely well-rounded imagemaker. Very good at most things. Brilliant at some and with few weaknesses for the vast majority of photographers.
Without wanting to insult the many fine photographers using this camera, I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole.
Because it's boring.
This, for me, is the golden age of photography. There's so much choice. There's so much diversity. There are cameras that are so much fun to hold and use. The 6D is too safe. There's no risk involved. And while the 6D does everything well it's the best at nothing. It's not the lightest or the heaviest. It doesn't have the most or least resolution. It is just so middle-of-the-road.
Canon and Nikon will always do well because they're safe bets. Nothing wrong with that. But there's nothing there that inspires me to go out and shoot. You could have written exactly the same peice and just inserted the Nikon equivalent.
With so much happening in camera technology, why would I choose the same old same-old as my only choice, unless I crave the safe option. Fuji, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic and Leica are making waves. They're making new stuff possible. They have limitations (limitations are good for photography) but they provide challenge and reward. And you just want to pick them up and take photos. Because they're fun.
Gordon's comments really reminded me of the RAV4. I approved of pretty much everything about that vehicle. And I couldn't wait to get rid of it.
The RAV4 was excellent in every single way except one: it was not much fun.
I think I have a habit of carrying automotive <—> camera analogies a bit too far—in the same way I carry musical <—> visual arts analogies too far occasionally. They're so useful and so illuminating that I guess I can be guilty of not appreciating the disparities to quite the extent I should. For instance, no one (or very few people) needs to be a professional driver of a consumer passenger vehicle. Yet some people are indeed making all or part of a living with their Canon (and Nikon) DSLRs. And of course we haven't "proven" that a 6D isn't fun. Maybe it's the most fun for some owners. And of course I'm sure we will hear from some people who consider this whole idea to be indulgent and pointless. The camera's just a tool, period, end of sentence.
But I think this is why I would personally choose a Panasonic GX7, or an Olympus E-M5 or E-M1, or a Fuji X-E2 or X-T1, or a Leica T (which I got to try the other day, briefly), or a Sony A7[x] or A6000. Somehow, they're just more fun than a DSLR.
But why is that? I can't quite put my finger on it. I don't quite get why a Fuji X-T1 is "more fun" than a full-frame DSLR. Yet somehow...it is. The Panasonic GX7 is even more fun than that. Why?
Is "fun to use" an important criterion to you?
And, what's fun?
And, how come?
While you're thinking about it, I'll be sitting here trying to think of the most fun camera I ever used. And by the way, the car I have now is less practical than the RAV4 in almost every way (except that my car payment went down), and it has more flaws. But it's a lot more fun, and that more than makes up for it—I like it better. (Maybe I'll write about it some Sunday when I have more time.)
(Thanks to Gordon Cahill)
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Dave Jenkins: "I want to speak up on behalf of the Canon 6D, which I think of as 'the little camera that could.' Unlike other commenters who want their cameras to excite and inspire them, I only want my camera to serve my photographic needs. I love cameras, but I love photography more, and everything I want my camera to do, the 6D does quietly, precisely, and extremely well.
"Seeking to save weight in my travel kit, I experimented with Micro 4/3. My OM-D E-M5's are lovely cameras in many ways, but I think travel photographer Gerald Brimacombe may have a better solution. He also experimented with mirrorless cameras, but now travels with only one lightweight, full-frame body and a midrange zoom. I don't think I want to be quite that spartan, but my 6D, along with my 24mm ƒ/2.8, 40mm ƒ/2.8, and 70–200 ƒ/4 zoom make a great light and compact combination that will handle almost any situation within my range of photographic interests."
[The following two comments came in one after the other, in this order. —Ed.]
Brian Chambers: "I have had a run of incredibly boring cars. The last of which is a Honda Pilot. It has been nearly perfect in every way and I have never liked it all. We bought a Mazda 3 which although nothing extreme is a standard and so much more fun to drive. My wife and I fight over who gets to use it. I now want to trade in the Pilot on something more fun but my practical side doesn't want to spend the money. It's a battle; how much do we want to pay to have more fun?"
Greg: "Odd. My Honda Pilot SUV is, by your definition, the least 'fun' car I have ever owned. But it lets me get to places I couldn't get to with my others and take the photos I'm after."
Sven Erikson: "'The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.' —Thomas Carlyle How long does 'fun' last? Is it just until the novelty wears off? How do you separate those that are fun to use for years, from those that are just expensive toys? Food for thought...."
Edd Fuller: "I don't take pictures because cameras are fun to use. I take pictures because I love to take pictures, and I want the camera to get out of my way and let me do that."
Bernd Reinhardt: "People can hate on Leica all they want, and yes, they are expensive cameras. But people who own them just really love them, and it isn't because they are expensive, but because they are just fun."
Wayne: "Fun calls for engagement. In cars, I found it in my 1978 Porsche 911sc. As I stand with others admiring the elegance of the car, as an object, I am fond of saying: 'You would not believe how unrefined it is in operation.'
"In past years, as many lamented the demise of film photography; maybe they were really lamenting the demise of 'fun.'
"I would say my A7 provides me the most fun in digital photography. Much of it may well be traceable to the fact that the camera seems, in use, so unrefined—and the system so incomplete. It is as if Sony created the thing and said: 'Hey! look at this thing! See, we can fit a full frame sensor in compact camera. Now go out and figure out why you wanted it.' Well, since purchase I have accumulated the A to E mount adapter, pulled all my old Canon, Nikon, Contax, and (my one)Leica lenses/lens out of the 'closet' and have a blast playing with it all. I now have a mountain of stuff to use with this misfit.
"By the way, if you want to see what I am talking about with old, air-cooled 911's, check out the YouTube by RUF Corporation. I believe it is called 'Fazination.' It is a 20 minute drive in 'Yellow bird,' a 500-HP, turbo 911. You can see that the driver is very engaged."
Boris Grego: "The most 'fun' camera I ever had was the all-manual Nikon FM2 film camera. Using slide film and beautiful prime Nikkor lenses (24mm ƒ/2.8, 35mm ƒ/1.4, 50mm ƒ/1.2, 85mm ƒ/1.4, and 135mm ƒ/2.0) I was able to obtain pictures that were exactly as I wanted. No automation at all. If the pictures were no good I only had myself to blame and if the pictures were good well then I only had myself to praise. This was seriously good fun. That's a long time ago. Since then the closest camera to the Nikon FM2 in terms of fun is the Olympus OM-D E-M1. But only close as often the complexity and automation of the E-M1 can get in the way of photography and often I spend minutes looking at the screen and wondering which camera setting has been inadvertently changed or which setting needs attention."
Jerome: "The 'it's just a tool' saying always makes me smile. The tool defines what you do and how you do it.
"The choice of tool is the single most important decision.
"Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes it's fun to just try a new tool and be inspired by it; sometimes the tool is frustrating when it totally opposes what you want to achieve.
"If the only tool you have is a hammer, all you see is nails.
"To illustrate my point, let's do a thought experiment: If you had an assignment to make 10 photos each month, but each month with a different camera. First month a large format camera, second month a Sony RX-1, then a Hasselblad 500, then a Lumia 1020...you get the idea. I bet that each camera will yield significantly different pictures, as you go on and explore the tool.
"And that is also true for cars. If you were to drive by car from NY to LA with a Tesla roadster and back to NY with a VW Type 2. I'm sure you will experience two completely different journeys.
"Personally, I like to be inspired and challenged by tools. A boring tool doesn't do much for me, as it leaves me cold and without the desire to do anything with it."
Mike replies: Great comment. No matter how fastidiously worked-out our "camera philosophies" might be and how carefully chosen our favorite cameras, we've each no doubt found ourselves from time to time in a situation where we just plain have the wrong tool for what the situation demands or for what we want to do. I know it happens to me.
When I was a carpenter, an older (and very good) carpenter once said, "Carpentry is 25% skill, 25% experience, and 50% having the right tools."
Peter Stacey: "My RX100 is fun because it takes pictures as good as my (several years old) DSLR. It's small enough to take anywhere, doesn't attract any more attention than a phone and so doesn't make you feel that you have to behave like a 'proper' photographer and can just enjoy trying things. Car-wise I'd rather take the train...."