Statistically, any comment I make is likely to land.
I learned this long ago when I wrote an editorial for Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques and made a flippant reference to "a janitor from Dubuque" (for non-U.S. persons, Dubuque is a city in Iowa that, like Peoria in Illinois, is sometimes used as a symbol for a nondescript, typical, "anywhere" kind of place). I meant "janitor from Dubuque" in the sense of "anybody from anywhere."
But that magazine had 21,000 readers at the time, and one of them was—yup, you guessed it—a janitor from Dubuque...who sent me a hurt letter wondering why he had been singled out for scorn.
I learned that lesson.
In the same way, general recommendations land. If I say that the Sony A7R II is one of the most desirable cameras on the market right now, 400 people will go look at the link, four people will buy one, and two more will remark what a coincidence it is that I should say that right after they bought a Sony A7R II.
Anyway, this is just to say that I'm not talking here about generalized camera advice.
I used to take requests for advice super-seriously. I'd question the friend about their needs, analyze the factors that pertained, apply my deep knowledge of the options available on the market, and tell them what, in my considered judgement, they should purchase.
...Which advice they would promptly completely ignore. Later, when I saw them again, I'd be told with a little laugh that they liked my choice and appreciated my advice, but, well, they went to Best Buy and the kid behind the counter thought that the Amygdala IQ87 was the best bargain, and they liked the look of it, so they bought that instead.
But, thanks anyway.
Eventually what I realized was that no one ever took my advice. As in, never. Not once. It never happened. Nine times out of nine they'd listen to my careful, painstaking analysis that took me hours to compile, and ignore it and go buy something else on a whim.
So that's why I stopped advising friends and relatives about what camera to buy. It's not that I don't want to; it's not that I can't; it's certainly not that I don't want to do them the favor—I'd be more than happy to help; it's just that it's been my observation that they never end up taking my advice anyway.
So anyway, now I just tell everybody to buy a Sony RX10 II or RX100. (We're on Version IV already.) Neither are actually the perfect choice for everybody who asks. But since none of them will buy one anyway, I'm safe.
P.S. Jeez, all three cameras I mentioned here are Sonys. What's up with that?
Original contents copyright 2015 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:
Peter Wright: "What!! Does this mean that you are no longer recommending everyone to get a Nikon D700, with 35mm ƒ/2 and 85mm ƒ/1.8 lenses as in your 'Letter to George'? That's the reason I started reading TOP! Of course, I didn't buy a D700."
Mike replies: George did not take my advice, or he'd still be happily using his D700, eating out every week, and flying first class.
Dave Rogers: "I don't give camera advice with respect to a particular model, unless someone asks a particular question. But I have appealed to my Facebook friends, and my tiny audience at my blog, to at least buy a camera! While smartphone cameras are vastly more capable than the little Kodak Instamatics my parents used to record many of our family's special moments, nearly any modern camera is more capable than a smartphone in any number of regards; and if one enjoys taking pictures, it's even more enjoyable with a dedicated camera. In the couple of years I've been making this appeal, I know I've made at least three sales. Alas."
Mike replies: Keep fighting the good fight, Dave.
Jason: "I don't like to give advice on camera purchases. Too many people think that buying a good camera is all they need to do to take good photos. If they get the camera and can't take good photos they might think I gave them bad advice."
Mike replies: Funny but probably true!
Mark: "Back in the '80s I worked at a decent-sized mom and pop camera store. All too frequently customers would simply walk in and ask me for the 'best' camera. I knew that usually what they really were asking was, what's the best camera for me? But at this point I of course have no idea of their wants or needs.
"So my frequent answer to this question was to pull out either a Hassy 500C or a Pentax 645. This usually resulted in a look of shock due to the size of the camera or an instant question of 'how expensive is that?' When I answered the cost question they would mildly freak out and insist I put the camera away.
"Playing this little game normally had the exact result I was looking for, which was to make the customer realize that we needed to ask a bunch of questions so that we could find the product that correctly met their needs.
"Of course at times they would still buy the wrong thing despite you directing them to what should be perfect based on what they had told you. At which point all you could do is throw up your hands and let them do whatever it is they want to do, just as you have done Mike. All you can do is try to help.
"As a bonus however, it also meant that I sold more Pentax 645's than anybody else. :-)
"Nowadays, if I were still selling cameras, I too would grab the Leica S and plop it on the counter just like I did with the Hassy 30 years ago."