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Thursday, 09 July 2015


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So, just what do you have against the Amygdala IQ87???

I recently recommended an RX10 to my brother, he liked it but wanted something to process the raw files. I found out that Capture One Express is free but works only with sony cameras. (the full program works with all) It has beautiful colors, worth checking out if you have a sony.

Only trouble is, because of my camera recommendation, I now want expensive new software.

So you're saying that I shouldn't buy the Medula 87IQ?


and I can't remember if i bought my much loved Pentax DA35mm Macro ... before or after that article that I think Ctein wrote .....

To be honest I am sure however good it was it just seemed that bitty better after ... how sad is that!!!

Well of course I won't buy the camera you recommend … or if I do, it'll be coincidental. (My weapon of choice at the moment is a Fuji X-T1 with the 23mm f/1.4 lens, which I think is your current fave as well, but I had mine first, so your opinion didn't come into play when I bought it.)

Since you don't know much about me, Mike, you can't tell me what camera I should buy, but since you do know a great deal about cameras and photography you can —and do— tell me some of the things I should think about when I'm making my decision … and that's been very helpful. And fun.

I think you lost all your credibility years ago, when you recommended the HP B9180 to people looking for a printer...

Just kidding. Although I didn't buy it on your recommendation, I got a few years worth of good prints from it...when it worked.

Of course, being a clairvoyant and most thoroughly attuned to your advice vibes, I recently bought both an RX10 M1 and an RX100 M3.
Now see if you can reverse engineer my photography needs :-)

I've advised two people to buy RX-100s and they each bought one. One of them was planning to buy an RX-100 anyway and I just confirmed their choice. But the other person had been looking at a NEX. RX-100 is the best bang for the size IMHO. Probably still the case with the IV version, now with 4K video for 5 minutes at a time.

Geeze, Mike, I feel terrible. Some time ago, you recommended a Crown Graphic with a 127/5.6 Ektar as a solution to a particular problem. I agreed with you, did a whole bunch of research, considered other options...and still haven't bought one. I just don't have the time or money I thought I did when I was imagining the kinds of pictures I would take. But, I still imagine using one, I still think about buying one, so...

I think the problem with camera advice is that the idea of a camera is so abstract, and specs require so much imagination, that the bubble bursts when you come in contact with the real thing. When you heft a camera at the counter at Target or Best Buy, and are faced with the weight and complexity of the thing itself, it's hard to really own the thing you imagined in your head that someone else only told you about.*

I think people seek buying advice as a substitute for buying the thing itself. It is the same kind of magical thinking that students turn to, when they say they'll study really hard "next time". You know someone is serious when they will exchange real money for the dream, or when they actually turn the paper in on time.

*People have a hard time making good decisions about abstractions. The corollary would be that camera manufacturers are packing even their physical products with weird abstractions, so even if you buy a "real camera" you have to decipher a whole lot of manufacturer-specific nonsense.

I have had friends & colleagues say they want to buy a DSLR "so that they can take better pictures". When I've finished asking them questions about how much time they are prepared to invest in learning even the basics of aperture, shutter speed etc and how much weight they are prepared to carry around, it's remarkable how many of them realise that they don't want a DSLR - or CSC - just perhaps a better/newer compact.

I get thanked for that particular buying advice :)

I wasn't reading in 2010, but I wish I had been. That 'letter to George' is work of genius and might have saved me from cluttering my closet. Hmmmm, but as you say, I may have simply ignored you. Maybe it's a journey of folly that we are fated to take.......

There are a number of admirers of my work who ask me what camera I'm shooting with, and when I tell them, go out and buy that particular camera.

I agree with you, Mike, and almost never give camera buying advise; but I'm always willing to let my images speak for me.

And by the way, I'll have you know that the Amygdala IQ87 was a very fine camera, except that it was difficult to find 33 1/3 mm film for it.

Have never given any buying advice since going digital, for one thing there are far too many variables these days.
Back in the film days I had a standard answer when people wanted advice on a decent compact - "get an Olympus Trip". Three people took me up on the advice and one at least was profuse in their thanks.

I don't give advice much anymore because most people I know don't need it anymore. They already have a phone. I'll help them out sometimes if they know they want something else. But only after I'm sure they really do.

I recently bought a Canon EOS 100D (called the Digital Rebel SL1 in North America) - couldn't get on with mirrorless (too slow). It's as a backup to the heavyweight Canon gear.

Cheap, tiny, lightweight. Absolutely love it. It would do pretty much anything 90% of people ever wanted.


For over year now, I've been a happy user of the pictured camera, a Sony RX-10. And, in fact, I'm seriously considering taking a thousand-buck hit and trading up to the new RX-10 II. Is it the perfect camera? Nope. It's actually a bit bigger than I'd consider ideal - but on the other hand the RX100's are just too darn small for me to be comfortable with. Not that the RX100 doesn't make fine images - I rented one to evaluate it and one of the shots from that weekend not only made the front page of our local weekly paper, it was picked up by the daily across the hill. Not too shabby.

But. The RX-10 is just such a swell combination of lens, sensor and feel in the hand (for me). More than that, it is the perfect camera for this particular point in the arc of my photographic life.

I spent a long time - 2 or 3 years - photographing street art with a Ricoh GX100. The Ricoh was and is a fine little partner in crime, the kind of camera that says, figuratively, 'Sure, man.Throw me over your shoulder and climb that fence - go for it.' I built up a pretty good body of work, but in time I drifted away from the subject matter.

So, I'm in a period of searching for the next place to settle on and build another body of work. I've done some B&W work that I'm happy with (Camera Raw and Silver Efex are a powerful combination) and the almost vibrationless leaf shutter in the Sony has enabled me to do some handheld HDR images that resonate, too.

In short, the incredibly flexible and versatile RX-10 may just be the perfect camera for a photographer that's casting about for a groove to settle in. It's just so - WILLING - a camera that says 'sure, I can do that'.

Puts me in mind of the old Little Feat song -

"And I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonopah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
I'll be willing' "

I have had great success recommending cameras to friends. As a matter of fact, my boss just bought a new camera on my recommendation to go on a trip to Europe. The trick is to think more about the person you are recommending the camera to than about the camera. I hate to say this, but I own an RX100 and would not recommend it to anyone because of a terrible flaw that makes it unusable for the recommended audience. I will go into more detail if people care to know.

I've given thoughtful recommendations a few times to friends and relatives, and to my endless surprise, most of them actually followed it. Even more to my surprise, those that did appear to be satisfied with, and still using, the same equipment (generally low-end DLSRs like a Rebel or D3100) several years later.

I've had slightly better luck with advice for non-photographers who are buying a camera, typically for personal use, and I've even had people thank me years later for having pushed them in the right direction. However, I seldom recommend a single particular camera. I usually narrow it down to a class of camera and send them a DPReview comparison of the top 3 contenders and I will recommend that they go to a store like B&H (I'm in NY) and try the camera out to see how it feels in their hands. Then I tell them to get the one that feels most comfortable and intuitive, the one where the ergonomics match their hands and eyes. This has led to recs for Sony and Canons mostly, super zooms and the redoubtable S95. One unhappy customer who I recommended a nice Sony mirrorless to returned it because he wanted a DSLR (even though he never intended to change the kit zoom or take it out of program mode and insisted on Nikon or Canon).

"...Amygdala IQ87..." Wow...that is why you are a professional writer and making a living at this! :-) BTW, I did get one person to take my advice to buy the Olympus EM-10...

I love giving camera buying advice. Love working up a nice big spreadsheet with all the tech features of each model lined up side-by-side (best in bold font of course). Gives me a chance to peruse all the well-known gear review sites again. And then summing it all up with my well-educated recommendation. And, as you've experienced too, no one has ever taken my advice. They're usually turned completely around by the Best Buy guy, or a friend offering them a great deal on last year's model. Buy I don't mind… I love giving advice… and honing my spreadsheet skills. :-)

So, ever read Lord of the Rings?

It was pointed out to me that in that book (or bookS if you are less nerdy than I), the good guys almost never give advice. And when they do it is with great reluctance and with much hemming and hawing.

The bad guys, of course, give their opinions and advice quite readily.

I think Tolkien was onto something.

Excellent advice.

Both of my teenage grandaughters have expressed an interest in getting a 'real' camera. I've told 'em they are free to choose any of my "spares" (Too lazy to sell ...)

I'll try asking what they want to capture, etc. and suggest which cameras might work for that, but no pushing.

I'm guessing that how they look will weigh more heavily than what I might say about how they work.* \{;~)>

And whatever they may pick, if one turns out to be good and interested in upping their game ... Info, lessons and other equipment might just be available.

* If I were choosing that way, I'd be shooting with a black E-PL2 and 14-42 II R. Almost as pretty as a black OM-4Ti with 35-105.

Mike, you've made a serious mistake. You gave advice for free. No one takes free advice seriously. You should have presented a bill to your friends after giving the advice but before they made a decision. It is human nature that the more something costs, the better it must be.

Same for cars and computers.

Regarding giving camera buying advise, I go one of two ways. One, I tell them to go to a store that sells cameras and to feel them all and buy the one that feels the best in theirs hands that's in their price range. Anything they buy will suit them fine, I'm sure.
Or I'll tell them to buy the camera I am lusting after at the moment. They'll ask, "what camera should I buy?" I reply confidently, "you should buy Camera X." They always follow up with the question, "why?" I then tell them, "Because I think it's a cool camera and I want one, so it's what you should buy."

I'll take your advice, Mike, seeing as I already bought the RX-10 back in December. I'm still coming to terms with the fly-by-wire zoom but the camera really hits all the 'points of sufficiency' an amateur (I'm embracing the label now) could ever want. I'm keeping a film body with 28-200mm zoom and planning to sell everything else before the summer is over (to remove temptation as much as to cash out).

Right, it's always a path to find what works for you. When you wrote the letter to George I had a D700 and those two lenses. Never used those two so I replaced them with newer cleaner versions of the same. Never used them either, but maybe some day.

I did use the D700 but replaced it with a newer Nikon which I last used in September of last year.

But for my work electronic VFs work better than reflex and adapted lenses (oh, the horror!) work better than native.

I have never been good at predicting what camera will work for me so maybe I should suggest to the Georges who ask that they start with large format and wet plates.

The only camera I really did well with is coming on to 100 years old now and I guess I have made something like a million dollars with it, but that's a boring story.

People mistake cameras and competence. Spend 50 years behind the lens and you can shoot great images with just about anything. Put the world's best camera in the hands of an uneducated newbie and you generally get dreadful junk. Education beats technology every time, hands down. And, yes, I get asked about which camera to buy all the time. I tell them to do some research, but almost no one does. Thus we see the junk pictures plastered all over the internet. It is disgusting.

People generally ask for recommendations because they want you to reinforce their existing preference. If you don't, you just confuse them.

I am still convinced that people buy cameras primarily on one of the following factors:

1. It looks cool.
2. It's made by someone I heard of.
3. The price is right.
4. The guy in the store gave me a free memory card.

I recommended a fire-sale LX5 to a friend who had just become a father, and he loves it. But mostly he was impressed that it was half the price of the camera that replaced it. Fortunately, it's also an excellent camera.

As a retired vehicle test engineer my camera buying advice is much like my car buying advice: "Decide what you can afford, go spend that on a major brand." I know whether it is a car or a camera, they will, as Mike noted about cameras, buy whatever is on sale that week anyway.

People ask me the same question all the time. I was like you, taking it all too seriously. Now, when i am asked, i always say: " You should buy a Mamiya 7II with a full set of lenses"

After using the RX100m1 for 18 months, as my one-and-only general-purpose camera, I decided to upgrade ... to an RX100m3 and the RX10m1.

The RX100m3 is the best pocketable camera that money can buy. The RX10m1 is the "next step" up from the RX100; it's good enough to shoot a wedding (with an external flash).

There are cheaper cameras, better cameras, more specialized cameras ... but for your average enthusiast they tick the most boxes.

I've had two friend's buy the RX100m1 and two other's take a serious look at the RX10.

Also check out Ming Thein's reviews.

It can be rewarding helping people to start up in photography. Beginners can get lost so easily. Sensor sizes in inches that have nothing in common with their real measures. Lenses in 35 millimeter equivalents. It’s speaking in tongues.

I even wrote a small no nonsense introduction about the basic principles of photography. At the level of: How to teach your mother-in-law to take lovely pictures. You won’t find those in camera manuals. On the internet introductions to photography are mostly written by fanboys of certain DSLR brands or photoshop evangelists showing off their knowledge. Mainly about technical issues and way over the top when you are just beginning.

When it comes to choosing the right camera, first make a short ‘program of demands.’ Sounds heavy, but it’s not. Interchangeable lenses or all-in-one, pocketable or not, viewfinder or not, fields of interest, budget limits et cetera. This reduces the list of possible choices enormously. At least you know what not to buy. In most cases there a only two or three candidates left.
Also have a good look at the straight out of the camera jpg quality. It is likely that this is how 99% of the images are made, so you should love it. And of course: Try before you buy.

By the way: I wonder if there is any real expert on who wrote a good and simple introduction to our beloved field of interest. Like David Bailey did it in the old days of film.

A neighbor asked me for camera advice last year. I listened to his requirements, told him my opinion (RX100), and even loaned him my entire camera bag to test drive, which at the time had five cameras, from RX100 to D800. He still couldn't make up his mind, and every time i ran into him over the next several months, we'd have the "what camera should I get" discussion. Until finally his daughter got him a 6D for his birthday.

So anyway, now I just tell everybody to buy a Sony RX10 II or RX100. Neither are actually the perfect choice for everybody who asks. But since none of them will buy one anyway, I'm safe.

I've begun recommending the Sony A6000. It's a good camera and the price is right. To me it's supplanted the Canon Rebel or Nikon equivalent that used to be the easy recommendation.

I think it's really weird that no one ever takes your advice. You're a world-famous authority on photography, and you also actually give very good advice. People should be taking it. My experience is exactly the opposite of yours; despite the fact that I'm the furthest thing from a world-famous authority on the subject, people who ask me what camera they should buy actually do buy what I recommend - maybe 75% of the people who've asked me for recommendations bought exactly what I recommended (after I went through the interrogation procedure you describe). Luckily, they're mostly happy with their (my?) choices. I don't attribute their happiness to the quality of my advice - I think the real explanation is that almost every camera sold these days is really, really good.

Probably the best advice from you Mike about NOT giving advice!

It resonates well with me...people asking me and not listening to me over the stupid kit zoom etc.

I stopped recommending any specific camera a while ago.
For one thing it rarely matters these days.
(most cameras are excellent enough for "I want to do a bit of everything")

But mostly because folks usually already have a specific camera in mind - simply looking for affirmation on their desired choice.
(Which is more often than not some sort of full-frame camera.)

I sometimes ask if they know what they'd like to use the camera for the most. If they have a specific interest I might make some recommendations. If it's "a bit of everything" then I can't really do anything :-)

Amygdala IQ87 you say? Right you are, Mike.
I'll tell 'em you sent me!

Oh well. Just. Never. Recoomend. A camera. To anyone.
Or do, just to make them jump for... the other one they could not quite pick by themselves. Talk about primes, they'll get the bulkiest zoom on the planet. Etc etc.
Humbly mention what do you use and why, then let them go their own way. Learning by doing, even in camera picking.
Just hope their 'doing' will be shooting some, with the camera they buy. And not just redoing the shopping exercise one more time in three months from now....

Mike: I emailed you some years ago. I'd ' done a lot of research on buying a new DSLR and I just couldn't decide. You suggested something I hadn't even thought of a Pentax (can't remember the model) I went for it and it was a great camera.

"Eventually what I realized was that no one ever took my advice. As in, never. Not once. It never happened."

Not true. I read your review of the Bronica RF645. I tried one out in person at a store. I bought it (eventually, used). Still have it (although I haven't shot anything with it in years, due to film costs and newer digital purchases).

Never say never!

Through my professional opinion, I've sold so far two brand new A7's and at least two brand new RX100's. Also a used Nex 6.
I currently own two A6000's, one IR-converted, one RX100III and soon an A7rII. Since I am semi retired now from photography (because real estate) my 6D rarely sees the light these days.

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