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Friday, 03 June 2016


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You nailed it Mike; I feel the same thing about cameras AND my autos ...

And as these fertile thoughts ferment, you get GAS.

I have definitely gotten more picky, but maybe this is because I have always liked very nice things. My first camera was my Dad's old Praktika. When I could finally afford it, I bought a Contax N1 - a beautiful camera with all the necessary controls in all the right places. I went digital with a Canon 5D, but I always missed having the aperture control on the lens. I am a creature of habit, and while I can usually figure out about any menu there is, I want to have the necessary controls over focus and exposure at my fingertips.

People read all these pixel-peeper reviews online to decide which camera is "the best." My advice is always to go to the local camera store, if such a place still exists where you live, spend some time with a camera, and then reward this service by possibly paying a slightly higher price than if you buy from a warehouse in Nebraska. A lot of times, dealers will actually match online prices.

Sometimes you can tell in a minute that a camera just won't work for you. My friend had a Nikon system with manual Zeiss primes. I picked it up and realized immediately that the focus turned the opposite direction from what I had been used to for many years. Most cameras have something that I would change if I could, and some have issues I just can't overlook.

We all have our own little weird ways. I just cannot use an "ugly" camera. I'm not talking about worn or bashed up a bit cameras, just cameras that are ugly form the get go. And since this is my personal weirdness I get to define what is ugly. For instance, the bulls eye Contarex. Butt ugly, with a capital U. Won't bore you with any of my other overblown opinions about camera design or visual appeal.

What do I consider a beautiful camera? One would be the original Olympus Pen F, the one with the gothic 'F' on the front. In my opinion the added self timer lever of the later FT spoiled the clean lines of that camera.

I can understand the idea that cameras don't matter as much as they once did, except in how they do. Most modern interchangeable lens cameras are more than capable in most situations. So, while I'm not worried about specifications and number, I've gotten very picky about how a camera handles.

I can relate. I recently rented a Fujifilm XT-10 just to see whether I'd like it. The two of us got along well enough after a reasonably short period of adjustment. The image quality was excellent. It was definitely well-suited for street and travel photography: small, light, fast, and quiet. I'd never buy one though. The reason is because I always wear my bag on the right side of my body, and because the XT-10's lens release button is also on the right, I have to remove the lens with my left hand. See the problem? What should be one motion becomes two. I always wear my bag on my right and always will, so cameras with misplaced lens release buttons are out of the running. I know this may strike some folks as insane or petty, but for me it's a quick and effective way to narrow down my choices, especially when so many other differences are so minor in the long run.

I agree on all counts!

There's something inherently contradictory in this post - although I can certainly relate to the onset of OCD as age increases. Maybe not OCD, before someone corrects me - maybe I just mean grumpy, 'ornery... etc

How can you be un-picky about a camera, if you're picky about how it's controls are laid out, or the lens range?

When I'm in "gear acquisition syndrome" mode I'm hyper picky about all manner of irrelevent stuff (except the price.... sigh....)

When I'm in "put great/amazing/fun" big pictures up on the print wall mode I'm suddenly very picky about "things that worked great" and "things that failed to do what I was trying to do."

The later is really better. I mean, you sound and feel so much less stupid saying "I use this camera with these lenses because they make great photos like those on the wall" rather than "well, the camera strap lugs are more ergonnomically located on the Uber Mark 8, and it was only $6K to upgrade..."

One strange obsession I have is with the way lenses feel on the front of a camera. For instance I shoot with a Nikon 28 1.8 G a lot of the time. I keep it because it's an excellent lens, I love the rendering, and the focal length. At the same time I hate the way it looks and feels on the camera - I think it's an inch too long, and if they released a new shorter version I'd probably buy it even though it'd make absolutely no sense. Conversely, I've used the Nikon 50 1.4 G much more frequently than expected because it feels just right. And I don't really like the 50mm focal length! They probably make a medication for people like me.

I've always been of the opinion that human beings are adaptable. Give me a camera and I, too, can usually figure it out. But there is one feature I wish every camera had that few if any ever have--a switch to turn off all the features you don't use. Cameras have a lot of buttons these days and I seem to always hit one of them without meaning to and getting in a mode I don't want to use.

I've gotten less picky about lenses. No, that's not true. I never really saw the big deal in lens differences, never really cared about sharpness, couldn't tell you microcontrast from an elephant's behind, and thought distortion was natural. Now I'm just fine with a kit zoom if that's all I have with me, and a cheapish Sony prime if I think about it.

Oh, and I haven't shot RAW in three years. JPEGs are just great from most anybody these days, except maybe Leica.

Hmmm....interesting. I almost never feel that way. Which probably explains why I shot with an OM-1 for 22 years, then a Canon 1D-series body for another 10 before moving to Fuji X. I tend to use my cameras way past when other folks have moved on. For example, I still use a Canon 1D MkII N for racing action for the motorsports photojournalism I do (Fuij doesn't have a 300/2.8 out...yet).

Consumerism is more addictive than drugs, tobacco, alcohol and sugar put together. I've been trying to get out of the loop all my life, but 40 years and counting, I'm still running like the devil was on my tail to upgrade, replace and expand an ever growing mountain of stuff I don't need.

I'm happy to report though, that the cost of and speed at which new digital photo gear is brought to the market has choked my interest. I just can't run fast enough anymore. Sure, I'd like one of those new super duper cameras, but it is too expensive on its own, not to mention the cost of having to upgrade my computer and increase my storage capacity to process and store all the pictures. Then there's always the need for a new base plate for the tripod, a new flash, new lenses (since the older ones aren't sharp enough for the new sensor), new remote shutter, new set of spare batteries (they always make them different, don't they?), higher capacity and speed SD card... Makes me tired just thinking about it. I've been through that loop too many times already (35mm -> 6x6 -> Digicam -> Digital SLR -> m43). Now I just go shooting with my Lumix FZ1000. Bought it when it first came out and have not wanted another camera since. Perfect? Not by a long shot, but it has made shooting fun again (just like it was when I first got the Sony F707). I can grab it and go shooting in 5 seconds with just a spare battery and SD card in my pocket. As an added bonus it weighs almost nothing around my neck.

As we get older, I think we all have those those same opposed feelings about a lot of things. I think it's a function of the fact that time allows us to form reasonably strong personal opinions about what works for us. Weather cars or cameras or something else experience allows us to form informed opinions about our true preferences.
That same experience allows us to pick up any camera, or drive any car and use them in a competant way.
But when we have a choice we know what we prefer.
We've learned that you can have the top rated hiking shoes by all accounts, but if they don't fit, we're not likely to go very far.
Over time we learn what fits us, and that 'fit' trumps most other features.
But show us something really new, and if it fits us we get just as excited as we did when we were new ourselves.

I'm fairly new to this phenomenon, having picked out and purchased exactly 2 "serious" cameras so far, but I think I know what you mean. Each of those decisions was preceded by months of internal debate and worry -- mostly because I didn't know what I was really getting in to. Having not lived with any of the many available features of modern digital cameras, I didn't know which ones were going to be really important. With the result that everything seemed really important. It's such a big investment that I was picky enough to want just about every feature covered in a way that at least sounded impressive.

Now that I've used my cameras a whole bunch, two things have happened -- I've gotten passably good at using core features, which has made it easier for me to make good images on any device (borrowed point and shoots, cell phones, etc). And there are now entire classes of features that simply don't matter to me any more because I've realized they aren't important to the way I like to work.

I think the next time I buy a camera I'll be able to be less picky on all those non-essential (to me) features. But I'll also know more about how I like the essentials organized. I think what it'll amount to is being better at picking the right camera for me, and being less picky about trying to get the "Best Camera (I Can Afford)".

I'm also very picky about the way cameras operate and how manufacturers plan their ranges. Fussy or illogical controls and menus, or a lens range that manages to include both yawning gaps and major duplication, just annoy the hell out me.

I don't ever look for perfection. To me, perfection is simply the absence of flaws that I can't live with. Most minor irritations I can learn to forget. On the other hand, there is usually something that persistently bugs me.

Hell, I'm not a pro, I just want to enjoy the experience and my muscle memory is now hard coded.

On the other hand, I'm almost oblivious to the specifications. Learning to process the RAW files properly and using a good print service makes far more difference than megapixels, or any other number.

Does being more picky lead to more or less GAS?

I can make the argument both ways.

If you're more picky then you're less likely to shoot with a camera you don't like so either you find a camera you really like and then you have no need to buy another one or you keep buying new cameras to find one that matches your picky requirements.

If you're less picky then perhaps you don't care so much which camera you shoot with so you just buy a "good enough" camera and use it or perhaps you buy multiple cameras and use all of them on and off because you're not that picky about which one you use.

Perhaps pickiness has no net impact on GAS?

Every camera IS more than I need because no one makes a camera that has only the features I need. OTOH It is hard to find one that has all the features I'd like, even with all the features I don't care about thrown in.

What's weird is the difference between equipment and cameras, and you kinda allude to it in your post, even if not intentional.

'Equipment' is what I use at the school where I teach, but 'cameras' are what I pick and choose for my personal work. I know what I like when I feel it. I shot commercially for years, and if I did not feel a connection with new gear from the first time I used it, it went back to the seller or collected dust.

I feel as if I have speed dated with gear since the digital revolution.
"S weird," but true.


As you're such a gifted writer and photographer, I'm surprised at your dogged determination not to change the position of your camera bag from your right to left shoulder. Reminds me of when I finally switched from briefs to boxer shorts after much consternation. What a liberating experience. You might try it for 30 days. I mean the bag on your left shoulder :)


The right camera can be a muse. That's what I'm looking for. Not something better so much as something inspiring. Same for lenses - the way an "imperfect" lens might paint an image can mean more than pixel peeping precision.

The wrong camera just gets in the way. Doesn't matter how awesome the specs. And yes, aesthetics may very well matter. The tools need to become part of you so this is very much like a relationship. There needs to be a spark.

Mike, you got a little bit a craziness showin'

It's odd. I've given up caring about my gear. What I have is old (ancient, even, by digital standards) but it does the job.

I've stopped lusting after the newest, even when I can see it is better in many regards than what I have.

I simply reckon that I'm as good a photographer as I'll ever be (or as good as I want to be at the moment) and that better/newer/different gear won't improve my photographs.

I think I understand - you have very specific revealed preferences, but you are pretty agnostic about which actual instance (camera) you hold.

I have an affinity for a particular set of angles of view + distance: 28mm-e for rooms, buildings, and situations, 35mm-e for individual people between 6 feet and 2 feet a way. For those focal lengths, I can tell you what prime lenses are available for which systems, and ballpark a price tag for most current digital systems, and most film formats. A surprisingly useless skill. (Perhaps, surpassingly useless!) But I can say with confidence that I can handle most cameras well enough with one of those lenses to get many of the pictures I like.

I think you could squeeze a whole column out of desired features, though. Here's one that I haven't personally seen in a digital camera: a rigid metal clamshell cover that closes over a lens assembly. I first saw one years ago on a Kodak Retina IIa, the fixed 50mm lens telescoped into the body, and the cover swung shut over it, making the whole camera smooth and pocketable. If a manufacturer was wise enough to combine this with watertight weather sealing, I think it would be exceptionally useful. An aftermarket hard case, with this feature, meant for one of the tiny Panasonic primes would be ideal!

As long as the camera has a 5 and a D in the name, I'm not fussy.

5D classic, 5D2, 5D3, 5D4 (probably) or the 50D. All feel the same and I can swap from one to another without effort. Anything else is distracting.

@Gordon Lewis - have you tried removing lenses from Fuji XT bodies using just one hand? It's not difficult! I'd hate such a problem to exclude you from a great camera system!

"Picky" seems to drive everything in modern, digital photography. As I gaze upon digital images produced by ever more sophisticated equipment from most of the various equipment, i.e. cameras, produced by many of the major companies, it seems that the level of sophistication needed to identify real distinctions is well beyond me.....It is as if all than varied pickiness is driving them all toward the same ideal; as they approach this common point, there is less and less real reason to prefer one over the other.....as it pertains to what is produced by the product.

Here is my present nit-pick:

I have owned both the X-pro1 and the x-pro2. Now that I have the x-pro2, I love the various new features, especially the new manual focus aid in the OVF. It is a joy to use with all of my manual glass; but as I look at the photos from my old x-pro1, I wish Fuji had left the old sensor in the new camera.

Maybe, we will reach a point where a camera manufacturer develops a "Professional" service wherein the photographer can choose between various sensors. I mean, folks fell in love with various films. Does it not stand to reason that they may fall in love with certain sensors.

I, up until recently, worked in a camera shop. Telling people how wonderful their (any) camera was, was a coolaide that I also found addictive (dozen cameras, 5 brands in a few years). I recently turned (semi) pro, choosing Olympus as my poison and a funny thing happened. I now think about photos and not gear. I had doubts I could be happy away from the "fix" of gear, but even the new Pen is only a mild distraction from more practical matters like lighting, technique and a signature look.

“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.”

R L Stevenson

Having tried over many decades to carry my camera bag on both sides, to spread the strain around—and failed—I'm sympathetic to Gordon Lewis' sensitivity to lens release placement.

I'm not sensitive to lens release placement, and in fact I use lenses with opposite zoom directions in my daily life; it's a drawback, but one I cope with. As a result of this failure to commit to one approach, I fumble more and do things a little slower than I would otherwise. For someone who thinks of himself as primarily a documentarian, hence largely reactive, this even seems like a strange thing to be willing to sacrifice. I think it's just that, over the years, I haven't been able to consider a permanent monogamous relationship with one camera line, so I've simply always had to put up with this.

Modern software-defined-cameras are starting to have menu selections to chose which way the aperture and shutter-speed dials spin; so apparently caring about that is common enough to draw their attention.

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