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Monday, 28 September 2020


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“ So the fantasy was that there might be a single place to go listen to every speaker made, but that none of them would be for sale—demo only. To keep the institution running, there would simply be an admission charge.” Sounds like you’re describing a convention floor.

In my last wave of purchases of photo gear, I decided on a brand (Fujifilm), then I started with the higher end models, maybe simply because of ego.

I bought a Fujifilm X-T2 then an X-pro2 with 8 lenses. I was happy with the results (both have same sensor and processor), but I was still feeling less than great about the ergonomics... you shouldn't have to buy additional grips and hotshoe thumb inserts to make the handling better.

Then based solely on the greatly reduced price, I bought a Fujifilm X-E3 (again, same sensor and processor) and it has become my EDC (every day carry) camera. It so reminds me of why I used a Leica M when I was using Nikon F3s.

If I knew then what I know now, I'd have bought two X-E3s and been very well served, saving nearly $1500.

One thing in my area, there are no physical camera stores. Back in the day I would have handled all the above cameras and knew before purchasing which one would fit me best. Now, I don't touch the camera until the Amazon guy drops it off.

“Then we move on”

Another approach is to include in your budget some amount for renting cameras or lenses before buying them or to buy-and-try them and then resell them if they don't work out.

While this does add to your total cost of ownership (or reduce the amounts you are able to spend on gear accordingly), it does allow you to test it over a longer period of time to determine whether it meets your needs.

It also means you can (in most cases) buy the sample upon which your purchase decision was based, not another, unknown sample that may perform differently.

(As a related aside, when I was an audio-fool, I never bought any component new-in-the-box unless I had absolutely no choice. If I bought something from a dealer or manufacturer, I would always buy the specific sample I heard, because it was the performance of that particular component that formed the basis for my purchase decision. Maybe there was a better performer inside a box back in the storeroom, in which case I lost the gamble, but there was also zero risk of ending up with one that performed worse and there is some peace of mind to be had from that.)

Of course, a third approach -- and perhaps the best one of all! -- is to have a very good friend who always has the latest gear and will let you borrow it for a week or two to test it yourself.

I am fortunate to be in such a position and together, these last two approaches have likely saved me untold thousands of dollars over the years, either by steering clear of gear that doesn't work for me or buying used gear with a known history and proven performance from a friend instead of rolling the dice on eBay or buy-and-sell forums and buying it from a stranger.

I work in the software development business, and new widgets, packages and whatsits are constantly appearing and vying for developers interest. Lots of them become flavour of the month and everybody starts incorporating them in their code. This is often counter productive.

As an old hand, I'm more cautious, and before adopting something new I always urge people to ask themselves "what problem is this going to solve?".

I take the same approach when the itch comes along to switch camera gear. So far, in 50+ years of acqiring and using cameras the approach has stood me in good stead

For some, Mike, the thrill is in the hunt. Wanting can be much more satisfying than having.

That can be true for me - certainly at times. I become bored periodically, even if what I have is working for me.

Fortunately, that applies to things and not people.

Something like your fantasy for camera buying actually exists. A couple of the surviving camera stores here in central/southwest Ohio had regular outings before the plague hit where a camera manufacturer would show up at an indoor/outdoor location with food and beer and pretty much every camera and lens they make. I've been to these for both Panasonic and Fuji. They take your driver's license and a credit card and hand you whatever camera/lens combination you want to try. You bring your own memory card so you can take your photos home and evaluate them. You can wander around the neighborhood doing street photography and they have a few models ready to pose in a variety of settings with natural light and studio lighting. I assume these will start back up once the plague is done with us.

My process for getting a new camera is somewhat different from yours. First, I tend to keep a camera I like for a long time. I'm still using my Panasonic GX-8s and don't feel any GAS as far as replacing them. I used a single Nikon FE for my last 20 years of working with film. Still have it in case I get the urge to burn a roll of film. (I still have most of the cameras I've owned over the years.)

I have been thinking about getting a "big gun," something with a lot more pixels for times when I want to be able to count the blades of grass in a landscape. So at the Fuji event I played with their 50mp medium format camera. Verdict: Excellent quality, but way too heavy and awkward to work with. Reminded me of an RB-67.

Then I wanted to check out the Panasonic full-frame camera as a possibility. I did that standing at the counter in the photo store. Did a 3/4 length shot of the helpful sales lady. When I got home I found I could count her eyelashes. But, the camera/lens was again too big, too heavy and awkward to use.

When I said that to the sales lady she walked me down to the Nikon end of the counter and handed me an Z7. Not too big, not too small, not too heavy, not too light. So now there is some minor GAS going on for that camera, but I'll be resisting for quite a while. Might wait until they get discounted before the next generation is announced...or maybe just wait for the next generation...only time and bank balance will tell. But if and when I get that "big gun" I'll expect to be using it for at least 10 years. And at my age that might make it my last camera.

But whatever camera I buy I always assume it will have things I like and don't like and will have it's own quirks, strengths and weaknesses. My job is to learn about all that stuff so I can use the camera to make photos. If I've done a decent job in the search before the purchase, there won't be an issue with bonding with the camera. It will be a relationship that grows over time.

Well, there is always Lens Rentals. Rent a camera, try it, return it, rinse and repeat. Perhaps not cheap, but a lot cheaper than buying and selling a bunch of gear.

Or one could do what I do: I tried a few brands over the years, but ended up sticking with Nikon because I find it the most comfortable. By now, I know the general Nikon UI (user interface) and menus well enough to be able to operate most any Nikon SLR / DSLR without looking in the owner's manual (except to learn about the nuances of a particular camera). So when I buy a new camera, the question is not which brand but simply which Nikon. And I'd even go further than that, I found that I really like the Nikon D7xxxx (crop sensor) and D7xx (full frame) lines best, so that is where I start (and usually end) my search for a new camera.

Just move to Tokyo, where camera stores occupy several floors.

Sometimes you can get lucky and identify what you like as a guide to future purchases. About twenty years ago I discovered class a audio amplifiers and realized that was a sound I could appreciate. Then I discovered electrostatic loudspeakers. I'm still running a class a amp, but never made the jump to a pair of electrostatics. But I still dream of owning a pair of Martin-Logan CLS's.

Now some people like buying and selling cameras, and some people like owning lots of cameras, and that's fine, it is sort of a branch of the avocation that some folks enjoy. I have no problem with that.
As far as choosing a camera that works for you to use in a serious way, I'm not sure I see the problem, Tons of information and opinions are easily available from which to pick a short list of candidates and then you can rent any camera under the sun for a weekend, a week, or two, and learn all you need to know about its physical and optical characteristics without having to buy it and be disappointed.

We all know how we like to work, we all know what features are most important to us, we know our brand affinities etc, and we all also know, that no camera system can be perfect, but many can be very good. So we need to accept that some small compromises will probably be necessary to get a system that is otherwise broadly satisfying.
I think most of us already do that.
Some folks love to buy new cameras, and some like cameras to disappear in the hand because we know them so well. Neither is right or wrong. I'm in the second group. I believe complete familiarity over time gets me better results than changing systems for a small benefit here or there. I still buy new cameras, just not very often.
If I were not certain about what I wanted, I'd rent.
The pictures are more important than the camera, and all modern cameras a good. We also know the type of camera we like best, and what features are most important. I don't think it has ever been easier to pick and choose.

Usually, you do the research (incl physical handling), and you're good to go. Sometimes though, as in life, you get thrown a curve. I too took a chance with a GR- a phone screen is like Cinerama next to the one on this thing. And yet, even with my aging eyes- it has been my most productive camera ever!

I recently was salivating on a Like New Q with all the extras one could hope for- for just under 3k! Could I have used it? Oh Yeah! Do I really need it... no. Already got 2 X-T1's and an extra GR waiting in the wings that I bought in EXC Cond for $350 when the $900 GR came out. Meanwhile, I'll use some of that money I saved for prints...

PS- I recently saw the X-T4; online, it doesn't look all that different, in person- the thing is absolutely obese!

It’s not just exotic objects like cameras or speakers that are difficult to buy these days. Between the pandemic and limitations of the stock in real stores, it’s very difficult to know which items to buy in many categories. For instance, I was shopping for some cool weather cycling gloves. While I might put on a mask and go quickly into one store which has a terrific range of choices, most only have a couple. And I’m not willing (this year) to go from store to store for what is likely to be a frustrating exercise for a $35 or $50 item. So I ordered two different ones, and I’ll pay the freight to send one (or both) back if they’re unsatisfactory.

I don't think there is such a thing as a camera one will use for the rest of one's life. Needs and tastes change.
And trying out something new is like walking into a restaurant and checking out the cuisine. If you like it, you go back a few more times. I have not discovered a nice eatery that I am patronizing regularly for a long stretch of time.
Your speakers are still doing fine, but you are looking again because it's just human nature to get out there and enjoy a breath of fresh air.

Decades ago there was an annual event in our large Midwest USA city called the HiFi Show or Stereo Show. It would occupy one floor of a local hotel. Manufacturers and some local vendors would each have one or more rooms where they would set up and display their products while the (paying) attendees would wander from room to room listening and asking questions. Long gone. Just like audio stores.

There have been two (that I know of) Medical Marts in the US. One in Houston, TX a few decades ago never really got started beyond committing to one floor in an under-construction high-rise office building. The Mart opened but most of the space was not leased and it subsequently closed. It was like the Global Center for Health Innovation in Cleveland, Ohio which also failed.

The Global Center for Health Innovation, also known as the Medical Mart, is a $465 million joint venture by Cuyahoga County and MMPI to construct a permanent showroom of medical, surgical and hospital goods ...


There once was a travelling camera show that came to the convention center every year. Manufacturers and local dealers had booths but I often thought that the main attraction was the well-lit models on stage available to test cameras.

It makes sense until you apply some realistic numbers.

For me, it takes weeks to really get to know a camera, work with it and see how it fits me. That's why I don't get so much out of trying gear at stores. Sure I can feel where the buttons are, how quickly it starts up and other trivial things, but many ergonomic and performance aspects take a lot more use for me to get a grasp on.

Now I want a Ricoh GR III without even trying one, but the story for getting into that is a little bit different than Rick F's story. For long, I've been thinking that a digital compact would be neat as a shirt pocket camera when I don't want to carry a full frame camera, but the quality at base ISO needs to be good so that the picture doesn't look obviously inferior to what full frame does. There are competent APS-C mirrorless cameras, but the Ricoh GR line was even more compact and got great reviews. Then I got a chance to buy a Nikon Coolpix A for a few hundred, since it wasn't a popular model. But it was very similar in concept as the Ricoh GR and indeed it has served me well as a fun camera and effortless camera that still delivers competent image quality. So I can completely understand Rick F; these are uncomplicated cameras that make photography fun.

Sounds like you are describing the "Leica Store". Living in Colorado there is no place to preview any Leica equipment except for that which occasionally turns up used. Even before the Covid-19 epidemic this was extremely inconvenient, if not now pretty much ridiculous to fly somewhere to get a look at a camera or lens. I am happy with what I have and I pretty much better be! I guess Leica sells a lot just on reputation?

I guess a lot of people do turn over their equipment that fast. But I've never been one of them. Nor does it seem common among actual photographers I know.

There is no shortcut. It can help to read reviews written by people you trust, who have similar interests (and means) to your own, but even then you can go wrong. Experience is the only true teacher, but unfortunately it can be expensive one. The GR/GRD is an excellent camera. I have 5 different versions of it. It is still the only camera I consider if I just need to go out and want to bring a small camera that makes good pictures. But I find it does not focus very accurately. I have many misfocused images from it. I thought I would never think of it as a feature, but it does not have face recognition. Instead it focuses either with the center focusing point, often focusing behind two people in the picture, or if using the ‘matrix’ it focuses on a flower vase or handrail or something else, again leaving the subject unsharp. Other than that it is almost perfect. Though the overall construction is a bit flimsy with a lens that moves out and a flash that pops up.

I started using Fujifilm X series when they came out, and they were my non wildlife kit for all these years. However when the Nikon Z7 came out, I sold my D850 and purchased it, and was blown away by the quality of the Nikon Z system, both the sensor and the lenses, which are nothing short of stunning, and now that is my street/travel kit, to go with my Nikon DSLRs as my wildlife kit. I still have retained a Fuji XE1 for using some of the Fuji lenses I am fond of (35mm f1.4, 56mm f1.2 and 90mm f2), which is the only Fuji kit I plan to retain.

I love the mighty mite GR III. It even has a "macro" mode although it is really for close-closeups. The image quality from its APS-C sensor is outstanding.

Canon UK have recently had a long, several months, event, when you would book out almost any of their current cameras, lenses, accessories and they would lend it at no cost with free shipping too. Plus 5% off if purchasing something you subsequently buy.

The Ricoh GR/GRII are superb and that lens combination and 16Mb sensor produces wonderfull images that convert well to monochrome. So much so that I purposely haven't bought the GRIII.

In rural North Yorkshire, we are well served by three Hi-Fi shops in York that sell Spendor, Quad, Michell, Naim, Linn, Rega, KEF, Ortofon, Goldring, etc., most 'affordable' but good names and offer demo rooms. Vickers Hi-Fi, the Sound Organisation and Richer Sounds.

For cameras, we have York Camera Mart in York and Bass and Bligh in Harrogate. The latter, for example, have just about every Fuji X-mount lens in stock, you can see them in the window display.

Shopping locally, for us, is no more expensive than mail order and we would rather support the independents.

I am also a shocker. I buy and try. I try to go extended try outs. But I still get it so wrong.

I didn’t bond with the GR iii because I have wear my glasses to use it. On off with the glasses. Didn’t enjoy it in bright light. I so wanted to love it. The BW’s are stunning. The ability to set a fixed focus to shoot at when in a rush. No wonder it’s loved.

I have a small pile of cameras for sale at the local camera store. Am debating which one goes next?

Museum of Cool Stuff = CES, at least how it was back in the day. I have no idea how it is today, if it even exists.

My new XT-4 is really clicking with me, thankfully, much more so that the used XT-30 camera I bought after my XH-1 was stolen. So I take great offense at Stan B's "obese" comment. : ) Let's call it not too skinny and just right. The shutter is wonderful, the IBIS works well. No complaints. I take it everywhere. I really need to slowly sell all my other non-Fuji stuff, but am bad at it.

Camera stores....to try out equipment? How quaint.
Sarcasm aside, I'm guessing most of us (your readers) are stuck in the sticks. Nearest camera store with any variety could be anywhere from 100 to 500 miles away, if that close. Double that for the round trip. In todays insane traffic? No thanks.
Pardon please the bitter old man rant but I remember much better days. In my early 20's I'd take the 'L' to downtown Chicago, the 'Loop', and on a Saturday do a camera store crawl. I'd hit Bass Camera, Shutan, a hole called Camera Exchange, Central Camera, Wolk's, and Altman's, and a couple of others whose names I cannot remember.
Now who is left? Maybe Central, if they survive being burned down.

Having owned it for the better part of 7 years to date, it appears that the original Sony A7 has "clicked" pretty well with me, though it took at least a couple of years for me to realize it.Familiarity has taken the edge off of whatever annoyances I may have initially had with it. I'll probably buy a newer A7-series camera at some point, but I expect it will be pretty much the same, plus whatever improvements have occurred since 2013.

Sony RX100 Mk 1 has also fared well. As an example of the familiarity which happens over time, I had been annoyed by custom white balance being buried in the menus, so now, standard procedure is to park at Page 3 of the Shooting menu, and there it is, right in the middle of the screen. I don't doubt that I'd like one of the newer models with EVF, 4K video, and longer telephoto, and perhaps I will at some point.

I’ll have to eventually sort out the legal and financial details, but that’s the idea behind my “camera library.”

But aside from that, photographers who are lucky enough to have a local community of friends (nothing to be taken for granted these days) lend and trade cameras with each other for just that purpose.

Even if those special showrooms were set up, they'd be useless. You'd get palate fatigue after n samples.

When I was a barista, we'd go on a coffee crawl to a few coffeeshops in the city, try what was on offer (tasting a few things at each shop) and by the end of it we wouldn't even know what coffee tasted like, much less how any one differed from another. These were the days when cup 6 coffees from the same roaster and correctly identify the country of origin of each coffee blind. I was, so to say, calibrated.

At best, you need a dealer you trust, who trusts you, and will let you take a decent test drive. Maybe a calibrated camera reviewer can deal with B&H or Adorama, for me, it is too much.

I have learned a great deal from renting from Lensrentals. Maybe the cost is not much less than buying and selling in dollars, but it saves me a bunch of hassle. I discovered that I'm not much into Fujis. Anyway, that saves me the trouble of having pictures with the same look as every other photo dog.

Wait, did you just school me on Eddie Van Halen trivia up there in the featured comments? How's that happen? I thought I was the #1 leader in Van Halen trivia. 90% of my web surfing is just cycling between TOP and the VH News Desk hoping for an update.

I've been following this thread for a while and reflected on how I found the camera I clicked with (a Leica M). The process was as follows:

1. Long term trial on film based camera (hundreds of rolls of self processed and scanned film)
2. Research on modern equivalent (at the time a M8 or M9)
3. Long term trial (12 months) of alternative cameras (a Pentax K-5), to balance or compare decision
4. Purchase of the "clicky" camera (M-E or M9)

After step 4, that camera served 7 years, one sensor change, +100k exposures. It gave out when I accidentally put it down too hard (dropped it?) and cracked the sensor. Replaced with a second hand hardly used M Monochrom (typ 246).

With the march to digital I think finding the right shooting ergonomics on film is an economical option (money wise, not time wise). If you don't have time and you have money, then just buy lots of digital cameras and test. If you don't have time AND you don't have money, buy a smartphone and a solid entry level dSLR / mirrorless. There were a lot of intelligent design decisions film camera makers made to simplify the shooting experience their use so joyful. I only have fond memories of my AE-1, MZ-5, Ricoh R1, EOS-1, and M6.

The incremental image quality benefits from my Ms compared to my Pentax or smartphone are not worth the money in hindsight, but the experience is. This is something you can only get through trial and error. The bottom line: There is no shortcut for experience.


This thread reminded me of a brief period of a few years (early in high school) when I enjoyed tire-kicking visitor privileges at Union Camera in Wilmington DE. This was courtesy of the owner, Louis Borelli and his small staff, who enjoyed having someone to talk to on slow days, I guess.

About twenty years ago my son and I went to Nikon Day at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. Nikon had reps and a ton of gear there.
Give them a credit card and you could check out demo gear for a few hours and and wander around what might be the best zoo anywhere.
We checked out a D100 with a 24 to 120.
Loved the D100, lukewarm on the lens but could not afford either.
Must have clicked with my son though. He went on to an MFA in photography, shoots film and loves his D100.
Nikon day at the zoo seems sort of brilliant to me.

Here's another thought on the issue of "which cameras will 'click' with you": if you use one brand long enough, you can bet that the camera that clicks with you will come from that brand (as long as they don't change too much between cameras). For exam[ple, I'm a Canon man - I've been using Canon (D)SLRs since the late 1980s, starting with the EOS 650 when it was still the current camera. I recognise that for the last few years Sony has generally outperformed them; and there have been times when Nikon has also been arguably ahead. I've also found that a Canon generally regarded as excellent will not be quite the right one for me - too complicated (EOS 3), or leading to a body + lens combination that was just too heavy (5DIV + L lenses); but all of them felt immediately good in my hand. They all clicked with me. Whereas, on the odd occasions when I've tried something else - I had a Nikon D70 for a couple of years, and more recently I had a s/hand Olympus OM-D M10 for a while - they just weren't right - I felt I was fighting the camera all the time. Once I went back to the Canons that 'clicked' I enjoyed my photography much more, and probably got better results than with the 'better' alternative cameras.

So in my case I unknowingly trained myself to look for, enjoy and respond to the look and feel of one particular line - its DNA, if you like. After much thought on the issue, I've decided that I'm perfectly happy with that.

I don’t change cameras very often. I think it takes time to get to know them and to feel comfortable with them.

I once made a trip to NY just to buy my Minilux. First stop was at Ken Hansen. They had exactly what I wanted. Then I went to B&H to see if I could get a better price. They didn’t have it in black, but the guy I was talking to asked me why I wanted the Minilux. He told me, and he was right, thatfor the same money I could get a Contax G1 with the 50mm lens. Anyway, my mind was set and I went back and got my black Leica from Ken Hansen.
Nice little shop he had.

( I was never a big fan of Eddie Van Halen, but I got the chance to see them play in Mexico City. Front row seats. I remember Samy Hagar kneeling to shake our hands between songs! )

Miguel Tejada-Flores triggered a need to paraphrase Heraclitus.
No man ever uses the same camera twice, it is not the same camera and he is not the same man.

Another possible strategy: Buy an older (and much cheaper) model from a particular lineage to see if it clicks for you. If it does, then buying the latest model seems like a much safer bet, as many manufactures keep a lot of the "feel" of their cameras the same as they upgrade the technology.

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