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Thursday, 09 September 2021

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Something similar happens in the automobile fetish world. I used to subscribe to some car mags and spent a few years competing in amateur motorsports (rally). I came to a similar moment as you did wrt audiophile equipment. I had read my umpteenth article comparing a Porsche model xxx vs a Ferrari model yyy vs something else, all priced 4 or 5 times the avg cost of a family sedan. The conclusions were always the same, these cars are all great, they would start, and then proceed to describe differences that would only ever be relevant at race track speeds and that were so high your avg joe on the street would wet himself at the first corner. I ended my subscriptions because those magazines never reviewed models that I'd actually buy. They were really just different versions of Playboy. I remember thinking to myself: At these prices, "great" is the minimum that these cars should be.

One only needs to spend a day watching commercials on American television to see that the discipline to know what you CAN spend on any extravagance is often not what you SHOULD spend. The amount of services being advertised to rescue people with thousands of dollars in credit card balances is shocking to those of us taught to live within (or better yet, below) our means.

I can, living on modest retirement money, buy anything photographically related that I want. Why? Because I don't.

"I like value. It appeals to me. I get pleasure out of things being utilitarian, plain or at least not too fancy, and, especially, not ostentatious."

I think, and hope, that this is not an uncommon view. It certainly is an important part of my world view.

But I would add something:

" When I briefly worked at a high-end audio salon, I was much more comfortable in the mid-price rooms than around the price-no-object displays."

I was in one of those mid-price rooms many years ago, listening to subwoffers. The obvious choice, per above criteria, just didn't please my ear. Then I put my finger on it, "It's slow! The start of a kettle drum or plucked string bass has no bite." The sales person agreed, and I didn't buy one.

I would add to your above: "I like value. It appeals to me. I get pleasure out of things being utilitarian, plain or at least not too fancy, and, especially, not ostentatious. It must also perform it's intended function well"

For example, a rangefinder Leica would not fit, for me, regardless of other factors, because I simply dislike (well, despise) rangefinders.

I recognize so much of myself in your thoughts on value and expense, it's no wonder I enjoy reading TOP so much.

One can enter the Leica Monochrom world for lower cost than the M10 Monochrom. A new Q2 Monochrom (which includes a stellar 28 Summilux lens) retails for $6195. Or a mint used M9 Monochrom, with new sensor and Leica warranty, can be found for about $3500–3900 (but without lens). GAS can redefine one’s limits of expense, especially when there are somewhat more palatable options (and Voigtlander lenses work well on M bodies).

One should not only consider the initial cost of a purchase but also the depreciation. In the case of any expensive digital camera, it can only head south and eventually come to a screeching halt. Same ending.

For an amateur photographer, that makes little sense. An inexpensive digital camera with less (hardly used) bells and whistles makes more sense.

And also, all those zillion invisible images - unless represented in real physical prints - will merely be in a box which will most likely be tossed into the garbage heap by your estate.

A maxim I use goes as follows..... for things you use every day ... buy the best you can afford.

Some of the objects I have purchased under this maxim are my home and my car. More mundane things that I value every single time I use them are a Porsche designed electric kettle and an Italian coffee grinder.

When my glasses prescription changes I buy the best lens possible.

I find it hard to apply this maxim to photo gear... maybe because I do not use it every day (or maybe I need to think more about that).

I listen to a radio station that broadcasts random podcasts. One is an videophile podcast going on about a $10000 TV, after extolling this one a bit he switches to extolling an $8,000 TV, because it is so much cheaper.

In the building where I work, there is a stained glass version of our project Logo. (Sorry, I can not take pictures or give more details). I guess the government is not so price sensitive.

Our Church used the option of having a member of the congregation who does stained glass for a hobby, pretty much do it for free.

See that blue Ford Cobra 🐍 I am seeing around town? That’s expensive. I saw a Lamborghini about a month ago. Even more expensive. So say 12k for a camera and lens is a poor person’s passion in comparison. If I had disposable $$ I’d go for the monochrome but to be honest I am pretty happy with what I have.

I find that it is often better to do without, than to buy something that ALMOST makes you happy. Save the money, and learn to use what you have to greater effect. Far more satisfying in the long run.

I remind myself that it is the poor carpenter who blames his tools.
A little resolve and ingenuity well placed often ends up being far more satisfying than trying to solve creative issues with more equipment.

But neither do I walk around in a hair shirt, denying myself things that I feel like I need to do a better job. If I believe I need something, I buy it.
But rarely is it 'the best I can Afford' - but it IS more than good enough to do the job.
After doing this for 50 years as a professional and as an amateur , I've come to realize that my "Photographic System" is never Camera limited, but Photographer limited. And also, when I do have a good photographic idea or opportunity, the camera is always the least important thing.

I do think it is great to have a camera you trust, and the familiarity to make it work without thinking. It is also nice to have a camera and lens(es) you enjoy using--- because you will use it more.
Beyond that, any modern camera is more capable than anything we have ever had.

I used to work with a nice guy who had friends who were truly wealthy. Like, own private jets kind of wealthy.

In his attempts to get rich, by following his wealthy friends well meaning advice, he lost everything. My point? I guess it's that if you do what you love, you'll likely do alright financially. But if you do things for an imagined audiences approval, failure will stalk you.

Soul filling experiences of happiness rarely cost a dime. Why do we think more things or money will lead to more happy?

I think about most users of very expensive cameras like the drivers of all the exotic cars I see around me here in California. We hike in the Santa Monica mountains 2 or 3 times a week and drive along the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu to get there. On an average day, we'll see a bunch of Ferraris, a few Lambos, Aston-Martins and McLarens. Even a Pagnani occasionally. Porsches are as common as Corollas.
I laugh at the posers driving them at 30-50mph in traffic thinking 1) what a waste of a car and 2) if that jerk got a chance to really let it run, he'd kill himself in a few miles. (Remember the idiot that split a Ferrari Enzo in half on the PCH a few year ago - that was on the same stretch of road we drive several times a week. http://www.wreckedexotics.com/special/enzo/)
And a Porsche driver recently killed himself on one of the roads we drive in the mountains all the time too. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/news/driver-killed-when-porsche-goes-off-side-of-road-in-malibu/ar-AAKQyMc)
I see people with Leicas walking around here too; black Leicas instead of gold chains around their neck. Real photographers!
(Man, I am in a foul mood today too....must be catching Mike....)

I guess I won't tell you about the Linn Klimax DSM/3 streamer/DAC I presently have in for review at The Absolute Sound. It sells for a cool $39,000.

I bought a Leica Monochrom 246 second hand with about 1700 shots on the clock. It was exactly 4000 Euro. Even though I could afford it (I paid for it with cash and not credit), writing this, my stomach still turns when I think about that number.

By your concluding logic, I wanted it and it didn't make sense in terms of my price sensitivities. But I could afford it, so I bought it. I guess it is bit like rich man thinks like poor man -- the relative poverty of my upbringing is hard to shake off.

Pak

You think cameras and cars are expensive? Have a look at the price of boats .

There is a lot of wisdom about proper spending here in your column and in the reader's comments.

If I live modestly by my choices on clothing and cars, I must admit I have spent a lot on very good photo gear. Because I have been shooting corporate and industrial and needed reliability and good photographic results as job.

I am very found of my Leicas. To say that they are excellent is useless here. But I must point out I still use, among few others, two old Leitz lenses purchased 40 years ago and they still work perfectly. They have been serviced few times by Leica NJ but heck, they do the job top notch.

I purchased two Monochrom in the last 9 years, first the M9 based, sold after 6 years for close to 4 grands. I loved it and recently the last M10M. I will not wax over the beauty and richness of the files, you know that already. It is the camera I use all the time, almost every day. With my old lenses.

I don't see it as bad deal.

The stained-glass window story leaves me wondering if some of the people who contributed to the window felt cheated when the money was then spent elsewhere. I certainly would have!

Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather buy a Leica Monochrom than a car. Luckily, I have zero-need for a car, YMMV

:-)

@ Michael Perini said:
“ After doing this for 50 years as a professional and as an amateur , I've come to realize that my "Photographic System" is never Camera limited, but Photographer limited. And also, when I do have a good photographic idea or opportunity, the camera is always the least important thing.”

Amen, Brother! Truer words were never said.

I'm a New England Yankee living in California. While there is a lot to like about California, I find that even after 23 years here, I just don't think about things the way most Californians do. Growing up in New England, there was not a lot of excess money floating around at the time (1950s & 60s). We learned to be frugal with our money and have and exercise restraint on spending. My first couple of cars did not have air conditioning (a $300 option that hardly seemed justified for the three or four days a year it was really needed.) Your thoughts bring me back to those times.

And a Leica lens is how much? LLP

Perceptions of quality can-and often do-push people into debt. The perception and the reality might align for the most astute among us, but those guys are outliers, and I'd be an out and out liar to claim I'm one of them.

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