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Friday, 19 November 2021


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When my daughter turned 18, my new favourite line was, "Adulting is hard". In other words, time for you to make that phone call, do that task, etc. It's really the flip side of, "You're not the boss of me!" Indeed. ;)

I'm glad you added that qualifier about adapted lenses. You saved me a lot of typing. Even though I almost only use adapted lenses, I agree that for most people you are correct. Don't use adapted lenses to save money; rather, use them to solve a specific problem that the native lenses can't solve. Of course, because it makes you happy to use them is also a good reason.

"Use the biggest camera you can carry" means different things to me according to what I'm doing.

If I'm going out to take photos, I'll take the Pentax (it's a little smaller than the D500 above) and lenses etc in a large bag. If I'm doing something else; going to work, running errands, shopping, I'll take the Sony A6000 (slightly smaller than the A6600). It just has the kit lens, which is fine for most subjects.

On holiday about three years ago I took an old Canon G9, rather smaller than the Sony. I was on the motorcycle and it didn't take up much room. Did all I asked of it, too.

Ansel Adams also said: "For fully half of the photography done in the world, a Kodak or Ansco box camera would be adequate."

I own several nice film cameras and lenses, mostly purchased near the low point of the film market. So in a sense, I have violated all of your principles. But I actually think they are good ideas, and for any particular project, which might be a walk around the block, or a long overseas trip, I limit my equipment quite a bit.

I'm wrapping up a two week trip today (a "project"), and I brought one camera and two lenses, both on the long side of normal. I've wished for a wide a couple of times, but I think when the developing and printing is done, I'll be reasonably satisfied with the results.

As an adult I have no interest in gear. The photographer makes the photo not the camera.

I agree with you regarding cameras having reached a point of sufficiency, as a stills photographer I think there’s no way to get a “wrong camera”, no mater what you buy.

To me, the most important feature to look for in any camera (and a feature overlooked by must buyers) is ergonomics.

People only look at specs on a web site and that’s it.

Instead of shopping online, people should get to an actual store and hold the camera.

Is it too heavy? Is it too light? Is the grip comfortable for my hand? What about the shutter button? Does it feel right or is it too sensitive?

I can deal with a camera not having X feature I want, but if I’m not comfortable on a days shooting that thing is staying home in a shelf.

On today the 19th I officially left behind the realm of mid 60’s and entered the uncharted waters of early late 60’s. I understand both Mr.Adams and your thoughts on camera size. A while back I traded some equipment for a Panasonic G9 and a Panasonic/Leica 12-60. I do prefer though to use the Panasonic 20mm pancake instead keeping the camera very manageable in size.

For my B&W film shoots the little Olympus RC is seeing a fair amount of use and if I want to go humongous I reach for the 1957 Yashicamat which is 3 years younger than I and actually smaller than humongous. There are zero plans for me to add lenses or long for new and exciting equipment.

I would edit this to,

Use the biggest camera that give's you the results that work for you. I used to photograph and print from 8x10 and Leica and sometimes one was better but it varied.

Don't cheap out, unless it works better. Results are all that matters. Don't think that overspending is not going to interfere with your work.

Dedicated lenses? My work doesn't work with them. Use what works. That's all that matters.

Few lenses? Yep. It's hard to predict what you will actually use. And what you will get good results with.

Use (keep) the camera as long as you can? I am not good at learning new cameras. But the 40+ years I used my main camera is probably not a reasonable example for anyone else. It was 60 years old when I bought it. Do the math. That is not going to work for anyone else. My digital cameras seem to serve me for about twice the time cycle other people find useful. But please don't take advice from someone who worked for the majority of their career with a camera made from wood, leather and brass.

I've had no problem following #5.

I have a personal safety issue with this. A 'major' camera and quality lens is like wearing a Patek Philippe (if you don't know, they're a watch that cost more than some nice cars).

You 'should' be able to have nice things in public. And you can mitigate the exposure to risks. But I'd rather not do either in order to get a nice photograph. Even black gaffer tape over brand and model names on cameras can only get you so far.

If only criminals realised how much more fun being honest is, life would be so much simpler.

Hey Mike, how's the book going? Well, everybody's thinking it!

Surely principle 0 in this list should be the "why?" of buying a camera. What kind of pictures do you want to take or make? Under what circumstances will this be happening?

You can't choose an appropriate tool without an understanding of the job in hand.

Of course, if your camera buying is driven purely by the drive to acquire shiny objects, rather than to produce photographs, then none of these principles will apply.

I would gently disagree with rule #3 above. Yes, there may be some obscure features you might not be able to access with future camera body firmware changes. But I would not hesitate to buy high quality lenses from well-regarded independent lens makers that offer features you want. Sigma's lovely 'art' primes remain my go-to lenses for portraits, candids and other non-landscape subjects. They don't provide access to all Canon's latest in-camera processing, but I regard that as a positive, not a drawback, because I don't want the camera making such processing decisions for me.

I particularly like your rule about buying the best camera you can afford. I've always bought good ones, freeing me from ever wondering if it's the camera's fault that my pictures weren't the greatest.
I never really escaped the lure of the "next level", though for me it meant getting a camera with a larger film format. I migrated from 35mm through 6x7cm to 4x5in to 8x10in and back to 5x7in as my ideal.
A friend of mine is a car nut. He claims that you'd really need to own 6 or 7 cars to cover all the bases. If I were asking the question of which cameras I would need or should have concentrated on in the film days, it would be a 35mm rangefinder, a 6x9cm rangefinder and a 5x7 view camera.
So far, I've seemed to have avoided the subject of your post. However with digital cameras the answer becomes much simpler. From a non-specialist point of view you can now cover all your bases with one camera. A high resolution full frame mirrorless camera with a midrange zoom, fast prime and a tilt-shift lens will do it all and better than my classic combination.


In the age of digital, never, but NEVER, buy a camera you haven't held in your hand and experienced personally. If I was parting with major money, I've decided I would actually fly to New York, go to B&H photo, and personally handle anything I was interested in!

Regarding Kye Wood's comment on the safety issue of nice cameras, it's even worse if you enjoy playing with old gear.

The average street criminal doesn't know a Leica S from a Lumix G, they're just reacting to "large camera with big lens". People tape over red dots or Nikon logos like anyone other than another hobbyist knows what they mean.

It's one of the things I was thinking about when I was playing with an ancient D1X the other day: Having to pepper spray a dude over a camera he'd probably get laughed out of a pawn shop with was somewhat amusing.

Over time, people discover their personal sweet spot for cameras. For me, I do prefer the high end models in many cases, especially when shooting smaller sensor cameras like Olympus or Fuji. If moving up to full frame, I think I'd be pretty happy with a Nikon Z5 or a Panasonic S5 (okay, the lower resolution in the S5 viewfinder might grate on me).

As for "Keep the camera as long as you can," I agree in theory. In practice, I'm not a follower. I could probably keep my Fuji XT4 for at least 10 more years. Will I? I'm a sucker for the lure of the new. However, once we are living in retirement, with a lower, fixed income, I suspect I will be far more careful with camera and lens purchases.

What exactly is it that your current Sigma lens doesn’t support on your a6600? I’m surprised.

The first rule seems more at home in the film world, when larger formats provided distinct IQ differences, and when people still printed. Today’s digital cameras, regardless of format, are capable of fantastic (or at least sufficient) IQ, particularly given primarily digital/online display. That’s not to say that a Leica S3 isn’t capable of significantly better results than an iPhone, but its users are generally not satisfied with sharing small S3 pics on social media.

"2. Buy the best camera you can afford."

I would say "Buy the camera that will do what you want with little consideration for size and price."

Your rule suits your technically modest photographic interests, modest, narrow range of AoVs, no action, modest interest in DoF, etc.

I switched to Oly E-M5 II bodies for the then unique focus bracketing and high res Modes. I have many, many photos that take spectacular advantage of focus bracketing (with both Oly and Panny bodies.)

I am now, against my other desires, hauling around an Oly E-M1 II and 100-400 zoom, because nothing else has the reach and Pro Mode for capturing small or far things that move.

A friend doing Astro photography finds that the Starry Sky AF and Handheld High Res Modes of his Oly E-M1 III make those photos much easier to create.

Why so much Oly? Because they have been by far the most innovative for many years in offering new capabilities in their cameras.

"3. Only buy dedicated lenses for it. The temptation to use third-party and (shudder) adapted lenses is always strong, but . . . you're likely to be frustrated by lenses that weren't specifically designed to work seamlessly with your camera body. And only the manufacturers truly know how to ensure that its lenses do that. My current Sigma lens, while optically rewarding, doesn't seem to support all the focusing features of my Sony."

I agree with the beginning premise, but not the one about dedicated third party lenses. Generalizing from your one anecdotal experience is not right. I used a Canon 5D for five years, and was very happy with the Tamron 17-35 and 28-300 mm zooms.

The photo of Bass Harbor in my last reply was taken with the former, the Yosemite shot with the later (on a 60D)

"5. Keep the camera as long you can."

Moose version:"5. Keep the camera until something else, that can realize your photographic goals better, or at all, comes along."

One way to look at my photographic journey through life is as a continuing story of opening up of the ability to make photos I could only dream of before.

[Dear me, Moose..."Generalizing from [my] one anecdotal experience"? I've used HUNDREDS of lenses over the years. Multiple hundreds. I might be somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 just with 35mm's and 35mm equivalents. The "one anecdotal experience" is an EXAMPLE, a "fer instance," not the sole proof! I assure you. --Mike]

“The proper way to buy a camera is to first check out the lens line, making sure everything you need is currently in the catalog and available, and only then checking out the camera bodies”

And that probably ought to be one of the rules. I shoot Canon only because at the time of my digital transition they the combination of sensor size and lenses I particularly required. Did I enjoy lugging a 1Ds around? Not really but nothing else could provide digital sensor and 24mm shift lens.

Regarding the first principle, is the issue really the size of the camera, or is it the size of the sensor? I suspect that Ansel Adams would today say something like "the biggest format I can carry." At the very least, I presume that he would have preferred, for example, the relatively small Sony A7R IV over the larger Olympus E-M1X.

The other comment I would make about the first principle is that it is the size of the camera plus lens that matters, not the size of the camera alone. I shoot m4/3 because the size/weight of the lenses allows the whole package to be small enough for me to be willing to carry it around.

Re, adapted lenses. (Vs camera makers lenses.)
Sure, makes sense I guess to get camera makers lenses. But I already have a pile of lenses that aren’t worth much sold and, lens adapters cost very little and can usually be shimmed to correct depth with not a lot of extra work.
And besides, I have an Olympus mirrorless and Olympus OM and Pen F Zuiko’s, so same brand anyway.
And I’m happy with the results of the Pen F (film) lenses on my EM10 and still use them on a couple of Pen F half frame reflex’s. So, they do double duty.

Those five rules are good rules. Some days.

Different times, different objectives, different sizes.

During my professional life, sometimes that was an 8x10 Sinar with accoutrements on a 5 series Gitzo Geant and stepladder.

In the 80's I went on a lengthy family vacation through West and East Europe with 2 Nikons, 5 Nikkor from 15mm to 400 as well as 2 Leicas and 4 lenses.

Now an m43 Olympus Pen-F with one or two lenses often seems appropriate. But I still have a 4x5.

Looking back, there were some days I brought too much stuff. Unfortunately, and this is much worse, some days I didn't bring enough stuff.

Not sure if we're talking about film or digital cameras or about new or used cameras. All of my working cameras are film cameras and all were bought used. In that context the five principles make a lot of sense if the choice of the "best" camera includes ergonomics.

1. I switched from MF to 35mm because lugging the Hasselblad kit around was getting to be too much.

2. I use LTM Leicas because of the aesthetics and the ergonomics. With film, the camera itself has nothing to do with the the image quality.

3. I didn't stick with the program here. My LTM lenses are a mix of Leica, Nikon and Canon, all contemporary with the cameras.

4. Not so good here either. 2-35mm, 3-50mm, 1-85mm, 1-90mm and 1-135mm. In my defense I haven't used anything but the 35/2.5 Nikkor, 50/2 Summicron and 90.4 Elmar for quite a while.

5. My oldest Leica body is the IIIc my father bought during WWII. I bought the next oldest addition to the collection in 1965. I bought the other three bodies in the last ten years. I have never sold a Leica.

Thanks for sharing your perspective and priorities, Mike. And my thanks to the commenters for the above perspectives too.

For my overvalued $0.02 worth, I’m doing well on most, not so well on 3 (although I buy here what I can’t get from Nikon), and failing badly on 4. I already possess waaay too many lenses. I think I’ve followed your previous advice - never sell a lens - more than this one. At least I think you’ve stated this. My apologies if I mis-attribute it to you. I have sold a few lenses, but it’s a net inflow.

Admittedly, I’m a hobbyist Nikon shooter, so I like buying old AI-s lenses to see what I can do with them. This definitely isn’t a game in which I expect to come out ahead financially. The purchases have probably picked up pace in the last couple of years as mirrorless gains popularity and the price of these old lenses becomes less budget-friendly. But, the end is in sight - just like it was about 3 years ago - I have only one more lens on my potentials radar ;~)

Seems to be a lot of people on here objecting to rule number three about using after market lenses, but one of the things I've realized in the age of digital, is that many times lens makers for specific camera brands have used the data information in the actual lenses to cue the camera to correct for edge sharpness, vignetting, and color fringing, that wasn't "corrected out" in the lens design.

This usually occurs in the background unbeknownst to you! This usually allows them to build and design the lens cheaper, without sacrificing the 'delivered' quality. Buyers beware.

Even before reading the comments I knew this post would be a; ‘Put down the can opener and back away from the worms.’ sort of post.
Of course under your Commentary subheading you gave your readers every permission to disagree for quite personal reasons and circumstances on any or all of the points made.
And I’ll say this, if a house fire wiped out my entire photographic collection then with the insurance check in hand I’d be far more inclined to follow the points you outline.

"Generalizing from [my] one anecdotal experience"? I've used HUNDREDS of lenses over the years. Multiple hundreds. I might be somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 just with 35mm's and 35mm equivalents."

Whoa, whoa, context! ". . . HUNDREDS of lenses over the years. Multiple hundreds." Multiple hundreds of third party dedicated lenses that didn't work properly on the camera bodies they were designed for?

'The "one anecdotal experience" is an EXAMPLE, a "fer instance," not the sole proof! I assure you.'

You offered one case, "My current Sigma lens, while optically rewarding, doesn't seem to support all the focusing features of my Sony."

No qualifiers, no "fer instance", no "for example", no "among others".

I've got a pretty good memory, at least so far. I've been reading TOP for many years, and I don't recall any rants about this issue with other third party dedicated lenses.

You offered up one example; I offered up two, but could add four more. The Tammy 90/2.8 macro is just excellent. Even if you can offer up ten, generalization isn't meaningful.

I'm not offering something with minor use. The Tammy 28-300 took over 17,000 exposures, on three bodies, over almost eight years. (Oops, two lenses, first plain, second with OIS, as soon as it came out.)

(Fortunately?) I can't read your mind, only what you write. \;~)>

[I'm only allowing this comment because it's you, Moose. Normally I just don't allow arguments and disputation in the Comments Section, except if it's helpful or totally friendly. If you'll read my Comment Guidelines, which are accessible in the right-hand sidebar, I say, "When a 'back and forth' exchange between commenters gets going, it's sometimes hard to stop, because whoever's comment I disallow first will feel muzzled and hence be aggrieved. I have to do it anyway, because multiple-episode exchanges, especially accompanied by escalating hostility, are something I want to discourage here." This is the reason you don't find flame wars or progressively deteriorating levels of courtesy on TOP. That's really a core of my mission here, to provide a nastiness-free zone. People out on the unmoderated Internet don't tend to behave very well, as you might have noticed. You get a pass because you're such a great contributor to the site, of long standing, but on the other hand I'm not going to argue with you. --Mike]

The proper way to buy a camera is to first check out the lens line, making sure everything you need is currently in the catalog and available, and only then checking out the camera bodies.

Ah, The System! This is a mine field. And it is the reason d'ètre for blogs like yours.

I got a Olympus OM-101 (OM-88 USA) for my 18th birthday. The Olympus "OM System" photo spreads in magazines, with all their lenses and accessoires, looked impressive, but I effectively bought into a dead system. I used the camera for fifteen years, but never bought an extra lens, flash, despite understanding what I could do with it. I thought it was wiser to save up for another camera. I should have jumped ship somewhere mid-90s, but instead stuck with Olympus assuming that Digital was just around the corner.

What do you make of the Sony APS-C line-up?

Number 3 is good advice but as a Nikon DX user I could not find the equivalent of the Tokina 11-16 in the companys lineup.
I bet I am not the only Nikon DX user in this situation.
Now very happy with the lens.

So here's my thoughts (from May 2020) on camera buying, in case there's anything people might find useful:

Things to consider when buying a new camera (IMHO):

I'd say start by making two lists...

Firstly start a list of which types of photographs are you currently taking that you are unhappy with and want to improve. For example: too noisy pictures when it's dark, blurry pictures in low light, not focusing well on moving subjects, difficulty getting photos onto Social Media, etc. etc. I say "start a list" as you should keep it around for a few days while adding stuff to it (and removing items) as thoughts come to you.
These need to be improvements you will be willing to pay to have!

Secondly, and at the same time, make a list of things that you aren't currently photographing and would like to. Note that could include video or photographing birds/animals/etc. at distance, although the latter is a tricky category to add to the list (see on) so think carefully about how much you want to do it.

Next take these two lists and turn them into a list of features you really need to have in a new camera and ones that would be "nice to have", to use as a tie-breaker if the first list gives multiple camera options.

Finally prune the first list aggressively to just leave things that are essential. Remember not to get sucked too far away from your original aims as you start looking at cameras.

Decide your Budget. Then decide is that just the camera+lens(es) budget or a total budget including extras such as a memory card, filters, etc.
(BTW the most useful on-camera, rather than in-computer, filters are a circular polariser plus a variable neutral density if you do video. Also fixed neutral density filters are useful for long exposures, although you can shoot and merge bursts of images to create a similar effect.)

Decide how much weight you are prepared to carry regularly. Remember the old adage "the best camera is the one you have with you". It's no good buying a 750g camera and 3Kg of lenses if you won't have it along when something great happens in front of you. For some people changing to a cell-phone with a better included camera than their current one might be the best option (especially if "Social Media connectivity" is key).

Remember you can't beat physics, generally the case is that bigger sensors yield better quality pictures (with a little randomness thrown in between some models with not too dissimilar sensor sizes). However they also make for bigger/heavier and usually more expensive cameras/lenses. There is NO perfect camera. For people with a lot of requirements two (or even three) cameras is the only way to cover them all.

Don't plan to buy more than one camera though! Just remember that photographing things at significant distances imposes lots of restrictions on a camera, so only include it if it's very important. (This will need long lenses, and to get these at reasonable sizes/costs leads you toward smaller sensors, which will work against general picture quality, especially in low light.)

For video shooting you should probably favour a mirrorless camera with a good EVF.

Don't forget the trade-off between money spent on the camera body and that spent on lenses. That's a complicated one but could be decisive. Current and future lens availability in the systems you are looking at can also be worth considering, for whether the system is one to invest in, even if you don't need them right now (also shiny new systems may have less used lenses available). Your list of key features should suggest which lens(es) you will want (which might be permanently fixed to the camera or interchangeable). Price up any must-have lens(es) to see what that would leave for the camera.

Think about what systems (if any) are you currently invested in and how big an impediment to change that is? For example if you have less good lenses you might want to part-exchange them for better ones anyway. Will you keep your existing camera and just want a camera for a few occasions where the current one is unsuitable for (for example taking a DSLR on a night out clubbing or drinking is rarely a good plan)?

Consider which cameras friends/family/colleagues use? That can be helpful as they can (maybe) lend you stuff and help you work out how to get the best from your new camera (if they seem knowledgeable about theirs).

What systems do you have an emotional connection for or against? At the end of the day you might be better off with a camera that does 90% of what you want well, and you just love everything about, than one that does 95% and doesn't inspire you at all. Don't forget this one!

Oh and I'm not saying I go through all this rigorously every time I buy a piece of photographic equipment, more that I'm careful to bear it in mind. My general view on buying new photographic gear, rather than just cameras, is "what current issue is this going to solve". (Oh and yes, occasionally it might be the issue that "I really want one of them", but hopefully not too often if it isn't getting me something that will be regularly useful.)

We are currently lucky in that there is a large mass of good cameras around. I would say all DSLRs currently being sold are capable of taking great photographs. As are a large number of mirrorless cameras and a fair few fixed-lens cameras. Beyond a certain point more expensive gear just helps in certain limited situations. So the question is how important some of those situations are to you? Plus new cameras can be fun and emotionally satisfying of course... :-)

Hope that helps, or at least only adds a little to the confusion...

P.S. One last thing - unless there is a compelling (to your needs) feature that is only in the latest and greatest cameras do look carefully at cameras released 15-18 months ago (or earlier, especially if used), as they can often be had for much more reasonable prices than the recently launched models, plus they are the same camera as when they were (maybe) the latest and greatest (possibly better, as some bugs might have been squashed in the intervening period). It's always interesting to read reviews of cameras that say "great camera, but somewhat expensive" then see the camera is now selling for 60% of what it was then.

The opposite to these 5 golden rules have hurt me a lot, but after a lot of experimentation I think I land roughly in line with you.

1. (Do not) Use the biggest camera you can carry.
>> Using smaller cameras that have poorer image sensors, especially compact cameras before mobile phones, were a source of constant frustration. For landscape photographers, I guess you could add tripods as well.

2. (Do not) Buy the best camera you can afford.
>> I bought economical versions of the cameras I've always wanted. Pentax K-5 instead of K-1s. Cheaper M4/3 bodies instead of their pro cousins. 10 years later, all of them are in my cupboard like a virtual cemetery of purchase regret.

3. (Do not) Only buy dedicated lenses for it.
>> I have bags of manual Pentax primes that never really gelled well with their autofocus bodies. I have adapters to make Leica lenses work on m4/3, but really don't. None of these solutions ever really worked well for me. They all are in the metaphorical cemetery.

4. Buy (as many) as few lenses as possible.
>> I have bags of lenses of the same focal length for Pentax, M4/3, and Leica, in auto focus in manual focus, of multiple generations. Only 1 lens on my Leica and 1 lens on my M4/3 sees 95% of time on my 2 bodies. If I didn't go through that purchase and trial and error, I don't think I would ever work that out.

5. Keep the camera as long you can.
>> I have never broken this rule.

In retrospect the financial cost to me was high, but the journey was amazing. I loved the learning involved and the pursuit of something better, and the final resting place where I am right now.


1. Use the camera you enjoy using.
2. There's only one rule.

"I'm only allowing this comment because it's you, Moose."

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Another example of m43 not being dead. Panasonic released a 10-25 f1.7. Thom Hogan recently commented that "normal" is a lot wider than it used to be, largely because phone cameras default to around 28mm-e.

A keep-on-the-camera lens that touches superwide on the wide end and portrait on the long end. That used to be the 24-70, but I don't think anyone sees 24 as "touching" superwide anymore. Only Panasonic seems to be doing this. In full frame, they have a 20-60mm.

A 10-25 plus a 35-100 (or 35-150) is a nice two-zoom covering set. There are many different combinations on the wide end to complement a 35-100 to provide the two-zoom covering set. Much better than any other system. For sure, more choice than Fuji.

Kirk's Rule: Use the camera you currently lust after.

And...Happy Thanksgiving.

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