Shot, pre-digital, with an old 35mm camera
and some film.
Lordy. We all love our cameras. As long as they're brand new. I'm stunned at how often I hear (and say) stuff like, "I'm waiting for the new XXXXXX camera. I just sold all my YYYYYY stuff and I'm switching over as soon as it comes out." Boy oh boy! Are we ever great shills for the camera industry? (I am pointing my finger at myself and every photo blogger out there who consistently reviews all manner of digital cameras...). Remember back when camera companies had to do their own advertising?
There's an old saying in political advertising. It started with Karl Rove. It goes something like this: "If you lie about something consistently and persistently it becomes, in the minds of the masses, the truth." From the dawn of digital cameras there's been a mantra that grows each year in intensity and scope. It says, "The newest technology is the best technology. You must own it and use it if you want to remain competitive." For the amateur the mantra is the same but ends with, "....if you want to live up to your artistic potential."
The last ten years has been somewhat of a revolution in the world of buying and selling cameras. With the ubiquitous nature of the web, the ease of blogging, the cult of photographic personalities and the magic of affiliate advertising programs (the 800 pound invisible carrot in the room) we've turned a quasi-logical process (evaluating and purchasing cameras for our hobbies and businesses) into a frenzied entertainment process. Bored with your subject? Buy the latest camera. Too lazy to learn good technique? Buy the latest camera. Too scared to get out and show your portfolio? Stay in, buy a new camera and push some stuff out onto the web. But by all means, get a new camera.
We've all done it so often we've all come to believe it. I've owned more different cameras in the last ten years than I owned in the previous (and very, very busy) twenty years. Probably by a factor of two. And the tragic thing for me is that while I've "mastered" the process of discerning which cameras have the highest coolness quotient I've produced the least amount of really good work. When your focus shifts from the art to the tools it's an inevitable consequence. I spend way too much time reading the goo on the web about cameras now than I do actually using them or getting myself into the right position to use them.
At this point two or three commenters usually rush in to tell me that they are the resolute masters of their impulses and that I don't have to look. Let's not be so literal. While I'm writing from my own experience I am using myself as a foil to discuss something that I think is very, very wide spread. People are becoming convinced that a constant churning of cameras is part of the photography business because that's what they hear at every popular portal. Hobbyists are convinced that the success of the current "hot on the web" photographer is the result of the new camera he or she is touting. (Of course the logical assumption should be..."If they are such good and successful photographers why the hell are they wasting hours and hours a week on the web talking about photography equipment instead of spending their time making art?" I don't buy the "I love to teach so much I'm more than happy to walk away from hundreds of thousands of dollars of assignment revenue from world class clients, shooting the things I love to come to this mildewy general purpose room at the Red Lion Inn here in Des Moines in order to help middle age professional IT people get more out of every shutter snap. It's my life's calling." You've got to call "bullshit" on that).
It's worse for the professionals who think their lives depend on getting their hands onto the latest Nikon and Canon offerings, even though the cameras in their hands have been satisfying good clients for a year or more. The majority of the time photographers are getting zero push back from clients on which camera they bring to bear. It just doesn't make a discernible difference in most situations. Very few projects ever hinge on the "per pixel sharpness at 100%" which is a goofy way to look at most imaging.
But it can be highly detrimental to the financial health of their businesses because they lose money with every trade. They divert money that could desperately be used to do more marketing and advertising into equipment that merely duplicates the performance they already had in hand while perhaps adding 3 to 5% more of something vaguely worthwhile. A slightly faster focusing system for the still life photographer, more art filters for the corporate shooter who will never use the filters....
But here we are. I have a friend who is an amateur photographer. Three years ago the Nikon D3 was his "everything" camera. The camera he dreamed of owning. That was until the D3x came out and then the D3x was his everything-I-ever-wanted camera. The new camera of his dreams. When we talked a few months ago I asked him how he liked his D3x. His quote, "I could be happy with this camera for the next ten years. It's that good." And now, last month? "I've got to get my hands on a D800. Do you know anyone who's got them in stock?"
The amazing thing to me is the way Olympus has managed to steal and transform the process yet again with their EM-5 camera. I've talked to otherwise rational people who bought Canon 5D3's and Nikon D800's who've turned around and added a OMD as, "Their walking around camera." They are not necessarily abandoning their traditional cameras as much as they are adding to the inventory. And once you buy a OMD camera how can you bear not to have the 45mm 1.8 and the Leica 25 and the Panasonic 14, etc, etc? Now the second, smaller system is almost mandatory.
And then, of course, you also have to have your state of the art pants pocket companion camera to stick into your skinny leg jean's pocket. The start of the moment? That would be the Sony RX-100. For those times when the micro four thirds camera is just too big... And the cost is the same as 1,000 big post card mailers with postage...
In days of old we would have settled on a system and nursed it for a decade but now we're convinced it can't be that way. To not move forward would be too painful to our own imagined process. Amazing. The bottom line is that the churn rate barely allows us to get to know our cameras as tools, much less develop a sense of mastery about them.
But you know what I say......"Be sure to use our Amazon links!!!!" right.
Note: Comments are now open to everyone. But they are being moderated. If I don't like em I chuck em. If you think that's not fair get your own soapbox.