7.12.2016

The "Meh" factor. Or why X is a "deal killer for me."

Ben. Photographed with a medium format digital camera and a 180mm Schneider Lens. 

It's become a thing now. As soon as any photo product is introduced the whining and posturing start. I recently looked around the web at comments posted about the Sony/Zeiss 50mm f1.4 FE lens. Even though this lens may be one of the sharpest and highest performing lenses available today at any price the web-o-sphere seethed and bubbled at Sony's audacity for trying to charge real money for their work. "$1,500 for a Nifty-Fifty???" wrote one person. "Never!" As if you should be able to get Zeiss Otus optical quality at a price point around $150 bucks; a la the ultra-plastic Canon 50mm 1.8. Or its Chinese copy...

Are the people writing this stuff really so thick that they believe all lenses of a given focal length are commodities? All are equal performers? That the expensive ones are just a clever defrauding of the rubes?

Companies have good reasons to price product the way they do and it seems that consumers have missed the boat on understanding what it takes to produce top flight gear. If price is really the only consideration for any of these affronted commenters they can choose the new Sony 50mm f1.8 FE instead, and pay only $250. Or adapt a Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens from the film days for less than $100.

But beyond "outrage" at price one of the things that hurts my brain is the constant use of the word "meh." In most instances the user substitutes it for the words, "I am not impressed." Or "I can't understand the value/use." The word "meh" is usually used when giving a reaction to a new feature or new specification. As in: The new Fuji XT-2 gets an increase of resolution!!! followed by, "meh." 

The inclusion of new features or increased performance might not be beneficial to everyone but to describe nearly everything as "meh" is such a lazy response that I think most times it really means, "I think I should find another hobby." The word is also used to describe photography that doesn't appeal to the poster. I don't understand the compulsion to even comment. If some style or technique is not one that appeals to you that's understandable. Having to throw in a condescending "meh" is bordering on conflating boredom and mean-ness efficiently. And for no other reason than to signal both your disdain and your derisive dismissal.  

"Meh" has evolved to become the catchword for all boredom and all apathy. It's sad to see it used so much in response to various parts of the photography world. It's also a lazy way of saying, "I couldn't be bothered to actually explain why I feel that XXXX is unimportant or misses the target." I think people fancy themselves as being hipsterishly world weary when appropriating "meh" and brutally overusing it. I wish they would stop. In the context of the "pricey" Sony lens above it goes something like this: "I know it is supposed to have really great performance but it is, after all, just another 50mm. Meh." This word may be sweeping the web right now but we certainly don't need to play along.

But the one phrase I hold in greatest disdain these days is: "That's a deal killer." 

Usually used to denounce an entire product because of the inclusion or exclusion of one minor feature. As in: "I loved the camera and it took really great images, felt perfect in my hands but..... it has 4K video in it and I'm not paying extra for 4K video. That's a deal killer for me!"

Or: "What??? My perfect camera is perfect except it doesn't include 4 dimensional GPS that works with my Blackberry?  Well, that's a deal killer for me." 

I think what "deal killer" really means is: "I can't afford this thing I so desperately want so I'll fabricate a throw away reason why I wouldn't buy it. Because I can't...." 

Contemporary web commenting photographers, if you add up all their deal killers, must be absolute pussies when it comes to camera operation. They can't make a good photo with any camera unless: It has a touch screen, it has NFC, it has GPS, it has panoramic modes, it has HDR modes, it has scene bracketing, it has cheap lenses, it has great lenses, it comes in colors, the menu contains only three items, the camera can be configured in 10,000 ways, there are enough function buttons, there aren't too many function buttons, it has aspect ratio bracketing, it eschews any form of internal video, it has an OVF, it has an EVF; and....the battery lasts for 10,000 exposures. 

Dear God, these people would have been utterly helpless in the primitive times of film. 

Wouldn't it be more honest if these people just said: "I don't understand. I'm not sure I want it. I know I can't afford it. I can no longer afford cable TV so instead of watching "Orange is the New Black" I am coming here and wasting time pretending I might be able to buy a $10,000 camera system and then poisoning the discussion with rampant negativity."

It's enough to drive one to the video blogs. They never argue about anything, or use the word "meh" there...



37 comments:

amolitor said...

4K video is basically the perfect feature. If the camera has it, then the "deal is killed" because I won't pay for it, but if the camera doesn't have it, well, that's a deal killer too!

Eric Rose said...

There are only two photo blogs I go to anymore with any regularity. Yours and one other that I fear has lost it's way. The reasons I come here have been enumerated by myself and others many times so I won't carry on. I have trimmed my viewing pleasure due to a very poor signal to noise ratio from both the publishers and most definitely the commenters. Just take a look at the comment section in PetaPixel for a taste. It appears they do no moderation at all. VSL is a morning ritual for me. A great way to start off the day. Intelligent writing about things that matter to me. I'm interested, how much moderation is required here? I would suspect very little as I suspect your blog attracts a more intelligent and mature audience than many other photo related sites.

George Beinhorn said...

Kirk, what you need to understand is that the Internet was created to give an equal voice to the anencephalic, and to a culture where everybody gets an A, even if they're dumber than soap.

Used to be, reviews were carefully curated - or else nobody would buy your photo magazine. Nowadays, you have to go out and look for the best editors and read only their stuff, while ignoring the gray noise of a stupefylingly ill-educated rabble who tend to talk loudly.

Hey, I'll never buy a current Sony camera because all my subjects move about rapidly. But it's not a "deal killer," because if I had to shoot portraits and products I would take a serious look at the RX10 III.

For the little yappers, these cameras, with all their virtues and vices, are a just convenient foil for showing how loftily wise and wonderful they are. As a great spiritual teacher said, "Some people like to feel tall by cutting off the heads of others."

Anonymous said...

Kt,
Just have to agree on all points in this post. Gosh, can't argue any of it.
When a pair of bifocal glasses with a nice frame, various extras such as anti-
reflection coating, no scratch coating, etc can cost $400.00 AND are only worn
for a couple of years, well a $1500.00 lens which can last a lifetime is not really
so bad. Those who can, do. Those that can't or won't make excuses. End of discussion.

Jb

typingtalker said...

Kirk asked, "Are the people writing this stuff really so thick that they believe all lenses of a given focal length are commodities? All are equal performers? That the expensive ones are just a clever defrauding of the rubes?"

They all have one vote and it is exercised by either buying the lens or not buying the lens. If they want two votes, they should not but two lenses.

With respect to "meh" ...

A random word when people either don't know what to say, don't care, can't answer a question or are too drunk to form a coherent english [sic] phrase.
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Meh

Frank Grygier said...

That's one thing about Fuji fan boys these days.They will praise a lens for the wonders that it delivers and completely ignore the fact that is sounds like a food processor when auto focusing. Not one "meh" among them.

Ricardo Cordeiro said...

The negativism on the internet is something we all have to learn to just ignore, I feel the majority of the people only write when they have something negative or even destructive to say, that's a primitive/childish way to try show everyone how superior they think they are.

With that being said, I was critical on this new 50/1.4 from Sony too. Not because of the lens "per se" (wich seems excellent optically) or even the price, it's just because it continues to show the path Sony is going on releasing huge heavy lenses for this system. They started well with the Zeiss Sonnars 35/2.8 and 55/1.8, compact and well balanced lenses with excellent optics designed for a small mirrorless system. On the other hand this new lenses just seem dSLR designs with an integrated adapter, not taking advantage of a camera that doesn't have a big mirror box.

I don't doubt some people (most of them probably professionals) don't mind this big lenses because they also have an proportionally big performance, but how about people who got in the system for the promisse of it's compactness?

Like I said in another forum, I just wish some 3rd party manufacturer steps in with some small good AF primes just to show Sony there's a big market for that. Take the example of Fuji, they had a high-praised 35/1.4 but even so delivered a more compact but slower 35/2 wich was a surprising sucess in sales. So much that they halted the development of big primes and zooms that were in the lens roadmap to deliver some more compact f/2 primes.

Anonymous said...

meh

Ed Brooks said...

absolute pussies is right. if a photographer can't make a decent photo with the basic functions of a film camera, they are in the wrong field.

A Foolish Man said...

The thing that really bothers me is people who complain that Sony has--seemingly--shifted its lens strategy. They only practical reason for this is because the new lenses are selling better than the ones designed for size were. Trust me. If the majority of sales should people valued size most of all, we'd be seeing more of those.

Fuji has gone the opposite way, apparently because their small lenses are out selling the big pro stuff they brought out.

Watching the differences in Sony and Fuji's recent lenses really tells you a lot about their respective user bases.

A Foolish Man said...

Also... Sony's focus on releasing ultra high resolving lenses seems to indicate major megapixel cameras are their plan. I'd be surprised if Sony doesn't set a new bar for megapixels at Photokina.

Phil Stiles said...

You ask the average american "what's the difference between ignorance and apathy?" and he'll reply, "I don't know, and I don't care."

As one who shot for years, and felt very well-equipped, with an M4 and four primes (21-35-50-90), I agree that small and light is good. I love my Micro 4/3 kit with a similar range of primes. I also have a Ricoh GR (The poor man's Leica Q.) I'm impressed with Sony's offerings, but have no desire for those monster G master lenses. A really great e-mount pancake would be very tempting.

Wayne said...

A lot of stupid people out there (seems to be increasing). Photography seems to have more than its fair share.

Joe Reed said...

Those that can't produce are always looking for an excuse. This is true regardless of the field of work. As a sales manager for a long time, I am sure I heard every possible excuse. Some were so amazing that I just laughed out loud - and even today they still make me smile.

Sanjay said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have a visceral reaction to the word meh.

Anonymous said...

Omigod !!! No touch screen??? I'm going to kill myself.

Anonymous said...

So, on the new cameras I presume you can bracket the shooting mode, right? One in "A" one in "S" etc. Right? Really? Not. Well, that cinches it. I'm giving up being an international fashion photographer until they get the cameras just right.

Unknown said...

As someone who happily shoots a 6x7 medium format film camera with automatic nothing, let alone the luxury that is a built-in light meter, I think I will agree to disagree on the "dealkiller" premise.

There are so many great cameras out there, why compromise on the features that matter most to you?

For me, when I'm not practicing my Sunny 16 rules, I enjoy shooting a Panasonic GX7 in large part because of the superb touch-screen interface that makes moving the focus point (and magnifying the manual-focus area while I'm using adapted legacy lenses) instantaneous and intuitive, even with my eye to be viewfinder. I find that instant access makes me much more inclined to actually move the focus point around, and so my compositions benefit (and I don't lose the critical sharpness that comes with ye olde focus / recompose method on a pixel dense sensor.)

While I wouldn't mind an extra stop of dynamic range or a little less noise north of ISO 3200, the usability of a touch screen is something that Canon, Nikon, Leica, and Hasselblad have all embraced, and not something I want to give up in a modern camera. Which is why it is sadly a dealkiller for me whenever I have occasion to play with a Fuji or Sony, nice though they may be.

Jim Metzger said...

Whatever...

Just kidding, what passes for discourse these days on "anti-social" media is very disturbing. "I think, therefore I am right" seems to be the order of the day. Thank you for your insightful and beautifully crafted essay's.

Jim

Mark Davidson said...

What is most puzzling to me is the effort so many expend to inform us of their dissatisfaction with some feature or specification.

I see many articles that inspire an opinion in me but very few that merit the effort of a response that will be either ignored ( probably rightfully ) or attacked.

In the end, comment that advances the discussion is the proverbial hen's teeth.

TMJ said...

It is the constant moaning about 'high ISO' that gets me. I still think 800 ISO is fast and for 1250 ISO, get out the Paterson Acuspeed (except it was discontinued a long time ago).

Brad Nichol said...

Kirk what is really "meh" and a "deal killer" is that most modern lenses and cameras have a performance envelope that far exceeds the "photographers" who own and may occasionally use them. What was it my dearly departed carpenter Dad used to say, "learn to use your tools right and then hold your mouth right and you can make anything", many of these internet troll photographers seem to too lazy to even read the manual that came with their cameras, let alone invest the time and effort in actually mastering their tools. Rant over...

And as most always, you are right on the money!

Nick Davis said...

The "know nothings" always shout the most loudly and stridently! You are right Wayne, photography has more than its fair share, feels like about 99% of the population sometimes . . .

Jim Clark said...

Still waiting for an honest 25 ISO and a mechanical Mirror lock feature. Would be nice to have ISO 3 or 6 like Tech Pan, but would settle for Kodachrome 25 equivalent.

Jim Clark said...

Would love to have ISO 25 and a simple mechanical Mirror Lock for the DSLR. Even better would be ISO 3 or 6, like Tech pan - but can live with the Kodachrome 25 equivalent just fine.

Chris said...

I personally think that some of the apparently negative or meh reactions are due to the excessive excitement shown by many bloggers and websites at every new thing. To those of us experiencing the wave upon wave of new products, to find yet another massively expensive and huge 50mm lens designed for what people lauded as a "small" camera system somewhat baffling - hence the tendency to pour a little cold water over all the breathless excitement. I don't think it is necessarily a question of sour grapes, although it can be. One of the more amusing sites (who shall remain nameless) tells us that every new lens is the greatest and the best in the world, only to be told next month that the newer product is now the greatest and best. So many of these sites suggest that all these new lenses are somehow essential to your photography, when we all know they really are not.

Mark Davidson said...

Oh, I thought you were going to say something about Fuji.
Thankfully, it was way more useful.

Anonymous said...

Meh = spoiled brats


Marc J

tnargs said...

That is a lot of words, Kirk, and all to say, "I'm meh about meh."

:)

Chuck Albertson said...

At least nobody has called it a "game changer." That term lost all its power after they called Rick Perry's entry into the 2012 Presidential campaign a "game changer."

skygzr said...

I recall reading a detailed and intelligent review of a newly released camera. The first posted comment was, in its entirety, "Pass".

I shouldn't let stuff like this piss me off, but it did.

Jim Rogers said...

I read your post yesterday and felt (I imagine) similar frustration. I follow a very plucky journalist (Christie Blatchford, National Post) who on a completely different topic, but being about social media, was somehow the same topic, ended her column:

"Their motives, messages and opinions are immaterial and irrelevant. They’re too dopey. They are proof that when you open up “the conversation” to morons and empower them to imagine their thoughts and ideas are worthy and original, as social media has done and the mainstream press embraced, what you get is stupid."

Well said, Christie.

Godfrey DiGiorgi said...

Pass.
Meh.
Deal Killer.
Game changer.
I don't like {X} because, well, I don't like it.

... bleck. All horsepucky, an utter lack of meaning in such expressions. People get annoyed with me because I ask why they rail on and on about some minor annoyance. I would like information, would like to hear reasons for why one thing might be more suitable than another for some purpose. Nope ... the new model mental vomit just goes on and on.

Anonymous said...

Coming from the 'analog photography' world where a.o. ISO = emulation, VR being utterly expensive and batteries lasting years, yet the picture counter being doomed to stop at 36 ... I more than agree with what is written.
More so, I would dare say ... *any* digital camera is a *magical* tool compared to what I have been dealing with for more than 25 years !

John Camp said...

I don't understand why cameras have GPS.

Anonymous said...

Easy. Traveler photographers who get the location in metadata so the photo album software shows you location on map or you can do reverse search on map by drawing a area on it from where photos you want to be shown.

Very useful feature.

It is like old days when you wrote to back off photo the short story or where it was taken. And replaced the old photographers photo journal where you wrote notes from all exposure values, theme and location and date.

And today when you search photographs, you can draw on canvas the colors on areas of photos and computer finds what you mean. Then even filter by geologically and time and you find photos in seconds among millions even if you have so many.

Mark W. said...

Kirk,
As a reader, I get all the benefits of your blog with none of the costs :-).
I truly enjoy reading and learning from your real-world examples.
And then I get to enjoy the humor when you rant.
What more could a reader ask for???
Thank you for the great work you do.
Sincerely,
Mark