When I mention how strange I find it that some people pick out a feature, or lack of feature, on a camera and call it a "deal killer" I think I'm just reflecting how differently people approach their creative tools. I find myself wondering why other people make the trade-offs they do with equipment and am sometimes puzzled by which compromises are most important to them.
To use an example: If two cameras were equally capable of making very, very high quality images but one camera was designed to feel much better in the hand, and have a better overall interface, while the other camera was less comfortable in use but had features such as two card slots (presuming the competitor has only one card slot) or included GPS, which one would I choose? Well, of course I would choose the one that I'd enjoy having in my hands for hours at a time, possibly over the course of years.
But equally experienced photographers of a different mindset might choose to ignore ergonomic shortcomings in order to have the piece of mind that a dual card slot might bring, or to leverage the (very questionable) advantages provided by GPS (which I find a worthless concept for any but hardcore travel photographers).
People are free to choose whatever combination of handling, build and feature sets they want but choices that diverge from mine always cause me to stop and try to decipher why they value the very things that seem to fly under my radar while being willing to put up with various operational discomforts instead.
I think I finally figured it out. The answer lies in the way the two different contingents think about cameras in general.
I started thinking about the difference in the way people use their cameras and feel about their cameras in the context of how groups of people use their smart phones. At first I thought it was a generational thing but many people older me by a long shot are virtuosos with their phones. They know all the cool apps and controls, they whisk around town creating personal hot spots, doing their banking and using their phones to control their daiquiri blenders, the temperature of their bathwater and to automate the bird feeder in the back yard. I bought my iPhone to make and receive phone calls and only recently mastered texting. I think of products as singular tools despite adoring the "idea" of Swiss Army knives.
If I had to chose between a phone which makes it easy to make calls on and to get texts with versus a phone that could do a million more things I know I would gravitate to the simpler phone just because the onus of having to master a thousand apps and a dozen pages of menus makes me tired and makes me feel as though all of our time is leached away learning a million useless control steps but the tool is never really pressed into actually doing the art. Or the call. Or the whatever.
My preference in a camera will generally be how it feels to use it. How much it becomes a trusted ally in helping me do the things I want to do and create the images I want to create. I spend long days with my cameras and generally have one by my side most waking hours.
If you shoot the same way and in the same style most of the time you either get used to the feel of the camera or you grow to dislike it. Whether you persist with a camera that makes your brain/hand combination unsettled for the sake of either specification satisfaction or some feature you can't find anywhere else depends on your individual disposition.
I see cameras as very, very specific tools. More so since I started shooting video in earnest with the GH5S. I tested that camera for stills and it's fine but it is so much a dedicated video camera that this is all I find myself using it for. If I want to shoot video I pick up the GH5S. I like the video files from the camera more than anything else I've shot since the days in which we shot 35mm movie film. I may, in fact, try to trade my original GH5 for another S variant just for that reason. But I don't see the GH5S as an "all arounder" and won't take it along in situations where I my intention is to just shoot photographs.
At the other end of the spectrum I find the Nikon D700 to be a very, very comfortable physical camera with a very well thought out and uncomplicated physical interface design. It is designed for one this only and that is to take photographs. It is unencumbered by video, GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-fi and all the countless modes that more modern cameras fester with and so it has a clear intentionality of purpose and seems to convey that sensibility of intention to a daily user. To put it clearly it is a camera that becomes more and more transparent to the process the longer one uses it and gets comfortable with it. And, at the bottom of all camera design and use isn't the real idea to make a camera which doesn't distract from the process with poor handling and unnecessary operational complexity? It is for me.
A quick way to tell whether you prefer a "pure" experience or "need" the complexity of a feature rich camera is this: Do you know what all the function buttons on your camera are programmed to do and do you use all of the function buttons on your cameras in the process of making your photographs? Do you routinely use Bluetooth or wi-fi in the daily routine of making your own, personal, not-for-publication photographs?
If you answered yes then you are probably the same type of person who understands all the myriad possibilities of your smart phone and how to access them. We are opposites. Our camera choices may never converge. And that's the starting point to understanding how I'm going to approach my approach to the new Nikon Z cameras. I'll be evaluating how well they work as shooting cameras; not how many check boxes they tick. I'm ordering the Z6 as it makes the most sense.
When I get back from San Antonio this evening let's look at what Nikon's real intention for the new cameras is, as expressed by the insanely well designed lenses as represented by the 35mm f1.8. See Michael Johnston's most recent discussion of this lens at theonlinephotographer.com
I'm headed down to San Antonio to visit my dad and have lunch with him. I'm taking along a Nikon D700 and the 85mm f1.8. Should be a nice day for a visit. Happy Sunday!