I have a friend who has an MFA and is the quintessential artist-not-gear guy. He's owned a lot of cameras and he has a great sense of finding the right subjects and making great compositions. I hate to admit it but he's a much more creative photographer than me. I know a lot about cameras and lenses, having owned plenty of them. I can test them with the best of the online reviewers. I use the heck out of the ones I like. But he's the better artist. He cares more acutely about the finished image and less about how he gets there.
Over the years he's owned a fair number of cameras as well but he's not good at remembering all the ins and outs of complicated menus and he's not always thrilled with the color science he gets out of his cameras. The techie details seem to elude him. I guess it's a trade-off.
Lately he's been looking through some video projects I've recently done and also through various sharing feeds I have both privately and publicly online. He's called me to tell me that he really likes the color I get from my cameras and he's convinced himself that it must be because I'm shooting with Leica cameras, and sometimes Leica lenses. He's buying into the hype that somehow the image pipeline of the Leicas is vastly different (and superior?) from all the other current cameras. And he recently queried me to ask which Leicas he should consider.
I was at a loss for what to tell him. I don't think he'd be happy with a Q2 because he likes to play around with anamorphic lenses and he still needs to shoot video with his camera. The Q2 video itself is great but it's the least friendly camera for a professional to use as it lacks any sort of ports or interfaces. Not even a USB port. Certainly no microphone or headphone jacks. And I'm not sure you could even adapt an anamorphic lens on top of the fixed 28mm lens...
While I really like the SL2 my friend has a much different sensitivity than I do when it comes to high ISO noise. He hates it. As long as my noisy camera is monochrome-ish and film grain-like I'm pretty much okay with noise at ISOs from 1600 & up. It's the logical trade-off (to me) for the increased resolution.
The CL cameras are a non-starter for him as he is resolutely convinced that full frame is always the way to go. And, again, while I love the CLs for still photography it's just a mean-spirited camera for video shooters. Again, no ports. No interaction. And, in the case of the CLs, no waveforms or color meters for video.
That leaves the SL (601) cameras which have been my favorite mirrorless Leica choice since I put the first one into my hands. But it's absolutely a non-starter for my friend. The camera is clunky, the finder is less impressive than the one in the current SL2 models, the sensor has less dynamic range and it's slow to focus when using C-AF. And at heart he's a video guy with a bag full of Sonys who believes with all of his heart that current, modern video demands instantaneous, locked-on AF. The SL would quickly drive him crazy. And his less than rigorous regard for memorizing camera controls means the unmarked buttons on the back of the SL will repeatedly mystify him at exactly the wrong times. Imagine camera flying into wall...
As you can see there's no way I can recommend the cameras I use (and like) knowing how he works with cameras in general. Any recommendation would be a disservice.
And that's just the cameras themselves. Trying to convince him that the cameras are only half the puzzle and that an ample portion of what he likes in most of the photographs also comes from the Leica lenses. He loves lenses and the idea that the lenses he would really want in the system retail for about $5500 each would be incredibly frustrating. Especially since he likes lots of lenses with his systems.
He's currently using Sony cameras and lenses and with the exception of the color science (which I think he can correct in post --- if willing) he seems right at home with them. I, on the other hand, dislike just about everything in the Sony camera line up. From the haptics to the menus to the color and the general build quality of the cameras (try finding a marked IP dust and moisture rating on one of them...). I could use them in a pinch but as far as nice camera bodies (not systems, just bodies) goes my first preference is the big Leicas followed by the bigger Panasonic S1 cameras and then the bigger Canons followed by the Nikon Z series and finally, in last place, the Sony cameras.
For him the whole equation is exactly opposite. So why in the world would I believe myself to be at all capable of making any sort of smart camera system recommendation? I personally think he'd be thrilled with the Panasonic S1H and the Lumix lenses; especially since his full time job is all about making great video, but he bought into the (over blown) trauma and drama of Panasonic not having the perfect C-AF, a la PDAF, and won't touch em.
On the other hand a neighbor recently asked me to recommend a camera for his wife. She doesn't currently have one and wanted one to photograph her (almost) grown kids, vacations, travel, some nature stuff, etc. I listened and thought that a good camera for her might be the Sony RX100 VII. Her husband and I looked at the camera and specs on B&H's website and he agreed that it looked pretty great to him. Small and light enough for travel but still possessed of a 200mm equivalent lens on the long end. I did advise him to keep all the boxes, packaging, bits and pieces and NOT to fill out the warranty cards. Lucky me.
She didn't like the camera at all. Zoomed out to 200mm and decided that was far too short for her way of working. They're sending the camera back and have decided (with less input from me) to invest in a Sony A7iii camera, a standard zoom and a long Sony zoom that extends to 400mm. I would never have guessed. Especially since in our first talks the husband seemed price sensitive and it seemed that the $1299 for the first camera felt like a stretch to him. I should have known better than to take his budget sensitivity seriously. They are both high income professionals.
So, each time I advise someone on cameras I strike out. I'm bad at figuring out what other people want and what they'll be most comfortable with.
And it's dawned on me that I'm a bit of an eccentric when it comes to cameras and lenses. I like stuff that pushes back a bit. I like stuff that's built like a tank more than I like stuff that's just easy to carry. And I mostly like the idea of state of the art optics --- even if objectively they are not better than any other brand's top line stuff. I like weird, counterintuitive cameras. I like weird, vintage lenses. But I also like grossly expensive lenses too.
In fact, I think I really suck at helping people choose cameras. Or lenses. And I'm going to stop trying before I lose some of my otherwise kind and wonderful friends. And neighbors.
I have just been telling everyone to use their phones. Or I give them the URL for DPReview and invite them to step into the maelstrom of subjective, brand terrorism on their own. Ah, the forae.
A word to the wise: If I write about a camera or a lens here be sure to take any positivity you might sense in my appraisal with a massive block of salt. A mountain of salt. Chances are that anything I profess to love will drive you crazy, not work the way you'd like, focus like a sloth, have limited dynamic range and cost you the equivalent of a small, but functional, used car.
You have been warned.
Coming up next on the blog: Why you must run out right now and buy a Pentax K-01 !!!!