The curse of perceived camera status

Olivier Duong, the excellent F8 blog host, wrote (yet another) interesting article a little while ago, about the snobbism and ego status involved in camera ownership. It really resonated with me because I see *so* many people obsessed with that aspect of their camera, it’s scary. Discussing with a friend lately, who’s been swapping models a bit in quest of her perfect, photographic Holy Grail : when I advised her to stick to the camera that served her the best (from samples I’d seen and feedback she’d given me on how that particular model made her feel) she answered, “yes but model X is supposed to be better”.

WTF !?! Better ? Says who ? She’d had both ! One had given her more joy, and much better images, than the other, but she still felt compelled, and somehow obligated, to howl with the pack and consider the other model because of a general perception from web reviews and discussions that it may be “better”.

So where do I stand there on this issue myself ? Well, we all like to get the latest and greatest. I personally hate to spend big bucks and pay full retail for any camera, which usually leads me to wait a good deal of time before laying hand on any particular highly sought for model. I’ve also discovered it a great cure for GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrom) attacks. When a just announced or newly released camera is keeping me from sleeping at night (do not laugh, it happens), I just tell myself : YES I AM going to get it… Later. I give myself a time frame in which I will allow myself to purchase said model. And it works brilliantly ! I make it a short enough delay to be acceptable, but long enough (a trimester is a pretty safe bet) that in the meanwhile I’ve either come to my senses, or another maker has announced a more desirable model yet (and often, both). It’s a winning situation here because either I realize that I didn’t need/want that model as much as I thought, or I still want it, my need has stood the trial of time, and I can indeed get one for a much better price than I would have initially, any early bugs being fixed, FW updates released, potential issues known and found workarounds for, etc.

I got only a very few models brand new (D200, D80, GX-1, NEX 6) and had a bad experience half of the time. Waiting is always a winning game. But I’m straying from my original message here, which was, your camera choice shouldn’t have anything to do with status. A camera is a tool (even if I strongly disagree that, as such, we shouldn’t care about how they look, only about how they perform). Just chose yours depending on your needs, skills, budget and personal tastes and inclination, NOT for bragging rights. Pre-ordering the latest Sony A7R or casually displaying a Leica M on a posh leather strap might get you your minute of online glory or social interest, but if you had to get a second mortgage on the house, eat potatoes for the whole month, or have no idea how to operate them or no money to buy lenses for them, you’ll end up being miserable and with zero worthy pictures to share…

There is a LOT of bullying going on in the photo enthusiasts world, both online and in real life. Go to any place with a fair number of photographers (weddings or events come to mind) and you’ll see a bunch of contemptuous looks shot here and there at cameras and their bearers. I remember being looked down at at a wedding (I WAS the official photog’, too !) by a friend of the couple with a larger camera body than mine. The guy made a clear display of his disdain for about an hour. At the end of the day he was approaching me and asking me for advice, admitting his big gun Nikon wasn’t delivering as he would like it to. In the meanwhile my little cheapo Canon Rebel had worked flawlessly, mostly thank to the awesome LENS I had used all day, and both I and the couple were tickled with the results.

So remember, I do believe in this blog’s title. It is NOT the camera. It’s a bunch of things put together, camera, lens, light, editing, but first and foremost it’s you, the photographer. Let your richer or wiser or whatever “er” friends look smug with their just released, must-have or you’re a dope, paid-full-introduction-price for camera. At the end of the day, camera models will pass. The 2200€ Nikon D200 I fantasized about for weeks (and finally hated when I ended up buying one !) in 2005 is now hardly worth 200€ and regarded with contempt and a bit of pity in the photo webosphere. Today’s icons will be tomorrow’s jokes. Within 4 or 5 years we’ll laugh our asses off saying “Oh geez, do you remember the buzz when Sony launched the A7 ?

Now take gear you have and go out make pictures 😉


About marla2008

Shutterbug. Shallow DOF nut. Mother of Child. Student of the Horse.
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7 Responses to The curse of perceived camera status

  1. Paul says:

    Hello again, I’m using all 2nd hand gear Nex5N, Nikon D100 and a Nikon D1X and lenses from Nikon, Pentax, Konica, Olympus, Leica. The Nikon DSLR’s are regarded as dinosaurs, yet I’m very happy with the results, the reason being that the software that processes the raw files is constantly being updated and improved. I cannot until circumstances improve even think of buying
    new. The release of all these new cameras has one big benefit, users flooding the market with there old gear, which hopefully means a drop in there 2nd hand prices. Hopefully my next DSLR is yet another dinosaur a Canon 1Ds.

  2. Alex says:

    hi, I’ve been following your blog since your post about the a58. I’ve also purchased one a58 last summer but gosh, I say… it was a long one/two years process :s. First I was aiming (dreaming) to the big guns like canon 5d mark3 or the nikon d800, but then, European crisis came across, of course here in Portugal things got worst, lost my job and soon I’ve realized that even if I could afford one of any FF bodies, I would not make money from taking pictures, that was not the purpose in the first place anyway. I wanted a camera that could also shoot video with full manual controls and with the advantages of a interchangeable lenses system for my personal and school projects. Everybody was telling me I should go for a canon 60d or a canon 600d on a budget but it was still too expensive for the budget available. So I ended up choosing the sony a58. It was the best deal I could ever get. Now I can shoot what I want and I’m not feeling the burden of having spent the money I did not have. Do I still dream of having a FF body, the new sony A7R, or even an Arriflex? …of course, but (like you and Olivier say) I´ll get it later because I’ve got things to shoot right now! – greetings, Alex.

  3. laurent says:

    This is really something that is specific to photography. My main hobby is birdwatching, and the most popular camera brands are also producing binoculars and scopes of various price and quality (Nikon, Leica, Zeiss, Swaroski to name the most common brands). On the field you see people with $2500 Leica binoculars (and they are amazingly good) watching birds together with guys who have $300 Nikon Monarchs (like me), or even with people with stuff they bought from Kmart for $30. And while all those people are extremely competitive, the sole object of competitiveness is only about the birds you have seen/identified, and not the bins.

  4. marla2008 says:

    Well you bird watchers must be nice folks ! I’ve always noticed gear related snobism in any hobby I ever engaged in. I’m not even talking about clothes and tack in horse riding, it can get toxic, lol !

    • laurent says:

      Birdwatchers can sometimes be nasty in a very different way. Constantly comparing records, data and lists can lead to some fairly uncivilized interaction sometimes.

  5. Pingback: GearCentricity « The Portraitblographer

    • marla2008 says:

      The sticky point *was* paying too much attention to other people’s opinions (yes, including mine) and not knowing enough what was important for YOU. Now that you have determine that OOC results were key, it’ll be a breeze to test one final time and decide which camera to stick with. And if it’s the big daddy, so be it !

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