All I want to know from reviews is how it feels in hand, the pictures it makes and what is the actual performance from a daily usage stand point. The sensor size, the sensor type and what kind of processors mean absolutely nothing — what matters is the photos.
Even more helpful: give me a year-out view, after you’ve spent some quality time with the camera, and really tested its capabilities.
What would make me love it more than what I already have? What are the limits of its use? Where have you taken it, and what did you see?
A few of the big photo sites take a stab at this philosophy, but I value reviews from individual photographers more than any review-heavy site.
It’s such a strange way to think about buying a camera.
If I’m going to make an investment in a camera or lenses, I’m going to think about the lifespan of the equipment and how much work I can get done with it. Resale value doesn’t enter into the do-I-buy-it equation at all.
For me, I’d rather have a well-used camera that helps me make photographs than worry about selling it down the road.
There is no perfect or ideal lens or focal length out there. Rather, it is about finding the lens or focal length which fits 80% of your needs. Psychologists call this “satisficing” (a mix between satisfying and sufficing). Rather than aiming for “perfect”, you aim for “good enough.” And by aiming for “good enough”, you are a lot happier and and satisfied than people who are “maximizers” and aim for “perfection.”
When I buy a Mac, I always go for the consumer, mid-range version. I bought an iBook, the consumer-grade notebook, and now I buy iMacs, the consumer-grade desktop. It’s nice to have a pro machine, but the combo of size, price, and capabilities make the mid-range Macs my go-to computers.
So it’s going to be with me and cameras. My Canon EOS M, the Canonet, the Olympus Trip 35, even the Fuji X100 I rented for a week – these are all consumer grade, small size, fixed lens (the 22mm never leaves my M) cameras, and they’re my favorite to take with me when I’m looking for ease of use and image quality.
Even with my Fuji X-E1, the 27mm pancake lens never left the front of that camera, and it was – in spirit – a fixed-lens compact camera, perfect for traveling.
As Kim says, these kinds of cameras (Sony makes one, as does Leica, Canon maybe be working on a full frame version, etc.) are good enough for most needs. Need to get closer? Move closer. Need a wider angle? Buy a 28mm version. For most people, 28-40mm is good enough for most situations, and most of the film compact cameras came with a 40-ish lens for a reason.
Also, you just can’t beat the size and portability. It’s the throw-it-in-the-front-seat-of-your-car situation: is the camera small enough to take with you on most daily commutes and travel? Will it fit in your commuter bag or purse? Is it unobtrusive, and is it easy to carry around?
Just as important: is it fun to use?
For these smaller, fixed-lens cameras, the answer is almost always “yes.”
Think about it: there used to be a photo developing station in every grocery store. You could (and in some cases, still can) pick up film in a gas station. People would print photos and bind them together into books that became family heirlooms. Then it all went away.
But the good news is all on the film side. The other side of the equation – new film cameras – isn’t returning at the same speed as film stock. Why is that?
Leica is doing their thing, but that’s out of the reach of most photographers. Nikon has the F6, still in production, and Lomo does a good business. But from there, medium- and large-format film cameras are the only ones still in production. Where are the new 35mm cameras to meet this growing film demand? Is the demand still not at a level for camera manufacturers to supply new gear?
Not that there’s any reason to worry; there are tons of used film cameras out there waiting to be rediscovered and refurbished (it’s coming up on yard sale season, after all). For the most part, buying a decent film camera is way more affordable than buying a new digital camera.
Maybe that’s when we’ll know film is back in a big way: Pentax, Canon, Fuji, and the rest fire up their film camera production machines again.
All of sudden, customers like me, who prefer to buy once and hold on as long as well can become the outliers. There’s a whole new set of buyers to appeal to who will view a monthly charge for the latest phone as just another line item.
But can Apple get enough customers on the subscription model? Will the desire to always have the latest and greatest iPhone be enough of a driver?
I held on to my iPhone 3G probably a year too long. With my current iPhone 5S, it’s the same situation. And when I do upgrade, it will probably be to an iPhone SE, not a 7.
It’s the same with photography. Sony would love for you to buy the latest Alpha 7 model every year. Adobe wants you to “subscribe” to Photoshop.
Are you on the “lease” model Gartenberg talks about? Or do you purchase things for the long-haul?
I like owning things. I like relying on my purchases for the long term, and a lot of research and thought goes into each of those purchases. The same goes for music, for automobiles, for everything. It could be that I learned a lot from my grandparents, who grew up during the Depression, and invested in things that lasted. They took pride in the things they owned. And they treated those items with care and respect, and kept them running.
The problem comes when the software updates outlast the technology.
Then again, my Canon 5D is shooting just fine, 10 years later.
For a long time, I used disposable cameras and point and shoots to do my photography. It wasn’t quite a hobby yet, but I used those two tools to do a lot of shooting – particularly on cross-country road trips.
But then something flipped, and I wanted to take photography seriously. I had the drive, and the intent, so I saved up money and bought my first DSLR in 2010. I saw it as an investment in a new hobby.
I get the sense that many people buying entry-level DSLRs are buying the “fancy” camera to take “better” photos.
Don’t buy a fancy camera unless you have the patience and time to do it right.
For most people, a smartphone camera is all they ever need. Point and shoots are great, and affordable.
Buying a DSLR or mirrorless camera is like buying a pet: it needs feeding, care, to be taken for a walk, etc.
Of course, if you follow the camera press, you heard about it from rumor to reveal. It’s supposed to be the “next big thing.” Maybe it will be.
For those in a rush to spend $10,000 on a new camera, might I suggest something? Don’t read the initial reviews. Read the reviews from users a year from now.
How does it handle? What hiccups does it have? How tough is it? What complications does it introduce?
A lot of things – cars, tablets, cameras – are introduced to great fanfare with no thought to the long-term usability of the product. When things go wrong, do they go horribly wrong? Does the company stand behind the product?
Yes, a new camera, shiny and cool with a neat new idea. But if you wait a year, it should still be cool, and I bet you’ll get a better deal on it.
So the next time you buy that new camera— have realistic expectations. It will be good, but it won’t completely transform your photography nor solve your life’s problems. Try not to be too excited with your new gear— as you will eventually get used to it.
But his advice – that buying new camera gear won’t make you better or happier – is spot on.
I admit that a Canon EF 135mm f/2 lens has been on my wish list since I rented it this summer for a wedding. So is the Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4. So is a Canon EF 100mm macro lens. So is…
But you know what? I’m not a professional photographer, and I don’t need any of those lenses. I use a classic Canon 5D. I carry a EOS M, first gen, around. None of my lenses are Canon L lenses. And all of that is fine.
A lot of photographers struggle with this, and this frame of mind is easy to find on photography blogs. The challenge is not to let gear reviews and photo websites get the best of you.
My latest method? Using adaptors to try out my manual focus film lenses on different cameras. It’s a way to get a lot of mileage out of the gear I already have. Just repurposed. More on that later.
And for you non-photographers out there, pay attention. You think you need the big fancy camera with the telephoto lens? You probably don’t.