You see it all the time. “I’m bailing on Canons, and switching to Sonys.” “So long. Nikon; hello Fuji.”
I have never understood how some people approach buying cameras like getting married. Cameras are tools. They exist to make photographs. There are many kinds of photographs. Some cameras are suited to making a certain class of photographs, and poor at making others. The right camera for the job depends on the job.
Switching cameras, meaning abandoning one system and taking up another, might be appropriate if you’ve decided that you’re never, ever going to make the kind of pictures at which your old system excelled, and you’re now going to make a completely different kinds of picture. But what photographer works that way?
Why not use the cameras you have for the things they’re good for, and buy new cameras and lenses only to do the things that those cameras aren’t so good for? And, since before you use a new camera or lens extensively, you don’t know in exquisite detail what it’s best suited to do, why buy a lot of equipment when getting started with a new system? I always start with one body and one lens, and buy more only as I learn what’s necessary to best do the task at hand.
Unlike in the larger world, monogamy in camera ownership is not a virtue, and rapidly changing serial monogamy sounds to me like a recipe for dissatisfaction.
This wonderful post from Roger Cicala is tangentially related.
David Braddon-Mitchell says
Yes it’s amazing: people spend what is often for them a really large sum of money selling all their stuff off, buy a complete new system, spend a year not being able to work the new system as rapidly as the old, and all because they were chasing a stop or so of dynamic range or some minor new feature. And they anathematise the old and worship the new, just like someone who has had a divorce.
Better I think to watch your own behaviour as a clue to what gear you want. For most of the digital era I was a Canon DSLR user, and very happy I was with the various 5D series cameras I used, and the Canon and Zeiss ZE lenses that fitted them. But after a decade or so I found that at least half of my most compelling images were taken on compact cameras that I was prepared to take on multi-day hikes. So I got myself some M43 gear, reasoning that it would give me more flexibility and image quality and that I might be able to persuade myself to pack it even at the expense of extra food..
Well that worked fine: but what I found was that even more of my images were now taken on the M43 gear, and yet I much preferred the IQ of the 5DIII. Enter Sony – I figured I could have the best of both worlds, with one consistent interface. With smaller lenses, it backpacked nicely (and yes I did enjoy the extra DR, EVF etc), with larger lenses it’s great in the studio or when travelling by car. But I still have and use a number of Canon lenses, and look back with affection (if that’s appropriate for gear) on the M43 stuff, the Canons — and indeed the various film gear, mainly OM as you might guess from the hiking.
Anyhow the point of this was not the autobiography, but rather that one good source of clues as to what you need a lot might best come from observing your own behaviour, and seeing not just what you use the most, but what you use to make your most compelling images. Weighing up spec sheets and theoretical advantages, while fun and I’m certainly not immune from doing it, is less important.
There is budget-constrained monogamy, though, where the people perhaps cannot afford more than one body of the desired level, and so they need to sell all of one system in order to reach functional equivalence in the other system.
And then there’s a matter of keeping things consistent. I shoot Canon with adapted manual focus lenses, but I’ve never once considered getting a Nikon or Pentax lens because focusing is backwards on them.
About the consistency. I used to feel that way about focusing direction. Now I don’t even notice it. Same with which direction the lens bayonets in from. I do sometime wish the location of aperture and focusing rings were standardized, though.
Jay Hemphill says
Certain things I own I become attached to like my cameras and bicycles. And as foolish as it sounds these things give me great satisfaction and in many ways have lead to spiritual growth as a human being. My camera gear provides me with my living and it seems almost unethical to just treat my cameras as tools and nothing more than just things to get the job done. I was thinking the other day about my father who was a woodworker and the care he gave his tools and how he taught me to respect and take care of them and they will return the favor. I believe had he just treated them as tools to get the job done and nothing more it would have showed through in his work. I’ve thought of this as a holistic approach to work, art, and life.
Jay, I don’t think we’re at odds here. I believe in respecting tools, and not just cameras. Sometimes, it goes beyond that. I still have a Nikon S2 purchased used in 1958, although I haven’t used it in years. It still gets CLA’d so it doesn’t freeze up. I don’t see myself ever parting with it.
OTOH, here’s a partial list of cameras that I’ve sold:
Nikon F, F3, F4, F5, Nikkormat, FM
Nikon D2, D2H, D3, D3S
Hasselblad 501, 503, H1
Speed Graphic 3 1/4 x 4 1/4, 4×5
Sinar F, Arca Swiss 6×7, 4×5, 8×10
And I’ve always regarded any camera taken underwater as disposable.
Max Berlin says
I can only make each shot with 1 lens and 1 sensor at any given moment and what I want is to make the least amount of compromises as possible.
I can carry 3 lenses – maybe 4, a camera body, some batteries, filters, flash and an RRS tripod.
I’ve chosen the D810, the Nikon 14-24, Sigma 35, Otus 55 and Nikon 70-200 as carry lenses. I can get 99% of what I want to accomplish 99% of the time with that gear.
The Nikon 70-200 is carried in a backpack and only brought out when needed.
This means these lenses (Zeiss 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, Otus 85mm, Apo-Sonnar 135mm, Nikon 300mm 2,8 and TCs) get left at home unless I know that I am doing something specific that requires one of those lenses.
I can afford to buy any of the alternative cameras – Sony, Leica, Fuji, etc but to me these involve greater compromises than using the Nikon gear that I am accustomed to and practiced as using every day.
To each his own, I suppose. But I never get ready to photograph something without a plan, and that plan dictates the equipment, which, if I’m going somewhere to do the project, I choose before I pack.
Cases in point:
I couldn’t have done the Staccato series with a Leica or a Sony, or even a D810.
The infrared stitched tree series that is currently in Recent Work needed an IR-modified camera. Doing IR works much better with mirrorless, where you can see the IR effects, so I used IR-modded a7 and a7II cameras.
Timescapes needed a slitscan camera. The Betterlight Super 6K was perfect. I could have simulated a slit scan camera with some smaller camera, but there’s a big quality loss, and no way to do short exposures; the Betterlight can do 300 per second.
If you look through the images in my galleries, I think you’ll see that no one camera could come close to being right for them all.
Max Berlin says
I grant that your experience and expertise in photography is far greater than mine. I am still at the stage where everything looks like a nail and the D810 is my hammer of choice.
With that said, most operate on the deserted island theory.
When pressed to respond to which camera you’d take into that environment or an extended international holiday what would you choose ?
IQ, reliability, flexibility, weather resistant, strobist functions, weight, service, r&r, replacement… etc.
Every time one walks out the door with their carry bag they are forced to make a choice and compromises because who knows what the universe will present to them that day.