Monterey, California has a rich and varied photographic history. To this day there are many serious photographic artists in the region. Living here, I get the chance to work with many of them.
Photography is a technical pursuit. When you’re trying to make art, the tech stuff is the yin to the art’s yang. You need, if not mastery of, at least serious attention to both. So when photographers get together, we talk about gear. Cameras, lenses, printers, programs, processes, paper, chemicals, pretty much everything. Gear actually gets more attention than it deserves, probably because most photographers are more comfortable discussing gear than their inner motivations and visions, and also because gear knowledge is a lot more transferable than mindset and world view.
Canon shooters, knowing that I was one of them for three years and went back to Nikon — the D3 did that to me, or for me, depending on your point of view — and now use Sony gear a lot, ask me about some cameras or lenses. What they get from me are mostly the negatives. I’m not trying to scare them off, but when you work with a camera system for a while, whatever’s good about it tends to become part of the atmosphere, and when was the last time you thought hard about the air you’re breathing? But bad things continue to irritate.
So, whenever anyone asks me about the Sony alpha 7 series, they get an earful about the maddening menu system and the incessant need to look at it, whether they want to or not. I don’t hate the cameras; in fact, on balance, I like them a lot. However, the negatives get more air time from me than the positives. If you ask me about the Epson 4900, you’re gonna hear about ink clogs before I extol the gamut.
It’s the same when I ask others about some gear. I never get a paean to its wonderfulness. It’s always a balanced response.
I’ve noticed that the same dynamic doesn’t seem to play out on the Internet, at least in the non-professional milieus. Especially in fora devoted to a particular brand, you’ll find people who point out flaws castigated unmercifully by those who think that vendor can do no wrong. You will also see a funny kind of ad-hominem attack on a person who questions some aspect of the WonderFlex Mark XVII: “You’re just a Canon user; you have no right to your opinions, you’re just trying to stir up trouble, and what are you doing on our forum anyway?”
This is classic tribal behavior. The tribe in this case is defined by ownership of the equipment in question. A tenet of the tribe is that equipment, if not flawless, is exemplary. Departures from perfection are to be discussed infrequently, and with deference towards the maker of the equipment. Users of other equipment have questionable taste, and their motivations are suspect. People who use many different cameras and lenses are confusing.
The whole dynamic is not very useful, and contributes to discussions that provide more heat than light. In that last, it’s not so different from the Internet writ large. It’s a great tool, but the SNR could use some work.