Gear Lust Before Knowing…..

So, here in Calgary, it “looks” like spring is here.  Flowers are blooming, the sun is even shining :-)  This time of year, brings out that yearn in a lot of folks about getting a new camera.  Because many people know I take photography, the questions are starting to come in :-)  “I think I’m going to get a new camera soon – what should I get? “ is the one that I get asked a LOT.  My  usual response used to be “What are you wanting to take pictures of?”, but recently I changed that to “What have you been looking at?” and going from there.  I’ve found that this is more revealing :-) 

This, to me, is very much like what I got from the retail side back in my 35mm days behind the counter.  In reality, when it comes down to getting a new camera or upgrading for that matter, the decision making part of it really hasn’t changed.  What has changed, though, is what the technology has brought to the table.  It’s amazing what’s out there and what the stuff can do for very little money.  Anyway – let’s keep on topic here a bit 🙂

Many of the folks I chat with on the subject are coming from two basic areas – the ones that really don’t know what to get and the ones that have chatted with their friends and have done a bit of research on their own.  In both cases, though, it really boils down to know WHAT you want to do with this new camera, and then finding “SOMETHING” that fits the bill.  Sounds easy enough, eh?   :-) 

For the first group, some have already gone to a store somewhere and looked and then gotten really confused :-)  Each camera they look at, and its usually in the same price range, seem to have all the same features, which for the most part they do.  When they look at the next one up or down, that extra feature set or lack of feature set gets even more confusing because they might not understand what that feature does.  The retail salesperson may or may not helpful.  Price may also be a stickler.  BUT the underlying thing here, is that many folks kinda don’t know what they want to do in the first place!!  They want to go beyond the “snapshot” area but not sure what else they want to do.  The mindset sits typically around the fact that having a better camera will get them better pictures :-)   Its almost like when you get a “better” camera, you will automagically become a better photographer :-)  The newer camera might be an incentive to get them to study to be better, but usually that’s not the case.

The other group is the one that have done some of the pre-work and perhaps have a better idea, but have also chatted to friends who have more advanced gear.  They may or may not have had too much other gear, but typically, they are a bit more serious about the craft.  With some, the danger is the “camera of the moment” syndrome :-)  They’ve had this camera for x amount of time and it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  To me, that’s fine, but understanding what YOU want to do, to me, is more important.

When I came back into digital in a more serious way, I looked hard at the technology and what it had to offer against what I wanted to do.  I already had a good idea, but at the same time, I wasn’t convinced that going the DSLR way was the answer for what I wanted to do.  Soooo…. I went the other way.  I wanted good quality photos, who doesn’t? More important, and this is the $50,000 dollar question – at what size?  I knew that I would ultimately be doing some cropping, so I needed to get past 8×10.  Guess what?  My pointy shooties would do that quite easily.  Mostly, it was for displaying on my iPad or computer monitor.  Next was function – would it do all the things I wanted to do.  I’ve harped on this before – I wanted to ultimately have pretty strict control on what the camera was doing, so the quest was on to find the camera or cameras that could fit.  Another key factor was I wanted to have the camera with me all the time if possible.  That meant a combination of function AND size.  For me, that ruled out DSLR’s immediately.  Does that mean I would never get one?  Absolutely not.  I actually did get a DSLR recently :-)  Do I use it a lot?  Not as much as I should but I use it for some VERY specific things.  To me, its still about mobility first and use second.  For instance – weekends, I’ll take it with me as I’m in a vehicle and it’s not that hard to take my DSLR with me.  Weekdays – not a chance – too big for commuting.

One of the big things, I think, that most folks forget when they look at something like a DSLR, is that they are meant for the more advanced photographer.  This is not really the type of camera you get and leave in AUTO.  Well, you could but….. :-)  Yeah, they are a pretty slick piece of gear, and when you first get one, you do take it with you everywhere.  BUT over a period of time, if you aren’t dedicated to the craft, it becomes that something extra that really doesn’t need to be with you all the time.  Sooo…. it collects dust in the closet or somewhere where you aren’t when a photo op comes along.  In reality, something smaller would have worked just as well and you’ll end up with more photos and it only stands to reason, you’ll get better as a result – IF you study a bit :-)  So that leaves the that burning question – Should you even bother with one?

I usually have a couple of cameras with me all the time.  Even when I do have my DSLR with me, I always take an extra camera or two with me.  When people do ask, I can take out what I have and show them :-)  To me, there’s nothing like a demo :-)  In fact, a lot of folks are blown away by what a travel camera can do or even a slight more advanced pointy shooty.  You see, I get the impression that a lot of folks get told that certain types of cameras won’t work well because of <insert feature here>  but that opinion is given without proof or how the shot is going to be used :-)    I actually had someone tell me that travel cameras didn’t take sharp photos and when I asked them to show me, they couldn’t :-)  Sooo…. I took out my iPad and showed them some macros of flowers I took with mine.

You see, it’s a matter of perspective to me.  If you are doing a lot of post processing, DLSR’s have the advantage of being able to capture more data and can really shine compared to less expensive units.  There are a lot of things that a DSLR can do that most others can’t.  I don’t disagree with that at all.  But the real question here is “How much of that are you going to use?”  For me, I have no qualms about picking up one of my travel cams for normal shots – I can take it out and simply shoot in Programmed Auto with very little fuss and muss and know I’m going to get a pretty reasonable shot.  To me, where the level of pointy shooties and travel cams have gotten, they’re not all that shabby.  If I know I’m going to need higher quality images, then I’ll use my more advanced cameras – they range from my trusty Fuji X10, XF1 and Panasonic LX7 to the Panasonic GX1 or my Nikon D3200 DSLR.  I know I’m different in that I have a lot of cameras.  More important – I use them all.  My two favourite travel cams for “out and about” are the Panasonic ZS25 (20x zoom) and the Nikon S9400 (18x zoom).  My newest  favourite for low light and also for general purpose is the Fuji XF1.  I can fit all 3 into a sling bag with no issue.

So why the Panasonic and Nikon?  Well, to me, they have some subtle differences but in general, they render what I would call a “rich” image.  Good colors and work well in most lighting conditions.  The Nikon is slightly cooler on flash, but not annoyingly so.  Mostly snaps anyway so not an issue.  I have several others in the travel cam class – the Canon SX270 HD, Fuji F800 and Sony HX30V.  The Canon takes what I would call a “neutral photo” – good color on the photos but to me, ever so slightly flat.  The Panasonics and Fuji’s tend to have colors that look richer and fuller and the Nikon has a “brighter” looking photo.  Sony’s image is brighter as well.  It’s not the Canon is bad, it isn’t – it actually works very well.  It didn’t get name top travel camera because it was bad.  2012 or 2013, I think.  It’s a good general purpose camera.  Personal preference is what drives it.  I own them all, and I have my own opinion is all :-)  When I looked at DSLR’s, this was also a bit of a tug between Canon and Nikon.  I wanted to see what this space was about.  I didn’t want to spend big bucks and went with an entry level one to “dip my toe in”.  The pool is getting deep :-) 

Do I have gear lust?   Guilty as charged 🙂 I have the kit lens, and recently got a AF  50mmf1.8 and more recently a 40mm f2.8 Micro Nikon.  I initially thought that the 50 mm f1.8 would be a good close up lens, but it didn’t work quite how I had envisioned – it’s not a bad lens, by any means, but not for close ups.  It does give sharp a whole new meaning though :-)  I was initially looking at the 35mm f1.8 but got talked out of it.  The 50mm will be good for portrait work, though, which is something else I do.  There are certain shots I’ve gotten that really show the difference between the 18-55 and this one, but then again, it’s only noticeable on certain shots.  The 40mm came about because I do a lot of close up work – this is an area that is of very high interest to me.  THIS is one place where the DSLR really out performs the travel cams.  The other area – battery power.  Over the last year or so, as I plunged deeper into the abyss…. I’ve shot events where battery power and flash started to enter the equation.  It hit a point where the built in flashes simply weren’t cutting it.  I decided to get flash units for the D3200 instead of any of the other units.  My last event shoot, compared to last year at this event was a dream compared to last year from the battery power side.  Didn’t have to swap out at all, compared to last year where I was using the in built flash and swapping like crazy.  This year, though, I had to take photos farther away, so the larger sensor allowed me to crop better.  Last year, I was closer so it was kind of a draw from the effort perspective :-)  I had more post work this time.

In the end, to me, it’s very important to understand what you want to achieve before you go out and buy.  A lot of reviews have mentioned that you should push your current camera to it’s limits before upgrading and I’m inclined to agree with that a lot.  Finding the next one though, may not be as easy.  I don’t expect anyone to go out and buy a bunch of cameras either.  I did that more as a research project :-)  For me, the one thing that I did find out though – one camera doesn’t do it for me :-)  My interests and the types of photos I take are just enough that I want several cameras to get what I want.  Note:  I said what I want not need :-)  In reality, I could probably use just one camera to do most things, but having several is just more convenient.

I’m also going to talk about the “how many “ portion for a bit.  One of the great things about digital photography, is that it makes the hobby affordable to pretty well everyone.  Even your phone takes photos.  We have software than an manipulate images after.  As one gets more serious, the thing or tendency I’m seeing, is a lot of “take the shot, fix it in software”.  I’m not so sure I agree with that to a certain extent.  I come from a different direction – I’m a believer of getting the shot the first time.  AND not taking a lot of shots.  What does that mean?  Well, it’s getting things like composition, exposure correct at the time you take the shot.  We had to do that in the 35mm days because it was expensive to take a lot of shots.  It’s not expensive today, but I think that train of shot should be the foundation today.  Sure, there are times when it’s not ideal, or there is an intent to deliberately do other things with the image later, but still, the intent should be to get that correct shot the first time.  For me, that part hasn’t changed – I don’t have the time to do post processing, and I don’t, for the most part :-)  I really don’t take that many shots per se compared to a lot.  I do take “safeties”, don’t get me wrong, but I try to make the shots count.  That doesn’t mean I don’t take a lot of photos, I still do, I just don’t “machine gun” 🙂

Something I don’t see a lot of, is about what one should be doing when they get a new camera.  Again, this is a bit of a personal thing.  Applies to other gear too.  Get to know your “stuff”.  Compared to the old day, its easy to delete photos after the fact, so in one sense, there is not reason why one shouldn’t  be better at the craft :-)  That’s something that I’m really not seeing, in one sense.  Social media, for instance. 

Social media, to me, is a wonderful thing from the photography aspect – its encouraged a lot of folks to start taking pictures.  It’s also, to me, created a lot of bad photography.  Privacy issues aside, I’m seeing a lot of stuff that is simply not very good.  But then again, that’s just my opinion.  I also see some pretty neat stuff too. 

Sooo… keep on taking those pics!!!

About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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