6.29.2009

Trading Camera Systems. Why do we cheat on whatever system we own?



I know why we kept our Hasselblads for decades, they always worked and no matter what year you` purchased yours it was capable of generating the same quality images as the latest or oldest one. It was the lenses that we stayed around for. But in this day and age the digital bodies are more akin to buying a few bricks of film and they go out of style and are superseded almost yearly. When I first came to photography we had to be "jacks of all trades" which meant keeping an arsenal of glass on hand. If you shot with Nikon you probably had everything from an 18mm wide angle to a 400mm telephoto and everything in between. And then even lenses started to change. Zooms superseded primes (but maybe not....) and then new revs of the zooms overtook the ones we bought just a few years earlier. Now we're slinging around glass and bodies like we're in a flea market. And I find that as my style stabilizes I use fewer and few extra long or short optics.

The logic is to buy the latest digital body and use it up quick. Sell it before the new models are announced so that you get the maximum value in the next trade. This year you'll be able to shoot everything at 3200 ISO but next year it will be 6400 ISO. I can't wait. Or can I?

In the old days the only even marginally available information about lenses was the anecdotal test stuff we'd read in the mainstream photo magazines. And they only came out once a month. Now every website has a precision testing rig based on DXO or IBF and we can see, right there in the four dimensional graphics, just how poorly last year's lens performance in the outer 12th % of the frame is versus this year's glass. If you are a Nikon shooter you are suspect if you aren't sporting a D3x and at least a 14 to 24mm and a 24 to 70mm. How can you possibly produce professional results without it all?

Not to generalize but the women photographers I know only seem to replace their cameras and lenses after someone drops them several times and an assistant accidentally spills Coca Cola on the main body while changing lenses. Could it be that many new camera purchases are nothing but sublimated male sexual desire? Have we transferred our biological imperative to go out and seek mates endlessly into a less (socially) destructive desire to chase camera systems instead?

I just finished writing a book and shooting a big ad campaign for an agency. I have the strongest desire to change systems today. No, my current system did not screw up on the big shoot. No, there was no lack of optical integrity among the lenses. In fact, I think they gave me their best effort. But there is much truth to the saying that familiarity breeds contempt.

I was talking about this to a friend in New York who just happens to be a psycho therapist. He laughed at my Freudian interpretation. He suggested that the desire is much the same in any area of art wherein the practitioner is finished with one cycle and ready to embark on a new cycle. He refers to this "sweeping the clutter off the desk" as a way of starting with a fresh canvas. A blank page. A new perspective.

The idea being that the hand/mind relationship (haptics and all that) predisposes one to work in the same fashion over and over again and only by making a conscious attempt to change the tools will you change the construct and the paradigm that keeps you slavishly locked into the same subconscious fabrications. The psycho therapist had to get off the phone at that point. You see, we'd been talking about the really cool f2 zoom lenses for the Olympus E system and he wanted to go play with them right away.

I'm between books and projects. I'm pondering cheating on my Nikons and getting some more Olympus gear. I like the color and the size but I know those are just facile justifications. I think I'll start with the 50 Macro. That's supposed to be a good one.

How do I reconcile all this? Well, a good shrink will cost me $250 a visit and it may take years to come to grips with my compulsive need to try new cameras. How many new cameras would that buy? How much painful introspection will I be able to avoid?

(For those who take everything literally please understand that approximately 15 to 20 % of this blog was meant to be "tongue in cheek" I'll still buy the gear but I'll laugh at myself while I'm doing it..........).

Note: I'll be teaching workshops on small flashes for two days at the Creative Photographic Retreats in Dallas, Texas on July 24th and 25th. Come on up (or down) for the happy hour intro on the 23rd.