Emotion, logic and buying cameras

Started Apr 17, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Emotion, logic and buying cameras
Apr 17, 2012

There will always be posts on camera forums from people who can think of all the reasons (logically) why you should not buy a particular camera. In a way they are right. For some people the emotional aspect of ownership simply does not matter. It's stuff, and they want better stuff, and that means numbers and charts and megapixels and DxO measurements.....after all they have to tell their friends in the bar something, right?

Then there are those less bothered by purely mechanical criteria. Instead they like the way it makes them work, or think, or create, and how that affects their output.

In other words many many people, for obvious reasons, would never buy a car like an Alfa Romeo. I mean why would you? They are quite expensive, impractical, not as fast as they should be and not entirely reliable. So what possible logical reason is there for owning one? None.

Well, having been a one time owner of an Alfa, that broke down a few times, needed upgraded shocks (the standard ones were awful) and cost a small mortgage to insure (and I wont mention the depreciation) I can say in all honesty that I miss that car every time I turn the key in every car since. It was not designed to a spec sheet, it was designed to send a tingle down your spine every time you pressed the throttle. Yes it had flaws, objectively quite large ones, but everyone who drove it or even sat in it fell in love - and once you actually dialed the brain in to its handling quirks, throttle response, paddle shift and power band you could make amazing progress with concentration but a great sense of occasion.

My previous car was a Golf GTI turbo, and before that a 328i, objectively far better cars, but I got out of them feeling as bored as I did when I got in them. They were fast, solid and well engineered but dull, antiseptic and "knew what was best" for the driver. In short, there was no challenge (an idiot could drive one almost as fast as an expert) and no reward (they were as boring at 100 as they were at 50).

I often wondered what it was about the Alfa and it was a combination of things - it took a lot of learning, it was unforgiving, but that meant it was also alive - you were forced to learn how to feel it because if you didn't you'd be in a ditch. It didn't patronise you (you never felt there was someone in a lab coat calculating slip angles when you heeled it into a turn, but rather an Italian man in a linen shirt and Raybans smiling and saying "bravissimo"). I also remember the red momo leather seats, and the angled clocks, the smell of the interior and the noise when you hit the power band. Things that don't objectively matter but make you feel great.

My Nikon D700 is objectively a wonderful workhorse of a camera. Its a Volvo estate for going to the market and buying a wardrobe, then taking the kids to school and doing the shopping. But the Fuji I think is a bit more like an Alfa. Expensive, quirky, demanding and quite challenging but that simply makes you work harder to think about your composition and get the best out of it, and ironically because it does not lay it all out on a plate you never get lazy or take it for granted and use it like a point and shoot because it's not foolproof. So you think, you compose, you slow down, you take better shots, and because the sensor and lenses are actually excellent it rewards the effort with something that is a cut above the average - subjectively.

So, I'm looking forward to the Fuji. Not selling my D700 yet, expecting a few challenges and frustrations, but already knowing that it will force me to think like a photographer again and not a cameraman (or pack mule for photography gear, which is how a pro DSLR kit makes me feel sometimes).

So yes, measure and scoff all you want, but if you want rational purchasing decisions then don't ever buy an Alfa, or an old 911. You'd hate it. But you are not me and the Alfa owners club is a lot more interesting and fun than the Ford Focus owner's club.

(Having said that I don't have my Fuji yet and I may still hate it, but somehow I think I am well prepared for the experience

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