Philosophy The Obsession with "gear"

Jonathan F/2

Veteran
Aug 21, 2011
Los Angeles, USA
I like the craftsmanship and individualistic flavor of my older gear. For example, old Nikkor lenses have a unique rendering that will never be mass manufactured ever again. Sure there are more advanced modern lenses that are "technically" superior, but (for certain applications) modern glass just can't replicate that look.


Camera Gear Porn
by Jonathan Friolo, on Flickr
 

Steve Noel

All-Pro
Oct 5, 2010
Casey County, KY
I chased the "better" camera/lenses, for many years, for two reasons (admitted, although there may be more).
1: trying to get the Outdoor Photography magazine quality. Gear don't give you that. Galen Rowel (spelling), was my hero, and he used the simplest gear, to travel light.
2: looking for that "perfect" usability/look factor. Doesn't exist for me. But the OMD-E-M5, is as close as I have ever found.
I don't expect to buy another camera. Lens, maybe.
 

William Lewis

Veteran
Feb 10, 2020
Hayward WI
William Lewis
I like the craftsmanship and individualistic flavor of my older gear. For example, old Nikkor lenses have a unique rendering that will never be mass manufactured ever again. Sure there are more advanced modern lenses that are "technically" superior, but (for certain applications) modern glass just can't replicate that look.

View attachment 221511
Camera Gear Porn by Jonathan Friolo, on Flickr
Oh, look at those new fangled Nikkors :D Wisecracks aside, nice selection of very nice lenses.

It is funny but I love the aesthetics of the older scallop focus ring lenses better even though I usually have to spend money to get them AI'd. The 135/3.5 that arrived today is very much an early lens and I love it's look and feel as well as how it shoots.
 

Jonathan F/2

Veteran
Aug 21, 2011
Los Angeles, USA
Oh, look at those new fangled Nikkors :D Wisecracks aside, nice selection of very nice lenses.

It is funny but I love the aesthetics of the older scallop focus ring lenses better even though I usually have to spend money to get them AI'd. The 135/3.5 that arrived today is very much an early lens and I love it's look and feel as well as how it shoots.
I must be the only photographer who consciously collected manual Nikkor glass for a pandemic/apocalypse situation! Now here we are! :roflmao: My thinking is that manual Nikon glass is built sturdy and has greater universal appeal due to the longer flange distance. Also Nikkor primes can easily resolve high resolution cameras when stopped down. If all my auto focus glass were to stop working right now, I could fall back to my MF collection using either DSLRs or mirrorless! :D
 
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I like the craftsmanship and individualistic flavor of my older gear. For example, old Nikkor lenses have a unique rendering that will never be mass manufactured ever again. Sure there are more advanced modern lenses that are "technically" superior, but (for certain applications) modern glass just can't replicate that look.

View attachment 221511
Camera Gear Porn by Jonathan Friolo, on Flickr
Not sure about the middle one in the lower row. Is that a 3.5/28 AIS? Great line-up!
 

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
Switzerland
Matt
I've never thought about it that way and come to think of it, I think that's probably my underlying reason sometimes for wanting to try a camera.
Unfortunately, it may also work the other way round. I wanted a "companion" zoom camera to my Leica Ms, got the Fujifilm X-E3 with 18-55mm zoom and frankly am totally happy with that solution (I added two primes, the 27mm pancake and the 23mm f/2 because it's my favourite FoV, and that's it). It works, and I really like the images I can get with it.

However, ever since handling the CL - ever so briefly -, I'm drawn to that camera time and again. Now, I'll probably be able to prevent myself from buying it because of the X-E3 (and thanks to the fact that I also have a well established, highly portable :mu43: system), but the lure is very strong. Holding that line is surprisingly difficult ... Realistically, the CL just hasn't enough going for it to invest into a whole new (and very expensive, compared to the competition) system, at least if, like me, you own more than enough true alternatives ...

But somehow, that's not the point. If I can bring myself to sell another large portion of my collection (like I did last year), the CL may become an option. But for the time being, I can't bring myself to part with certain things - purely for the fact that I like shooting with the gear I'd have to sell. So ...

Okay. I'll grab my best small camera, the Olympus E-M5 III with the 12-45mm f/4 PRO, and head out. Better go shooting than think about gear - and that's true most of the time, plus you get to take images - and that's what it's all about in the end, even *if* the process, including the gear and the experience, do matter ...

M.
 

grebeman

Old Codgers Group
Better go shooting than think about gear - and that's true most of the time, plus you get to take images - and that's what it's all about in the end, even *if* the process, including the gear and the experience, do matter ...

M.
Well, this thread has changed it's character in the last 12-14 hours, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Thankfully I can latch onto the last sentence of Matt's comments and say how much I agree with that.

I'm just looking at an image in The German Photographic Annual 1970 taken by the 26 year old Volker Kramer on the streets of Prague during the 1968 invasion by the Russian Army. It shows two young men, one obviously injured with a blooded bandage wrapped round his head. His head is lolled to one side, his arm round the neck of his companion who is supporting him. The injured man still holds a Czech flag. His supporter is staring straight at the camera with sunken dark eyes. The ground is littered with broken glass and there's an empty shoe. The back of the book tells me the image was taken with a Leica M2 fitted with a 35mm Summicron lens and that the film was Tri-X.

What I ask matters most, those details in the back of the book or that striking image?

Barrie
 

TraamisVOS

Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
Melbourne, Australia
Unfortunately, it may also work the other way round
I love my Leicas. That's good because I generally don't have serious gas for anything else other than if they released another Leica that has better ISO. I'm always hungry for better ISO. For years the only camera I used was my Leica M8.2 and I still love it (albeit it's kind of broken now). If it was still working and if it had the ISO performance of the M10, I'd probably happily continue to use it as my everyday carry.

Last year I did develop some gas for the Xpan because I love panoramas and there were no other alternatives. Well, not panoramas technically, but I love the 2.39:1 anamorphic look from the filmmaking world - I came to stills photography from filmmaking. But surprisingly I am just feeling 'ok' after shooting with the Xpan.

On the other hand, I also bought the much, much cheaper Horizon Kompakt. And I am equally surprised at how much I enjoy shooting with it. But it's such a cheapo shitty camera, it keeps breaking down. Two or three times now my film has gotten stuck in there because a part has gotten loose and jammed the film winding mechanism. It's gotten to the point where I've stopped using it because I can't trust it.
 
Well, this thread has changed it's character in the last 12-14 hours, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Thankfully I can latch onto the last sentence of Matt's comments and say how much I agree with that.

I'm just looking at an image in The German Photographic Annual 1970 taken by the 26 year old Volker Kramer on the streets of Prague during the 1968 invasion by the Russian Army. It shows two young men, one obviously injured with a blooded bandage wrapped round his head. His head is lolled to one side, his arm round the neck of his companion who is supporting him. The injured man still holds a Czech flag. His supporter is staring straight at the camera with sunken dark eyes. The ground is littered with broken glass and there's an empty shoe. The back of the book tells me the image was taken with a Leica M2 fitted with a 35mm Summicron lens and that the film was Tri-X.

What I ask matters most, those details in the back of the book or that striking image?

Barrie
This question reminds me of teachers that keep firing questions at you until you give the answer that they're looking for. An excellent way to get me cranky, but I will try to react to the point I think you're trying to make.

You seem to suggest that gear obsession and the ability to make relevant and great photographic work are mutually exclusive. I don't believe that to be true. The simplest way to "prove" that is by coming up with a counter example: William Eggleston makes great photographs (I think, together with some others) and was totally into collecting Leicas. Being obsessed by gear doesn't prevent a person from making relevant and even great work. And a disinterest or even disdain for technicalities can really detract from the quality of photographic work, as I see too often in my photoclub. Many great painters were and are obsessed by their tools, e.g. endlessly seeking for the ultimate in colors they can get from the material they use or even make themselves. My statement is that you need to master the part of the technical side of photography that is important for the quality of your work, work that originates from a vision but needs to be executed in a proper way to present that vision. In some people that can lead to interest in photography technique (guilty as charged) that isn't productive anymore to their work, but it does not necessarily detract from it.
 

sh0wtime

Veteran
Aug 20, 2011
Surrey/Hants border UK
Adam.
Primarily my equipment was added to in the quest for better image quality. Crop to full frame was biggest improvement based on what i was shooting at the time. Trying to shoot fast moving, small RC cars, indoors with poor lighting was finally made possible with the D3.

The rest of this post is a copy & paste from a post i made elsewhere but it's still relevant as my answer here.

the "improvements" on the new stuff is more incremental now rather than the giant leaps we've experienced in the last 15 years or so...

Which for most of us means we can use stuff thats a generation or so behind without giving up too much to the people with the "latest & greatest".
My change from D2Xs to the D3 was the biggest improvement i experienced, i have often described the D3 as a gamechanger. it was.
However when i bought a D4 i didn't feel i got a lot more for my money.
The D800 was a quantum leap from the D700 in both resolution & DR but the D810 offered only marginal improvements on the 800.
i know it was more of a refresh to fix a few things but in reality that refresh makes a massive difference to the user experience but very little to the output.

As much as i like the idea of a D5 or D850 i can't really justify the expenditure. i've not really shot anything properly for a couple of years (paid events etc) so my D4 & D810 combo will have to do me for now. D3, old faithful will come along as backup :2thumbs:

Something that makes a massive difference is having something interesting or impressive enough to point the camera at in the first place....
 
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grebeman

Old Codgers Group
This question reminds me of teachers that keep firing questions at you until you give the answer that they're looking for. An excellent way to get me cranky, but I will try to react to the point I think you're trying to make.

You seem to suggest that gear obsession and the ability to make relevant and great photographic work are mutually exclusive. I don't believe that to be true. The simplest way to "prove" that is by coming up with a counter example: William Eggleston makes great photographs (I think, together with some others) and was totally into collecting Leicas. Being obsessed by gear doesn't prevent a person from making relevant and even great work. And a disinterest or even disdain for technicalities can really detract from the quality of photographic work, as I see too often in my photoclub. Many great painters were and are obsessed by their tools, e.g. endlessly seeking for the ultimate in colors they can get from the material they use or even make themselves. My statement is that you need to master the part of the technical side of photography that is important for the quality of your work, work that originates from a vision but needs to be executed in a proper way to present that vision. In some people that can lead to interest in photography technique (guilty as charged) that isn't productive anymore to their work, but it does not necessarily detract from it.
Oh I think you totally misunderstand me, and I vehemently reject the idea that I will continue firing a question at the forum until I change peoples minds. I do adhere to the idea that that it's the photographer that creates the image, and not the gear he's using. I admit that different gear will produce nuances in the image, be it resolution, the idea of "Leica glow" or whatever, but the substance of the image remains assuming the image is well composed, well exposed etc.

Bert Hardy of Picture Post (professionally using 35mm rangefinder cameras) toured the holiday resorts of the UK in 1956 with a box brownie to demonstrate that very fact and produced what has become an iconic image of two young girls perched on a railing on the sea front at Blackpool. Yes you can see it wasn't taken on a Leica, but that doesn't detract from it as an iconic image.

Barrie
 
Oh I think you totally misunderstand me
That's a distinct possibility :).

I do adhere to the idea that that it's the photographer that creates the image, and not the gear he's using.
I think there isn't an antithesis between gear and photographer. Without a camera there's no photo, so it is the gear that makes the picture when the photographer operates the shutter. In my opinion the photographer makes the picture and choice of gear and way of using it are an integral and essential part of the creative process that leads to a photo. And some characteristics of gear can and will be paramount in achieving a desired end result. I agree that things like "Leica glow" or "Zeiss pop" or "Canon color science" don't always seem relevant to the photos I see, but hey, that's fine if the end result is great. And surely it happens that someone is raving about a piece of gear and presents results that are totally uninteresting. Speaking for myself, having wonderfully competent gear makes me go out more, leading to photos that wouldn't exist otherwise, even if often enough you won't be able to spot gear-specific properties in the end result.

A really concrete example of an essential camera characteristic for me is the IBIS in my Sony camera. It allows me to continue shooting without a tripod in much lower light, and not having to fumble with a tripod is a big deal to me when framing shots, especially with wide-angle lenses. I find it infinitely more comfortable and gratifying to move around with my camera, sometimes very subtly, to get the framing I want, and I just wouldn't do that when I had to get the tripod readjusted for every angle that I'd have liked to explore. In the end I come home with pictures that please me better or wouldn't have existed at all.

Another example: Lightroom allows me to create perfectly straight horizontals and verticals. I like that tremendously for when I'm after that, it's soooo much easier than the days where I had to use a tripod and a spirit level only to discover that, much to my frustration, alignment was slightly off.

TL;DR
Gear matters to a photographer, however great or not great her or his creative talents.
 
Bert Hardy of Picture Post (professionally using 35mm rangefinder cameras) toured the holiday resorts of the UK in 1956 with a box brownie to demonstrate that very fact and produced what has become an iconic image of two young girls perched on a railing on the sea front at Blackpool. Yes you can see it wasn't taken on a Leica, but that doesn't detract from it as an iconic image.
The takeaway here is that you don't need the very best equipment (what does that even mean, "best"?) to make meaningful pictures. Agree to that.
 
Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
There are some really great photographers in this group. And I've been here long enough to see the images they were making with cameras with 2009 technology and they are now using cameras that are state of the art.

The photos are THE SAME.

Now pixel peepers may debate some arcane difference, maybe there is better "edge to edge sharpness", but the photos (as one would view a print from a normal distance) are the same.

I'm sure many will disagree. I would just suggest to look at some old gear threads. Go look at some old GR threads from 10 years ago. You'll see names you recognize and I'd wager that you'll also see of their "photographic eye". Now there may be some "improvement", because the photographer has had 10 more years of experience. But I'm fairly certain that if you gave that photographer that old tool again, they would be creating the same photos that they are creating with their newer, more modern tools.
 

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
Switzerland
Matt
There are some really great photographers in this group. And I've been here long enough to see the images they were making with cameras with 2009 technology and they are now using cameras that are state of the art.

The photos are THE SAME.

Now pixel peepers may debate some arcane difference, maybe there is better "edge to edge sharpness", but the photos (as one would view a print from a normal distance) are the same.

I'm sure many will disagree. I would just suggest to look at some old gear threads. Go look at some old GR threads from 10 years ago. You'll see names you recognize and I'd wager that you'll also see of their "photographic eye". Now there may be some "improvement", because the photographer has had 10 more years of experience. But I'm fairly certain that if you gave that photographer that old tool again, they would be creating the same photos that they are creating with their newer, more modern tools.
There's a lot of truth in that, but on the other hand, I see major changes in my own images - they may not be apparent to others, but it's very much a reality for me. Even more to the point: What I shoot and how I shoot very much depends on the gear I'm carrying.

Case in point: I said which camera I'd carry today, and I did. However, I also took three other cameras with me - as I usually carry several. Of course, I can't show you any images from the XA yet (though developing that film is something that's on my list, it's a *long* list ...). But in the end, not the E-M5 III provided today's "Daily May" image, but the Leica M8 - and I couldn't have taken that very same image with the Olympus because I used a shallower DoF than an f/4 lens on a :mu43: camera could ever provide. Furthermore, I took a couple of my favourite images from today's outing with the measly old Nikon P50, a 2007 P&S - simply because it needs a different mindset (perfection isn't an option). As it happened, I didn't see much that profited from the better IQ and technical prowess of the E-M5 III, instead, I took some impromptu shots I happen to quite like the results of. So it goes. It also means that I actually *have* taken those images - I might not have, had I only carried the E-M5 III ("That's not worth it ..."). Gear helped. So, maybe it's not a necessity, but it certainly can facilitate or catalise things ... As with someone who intentionally limits her or his options ("Single in" challenges ...).

In the end, I'm in favour of everything that makes me shoot more and enjoy the process more. And I love to explore photography. That's because I'm an amateur - someone who simply loves all things photography, though picture taking is most important to me personally. Exploring gear is part of that, so there's nothing wrong with it.

And to add just another thought: How much better could said image of Bert Hardy's have been, had he taken it with a better camera? We don't know. He wanted to make a point. But at the same time, he may have wilfully crippled his own potential irreversibly. It was his choice, so he was fully entitled to it. But mine would be different, and no less justified.

M.
 

BrianS

Legend
Jul 7, 2010
I have too many cameras because I can’t afford to have too many motorcycles.
And they take a lot less space and money than old cars. I do miss my '68 Cougar.

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This 1937 Carl Zeiss Jena 5cm F2 looked like shooting through plastic wrap before disassembling. I like making gear usable again.

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I had to take all of these apart to make usable again.
I get very disappointed when buying a lens off Ebay and there be nothing at all wrong with it.
 

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