Silly question. Photographers are (generally speaking) people. Some people are superstitious. Therefore some photographers are superstitious (I did reasonably well in my Logic class I college 🙂 ). A recent conversation with a friend about an equipment-change and how we view and use our equipment generated the idea for this blog post.
I have spent a lot of bandwidth here discussing (perhaps rationalizing) my decision to change my camera lineup from DSLR to mirrorless (perhaps that’s because I cannot think of anything else to write about 🙂 ). I am ultimately happy with my move, though, as I have said here on numerous occasions – I strongly caution others – I think my circumstances and reasons were unique to me – and for most “already” owners, I would recommend you very seriously consider staying where you are; for the time being, anyway. If you are a brand new user, that’s another thing entirely (of course, it is mainly a function of what you will use the gear for, but then, I might consider mirrorless and never even go for the DSLR line).
There has been enough “hemming and hawing” and “buts” in my reviews and writing about the Sony mirrorless system to make a reader wonder if I really am happy with the decision. In the 35 plus years I have been shooting, I have yet to find the camera – or system – that is even close to my perfect fit. I have certainly owned some cameras that I loved and occasionally think nostalgically and fondly of. But none has completely fulfilled my “checklist” of what I want on a camera. They are tools. And as such, they are tools designed for the masses. Back in “the day” when home personal computing first exploded on the scene, Gateway computers had a system where you could “custom design” your computer and order it from them. I used to wonder what it might be like to purchase a camera body that way? The economic reality is that when you are trying to market a camera to tens of thousands of purchasers, you cannot just “call Andy” and ask him what he ideally wants in a camera.
With that perspective, I am satisfied with my current “gear.” So here is the connection to the title. I progressed from the original “enthusiast” Nikon D100 DSLR with a 6mp APS size sensor, all the way to their “best” (at the time) enthusiast DSLR body; the “so-called” “full frame” D800 with a 36mp sensor (ironically – manufactured by Sony). From there, I moved (after dipping my toe in the water with the APS Sony mirrorless body and lenses) to what I believed was Sony’s “best” full frame, complete with its 36mp sensor (again, ironically – manufactured by the same Sony – presumably the same sensor) The a7R. But for a number of reasons, I could never get mentally comfortable with it).
I could never get mentally comfortable with it
I am a sometime golfer and a fan. I do a fair amount of reading about sports in general, and particularly about golf. The U.S. alone has near 300 million people (now in fairness, a very small part of the worldwide population actually play golf, but even county those who do, it is a huge number). Golf is a worldwide thing now, with the PGA tour (largely an American phenomenon) but with golfers from all over the world trying to make the tour. There are 100 members who have “made” it in any given year. Having played the game for many years, trust me, these 100 men are some extremely talented individuals.
And they are generally superstitious. There are a lot of stories (many of them humorous) about golfers’ superstition (one of my favorites involves a pro who fired his caddy for “talking to his ball” while it was in flight during a tournament). Lots of silly things: Carrying a particular ball-marker, or coin; wearing a particular color; etc. And this is not a golfers only thing. Athletes as a group will often have routines that they never vary from what they eat, to which sock they put on first. Superstition? Maybe.
But there is also a part of the phenomenon that actually makes sense. And to an extent, it is probably true in some way for all of us, with everything we do. Why acknowledge this “superstitious” behavior—especially when the endeavor is perhaps primarily scientific, mechanical, or skill-based? Because it makes us comfortable. And when we are comfortable, it frees us to exercise our skills automatically and the “creative” things we do, without our minds being cluttered. When we are comfortable, we trust our equipment, our routine and our skills, and don’t consciously worry or consciously think about gear and mechanical stuff, while working behind the lens.
It makes us comfortable
Michigan is in the no-man’s land between the “Midwest” and the “Northeast,” and it is an irony that I tend to acquire new gear about this time of the year – which also tends to be the worst time of the year to photograph. As I write this, it is grey and wet. So it happens that I acquire gear and do not get an immediate opportunity to test it. It was a long time from the time I received my a7R until I had a chance to go out and work with it. And during that period of time I also acquired the Sony 70-200 f4 zoom, which was also a new and untested item. During the time before I shot it, it came to light that because of some mechanical issues, the a7R (only – and not the a7 or the later to come, a7S) might have some vibration issues that cause unacceptable softness in images with long lenses and slower shutter speeds. There was a proposed, but admittedly “Rube-Goldberg” “fix” for this problem – a counterweight that you screwed into the camera’s tripod socket (presumably, you used the longer lens’s own lens mount). I built one. It weighs a ton (one of the reasons for the switch to mirrorless was to shed weight). And, the 36mp sensor demands the very best of your glass, and shooting skills – or it highlights the lack of either or both. And finally, I was struggling with a AF issue when using the wireless remote (you can turn off AF at the on-camera release button and use back button focus only, ala the Nikon setup. But it does not appear to work with the wireless remote – still working on that one).
Too many variables
So, here I was, trying to evaluate the a7R when shooting with a lens I wasn’t sure about with a contraption (when I remembered to attach it). Just too many variables. And, while I did not ever come to a final conclusion, I did note that for whatever reason, I was vaguely dissatisfied with image results. Superstition? Maybe. Probably. I know there are a7R owner/users out there making wonderful images with it. But I just could not personally get comfortable with it.
I recently was able to make a trade: My “mint” a7R for a similar “mint” a7. The economics are that I probably made a costly move, buying the a7R in the first place, as it cost more than the a7. But from a superstition point of view, I am much more comfortable with the a7. And being comfortable, means being free to work with the tool the way it was intended and to apply my skills and approach to photography without the clutter of “wondering” whether I have the right tool in my hands.
Just don’t talk to my ball
There are things I do with my gear, my technique and approach to photography, and in my post-processing that others may or may not do. They are things that I have become comfortable with and do as second-nature. I believe they help me (though there is certainly an argument for another time and another blog that some of them equally – hinder me) in my quest to make satisfying imagery. Call me silly. Call me superstitious. Just don’t talk to my ball! 🙂