No Pants Day #1 - Buying a camera

I'm starting a new weekly (hopefully) piece called No Pants Day.  Every week I make it a goal to have a no pants day.  I've been doing this the greater part of my adult life.  Think of it as a "me day".  It's not always a completely non-productive lazy day (though it is sometimes), but it's a day I'm not concerned with the outside world.  I'll catch up on household chores, process photos, piddle around online, watch Archer, etc.  And now I'll be doing this piece.  It'll probably revolve around photography or art, it'll probably have some pictures I shot that week (but might have some oldies), I don't really know what'll happen.  It's my day and I'll write what I want to.  Ideally with no pants.

Done with the move, new view from the balcony
Shot with Fuji x100s, Fuji Wide angle adapter, Lee Seven5 Big Stopper

I was involved in a conversation recently on Facebook regarding someone almost purchasing a lens until they read a review somewhere where they conclusion was a bit less than stellar.  What lens it was and what review it was is irrelevant.  The bottom line is this...

Does anyone really make a "bad" lens these days?

I've mentioned before, many many times that a camera is nothing more than a tool and there's one thing that all cameras have in common...they all take pictures.  All flashes flash light.  All speakers resonate sound.  So on and so forth.

So what separates one camera from another?  

The truth is very simple.  YOU.  You are the difference between camera x or camera y.  

Many of the great photographers of our time shot with 1 or 2 cameras their entire career/life.  Back in the 35mm days of yesteryear the difference between cameras was really just ergonomics, features and lens capability.  From there the type of film you shot was a big difference.  And that feature list on those cameras....pretty damn small.  Things like auto-focus, in-camera metering, and aperture/shutter priority were the options features you had to choose between.  It was easy to figure out what was important to you and what wasn't.  My Canon A-1 that my parents bought in 1983 I still use today occasionally.  

Today we're faced with many more choices.  Phase-detection vs Contrast Detection.  9 vs 2,362,825 points, .002 vs .004 seconds, tracking speeds, zones vs spots, and these are JUST some of the differences between auto-focus systems.  Now throw in megapixels, sensor qualities, wifi's, esthetics, ergonomics, lens compatibility, memory card type, drls vs mirror-less, battery life, "what you're used to", perceptions, remote control apps, my god the list goes on and on.  How do you know what to buy?  And most importantly, how exactly are you the difference between the cameras?

Unfortunately there is no magic decoder ring.  There is no blog that will answer the question for you.  There is no chart.  Don't even get me started on sales people. (and no offense to the few amazing sales people out there).  Sure there are a few charts out there, some guides here and there, but none are definitive and there are so many good cameras on the market, no matter what you end up getting, you'll probably be happy with it.....does that mean the guide worked or do you simply not know better or have anything to really compare it to?

You have to decide what's important to you.  And I'm not talking about the delusions you have about being the next Ansel Adams or shooting gorgeous models like Keith Selle.  

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If you have no idea what kind of camera you want.  If you have no idea what an f-stop is, let me do you a huge favor and save you some money and time.  Lets say you want to take photographs...not vacation snapshots, not random pictures of your cat or flowers in your backyard, but I mean, your goal is to take real photographs that a complete stranger would hand on their wall.  Go buy a cheap 50mm 1.8 and a used 5 year old camera and go take pictures.  Go take LOTS of pictures, learn to process them, learn what photography is all about.  Learn how light affects pictures.  Read books, read blogs, but most importantly, shoot shoot shoot!.

So again...what's important to you?  Find what cameras offer that.  Find the ones in your budget.  Then find the one that fits comfortably in your hand.  That's your new camera.  It will be fine.  It will be good, great even.  It's probably more camera than you really need.  Don't look at charts, don't look at lab results, don't sit there viewing raw images at 300% (pixel peeping) to see which lens is marginally sharper, go look based on feel....go get what makes YOU happy.  Stop worrying about the FUD out there about corner to corner sharpness, about micro-contrast.  Stop giving into the marketing world's wet dreams.  Don't give into the technobabble.  You'll know when you get to the point of your limiting your work.  In the mean time...go take beautiful photos.