Love a Camera? Adore a Lens? (Go Ahead, It’s Okay)

Attachments to photography gear are not bad (I hope)—I certainly have mine. Ask people about their favorite cameras and lenses, and they will give reason after reason for their choices while tossing in enough about specifications and features to make the decision seem perfectly rational. However, look beyond the words, and one finds emotional attachments. After reading numerous gear reviews over the last few months, I began to ponder why specific cameras evoke such strong emotions. Cameras are machines designed to provide a particular outcome. None are inherently magical, even though reading some reviews would lead to that conclusion.

Obviously, from this site, one can tell I am a Minolta fan. My first 35mm camera was a Minolta SR-T 101, and 95% of my cameras are Minoltas. That first Minolta was with me during the formative years of my young adulthood, and it is woven into the fabric of my life. I found a compelling story that resonated after learning about Minolta’s history. So now, I have a large collection of Minolta gear.

I have my favorite cameras (XD-11, Maxxum 7, Super A) and lenses (MD Zoom 28-85mm, AF 28-105mm, 100mm f2.8 macro, and MD Tele Rokkor 100mm f2.5), which I grab over my other choices. These items perform exactly as I hope and never disappoint. Holding the XD-11 just feels right. I don’t know why. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. The pleasure one derives from using a camera says more about the user and what goes on inside a person’s head than it does about the camera. For example, the Maxxum 7 is a technical marvel, which is why I love it. Yet, I also like using the Minolta Super A, which is the Maxxum 7’s technical opposite. After giving this issue much thought, I concluded that I like the older camera because it is so primitive. There is more chance of something going wrong, so image-making is more of a challenge, and somehow that makes the process more satisfying—sometimes. When I want to be sure nothing goes wrong, I still use the Maxxum 7.

Alpha 7

Many years ago, I had a dog, DJ, who was, as far as I’m concerned, just about the smartest, coolest dog ever. I have not owned another dog since DJ, nor do I feel the need to. DJ was perfect. He was a collie/German shepherd mutt with short hair, floppy ears, and far away from winning a dog show ribbon, but so what? He was perfect for me. Reading gear reviews, I detect a similar bond as when listening to people talk about their pets. There is affection and comfort that have grown from interacting—from how those interactions make the writer feel.

There are endless debates among photographers about the best cameras, lenses, and models. With a favorite camera comes a tribe. And, like me, most readily buy into the story of the company that makes the object of affection. Yet, when looking over copies of photography magazines, I can’t ever remember wondering what camera the photographer used. I’ve wondered about lens aperture, lighting, and focal length, but rarely about the specific camera or lens. Assuming gear does what it is supposed to, the resulting photograph will be good, regardless of the brand–the image is the thing. For those who wish to quibble, no problem—quibbling is allowed because it doesn’t matter. Like friendly back-and-forths over the best Super Bowl team, Star Trek captain, or rum, gear quibbles are simply ways to show affection for one’s tribe. And best I can tell, no one ever changes sides. (Or, at least rarely.)

So what conclusions have I drawn? Well…find the gear you delight in, use it as much as you wish, find your tribe, and enjoy your life. Whatever gear allows you to make the photos you want and be happy with the results is the perfect gear for you. The point is to be happy.

Even though I have all the cameras I could possibly want, from time to time, I’ll still read gear reviews. And in doing so, I will gladly indulge those who describe their gear in rapturous terms. I get that it’s magical to them—I know the feeling.

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