Evolutionary changes in evaluating photographic equipment

I find technology intriguing. Be it a camera, lens, flash or other marvellous piece of mechanical engineering that I can drool over. We are a specie that is driven towards improvement, be it technological or spiritual. Although the basis of this drive is our genetic make-up, it is exploited by ingenious corporate marketing.

When I was a kid (not that I’m not one now in a way), the latest and best could only be viewed once a year at a public show. In my town, it was the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg South Africa. Once a year your senses went into overload and if the day was any longer some of us surely would blow a sensor fuse.

When it came to choosing a camera system the camera shops had maybe 5 on display. The top three too expensive and complicated to understand. The cheapest too shitty and that left only one. So, my mother bought it for me. It was the Ricoh 500. It was my first camera, I was thrilled. It had a lot of knobs and dials. Not that I took a lot of pictures though.

It never occurred to me to sit down and buy 100 magazines and compare lens sharpness, ease of use, number of buttons etc. It was a camera and it could use auto-exposure until I understood lighting. I understood shutter speed, forever and fucking fast. F-stop was still a bit of an enigma, but the ‘A’ setting was a pic saver.

My mother had a Leica, but I liked mine more, just because it was mine. It was lighter too and the film didn’t slide inside, ruining a whole month of images. I don’t think my mother liked it either and she stuck with her Contarex, keeping me within arm’s length to carry it for her.

I never looked at another camera or system again for years. Note the time span of idle thought, or lack of thought about other systems. Most of it was focused on capturing stuff. I mostly shot stuff, never really created images or made an image (as Eric Kim likes to say).

When I outgrew the Ricoh, I moved towards SLR’s and things went a little downhill from there. Technology stepped in and auto-focus was hip. It was important said all the magazine pages. We were told that we cannot focus anymore, although we had been doing so since 1888.

The worst came with the creation of the addictive website dpreview.com. Every idiot new about the site and the latest system reviewed. Every techno-file got dopamine infused scrolling through the pages and everybody new everything. Readers are fed crap what manufacturers want us to know. One’s exposure to the latest and greatest has been reduced from yearly to instantaneous. The ultimate formula to drive GAS.

Nobody knew the reviewers. They were anonymous journalists being payed and I think they are more skillful writers than photographers. Although the writeups were brilliant, they had to be supported by a smorgasbord of irrelevant galleries of pics claimed to be taken by the reviewed camera or lens.

It is not just on review sites, photographers jumped in as well. Paid off course by manufacturers and their reviews are all euphoric. Off course backed up by the same smorgasbord of gallery pics proving without a doubt that the reviewed system is truly worthy of your credit card.

It’s a joke really. Quality is now evaluated online and we admit it by filling up our cart. We have become slaves to our own insatiable urge to have the latest and cover our own insecurity of a lack of knowledge. Let’s face it, it works, so much so we enjoy it.

For most us, the latest iPhone is good enough. For some it is an overkill. Cameras and lenses are like wine bottles, slap a fancy label on it and it will be great.

The online galleries inspire us deeply. They conjure up dreams of what is possible. In the couch our mind travels locally replacing those artificial galleries with our own. Travel couch. We become professional couch photographers.


Anyway, I’ll stop ranting, I see there is a new review, I have an urge to make the first comment.

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