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Apr 12

Are you a Photographer or a Camera Enthusiast?

Canon's 70-200 f/2.8L IS II and 100 f/2.8L IS

I was perusing the net at many oft visited Photography related websites, and came across this post on 43rumors.com.  It basically shows some images of the upcoming Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens for Micro 4/3.  There was certainly nothing wrong with the post, but the comments on the post had me scratching my head.

It wasn’t just that post, of course, but something I’ve seen and heard discussed at many times over the past few years, and it begs the question…are you a photographer or a camera enthusiast?

See, if you read the comments, there is one predominant theme. The discussion isn’t centered on things such as “Wow, I hope Olympus produces yet another great prime lens like they did with the 45/1.8 and 12/2.” or “It’ll be great to finally have a native fast telephoto lens for the system.”  Or “it’s a focal length that isn’t useful for me.”

No.  The predominant discussion is “I can’t believe it’s only available in Silver.”  Ok…I sort of get it.  Aesthetics are important to people, and many people (myself included) get some sort of pleasure when their gear looks good as well as performs well.  This isn’t just true for photography, but any hobby.  Audiophiles want speakers that both sound good and fit in well with the room.  Car enthusiasts want raw power AND sleek lines.  But a rather large portion of ‘photographers’ are increasingly getting caught up in how gear looks rather than making pictures.  In that linked post, there were many people who actually stated that they would NEVER BUY an Olympus lens if it were only offered in silver.

And…that’s where these other parallels really become close.  See, many car enthusiasts really just want a car that looks and feels cool, rather than performs.  DRIVERS want a car that responds well and drives beautifully.  I’d imagine aesthetics are a distant thought in importance.  Similarly…camera enthusiasts may place a real premium on aesthetics.  Photographers just want equipment that can better help them get the shot they have in mind.

Olympus E-P1 with Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f/1.4

Now, before everyone crucifies me for this, I do realize there are legitimate reasons for not wanting a silver camera lens.  If you’re shooting wildlife, the silver color may notify animals of your presence.  It’s a little more conspicuous.  I get it.  But let’s face it…this is not a birding lens.

Going more generally, I see a lot of photographers and budding camera buffs getting so caught up in either the looks of a camera or lens (“I really want a Canon WHITE lens!”) or the prestige of a brand (“look…it’s a Leica…I can’t take a decent photograph to save my life, but it’s a LEICA”) that they forget to focus on making pictures.

Look…gear is fun.  And there is something intensely satisfying about using a beautiful and well crafted piece of equipment.  But if a piece of gear has exactly the image making properties I need, but is really ugly?  Well, then the aesthetics don’t really matter.

So…are you a photographer?  Or a camera enthusiast?  Frankly, being either one is just fine.  There’s nothing wrong with being a camera enthusiast.  Just make sure you’re honest with yourself.

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

7 comments

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  1. flax

    I hear ya.

    Finally got my Oly 12mm (silver only) on my BLACK GH2. Would I have preferred a black lens? Of course, but it being silver is not gonna stop me.

    Cut some MTB tube up, slipped it over lens, strategically placed gaffer tape on GH2, stealthy ;)

  2. derek

    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. As someone who shoots professionally and collects cameras, the aesthetics of my tools are just as important as their function. In the case of Oly’s upcoming 75mm fast lens, I’ll probably buy it because I want a long, fast, auto focus lens for the micro four thirds system, but in professional life I probably won’t be able to use it because the silver finish calls too much attention when I’m shooting events or in the street where discretion is important. You say it’s not a birding lens, but as a street photographer or journalist the last thing you want is a big honking piece of silver calling attention to yourself (especially in today’s environment where police or your average joe might take offense to you photographing them). As a matter of fact I use mostly M-Mount and F-Mount manual focus lenses on my M4/3 and NEX-7 because of the flashy finishes of these new lenses are horrible.

    Photographers are just as much gear heads as enthusiasts. Just look at the collection of cameras from the likes of Bruce Weber or Richard Avedon. Even the great Henri Bresson who used Leicas almost exclusively through out his career spoke of the camera’s design, engineering and form factor.

    Finally, I would use the new mirror less Pentax designed by Marc Newson as a perfect example of design failure, technically it is a fantastic camera, high quality build, but no self respecting photographer would carry that thing around in public.

  3. mark

    Jordan, I understand where you’re coming from. However, you were on website about gear not one about making pictures. I’m sure you will find many of these same people participating in discussions on photography websites where there is little talk about equipment other than how to use it to achieve desired results.

  4. Drew Reese

    I read the Micro 4/3rds forum on DPReview all the time, and most of the people are more concerned with pixel peeping, etc. than actually being able to take a picture. People commonly run out and buy a 1300.00 camera like the Om-D and send in pictures of their cats. It’s a waste of their money and our time.

  5. Chris

    bought a GF1 in pink because it was cheap (came at 80€ more than the 20mm 1.7 lens alone, way cheaper than the black kit) -> a photographers decision

    I painted it black (really durable powder coating of all metal parts after disassembly, burned in at over 200 degree celsius. was 5€ at a factory near me – I think it is even more scratch resistant than the original black color) -> a style/camera enthusiast decision?

    ok, not really, I did it just to make it more discrete – gaffer tape would have done it for me too, if it were as durable and there were not no many buttons, display, wheels etc. to cut out. but it looks great now with powder coating!

    so there are ways to go, if you are not happy with the style of your equipment. and ways to save money that way – just buy the cheapest color. inner values are what count ;-)

  6. Frank

    I would have bought the Olympus MFT 45/1.8 even it was only available in pink or cyan. I came from Point-and-shot over a Fuji bridge cam to the MFT. The image quality and usability is amazing. More than enough for my needs. I did some nice portraits, macro shots and some ‘experimental’ fotographs. I never wasted a thought on the outer color of a lens. People wasting their time looking for nano differences in contrast, grain or something. Spending fortunes for a gear and never go out shooting.

  7. Marathonianbull

    I read this site and other similar ones for the gear reviews mostly, as much for the “feel & look” factor as for actual functions, AND THEN litterally go spend fortunes! Steve Huff or Simply Robin are also good (m)4/3 Spin Doctors in that regard… But franckly, I hardly shoot anything; it’s that, please understand, each single shot counts as quadruple *or* even more, when my daughter is in the picture ; h

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