Sunday, August 05, 2018

Photographers are _kin' crazy

I needed to photograph some of my artwork (I'm a painter, too), and was looking at my old digital camera rig— a Nikon D40 digital SLR, which was a popular entry-level camera in the mid 2000s, and is now an embarrassing relic. I thought, hey, why not get a new camera? There must be newer used cameras that will be a giant improvement, that are still dirt cheap. How exciting!

So I start researching photo gear via the usual online resources, and... here's the deal: imagine the worst gearhead drummer in the world, then multiply that times 20. Then imagine they're daily users of some kind of theoretical next-generation hyper-crack cocaine created by the Swiss. They have access to unlimited quantities of that. Then imagine the technical details on which they fixate are one hundred times more numerous and obscure than anything to do with drums. Then mate that visualization with a swarm of homicidal spider monkeys on acid. That's photographers talking about gear.

Well, actual pros are like technical artists in any field, e.g. recording engineers— very detached, focused, low key individuals. There are others who are normal people doing people things, who do it seriously to document some other activity they're involved in. Others are just boring successful people taking up a prestige hobby where they can spend a lot of money. Everyone else with pretensions of being a serious photographer is, when talking about gear, totally insane. 

And then you have people on the internet, who are like I described above, except they were held in some unscrupulous lab where they were injected with the rage virus and released. Unleashed like that. So internet photo gear discussions are a cesspool of ego and untalent... neuroses, envy, pathological obsessiveness... with everyone on a personal mission to miss the entire point of life and art, and murder everyone else with camera statistics.

I may be overstating this by as much as 3%, but clearly many of these people would rather participate in this intricately byzantine game of technical specifications and performance-economic hypotheticals than actually take pictures. I'm convinced that a shocking percentage of them don't even own the cameras they're waging this Balkan-style bloodbath over.

At this point I was going to provide a joke litany of hyper-technical points of consideration forced upon you in researching this routine purchase. Instead just go read this review of the camera I ended up buying. Be forewarned that I did not dose you with any kind of powerful hallucinogen— everything you will see is actual text on the site, meant to aid you in choosing to buy this camera vs. another one.

Reading that nonsense you can see how sadistically the photo community is being _ked-with by the camera companies— whose mission is clearly to design the best gear possible, and release it to the public on an incremental schedule designed to wring the most money possible out of the new photo gear market. It's a game of advancement, obsolescence, and manipulation as exquisitely refined and complex as the cameras themselves.

Anyhoo, that's the background. I have to process all of that information and then find the sweet spot in the obsolescence curve where I can get a camera that is affordable, but not a complete joke. I want something capable of producing objectively excellent results, regardless of where the camera stands relative to current and near-future technology. There have been digital cameras capable of delivering professional results for many years now; that didn't change just because someone came up with something fancier. Still, it's nearly impossible to avoid getting sucked into the death whirlpool of ever-increasing features and spending more than you wanted to.

You have to remember that none of it matters. With my embarrassing prehistoric camera I could have made pictures that would have worked perfectly fine for my purposes. What matters is doing the project, taking the pictures. No matter what the camera, you still have to go out and figure out what to do with it. I use photography as an adjunct to my other creative work. At one point I did it as a kind of diarist (see any blog post prior to 2011). But I'm at a stage with it where I can't do it casually. And I pretty much loathe all other normal photography in the world. So I have to actually go out and make an effort to figure out what to shoot, and how, and why. In the meantime, I still need to photograph my paintings.

Epilogue: In the end I got a Nikon D7000 with an 18-200mm VRII zoom lens— the best semi-pro camera from 2010, and seemingly the second best actual bargain right now. The first best bargain is the successor to the same camera (D7100), which tends to cost a couple of hundred bucks more, with some improvements. The 18-200 is an all-in-one zoom that has been a popular item for about 10 years, and the internet people who hate everything don't violently loathe it, so it must be pretty good.

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