Calling all fanbois

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Yesterday’s hero is today’s display sacrifice.

Everybody knows the camera industry is suffering. We’re expecting tomorrow’s camera, yesterday, and the day after’s camera, tomorrow. And if it doesn’t have the 12-400/1.2 zoom that fits in a shirt pocket, well, I’ll be damned, I’m switching. How are our favourite businesses supposed to stay solvent? I have a solution.

I agree with Thom Hogan’s assessment of photography in 2015: consumers are going mobile; pros are dying out because clients are mostly consumer-grade and frequently mistake mud for chocolate; and the hard core enthusiasts/ amateurs are the ones who are supporting the market. They’re the only ones with any money to spend, at any rate – because their means of income is not photographic. They are the people who – mostly by virtue of equipment – must prove that they too Can Do It. There has been more ‘pro grade’ gear in the hands of amateurs than at any time; it’s never been more accessible and it’s also never had less take-up by the pros (who just need to make good images).

Of course, everybody knows the quality of your images is driven by the quality of your gear. You can’t make an award-winning image (whose rights you’ve now lost after entering the competition, by the way) without tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Red dot? Instant street photography masterpiece. Who cares about exposure? Who cares about focus? Who cares about subject? Hell, who cares if you actually shoot with the thing? You’re wearing it as a statement. I. Am. A. Photographer, with a capital P.

But it seems that every brand – no, every product even – has its Knights of the Realm. The kind of people who come immediately come to the defence of their heroes the moment their honour is even remotely called into question. Shutter shock? Compressed raw files? Overpriced lenses? Impossible file handling through proprietary software? Terrible battery life? Cracked sensors? No usable workflow? Left side focusing problems? Dozens of iterations of identical consumer cameras with no changes except button relabelling and an incrementally higher number? Nonsense! Our hero is perfect. Our hero is the best. Until the new hero comes along, and then the old one is suddenly yesterday’s garbage and we must shift the fort a little further along, or make it a slightly larger format fort. And if the new hero isn’t quite up to expectations, well, there are always rumours of hero Mark III to hang your hopes on – it will be the unicorn and the saviour and also slice bread. Such is the nature of the game.

It is these Knights that the manufacturers must enlist in the forthcoming Battle for the Marketplace. Make no doubt, dark times are coming. Few will survive. And surely you want one of those few to be your hero, right? The few ‘pros’, ‘celebrities’, and ‘bloggers’ who have been shouting from their sponsored, gilded towers up til now will not be enough. They simply do not have the typing speed or hours in the day to counter the endless assault from the Defenders of The Other Side; thousands of trolls on hundreds of forums are undermining the very thing that gives them reason to live; their identities are being attacked – nay, their very souls.

Only the strong few will survive. Stand up and volunteer to defend your hero; as every blogger will tell you, it is a quest that is both never ending and rich in sponsorship rewards, because the manufacturers have unlimited resources to spend on marketing (oh wait, then why do they have a sales problem to begin with?). Give up your day jobs and devote all of your time to combing forums to find people to challenge, dominate and win over – because that will give you a sense of accomplishment and inner power you have never been able to approach in real life. It is simply unthinkable that an experienced photographer might find your choice of equipment not suitable for a given purpose – any purpose – it is perfect, holy, and ideally conceived. At least until its successor is announced. Images do not count. Technical qualities do not count. Experience does not count. There is simply no way a real photographer who actually takes pictures can stand up to any concerted onslaught because he has nowhere near as much keyboard experience or rhetoric as an entire legion of Knights, except perhaps if he was a lawyer in another life.

What do they know about photography, anyway? Consistency? Pah! Similar looking images are boring. They’re meaningless. Yawn. What you really want is a portfolio that’s so different they must have been shot by different photographers with different cameras (see, diversity and versatility!) or somebody whose scene mode dial got loose and left permanently spinning on ‘I’m feeling lucky’ mode.

What about objectivity? How do you decide which master is worthy of your worship to begin with? It doesn’t matter. Just pick one, preferably with the highest numbers. That’s why there are those seductive messages whispered in your ears and delivered to your desktop in banner form. More pixels! ISO 20,000,000! 8K video! It’s inconceivable that there could possibly be one better than the Hero – or more qualified for the task, or simply with more charisma. Nobody can argue with the numbers, they’re quantitative! And heaven forbid all who serve two masters: that’s treason, treachery, and polygamy of the darkest sort. Pick your system dammit, and commit. All of those newfangled thinkers who talk about adaptation and coexistence and integration are simply trying to hook in new recruits; if they’re on your side. If not, they’re heathens and deceitful traitors of the worst kind; taking pay from two masters!

And then what, when the Hero is crowned king of the all the Interwebs? Well, there will always be new challengers – so one must continually defend the realm and prevent subsidence at the edges. Shore up the walls with firmware patches and ACR upgrades that let you hold out just a bit longer. Hopefully long enough until you grow up and realise equipment is a tool for taking photographs, not something to hang your personal hopes, dreams and identity on. It’s just a bloody camera, not a religion.

Happy April 1st… MT

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Comments

  1. Just read this, loved it. Just waiting for that D5 to come out. ;-0

  2. Frank Riedy says:

    Ming, I saw this fools missive coming a long way back. First, it was your suggestion that you would limit your camera reviews to some sort of a subscription format then it was the mystery camera blog, hmmm. Could it be that Ming is tilting his iris blades at the fanboy’s windmill? Will he be able to contain his steed to a hoof strike and a neigh? Oh no ….now he gone and done it – sawing a perfectly good camera in half. What could be next…driving a stake through an AA filter? Easy, kind sir. We get it.
    We know that you would like to bring the photographic world back to its senses and I support your efforts. Although, as we know the root issues go way beyond photography. In the meantime, please continue to show us about the art of photography and skills to make it so.

  3. So what your saying is wait for the 5D mkIV…..

  4. Jason Joyce says:

    Thanks Ming, only got to this today. This is awesome.

  5. Numbers talk . . . words count. Now what? I thought you must have been drinking too much. April Fools jokes are not supposed to be that close to the truth. Truth is. Painters still use good brushes, and when possible the best oil or acrylic paints. Charcoal drawings are still being made. View cameras and film, color and b&w will always be with us, but the market share will simply drop. So, what? The guys who make the brushes and film will adjust their costs to meet the smaller demand. Doesn’t Leica do exactly that already; just charges the price that covers the costs and leaves a decent profit. Leica and buyers are both happy with this arrangement. Some think. So, okay, I’ll admit. I’m polygamist. But alas, it’s all your fault, is it not. You’re the one that keeps using that GR along with the expensive gear and making me admit that it’s hard to tell the difference. What else could I do but sell my 28mm lens and buy a Ricoh GR. And the Sigma DPM2. I try to keep this obsession from my wife, who keeps asking how anyone can use two cameras at the same time. “Very quickly,” I say. Well, as soon as I figure out the menus it will be quick. And these are just my extra, “on the side” cameras. Great time to be a serious amateur, no? Prices are rock bottom compared to the old days. 25 minutes to go until April 1 passes me by in my time zone. Cannot think if anything that would fool anyone. And time is running out. Oh, did you hear the news. To avoid going bankrupt Sony is going to stop manufacturing sensors. Ming is going to start charging for this blog. “April Fools Day.” Well, okay, Ming’s blog is worth paying for, and I don’t need to wait until April 2 to say that, do I?

  6. Sounds like somebody’s been spending too much time reading through forum comments on popular photo-enthusiast sites. That sh*t will just rot your brain. And make you bitter. And convince you that the entire world is made up of trolls. Err, wait…

    The theistic-like devotion to certain brands seems triggered by the same neurological activity we witness when people vehemently defend their favorite political parties and sports teams.

    Having said that, Nikons are WAAAY better than any of that crap from Canon. How do I know? Hang on, I’ll find some crap on the Internet to quote. 😉

  7. Haha before reading the last line I thought you were deadly serious – and just having a bad white balance day…

  8. “hard core enthusiasts/ amateurs are the ones who are supporting the market.”

    This has been the case forever, or your Nikon F3 would probably have cost you $4000 back in the day and the D810 $7500 today. Hobbyists have propped up the market since the beginning. Without those annoying fanboy brand-loyal pixel-peeping feature-grovelling enthusiasts, we would still be manually focusing and using bolt-on motor drives.

    Those hobbyists now have too many other distractions, or more likely are getting older and poorer, and there is no real growth of what are really luxury toys that most of the world can’t afford. So we can deride these annoying individuals, but we’d be the poorer without them, as we may learn soon enough.

    • Ah, but most of the ‘features’ we’re paying extra for aren’t useful anyway. I still manually focus and shoot single frames anyway, and so do a lot of other ‘serious’ photographers I know. But hey, I’m in it for making images, not the nice sound the camera makes when it fires in CH 🙂

    • Hmmm, manually focusing? The folks I see who manually focus take better pictures. Obviously they were hobbled by the primitive hardware they were using, but somehow managed to overcome. Some of them even (gasp) use a tripod and compose their photographs.

  9. “Nobody can argue with the numbers, they’re quantitative!”
    Haha…so true ! Or… so sad :/
    The quantitative war is just begining. Soon we will have access to statistics reports and personal dashboards anytime we poop in the toilets. I guess this applies to anything.

  10. Great post Ming. As many have pointed out, more than a bit of truth rings through.

    Maybe 10 years back I read something with a similar slant aimed at a slightly different audience on the large format forum. The author was convinced his photography would be exceptional if ONLY he could get his hands on the latest/greatest, super/secret magic developer. He needed cases of it overnighted to him at any cost, because the fate of photography itself was at risk!

    To all the fan boys/gear heads, when I shot commercially and would get together with colleagues to talk “work,” discussions would focus more on “how did you do it” than “what did you do it with.” Technique, not gear.

  11. Drew me – I forgot the date

  12. Nothing April foolish about your essay. The truth hurts.

    This should be required reading (with comprehension test) before anyone can join a photo forum. Oh wait, no one reads any more.

  13. Wait, someone agrees with me? That can’t be right…

  14. LOL, but there is a lot of truth to it.

  15. LOL. Cheeky. 🙂 The perpetual hamster that is photography gear is exhausting.

    Interesting tidbit, I believe it got this from the book, ‘How We Think’ by Jonah Lehrer … a finance/stock trading study was done with two different groups of about 10 or so mom and pop investors. One group was group was given daily up to date data, reports, analysis; just non-stop information. The other was group was only given yesterday’s newspaper clippings, financial weeklies and the like.

    After several weeks of trading as a group and making decisions as a group, the group with the delayed info outperformed the instant data group by a considerable margin. Further in house studies by brokerage firms themselves confirm this.

    My delayed data camera, currently a Bessa with their 21mm, 40mm and a Leica 90mm. I’m at peace with it and more importantly, content and happy. 🙂

  16. No matter how bad the camera industry becomes I will continue to make photographs with a real camera and not a smartphone.
    There simply is no pleasure in the photo process using a phone. That said I will use my smartphone for transferring photos
    onto my social media accounts because that is where the action is. Yes there are far too many gear heads out there lusting for
    the latest in this or that in cameras but in the end whatever gear make you happy stick with it and be satisfied. This is why
    I come to this website because the art of photography is discussed more than the gear. And art can be made with the mind not a piece of gear.

  17. I think I’m going to go back to my F3HP… I just can’t cope. 😉

  18. Morning Ming and thanks for the great article on how some of us fools can’t seem to appreciate what we already have. I wanted to immediately respond to your article and say something I thought would be “smart” but thought best to give it a rest. As I sit here reading a book I came across a sentence the author has written and I think fits perfectly with your thoughts on gear: “One of the hardest things in this life is just to know what the hell is really going on, much less what to do about it if you manage to find out.” – Dr. James Nourse, “Simple Spirituality – Finding Your Own Way”.

  19. liramusic says:

    Cool phrase, Philipp. Your phrase brought a needed smile, ” their sacred temple of cheesiness…”

  20. Stefano Guarnieri says:

    You should patent the “I’m Feeling Lucky” dial mode, I can see that implemented sooner or later…

  21. compelling yet funny, sifu; but true in many ways, you have hit the nail on the head with wit. bril!
    ken

  22. You had way too much fun writing that Ming ;).

    That is actually an interesting question – which of your many articles were genuinely most fun to write!

    • Probably the least popular ones on photography and psychology. The reviews are the most painful.

      • bohdanp says:

        It’s just hard for some to look in the mirror…that is why they lash out like spoiled 12 year olds that try to poison mom for taking away their I phone. Love the i in fanbois. You are the awesome sauce with this article.

      • Your philosophy and theory posts are my favorites. I actually learn things. I also like the reviews, but they are like junk food to me really. I’m never going to own any that gear.

  23. regarding contests, photo voting etc. I’ve recently read a popular scientific article of a mathematician (?) who wrote bots that posted only cheesy sunset pictures and then liked everybody else’s pictures in a forum – and in turn got liked back accumulating hundreds of likes in no time. His popularity according to his own story did not increase when he published the hoax. Many saw it as an attack against their sacred temple of cheesiness…

  24. Jon Barker says:

    Are you still using 4×5″ shirt pockets? Good lord, man, no wonder you have lens portability issues. You *must* upgrade at once to large format, kevlar reinforced, triple-lok ™ stitched , hydrophobic wicking, cross-woven, marmoset fur-lined personal equipment pockets. Now with free initial chiropractic consultation…

  25. I’m a photography fanboy, and today I’ll be in Venice armed with a Sigma dp2 Quattro and a Polaroid sx-70 🙂 No joking.

  26. Except it’s not an April 1st joke…it’s real! Well, I can’t speak from experience of photographic forums, this is the only blog I follow, but I can imagine it all from my previous experiences in other industry forums, which I no longer have any dealings with as a result. One of the reasons I stayed here was the lack of fanboi-ism and general trolling, I am not a lover of having my precious time wasted, which is essentially what fanbois and trolls do. Despite a few efforts by trolls to make home here, I am glad to see they don’t really get much of a foothold….hurrah!

    Stay brand-agnostic, stay true to who you are, and let the quality of your images and ideas and words do the talking, ignore the time-wasters.

  27. Well written and most amusing!
    But …… oh so true in many many ways.
    Still, it provides us with employment and income so we can’t complain too loudly., can we?

  28. Here’s a tip from the poet Piet Hein:

    Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind,
    and you’re hampered by not having any,
    the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find,
    is simply by spinning a penny.
    No — not so that chance shall decide the affair
    while you’re passively standing there moping;
    but the moment the penny is up in the air,
    you suddenly know what you’re hoping.

  29. Really funny 🙂

    On a more serious note – your comment about consistency rings true for me. I just looked back at my work over the last five years, starting when I took photography seriously as a hobby in 2010. While I certainly have improved in every respect, one thing jumped out to me: how little consistency I have in look from image to image. It’s really frustrating. Sure I’ve been experimenting a lot, and I’ve processed by playing around and seeing what works, but I don’t like how there’s no real coherent style to any of my work. That’s an aspect I’m moving my focus to: developing a consistent small set of styles that I think are really ‘me.’

  30. Scary thing is, if you toned down the sarcasm a few notches, this would actually fit right in at sites like DPReview 🙂

    • I actually think it’d be fine as is! 😛

    • Yes, dpreview has the most trolls and defenders of brand names than any other site I have ever been on. I don’t think any of the people on there actually use their gear, that is if they even own any. Nothing but negativity and arguments. Always wanting more and more out of camera makers, never content with what they already have. I was in a GAS rutt for a while there but realized what I have is plenty good enough for what I want out of my “hobby”. I settled quite some time ago. Hasselblad 503cxi, DP2 and 3 merrill and an a7ii with my old canon fd lenses. Cheers Ming, great article.

      • Well, I suppose it real depends whether you actually want to use your cameras to take photographs with…I suspect the reason most of the DPR crew will be malcontents in perpetuity is because this does not figure anywhere of the agenda!

  31. And his is the very reason Ming I look forward to your articles to bring some sanity to the world

  32. One day I’m going to open up multiple accounts on the forums I visit, so I can like my own responses to establish credibility, and vote up my own photos in contests. And then, then I can finally be happy.

  33. Too Funny! My first April 1st joke for the year!!!

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