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You Want Conflict? When Arguing ‘Value’, Photography Forums Are Twinned With The Gaza Strip

By Kishore Sawh on December 20th 2017

The outside world tends to think of the photography world as a bit of a meek and mild cocoon, and probably perceive our arguments to be like a low-rent debate – news in brief, at best.

But it’s not the case.

As anyone who has ever read the comment section of a review will attest, when things get going the docile nature of the artist is overridden by the passionate side of the artist, and that moves conversation away from civility and up to a place past Tamil’s Tiger, along the Shining Path, and beyond Hamas. And it is, perhaps, never as on display as when speaking about ‘value’.

When most photographers (and I use the term in the loosest of fashion to include those who simply just have affection for the arena) get on the topic of comparing cameras, it appears ’value’ is the fulcrum of the argument; the fallback point when ‘speeds and feeds’ comparisons have exhausted. The recent Leica M10 scores from DxO Mark are a good example to use.

There was much brouhaha lately when DxO released their findings and ranking for the Leica M10, and probably because we’ve become accustomed to DxO scores that seem to be in one-upmanship with the each other, each score being some manner of record – and the M10’s wasn’t.

It scored an 86, and that seems a strange thing to grab a headline but it did anyway, and due to how it was covered it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that it was, perhaps, a jab at Leica’s price point, and that was only supported in the commentary. But why?

Taking a jab at Leica’s price point is easy, if you’re the kind to go after low-hanging fruit; one to reach for the top of the platitudinal grab bag, or perhaps think it good sport shooting fish in a barrel. Those of that persuasion immediately feel the need to list all the other combinations one could buy for the same money, and then go on to list all the ways in which they’re technically superior with longer feature lists.

They’ll say, simply, it’s too expensive.

To which I would say, they’re wrong. Asserting that the M10 is too expensive is like asserting that, at $800 million the Mona Lisa is too expensive. Or, arguing that there’s no point spending your lottery winnings on the original Van Gogh ’Sunflowers’ when you can buy a life-sized print in the Louvre gift shop for $20, which sits right next to the Mona Lisa keychain for $5. Or that there’s no point buying a Rolls Royce Wraith when a civic gets the job done and has better MPG.

See how ridiculous that sounds?

Not all cameras are about straight-line utility, and are more about how they make you feel, and the process, and build, craftsmanship, heritage, and numerous other things hard to quantify. Arguing otherwise is a facile endeavor.

But because you are a learned and sagacious specimen who understands value is derived from more than just utility, and who embraces the fact that not every-thing is for every-one, you’ll no doubt arrive at the conclusion that the M10’s score of 86 isn’t a blemish on an otherwise beautiful apple.

Incidentally, I didn’t hear people crying when the touted Canon 5dSR scored the same… ;-).

[REVIEW: Leica M10 Hands On | Age & Guile VS. Youth & Savvy In Leica’s New Signature Dish]

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Josh Leavitt

    I think the Leica bashing would have been just as vigorous if the M10 had scored 100 on DxO. You’ll never silence the armchair photographers that argue in favor of a  camera’s value for the money over its philosophy. Of course, much of this criticism could be silenced if another digital rangefinder from a different manufacturer using the M mount were introduced to the market. I had high hopes for Konost and their proposed full-frame rangefinder, but that venture sadly appears to have folded.

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  2. Matthew Saville

    The internet is a magical land where photographers are economists, salesmen, CFO’s / CMO’s, analysts, optical engineers / electrical engineers, …and personal shoppers / life coaches.

    …If you have a passion for photography, buy whichever camera you enjoy using.

    Attempting to separate the craft of photography into two distinct categories, the equipment and the images, is silly. Attempting to completely dismiss one of those categories as if it were nothing more than a two-dimensional chart of price-versus-performance, is folly.

    Photographers enjoy the mechanics of a good camera just like car enthusiasts enjoy their time spent tinkering under the hood of an old Land Rover, or a “Mangum PI” 308 GTS, …or the “project” Beetle they scored on Craigslist for super cheap.

    Folks’ affinity for camera gear can lead them in all different directions. If you’re not currently lucky enough for one of those directions to involve “luxury”, don’t hold it against those who are. Money is for spending. Hobbies involve tinkering and an appreciation for the tools almost as much as the craft itself.

    Simply avoid delusions about a correlation between price tags and artistic merit, and we’ll all enjoy this fantastic creative outlet together.

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  3. Zach Sutton

    The TL;DR – 

    Don’t read the comments. (what are you doing!? Get outta here!)

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  4. Jonathan Brady

    Photography gear, more and more, will be about cramming more features into a box. Why? The more experienced photographers will be replaced by less experienced (read: younger) people. Theoretically, there will never be more photographers experienced with film and the feedback of using an SLR than there is right now. That appreciation is waning, and will continue to wane, until there are very few left to even reminisce about it. But, as a percentage, this is the low point going forward of the number of people buying cameras who want more and more features. From here on out, that percentage of buyers is going to grow. So, if future cameras are released like the M10, expect to see more and more of those types of comments.  Interesting article that I think compliments this one…
    Also… Anytime Canon releases ANYTHING, the anti-Canon folks are out in full force. And when DxO released their findings on the 5DSR, it was pretty brutal. LOTS of chest thumping, brand insults, etc.

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