Piece of heart

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by haris, Aug 19, 2005.

  1. haris

    haris Guest

    After writting mail to someone I started on Leica forum next discussion. But this can be seen as general, not only connected to Leica or any particular manufacturer:

    Please don't see this as complaining. I am war veteran and wounded in war. And got out without feeling sorry for myself or complaining to life or destiny. And all of you who had simillar experiences knows that after such experiences there is no many things which could shake such person and force him/her to whining about small thing such are things which can be bought or solved with money. So:

    I don't think I am very talented for photography. But I think lack of talent can be replaced with hard work. Then again, my job doesn't give me time I would like to have to dedicate to photography. Photography is something I just love, without need to be best. That make me to think next:

    I am one of those who are biggest oponent of Leica prices. But I think high prices have one advantage. That advantage is to consider next:

    If one need to spend few thousands dollars or euros for Leica set, he or she should ask him/herself "Am I photographer that good that spending that money would be justified considering results I will produce with that equipment? Would that be "insulting", to use best (and expencive) equipment to get, in best case, mediocre results?" That would be honest photography introexamining for everyone. And because one who ask and one who answer are same person, no fooling around would be wise...

    So, theme for discussion would be, could high prices of Leica equipment (or any other) force one to honestly examine him/herself as photographer?
     
  2. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Good question. As a beginner, I always look towards the cheapest prices simply because too much initial investment could be a disaster. I've followed the same route with computers, a similarly inflated market.

    When I had my first computer, in 1993, it was a 1987 model, with no hard drive, 16colors screen and I made a big expense by adding a modem to it. Now if you're familiar with computer history, you'll recall that at that time the new kid on the block in the PC world was a 486. I had a 8086, which is insanely old now. Nevertheless, I hung on to it until 1998! I would print my papers on a dot-matrix printer, and managed to get on the Internet text-only.

    At that point, I had known a lot about computers to be able to squeeze every possible resource I could out of it. I went with a Compaq laptop that was one year old, and that was the newest equipement I had ever used. I burned it for five years, until it died. THEN I made the big jump and spent 2k$ on a PowerBook. If I had spent that same amount of money every 2-3 years, I would have learnt nothing, and wasted a lot of money.

    For photography it's the same to me. I started with the disposable cameras, but then I was mostly doing snapshots. Nevertheless it was cheap, and I could learn a bit about composition and thinking about an interesting angle. I got my first SLR this Christmas and then got serious about taking pictures. It's a Praktica so it's heavy and loud, but it's tough and was a leftover that cost me only repairs on it. I expanded my arsenal with a Yashica-D TLR, and now I can shoot both 35 and medium format on an equipement that is reliable, and gives me satisfactory results. I just got a free enlarger (same family circuit as the Praktica) so I can start setting up my own darkroom as well. All in all, I consider that I am not pushing the limits of my equipment yet, so why should I invest myself in an expensive purchase? I still don't know enough to consider spending a grand or two on photo equipement.

    Now, more on the topic of whether highly priced new equipement has a salvatory purpose on amateurs, I would say: yes, but that is incidental, not intended. I think the premium paid comes from the fact that the equipment can be pushed REALLY hard and far. It's like paying the extended warranty. And not just in terms of weather conditions, but also in the ability of a high-quality lens to give excellent results in a complicated light situation. Those situations may not be encountered by most amateurs, so that's why in a specific range of applications, it doesn't really matter that much what kind of lens you use, and a learner will get as much from his Tamron or his Vivitar than from a Leitz.
     
  3. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm of the opinion that owning a Leica (or Hasselblad, or insert your favorite pricey brand here) will NOT make you a good photographer. In fact, I think the camera you use is ultimately irrelevant to the finished work. When I was a photo editor, I could never tell you if a photographer was using Canon, or Nikon, and in MF if it was Hassy or Mamiya. Whatever! I just needed good photos to publish, and I didn't really care how they did it.

    I think a good photographer will make great images with just about any camera they can get their hands on. It's a tool. All that said, I happen to own a Leica (used!), and it really is a marvelous tool. I've been very happy with it, and it suits my vision. A Leica had been beyond my means for a couple of decades, but, nontheless, I still was able to make the photos I wanted with the rag tag small collection of gear that I've always had. The Leica's been a great addition, and I'm grateful that I was finally able to afford it, but some of my favorite photos have been made with gear I thought sucked (like zoom lenses, yuck). Go figure! I've made some favorites with the Leica, too, and more than a few crappy ones.

    If you expect the Leica to make you a better photographer, you should have your head examined! :tongue:
     
  4. Bighead

    Bighead Member

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    In my opinon good photographers do not NEED the expensive equipment. Most of the people here make great work with very common, inexpensive equipment. I will buy a Leica or a "blad", when I get to the point that I NEED that equipment to move on or to improve as a photographer. Right now, its a waste. I am amazed with the images some people make using a Holga.....

    I wouldn't judge your worth as a photographer based on your equipment.
     
  5. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    There are as many answers to you question as there are people to answer them.

    The cost of anything is tied to various factors. Handmade, quality of parts, how good the "system" is, does it have built in obsolescense, will it last forever are some things that can make things expensive.

    Does a beginner or hobbiest need a Leica, Hasselblad, Sinar etc?

    Some people get into any hobby, skiing, cycling, tennis, golf, and buy the best racket, best clubs, best outfits, best shoes/boots etc. They want to look the part and they think that this will help them to be accepted as not being a novice/duffer. They also think that this stuff will increase the speed at which they will excell at the sport. Does it work. Who knows.

    When I started in photography I bought a Hasselblad, because I heard and researched it to find out that it was the "best" medium format camera. It was definately a better camera than I was a photographer. BUT because it was so great and the system so good that it did enable me to get to be a lot better without having limitations on me due to the equipment. ALso the camera is 30 years old now and I still use it every day. Good investment. I think so. IF I had bought a cheaper system 30 years ago I would have had to replace it probably many times over.

    For that reason I have always bought what I thought was the "best" because I wouldn't have any limitations equipment wise and I could be ensured longetivity. When I don't buy the "best" I balance what I do buy with what are the advantages for me in not buying the "best" and compromising. Many times a compromise can be a very good decision, but it has to be balanced with your goals and your resources.

    Another thing I try to remember is the saying that "rich people buy things that increase in value and poor people buy things that depreciate".

    MIchael
     
  6. Bill Hahn

    Bill Hahn Member

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    I agree with Suzanne.

    I bought a Leica out of curiosity, and it has allowed me to photograph in low light
    situations without flash (I dislike flash). But I had no illusions about it improving
    my photographic vision....

    These days, when I look at buying any piece of equipment, the question I ask is: "How
    will this lens/flash/camera/thingie give me more time to photograph?" It's *time*, not
    equipment, that's my problem (not to mention a lack of talent compared to more
    visual people).

    As for being insulted by producing mediocre results with good equipment, at this stage of my life I'm used to such insults....not only in photography...:smile:
     
  7. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    As a cellist, I can make even a begining student level instrument sound pretty good. But students can't. They do, however, play much better on better equipment. I've often speculated that beginners should get the Strads since virtuosos can make almost anything sound good! (just a thought..no way would I surrender a really good instrument to a beginner.)

    One of the things I feel saddest about when seeing the photographic work our local district's high school students produce is miserable print quality. I believe a lot of these results come from really awful enlarging lenses...I think so because they look like the kind of results I got when I first began and all I had was the cheapo triplet that came with the enlarger. I also remember using a very poor quality TLR and had the same experience with the negatives. Good, if not necessarily the very best, quality equipment makes a big difference. I think beginners need all the help they can get.
     
  8. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

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    Haris,

    A long time ago when I was starting to accumulate woodworking tools someone gave me the advice to "buy the kind of tools where you only cry once". A lot of what I got was better than I was but over time I have grown into them and have never been limited. My woodworking tools could easily be used by my grandchildren (I'm 35) if they so wish. I never think about how much it stung me to purchase that cabinet saw, but everytime I use it I'm really pleased with how it performs.

    I now use that philosophy with photography. So far so good.

    Good luck with it.

    Alan.
     
  9. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    You don't need to use a Leica, Nikon, Hasselblad, or other "professional" equipment to take good photographs. Those who buy professional equipment need a camera which will stand up to constant daily use without breaking down. Most of us are not as demanding of our equipment. Of course, there is the Leica mystique but it would be virtually impossible to distinguish two photos, one taken with a Leica and the other taken with say a Bessa RF.
     
  10. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I take everyone's point about gear, and would agree with Jovo, that good gear can go a long way to helping a beginner learn this craft. I, frankly, wouldn't recomend starting with point and shoot. A good manual SLR, should serve that purpose very well for many shooters, and keep frustrating setbacks to a minimum for beginners. I would also agree that a pro should have a good system in place, that meets their needs.

    It seems, though, that a lot of photographers chase some magic bullet to improve their photography through 'better' gear. It's a distraction that can make you lose sight of your own vision.
     
  11. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    I'm with the OP. I've always looked at the Leica (and similar) prices and thought I'd have to be able to earn a living with it to justify that kinda cost. What does the new Leica with a 50mm Summicron lens go for these days? Upwards of $5000? If I added up everything I've spent on camera gear in my whole life, I don't think the total would be close to that. And I have had and, still have, a lot of gear.

    Then there's the constant anxiety of breaking, dropping, or getting it lost or stolen...A few months back, I dropped a Nikon 28mm AIS lens on the concrete and dented it pretty badly. I beat myself up for days over a dented lens that I bought used for less than $250 and it still worked perfectly(!). Can't imagine how I'd feel if I so much as breathed on a Leica wrong.

    I've got nothing against people who lay out the big money for Leica and Hasselblad gear and I really do believe that in the right hands, the cameras are capable of producing superior results but, that ultra-expensive gear is just not for me.

    Now, if I were a pro wedding or portrait photographer, I'd be all over the Hasselblad system!
     
  12. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    This is very true. As a painter it is far better and easier to learn how to paint with quality paints, brushes, etc... then it is to learn on crap and relearn once you you step up in quality.
     
  13. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

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    My favorite photography quote:

    "Skill in photography is acquired by practice, not by purchase"

    - Percy W. Harris​
     
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  15. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I also agree with Jovo about musical instruments. I had a pretty lousy first student trombone and struggled with tone problems for years, and solved those problems much more quickly once I had a better instrument, as well as a few different teachers. When I eventually sold the old student horn, I could make a pretty good sound on it, but to learn what it felt like internally to make a good sound, I had to have a horn that I wasn't fighting to begin with.

    If the camera inspires you to make better photographs and you can afford it, then why not? Eventually you'll come around to being able to work with whatever camera you have handy, and you'll find other things to inspire you.
     
  16. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    My teacher said, "Spend as much as you can afford on as little as you need."

    SO, I bought a Leica when I was 19, which was a massive sacrifice. It was a challenge to do a lot with a 50 mm lens, and the process transformed me. I became, in time, a photographer.

    Ansel Adams used to say that given adequate talent, motivation and guidance, it took 15 years to master photography. No different from playing a fiddle.

    I know for a fact that in 1970, the cost of a Leica ( about $750, with a 50 summicron ) was a lot. But it's about the same today, corrected for the change in the value of money. OTHER cameras have gotten cheaper for lots of reasons. But a handmade camera, like a Nikon F2, would be breathtaking today as well. ANY thing done by hand is expensive. Perhaps handmade things should be the standard by which we measure goods.

    SO, "could high prices of Leica equipment (or any other) force one to honestly examine him/herself as photographer? "

    Absolutely. Should it ? Of course. Spend as much as you can on as little as you need.
     
  17. fparnold

    fparnold Member

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    I've taken, to a point, DF's approach. When I was finishing college my old Spotmatic was giving out. I had spent the winter TA'ing for a NY photographer, and saw the local pros at the gallery shows, and asked them for their opinion on an appropriate camera. Not too expensive, but more rugged than a Spotmatic. The consensus (other than George??? who maintained that i should cut the BS and buy a 'blad, because I would in the end anyway) was the Nikon F, which hadn't become a collector's item yet. It was enough money at the time, but I still have it and have put a few hundred rolls of film through it since then, even though it did need a major rebuild a few years back.

    The real advantage to me of the F, versus something then current, such as the F3/F4, Canon F1, or Pentax Lx, was that it came pre-scuffed. It was also priced so that with only moderate pain, I could afford to replace it if necessary. Therefore, I never worried about where it went, and I used it freely, as a tool.

    So, I'd personally say buy the most rugged piece of equipment for which you pay a price that won't make you baby it.
     
  18. haris

    haris Guest

    I am sorry but you didn't understood me.

    I know that buying expencive equipment can not make you better photographer by itself. I was talking about next:

    You are photographer and you have your gear and use it. So, after a while you got some money and decide to buy something you dream about for long time. Or you started to save money to buy that expencive dream equipment. Now question is: Honestly looking at myself as photographer would spending that money be stupid or good decision. Not would it make you better photographer, but are you photographer who will "justify" use of such expencive equipment. Price of equipment serve only as argument to look at yourself and to honestly answer yourself to question am I or am I not photographer I would love to be. Am I folling myself and think about myself something that I am really not. In photography sense.

    Not will expencive equipment make me better photographer.

    Can high price of equipment help us to be that honest to ourselves?

    My question is something like next conversation:

    "Ok I need to pay few thousands for equipment. Let see is that wise considering myself as photographer".

    Answers:

    1. Yes, I am good photographer and that investment is wise.

    2. No I am not good, but I will buy it because I want it.

    3. No, I am not good, so I will not buy it and I will restrict my photography to hollidays snapshots and not invest in that equipment.

    Something like give to ourselves those kind of honest answers.

    Answer "I am good but I won't buy it" is irrelevant for what I was thinking...

    My answer is: Even if maybe I am not photographer who will have best use of expencive a equipment sooner or later I will get my dream equipment. Because love does't have rational reasons. But, this really force me to seriously look at myself how good photographer I am, and have I chance to improve myself. And to honestly answer to my self that question however that will ruin or not picture I have about myself as photographer.
     
  19. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Just buy it. It sounds to me like you will increase your enjoyment of photography and probably your comfort level when you go out and shoot with the Leica. I think when you are comfortable with the equipment you select, you will be more free to concentrate on making images and becomeing a better photographer.

    I have a friend who is a woodworker. He spent almost $1000 dollars on a set of 6 hand ground wood chisels from Japan. He even admits that a set 1/4 the cost would probably produce the same results. But he was smitten by the quality and beauty of the tools. He is also accomplished enough that he felt his skills justified such a purchase if for no other reason than as a reward for his years of learning and efforts. Sometimes you see something and you just have to have it if you can swing it financialy even if it does not make rational sense.
     
  20. MikeS

    MikeS Member

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    Here's my thoughts on the matter:

    Everything is relative. If you're a professional, and you're going to be making money with photography, then you should probably buy the best equipment you can afford.

    If you're not a professional, and photography is just a hobby, then it gets slightly different. First off, how much you can you spend for a camera? Well, if you're either rich, or have a very well paying day job, where you can buy the best, and not feel the difference financially, then why not buy the best? I mean it doesn't matter how good or bad you are, it matters how much you will enjoy the equipment! As an example, I have a Linhof Technika 4x5, a camera many consider the Leica of large format. Does it make me a better photographer? No. In fact, I've been looking thru my photographs, and some of my better pictures were taken with a much less expensive camera. But, I enjoy the quality of the camera every time I use it!

    If on the other hand, money is tight, and buying a higher end camera would put a financial stress in your budget, then by all means buy a less expensive camera! As others have said, great images can be made with disposable cameras, or Leicas, etc.

    So, it all boils down to: If you buy the expensive equipment, will you enjoy it more than if you bought the cheaper equipment? Only you can answer that question.

    -Mike
     
  21. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    We're all different. Having my Leica, and being compelled to shoot one lens, for a long time, helped. Being impoverished to your craft is good. Having 8 camera bodies and a trunk of lenses, pointless. The Leica is a cranky, difficult tool. It is only a camera, and makes no comforting purring noises. It goes click, and that's the end of it. But its great company when you're out shooting.

    There is an ocean of misunderstanding about what makes Leica transformative. It is not about sharpness. It is about the directness of your vision. The old, accepted, and intentional way of working is simply this: learn to see what the camera sees, and when the shot is ready to be made, lift the camera to your eye, shoot, then lower the camera. It isn't about zooms, and tunnel vision. It doesn't shape your vision, it serves your vision. And if you don't see, or don't want to see, it's photo jewelry.

    If you are interested in learning how to shoot 36 good images on a roll of film, great. If you want to have to sell all your photo gear to buy a lens and a camera body, great. If you want to become a better photographer, and the challenge of it is symbolized by the camera, do it.

    Answer this one: phone rings, and you learn that in 5 minutes you're leaving on a round the world trip. What one camera do you pack ?

    If you say Leica, great. If it's, "OH, my Nikon, 3 zooms, and a Hassie and some flash gear...", it ain't for you.

    Best luck
     
  22. rfshootist

    rfshootist Member

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    We are talking about amateurs only ? My answer is yes, it could and yes,it really should !
    But it seldom does as the trillions of mediocre or even poor Leica photographs of amateurs prove which we can find spread all over the world.
    There are three sorts of people among amateur photogs:
    Those who hope the tool will make their craft, a hopeless approach.
    Those who just want to own something nice and worthful, "the pride of ownership" is a real argument for them as I heard it so often. They are no photogs but collectors and fondlers.
    Those who know the craft must be learned and the vision (if at all ) is inside of them but not in the camera. A minority ! :smile:

    The latter, to which you obviously belong, worry about the thought it could be embarrassing to shoot mediocre photos with a $ 6000 combo and to get beaten probably by an experienced 70yo old fart using a half dead FED with an Industar61LD.

    And IMHO they are right, it IS embarrassing if this happens and you notice it because you are one of those who can be critical with their own work. There are MANY who can't tho.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't say equipment does not matter. You should get a decent return on your mental invest from the very first beginning on.
    Don't by cheap junk, it CAN spoil your party !
    BUT talking about Leica means discussing the question , why you as an amateur should spend five times more for a tool which has the the same optical performance in everyday life than some of it's concurrent brands.
    "Same performance" means that 98% of the amateur cperts would not find the leica pic in a blind test of 13X18 enlargements with out a loupe.
    And 95% would not find it out even WITH a loup I suppose if the tester makes the test really hard with some really good competitor lenses.

    Undoubtedly a Leica M is an unique piece of mechanical craftsmanship, built with specs and tolerances of a time when handwork was affordable. It is an new built 1st class oldtimer. But the half of the price gap comes from this old time working process , you don't get a real worth for this part of the price, it is just LUXURY to buy a handmade oldtimer as new in 2005.

    Some say a Leica M is an invest for a lifetime. Hmm, who knows how long we will live ? :smile:) But in the hands of a careful amateur almost everything lasts a lifetime as long as it is a halfways decenty manufactured mechanical camera which can get repaired.. And don't forget, a full CLA is almost as much as a new body of a cheap competitor like Voigtlander.

    A Leica M is nice if you can afford this kind of amateur luxury. "Afford" does not mean to buy a 40yo moldy M2 ot M3 and a hazy cron just to be member of the club . Afford means you can drop it, loose it by theft or robbery or any idot spills a bottle of coke on it and runs away and you say "well s**t happens" and you go to the next shop an buy a new one. Bad luck but life goes on.

    If you can afford it in this sense of the word, then buy it , even as a mediocre beginner still on it's way...
    But even then it remains your thought we started with, isn't it embarrasing to use luxury tools as a beginner ?

    BTW:
    Tho I could have payed a Leica set ( not afford tho) I once decided to go the
    "non-luxury" way and I never felt any regrets tho I am a real FAN of perfect mechanical stuff.

    Regards,
    Bertram
    When painters meet they talk about their paintings. NOT about the brushes !
     
  23. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    could high prices of Leica equipment (or any other) force one to honestly examine him/herself as photographer?[/QUOTE]

    Yes and no. Spending money on high end equipment will not give you talent, but it will make it make you life as a photographer much more managable .

    1. Your clients will expect professional grade equipment. When starting out
    you need to look professional.
    2. Reliable equipment means less down time, fewer rental cost when
    equipment is being serviced.
    3. Ease of use. Most professional equipment is designed to be used by a
    working profressional, which means quickly.
    4. If you are the road and need to rent, having professional brand
    equipment is easer to find for rent such as lens or backs.
    5. You will not need to replace as often, all of the pro brands have good
    reputations for holding up over time.
    6. Value will hold up over time, (not as apparent in todays economy) so if
    you need to upgrade or even sell off you get more of your money
    back.

    What ever you chose just feels good.
     
  24. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    One thing you forget. The Leica that Cardwell bought for $750 is worth ??? today? It's not like casting your $$ into the wind like 99.9% of $$ spent in the average USA shopping mall. Buy the tools that you will enjoy. Use them wisely. Some day your children will re-sell them for within a few dollars adjusted for inflation of what you paid. A wonderful investment in life, pleasure, art. You will be 1,000X the person having had the Leica or whatever else to use for a lifetime with all the exciting places it will take you and the excellent people you will meet than if you put those same $$ in a bank and collected the interest.

    Still didn't answer your original question. Maybe I did for myself. I may not be the worlds most remarkable photographer but I invest heavily in the tools I enjoy.
     
  25. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    YODA MODE ON ... :D

    Looking at all the opinions made me think about equipment. For some of us, there is a fine line between using and collecting. I have been fighting this for years :D. In the end, most things come down, not to the BIG picture but the smallest piece of it, what I used to call marginal satisfaction determinant. What I have discovered is that, it isn't the overall picture but rather the smallest item that can make or break a contract. This I have discovered applies to me me :smile:.

    If you can get a piece of equipment to make your time with your chosen craft of taking pictures that more enjoyable, go for it. It may not necessarily give you better pictures but if you are constantly thinking (obsessing), you end up enjoying photography less, so you leave your camera behind far more often than taking it with you. If that new toy will allow you to enjoy taking MORE pictures (at least in your own mind), you may yet get that GREAT shot. It's the little things (or maybe not so little comparing some of the new pricing of equipment today) that makes life enjoyable. If you can afford to, go for it, as long as YOU fell it will take your vision to a new level. This vision we may not all agree upon, but does it really matter?

    YODA MODE OFF. :D
     
  26. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Annapolis, M
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The better tools are usually easier to us for both the amateur or professional, and they usually produce a better product. That is most probably applicable to photographers. One always pays for what they get, but one does not necessarily get what they pay for.

    My needs now are rather Spartan. My photography has definitely improved with each "upgrade" until the Mamyia C330f, Koni Omega, and Speed Graphic, which will do everything I shall ever ask. I do not see what further improvement can be achieved with a Hasselblad for example. AT this point, the equipment is secondary to many other factors involved in my production of a photograph.