I hate advertising in a lot of ways. Although I think there are some beautiful advertisements (that I think can double as art)
at the end of they day, they are just trying to get you to buy something. And with that– advertisers and marketers often create false wants (which we get confused with “needs”). For example, I “need” a new iPad Air, rather than I “want” a new iPad Air.
Not only that, but one of the great psychological tricks that advertisers/marketers use is to create a sense of dissatisfaction with what you already own. Sure, you already have the iPhone 5, but you suddenly feel that you are missing out by not having the iPhone 5S (it has a marginally better camera!)
We always want what is new
For today’s article, I wanted to talk a little about “neomania”
the idea that we constantly strive for what is new and “better.” That we like the new for the sake of the new. Although I think that new technologies are important in many regards, it is simply advertising and marketing that suckers you into wanting new stuff.
To relate this to street photography, I think we often have these false hopes when it comes to cameras and technology. We feel that this new camera with this new fancy sensor will change and transform or photography.
We scour the camera rumor sites, patiently awaiting the new Sony, Leica, or Fuji camera. The new version is supposed to have a viewfinder, the new version is supposed to have better high – ISO performance, the new version is supposed to have faster auto focus. The list goes on.
Do we really need to upgrade?
These small and incremental upgrades are quite predictable. There is no secret that all digital cameras out there will get new versions every 2 (or 1) year. And the small subtle changes will be emphasized (rather than the huge similarities).
This is a cognitive bias we all have : we generally recognize differences over similarities.
For example, we forget how similar all cameras are nowadays : they all take photos, shoot raw, and have amazing image quality.
Yet we stress the small differences : like the form factor, colors, ISO performance, and auto focus speeds. But at the end of the day, all these cameras are more similar than dissimilar.
Gear reviews: more similar than dissimilar
When I first started blogging and reviewing cameras, I was quite excited to play with the newest gadgets and toys. However I realized at the end of the day, all the cameras out there are far more similar than dissimilar. Reviewing the cameras became quite boring (therefore you don’t see many camera reviews on my blog). This also applies to other material things like clothing, cars, and other electronics.
My takeaway point is a bit tiresome to hear, but I think we all need to be constantly reminded (myself included) : be grateful for what you have. Not only that, but another human trait is that over time, we get used to everything.
Fortunately nowadays I don’t really have any more G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) when it comes to cameras (I like the peace of mind shooting with a film camera)
but I am still a sucker for electronics.
An example with me and smartphones
For example a few months ago, my Samsung Galaxy S3 started to get pretty slow, and I wanted an upgrade. I had my eyes on the new Galaxy Note 3 or the new iPhone 5S. I agonized over the decision. I asked dozens of my friends and acquaintances with their experiences and reviews. But at the end of the day, it seemed that there was no “perfect” device– each had its own pros and cons.
I finally ended up getting the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (given to me for free from Samsung) and was first amazed by it. I loved the big screen, the epic battery life (over a day), and how fast it was. Yet, dissatisfaction crept back in. It was almost a little “too” big. I couldn’t comfortably fit it in my front pocket, and I couldn’t use it with one hand.
I then started to scour the web for another more “ideal” device. I saw the Google Nexus 5, which seemed like a great trade-off, but I saw that people didn’t like the camera and the battery life. This caused more “first world problems”
and a lot of time wasted going on gear review sites.
I tried to constantly remind myself that at the end of the day it didn’t matter: it was just a phone. I was wasting tons of time and valuable resources (especially mental energy) worrying about my phone. Rather, I could have used that energy to spend more time on the blog, out shooting, or spending time with family.
Sticking with what we have
Ultimately I remembered how we all get used to everything at the end of the day. Therefore I made the decision to quit my bitching and moaning and just be grateful for what I had– and to stick with it. And over the next few weeks when I made that decision that I didn’t need the “ideal” device– I got used to it. Sure I couldn’t text with one hand– but I adapted by using two hands. Sure I couldn’t put it into my front pocket, but it easily fit into my back pocket. Life went on.
I think the same has been my experience with cameras. We are always looking for the “ideal” camera for street photography. We want something that isn’t too big, too loud, yet has great image quality, is responsive, and looks sexy. Yet there is no “perfect” camera out there. Even the most expensive camera money can buy (Leica M) still has tradeoffs: short minimum focusing distance, no autofocus, and can’t fit into your pocket.
My experiences with camera neomania
I remember when I started with a Canon point and shoot, I was quite happy– but then wanted something better. I got the Canon 350D, the Canon 5D, then finally the Leica M9. But every step of the way, I had a small boost in happiness levels– but soon got used to every new camera afterwards. Even the M9– I thought it would solve all of the problems in my life and make me a better photographer. In reality, it didn’t. I don’t really see any improvement in my photos from my Canon 5D to my Leica M9. The only difference was educating myself more with photography books, articles, and shooting more on the streets.
I am not perfect, and nobody is. We all fall victim to lusting (or being curious) about new cameras, new cars, new computers, new smartphones, etc. I do realize that technology does move quite rapidly and there are times we need to upgrade– but generally these upgrades are quite small and not much of a big difference, yet they cost a ton of money and mental energy.
How to be satisfied with what you have
To ease some of the pain of our modern world I propose a general rule or guideline: Own a camera and lens for at least 2 years before upgrading (the same average length of a smartphone contract).
I would also recommend to try not to own more than one new camera at a time (or lens). Stay dedicated to one camera and lens for at least 2 years. Lock yourself into that contract. You’d be amazed how much peace of mind and freedom this will give you. You will no longer waste time on gear review or rumor sites. You will rather be satisfied with what you have, and simply go out and shoot.
Personally I have been purging my own collection of cameras (less is more). Rather than having it collect dust on my counter, I gave it to those who would benefit more than me:
I gave my Canon 5D to my friends little brother who is studying photography, traded my Leica M9 for an MP, gave my Ricoh GRD 5 to my girlfriend Cindy, my Leica M6 to my talented documentary photography friend Bill Reeves, my Ricoh GR1v to my good friend Josh White. The only cameras I own now are my Leica MP and my 35mm f2 lens and a Contax T3 (also 35mm) as a backup). At first purging my cameras was painful, but at the end of the day– it gives me a better peace of mind. Rather than agonizing what camera I will go out and shoot with today, I only have one option.
So if you have any old cameras or lenses you don’t use anymore, either sell them or even better : give them away to those who would better appreciate and use it over you. This includes family, friends, or even a local photography program at a school.
And let us quit lusting after things we don’t need. Rather than reading that review is that hot spanking new camera, take that camera you already own and hit the streets. Remember how happy you were with the camera when you first bought it, and how fortunate you are to even afford a camera (imagine all of the people out there who barely have enough money for food and water).
So after reading this, just close this site and go hit the streets :)