Luxury vs Democratic Tools

A thought:

It seems now, we all can afford the same great tools (in terms of functionality).

However there are still “luxury” tools (iPhones, Leica Cameras) as opposed to ‘Democratic’ tools (OnePlus Android phones, RICOH cameras), etc.

So perhaps the future of technology and society is this:

Either you will have a ‘luxury’ device/tool (that has superior aesthetics and user-interface/build quality) — or a good standard ‘democratic’ tool.

Beauty in function, aesthetics, and form

The bottom of the Leica Q2 is pure art.
The bottom of the Leica Q2 is pure art.

I first had this thought when testing out the Leica Q2:

The bottom of this camera is beautifully engineered.

The mechanism to open up the SD card as well as the mechanism to take out the battery is beautiful.

The most beautiful SD card slot?

The SD card cover is made of metal — which is 100x more satisfying than having a mere plastic cover.

The ability to push the cover upwards to open it is delightful. The spring-loaded mechanism pops up gleefully. And to close it, you push it inwards with your thumb, then you can click it downwards to close it. The click that signifies that it is closed is incredibly delightful.

Battery mechanism

Taking out the battery of the Leica Q2 is fascinating:

  1. The metal mechanism (kind of looks like a fancy paper clip) is beautifully milled. It has a small indentation for your left index finger to open.
  2. When you flick the metal mechanism to the left with enough force, the battery pops up delightfully.
  3. This is where this mechanism is unintuitive (but interesting): you push it in a little bit, then you can take it out.
  4. To insert the battery, you push it in with a little bit of force, and it clicks nicely to confirm it has been fully inserted.

And this is also a random thing:

The proportions of all the text/mechanisms/outlines on the bottom of the Leica q2 is perfect.

What are you really paying for?

And this is what a lot of people don’t understand about Leica cameras (or other ‘luxury’ tools):

You’re not just paying for the function of something; you’re paying for the aesthetics/form/looks.

Leica vs other cameras

A lot of people will say ‘Leica cameras aren’t worth it’ and that other cameras have (as good) or superior image quality. But this is what I discovered:

At this point, it isn’t about image quality– it is about ergonomics, functionality, user-interface/experience, and design.

You’re paying for the design — and the design ain’t just aesthetics; it is a simplification of usability.

More fun to shoot

This is something that is interesting about the Leica Q2:

It is optimized for a more fun camera to shoot with!

macro on/off Leica q2

I think this is something people don’t realize:

Photography must be fun, or else it isn’t worth pursuing.

In terms of ‘image quality’ — you can find a trillion cameras out there which have as good image quality as a Leica Q2. For example, the image quality of a Fujifilm GFX 50R is superior to the Leica Q2. I also anticipate that the upcoming Lumix S1R will either have as good image quality as the Leica Q2 (or maybe even better) image quality.

And I am also sure you can get a Sony A7RIII with superior image quality to the Leica Q2. But the reason I never liked Sony cameras is that the user-interface/experience sucks. The menus of the Sony cameras are overly-complicated, and there are a trillion buttons which complicate the photo-experience.

The button-system of the Leica Q2 is simplified — I don’t really see anything superfluous on the camera. And I feel this is what all camera companies (and device companies) should strive towards:

No superfluity — but no removal of essential elements.

Democratic tools

This is the great thing:

Now, there ain’t nothing holding you back from becoming ‘all you can be’ in photography.

You can buy a Ricoh GR II for only $550 (and take phenomenal photos).

You can buy a phenomenally powerful smartphone for not much money.

So this is the great thing:

The world is democratic in terms of tools/technology. The only thing holding you back is you.

Why buy a ‘luxury’ camera?

The reasons to buy a more ‘luxury’ camera now is:

  1. It looks cooler: Aesthetics on more expensive/luxury cameras have superior aesthetics. No matter what anyone says; a Leica M-camera will always look superior to a Fujifilm X100-series camera.
  2. It is simpler: One of the biggest things which is hidden is the amount of brainpower necessary to simplify menus and user functionality. I currently see the best camera brands for simple usability is Lumix, Ricoh-Pentax, and Leica. Sony is probably the worst for simplicity, Fujifilm is ‘moderate’ (their older camera menus were bloated, but they have made good strides to simplify their cameras).
  3. Ergonomics: The Leica Q2 has the most delightfully tactile buttons, and the feeling of the metal is solid and fantastic. It doesn’t really change the functionality of the camera for the most part– but when you’re shooting, the haptic feedback from the buttons/dials is incredibly satisfying.

So once again:

A ‘luxury’ camera/device is about ergonomics, user-interface/user-experience, haptic feedback, design, and aesthetics.


More turbo thoughts to come, but here are some other ideas:

  1. The reason to buy Apple products: You’re paying for the ecosystem (Airdrop, AirPods), the simple and beautiful aesthetics/design.
  2. Before you buy any camera or digital tool — experience it with your own two hands: For myself, the way a device/tool feels in my hands is essential. Never read gear reviews online — just see the device/camera/tool in a store, and play around with it. For example, I was interested in the new Samsung S-phones, but after playing with them in the cell phone store for about 30 seconds, I wasn’t really impressed/interested. So with any cameras– see how they feel in your hands, and whether you like the haptic feedback of the buttons, whether you like the menu systems, etc.
  3. Determine your own personal aesthetics: Aesthetics is essential — but there ain’t the ultimate “best” aesthetics. You just gotta figure out which aesthetics you like. Then optimize your life/tools/devices to fit your own personal aesthetics. Master your own aesthetics (JAY Z).