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Thread: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

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    Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Sometimes we are so absorbed and monopolised with our own photographic system that we often fail to see great things in other systems. What's even worse we all have this strange tendency to belong to a certain brand group.
    I find it so refreshing to "force" myself to learn new camera systems, even if it is only a brief experience. It triggers some thoughts and it may even change the entire perspective how you shoot. Most importantly, it allows you to see shortcomings and advantages of your current photographic gear. Did you experience something similar? How do you approach changing/trying new camera systems? What's your key criteria for your personal evaluation?

    P.S. Please note this is NOT an invitation for a brand X vs. brand Y argument. I am more interested in the process of trying out and changing camera systems.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Excellent idea for a thread.

    My first criterion is "do I like picking it up?” Some cameras jump out of your hands like an unfriendly cat (names withheld to avoid brand war). Some stick like glue and you can't shake them off (Canon 1D, Leica S). In between is "I can live with this". This test can be surprising. I really didn't like the feel of the Fuji GFX 50S, but the GFX 100 felt nicely balanced. Didn't like Fuji X-T3, loved X-H1. If anything fails this test, I KNOW that I will never use it.

    Next is shooting experience. Almost anything can make a great image, but it has to be pleasant to use - transporting, use in the moment, and anticipation of the results. Of course capturing sports or BIF will be a different experience than long-exposure or sunrises.

    Then is output. If the results are beautiful OOC, then that's good, but possibly dangerous, as there's less incentive to explore different processing. Of course, this has a LOT to do with default RAW converter settings, so I try it with both Lightroom and Capture One. The Leica S is my favorite OOC. The Phase One IQ160 was flat OOC, but responded REALLY well to manipulation in post. Sky color stability is a big issue. With some systems, changing anything will make the sky look unnatural.

    And the final test - how much do I use it? If I use it a lot, that means it passes all of the above and I'll get good results and improve as a photographer. Otherwise, might as well sell it.

    My 2p,

    Matt
    Last edited by MGrayson; 30th May 2020 at 11:16.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    I only have one system that fits together and that I know well, so I don't often evaluate other systems.

    But I do try them at trade fairs and in shops and the most important thing is how they feel in my hand. When possible I look at the results (but you can't always put your own card in a camera at such occasions).

    Results wise other systems are usually fine, but so is my own.
    Some brands just don't feel well in my hands, others do but I've never felt the need to change (nor had the money to do so).

    In the end I don't think my photo's with another system will get any better, so I'd rather invest in my development to become a better photographer than invest in a new system and hope my photo's will just magically get better because of a different system.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Well, first, do I need new gear? I have to figure out why I would want to buy anything anyway. I guess I need to come to a conclusion that what I have will not solve a problem or achieve something I cannot with my current gear.

    As far as simply replacing what I have, that is really unlikely. I usually buy the best camera I can and then learn to get the results I want from it. If I find I can get those, I don't have any incentive to change. I will keep using that gear because I have learnt to compensate for any technical limits and so the results are purely a limitation of the photographer. At that point, I need to work on my skills. I actually hate buying new cameras as it takes me a number of months to get to know it and produce anything I like.

    For experimenting with new ideas that cannot be achieved with current gear, then my criteria is purely a cost/benefit analysis. And like any good cost/benefit analysis, it takes into account tangible and non-tangible values--there are certain characteristics in equipment that bring me pleasure, for example, I will rate an optical viewfinder over an electronic one simply because I enjoy them more, not because one gives better results than another. I am also fortunate to have a lot of experience with photography so I can better judge if this is something I will actually use, rather than just desire. I would love an 8x10 view camera, but I would probably not use it just because I do not enjoy the process needed for such a camera. On the other hand, I did not like using tripods, but as I worked on projects that required them, I learnt the skills to be comfortable in using them and are an important part of my work now.

    As far as buying the "only camera I will ever need," I have owned several of those.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    Well, first, do I need new gear? I have to figure out why I would want to buy anything anyway. I guess I need to come to a conclusion that what I have will not solve a problem or achieve something I cannot with my current gear.
    ....
    As far as buying the "only camera I will ever need," I have owned several of those.
    Will,

    I was, of course, responding conditioned on the "need" for new gear - as unlikely as that would ever be.

    Matt
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Quote Originally Posted by MGrayson View Post
    Will,

    I was, of course, responding conditioned on the "need" for new gear - as unlikely as that would ever be.

    Matt
    I certainly get the attraction of photographic equipment. The tactile and aesthetic qualities some of this gear has is really attractive. I do buy gear that is personally attractive. The idea that cameras are just tools doesn't seem meaningful to me. The design of the camera is important. I certainly can understand the collecting bug.

    And for me, there is joy in photography. Camera type plays into that. I have shot 8x10 and have owned a really nice 4x5 Wista technical camera. Once the darn things are on a tripod, the gratification from using them and the results they give are very rewarding.

    And how do you put a price on a emotional-support camera?
    Will

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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    Well, first, do I need new gear? I have to figure out why I would want to buy anything anyway. I guess I need to come to a conclusion that what I have will not solve a problem or achieve something I cannot with my current gear.

    As far as simply replacing what I have, that is really unlikely. I usually buy the best camera I can and then learn to get the results I want from it. If I find I can get those, I don't have any incentive to change. I will keep using that gear because I have learnt to compensate for any technical limits and so the results are purely a limitation of the photographer. At that point, I need to work on my skills. I actually hate buying new cameras as it takes me a number of months to get to know it and produce anything I like.

    For experimenting with new ideas that cannot be achieved with current gear, then my criteria is purely a cost/benefit analysis. And like any good cost/benefit analysis, it takes into account tangible and non-tangible values--there are certain characteristics in equipment that bring me pleasure, for example, I will rate an optical viewfinder over an electronic one simply because I enjoy them more, not because one gives better results than another. I am also fortunate to have a lot of experience with photography so I can better judge if this is something I will actually use, rather than just desire. I would love an 8x10 view camera, but I would probably not use it just because I do not enjoy the process needed for such a camera. On the other hand, I did not like using tripods, but as I worked on projects that required them, I learnt the skills to be comfortable in using them and are an important part of my work now.

    As far as buying the "only camera I will ever need," I have owned several of those.
    Great perspective! Thank you for sharing
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Quote Originally Posted by MGrayson View Post
    Excellent idea for a thread.

    My first criterion is "do I like picking it up?Ē Some cameras jump out of your hands like an unfriendly cat (names withheld to avoid brand war). Some stick like glue and you can't shake them off (Canon 1D, Leica S). In between is "I can live with this". This test can be surprising. I really didn't like the feel of the Fuji GFX 50S, but the GFX 100 felt nicely balanced. Didn't like Fuji X-T3, loved X-H1. If anything fails this test, I KNOW that I will never use it.

    Next is shooting experience. Almost anything can make a great image, but it has to be pleasant to use - transporting, use in the moment, and anticipation of the results. Of course capturing sports or BIF will be a different experience than long-exposure or sunrises.

    Then is output. If the results are beautiful OOC, then that's good, but possibly dangerous, as there's less incentive to explore different processing. Of course, this has a LOT to do with default RAW converter settings, so I try it with both Lightroom and Capture One. The Leica S is my favorite OOC. The Phase One IQ160 was flat OOC, but responded REALLY well to manipulation in post. Sky color stability is a big issue. With some systems, changing anything will make the sky look unnatural.

    And the final test - how much do I use it? If I use it a lot, that means it passes all of the above and I'll get good results and improve as a photographer. Otherwise, might as well sell it.

    My 2p,

    Matt
    You raised some really good points! Thanks!
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    As far as buying the "only camera I will ever need," I have owned several of those.
    +1
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Whenever I evaluate a new system, I approach it completely unemotionally. I ask myself the following questions:

    1. What does it do that my current system doesn't?
    2. Do I need the features that it offers?
    3. Can I jury rig my current system to do what the new system does?
    4. Does the new system offer value for money?
    5. What is the cost of lenses and accessories of the new system?
    6. How vast and readily available are the accessories for the new system?
    7. Can my current lenses be adapted to the new system?
    8. Is the new system going to be a replacement for my old system or is it to compliment my current system in doing something specific that my current system doesn't do or can't do?
    9. What is the outlook for the new system? How well is it supported? What are the chances of the company staying in business in the near, medium, distant future?
    10. What are the service options? Can it be readily serviced or does it have to be sent off to the North Pole for minor fixes?
    11. What is the compatibility/adaptability to other systems?


    The answers to these questions gives me a pretty good idea of whether or not I will consider purchasing a new camera system.
    Last edited by Abstraction; 31st May 2020 at 01:24.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    I've always looked at systems differently than most people. I don't mind having a half dozen systems, but each system must match a strict criteria. I've never owned a small format film system, having started in medium format. The only small format digital I keep is a Canon 1-series set for action/event type shoots. A few of the things I look for in any system are:

    1. Does it solve a workflow problem, or is it going to introduce one? For example, I loved the Contax 645, but two meter failures (both during a shoot) was enough. I also loved the Rollei 6008, but the battery always died at the most un-opportune time.
    2. I don't care if another one (or more) of my systems can do the same thing - but can this do it better/faster/easier?
    3. Time is money, so is the output of this system easier/faster/better to manipulate in post processing?
    4. Will *I* be satisfied with the output of this system or will I wish I used something bigger? For example, I could shoot a poster on my 1Dx and once printed, clients will probably never notice the difference. But, *I* will probably hate myself for not shooting a larger sensor once I see the poster at 40x60 and knowing that I could've done them better service.
    5. I don't care about service - all camera manufacturers suck at their service and are a pain to deal with. I've routinely dropped/smashed/broken gear while shooting, so that's what insurance is for. Plus, I never buy new gear, so I'm used to disassembling and servicing my own gear. If it does have to go back, that's what backup gear is for. Canon's been good at the top of the list, but I'd never own a Sony or Leica. Ever.
    6. Is the gear balanced well when set up, loaded, and in use so that I can a) not fight with it all day on tripod or b) not get fatigued if handholding all day?
    7. Color is one of my sticklers. I hate having to fight a camera to get dead accurate color, even after using a Colorchecker, profiling, and matching lighting with gels + color meter. For that reason, I can't stand Nikon, not to mention the ergonomics and backwards everything.
    8. Maintenance requirements. I do my own service and cleaning, but most of my gear is constantly filthy and gets beat up. I don't need a system that requires being babied to keep working. Lockups and that weirdness is normal, since software nowadays is just buggy everywhere as long as it doesn't happen all the time or randomnly.
    9. Optics. Good glass and choices are a must, especially lenses with movements. Can't shoot everything with a tech cam, so a more portable system's gotta have decent methods to get at least tilt and shift. Canon has good TS-E lenses and Hasselblad H with the HTS both serve this needs while still maintaining portability.

    Once a system meets these "base" requirements, I'll go spend a few weeks beating up the gear. Literally, I'll do some fast/rough paced shoots, not clean a thing, and pretty much abuse the system to see if it'll survive. The first thing that gets annoying and the whole system's gone.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    for my fuji, leica and sony systems, every time i get a new camera or lens i always go to locations where i have shot before and take similar shots..that seems to help a lot...and for each new "sensor" i do have a look at the raw data in rawdigger for a few minutes.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    I purchase new-to-me gear for specific purposes. For example, when I decide I am going to work on a 6x12 film project, I look for that specific gear after I do a bit of research on what was/is made and available for the format. I am more of a project oriented photographer these days.

    I shoot from APS-C (Fuji preferred for shooting workflow and ergonomics) thru 4x5" film with everything in between except for full-frame DSLR. Film and digital get about equal use.

    What I enjoy is simplicity in design; gear that allows me to work the craft gets extra points.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    I am a purely hobbyist / amateur and have the luxury of alternating cheap cameras just for pleasure.
    When using different systems I can enjoy the different workflows and learn to utilise different tools.
    My main selection criterias have been:
    1. Do I need / really want another camera - for the moment the answer is NO and I have stopped buying equipment.
    2. Is the price affordable and no big investment ?
    3. Has the camera a good reputation and has it been a reliable and much used tool ?
    4. Professional camera ?
    5. Is the image quality excelent ?
    So my steps give me professional cameras that have depreciated in price and now sell for peanuts.

    And the final question:
    6.Is it mainstream for everyone - then no interest from me.
    Last edited by MartinN; 4 Weeks Ago at 03:59.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    One thing I would add-very important- that I have learned by making too many mistakes over the years: whenever possible, always try to rent an item first to test it out.
    I don't know how many times I was sure that a piece of gear had to be perfect, after researching extensively, and had found thee was just one thing that was 'off' or did not quite feel right.
    One example is a Leica rangefinder M9; I have always loved the Leica mystique. Soon after purchasing I came to realize that using a rangefinder to focus was never going to be comfortable; and had to sell it right away. I should of rented one first!!


    Quote Originally Posted by MartinN View Post
    I am a purely hobbyist / amateur and have the luxury of alternating cheap cameras just for pleasure.
    When using different systems I can enjoy the different workflows and learn to utilise different tools.
    My main selection criterias have been:
    1. Do I need / really want another camera - for the moment the answer is NO and I have stopped buying equipment.
    2. Is the price affordable and no big investment ?
    3. Has the camera a good reputation and has it been a reliable and much used tool ?
    4. Professional camera ?
    5. Is the image quality excelent ?
    So my steps give me professional cameras that have depreciated in price and now sell for peanuts.

    And the final question:
    6.Is it mainstream for everyone - then no interest from me.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Quote Originally Posted by Smoothjazz View Post
    One thing I would add-very important- that I have learned by making too many mistakes over the years: whenever possible, always try to rent an item first to test it out.
    I don't know how many times I was sure that a piece of gear had to be perfect, after researching extensively, and had found thee was just one thing that was 'off' or did not quite feel right.
    One example is a Leica rangefinder M9; I have always loved the Leica mystique. Soon after purchasing I came to realize that using a rangefinder to focus was never going to be comfortable; and had to sell it right away. I should of rented one first!!
    I am privileged to change myself to the need of the camera operation and not the other way. That's part of the fun for a hobbyist.
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Quote Originally Posted by darr View Post
    I purchase new-to-me gear for specific purposes. ...
    What I enjoy is simplicity in design; gear that allows me to work the craft gets extra points.
    Darr and I think similarly, although the Fuji gear doesn't really suit me for various reasons. While I've bounced around with a lot of different gear during the come up of digital cameras, prior to that I'd hardly buy anything for years at a time. That's all cooling down now, I have a baseline of gear in film and digital that works well so I only buy gear now when I am looking for a specific thing that my existing gear cannot do well or sensibly.

    I do like to play with various niche things however. And sometimes the most awkward gear to use ends up returning the pain with something special as a result. So whenever I get something new, I give it time and patience. Some times, a new thing takes not only my time and effort, but just some time for other things that it depends on to change a little bit. Example: My SuperSense 6/66 Instant Pinhole camera was like that. Now it's a favorite, but when I first received it, it was all but unusable due to the vagaries of the film.

    Patience and time to learn, simple operation, and the ability to work the equipment flexibly mean more to me than scads of features. I avoid camera equipment that is too complicated or too full of features that I will never use. A good lens, an accurate shutter, something that fits well in my hands and/or on my tripod and copy stand, something I can control every aspect of... this is my favorite equipment.

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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    To buy cameras and lenses is not only a logical and evaluated process - its very emotional. Furthermore expensive cameras are "big boy toy"
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    For me I think the main thing is it needs to feel good in my hands, and the control layouts need to make both physical and logical sense to me. An example is I enjoy the simple Leica M as well as almost any Nikon or Canon, but for whatever reason, the little Sony mirrorless' all seem too small and cramped. Next is all about IQ, and I will put up with just about configuration to get the optimal capture. Back in the day I used a scanning back on a view camera with a laptop computer tethered -- talk about awkward usability. Today that would be much easier with a Phase 100-150MP back on a tech cam or perhaps a Fuji 100 with adapting some of the better TS lenses and/or the Actus... My dream device? A 3"x4" ~150 MP single capture back in 4x5 film-holder format -- and I'd be okay with a jpeg review spit out to my phone
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    It used to be easy, depending on subject you get the available/affordable. Ease of use, best results, time saving in set up and use, lest prone to repairs, widely available and recognized by any assistant worldwide for easy trouble shooting. For 4x5, get a Sinar P2, for medium format, either a Hasselblad or a Mamiya 6, for the square weirdness (prior to Instagram), wanna print on a page, with people in the frame, anything 6x7 that fits your style, on a budget, a 645 is great, my choice, always Mamiya for price and capability. With digital the whole game changed, ow itís best tonal transitions, MF, either Phase 1 or Hasselblad, 35mm, Nikon or Canon, with Nikon having the edge for most of the time. Once silent shooting became necessary for my clients, I wanted full frame and Sony delivered. All have their issues, none are perfect, all are different.
    If I would be forced to downsize, I think the last to leave me would be the Nikon D850, like a well worn Swiss Army knife, i know thatíll get me through all/most Iím doing (and itís my least used body today).
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    Re: Your personal process of evaluating new gear

    Personally, I am not a gear changer, although I have went trough a lot of gear.

    Why, I would change gear?

    Features needed:

    In this category I would mention magnified live view for focusing, tilt and shift options or fisheye lenses.

    • The need for live view was the cause for me to buy three generation of Sony cameras, which I would have skipped if not for live view.
    • Tilt & Shift stuff made me switch from Sony A-mount to Sony A7RII.



    Perceived need of improved image quality:

    • This was the main reason I have upgraded from APS-C to full frame in 2008. As far as I can tell, there is advantage to the larger format.
    • I have some interest in getting small and high quality primes in addition to zooms.



    Curiosity:

    Curiosity was the main reason for buying into MFD back in 2013. The minor reason was to use MFD back on a technical camera.

    Convenience:

    • Convenience was the major reason I replaced my prime telephotos with a long zoom.
    • I needed a telephoto zoom and carrying the 400 prime in addition to an 80-200 zoom started to make little sense, especially on flight.
    • Carbon fibre tripods and Arca Swiss 4D geared head are examples of that. Now days, I find it very inconvenient to work with a non geared head.



    Other:

    I prioritize travel over new gear.

    Does gear improve my photography?

    • I was mostly happy with my gear.
    • My first full frame camera I bought in 2008 brought some gains in image quality.
    • The cameras with live view made me confident in achieving near optimal focus.
    • Adding the A7rII (with an A7II as a backup) allowed T&S work.
    • A HCam Master TS II was later added to allow T&S work with different lenses.
    • I bought a couple of Yashica/Contax era zooms for tilt use on the HCam Master TSII, that allows a great variety of tilt options.


    Future plans
    • Adding three small high quality primes, for image quality.
    • Replacing long zoom with a better long zoom.
    • Replacing A7rII with an A7rV in two years.
    • I may consider buying the Hasselblad VFC 50CII back if it becomes available at an acceptable price. That would allow the use of my Hasselblad lenses on the Flexbody with live view. Downside is crop factor.



    Best regards
    Erik
    Last edited by ErikKaffehr; 4 Weeks Ago at 03:34.

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