Camera Ramble: Understanding good enough can save you a lot of money.

A terrible thing happened recently. I am pretty square when it comes to my digital and film arsenals.

What gear? Does not matter.

Why is this terrible? I do not know about you, but for me half the fun of photography involved gear churn. Playing, trying, and learning new gear. I have heard mention of GAS (Gadget Acquisition Syndrome), but I do not usually fall prey to an obsession with the latest and greatest. Older and weird will do me in long before latest and greatest. Best bang for buck is a huge draw as well.

What keeps GAS at bay for me is understanding good enough. Good enough is relative. What is good enough for me may not be good enough for you or vice versa. I’ll give you an example. I love 50mm-ish lenses. One of my favorite qualities of nifty-fifties is their affordability. So when the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 showed up I was all over it. In fact it is so nice I bought it twice. Bought it used to save more. Traded because reasons. (Honestly. No idea what I was thinking.) Bought it back again from the same shop once I came to my senses. Good enough compared to what? There exists a Zeiss branded Sony 55mm f/1.8 that gets much love. I am certain the Zeiss must be a better lens. But how much better? Over $750 better? I will never find out. Why? Because this:

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and this…

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and this…

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and this…

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So that is good enough for me. According to reviews:

55mm advantages

  • Slightly longer focal length should allow for better subject isolation.
  • Better build quality.
  • Sharpness granted by Zeiss pixie dust.
  • Quieter and faster focusing.

55mm disadvantages

  • Greater cost.
  • Larger and heavier. (Admittedly not by much and some would prefer that size and heft.)

50mm advantages

  • Shorter and lighter.
  • Lower cost.
  • Great performance. Case in point while this lens is slightly noisier than more modern focus motors it is nothing that would be noticeable to most around you, and during the slower video focus transitions I cannot hear any noise at all.

50mm disadvantages

  • Does feel cheap, hollow, and plasticky in hand. (Makes no difference once on the camera. Since it is small and light you do not feel it on the camera so there is no need to hold it.)
  • Less sharp… but I have never once thought, “I wish this lens was sharper.”

Same

  • f/1.8 aperture. Isolation. Low light performance.
  • Full frame.
  • I assume the 55m can match or better this lens color wise, but I love the colors the 50mm produces.

Bottom line, Sony thank you. Like the FE 85mm f/1.8 this is no way to sell me more expensive lenses. I actually tried out the 55mm a couple of times and I walked out of the camera shop with the 50mm both times without giving it a second thought.

More specific to a lens than I planned going in, but that is what I mean when I say good enough. You can save a ton when you do not assume the most expensive option is a must. More examples on the film side:

  • Yashica Mat LM TLR saved me hundreds to thousands over a proper best of breed Rollei.
  • Olympus OM-10 did just fine and replaced my need to own a legendary OM-1.
  • Rinse, repeat.

So back to the “tragedy” of having all bases covered. No big deal really. It is a bit boring at times. I do miss going to websites and shops and you know… buying stuff. I still look, but now no matter what I find either:

  • As a byproduct of years of gear churn I know what type of camera I like and do not like so I am legitimately uninterested in trying a great many cameras I find.
  • Having found solutions for the camera genres I do enjoy using redundancy aversion keeps me from adding more like them. Having a Canonet kept me from picking up an Electro recently for example.

Sidebar: I also had to learn about the difference between liking to say you own a camera as opposed to actually using that camera. I liked saying I owned a Leica M3 (Owned so briefly I did not get around to writing a proper blog post about it or the two lenses purchased for it. A flickr gallery is all that is left.). Fantastic camera. Beautiful bit of engineering capable of creating awesome photos.

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My favorite shot using the Leica M3 is of my better half.

But after the honeymoon phase (and after I wrote a tongue in cheek comparison for KEH) was over there were other rangefinder cameras of more pedestrian pedigree that fit the bill just fine. Lovely camera. I totally get it. But was traded in the end.

So what to do? Simple. Shop less and shoot more. After all shooting is the point, correct?

Happy shooting.

-ELW