The cover image courtesy of Jonas Rask.
As a moderator of a few groups and engaged in many others, one subject, gear-related of course, always triggers violent reactions. That’s nothing new in this industry, but I have to admit that the logic cited in this particular case is dangerously absent.
You can probably guess which company I’m talking about. Yes, it’s Leica. Go to any non-Leica forum and mention the name and an avalanche of angry, offended and fired-up experts will descend on you ready for the fight that’s about to ensue. The trigger is always the same. Let me give you just a few examples. “Leica is stupid to charge so much,” “only naïve people buy their crap,” “only an idiot would buy their cameras”—you get the idea—and these are only the more civil comments.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with someone not liking their cameras or even thinking that the cameras are expensive. However, suggesting that “Leica is stupid” and attacking the brand and photographers who use it just on the basis of price is not only illogical but to use the favourite word of the critics, it is plainly “stupid.”
I will try to be precise here.
The fact that any company could make their products sought after by so many great photographers and could charge for those products, in some cases, double what the competition charges AND actually sell them is pure genius! Let me repeat the point. In the industry, which is clearly in trouble and running itself into the ground from external pressure (iPhone) and never-ending price wars, being able to produce cameras and lenses and charge more for them is something that should be applauded, not condemned.
Of course, you are free to dislike their cameras but there is a difference between arguing about the merit of the cameras, for example in terms of a sensor or shooting experience and going after the company because you can’t afford their products. The envy and nastiness are so apparent in some posts that it sometimes reaches epic proportions. I have seen someone criticizing an image because “it was shot with a Leica.”
This behaviour is connected to the prevailing mentality of “cheap.” Many photographers do not realize that in going after Leica’s pricing (or any premium pricing) they are shooting themselves in the foot. The same mentality of lower price quickly catches up to them when they meet clients and hear that “John across the street” could do the same work for me for half the price (feel free to apply this logic to your own profession). Hypocrisy! It’s not uncommon nowadays! The outrage is real.
Another observation: Even though we claim we are all for seeing and imagery and the gear doesn’t matter, it’s a big lie. Any post about gear will attract an army of commentators. Try to do the same with composition. No, thank you very much. Does it surprise me? Of course not. The photographic world is overwhelmingly a technical crowd which doesn’t give a damn about imagery. Most photographers are in it for the thrill of the gear, even though many of us don’t want to admit it. Don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with admiring gear and being in photography for the sake of it (actually it could be quite fun sometimes). However, running around with the “CAMERA DOESN’T MATTER” T-shirt and spending days arguing about gear is perplexing to say the least.
I get it. For many people the aesthetics of a camera have no value. For many Leica buyers it does matter. I am not a Leica shooter, but it matters to me. I personally like beautiful cameras and yes, I am willing to pay more for beautifully designed and crafted products. At the same time, I respect people who say, “It doesn’t matter to me, it’s just a tool.” I absolutely understand but…if you are going to call me “stupid” because I like the design of camera (among other things) you clearly have some serious, non-photography-related issues. I hope that more companies come up with premium products and beautifully designed cameras that focus on photography rather than the never-ending specification lists. I understand that most likely I won’t be able to afford them but that’s fine (my friend once told me a very good line, “it is not expensive Olaf, it is just YOU who cannot afford it”). I am happy for those who can. After all, there are plenty of gear choices out there.
Last but not least, the recent trend to go after successful companies (and photographers) that are able to charge more and become profitable in this brutal industry is strange and worrisome. If camera manufacturers charged more, their employees would be better off, there would be more money to hire photographers, to invest more into new products…it would change the entire equation and eventually help YOU as well. The alternative, well…you can figure this out, just take a look around.
Paraphrasing James Carville, Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign director’s famous quip, “It’s Leica, stupid!”
P.S. I have no connection to Leica or its partners.
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