Okay – I’ve sort of had it. For decades, the Nikon v. Canon debate has raged. At times, other contenders’ owners have also weighed in on brand wars. Questions like, “Why don’t you guys cover my brand of camera?” occasionally extend the brand wars to include Pentax, Panasonic, Sony and others. Why Aperture over Lightroom? Etc., etc., etc.
But why? I’ve spent all these years cataloging what I think are the reasons for the brand wars, and I’ll share those below. But man this is weird to me. Photographers get very passionate about their camera brand! When you think about it, it’s downright silly. It’s a CAMERA people. It’s not a family crest.
This has only been made worse by the Internet. 20 years ago, when there were no blogs (and no anonymous blog comments made by people who are 13 feet tall as long as they’re standing behind a computer, hiding in their mom’s basement,) these discussions over the brand wars took place mostly in person. People would meet at camera clubs to defend their brands. Nobody called names mind you, because with your opponent a few feet from you, there could be consequences.
Online, where people can be as brave as they want to be because they don’t have to face their neighbor, name calling is the least of it. When I switched from Canon to Nikon earlier this year, I received death threats! Yep you read that right. Death threats – plural! I’ll pause a minute to let the absurdity of that moment sink in.
Sorry to digress but I just have to marvel at this sometimes. Back to my question . . . Why? What’s the deal? This isn’t something really important like the Iraq war or Darfur. This is photography. It’s supposed to be fun.
Well I think I know the answer. And in my usual blunt style, I am going to give my opinion on this subject with the hope – although not much hope mind you – but with the slightest amount of hope that some of the brand warriors will sit back and look at this and say, “You know what? He’s right! This is silly.”
So here it is. Brand loyalty of the extreme kind we see in photography is often motivated almost exclusively by fear.
Let me say that again. Fear or something related, is the most prevalent reason for extreme brand partisanship.
When I posted my review on the Panasonic LX3, folks who bought (or wanted) a Canon G10, went out and searched for negative LX3 reviews to send me. They felt compelled to show me I was wrong. “Well THAT guy says THIS about the LX3!”
When we awarded TWIPPHOTO Camera of the Year status to the D700, we received dozens of anonymous comments (which I didn’t allow through since that violates our stated policy) that said “You guys are all Nikon shooters so of course you pick the Nikon!”
Sorry, half and half folks. Alex, Aaron, Ron shoot Canon. Scott, Steve, Fred shoot Nikon. Care to try again?
When I made it known that I strongly prefer Aperture over Lightroom, again I was beset by dozens of comments from people sending me a list of well-known photographers who prefer Lightroom. As if seeing that another photographer likes something else would cause me to switch???
Fear and anxiety are at work here. People are anxious that they might have made the wrong choice! Or it could be simple insecurity that some other photographer might have a better camera or piece of software. Other fear motivators… Some people think having the wrong tool might mean they can’t make the best pictures. And let’s not forget our old friend, buyer’s remorse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received e-mail from someone who tells me what camera they bought only because they want me to tell them it was okay.
Breaking this down further, I have identified several aspects of brand combat that are directly tied to fear.
1. Fear of the Unknown
This one is pervasive. “What if that camera is better than mine? Will my pictures still look good?”
2. Fear of Disapproval, Failure or Rejection
“What if the people on the photowalk have a better camera than I do? Will they think I am a loser?”
3. Fear of Loss (losing what you have)
“What if my position as winner of my camera club photo contest winner is threatened because my buddy bought a better camera?”
4. Fear of Facing Reality (this one hurts)
“What happens if I buy that expensive new camera and my photos still don’t look the way I want them to?”
So you should get my point by now. MOST (not all) of the time, the camera brand wars start because people are afraid. And it’s a waste of time and energy.
There is something we can all do about this. Actually there are several things we can do.
a. Realize that it’s the photographer’s eye and craft that make a picture special. The camera is to this situation what a carpenter’s hammer is to a nail. Nothing more.
b. Realize that what kind of camera you use has nothing to do with what kind of person you are.
c. Own your own opinions. Have the self-confidence to realize that your decisions aren’t made better or worse by someone else’s decisions.
d. Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t engage in camera brand wars. Simply refuse to participate. Talk about the techniques, composition, quality of light, location or some other aspect of your images rather than your camera brand.
Yes. I do have tools I prefer over others. Yes I do currently prefer the Nikon D3 and Aperture to the Canon 1D MK III and Lightroom. But here’s the deal. In almost every situation that I encounter where there’s a photograph to be made, I could make it with the Canon or the Sony or the Pentax or the whatever. I just PREFER to make it with the Nikon. If Canon makes a camera that’s better suited for my needs, I’ll switch again. It’s no big deal. It’s just a camera – not a religion.
It’s okay to have tools you prefer. It’s not okay to bash some other photographer over the head because they have different tools they prefer.
Relax. This is photography and it’s supposed to be fun. Don’t be afraid. Go take pictures with ANY camera. Focus on the images, not the gear. You’ll be better for it.