Sunday, December 31, 2006

For hardcore camera nerds only (really)

It's a sad fact of human nature that many people, possibly most people, derive a perverse sort of pleasure ogling things they can never reasonably expect to afford. Car buffs get off on torturing themselves by flipping through motoring magazines or attending trade shows and lusting after Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Camera nerds do exactly the same thing, more often than not with Leicas.

The fact that Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Leicas offer astonishingly poor value for money; costing ten times as much, yet delivering only a marginal improvement in performance, whilst being right buggers to use, in comparison with less exclusive products doesn't matter a jot. People are drawn to conspicuous consumption, and the notion that they can assert their individuality by spunking huge wads of cash, like lemmings are drawn to cliffs.

Well, Disney Lemmings anyway

And Leica has just brought out its new, top of the line, M8 digital rangefinder camera

The most entertaining user review of the Leica M8 that I have read to date can be found here -

The article really takes off about halfway down when the reviewer compares two pictures taken of the same heavily moustachioed man, one taken with the new Leica and one without, and discovers that the Leica has the magical property of rendering clothes made from man-made fabrics as various shades of purple, regardless of whether they actually are purple or not.

Well, that's saved me five large...

Leica M8 Body = £3,012.69
Leica SUMMILUX-M f/1.4/35mm Lens = £2,069
Bizarre colour casts in pictures of people in shellsuits and cheap business shirts = priceless

Not that a camera which makes people dressed in nylon appear to be bright purple doesn't have its attractions. It does but they are rather specialist,

And for any photo nerds out there who read and trust on-line camera reviews and forums posts, the peculiarly specialist, frequently obscure and occasionally pornographic photopoo site includes a tortuously detailed, and rather damning, account of how all the major on-line photographic sites managed to post gushing reviews of the M8 whilst somehow failing to notice the purple nasty thing, or the orange blob thing, or the fuzzy image quality thing, or the pisspoor build quality thing.

I've also just discovered that Google returns no results with the following word sequences:

Leica bollocks
Purple Leica bollocks
Over-priced purple Leica bollocks

An omission which I trust the busy little Google searchbots will rectify shortly

Aside from all this specialist photographic geekiness, the Leica M8 thing has also served to further reinforce a few hang-ups I nurture about people and the zany things they do

  • People are capable of astonishing levels of dissonance, especially when they have a lot invested in something, no matter how flawed it may be. What else can you say about someone who tests a £3,000 camera body, discovers that all the pictures come out the same colour as a Jimi Hendrix album cover and concludes, as this review does near the bottom, that 'this makes for an incredible black and white camera ... when shot with an M8 and converted to Black and White appropriately this can add a tonal depth and richness to an image which is quite remarkable'. Remarkable indeed
  • If reviews and forum posts in supposedly impartial sites are polluted with shills boosting iffy cameras, and they are, why should anyone think that producers of other goods, or services, or news stories, especially news stories, behave any differently? I don't


Obviously, generalisations about the essential unreliability of on-line photographic sites and forums could not possibly apply to the mighty Ken Rockwell's photography site. Ken's opinionated ravings and equipment reviews, his psychedelic take on what constitutes an acceptable degree of colour saturation, and his new found taste for posing his new born child with expensive optical equipment are a genuine and constant source of pleasure for me. The man is a Legend.


Daniel said...

'appy New Year!

Ken Rockwell looks like a really useful site. I've been thinking about getting a more efficient camera for the forthcoming year.

Heather Flanagan said...

Your mention of "conspicious consumption" caught my eye as I am getting more and more concerned about the effects it is having on our planet. But I won't write my whole rant here. Why read the book when you can see the movie...