No One Can Review the Future

With a number of recent product announcements from major companies, I noticed that I was getting emails asking “where is your review of [not_yet_shipping_product]?”

That prompted me to look around at the photography fora a little more carefully. Sure enough, it’s easy to find “where can I find a review of [not_yet_shipping_product]?” 

It seems that a lot of folk are in a hurry to buy something they can’t buy yet. Or perhaps they were about to buy something and the new product now has them in FUD mode. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) 

Meanwhile, Nikon has been pouring on the marketing for a product they can’t deliver (at least not to anyone that hasn’t already ordered a Z9).  

Buying in the photography market has turned irrational, in my judgment. There’s one group that wants The Next Best Thing, another group that buys Better Than They Need, and yet more folk that get flamed into purchase by Influencers. That’s just the start of the list. 

People still haven’t caught on that I have two sets of gear: gear that I use for professional work (sports, wildlife, some nature/wildlife, events), and gear that I use for enjoyment and casual use. In that latter category I need more than my iPhone, since sometimes carrying a camera around all the time results in photos I show others at full size, but I don’t need a D6 or Z9 or A1 or R3 or whatever the latest and greatest is. 

Practically speaking, virtually every interchangeable lens camera on the market has enough dynamic range for the vast majority of situations you’ll encounter, has enough pixels for output to a maximum desktop inkjet printer size (e.g. ~13x19”), and enough performance to capture just about any situation, whether static or moving. As much as I deplore “automatic” settings, left on all-automatic defaults, virtually all of those cameras also produce reasonable results these days. 

I’ve written it before, but it bears occasional repeating: your use and control of your camera is probably more important to the results than the camera and lens itself. I recently was showing someone an image at full size and they oohed over it and immediately asked “what new camera was that taken with?” Uh, Nikon D100, 17 years ago. 

Image impact starts with (1) where you’re at and what you’re pointed at, and then is further enhanced by (2) how you reacted and controlled the camera. Would I be using a Z7 II at that same spot if I had it 17 years ago? No doubt. A better tool helps me with #2, while more sampling is always better, and a Z7 II samples better in several ways than the D100 did. 

But here’s the kicker: I’ve been to that same spot where I took that image 17 years ago many times, but with better equipment. I haven’t gotten a better photo (yet). That’s because photographic opportunities don’t exactly repeat themselves. Subjects change, light changes, virtually everything in the scene changes in some way. Even my response to the scene might change if I’ve been there too often (one reason why I love walking through cities I haven’t been to before when traveling). If you’re trying to figure out your new-fangled, fancy-pants camera, you might miss the actual image you should have taken. Familiarity with your existing equipment is more important at capturing a moment in time.

We’re entering the holiday buying season, so I have some advice. Yes, there’s better gear available out there you can buy. But if you’re constantly upgrading your gear, are you also constantly upgrading yourself? The two really need to go hand in hand. 

So, as we all start to find our way in a COVID-19 endemic world and things return to (a new) normal, consider what you’re doing about upgrading yourself. Photo workshops are starting to transition from Zoom to Real World again. Careful travel opportunities are available. Events you might have been photographing are starting to return (though you may need Mask Recognition in your next camera ;~). You’re probably a bit rusty with your skills. I know I am, even though I’ve been doing some side practice at the local zoo and wildlands. 

So when the camera or lens you lust after isn’t available this holiday because of supply chain issues, consider going a different direction and making this a year to upgrade yourself.


Self-serving promotion: I have one opening for one of my 2022 workshops in Africa. My goal is always to have students who finish the trip as far better photographers than they were. This year’s trips are being run with a 9:2 student-to-teacher ratio, meaning you’ll get lots of attention.

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