What Photographers Want

Photograph/Gabriel Fuchs

Photograph/Raj Lalwani

The movie “What Women Want”, makes it seem that women want a telepathic Mel Gibson (and since making that movie, Mel has merely gone psychopathic). If I would make a movie titled “What Photographers Want”, what would that be about? Well, it would be quite different from what women want – unless they are women with cameras.

So, what do photographers want? Mel Gibson? Probably not. It shall be difficult to carry him around and to focus clearly. Do photographers want sex, drugs & rock’n’roll? Well, who doesn’t? So these things shall not distinguish photographers from anyone else. And photographers do want to distinguish themselves, right? If not, what’s the point?

Today, professional cameras have become synonymous with big cameras and professional lenses are big lenses. Some would say that Leica is still a relatively small camera with pro-performance, but few professional photographers use Leica except perhaps as a side-kick.

But do photographers want big cameras? No–except for some photographers who feel a need to carry around a big camera simply to compensate for something else that is small. How can I be so sure about this? Well, look at the new Fujifilm X100, a small camera with image quality comparable to bigger system cameras. The hysteria around this camera is just… hysterical. And it is small and discreet.

Furthermore, the Fujifilm X100 looks like a camera should (i.e., a Leica M3 from the 1950’s) and it works too (unlike Mel Gibson). Concerning the looks of the X100, the new thing about this camera is that it looks old. And it behaves like an old camera, with traditional analogue control dials. Now that is really new!

It is also, evidently, what many photographers want. Together with the usual sex, drugs & rock’n’roll. Preferably not photographed though. Not even with the X100.

Do photographers want anything more than a new camera that looks like an old one? But of course they want more! Whoever said that photographers are easy to satisfy? Photographers also want precision, which means higher ISO performance together with image stabilization. And then, in the general quest for the good old days, many photographers want their photos to look like they were taken 50 years ago, with some grain to the image. Even some real blur has become fashionable in photos today. So what’s the point then with high ISO performance and image stabilization? Why this inconsistence? Go figure.

Of course there are photographers who wholly depend on modern equipment, like, e.g., sports photographers. But I have yet to hear someone who likes lugging around all that heavy equipment (i.e. camera equipment).

Sure, new cameras do offer more possibilities and, hence, more complexities. And maybe that is what many want to avoid. Most everything goes from simple to complex and then back to simple, whether it is a cell phone interface, computer interface, or philosophy. So why not the same with cameras? No matter how complex we may be, simplicity is nice. And if it looks good, so much the better. Why it took the camera industry so many years to figure this one out, with the possible exception of Leica, is a really complex thing to figure out.

However, with the new Fujifilm X100, I have to say that photography is fun on a new but oldish level – as complex as this may sound. Of course, some may say that old cameras have been around long enough that they seem dead and long forgotten, and that the X100 is simply reviving something that was never truly dead to begin with. After all, it is easier to revive something that is not dead. Only the gods truly revive the dead. And I don’t think I would call a camera maker a god. But what does it really matter? The important thing is to realize that what is truly proven is usually welcome back.

Is there anything else photographers want? Well, they are a difficult breed to please, so I would say yes. They probably also want everything else that goes with photography, preferably as long as it seems simple. And most of all, photographers do not want to be grouped together and having their photographic behavior generalized. They are far too complex for such simplicity.

So, what would my movie “What Photographers Want” look like? Well, it would all be about nostalgia, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, Fuji X100, and a psychopathic Mel Gibson. All told in a simple way. Who’s not gonna like a movie like that?

Gabriel Fuchs is a Swiss-based IT and management consultant, as well as a keen hobby photographer. Gabriel is also a proficient writer of more or less serious industry articles, both on IT and photography. 

Tags: November 2011, better photography, Gabriel Fuchs, What Photographers Want?