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Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Needmores

A leitmotif of web-based camera chat, as I'm sure you haven't failed to notice if you partake, is the not-good-enough, I-need-more, no-thanks-I'll-wait type of posting. It's understandable: there is a deep streak of terror in having to say "I've got all the equipment I need already" and going mano a mano with the work. That tends to point up the deficiencies in one's eye, ambition, and skill set, the thought of which can lead to a sort of crawly, angsty web-based jittery feeling. Easier, safer, to keep aloof.

The quintessential Needmore type is never satisfied with what's available—or even what's about to be available. Either a) it's not good enough, or b) if it's good enough, then it's not cheap enough. The implication is that it's up to the manufacturers to try even harder to pry open their wallets. (Of course, many of those wallets are home to nothing but little fluttery moths; it's easier to remain dissatisfied when you're not getting your money's worth from hypothetical money. Actual investment has a tendency to focus peoples' minds on the positives.)

For example, we're now less that a week away from the official release of the digital Leica M. It's nice that it's going to be a real M camera, as opposed to some relabeled Pacific-rim body with magic German dust sprinkled on it by "inspectors." You can thank me—I'm going to refrain from making wise-alecky comments about the Titanic amongst icebergs where the possibility for bone-jarring, dream-crushing disappointments in the final specs are concerned; for now, I'm happy to assume that Leica's not going to screw up. I'm told, however, that there is already a “When will the M9 be here?” thread on the Leica Forum. And tons of “I’m waiting for the full-frame version,” or “I’m waiting for prices to fall to $2,000,” etc. Good luck with that, fellas. As long as it's never good enough, then, Whew! You never have to worry about making that commitment.

The coolest news about the digital Leica M is that it's going to have an actual optical rangefinder. It's always been my opinion that both the classic optical-rangefinder Leica body and the classic Rollei -flex/-cord style body would be perfect for adaptation to digital. Both give intelligent methods for viewfinding and focusing without the one getting in the way of the other, and both would seem to have room for the electronics. We've seen one implementation of the former already, in the Epson RD-1. We'll see the second come Friday. Should be way fun—unless of course you already know you need more.


Featured Comment by Philip Morgan: Thanks for the first public acknowledgement I've seen of the beautiful idea of a digital TLR! I wrote an email to Rollei GmbH and somewhat predictably got no response to my championing of the idea of a digital Rollieflex. It seems to me that this body offers lots of ergonomic plusses, and todays digital bits are sufficiently miniaturized to fit handily inside (plus a really high capacity battery!).


Blogger Just Plain Hugh said...

Mostly I need more time.
- Hugh Crawford

7:55 PM  
Blogger John Roberts said...

You've nailed it again with your description of "The Needmores"! The "it's not cheap enough" group has only a few members. Most folks online seem to want to give the impresssion that budgets are for the little people, and not something they have to work under. The "it's not good enough" group is by far the most prevalent. They are all over the web, pontificating about their lofty standards and the demanding criteria that must be met before they will bless a manufacturer with a purchase. They also love to express their pity for us mere mortals who have settled for what pedestrian equipment is currently available. It's entertaining and humorous to read if you don't take their posts seriously.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Fazal Majid said...

I am waiting for the first reviews and sample photos to come out on the M8, but unless it has abysmal high-ISO performance (always a risk with Kodak sensors, indeed Kodak anything), I will certainly get one. The fallback position being a R-D1, which is excellent at ISO 800, I don't need more, I have a Noctilux.

You could say I am a needmore with respect to the R-D1, but there is no reason why it is priced so much higher in the US than in Japan, and quality control issues make gray-market imports a risky proposition.

The pricing being mooted is not that expensive when compared to that of a MP or M7. In any case, a Leica is about fewer features, but a focus (pun intended) on making those that matter to the photographer as intuitive to use as possible.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

After such a long wait I will believe the digital M (M8, MD, DM, whatever) when I actually see it (and refuse to acknowledge its coming until then).

My M7 won't be at all happy if an M8 does arrive, particularly if the M8 has a sensor comparable to that of the DMR (another rumor). But my three M lenses will be thrilled with their new opportunities.

I know that the price/performance ratio of this rumored M will likely exceed 3 but I, too, will probably bite on one.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

I meant to add a comment about the Needmores. Indeed, they can be found in every major photo camp (especially digital) and they drive me batty. More pixels, sharper lenses, higher ISO, bigger sensors, yadda, yadda, yadda. Curiously you never see them whine for more talent and skill. Come to think of it, you rarely even see any of their photos at all. I guess no camera yet meets their exacting criteria.

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think I am a needmore. I have a body (Canon 350D) and three lenses, one of which (a Sigma 30/1.4) sees well over 90% of all use. And no, I don't lust for, or plan to, buy any more stuff - my images, deficient as they are, won't improve with more things to fiddle with.

The idea of a digital rangefinder is intriguing. I've never really used a rangefinder-type camera (other than playing briefly with a few at a camera store), and I'd really like to try the idea out. I mostly do street-type photography, and from what people seem to be saying, a rangefinder camera is well suited for it.

But, a "needmore" or not, $2000+ is a large amount of money. It is pretty much all my yearly "play money" - I burn that kind of money on a camera and I'm not getting anything else non-essential that year. But I haven't ever used one, and I have no idea if a rangefinder would work for me. So there is no way, ever, that I'd spend that kind of money on it, only to find out it's not the right kind of equipment for me.

That is not being a "needmore", that is basic prudency. For the idea of a digital rangefinder, what I would need to be convinced is either a way to have one on extended loan - say a few weeks at least - without that breaking the bank; or for some manufacturer coming out with a cheap fixed-lens rangefinder, something inexpensive enough that if it turns out to be a dud you won't be having regrets along with your instant Ramen for the next year.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"But, a 'needmore' or not, $2000+ is a large amount of money. It is pretty much all my yearly 'play money...'"

I'm afraid the digital Leica M is going to be about two and a half years' worth or your play money...rumored price is on the order of $4700+.

I realize the points you're making remain unchanged....


11:21 PM  
Blogger Peter Hovmand said...

I was happy with my Nikon FM2 for 10 years. Then I got my D100, and I could feel the Needmore grow in me slowly, but firmly ... until I bought my Mamiya M645 and my Fujica GW690 medium formats - both at a bargain. And no, I don't dream of a Hasselblad H2D because I just love to handle the big, beautiful Fuji slides ...

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Rich said...

I became a needmore for a few months. After some serious self evaluation I decided it wasn't equipment I needed but inspiration. Photography books, which I previously ignored, are filling the void when I feel the need to buy... and classic SLR cameras, lenses, Neopan.

10:54 AM  
Blogger William said...

As they say here in the San Francisco bay area, "too much is not enough".

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly as I noted in a prior
note the Acquisition Syndrome
(AS) is alive and well.

As long as people want something,
or have a proven need, anything
so defined will be available
at a price be it monetary or otherwise.

Sad, eh?

Bryce Lee
Burlington, Ontario
Canada eh?

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MJ stated: "Actual investment has a tendency to focus peoples' minds on the positives."

True in cameras, true in the rest of life!

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But to be fair, up untill a few years ago, digital cameras were crap and thus the perfect source of "needmoreiness". Those who still thrive in such debates today are either very weird or have very specific needs. But those needs are unlikely to be answered, ever.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm afraid the digital Leica M is going to be about two and a half years' worth or your play money...rumored price is on the order of $4700+."

I was thinking of the Epson RD-1s, actually (which you get for about 200k yen here). Almost by definition, items with the letter sequence "l-e-i-c-a" will be out of my budget, too expensive for what I get, or both.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Joel Becker said...

I got my K100D a week ago. Today, they announce the K10D. More megapixels (13x9 is a nicer print than 10x6), and a few more settings outside the menu. I hyperventilated with Needmoreitis for a good hour.

But then I thought some more. I've been loving the crap out of the K100D. When I'm done spending my money, I'll have quality used MF primes for the major ranges, batteries, a flash, and memory cards. I'll be pretty much done with gear for a few years (unless I can convince someone to shell out for those fabulous pancake DA lenses). All for a couple of hundred more than the K10D body alone.

I think I'll be quite happy!

9:17 PM  

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