As a photographer, wishing for the departure or death of a camera company is like a musician getting excited to have one less guitar to choose from. In many ways, it is the most self-destructive thing that one can hope for their art.
When I first read a recent industry piece calling for Nikon to quit the camera game, I was angered and confused—I even had a midday beer to see if I could sort out what I was thinking.
Having served as an ambassador for both Nikon and Hasselblad, I have been fortunate enough to peek behind the industry curtain a bit and see its inner workings. While I am completely confident that none of the big three (Canon, Nikon, or Sony) are going away any time soon, I feel that we might be worried about the wrong threat to our industry.
In the past, I have voiced concern about the entrenchment that’s formed around specific brand loyalties, and even our approach to each other as “better” or “worse” based on the manufacturer that we keep in our camera bags.
Truth be told, I have been guilty of bias against Sony based on some early marketing language they used to describe the a7R IV. Having used that camera on set I can say that it was a decent shooter, and while not my style, there are many photographers that can make incredible work with it. In this situation, I was lucky enough to actually try it and discover that I wrote it off too early and limited my arsenal due to pride.
This kind of approach is all-too-common in our industry, and I hope that a little perspective change can help bring us together so we stop choking our art with arrogance.
Here’s the thing: photography is just as much about finding the right tool to create as it is about finding what to create with the tool.
I have been fortunate to shoot a personal series of trains over the past year, first by choice and now a bit by obligation due to the pandemic. During this time I tried hard to see what I could get out of each camera, rather than worry about their so-called limitations. What I began to find is an appreciation not just for each platform, but for the ideology that went into it and how it synchronized best with my style.
From Nikon to Canon to Sony, I would walk out to the train track each day (legally and taking all proper safety precautions) with one of the bodies I had to see what I could create.
Not once did I ever go out with the intention to see how badly I could punish the camera, or to derive a list of what it couldn’t do. Trying to learn about any system by making a long list of its drawbacks is the perfect formula for limiting what you want to see out of the images it makes.
For photographers, this is actually a very special time to be alive. We have platforms from all the main camera makers that are extremely capable of creating great work. Just because you have a Nikon and the other guy has a Canon doesn’t mean you are a better or worse photographer. What it means is that, when you are done shooting, you should buy them a drink, learn what they like about their system, and form an idea of how you could make it apply to your art.
I believe that our community owes it to itself to be kind and honest about our gear and the industry as a whole. Calls for camera companies to leave photography are not only short sighted, they drag us all down.
Having spent a lot of time talking with many companies, I can say that we have so much great gear now (and in our futures) that speculation over companies folding is completely unfounded. If anything, now that everyone has found their footing in the mirrorless sector we are going to see possibilities and features that we have never had before—the creative opportunities will only be limited by our imaginations.
Nikon, Canon and Sony should all be sincerely proud of elevating the level to which we can climb as photographers, and we as a community should be proud of how we have helped them push those boundaries. However, photographers need to take this one step further by (whenever possible) picking up cameras they don’t normally shoot with and seeing how they are inspired to create.
Don’t limit your world by being part of a single camera forum online, be a part of many where you can see other people’s creations and share your own. You might find a newfound respect for how others can make a particular camera or lens sing.
There’s nothing wrong with being proud of the camera you use, as long as you don’t let it become your identity. We have been through a lot this year, we owe it to ourselves and to our community to bring back civility and respect for each other.