Creative: Just Say No

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There is much talk of the power and evil of artificial intelligence, and for the potential of a Skynet-like takeover of humanity. I for one am looking forward to it. Just think, no more jobs, no more taxes, unless you consider having your body milked for fluids a tax of some sort. Whatever. I’m an expert on all this, just like I’m an expert on all things photography, cycling, hook kicking, puking, and Leica.

Sometimes you have to say “No.” And sometimes, those “No’s” are more important than the “Yes.” I learned this the hard way after leaving Kodak Professional in 1999 and returning to photography full-time. Just as I reentered the photography zoo, a friend pulled me aside and told me this very thing. Call it a warning because that is precisely what it was and what it is, still to this day. When you know something isn’t right, or you even have the slightest hint of an assignment going sideways you gotta bail and bail early. When you don’t, take it from me, you will regret it. I ended up in a two-year “situation” after booking a job with someone I didn’t trust. The money was good and it clouded my judgement.

Earlier today I wrote this snarky YouTube comment on my community page. The comment was about how Leica is putting the Q3 samples in the hands of a lot of influencers but NOT in the hands of many actual, working photographers. The problem with this, at least for me, is that the full time reviewers don’t offer me any relevant information. The Q is a VERY simple camera, with simple menus. I don’t need anyone to walk me through file size or how to toggle from stills to video. What I need to know is very simple.


Think reality based, long-form projects based around fellow humans. That is how I would use this camera even though that style work is more and more difficult for me to find the time to do. (It’s the work I still think about doing while knowing it’s not that likely. A guy can dream.) How good is the finder if you wear glasses? How long is the lag? Actual battery life? Extreme heat or cold? Startup time, and real world autofocus when working quickly in all forms and intensities of light. And, how does it work over a two-week or two-month period serving as the ONLY camera. Is it reliable enough to get on a plane by itself? Not literally by itself. You know what I mean.

After I wrote the comment, many people responded including a guy who is a very successful YouTuber and someone who seems like a truly nice dude just doing his thing. He wrote, “If a camera company is going to send me a new camera for a few days, should I say no?” The way the question was written left little room to actually answer this part of the question because there were additional questions below. But I’ve had time to think about this a bit more. On the surface, the expected answer, at least what I think the expected answer might be, would have been “Of course you accept the camera.” But that’s not what I would have said. In fact, I would have asked “What is the goal?”

If using the camera is just for fun then go for it, but if using the camera is so that you can provide a review, well, then you have a decision to make, one that will be met with indifference from the brand–most likely–and one that will force you into taking a stand. If a review is the goal then you need to REALLY use the camera. This will take time. Most likely the brand will say “No, you can’t keep it that long,” but then again, maybe they won’t say that. What if you said “Look, two days isn’t really enough for me to form a useful review of this camera and capabilities.” “I need more time, so why don’t we aim for two weeks, or two-months.” “Who else is doing the long-term review?” Maybe they play along and you get to make an actual review that will prove helpful to an entirely different level of creative and not just gear geeks.

The reason I say all this? Because I realized I do this ALL THE TIME. I didn’t even remember I do this all the time until I received the comment earlier today. In the past year I’ve said “No,” to clothing brands, standup paddle board companies, bike people and tons of photography related entities saying “Hey, we will give you this, just do a review by “X” on the calendar.” Ahhh, no thanks. Furthermore, I reached out to several of these companies and said “I would consider a partnership, but we need to form an actual relationship here.” “I’ve got ideas.” I didn’t hear back from a single company. This is a GOOD thing. This means their marketing team sucks and is just fishing for more suckers. They want the same thing that everyone else is doing and I’m not interested in that.

If you think about the brands I’ve mentioned in the past year there is a pattern to follow. People know I use Fuji but I don’t do reviews. I show work. From that work you should be able to deduce what works or what doesn’t. And if something isn’t right, I’ll let you know. Personally, I think the shutter buttons on both the XH2 and XH2s are spongy. Not my favorite attribute. This is after several months of daily use on both Blurb assignments and personal projects. I can relay that with certainty because I’ve had these beauties in my hand on a near daily basis. The black on the hot shoe is worn off and the cameras have dings and bruises. The XH2 when dumping images to the SD card will sometimes lock up forcing me to take off the motor and pop the battery. When I dump to that other card, the giant, new fangled style, all is well. The elements in the 33mm f/1.4 rattle around when the lens is off the body. So much so I was convinced the lens was broken. And then it suddenly stopped doing this. Perhaps this is somehow my fault but it was a bit odd and disconcerting. Battery usage on both cameras is high. Ever hear any of these things in a review? My guess is probably not. And just for fun, there is a huge difference between an APS-C camera and a full frame, regardless of how much you want to claim it doesn’t matter. (PS: Love the Fuji kit overall, and for the price you can’t beat the size, color, menus, ergonomics and performance.)

I’ve also mentioned Beyond Clothing. But before I started mentioning this brand I wore the clothes every day for a year. Every single day, and wore the clothes through mud, snow, hail, heat, dust, camping, motorcycling, fishing, etc. The clothes look new. They literally still look like the day I got them. I’ve worn other brands during this same time period but haven’t mentioned any of them because they all fall apart. And this includes some of the most beloved outdoor brands out there. (They don’t last.)

I know I’m paddling upstream here. The ship has sailed, nobody cares, pros aren’t going to buy the Leica anyway and most consumers/prosumers talk more than shoot. Think beret, Gauloises, soft release, scarves, and that “Leica look.” (I have photos of myself in that phase.) However you want to skin the cliche. But when a new camera costs $6000 and the intention is to use it professionally, well, is it too much to ask the brand to put the kit in the hands of someone with something on the line?

And by the way, I’m NOT the guy to do it. I have zero interest in reviewing the Leica Q3. Do I want someone to give me this camera with no strings attached? Sure. That would actually be quite nice, but it also has zero chance of happening. If Leica reached out and said “Do you want this camera for a few days?” I would say “Thanks, but no thanks.” I just don’t have the time to do it justice. I’m about to leave for two weeks in Albania but I’m teaching which means my photography is far down the list of things to concentrate on. Meaning, now is NOT the time for me to use a test camera.

Watching photography brands cater to influencers isn’t fun. It’s been bad since Facebook arrived back in the day. It’s like watching celebs sells cars you damn well know they would never be caught dead in. (Those ads are now all CGI meaning the celeb is never in the car even during the making of the bogus ads.) In New York, several weeks back, I met with a very high-level photo world type who was pitching me on a potential collaboration. He asked “Do brands even realize that influencers aren’t part of our industry?” I said “Some do, some don’t.” Those that do, sure, they are the ones you want to work with and most often are the brands producing the original, unique work. The rest, well, they aren’t hurting anyone but their interface with the world leaves much to be desired.

I know several people, people I can trust, who already ordered the Q3. I will wait for their feedback. And when it comes to the Q2, I know several skilled folks who have been using this thing for years, including several people working in Ukraine. I even know one person who wore out a Q2 and bought a second. That’s a pretty good endorsement. In the grand scheme, we are talking about expensive cameras when most brands are okay with mobile phone snaps and 1080 video. After a while it all begins to feel like a Monty Python skit. (Ministry of Silly Cameras?) Oh, and does this mean I need Leica binoculars? FFS!

Comments 10

  1. Hah! I’ve got a Leica Q and Fujinon binoculars. You too can mix and match 😉
    Q3 is great, Q2 was too. Q1 as well. Think about 80% is the same. Same (awesome) lens, same leaf shutter, same IS. Different sensor and different screen. Not a massive difference. See it like XT5 vs XT4.
    Non sponsored long term user reviews will come by itself. Right now al what is there to find on YouTube are commercials by people with followings.

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      Love those Fujinon binoculars. Having said that, I got a little tour around the Swarovski booth at a recent birding event. Holy crap re those things good. I know why someone would pay for those if birding was your main thing.

  2. Yes it is frustrating. The reviews are all largely the same and rarely if ever say anything negative. I’ve used the Q and Q2M. Why not get one of the those? I’m sure either will work for you. I think the Q2 is a sublime tool that anyone would be happy with. The weather sealing and on/off button are much better than the original Q. I ultimately traded mine for an M10-P simply because using a rangefinder is more fun to me. It’s also smaller than the Q2 with the lens I’m using.

    And I read that comment on your YouTube about how an X100 is basically the same as the Q. Do these people have some magical software that makes crop sensor photos look as good? Like you said, full frame is clearly a better. I once had someone tell me that the GRIII is as good as my Q2M. Delusion and ignorance is strong.

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      Look, if the hipsters are dumb enough to fall for that X100 as the equivalent, well, then go on them. I’ve had two and can say without even owning a Q that they are apples and oranges. On one hand, glad for Fuji as they have lightning in a bottle, and I love the Fuji kit, but that X100 is all hype. (I’ve seen two or three people total that use that camera well.)

  3. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and we at Mitsubishi Uni-Ball like you just the way you are.

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  4. Yes – you need a Leica binocular! Have had my 10×42 for more than 20 years. It even went down in mud hole with me. We both survived, and it still works as new….

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    2. Well Daniel – that is also a good choice. 😉 Will look forward to see if like the Q3. I have the old Q and an M10P. Love them.

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