A Guide for Navigating the Halls of the Photographically Insane Ward


Not knowing what you really don’t know is the hallmark symptom of the “photographically insane ward patient“.  Two threads from the infamous DPReview help to illustrate what I mean:

If you spend enough time in this forum you begin to realize that a disturbingly large number of its participants are clearly what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) would define as suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In short they are the Monks of the photographic world. Wikipedia describes the plot of this television show as follows:

Adrian Monk was a brilliant detective for the San Francisco Police Department until his wife, Trudy, was killed by a car bomb in a parking garage, which Monk then believed was intended for him. He later believes that Trudy’s death was part of a larger conspiracy that she had uncovered during her time as a journalist. Trudy’s death led Monk to suffer a nervous breakdown. He was discharged from the force and became a recluse, refusing to leave his house for over three years. Trudy’s death was the only case that Monk did not solve until the final episode.

He is finally able to leave the house with the help of his nurseSharona Fleming (Bitty Schram). The breakthrough allows him to work as a private detective and a consultant for the homicide unit despite limitations rooted in his obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), which had grown significantly worse after the tragedy.

Monk’s compulsive habits are numerous, and a number of phobias compound his situation, such as his fear of germs. Monk has 312 fears, some of which are milk, ladybugs, harmonicas, heights, imperfection, and risk. He however had a breakthrough from claustrophobia later in the series. The OCD and plethora of phobias inevitably lead to very awkward situations and cause problems for Monk and anyone around him as he investigates cases. These same personal struggles, particularly the OCD, are what aid him in solving cases, such as his sharp memory, specific mindset, and attention to detail. In one episode entitled “Mr. Monk and His Biggest Fan”, Marci Maven (Sarah Silverman) has compiled a list of all of Adrian’s fears. On another episode, he tries to conquer his fears by doing various activities which involved his phobias. For example, he tries drinking milk, climbing a ladder, and putting a ladybug on his hand, but when things are scattered unorganized across a table, he cannot resist the compulsion to arrange them neatly.

These are photographers who spend their time and money trying to find a camera that will “suit their needs”. You would think having read this phrase over-and-over that as professional photographers these individuals are disappointed at trying to use a tool in their daily business which is now failing because they are unable to provide their clients with the images they desire. But a scant few of us having any kind of commercial involvement in photography. I would guess that a fair number are simply “enthusiasts” who having spent far more money on their hobby than they can comfortably afford are feeling the pinch of having eyes bigger than their stomachs where cameras and lenses are concerned.

The ongoing tragedy is that they are emotionally stricken to the point of being unable to enjoy their photographic passion until they can sell the camera they currently own to purchase another one (usually even more expensive than the one they want to sell) and are willing to do so at a loss. All of this while trying to justify to themselves the dying need they have to capture pictures of their children, cats, garden flowers and birds down by the neighborhood lake.

A camera like the Nikon D800 costs nearly $3,000 for just the body. You then have to turn around an purchase one or more lenses to round out the purchase. Now the D800 is a second tier camera in the Nikon camera pantheon. The new flagship Nikon D4 is even more difficult to justify when you are an amateur.

When Is Enough Good Enough?

To answer that question you have to consider the following scenario. A fellow decides that he is aging and his family is growing. He lives in a not so great neighborhood or perhaps even a very nice one but worries that someone is going to attack the family while they sleep in the night. He weighs his options:

  • Should he buy a burglar alarm system?
  • Should he and his oldest son take self-defense classes?
  • Should he and his wife along with both of their oldest children take self-defense classes?
  • Should he simply buy a gun and he and his wife and oldest child all get firearms training?

He settles on the last option to buy a gun. After all he wants to protect his family and even if the wife and kids know self-defense that might be useless against someone who is armed with a pistol. So he spends a few days talking with his friends who own guns. They give him the names of brands and models that he should consider. The array of features is amazing to him, in fact so much so that he ends up not being able to “pull the trigger” in purchasing a single model. He has decided that the model he wants is the most expensive one he has seen. It is heavy and very long and requires ammunition that is suitable for kills at 100 yards or more (depending on your aim).

But he soon realizes that it is too heavy for his wife to use and only his oldest son can control the recoil. Yet he is concerned that he buy the very best weapon possible and stews about this for days and weeks on end. Unfortunately, just when he is about to pick a weapon he is robbed in his home at gun point and loses some very valuable assets. So where did he go wrong? He could not isolate the level of need that would serve him best.

You really don’t need a Desert Eagle for home defense. And of course any responsible gun owner with kids in the home would not want to keep a loaded weapon lying around. That of course means that if you are surprised by an intruder you might not be able to reach your weapon in its gun safe and load it before having to turn and face your assailant. So perhaps a few well placed baseball bats throughout the home (in addition to your weapon) might be the best solution. And since you or your wife might be called upon to use the weapon why not purchase a Glock? That way both of you can use it and you might be able to purchase two for the price you would have paid for a single Desert Eagle.

Getting A Camera That Suits Your Needs

My parents and grandparents all lived their entire lives using snapshot cameras to capture family events. My first camera was a Brownie Hawkeye. Not a fancy camera but at the end of the day when you are suffering from failing eyesight you really want images that you can see and still be able to send your children to college. A Nikon D4 is for many families overkill. A Nikon 1 V1 or Nikon 1 J1 is much more reasonable in terms of costs. But even then a Nikon Coolpix S9300 would be an even more reasonable purchase.

If you also know yourself well enough to realize that you are going to drool with the next release of a camera, then perhaps wringing your hands over the choice of the “perfect camera” is only going to result in disappointment. You might be much better off buying a nice point-and-shoot camera and getting all those family images you desire and then after the young ones have been walked down the aisle and settled into their new lives you can then spend your empty nester years with a nicer camera that won’t require you raiding the family nest egg. Just a thought.

Being Realistic About Images

The first thing that strikes you about this gadget lunacy rampant on the DPReview Nikon 1 Talk forum is that for all the blather about image quality not a single 35mm DSLR can hold a candle to the Hasselblad H4D-50. Of course when you realize that the darned thing comes it at a little of $31,000 with tax and a lens you realize why the photographically insane are sometimes just bluffing about their quest for image quality (IQ). What they are really attempting to do is formulate a justification to their spouse for “having to buy” a Nikon D800 when they clearly realize that it is more camera than they could ever hope to use effectively.

So when someone brings up the subject of a Nikon 1 V1 the objections come out in force:

  • The sensor is too small
  • The low light performance is too “noisy” (i.e. grainy for those of us who remember film cameras)
  • There are not enough really fast lenses yet
  • The colors are not vibrant enough
  • The colors are not “true” enough to match the actual hues of the subject
  • The flash is a toy because it isn’t as powerful as the one that is on the top shelf in the store and fits on the Nikon D4
  • The neckstrap is not wide enough
  • The only really nice hand grip for the camera is an add-on purchase
  • There aren’t enough buttons for that kind of shooting that calls for lots of buttons (whatever the heck that is)
  • There aren’t enough really long lenses for the camera
  • You really need a much wider lens at the short end
  • I just can’t deal with not having more single focal length lenses (i.e. primes)
  • The sensor is too small (yet again with this complaint)

And strangely enough when these naysayers begin to chirp and you decide to go and look at the images they have made you often find that nary an image is available for perusal. Its as if they are “all hat and no cattle”. But fortunately along comes a photographer or two (some of whom are among the loudest complainers) who actually sets about using the camera and perhaps surprises themselves and others at the level of quality of the images.

I am on a mission to make certain that we “enthusiasts” squarely face the nonsensical nature of the discourse on the forum. We are like the fellow who whines to a legless soldier wounded in battle lying in a bed in the local VA hospital about how much he wanted a pair of Air Jordans and instead his parents bought his a less expensive pair of shoes. And he complains to that they don’t really fit his as well as he know the Jordans would have. And besides the color is all wrong. He really wanted that red and black color scheme and these are green or whatever.

We need to grow up and get real. There are not enough good images in my fingertips to warrant a $3,000 camera body when I will not be using that camera to earn my living. No wonder our children have unreasonable expectations regarding what life “owes” them.