When I bought my first DSLR, it was a Canon 400D and over the next few years I bought a Canon EF-S 10-22 and a EF 50/1.4 prime as well as a couple of longer lenses which were all for this Canon.
I had by default become a Canon user and assumed that at time progressed and I moved from one DSLR body to another; that they would always be Canon; as I had now invested in the lenses that would stay with me as I upgraded the body.
Hence an assumed Brand Loyalty was created and one based on the belief that all cameras are more or less the same when judged like for like.
Then as readers of this blog will know, I took a very large step backwards and veered off wildly into the world of Ukrainian cameras before returning to old and relaible SLRs via first a great 70’s Mamiya MSX1000 (that only stopped being my SLR of choice because of a sticky shutter) and then a 1971 Nikon F2A from a Nikon shop in Hong Kong.
Why did I chose the Nikon F2A instead of the brand I thought I knew, had a history with and had invested into? Probably because the older Nikon Film cameras seem to have a much better reputation than the old Canon film cameras – and I didn’t see the addition of one old SLR from Nikon as running counter to my DSLR loyalty as the F2A was only ever going to be a one off purchase – or so I believed at the time.
The F2A is a fully manual camera with a battery run meter and does not have Aperture Priority like the Canon I could have chosen. It runs up to 1/2000th and as slow as 10 seconds plus B settings and the F2 range from Nikon that was made for over ten years, is still regarded as probably the best fully manual SLR ever made. This is probably why I chose this body over a 70’s Canon.
The second reason I wanted to get an old manual Nikon is because of the super fast 50/1.2 lens that is still made by Nikkor and is a fully manual lens and can be bought either new or second hand for very little money indeed.
If you have never used a really fast lens on a camera then beg, borrow or ebay one as they change the way you see the world and it was this lens more than the F2A body that broke the Brand Loyalty I had been building for Canon; as I realized that the majority of the lenses I had bought for the Canon DSLR were actually very poor optics and as dark as can be.
Canon do make some great fast lenses but I realized that apart from the 50/1.4 that I had bought for my Canon DSLR – that the other general zoom lenses I had were nothing more than that – general use lenses that made the DSLR a heavy P&S (with probably the same size sensor anyway).
Since the initial Nikkor 50/1.2 AS I bought as new; I have found that any ‘new’ 2nd hand lens I look for these days need to now come with a Nikon F Mount as a preference; from the 28mm to 135mm f2 DC and of course the Tilt/Shift Arsat 80mm Medium Format lens that runs on my Nikon.
For me now my brand loyalty has shifted completely as it has become determined by the lens and not the body (and with the use of adapters even this is really a moot point).
Of course anyone from any of the major brands would tell you I am talking a whole host of cod shit and that their brand of body and lens is the only choice because of x, y and z – but really???
Look at your average pro DSLR users and you won’t see a standard lens on the front of most of the bodies they use and you will see more fast prime lenses than general use zooms.
So what is the point I am trying to make?
I think it is as simple as this – find something that works for you and practice using it a lot.
It may be that what works for you is given as a present from your Grandfathers old junk box or it could be a new shiny Leica M7. Don’t get caught up with assuming your choices are limited to a brand or a particular make as this is a flawed view.
There is no doubt that cameras are not created equal and some are head and shoulders above others – but if amazing colour graduation is what you are looking for – don’t assume you will find this digitally – and if a sharp image is what you want then you either want to shoot at ISO 25 or lower on film or go to a digital solution.
For me having switched to film 18 months ago now and being a third of the way into my Kiev month; I now don’t see loyalty in the way that I used to. Now my loyalty is down to a particular film and developer combination or a lens on a particular type of sunny day and best of all it is not needing to follow the trends that the digital brands are constantly putting in front of you.